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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.
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Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin
39(10) 1333 –1345
© 2013 by the Society for Personality
and Social Psychology, Inc
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DOI: 10.1177/0146167213497801
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Article
In romantic relationships, both members of the couple typi-
cally invest time, energy, and other resources into their rela-
tionship, all of which would be lost if just one member of the
couple decided to terminate her or his involvement. The lit-
erature on close relationships has clearly established that
people’s perceptions of the investments they have already
made into their romantic relationships can shape their deci-
sion to commit to the relationship (Goodfriend & Agnew,
2008; Rusbult, 1980, 1983). Much less research, however,
has examined if and how people’s perceptions of their part-
ners’ investments might influence their commitment. In the
present paper, we tested the idea that perceived investments
made by the romantic partner influence feelings of gratitude,
and in turn, commitment to the relationship.
We propose that gratitude is a key mechanism through
which perceiving a romantic partner to be invested in a rela-
tionship promotes further commitment. Gratitude is an inter-
personal emotion that represents the extent to which people
feel thankful and appreciative for what their partner does for
them, as well as for who their partner is as a person (e.g., A.
M. Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012; Kubacka,
Finkenauer, Rusbult, & Keijsers, 2011). Recent research has
shown that when people feel appreciative of their partners
kind deeds and for who their partner is as a person, they have
a greater desire to maintain their relationship (A. M. Gordon
et al., 2012), and we expect that people are likely to feel
grateful for a partner who has invested resources into main-
taining the relationship. Thus, we propose that perceiving a
partner as invested in the relationship will trigger feelings of
gratitude, and in turn, motivate people to further commit to
the relationship.
Investment in Relationships
Investments can be defined as resources that are placed into
a relationship that people would lose if their relationship
were to end (Rusbult, 1980). Investments can be tangible,
such as sharing material goods with a romantic partner, and
intangible, such as spending time or effort on one’s relation-
ship (Goodfriend & Agnew, 2008). Rusbult (1980, 1983)
was the first to note that the investments a person has made
497801PSP
XXX10.1177/0146167213497801Personality and Social Psychology BulletinJoel et al.
research-article2013
1
University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2
University of California, Berkeley, USA
3
University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Samantha Joel, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 100 St.
George Street, 4th Floor Sidney Smith Hall, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G3,
Canada.
Email: samantha.joel@utoronto.ca
The Things You Do for Me: Perceptions
of a Romantic Partner’s Investments
Promote Gratitude and Commitment
Samantha Joel
1
, Amie M. Gordon
2
, Emily A. Impett
3
,
Geoff MacDonald
1
, and Dacher Keltner
2
Abstract
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.
Keywords
investment, gratitude, commitment, couples, romantic relationships
Received September 11, 2012; revision accepted May 3, 2013
1334 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
into a romantic relationship should act as an important moti-
vator of commitment: “Investments increase commitment
and help to ‘lock the individual into his or her relationship’
by increasing the costs of ending it—to a greater or lesser
degree, to abandon a relationship is to sacrifice invested
resources” (Rusbult, 1983, p. 103). Rusbult’s (1980, 1983)
Investment Model of relationship commitment was origi-
nally developed to explain why some people remain commit-
ted to dissatisfying relationships. Research has provided
extensive support for the Investment Model, with investment
consistently predicting relationship commitment and stabil-
ity in samples of dating and married couples (see Le &
Agnew, 2003 for review).
The effects of an individual’s own investment on his or
her commitment to the relationship have been strongly estab-
lished; in contrast, considerably less attention has been paid
to the role of the partners investments. For example, studies
of couples that have included Rusbult’s investment measure
have tended to focus on each member of the dyad separately,
rather than examining the effects of one partner’s investment
behavior on the other partners commitment (e.g., Bui,
Peplau, & Hill, 1996; Van Lange et al., 1997). However,
research on the related topic of pro-relationship behavior
suggests that one partners pro-relationship acts (such as sac-
rifice or accommodating a partners negative behavior) can
indeed motivate continued commitment from the other part-
ner (e.g., Murray & Holmes, 2009; Wieselquist, Rusbult,
Foster, & Agnew, 1999). For example, Wieselquist et al.
(1999) followed romantic couples across multiple time
points, finding that when one partner was more willing to
engage in pro-relationship behavior, such as making a sacri-
fice for the good of the relationship or inhibiting their own
negative reactions to a partners provocation, the other part-
ner responded with increased commitment to the relation-
ship. Furthermore, Murray and colleagues have repeatedly
shown that people feel more committed to their relationships
when they perceive their partners to be responsive and sup-
portive as opposed to unresponsive or rejecting (e.g., Murray
et al., 2011). Together, this research provides evidence that
one partners feelings of commitment to the relationship are
likely influenced by how much the other partner chooses to
put into the relationship.
Why would the perception that one’s romantic partner is
highly invested motivate an individual to commit to his or
her relationship? Murray and Holmes (2009) as well as
Wieselquist and colleagues (1999) posit that this process
may occur because people feel that it is safe to commit to a
romantic partner who is highly invested in the relationship.
That is, a partners investments signal that the partner can be
trusted. Trust in one’s partner, defined as being confident that
one’s partner is available to meet one’s needs, should in turn
increase people’s willingness to depend on their partners,
meaning that they are more willing to rely on their partners
as a key source of support and validation (e.g., Murray et al.,
2011). Indeed, trust was an important mechanism of the
effects documented by Wieselquist and colleagues (1999) in
that people with partners who were more willing to commit
pro-relationship acts felt that they could trust their partners,
and these feelings of trust, in turn, increased people’s own
commitment to their relationships.
Overall, the existing literature on close relationships sug-
gests that the link between perceptions of one partners
investments and the other person’s commitment may operate
through a security-based mechanism, whereby responsive-
ness from one partner alleviates the other partners concerns
about vulnerability, making that person feel that they can
trust their partner and that it is “safe” to increase their own
commitment to the relationship. Therefore, in the current
research, we expect that we will replicate this finding
whereby trust will be an important mechanism through
which perceptions of a romantic partners investments will
promote people’s commitment to their relationships. In addi-
tion to trust, we propose that gratitude will be another key
mechanism that will motivate people to commit to their rela-
tionships in response to their romantic partners investments.
