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Daily experiences of intimacy: A study of couples

Authors:
  • Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, OR

Abstract

The present study examined people's working definitions of intimacy, which emerge through daily interactions that are perceived as intimate by the participant. We proposed that working definitions should be reflected in a set of interaction characteristics that prompt relationship partners to label their interaction as intimate. Participants were 113 cohabiting couples who completed questionnaires and kept diaries of their interactions for 1 week. Interaction characteristics explaining perceived intimacy were interaction pleasantness, disclosure of private information, the expression of positive feelings, the perception of being understood by one's partner, and the disclosure of emotion. Further, more satisfied couples perceived their interactions as more intimate and showed stronger associations between interaction intimacy and partner disclosure than did less satisfied couples. Findings indicated that couple characteristics are more salient than person characteristics as predictors of intimacy in interactions. The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separate-ness, to leave the prison of his aloneness. The absolute failure to achieve this aim means insanity, because the panic of complete isolation can be overcome only by such a radical withdrawal from the world outside that the feeling of separation disappears–because the world outside, from which one is separated, has disappeared.
Personal
Relationships,
8
(2001), 283-298. Printed in the United States
of
America.
Copyright
0
2001 ISSPR. 1350-4126/01
$9.50
Daily experiences
of
intimacy:
A
study
of
couples
TONYA LIPPERT and KAREN
J.
PRAGER
The University
of
Texas
at
Dallas
Abstract
The present study examined people’s
working definitions
of
intimacy,
which emerge through daily interactions
that are perceived as intimate by the participant. We proposed that working definitions should be reflected in
a set
of
interaction characteristics that prompt relationship partners to label their interaction as intimate.
Participants were
113
cohabiting couples who completed questionnaires and kept diaries
of
their interactions
for
1
week. Interaction characteristics explaining perceived intimacy were interaction pleasantness, disclosure
of
private information, the expression
of
positive feelings, the perception
of
being understood by one’s
partner, and the disclosure
of
emotion. Further, more satisfied couples perceived their interactions as more
intimate and showed stronger associations between interaction intimacy and partner disclosure than did less
satisfied couples. Findings indicated that couple characteristics are more salient than person characteristics as
predictors
of
intimacy in interactions.
The deepest need
of
man, then, is the need to overcome his separate-
ness, to leave the prison
of
his aloneness. The
absolute
failure to
achieve this aim means insanity, because the panic
of
complete iso-
lation can be overcome only by such
a
radical withdrawal from the
world outside that the feeling
of
separation disappears-because
the world outside,
from
which one is separated, has disappeared.
-Erich Fromm,
The Art
of
Loving
Psychologists have long described intimacy
as significant for individual well-being. The
classic personality theories
of
Karen Hor-
ney (1950), Carl Rogers (1951), and Abra-
ham Maslow (1968), for example, depict in-
timacy both as a primary psychological need
and as a rich social environment within
which other psychological needs may be ful-
filled. In addition, psychological research
has shown that intimacy contributes to rela-
tionship satisfaction as well as to individual
well-being (see review by Prager, 1995). Em-
pirical evidence on intimacy’s benefits is
substantial enough at this point to prompt
Address correspondence to Tonya Lippert, School
of
Human Development,
GR41,
University
of
Texas at
Dallas, Richardson,
TX
75083.
one writer to assert, “I am not aware of any
other factor in medicine-not diet, not
smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genet-
ics, not drugs, not surgery-that has a
greater impact on our quality of life, inci-
dence
of
illness, and premature death from
all causes [than love and intimacy]” (Ornish,
1998;~.
3).
The consistency with which intimacy and
well-being are associated is striking given
the disagreement within the literature on
exactly what intimacy is and how to mea-
sure it. Psychologists, communication schol-
ars, sociologists, and psychiatrists have
sometimes defined intimacy as a property
of interactions, sometimes as a property of
individuals, and sometimes as a property of
relationships (Prager, 1995). This uncer-
tainty about what intimacy is led Acitelli
283
284
T
Lippert and
K.
J.
Prager
and Duck (1987) to wonder whether inti-
macy researchers were examining the pro-
verbial elephant with a blind eye. It is our
view that definitions that focus on intimacy
in interactions offer scholars the conceptual
precision necessary for understanding inti-
macy’s significance for individuals and their
close relationships (e.g., Prager, 1995; Reis
&
Shaver, 1988). The present study, there-
fore, examined relationship partners’ defi-
nitions of intimacy as the definitions
emerged from experiences in day-to-day in-
teractions.
By examining intimate experiences
within the context of daily interactions, we
sought to gain insight into people’s working
definitions of intimacy. By
working defini-
tions,
we mean the definitions people use on
a daily basis to classify and evaluate what
happens in their relationships. Theoretically,
working definitions both determine and re-
flect the extent to which people perceive
themselves as having intimate interactions.
Working definitions should, therefore, be
closely associated with specific behaviors
and emotional states that occur within inter-
actions perceived as intimate.
To
the extent
that these definitions encompass specific
behaviors and emotions occurring within in-
teractions, a more precise understanding of
the linkages between perceptions of inti-
macy, specific behaviors, well-being, and re-
lationship functioning is possible.
The present research used a diary
method to obtain people’s day-to-day per-
ceptions of interaction intimacy because
this method has demonstrated at least two
distinct advantages over others (Reis
&
Shaver, 1988; Reis
&
Wheeler, 1991). First,
it
asks participants to rate specific interac-
tions and to do
so
near in time to the actual
occurrence of the interaction. Other meth-
ods, such as asking people to define
intimacy as it applies to a particular rela-
tionship (e.g., Marston, Hecht, Manke, Mc-
Daniel,
&
Reeder, 1998; Parks
&
Floyd,
1996; Monsour, 1992), tend to over-sample
consciously held, conventional definitions
of intimacy. Because they are conventional
and because they require highly inferential
judgments about intimacy over the course
of a relationship, these definitions are less
likely to reflect experience lived daily. Sec-
ond, the diary method, more than any other,
asks people to evaluate ordinary, everyday
experiences and perceptions. This method
thereby avoids risks inherent in methods
that ask people to recall and describe a par-
ticularly intimate experience (e.g., Helge-
son, Shaver,
&
Dyer, 1987). Methods that
rely on recall elicit memorable experiences,
which are likely to be blissful, emotionally
intense, and rare (e.g., Marston et al., 1998).
Because it avoids these risks by focusing
on
day-to-day perceptions, the diary method
seems the most useful for gaining insight
into our most common experiences
of
inti-
macy.
Therefore, the first purpose of the pre-
sent work was to identify a set of interaction
characteristics that would constitute a typi-
cal working definition
of
intimacy.The inter-
action characteristics that are most closely
associated with an interaction’s perceived
level
of
intimacy should be those that best
reflect the interaction participant’s working
definition. Based on Prager’s (1995) notion
that interaction intimacy would be best de-
fined by a combination
of
(1)
self-disclosure,
(2)
attentive listening and understanding by
one or both partners, and
(3)
positive affect
between the partners, we predicted that
people’s working definitions
of
intimacy
would, at minimum, include these three
characteristics.
