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This multimethod series of studies merges the literatures on gratitude and risk regulation to test a new process model of gratitude and relationship maintenance. We develop a measure of appreciation in relationships and use cross-sectional, daily experience, observational, and longitudinal methods to test our model. Across studies, we show that people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners report being more appreciative of their partners. In turn, people who are more appreciative of their partners report being more responsive to their partners' needs (Study 1), and are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time (Study 2). Appreciative partners are also rated by outside observers as relatively more responsive and committed during dyadic interactions in the laboratory, and these behavioral displays are one way in which appreciation is transmitted from one partner to the other (Study 3). These findings provide evidence that gratitude is important for the successful maintenance of intimate bonds.
This study investigated how sacrificing for approach versus avoidance goals shapes the giver's and the recipient's emotions and relationship quality. A sample of 80 dating couples participated in a three-part study in which they discussed sacrifice in the laboratory (Part 1), reported on their daily sacrifices for 14 days (Part 2), and completed a follow-up survey 3 months later (Part 3). When partners discussed a sacrifice they had made for approach goals, they experienced greater relationship quality, whereas when they discussed a sacrifice they had made for avoidance goals, they experienced poorer relationship quality. These effects were replicated with outside observer reports. On days when partners sacrificed for approach goals, both partners experienced increased relationship quality, but on days when people sacrificed for avoidance goals, the giver experienced decreased relationship quality. These effects were mediated by positive and negative emotions, respectively. Approach sacrifice goals predicted increases in relationship quality and avoidance sacrifice goals predicted decreases in relationship quality, as reported by both partners 3 months later. Sacrifice per se does not help or harm relationships, but the goals that people pursue when they give up their own interests can critically shape the quality of intimate bonds.
In 2 daily experience studies and a laboratory study, the authors test predictions from approach-avoidance motivational theory to understand how dating couples can maintain feelings of relationship satisfaction in their daily lives and over the course of time. Approach goals were associated with increased relationship satisfaction on a daily basis and over time, particularly when both partners were high in approach goals. Avoidance goals were associated with decreases in relationship satisfaction over time, and people were particularly dissatisfied when they were involved with a partner with high avoidance goals. People high in approach goals and their partners were rated as relatively more satisfied and responsive to a partner's needs by outside observers in the lab, whereas people with high avoidance goals and their partners were rated as less satisfied and responsive. Positive emotions mediated the link between approach goals and daily satisfaction in both studies, and responsiveness to the partner's needs was an additional behavioral mechanism in Study 2. Implications of these findings for approach-avoidance motivational theory and for the maintenance of satisfying relationships over time are discussed.
What happens when people suppress their emotions when they sacrifice for a romantic partner? This multimethod study investigates how suppressing emotions during sacrifice shapes affective and relationship outcomes. In Part 1, dating couples came into the laboratory to discuss important romantic relationship sacrifices. Suppressing emotions was associated with emotional costs for the partner discussing his or her sacrifice. In Part 2, couples participated in a 14-day daily experience study. Within-person increases in emotional suppression during daily sacrifice were associated with decreases in emotional well-being and relationship quality as reported by both members of romantic dyads. In Part 3, suppression predicted decreases in relationship satisfaction and increases in thoughts about breaking up with a romantic partner 3 months later. In the first two parts of the study, authenticity mediated the costly effects of suppression. Implications for research on close relationships and emotion regulation are discussed.
Although a great deal of attention has been paid to the role of people's own investment in promoting relationship commitment, less research has considered the possible role of the partner's investments. An experiment (Study 1) and two combined daily experience and longitudinal studies (Studies 2 and 3) documented that perceived investments from one partner motivate the other partner to further commit to the relationship. All three studies provided support for gratitude as a mechanism of this effect. These effects held even for individuals who were relatively less satisfied with their relationships. Together, these results suggest that people feel particularly grateful for partners who they perceive to have invested into the relationship, which, in turn, motivates them to further commit to the relationship. Implications for research and theory on gratitude and relationship commitment are discussed.
Who benefits most from making sacrifices for others? The current study provides one answer to this question by demonstrating the intrinsic benefits of sacrifice for people who are highly motivated to respond to a specific romantic partner's needs noncontingently, a phenomenon termed communal strength. In a 14-day daily-experience study of 69 romantic couples, communal strength was positively associated with positive emotions during the sacrifice itself, with feeling appreciated by the partner for the sacrifice, and with feelings of relationship satisfaction on the day of the sacrifice. Furthermore, feelings of authenticity for the sacrifice mediated these associations. Several alternative hypotheses were ruled out: The effects were not due to individuals higher in communal strength making qualitatively different kinds of sacrifices, being more positive in general, or being involved in happier relationships. Implications for research and theory on communal relationships and positive emotions are discussed.