Feeling that one’s romantic partner is highly invested into the
relationship may not only reassure a person that the relation-
ship is secure (and thus that there are fewer risks associated
with committing in return), but it should also remind the
individual that they have a rewarding, high-quality partner
(and thus that the relationship is generally worth committing
to). Specifically, we propose that when people perceive that
their partner has made a relationship investment, they will
feel a sense of gratitude for their partner, which will in turn
motivate them to further commit to the relationship.
Gratitude as a Mechanism
People experience gratitude in romantic relationships when
their partners perform kind acts or favors for them, such as
being responsive to their needs (Algoe, Gable, & Maisel,
2010; Kubacka et al., 2011). We propose that perceptions of
a partners investments will likewise elicit feelings of grati-
tude. The gratitude that people experience should, in turn,
motivate them to commit to the relationship themselves.
Indeed, a growing body of research points to the important
role that gratitude plays in facilitating the development and
maintenance of close relationships (e.g., Algoe, Haidt, &
Gable, 2008; A. M. Gordon et al., 2012). Research with dat-
ing couples (Algoe et al., 2010) and married couples (C. L.
Gordon, Arnette, & Smith, 2011) has shown that feelings of
gratitude can increase relationship satisfaction for the recipi-
ent and the benefactor. Gratitude appears to serve a prosocial
function in close relationships as it does in other contexts.
For example, expressing gratitude to a close other increases
feelings of responsibility for that person’s well-being (i.e.,
communal strength; Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, &
Graham, 2010) and comfort and willingness to voice rela-
tionship concerns (Lambert & Fincham, 2011), which are
both important types of behaviors that people enact to
Joel et al. 1335
maintain their relationships. People who are more grateful
for their romantic partners engage in more relationship main-
tenance behaviors (Kubacka et al., 2011), are more commit-
ted in their relationships, and more likely to stay with their
partners over time (A. M. Gordon et al., 2012).
We hypothesized that perceiving a romantic partner to be
invested in the relationship would prompt people to further
commit to their relationship because the partners invest-
ments elicit feelings of gratitude. Because relationship
investments involve dedicating resources to the relationship
(e.g., time, energy, money), we hypothesized that perceiving
that a romantic partner has invested into a romantic relation-
ship will elicit feelings of gratitude. Furthermore, because
gratitude is an emotion that motivates relationship mainte-
nance behavior, we expected that gratitude would motivate
people to commit to their relationships in return. Thus, we
anticipated that feelings of gratitude would be an important
mechanism of the hypothesized association between one per-
son’s investments and his or her romantic partners commit-
ment to the relationship.
These hypotheses build on and extend existing research
on the emotion of gratitude and research on close relation-
ships in several key ways. First, although previous research
has examined the reciprocity of pro-relationship acts, no
research has directly investigated whether perceptions of a
partners investments promote an individual’s own commit-
ment to the relationship. Second, previous research has iden-
tified trust as a mechanism through which one partners
investments may promote the other partners commitment
(e.g., Murray & Holmes, 2009; Wieselquist et al., 1999). We
extend this research by proposing a second pathway for this
effect. That is, we suggest that gratitude—which has been
shown to play an important role in relationship maintenance
(e.g., A. M. Gordon et al., 2012; Kubacka et al., 2011)—can
be elicited by the perception that one’s partner is highly
invested in the relationship. Recent research on gratitude in
close relationships has largely focused on the downstream
consequences of gratitude, with little work considering
which factors promote experiences of gratitude toward a
romantic partner.
Overview of the Current Studies
In three studies combining experimental, daily experience,
and longitudinal methods, we tested two central hypotheses.
Our first prediction was that when people perceive their
romantic partner to have invested into the relationship, they
will be more likely to commit to the relationship themselves.
Our second prediction was that this effect will be mediated
by gratitude. That is, we hypothesized that people who per-
ceive their partners as more invested will feel a sense of
gratitude for their partners, which in turn will promote their
own commitment to the relationship. Furthermore, we
expected that these effects would hold controlling for rela-
tionship satisfaction, and that they would extend even to
individuals who were less satisfied with their romantic rela-
tionships. This would suggest that perceiving the romantic
partner as being highly invested may motivate people to stay
in their relationships even if those relationships are not par-
ticularly fulfilling.
In Study 1, we experimentally tested whether making the
partners investments salient would lead to higher feelings
of commitment. Specifically, we recruited dating and mar-
ried participants and randomly assigned some of them to
think and write about their romantic partners investments.
We predicted that relative to those in control conditions,
participants who thought about their romantic partners
investments would experience stronger feelings of gratitude
for their partner, which would in turn predict higher com-
mitment. We expected that this effect would emerge above
and beyond any effects of trust, an established mediator of
the link between perceiving a partner as invested and feeling
committed. In Studies 2 and 3, we used daily experience and
longitudinal methods to measure investments and feelings
of gratitude in a more naturalistic setting. We predicted that
people who perceived that their partners made more daily
investments into the relationship would feel more grateful
for their partners, which would in turn increase people’s
own commitment to their relationships over time. We
expected these effects to emerge irrespective of relationship
satisfaction.
Study 1
The primary goal of our first study was to provide experi-
mental evidence of the link between perceived partner
investments and commitment. We recruited participants who
were currently involved in romantic relationships and ran-
domly assigned them to one of three conditions: (a) a partner
investment condition in which they were instructed to recall
investments that their partner had made into the relationship,
(b) an own investment condition in which they recalled
investments that they had made into the relationship, or (c) a
control condition in which they skipped this portion of the
experiment entirely. We predicted that relative to the partici-
pants in the control condition, participants in the partner
investment condition would report greater commitment to
their relationship. We did not have specific predictions about
how the partner investment condition would compare with
the own investment condition.
A second goal of this study was to test potential mecha-
nisms of the association between perceptions of a partners
investments and commitment. Replicating and extending
past research on trust (Wieselquist et al., 1999), we predicted
that trust would be one mechanism through which perceived
partner investments would motivate commitment. However,
and more novel to the literature, we anticipated that gratitude
would also emerge as a unique mediator of this effect even
after accounting for people’s feelings of trust. In addition to
testing the roles of gratitude and trust in accounting for the
1336 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
hypothesized effect, we also examined indebtedness as a
possible alternative mechanism. Indebtedness is similar to
gratitude in that it is elicited by prosocial behavior from oth-
ers; however, is more likely to occur in the context of casual,
exchange-based relationships, rather than in close, commu-
nal relationships (Shen, Wan, & Wyer, 2011). Thus, we did
not expect that indebtedness would account for the effect of
recalling a romantic partners investments on commitment,
over and above the explanatory effects of gratitude and trust.