A
second purpose of the present study
was to examine the effects of person char-
acteristics along with those of interaction
characteristics. Scholarly conceptions of in-
timacy that emphasize interactions often
contain within them the assumption that
people’s intimate perceptions are driven by
here-and-now experience (e.g., Prager,
1995; Reis
&
Shaver, 1988).
If
this is the
case, differences among people’s intimate
experiences should be explainable, to
a
large extent, by variations in
interaction
characteristics.
However, we recognized
that it is also possible that individual differ-
ences influence people’s perceptions
of
in-
teraction intimacy. In other words, charac-
teristics of the person (e.g., gender, sense
of
Daily experiences
of
intimacy
285
well-being, personality) may have as close
an association with perceptions of interac-
tions as any characteristics of the interac-
tions themselves. Based on previous re-
search, we expected to find that higher
levels of well-being and relationship satis-
faction would be associated with higher lev-
els
of
perceived interaction intimacy.
We were also convinced that the charac-
teristics of the relationship itself could exert
an influence on those same perceptions. Di-
ary studies have not traditionally been used
to study linkages between relationship char-
acteristics and interaction quality. Some di-
ary studies have examined interactions
within relationships, usually from the per-
spective of a single partner (e.g., Lau-
renceau, Barret,
&
Pietromonaco, 1998;
Nezlek, 1993;
1995;
Nezlek, Imbrie,
&
Shean,
1994). Occasionally, researchers have col-
lected diary data from both relationship
partners, but thus far these studies have not
assessed relationship quality (e.g., Sor-
rentino, Holmes,Hanna,
&
Sharp, 1995). The
present study extended the existing litera-
ture by examining day-to-day perceptions
of interaction intimacy as they are influ-
enced by various relationship charac-
teristics. We did
so
by including both part-
ners in the study and by combining the two
partners’ scores on relational measures to
form rough estimates of relationship quality.
We were first interested in whether rela-
tionship quality predicted as much about
people’s perceptions of intimacy as did in-
teraction or individual characteristics. Sec-
ond, we examined particular relationship
characteristics likely to contribute to (or
detract from) intimacy in interactions, in-
cluding conflict style, frequency of sexual
contact, level of partners’ relationship satis-
faction, and length of time the partners had
been together.
It seemed especially likely that people’s
global perceptions and evaluations of their
relationships would affect their perceptions
of specific interactions.
A
positive overall
evaluation of the relationship may function
like a pair of rose-colored glasses, leading
to more positive perceptions of daily rela-
tionship experiences. This
positive sentiment
override
(Weiss, 1980) could lead relation-
ship partners to rate interactions as inti-
mate, regardless of the specific behaviors
characterizing them. Therefore, the present
work examined the effects of relationship
satisfaction on perceptions of interaction
intimacy. We predicted that people in more
satisfying relationships would report higher
levels of interaction intimacy with their
partners, but we did not expect the effects
of
a satisfying relationship to override those
of specific interaction characteristics.
Most of the research responsible for es-
tablishing the empirical link between inti-
macy and well-being has used definitions
of intimacy that include self-disclosure
(Prager, 1995). We, therefore, expected
working definitions of intimacy that in-
cluded self-disclosure
to
be significant for
individual well-being. If self-disclosure and
well-being are closely associated, it is prob-
ably due, in part, to how effectively self-
disclosure elicits social support (Penne-
baker, 1995).
If
working definitions that
include self-disclosure are indeed advanta-
geous, then individuals with higher levels
of well-being should perceive stronger as-
sociations between experiences of intimacy
and self-disclosure than those who report
lower levels.
Finally, we sought to understand how
gender moderates the relationship between
perceptions
of
intimacy and self-disclosure.
Self-disclosure is more highly associated
with experiences of intimacy for women
than for men (e.g., see Canary
&
Emmers-
Sommer, 1997, for a review; Parks
&
Floyd,
1996). Women consistently rate their most
intimate relationships as those in which the
partners self-disclose extensively, whereas
men are more variable in the weight they
assign to self-disclosure (Duck
&
Wright,
1993; Wright, 1988). Men, however, seem to
react more strongly to the valence (or posi-
tiveness) of an interaction, and there is evi-
dence that men find negatively toned inter-
actions with their partners more aversive
than women do (Gottman
&
Levenson,
1986).
The present study used Hierarchical Lin-
ear Modeling (HLM; Bryk, Raudenbush,
&
286
T.
Lippert and
K.
J.
Prager
Congdon, 1996) to test relationships within
and across nested levels of observations,
each of which could affect intimate experi-
ences (see Figure
1).
At Level
1
are charac-
teristics of daily interactions. These charac-
teristics are represented by the diary data
that are nested within individuals. At Level
2 are characteristics of individuals, nested
within couples. Finally, at Level 3 are couple
characteristics, representing between-cou-
ple variables. As Figure
1
shows, charac-
teristics at each level of analysis are poten-
tial contributors to interaction intimacy and
to working definitions of intimacy. The cur-
rent research extends previous research on
intimacy by examining all three levels
si-
multaneously.
Method
Participants
One hundred thirteen, primarily Caucasian,
couples participated in the current study.
They were part of a larger sample of 133
couples that included students recruited
from the psychology subject pool at a subur-
ban commuter university, as well as nonstu-
dents recruited via flyers or by word of
mouth (approximately 20% of the sample),
and their spouses (62.4% of the sample,
mean span of relationship
=
7.92 years,
SD
=
8.61) or cohabiting partners (37.6% of the
sample, mean span of relationship
=
6.57
years,
SD
=
7.11). Female partners’ mean
age was 29.58,
SD
=
8.66. Male partners’
mean age was 32.27,
SD
=
9.82. Student and
nonstudent couples were compared using
the Kruskall-Wallace ANOVA for nonpara-
metric data, which indicated that there were
no significant differences between the two
groups on demographic or psychological
variables. Data for the current study came
only from those 113 out of the 133 couples
who completed interaction record forms for
the week of the study (see below).
Procedures
The data used for the present study were
collected as part
of
a larger study on inti-
macy and individual and relationship func-
tioning. Couples who volunteered to par-
ticipate came by appointment to the
university where they met with trained un-
dergraduate research assistants. During the
first 10 minutes, couples learned how to use
the
IRF-I
(see below). Then, participants
were interviewed in turn. While one partici-
pant was being interviewed, the other an-
swered a questionnaire packet. When both
partners were done with the interview, they
were allowed as much time as needed to
finish the questionnaire packet. A typical
Level
3:
Coup
1
e
Character i
s
t
i
c
s
:
r
e
1
at ions
h
i
p
satisfaction, conflict style, and sex frequency
I
Level
2:
Participant Characteristics: gender, well-being, relational
self-disclosure, and relationship satisfaction
Level
1:
Interaction Characteristics: pleasantness, self-
disclosure, emotional expression, listening and
understanding, criticalness, expression
of
needs
I
Figure
1.
Nested design for interactions, participants, and couples
Daily
experiences
of
infimacy
287
session lasted about
1
1/2 hours.
No
inter-
view data were used for the present study.
Measures
Level
1
(repeated measures)
Daily interaction characteristics.
Partici-
pant ratings
of
their interactions were col-
lected with the Interaction Record Form
for Intimacy (IRF-I; Prager
&
Buhrmester,
1998), a diary measure adapted from the
methodology initiated by Wheeler and
Nezlek (1977). The IRF-I asked partici-
pants to rate their interactions on the fol-
lowing characteristics, using a 4-point scale
from
4
(“very true of this interaction”) to
1
(“not at all true of this interaction”): inti-
macy, pleasantness, disclosure
of
personal,
private information, listening, expression of
a need or want, expression of positive feel-
ings, criticalness, quarreling, perceived un-
derstanding, and disclosure of emotions
(see Prager
&
Buhrmester, 1998, for a de-
scription of the measure’s development).
The form also asked participants how long
each interaction lasted and how many other
people were present.
Each participant was supplied with an
envelope containing 25 copies of the IRF-I,
as well as written instructions that reiter-
ated oral ones they had received. These in-
structions specified that participants should
complete an IRF-I for every interaction
lasting
5
minutes or longer that they had
with their partners during a 1-week period.
Participants were instructed to complete an
IRF-I immediately after such an interac-
tion, without discussing it with their part-
ners.
The dependent variable for this study,
perceived interaction intimacy, consisted of
the single item on the IRF-I on which par-
ticipants rated the statement, “This interac-
tion was intimate.” This simple index was
chosen deliberately
so
that we were not
measuring intimacy as we defined it but in-
timacy as it was defined, implicitly or ex-
plicitly, by the participants.
Level
2:
Person characteristics
Relationship satisfaction.
The Dyadic Sat-
isfaction subscale of the Dyadic Adjust-
ment Scale (DAS; Spanier, 1976), a widely
used measure, was used to assess individual
partners’ global relationship satisfaction.
Spanier reports an alpha reliability of .96
for the DAS; with the current sample, using
only the satisfaction subscale, we obtained
an alpha
of
.82
for the male partners and
.85
for the female partners. Individual scores
were used for participant-level analyses
(Level 2).
Well-being.
Individual well-being was as-
sessed with the four measures listed below
(the alpha reliabilities listed after each
measure are for the current sample): (a) the
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SLS; Deiner,
Emmons,
&
Griffen, 1985) (male partners’
a
=
38;
female partners’
a
=.82),
(b)
the
Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; Beck,
Ward, Mendelsohn, Mock,
&
Erbaugh,
1961); (male partners’
a
=
34;
female part-
ners’
a=.81),
(c) the Spielberger Trait Anxi-
ety Scale (STAS; Spielberger, 1976) (male
partners’
a
=
.90; female partners’
a
=
.90),
and (d) the five-item Hostility subscale of
the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI; Dero-
gatis
&
Melisaratos, 1983) (male partners’
a
=
-78;
female partners’
a
=
.76).
Relational self-disclosure.
Relational self-
disclosure refers to each individual part-
ner’s perception of hidher patterns of self-
disclosure with the partner over the course
of the relationship. Two measures of rela-
tional self-disclosure were employed for
the present study. These measures each
asked partners
to
make global assessments
about the amount of self-disclosing they en-
gaged in with their partners. The Jourard
Self-Disclosure Questionnaire (JSDQ; Jou-
rard
&
Lasakow, 1958) asks participants to
estimate the extent to which they have dis-
closed private, personal information to
their partners over the course of their rela-
tionship. The Emotional Self-Disclosure
Scale (ESDS; Snell, Miller,
&
Belk, 1988)
asks partners to report how much they have
288
I:
Lippert
and
K.
J.
Prager
disclosed about their emotions to their
partners over the past year.
The version of the JSDQ used here con-
tains a list of topics previously scaled for
privacy level by Sherman and Goodson
(1975). It asks participants to indicate how
much they have disclosed about the topic
with their spouse/romantic partner on a 3-
point scale ranging from
1
(“have not dis-
cussed at all”) to
3
(“have discussed fully”).
For each item, the participant’s response
was multiplied by the privacy level for that
item. The total score was a sum
of
the item
scores. For the present sample,
a
=
.83 for
women and
a
=
.81
for men.
The ESDS contains eight 5-item sub-
scales designed to measure the interper-
sonal disclosure of emotions, including hap-
piness, jealousy, anxiety, anger, and fear.
The original ESDS asked participants how
“willing they would be to discuss that topic
with
.
. .
male friends, female friends, and
spouses/lovers” (Snell et al., 1988). Minor
modifications were made to Snell et al.3
measure to fit the requirements of the pre-
sent study. In the current version, partici-
pants were asked how much they
had
dis-
closed (rather than how much they were
willing to disclose)
to the spousehornantic
partner
(rather than to friends and lover)
about each of the emotions listed
for the
past year
(a time frame was specified be-
cause the current version asked for the par-
ticipants’ recollections). Subscale scores
and a total score were formed from summa-
tions of the relevant items. ESDS internal
consistencies for the current sample ranged,
for men from
a
=
.73 for “express jealous
feelings” to
a
=
.83 for “express apathetic
feelings”; for women, they ranged from
a
=
.64
for “express depressed feelings” to
a
=
.80
for “express apathetic feelings.”
Level
3:
Couple characteristics
Relationship satisfactoriness,
Two scores
were computed from the individual partner
DAS scores for couple-level analyses: (1)
the individual scores were summed to cre-
ate a couple relationship satisfaction score,
and
(2)
the difference between the individ-
ual partner scores was computed to create
a
divergence-in-satisfaction
score.
Constructive and dysfunctional conflict.
We
used two subscales of the Communication
Patterns Questionnaire (CPQ; Christensen
&
Sullaway, 1984, as cited by Christensen,
1988)
to assess conflict resolution. The six-
item Demandmithdraw Communication
subscale consists
of
two items describing
one partner’s attempts to discuss a rela-
tionship problem and the other partner’s
attempts to evade such discussion and four
items describing a demand/withdraw inter-
action and a criticism/defend interaction.
Constructive conflict was assessed with
items describing listening, problem identi-
fication, and solution generation. Each
partner rated the relationship separately;
their scores were added for the couple-
level analyses. For the current sample, al-
pha reliabilities for constructive conflict
were
a
=
.76 for male partners and
a
=
.74 for female partners. For demand-with-
draw interaction, they were
a
=
.57 for the
male partners and
a
=
SO
for the female
partners.
Sex frequency.
An estimate of partici-
pants’ frequency of sexual activity was ob-
tained with a single item measure. Each
participant was asked, “In a typical month,
how often do you engage in sexual activ-
ity?” The sum of respective partners’ scores
was added to the data set as a couple vari-
able.