Method
Participants. Participants in romantic relationships were
recruited through Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk. A total
of 221 individuals completed the questionnaire. Three par-
ticipants were excluded because they were not currently
involved in romantic relationships, and another two partici-
pants were excluded because they did not follow the instruc-
tions for the study. The final sample consisted of 216
participants (87 men, 125 women, 4 unknown), with an aver-
age age of 30 (range = 18–66). Participants had been in their
relationships for an average of 5 years (range = 3 months to
43 years; median = 36 months). All participants were resi-
dents of the United States.
Procedure. Participants were first asked to complete the five-
item satisfaction subscale from Rusbult’s Investment Model
scale (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998). An example item is,
“My relationship is close to ideal” (α = .95). These items
were measured on a seven-point scale (1 = disagree com-
pletely to 7 = agree completely).
Participants were next randomly assigned to one of three
conditions: partner investment, own investment, or a control
condition. Participants in the partner investment condition
were asked to think about and list the various ways in which
their current romantic partner had invested in the relation-
ship. Then, participants were asked to think of a specific
investment their partner had made that was particularly
important or meaningful to the partner, and to describe why
it was a significant investment for them to make. Participants
in the own investment condition were given the same instruc-
tions, except that they were asked to think about their own
investments rather than their romantic partners investments.
Participants in the control condition skipped this portion of
the experiment. Next, all participants answered a series of
questions about their relationship, each of which was mea-
sured on a seven-point scale (1 = disagree completely to 7 =
agree completely).
Gratitude. Three items captured participants’ current feelings
of gratitude for their romantic partner (A. M. Gordon &
Chen, 2010; A. M. Gordon et al., 2012), including “I feel
very lucky to have my partner in my life,” “I feel apprecia-
tive of my partner,” and “I am struck with a sense of awe and
wonder that my partner is in my life” (α = .91).
Trust. Three items were selected from the Rempel, Holmes,
and Zanna (1985) measure to capture participants’ feelings
of trust in their romantic partner, including “I can count on
my partner to be concerned about my welfare,” “I can rely on
my partner to keep the promises he/she makes to me,” and “I
usually know how my partner is going to act. He/she can be
counted on” (α = .87).
Indebtedness. Three items were adapted from Shen, Wan,
and Wyer (2011) to capture participants’ feelings of indebt-
edness toward their romantic partner: “I feel indebted to my
partner for everything he/she does for me,” “I feel obligated
toward my partner to persevere with this relationship,” and
“I feel that I owe it to my partner to give this relationship my
best shot” (α = .81).
Commitment. We used a “state” version of the three-item
commitment subscale of the Perceived Relationship Quality
Components questionnaire (Fletcher, Simpson, & Thomas,
2000) to capture participants’ motivation to maintain their
relationships. The three items used were, “At this moment,
how committed are you to your relationship?” “At this
moment, how dedicated are you to this relationship?” and
“At this moment, how devoted are you to your relationship?”
(α = .97).
Upon completion, participants were probed for suspicion,
and were then debriefed.
Results
Our first hypothesis was that participants in the partner
investment condition would feel more committed to their
relationships, relative to those in the own investment or
no-recall control conditions. Results of a one-way ANOVA
revealed that the recall manipulation had a significant
overall effect on commitment to the relationship, F(2, 213) =
3.93, p = .02. To examine differences across experimental
conditions, we conducted least significant difference post
hoc tests. The results of these tests are shown in Table 1.
As hypothesized, participants who recalled their partners
investments were significantly more committed to their
relationships compared with those who recalled their own
investments, as well compared with those in the no-recall
control condition. Notably, people who recalled their own
investments were not significantly more committed to
their relationships than those in the control condition, a
point to which we will return in the section “General
Discussion.”
Our second hypothesis was that the association between
perceptions of a partners investments and own commitment
to the relationship would be mediated by gratitude and trust.
We tested this hypothesis using a bootstrapping procedure
(Preacher & Hayes, 2008), and we generated a 95% confi-
dence interval for the indirect effect with 5,000 resamples.
Significant mediation is indicated when the upper and lower
Joel et al. 1337
limits of the confidence interval do not include zero. We
compared the participants in the partner investment recall
condition with those in the own investment condition and the
control condition combined. Experimental condition (partner
investment vs. the two other conditions) was entered as the
independent variable. Gratitude and trust were entered as
simultaneous mediators. Commitment was entered as the
dependent variable.
The results of these mediation analyses are shown in
Table 2 and in Figure 1. Consistent with previous research,
stronger feelings of trust in the romantic partner mediated
the effect of partner investments on relationship commit-
ment (b = .10, SE = .05, CI = [.02, .23]). However, even
when accounting for trust as a mediator, gratitude also sig-
nificantly mediated the effect of the romantic partner’s
investments on people’s own commitment (b = .22, SE =
.09, CI = [.07, .44]). That is, thinking about a partner’s
investments elicited feelings of trust as well as feelings of
gratitude, both of which, in turn, increased people’s own
commitment to their relationship.
Additional analyses. We next conducted these analyses again
comparing the partner investment condition with the control
condition without the own investment condition. Gratitude
(b = .27, SE = .13, CI = [.04, .55]) and trust (b = .08, SE = .06,
CI = [.01, .25]) emerged as significant, simultaneous media-
tors of the effects of experimental condition on relationship
commitment. We further tested the effects comparing the
own and partner investment conditions with one another
without the control condition. Once again, we replicated our
effects for gratitude (b = .10, SE = .07, CI = [.01, .32]) and
trust (b = .15, SE = .09, CI = [.02, .38]).
We further conducted a bootstrapping analysis with
indebtedness included in the model. Indebtedness did not
mediate the association between condition and commitment
(b = .02, SE = .02, CI = [−.01, .10]). Most critically, the medi-
ational effects of trust (b = .09, SE = .05, CI[.02, .22]) and
gratitude (b = .21, SE = .09, CI = [.06, .41]) remained signifi-
cant above and beyond indebtedness. Thus, these effects
could not be attributed to the alternative explanation that
thinking about a romantic partners investments makes peo-
ple feel indebted to their partners, thus motivating them to
commit to their relationships.