Data
Analysis: Hierarchical Linear
Modeling
Because our diary data are nested within
individuals, who themselves are nested
within couples, we tested our hypotheses
using hierarchical linear modeling
(HLM;
see Figure 1). Using
HLM,
researchers can
model multiple sources
of
variation while
acknowledging the statistical character-
istics of data where observations are corre-
lated within the same source (Kreft
&
De
Leeuw, 1998). For the present study, we first
constructed a model representing how
Daily experiences
of
intimacy
289
much of the total variance in interaction
intimacy was within-participants variance,
how much was within-couples variance, and
how much was between-couples variance
(Model
0).
We then added daily interaction
variables (Model l), followed by individual
characteristics (Model
2),
and, last, couple
characteristics (Model
3)
to determine
which,
if
any, of these characteristics were
contributing to the variance in intimacy rat-
ings at each level. Table
1
presents the out-
come and predictor(s) associated with each
model.
Results
Descriptive statistics.
On average, partici-
pants completed
13.1
IRF-I forms
(26.2
per
couple). Table
2
presents the means and
standard deviations of variables used at
each level of analysis. Table 3 shows the cor-
relations among individual participant char-
acteristics. At the couple level, we found a
significant correlation between couple
mean relationship satisfaction and couple
mean sex frequency
(r
=
.25,p
<
.Ol).
Model
0
(unconditional model).
Model
0
included no explanatory variables, only an
intercept and three variances (one per
level),
to
test our hypothesis that working
definitions
of
intimacy would vary at all
three levels of analysis (within-participants,
within-couples and between-couples), with
most
of
the variance occurring at Level
1
(within-participants):
where
Yijk
is participant
jk’s
(i.e., partner
J
of couple
k’s)
intimacy rating on the ith
interaction;
yo00
is the average intimacy
level over all observations;
UOO~
is within-
participant variance;
rojk
is within-couple
variance; and
eijk
is between-couple vari-
ance.
Results showed a within-participant
variance
of
1.04, a within-couple variance
of
0.09,
and a between-couple variance
of
0.17,
indicating that most
of
the variation
was among the intimacy ratings from the
same individual, and the least variation was
between members of a couple. In other
words, intimacy ratings within individuals
(and across interactions) differed more
from each other than did intimacy ratings
between couples, which themselves differed
more from each other than did intimacy
ratings between partners.
The null model was also used to calcu-
late the intra-class correlation, defined as
the ratio
of
the between-group variance
to
the total variance (in other words, the be-
tween-group variation, or variation remain-
ing once Level
1
variance has been ac-
counted for). With our three-level model,
Table
1.
Overview
of
hierarchical linear models predicting perceptions
of
intimacy
Predictors
Interaction Participant Couple
Model Outcome Intercept Factors Factors Factors
MO Interaction Grand mean (over
intimacy ratings all observations)
M1
Interaction Interaction grand IRF-I ratings
intimacy ratings mean (except intimacy)
M2
Participant Participant grand IRF-I ratings Gender, DAS,
intimacy ratings mean well-being
M3 Couple intimacy Couple grand IRF-I ratings Gender, DAS, Couple
ratings mean well-being DAS, sex
frequency,
conflict
style
290
I:
Lippert and
K.
J.
Prager
Table
2.
Means and standard deviations for study variables
Women Men
Mean
SD
Mean
SD
Level
1:
Interaction Characteristics
Interaction Characteristic
Pleasantness
Self disclosed private info
Partner disclosed private info
Self listened
Partner listened
Self expressed needwant
Partner expressed needlwant
Interaction intimacy
Quarreled
Self expressed positive feelings
Partner expressed positive feelings
Self critical
of
partner
Partner critical of self
Self understood partner
Partner understood self
Self disclosed emotions
Partner disclosed emotions
Number of interactions
3.36
2.51
2.42
3.21
3.26
2.63
2.71
2.26
3.51
3.05
3.05
3.51
3.49
3.20
3.30
2.66
2.74
13.37
.40
.53
.58
.46
.44
.57
.54
.64
.44
.52
.52
.47
.47
.45
.42
.66
.60
5.6
Level
2:
Participant Characteristics"
3.30
2.48
2.46
3.15
3.22
2.74
2.60
2.22
3.49
2.92
2.94
3.39
3.41
3.18
3.27
2.77
2.66
12.47
.45
.56
.53
.46
.42
.49
.54
.61
.45
.48
.48
.54
.52
.47
.44
.60
.64
5.4
Variable Names
Well-being
Life satisfaction
Depressive symptoms
Anxious symptoms
Hostility
Relationship satisfaction
25.04 5.91 25.00 6.22
7.64 5.67 6.21 5.57
39.11 9.24 34.07 8.70
3.95 3.18 3.90 3.50
44.11 5.69 44.31 4.60
Level 3: Couple Characteristicsb
Variable Names
Length of relationship
Relationship satisfaction
Constructive conflict
resolution
Sex frequency
7.13 9.52
44.21 5.157
39.71 9.32
9.63 7.36
aNote: N
=
226
participants.
bNote: N
=
113
couples.
we were able to calculate two intra-class
correlations for two potential sources of be-
tween-group variation:
(1)
the between
partner correlation (or within-couple vari-
ation), defined as the ratio
of
Level
2
vari-
ance to the
sum
of
Level
1
and Level
2
variances
[0.09/(1.04
+
0.09)]
and
(2)
the
between-couple correlation (or between-
couple variation), defined as the ratio
of
Level
3
variance to the
sum
of Level
2
and
Level
3
variances
[0.17/(0.09
+
0.17)].
Cal-
culating these two intra-class correlations
revealed that
8%
of the between-couple
variation in interaction intimacy was attrib-
utable to differences between members
of
a
couple, and
65%
of the between-group
Daily
experiences
of
intimacy
291
Table 3.
Correlations between person characteristics
for
women versus men
Women
TOP-
Inter-
Relat.
Sat. Life
Sat.
D
e
p
r
e
s
-
sion
HOS-
Anxiety tility
Relationship
satisfaction
0.66
Life
satisfaction
0.47
Depression
-0.36
Anxiety
-0.39
Hostility
-0.34
Topical
disclosure
0.35
0.57
0.32
-0.49
-0.59
-0.26
0.2
-0.38
-0.56
0.3
0.68
0.45
-0.26
-0.41 -0.32
-0.51 -0.27
0.75
0.44
0.28
0.58
0.54
0.03
-0.19 0.03
ical
Disclo-
sure
0.34
0.38
-0.43
-0.42
-0.23
0.19
Emot.
Disc
1
o
-
sure
0.34
0.27
-0.31
-0.33
-0.17
0.57
Relat.
Length
-0.21
-0.08
-0.15
-0.17
-0.17
0.13
action
Inti-
macy
0.17
0.11
-0.11
-0.11
0
0.09
Emotional
disclosure
0.32 0.21 -0.22 -0.2 -0.01
0.6
0.2
0.12
0.03
Relationship
Interaction
intimacy
(aggregated)
0.25 0.06
-0.08
0.01
-0.04
-0.05 0.08
-0.04
0.5
length
-0.12 -0.06 -0.18 -0.05 -0.03 0.05 0.06
-
-0.09
Men
Note:
Numbers in boldface are significant at
p<.Ol.
Male
X
female correlations are shown in the diagonal.
variation was attributable to differences be-
tween couples.
Subsequent analyses investigated the ex-
tent to which variance at each of our three
levels was associated with, or explained by,
specific variables.
Models
1-3.
Statistically, Models 1,2, and
3
explained variation at each level beginning
with Level
1
and ending with Level
3
(i.e.,
from the inside outward, as Figure
1
de-
picts). All Level
1
explanatory variables
were left in raw score form because we had
no theoretical reasons to center them (that
is, we had no theory about our lower-level
explanatory variables, or daily interaction
ratings, as individual or couple level vari-
ables; see Kreft, 2000).
Model
1.
Our specific prediction for
Model
1,
following Prager’s (1995) three-
component conception of intimacy, was
that perceptions of interaction intimacy
would be predicted by (1) the disclosure
of
personal, private information,
(2)
the pres-
ence
of
positive affect, and
(3)
attentive lis-
tening and feeling understood. Model
1
consisted of a random intercept plus Level
1
variables:
yijk
=
nojk
+
nl(disc1osure)jk
+nn(feeling understood)jk
+
eijk, (Eq- 2)
where
Yijk is participant jk’s intimacy rating on the
ith interaction;
nojk
is participant jk’s mean
intimacy rating (i.e., the Level
1
intercept);
nl(disclosure),k
+
.
. .
n,(feeling under-
stood)jk is the relationship between interac-
tion characteristics
1
through
n,
respec-
tively, and participant
jk’s
mean intimacy
rating; and eijk is within-individual variance.
We used a forward stepping approach to
identify Level
1
predictors of interaction in-
timacy. First, we entered the variables hy-
pothesized to define intimacy: disclosure,
positive affect (i.e., pleasantness and ex-
pression of positive feelings), and under-
standing and listening, with self and partner
variables entered as a block. We then added
variables that seemed likely to deepen these
292
7:
Lippert
and
K.
J.
Prager
components
of
intimacy. For example, dis-
closure of emotions can deepen the disclo-
sure of private information (Morton,
1978).
Finally, we entered variables that could de-
tract from intimacy, such as quarreling.
Using this approach, we found that
8
of
our
16
measured interaction characteristics
each accounted for significant and unique
Level
1
variance: Interaction Pleasantness,
Self-Disclosure, Partner-Disclosure, Self
Expressed Positive Feelings, Partner Ex-
pressed Positive Feelings, Partner Under-
standing, Partner Disclosed Emotions, and
Self Disclosed Emotions (see Table
4
for
fixed and random effects). Comparing the
Level
1
variances of Model
0
(1.04)
with
Model
1
(0.49)
indicates that the second
model reduced within-participant variance
by
53%,
suggesting that the above variables
“explain”
53%
of
within-participant vari-
ance in interaction intimacy.
Model
2.
Model
2
allowed our testing the
hypothesis that participants who reported
higher levels
of
well-being and relationship
satisfaction would report higher mean
lev-
els
of
interaction intimacy. We were able to
test this hypothesis by adding participant
characteristics to the model as predictors of
participant mean intimacy rating, with the
intercept estimate,
Pook,
coming from the
conditional model (Model
1):
Model
2
also included equations predict-
ing interaction-level slopes (i.e., associa-
tions between interaction characteristics
and mean Level
1
intimacy rating) as a
function of participant characteristics.
These equations tested the hypothesis that
gender would moderate the relationships
between perceived interaction intimacy
and both self-disclosure and positive affect.
These equations also tested whether any
of
our measures of well-being (life satisfac-
tion, depressive or anxious symptoms, or
hostility) predicted the strength
of
Level
1
slopes. For slopes being predicted, the equa-
tion was
Table
4.
Level
1:
Daily interaction ratings predicting interaction intimacy
Fixed Effects
Grand mean intimacy
Pleasantness
Self-disclosed
Partner-disclosed
Partner expressed positive feelings
Self expressed positive feelings
Partner understanding
Partner disclosed emotions
Self disclosed emotions
Parameter Estimates
2.23
0.12
0.18
0.22
0.13
0.15
0.06
0.12
0.06
t
45.79
3.84
5.82
6.74
3.31
3.74
2.42
2.27
2.27
P<
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.01
0.001
0.02
0.001
0.03
Variance Components Parameter Estimates
x2
P<
Between-participant
Pleasantness
Self-disclosed
Partner-disclosed
Partner expressed positive feelings
Self expressed positive feelings
Partner understanding
Partner disclosed emotions
Self
disclosed emotions
Within-participant (level-1)
0.16
0.02
0.04
0.05
0.03
0.04
0.01
0.02
0.01
0.47
361.73
105.73
119.88
122.10
143.94
120.11
89.42
131.88
129.61
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
0.001
Daily experiences
of
intimacy
293
where
xi,k is the slope for participant
j’s
average
interaction characteristic
1
X
intimacy rat-
ing;
PlOk
is the average slope for interaction
characteristic #1
X
intimacy rating for cou-
ple
k
(i.e., the Level 2 intercept); Pll(gen-
der),k is participant characteristic 1; and rijk
is the within-couple variance.
The results did not support our hypothe-
ses regarding the influence of participant
characteristics. Neither our expectation
that participant well-being and relationship
satisfaction would explain variance in inti-
macy ratings nor our expectation that gen-
der would moderate relationships between
intimacy and other interaction ratings was
upheld.
Model
3.
Finally, Model 3 represented the
addition
of
couple characteristics
to
the
model as predictors of couple mean inti-
macy rating:
Pook
=
yooo
+
yl(Coup1e Relationship
Satisfaction)k
+
uwk,
(Eq-
5)
where
POOk
is couple k’s average intimacy rating;
yo00
is the overall mean intimacy rating;
yl(Coup1e Relationship Satisfaction) is
couple k’s mean relationship satisfaction;
and
UOO~
is between-couple variance.
Model 3 supported our hypothesis that
partners in more satisfying couple relation-
ships would perceive higher levels
of
inti-
macy in their interactions. Analyses indi-
cated that relationship satisfactoriness (the
sum
of
the partners’ DAS scores) predicted
both couples’ average levels of interaction
intimacy,
G
=
.01,
t
=
-1.99,~
<
.05,
and
associations of interaction intimacy with
partner disclosure,
G
=
.01,
t
=
2.79,
p
<
.01.