We next tested for moderations by gender. We found that
gender did not moderate the effects of the manipulation on
either commitment, F(2, 206) = 1.21, p = .30, or gratitude,
F(2, 206) = .46, p = .63, suggesting that these effects extended
to men and women in our sample.
The role of satisfaction. We next wanted to explore the possi-
bility that gratitude and trust were simply proxies for rela-
tionship satisfaction. To test this, we conducted a
bootstrapping analysis with satisfaction included as a control
Table 1. Study 1 Post Hoc Tests for One-Way Analysis of Variance Between Own Investment Recall Condition, Partner Investment
Recall Condition, and Control Condition on Relationship Variables of Interest.
Control
condition M
Own investment
condition M
Partner investment
condition M
Control vs. own
investment p values
Control vs. partner
investment p values
Own vs. partner
investment p values
Commitment 6.14 6.36 6.65 .23 .006 .16
Gratitude 5.92 5.94 6.33 .93 .05 .09
Trust 5.90 5.81 6.31 .65 .03 .02
Indebtedness 5.09 5.40 5.57 .18 .03 .48
Table 2. Study 1 Simultaneous Mediation Effects of Gratitude
and Trust on the Association Between Condition (Partner
Investment Recall Versus Other Conditions) and Romantic
Commitment.
BCa 95% CI
Point estimate of
indirect effect SE Lower Upper
Gratitude .2197 .0929 .0703 .4333
Trust .0980 .0502 .0250 .2242
Total .3176 .1179 .1106 .5793
Note. BCa, bias corrected and accelerated, 5000 bootstrap samples.
Confidence intervals containing zero are interpreted as not significant.
.22***
Partner
Investment
Manipulation
Commitment
.44*
.55***
.40*
.44*
Trust
Gratitude
(.12, ns)
Figure 1. Gratitude and trust mediate the association between
perceptions of partner investments and own motivation to invest
(study 1).
Note. All numbers are unstandardized regression coefficients.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
1338 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
variable. The partner investment manipulation still had a sig-
nificant total effect on participants’ feelings of commitment
toward their partners (b = .44, SE = .17, p = .01) that was
significantly mediated by trust (b = .08, SE = .05, CI = [.009,
.21]) and gratitude (b = .19, SE = .08, CI = [.05, .40]).
In addition, we wanted to examine whether our effect
extends even to individuals who are less satisfied with their
relationships. That is, can perceived partner investments
motivate commitment even among individuals whose rela-
tionships are relatively unfulfilling? To test this, we included
satisfaction as a potential moderator of the effect using mul-
tiple regression. We found a significant moderation of satis-
faction and condition (partner investment vs. controls) on
commitment (β = −.18, SE = .14, p = .001). Simple effects
analyses conducted at one standard deviation above and
below the mean in satisfaction (Aiken & West, 1991) showed
that the effect of the partner investment recall manipulation
on commitment only extended to participants who were rela-
tively less satisfied with their relationships (β = .33, SE = .19,
p < .001) and not to participants who were relatively more
satisfied with their relationships (β = −.03, SE = .18, p = .72).
Satisfaction also significantly moderated the effect of the
manipulation on gratitude (β = −.24, SE = .12, p < .001), such
that the effect of the manipulation on gratitude extended to
participants who were less satisfied (β = .28, SE = .17, p <
.001), but not to those who were more satisfied (β = −.05,
SE = .16, p = .40). A bootstrapping analysis revealed a sig-
nificant mediated moderation, such that the moderation
between satisfaction and the partner investment manipula-
tion on commitment was significantly mediated by gratitude
(b = −.20, SE = .08, CI = [−.39, −.07]), although not by trust
(b = −.02, SE = .03, CI = [−.11, .03]). In other words, the
effects of the present study only extended to participants
were relatively less satisfied with their relationships; they
did not extend to those who were relatively more satisfied.
Discussion
Altogether, the results of Study 1 demonstrate a causal link
between perceived partner investments and own commit-
ment such that people who thought about their romantic part-
ners past investments felt more committed to their
relationship, relative to those who thought about their own
investments or to those in the no-recall control condition.
Furthermore, we identified two mechanisms of this associa-
tion. Consistent with previous research on pro-relationship
behavior (Wieselquist et al., 1999), when participants thought
about their romantic partners investments into the relation-
ship, they experienced greater feelings of trust, which in turn
predicted stronger feelings of commitment. More novel to
the literature, thinking about the romantic partners invest-
ments also elicited feelings of gratitude, which in turn
increased people’s own commitment to the relationship.
These findings suggest that in addition to a trust-based path-
way between partner investments and own commitment,
there is also a gratitude-based pathway in which thinking
about a partners investments heightens people’s awareness
of their partners value and makes people feel more grateful
to have their partner in their life. We also ruled out indebted-
ness as an alternative explanation for this effect.
Although we did not predict these effects, we also found
that our key effects were moderated by satisfaction. The
effects of the partner investment recall manipulation on grat-
itude, and subsequently, commitment, only extended to rela-
tively less satisfied individuals. Thus, these results suggest
that perceiving a partner as invested in a relationship may be
a particularly strong motivator of gratitude and commitment
for people who feel relatively less satisfied with their roman-
tic relationships. Since these findings were unexpected, we
wanted to see if they would replicate in our next two studies
before drawing conclusions about whether our effects depend
on people’s levels of relationship satisfaction.
Study 2
Study 1 provided initial evidence that perceptions of a part-
ners investments motivate further commitment to the rela-
tionship. Furthermore, we demonstrated that this association
is partially mediated by gratitude. In Study 2, we sought to
replicate these effects in day-to-day life using a daily experi-
ence design with a 9-month longitudinal follow-up.
Specifically, we asked participants about their perceptions of
their partners’ investments each day for 7 days. The per-
ceived investments made over this 1-week period were used
to create an index of perceptions of a romantic partners
investments. Capturing perceptions of investment behaviors
on a daily basis, rather than with a cross-sectional measure of
general perceptions, has the advantage of minimizing retro-
spective bias (Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003).