To
evaluate whether adding relation-
ship satisfaction to our model led to an im-
provement of fit, we compared the devi-
ance statistic associated with our 3-level
model with, and then without, relationship
satisfaction added as a predictor. With
nested models such as ours, differences be-
tween deviances have a chi-square distribu-
tion and show whether one model
is
an im-
provement over another (Kreft
&
De
Leeuw, 1998). More specifically, we com-
pared the 12-parameter model with all
of
our Level
1
predictors included but only
random intercepts at Levels
2
and
3
with
the 16-parameter model that included rela-
tionship satisfaction. The comparison
showed that adding relationship satisfac-
tion led to a drop in unexplained deviance
of
nearly
54
points. This indicates that add-
ing relationship satisfaction to our model
gives
us
a statistically superior model. Nei-
ther partner differences in relationship sat-
isfaction as measured by our divergence-in-
satisfaction variable nor conflict resolution
style showed a significant association with
perceived intimacy.
Discussion
Because intimate interactions foster indi-
vidual well-being and are central to sustain-
ing relationship satisfaction, we strove to
understand more fully the interactional, in-
dividual, and relational factors that shape
couples’ day-to-day experiences of inti-
macy. We were especially interested in the
implicit and often unconscious ideas people
hold about their intimate interactions with
their relationship partners and the signifi-
cance of these ideas as determiners of cou-
ple relationship functioning.
The first purpose of the study was to
uncover people’s working definitions
of
in-
timacy within the context
of
daily couple
interactions. Our findings indicate that
working definitions of interaction intimacy,
on average, reflected interaction pleasant-
ness, disclosure of personal, private infor-
mation, feeling understood, the disclosure
of
emotions, and the expression
of
positive
feelings about the partner (Model 1). Par-
ticipants perceived interactions with these
characteristics as their most intimate. As
expected, these characteristics fell into
Prager’s (1995) three categories of inti-
294
7:
Lippert and
K.
J.
Prager
macy-related behavior (the disclosure
of
private information and positive feelings),
positive affect
(i.e.,
interaction pleasant-
ness), and cognition (perceiving the partner
to be understanding).
The
results thus sup-
port her notion that each of these compo-
nents independently contributes to percep-
tions of intimacy.
The finding that self-disclosure is an in-
fluential predictor of people’s perceptions
of interaction intimacy parallels findings
from previous research, most of which has
used retrospective accounts of intimate ex-
periences and/or people’s conventional
definitions of intimacy (Marston
et
al.,
1998; Parks
&
Floyd, 1996; Monsour, 1992;
Helgeson, 1987). The results from our study,
combined with those from previous re-
search, therefore, strongly support the no-
tion that disclosure is central to people’s
definitions
of
intimacy, whether they repre-
sent consciously held conventional defini-
tions or working definitions that emerge
from daily interaction (Laurenceau, Bar-
rett,
&
Pietromonaco, 1998; Monsour, 1992;
Helgeson et al., 1987; Waring, Tillman, Fre-
lick, Russell,
&
Weisz, 1980). What the pre-
sent study added to our understanding of
the relationship between disclosure and in-
timacy
is
that each of several different
kinds
of
disclosure-of private information,
of emotions, and of positive feelings about
the partner-makes a unique contribution
to
perceptions
of
intimacy.
The number of different interaction
characteristics found to make a significant
and unique contribution to perceptions of
intimacy raises the question
of
whether in-
timacy is sufficiently defined by the three
dimensions of interaction identified by
Prager
(1995).
Despite considerable effort,
no
consensus has been reached among
scholars as to what intimacy’s essential in-
gredients are, if such ingredients can be re-
liably identified at all. Prager’s distillation
of existing definitions, resulting in her
three-category conception, is an attempt to
find ingredients unique to intimacy that
are also common to all intimate interac-
tions. Another influential model, that of
Reis and Shaver (1988), describes a se-
quence of behaviors and perceptions and
identifies the sequence as the essence
of
an intimate interaction (i.e., one partner
self-discloses, then the second partner re-
sponds, and then the discloser perceives
him/herself to be accepted, cared for, and
validated by the listener). The model sug-
gested by the present research, combined
with research on the “intimacy prototype”
(Helgeson et al., 1987), suggests that the
features
of
intimate interactions form a
family resemblance structure-whereby
some features (e.g., those identified here)
are more central and salient cues for ex-
periencing intimacy than are others-but
that no one set
of
features characterizes
all intimate interactions.
Models like the present one, which con-
tain a large number of predictors, need to
be replicated with additional samples as
they are less stable than those with fewer
predictors (Kreft
&
De Leeuw, 1998). To
the extent that future research replicates
this list of predictors, a distilled model of
intimacy can emerge. The assessment
of
in-
teraction intimacy with diaries
is
well
suited for future explorations of this issue,
as additional, theoretically meaningful in-
teraction characteristics are easily added
to
the IRF-I. For example, we recommend
that future studies of daily interactions as-
sess the contribution
of
nonverbal, physical
expressions of intimacy (affectionate touch,
kissing, sexual contact, and
so
forth) to
working definitions of intimacy. Previous
research investigating meanings of “inti-
macy,” as applied to cross-sex interactions
and relationships, has found that both af-
fectionate and sexual contact are central to
them (Helgeson et al., 1987; Monsour, 1992;
Marston et al., 1998).
Contributions
of
interaction, individual
and coup le characteristics
A second purpose of this research was to
identify factors associated with people’s
working definitions within the context of
couples’ daily interactions. Hierarchical lin-
ear modeling enabled our modeling the re-
spective influences of interaction, individ-
Daily
experiences
of
intimacy
295
ual, and couple characteristics on partners’
Participant characteristics associated with
perceptions
of
intimacy within their daily
perceptions
of
intimacy
interactions. According to the present re- Results from the present study did not sup-
sults, perceptions
of
interaction intimacy port our predictions about the association
are predictable primarily from interaction between participant characteristics and in-
characteristics, secondarily from couple teraction intimacy. Our expectation that
characteristics, and only minimally from in- women would associate experiences of inti-
dividual characteristics. Results from hier- macy more closely with disclosure, whereas
archical linear modeling revealed that char- their male partners would associate inti-
acteristics of the interactions themselves, by macy more closely with positive affect, was
far, contributed most substantially to per- therefore not upheld. Further, none
of
the
ceptions
of
intimacy, reducing unexplained measured indicators of individual well-be-
variance by slightly more than
50%.
Fur- ing-depressive or anxious symptoms, life
ther, intra-class correlations revealed that satisfaction, or self-reported hostility-
there was significantly more variation in in-
teraction intimacy between couples than made unique contributions to participants’
whom differed only slightly. Most probably, the lack
of
support for
notion that experiences
of
intimacy within flects the small amount of variance in inti-
here-and-now
aspects
of
these interactions. ship partners. Given that individual factors
It
appears
that when people evaluate their overall did not distinguish between rela-
interactions within
a
time-frame
,-lose
to
tionship partners’ perceptions of intimacy
ther their preconceptions about their
rela-
one individual characteristic would emerge
tionships nor their current psychological as a significant Predictor
of
these PerceP-
states override the characteristics of a given tiOnS. It is nevertheless still possible that the
interaction in shaping their judgments. present study did not measure those indi-
These findings support the notion that inti- vidual characteristics that might have made
macy is an interactional phenomenon, unique contributions to intimacy percep-
shaped by the behaviors, thoughts, and feel- tions. The study’s assessment of gender, for
ings generated therein. Further, they
SUP-
example, was limited to a dichotomous
port the use
of
diary methods when one Categorization (i.e., female Or male). It is
wishes to distinguish evaluations
of
specific quite likely that it is not gender category
relationship phenomena from more global Per
set
but rather the PsYchological and
SO-
evaluations
of
an entire relationship (also CiOlOgical correlates of gender category,
see Reis
&
Wheeler, 1991). such as femininity and masculinity, that
We also found a high degree of similarity contribute most to gender-related patterns
between members
of
a couple with respect in close relationships
(e.g.,
Adams
&
to their average levels
of
perceived inti- Bleiszner, 1994). These correlates are not
macy, supporting a conceptualization of in- isomorphic with gender category.
timacy as a couple, rather than an individ- Because intimacy and individual
well-
ual, process within romantic relationships. being have frequently been associated in
Our finding supports dyadic models
of
inti- previous research (Prager, 1995), the pre-
macy such as that articulated by Reis and sent null finding requires further explana-
Shaver (1988), in which both interaction tion. Possibly, characteristics of individual
partners (i.e., a discloser and a listener) partners exert their influence
on
intimacy
must participate in the intimacy process or by themselves becoming incorporated into
it is unlikely to
be
perceived as intimate by relationship processes, inseparable from
either. the partners’ interaction patterns as a
between members of a couple, the latter of perceptions
Of
interaction
intimacy*
Most notably, these findings support the
any
Of
Our
participant-1eve1 hypotheses
re-
couple interactions are driven primarily by
macy
perceptions found between relation-
the Occurrence of those interactions, nei- with one another, it was unlikely that any
296
7:
Lippert
and
K.
J.
Prager
whole. The unique patterning of behavior
that characterizes any couple relationship is
a product of both partners’ characteristic
ways of behaving and represents the adap-
tations that each has made to the other
(e.g., Baucom
&
Epstein, 1990). Further, in-
dividual personality affects the relation-
ships that people choose to sustain and the
characteristics
of
the partners with whom
they become involved, suggesting that indi-
vidual personalities and relationship proc-
esses are always intricately intertwined.
Supporting the notion that relationships
are better understood as wholes than as two
interacting sets of individual dynamics, our
findings indicate that intimacy perceptions
vary more from couple to couple than be-
tween members of the same couple.
Characteristics
of
couples and perceptions
of
intimacy
Finally, this research was intended to show
whether relationship characteristics influ-
enced people’s perceptions of daily interac-
tion intimacy. We were especially interested
to
discover whether relationship satisfac-
tion functioned as a pair of rose-colored
glasses, coloring partners’ perceptions of
their interaction quality day to day. Of the
three couple characteristics we assessed,
only relationship satisfactoriness made a
unique contribution to partners’ percep-
tions of interaction intimacy. Partners in
more satisfying relationships, on average,
perceived their interactions as more inti-
mate. This finding is consistent with find-
ings from other studies showing that high-
functioning couple relationships are
characterized by greater depth and fre-
quency of intimate contact (see review by
Prager, 1995).
More satisfied couples also showed
stronger associations between partner dis-
closure and perceived interaction intimacy.
Thus, results supported our expectation
that working definitions
of
intimacy that
included self-disclosure would be advanta-
geous, although they contributed more to
couple relationship functioning than to in-
dividual well-being, as we had originally
predicted. Our findings indicate that part-
ners who identify one another’s private dis-
closures with experiences of intimacy are
those whose relationships are most satisfy-
ing. This association may reflect the high
level of regard with which some relation-
ship partners hold their own and their part-
ner’s self-disclosures. McAdams and Con-
stantian (1983) coined the term
intimacy
motivation
to describe individual differ-
ences with respect to the active seeking of
open, disclosing communication as an end
in itself. When two people with high levels
of intimacy motivation form a committed
romantic relationship, they may create a
pattern of communication in which both
partners disclose freely on the one hand
and reward one another richly for recipro-
cating on the other, each knowing that the
other treasures the disclosures. It is not dif-
ficult to imagine such a relationship being
highly satisfying for both partners. Satisfy-
ing relationships, in turn, may increase each
partner’s intimacy motivation with respect
to the other.
Summary and Conclusions
Despite a substantial research literature ad-
dressing intimacy in its various forms
(Prager,
1995),
there have been few investi-
gations that examine day-to-day intimate
relating in couple relationships. Yet, as
Duck, Rutt, Hurst,
&
Strejc (1991) have
noted, it is through day-to-day interactions
that much of the character of a relationship
is shaped. The strong association we found
between interaction characteristics and
people’s ratings
of
interaction intimacy sup-
ports the notion that working definitions of
intimacy emerge primarily from charac-
teristics of daily interactions.
We also found, as expected, that the spe-
cific content of working definitions was as-
sociated with partners’ overall evaluations
of
their relationships. Strong associations
between intimacy ratings and partners’ dis-
closures predicted satisfying relationships.
We found no associations, however, be-
tween working definitions and indicators of
individual well-being. Instead, for our com-
Daily experiences
of
intimacy
297
munity sample, these definitions were more
closely associated with the general satisfac-
toriness of the relationship. Nonetheless,
given that intimacy perceptions varied pri-
marily at the level
of
the interaction, we
conclude that people’s evaluations of spe-
cific interactions with their partners are
largely independent of relationship satis-
factoriness when these evaluations are
made near the time
of
the interactions
themselves.
Our research underscores the impor-
tance of examining the specific charac-
teristics of daily interactions as a means to
understand the factors that most contribute
to
healthy relationship functioning. Our
findings suggest that new insights into cou-
ple functioning can be gained by studying
intimate interactions and by examining the
way that relationship partners think about
intimacy in their daily lives. This approach
to the study
of
couple interaction would
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... The interpersonal process model of intimacy (Reis & Patrick, 1996;Reis & Shaver, 1988) maintains that disclosing emotional experiences creates interpersonal closeness by inviting interpersonal processes involving trust, validation, and social support. Research has indeed documented temporary increases in relationship closeness after social sharing (Cameron & Overall, 2018;Laurenceau et al., , 1998Lippert & Prager, 2001;Rossignac-Milon et al., 2020). Importantly, these momentary effects are also assumed to have longterm implications. ...
... The findings supported H2 predicting higher closeness in both partners shortly after social sharing. These findings replicate earlier findings from previous daily-diary and experience-sampling studies (Cameron & Overall, 2018;Laurenceau et al., , 1998Lippert & Prager, 2001) and extend them by showing that closeness effects after everyday social sharing apply to both speakers and listeners, and can be traced both as momentary implications and over the course of years. ...
... Of note, previous studies on variations in couples' affect and intimacy have relied on similar sample sizes of participants, while often using fewer observations per participant than included in the current study Lippert & Prager, 2001;Sels et al., 2020). ...