In Study 1, we measured feelings of commitment at a
single time point following an experimental manipulation. In
Study 2, we wanted to test whether perceiving one’s partner
to be more invested leads to increases in commitment over
time. To test this, we measured commitment twice: at base-
line, and 9 months following the daily experience component
of the study. We predicted that people who perceive their
partners as more invested in daily life will feel more grateful
for their partners, and these daily feelings of gratitude will, in
turn, promote increases in commitment to the relationship
over a longer period of time.
Method
Participants and procedure. Participants were recruited
through psychology courses at the University of California,
Berkeley. A total of 99 undergraduates (83 women, 16 men)
who were currently in romantic relationships completed
the baseline questionnaire and daily experience portions of
the study, and 51 (52%) of these participants completed the
9-month follow-up. Out of those participants, 15 were no
Joel et al. 1339
longer in their relationships, leaving a total of 36 participants
(31 women, 5 men) with a mean age of 20 at baseline (range
= 18-30, SD = 2.0). The mean relationship length at baseline
was one and a half years (range = 1 month to more than 5
years, SD = 15.4 months).
As part of a larger study, participants completed online
questionnaires that included demographic questions and a
baseline measure of commitment. They next complete an
online daily diary survey each night for seven consecutive
nights. As part of the daily diary, participants answered ques-
tions about their perceptions of their partners investment in
the relationship that day, as well as their own feelings of
gratitude and satisfaction. Participants were sent email
reminders each night between 8pm and 10pm. Diaries com-
pleted before 5 p.m. or after 6 a.m. were not included in the
final analyses because participants’ reports may not have
accurately reflected their experiences that day. The 36 par-
ticipants who were still in their relationships at the follow-up
completed 148 diaries on time. Participants completed
between two and seven diaries on time, with 86% complet-
ing five or more diaries on time.
Nine months after completing the background survey, we
recontacted the participants and provided them with a link to
an online follow-up survey in which they reported on their
current feelings of commitment to their relationship.
Baseline and follow-up measures of relationship quality. Rela-
tionship commitment was measured with a standard seven-
item scale (Rusbult et al., 1998). Participants completed
items such as “I want our relationship to last for a very long
time” on nine-point scales (1 = do not agree at all to 9 =
agree completely). Commitment was assessed at baseline
= .90) and again at the 9-month follow-up (α = .91).
Daily measures. Each day, participants reported their per-
ceived partner investments by responding to the question
“Today, did your partner have a lot invested in your relation-
ship?” Participants also reported their gratitude each day by
rating their agreement with the item “Overall, I felt apprecia-
tive of who my partner was as a person.” Both items were
measured on five-point scales (1 = not at all to 5 = completely/
very true). We also assessed daily relationship satisfaction
with the item “Today, I think my relationship is . . .” (1 = Ter-
rible to 5 = Terrific). Because we were interested in the effects
of perceived partner investments on commitment over the
course of 9 months, we created aggregated scores of per-
ceived partner investments and gratitude across the 7 days to
yield a single score on perceived partner investments and
gratitude for each participant.
Results and Discussion
Our first hypothesis was that the more people thought that
their romantic partner had invested into the relationship over
the course of a 1-week period, the greater increases in rela-
tionship commitment they would experience from the base-
line of the study to 9 months later. To test this hypothesis, we
entered the aggregate score of perceived partner investments
as a predictor of commitment using multiple regression. In
all analyses, we controlled for participants’ baseline levels of
commitment so that the resulting analyses would reflect
changes in commitment over a 9-month period of time.
Replicating and extending the results of our first study, per-
ceived partner investments over a 7-day period was associ-
ated with greater relationship commitment 9 months later
controlling for participants’ own levels of commitment at
baseline (see Model 1 in Table 3). That is, the more people
thought that their partner was invested in the relationship
over the course of the daily diary study, the greater increases
in commitment they reported over a 9-month period.
Our second hypothesis was that gratitude would mediate
the association between perceived partner investments and
increases in commitment over time. As shown in Model 2 in
Table 3, perceived partner investments were significantly
associated with daily gratitude toward one’s romantic part-
ner. Furthermore and shown in Model 3 in Table 3, when
perceived partner frequency of investment and gratitude
were entered simultaneously, gratitude predicted increases in
commitment from baseline to the 9-month follow-up. Results
of bootstrapping analyses revealed that gratitude significantly
mediated the link between perceived partner investments and
increases in commitment over time, CI = [.09, .95]; direct
Table 3. Results of Study 2 Regression Analyses.
Commitment at follow-up Daily gratitude
Predictor β SE p β SE p
Model 1
Baseline commitment .30 .25 .28 .20 .04 .01
Perceived partner investments .36 .27 .03 .63 .07 <.001
Model 2
Baseline commitment .11 .26 .54
Perceived partner investments .11 .31 .48
Daily gratitude .47 .41 .03
1340 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
effect = .13, p = .48. This mediation model is depicted in
Figure 2. In short, participants who thought that their part-
ners were heavily invested into the relationships over the
week-long diary felt more grateful toward their partners
across the course of the week, in turn leading to increased
commitment to the relationship 9 months later.
We next tested whether these effects could be attributed to
differences in relationship satisfaction across the daily diary.
We found that perceived partner investments significantly
predicted gratitude (β = .47, SE = .09, p = .001) and change
in commitment (β = .47, SE = .25, p = .01) when satisfaction
was included in the model in addition to baseline commit-
ment. Furthermore, satisfaction did not moderate the effects
of perceived partner investments on either daily gratitude
= –.16, SE = .08, p = .26) or commitment at follow-up
= .20, SE = .23, p = .36). Unfortunately, this sample did
not include enough men (n = 5) to meaningfully test for gen-
der differences.
In sum, Study 2 replicated and extended the results from
Study 1 by providing further evidence that perceiving a part-
ner as being highly invested in a relationship promotes
increased commitment. Participants who perceived that their
partners were more invested across 7 days experienced
increases in commitment to their relationship 9 months later.
Moreover, these boosts in commitment were due to the fact
that participants felt more grateful for partners whom they
perceived as more invested. Notably, Study 2 did not repli-
cate the moderation by satisfaction found in Study 1. In this
sample, participants with higher and lower relative satisfac-
tion levels were more grateful for, and committed to, their
partners when they perceived those partners to be more
invested in the relationship.