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People often tell others about recent daily hassles. Such social sharing of emotion is often assumed to support affect repair, but empirical evidence points to the contrary. We tested the notion that social sharing primarily serves relationship closeness, rather than immediate affect repair. Using dyadic experience sampling with N = 100 couples, we captured social sharing in everyday contexts and assessed socioemotional implications for speakers and listeners. Across M = 87 individual measurement occasions, both partners reported potential social-sharing episodes following daily hassles and rated their momentary negative affect and relationship closeness. Global evaluations of relationship closeness were assessed at baseline and 2.5 years later. Social sharing involved both affective benefits and costs, but it predicted momentary and long-term increases in partners’ relationship closeness. These results suggest that sharing bad news in relationships may not primarily serve immediate affect–repair functions. Rather, it may be a catalyst for creating and nourishing relationship closeness.
... Studies using experience sampling (Laurenceau, Barrett, & Pietromonaco, 1998), daily interactions (Lippert & Prager, 2001), couple discussion (Manne et al., 2004) and daily experience research (Laurenceau, Barrett, & Rovine, 2005) showed that self-disclosure promotes perceived responsiveness which in turn lead to greater feelings of intimacy among married couples. Additional evidence from an intervention study demonstrated that intimacy-enhancing interventions can improve relationship closeness for breast cancer patients and their spouses (Manne & Badr, 2008). ...
... We ran the main analyses using the single intimacy item. Although using a single-item measure of intimacy might create potential measurement issues, several studies showed that single item measures of such concepts like closeness (Chopik, Kim, & Smith, 2018) and intimacy (Laurenceau et al., 2005;Lippert & Prager, 2001) are valid. We also repeated the analyses with the full scale of PRQC (see Appendix for details). ...
... The IPM has been repeatedly tested (Laurenceau et al., 1998;Lippert & Prager, 2001), however the generalizability of the theory to other cultures and to newly-formed romantic relationships remained as an open question (Laurenceau et al., 2004). Overall, these findings provide first empirical evidence that the basic premises of intimacy development generalize across early stages of romantic relationships and across non-Western cultural setting. ...
Thesis
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Self-disclosure and perceived partner responsiveness are two principal components of the intimacy that aims to explain relationship functioning. This theory has been tested in the past but all focused on long-term married couples with Western samples. The current study examines the basic tenets of the process model of intimacy in the context of a fledgling relationship in a non-Western cultural setting. Couples who were in the early stages of a romantic relationship (N= 151) reported their intimacy in two sessions three weeks apart. Between the two sessions, they completed a 21-day diary assessing self-disclosure and perceived partner responsiveness. Dyadic analyses using multilevel modeling provided evidence for the reciprocal links between self-disclosure and perceived responsiveness. Additionally, perceived responsiveness partially mediated the effects of disclosure on increases in intimacy. These findings demonstrated that the current conceptions of the interpersonal model of intimacy generalize across early stages of romantic relationships and across a non-Western cultural context.
... Perceiving that a partner is responsive to one's needs is important to relationship wellbeing (Fekete, Stephens, Mickelson, & Druly, 2007;Lippert & Prager;2001;Reis, 2014). ...
... Perceiving that a partner is responsive to one's needs is important to relationship wellbeing (Fekete, Stephens, Mickelson, & Druly, 2007;Lippert & Prager;2001;Reis, 2014). ...
... These benefits can translate into the future as well, with perceived responsiveness increasing positive ratings of strangers a week later (Kleiman, Kashdan, Monfort, Machell, & Goodman, 2015), and predicting cortisol levels of marital partners 10 years down the line (Slatcher, Selcuk, & Ong, 2015). In fact, research strongly suggests that actual emotional support only matters insofar as it is perceived (Lippert & Prager, 2001;Reis, 2014;Reis et al, 2004;Selcuk & Ong, 2013). ...
Thesis
In two lines of work, I explore the effects of using compassionate language. In the first line, I examine how social support that is not backed by sincere emotion is perceived, and whether it can be effective for making people feel better. In a between-subjects online study (N = 200) and a lab study with dyads of strangers (N = 144), I show that provider sincerity is less important for effective support than support recipients believe. Since recipients' accuracy is limited and biased with regard to sincerity, being supportive without emotional motivation could in cases be just as effective as the 'real' thing. The second line of work asks whether self-distancing promotes self-compassion. In four online experiments (Ns = 209, 411, 224, 567) where subjects write about a problem for which they blame themselves, those who wrote from a distanced perspective consistently used more compassionate language to discuss it than those who wrote from an immersed perspective. There was evidence that this kind of compassionate language was associated with feeling more self-compassion. Basic science and clinical implications of both lines of work are discussed.
... The FFP draws on the influential and empirically confirmed interpersonal process model of intimacy by Reis andShaver (Laurenceau et al., 1998, 2005;Lippert & Prager, 2001;Reis & Shaver, 1988). This model focuses on self-disclosure of personal feelings and information, and on warm and sympathetic partner responsiveness as central agents of the intimacy process. ...
... However, the use of confederates may preclude generalizability of our findings. For example, other than individuals from the general population, our confederates were trained in being responsive, which is known to enhance intimacy (Laurenceau et al., 1998(Laurenceau et al., , 2005Lippert & Prager, 2001). Moreover, standardization of the confederates' answers might have reduced their authentic self-disclosure and responsiveness, the two central elements of intimacy (Reis & Shaver, 1988). ...
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... Researchers who study close relationships have argued that a listener's response to selfdisclosure, as much as the self-disclosure itself, accounts for associations between intimacy and well-being. Studies based on Reis and Shaver's (1988) interactional model of intimacy, in which both self-disclosure and listener responsiveness are necessary elements of an intimate interaction, have treated these two dimensions of intimacy as additive, equally important elements of intimacy (Campbell & Renshaw, 2013;Lippert & Prager, 2001;Tan, Overall & Taylor, 2012). ...
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Self-disclosure ordinarily benefits individual well-being; however, if someone discloses with an unresponsive listener, self-disclosure may fail to enhance well-being. Because prior research has primarily studied the additive effects of disclosure and listener’s responsiveness on well-being, this study investigated their interactive effects on well-being in romantic relationships. Because attachment orientation is closely associated with needs for intimacy, we further inquired into moderating effects of attachment on associations between intimacy and well-being. One-hundred fifteen cohabiting couples completed 21 daily diaries in which they recorded their experiences interacting with their partners. High self-disclosure during interactions that lacked expressed understanding yielded negative rather than positive outcomes. Multiple interactions between participants’ and partners’ attachment insecurity and intimacy were especially associated with depressive symptoms and relationship satisfaction. Results highlight the importance of the relational context of self-disclosure and well-being.
... Kim and Song (2016), Reis and Shaver (1988), Laurenceau et al. (1998), Berg and Archer (1982), Dindia (1988), Dindia et al. (1997), Lippert and Prager (2001), Laurenceau et al. (2004), Collins and Miller (1994), Omarzu (2000) 2 Wheeless (1976), Laurenceau et al. (2005) 4 ...
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