Study 3
Our first two studies provided evidence for the role of per-
ceived partner investments in shaping people’s feelings of
commitment to their relationships. Furthermore, both
studies provided evidence for the role of gratitude as a
mechanism of these effects. In Study 3, we wanted to repli-
cate these effects with a larger sample, and with one key
modification to the design. Studies 1 and 2 both examined
global representations of perceived partner investments,
rather than concrete, specific instances of investments into
the relationship. Research by Neff and Karney (2005) has
shown that global representations of romantic partners are
not always based on the partners’ specific qualities.
Similarly, although people experience gratitude in response
to the global perception that their partner is invested in the
relationship (Studies 1 and 2), they may not experience grat-
itude in response to specific, concrete investments that their
partners make. In Study 3, we wanted to examine whether
people feel more grateful for their partners in response to
their partners’ specific romantic investments. To test this
hypothesis, perceived partner investments were measured as
the frequency with which, over a 14-day period, the partici-
pant perceived their partner to have made a sacrifice for
them. We predicted that these specific instances of perceived
partner investment—whereby the partner has given some-
thing up for the sake of the relationship—would predict
stronger feelings of gratitude, which would in turn lead to
increases in commitment over time.
Study 3 was a 14-day daily experience study with a
3-month longitudinal component. We recruited both partners
and asked them each to complete an online questionnaire
about their relationship. Next, we collected daily diaries of
their investment behavior over a 2-week period. Finally, we
recontacted participants 3 months later. Whereas in Study 2
we operationalized gratitude as daily feelings of gratitude
toward the partner, in Study 3 we examined changes in grati-
tude over time. We predicted that perceived partner invest-
ments over a 2-week period would predict increased gratitude
over time. In turn, we expected that increased gratitude at the
3-month follow-up would predict increases in commitment
to the relationship over time. In addition, whereas Study 2
used only baseline commitment as a control variable, Study
3 also included daily perceptions of one’s own investment
behavior. We predicted that the effects of perceived partner
investments would emerge above and beyond one’s own
investment behavior.
Method
Participants and procedure. Participants were recruited from a
larger study of romantic couples (Impett et al., 2010) from
the San Francisco Bay Area through the use of paper flyers
and online advertisements posted on Craigslist.org. For the
study, 80 couples were recruited, but 11 couples were
removed from the analyses because one member of the cou-
ple did not complete the initial survey or we could not prop-
erly match a participant’s initial survey to his or her daily
experience records, leaving our final sample at 69 couples.
The couples had been dating from 6 months to 30 years
.61*
.93*
.57***
Daily
Gratitude
(.22, ns)
Daily Perceived
Partner
Investments
Commitment at
Follow-Up
Figure 2. Gratitude mediates the association between daily
perceptions of the partner investments and own commitment at
9-month follow-up (Study 2).
Note. All numbers are unstandardized regression coefficients. This analysis
controls for commitment at baseline.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Joel et al. 1341
(Median = 16 months; SD = 46.6 months); 48% of the cou-
ples were cohabitating.
Both participants individually completed an initial online
survey with measures of relationship quality. Then, they
came to the lab to receive training in how to complete the
daily experience portion of the study. Both members were
asked to complete a brief online survey for 14 consecutive
nights beginning the day of the laboratory session. We
emphasized that each diary should be completed in private,
that the partners should not discuss their answers with one
another, and that we would never reveal their responses to
each other. Participants completed an average of 12.2 (out of
14) days per person as determined by an automatic time-
stamp generated by the website. Three months after complet-
ing their last diary, each member of the couple completed a
10-min online follow-up survey. Of the 138 participants who
provided daily experience data, 104 (75%) participants com-
pleted the follow-up survey.
Background and follow-up measures of relationship quality. Com-
mitment was assessed in the baseline survey (α = .93) and
again at the 3-month follow-up (α = .93) with the same com-
mitment measure used in Study 2. Relationship satisfaction
was measured with five items from the Rusbult et al. (1998)
scale at baseline (α = .90) and at the 3-month follow-up (α =
.92). Gratitude was measured at baseline and at the 3-month
follow-up with the 11-item “appreciative” subscale of the
Appreciation in Relationships Scale (A. M. Gordon et al.,
2012). Participants responded to such questions as “I often
tell my partner how much I appreciate her/him” on seven-
point scales (α = .82).
Daily relationship investment behavior. Each day, participants
answered questions designed to assess their daily romantic
relationship investment behavior, operationalized in this
study as daily sacrifice. Based on previous research on sacri-
fice (e.g., Impett, Gable, & Peplau, 2005), to gather a mea-
sure of own daily investment participants answered the
question: “Today, did you do anything that you did not par-
ticularly want to do for your partner? Or, did you give up
something that you did want to do for the sake of your part-
ner?” Participants also responded to an adapted version of
this question to provide a measure of perceptions of a roman-
tic partners daily investments into the relationship. As in
Study 2, we aggregated participants’ scores from the daily
diary to create composite measures of frequency of own
daily investment (M = 3.0 sacrifices; SD = 2.7; range = 0-11)
and perceived frequency of partners daily investment (M =
2.6 sacrifices; SD = 2.8; range = 0-11).
Results and Discussion
Our first hypothesis was that frequency of perceived partner
daily investments, as assessed across 14 days, would predict
increases in relationship commitment from the baseline of
the study to the 3-month follow-up. We used multilevel mod-
eling in PASW 20.0 to address the nested nature of our dyadic
data (i.e., partners nested within couples). The analyses we
report control for two factors. First, we controlled for partici-
pants’ baseline levels of commitment to their romantic rela-
tionships so that the resulting analyses would reflect changes
in commitment over a 3-month period of time as a function
of perceptions of a romantic partners daily investments.
Second, because research shows that people project their
own feelings and behaviors onto their perceptions of how
their partners think and act (e.g., Lemay & Clark, 2008), we
also controlled for people’s own daily investments, so that
the results would reflect the unique contributions of per-
ceived partner investments above and beyond the contribu-
tion of one’s own daily investments into the relationship.
Replicating the results of our first two studies and as
shown in Model 1 in Table 4, perceived frequency of partner
investment over a 2-week period was associated with greater
relationship commitment at the 3-month follow-up control-
ling for participants’ own self-reported frequency of daily
investment as well as their levels of commitment at baseline.
That is, the more frequently people thought that their partner
invested into the relationship over the course of the 2-week
study, the greater increases in commitment they reported
over a 3-month period of time. Own investment frequency
did not significantly predict commitment to the relationship
3 months later.
Our second hypothesis was that gratitude would mediate
the effect of perceived partner investments on changes in
commitment. In line with this hypothesis and as shown in
Model 2 in Table 4, perceiving one’s partner as having made
more investments into the relationship was associated with
gratitude toward one’s partner 3 months later controlling for
gratitude at the baseline of the study. Furthermore, when per-
ceived partner investments and gratitude at follow-up were
entered simultaneously, gratitude predicted higher commit-
ment at follow-up, controlling for gratitude and commitment
at baseline. To test for mediation, we used the Monte Carlo
Method for Assessing Mediation (Selig & Preacher, 2008) to
generate a 95% confidence interval for the indirect effect
with 20,000 resamples. These analyses, shown in Model 3 in
Table 4, revealed that when perceived partner frequency of
investment and gratitude were entered simultaneously, feel-
ings of gratitude predicted increases in commitment from
baseline to the 3-month follow-up. As shown in Figure 3,
subsequent analyses revealed that gratitude significantly
mediated the link between perceived partner frequency of
sacrifice and increases in commitment over time (CI = [.005,
.05]; direct effect = .03, SE = .03, p = .25). In short, partici-
pants who thought that their partners invested a great deal
into their relationships over the 2-week diary felt more grate-
ful toward their partner 3 months later, which in turn lead
them to increase their commitment to the relationship.
Because gratitude and commitment were both measured
at the same two time-points in Study 3, we next sought to
1342 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
rule out an alternative causal model in which the order of
these two variables was reversed. Commitment at follow-up
did not significantly predict gratitude at follow-up (b = .09,
SE = .02, p = .12) and the association between perceived
partner investments and changes in gratitude remained sig-
nificant when commitment at follow-up was included in the
model (b = .04, SE = .02, p = .02). These additional results
help to clarify that it is gratitude that mediates the association
between perceived partner investments and commitment,
rather than commitment mediating the association between
perceived partner investment sand gratitude.
We next tested whether these effects could be attributed
to baseline differences in relationship satisfaction. We
found that controlling for baseline satisfaction, perceived
partner investments significantly predicted changes in grat-
itude (b = .05, SE = .02, p = .003) and changes in commit-
ment (b = .06, SE = .03, p = .04). Furthermore, satisfaction
did not moderate the effects of perceived partner invest-
ments on either follow-up gratitude (b = −.06, SE = .04, p =
.11) or follow-up commitment (b = –.01, SE = .06, p = .88).
Finally, we tested for gender effects. We found that the
effect of perceived partner investments on gratitude at fol-
low-up was not moderated by gender (b = .02, SE = .02, p =
.29), nor was the effect of perceived investments on com-
mitment at follow-up moderated by gender (b = .04, SE =
.05, p = .37), suggesting that these did not differ for men
and women.
Overall, Study 3 replicated and extended the results from
our first two studies, providing further support for the asso-
ciation between perception of a partners investments and
relationship commitment. Participants who perceived that
their partners made more investments over a 2-week period
experienced increased commitment to their relationship 3
months later, and this was due in part to increased feelings of
gratitude for one’s partner.
General Discussion
The three current studies provide compelling support for the
role of a partners investments in shaping people’s feelings
of commitment to their relationships. Specifically, partici-
pants who were reminded of their partners’ investments
reported feeling more committed to their relationships rela-
tive to participants who were reminded of their own invest-
ments or to those in a control condition (Study 1). People
who perceived their partners to be more invested also
reported increases in commitment over time (Studies 2 and 3).
In all three studies, these effects were mediated by gratitude:
Participants who felt that their partners were highly invested
in their relationships felt more grateful for their partners,
which, in turn, motivated them to further commit to their
relationships. Notably, we replicated these effects with
Daily Perceptions
of Partner’s
Investments
Commitment at
Follow-Up
.06*
.38***
.06**
Gratitude at
Follow-Up
(.03, ns)
Figure 3. Gratitude mediates the association between daily
perceptions of the partner investments and own commitment at
3-month follow-up (Study 3).
Note. This analysis controls for commitment and gratitude at baseline, as
well as daily perceptions of own investment. All numbers are unstandard-
ized regression coefficients;
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Table 4. Results of Study 3 multi-level modelling analyses.
Commitment at Follow-Up Gratitude at Follow-Up
Predictor b SE p b SE p
Model 1
Baseline Commitment .65 .08 < .001
Own Investment -.04 .03 .16
Perceived Partner Investments .06 .03 .04
Model 2
Baseline Commitment .04 .05 .46
Baseline Gratitude .62 .08 < .001
Own Investment -.04 .02 .04
Perceived Partner Investments .05 .02 .003
Model 3
Baseline Commitment .56 .08 < .001
Own Investment -.01 .03 .72
Perceived Partner Investments .03 .03 .25
Gratitude at Follow-Up .37 .13 < .001
Joel et al. 1343
multiple research methods (experimental, daily diary, and
longitudinal designs), and with different operationalizations
of partner investment (daily investment perceptions, global
and concrete investment perceptions, and an experimental
manipulation).
Implications for Investment Research
Building on past work that has examined reciprocity in
terms of pro-relationship behaviors, our evidence suggests
that decisions to commit to romantic relationships can be
motivated specifically by people’s perceptions that their
romantic partner has invested in the relationship. Thus, our
research is the first to directly show that people’s own feel-
ings of commitment are linked to the amount of resources
that people feel their partner has placed into the relation-
ship. The present work also identifies a new mechanism for
the link between perceived partner investments and rela-
tionship commitment. Past work has focused on the role of
security-based mechanisms to explain why one partners
pro-relationship acts might motivate the other partner to
commitment to the relationship (e.g., Murray & Holmes,
2009; Wieselquist et al., 1999). Specifically, researchers
have argued that one partner’s expressions of commitment
make the other partner feel that it is less risky to commit to
the relationship themselves. Indeed, our findings replicate
this work, with trust emerging as a mediator of the associa-
tion between perceived partner investments and commit-
ment (Study 1). However, we also find evidence for an
additional mechanism of this effect. Specifically, perceived
partner investments inspire people to feel grateful for their
partners, which in turn motivates increased commitment
(Studies 1-3). In short, perceiving a partner as invested in
the relationship not only makes people feel that it is safe to
commit to the relationship, but also that they want to com-
mit to the relationship.
Across studies, we found that even individuals who were
less satisfied with their romantic relationships tended to
respond to their partners’ investments with increased com-
mitment. These findings suggest that partners’ investments
may help to explain how individuals stay motivated to work
through difficulties in their relationships. On the darker
side, perceptions of partner investment may explain why
some individuals choose to persist with chronically unfulfill-
ing relationships (e.g., Slotter & Finkel, 2009). Furthermore
research is needed to examine whether the motivational
effects of perceived partner investments extend even to
couples currently experiencing high levels of relational dis-
tress. Notably, we did find a significant satisfaction mod-
eration in Study 1, such that the effects only extended to
less satisfied individuals. However, this moderation did not
replicate in Studies 2 and 3. This leads us to think that the
effect was unique to the experimental design of Study 1. In
particular, it is possible that highly satisfied individuals
may have experienced a ceiling effect in Study 1, whereby
their gratitude, trust, and commitment could not be experi-
mentally increased.
Implications for Gratitude Research
This series of studies adds to and extends previous research
on gratitude in several key ways. A growing body of litera-
ture is now demonstrating the crucial role of gratitude in the
maintenance of important social bonds including romantic
relationships (e.g., Algoe et al., 2008, 2010; A. M. Gordon
et al., 2012; Kubacka et al., 2011). Our work suggests that
gratitude—as well as the relationship maintenance behavior
that gratitude motivates—can be elicited by the perception
that one’s partner is invested in the relationship. Previous
research on gratitude in relationships has focused on the ben-
efits of experiencing and expressing gratitude. Less work has
sought to identify the factors that elicit feelings of gratitude,
particularly in the context of romantic relationships. The cur-
rent set of studies begins to fill this gap in the literature by
showing that placing resources into a romantic relationship,
such as one’s time, energy, emotions, and material goods,
may be an effective way to elicit feelings of gratitude from a
romantic partner.
All three studies suggested that gratitude was an impor-
tant mediator of the effects even after accounting for people’s
current relationship satisfaction. These results are in line
with past work on the distinction between satisfaction and
gratitude (A. M. Gordon et al., 2012). Whereas satisfaction
represents how well the relationship is meeting one’s needs
(e.g., Rusbult, 1980), gratitude represents how much one val-
ues the partner as a person (A. M. Gordon et al., 2012). Our
findings show that when people see that their partners are
trying to make their relationships work, they experience a
stronger sense of gratitude for their partners. The gratitude
spawned by their partners’ efforts motivates people to stay
committed to their relationships themselves, even if those
relationships are not doing a particularly good job of meeting
their needs. By uncovering these relationship processes, the
present results help to further differentiate between the con-
structs of gratitude and satisfaction.
Future Directions
There are some limitations to the present work that should be
addressed by future research. One such limitation is that, in
Studies 1 and 2, we focused primarily on investments at a
general level (i.e., the investment component of Rusbult’s
investment model; Rusbult et al., 1998), such that the actual
content of the investment behavior was not specified.
Although in Study 3 we examined investment at the concrete
level, we focused only on sacrifices, which are a specific
type of investment that may operate differently than other
types of investments. One future direction would be to mea-
sure a broader range of investments and examine whether
responses to the partners investment differ according to the
1344 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39(10)
type of investment the romantic partner makes. Past research
has shown that different types of investments play unique
roles in predicting commitment and relationship stability.
For example, Goodfriend and Agnew (2008) found that
intangible investments, such as emotional involvement, were
a stronger predictor of relationship persistence than tangible
investments, such as financial investments. Building on this
work, we might expect to find that people feel grateful for a
partners intangible investments, and future research is
needed to examine this possibility.
Future research should also examine the possible role of
the partners motivations for investing into the relationship.
In particular, this work could benefit from an application of
approach-avoidance theories of social motivation (see review
by Gable & Impett, 2012). Past research on sacrifice has
shown that people react more positively to their partners’
sacrifices when they feel that their partner has sacrificed for
approach as opposed to avoidance motives (Impett et al.,
2005). In line with this work, we would expect that a roman-
tic partners approach-based investment behavior (e.g., gen-
uinely wanting the relationship to develop) would elicit more
gratitude than avoidance-based behavior (e.g., wanting to
avoid conflict with the partner), and future research is needed
to test this possibility.
This line of research may also benefit from parsing apart
what kind of commitment is garnered from a partner by
investing in the relationship. Recent research has made an
important distinction between commitment as a desire to
persist in the relationship, and commitment as an intention to
maintain the relationship (Schoebi, Karney, & Bradbury,
2012). Schoebi et al. (2012) found that the latter kind of com-
mitment—intention to maintain—is the type of commitment
that is most likely to keep relationships stable irrespective of
relationship satisfaction. It would be interesting to see
whether that particular type of commitment is likely to
increase as a function of a romantic partners investments, as
that finding would lend support to the idea that one partners
investments may motivate the other partner to persist with
dissatisfying relationships.
In terms of the link between own investments and rela-
tionship commitment, a large body of research demonstrates
that global perceptions of past investments made by the self
are associated with future relationship commitment (Le &
Agnew, 2003). However, in the current studies, whereas per-
ceived partner investments motivated commitment, own
investments did not. One possible reason for this discrepancy
is potential differences between abstract versus concrete
investments. Past research has identified the links between
perceptions of global investment and later commitment (e.g.,
Rusbult, 1980), but has not examined the effects of short-
term investment behaviors such as recalling concrete, spe-
cific investments (Study 1), or making small, daily
investments into the relationship (Study 3) on future rela-
tionship commitment. It is possible that although perceiving
oneself to be invested at an abstract level promotes continued
relationship maintenance in the long-term, reciprocity norms
may motivate people who have recently made concrete
investments into the relationship to hold back on further
commitment in the short-term, so as not to end up being
under-benefited. Indeed, research shows that people dislike
feeling that they are more committed to their romantic part-
ners than their partners are to them (Drigotas, Rusbult, &
Verette, 1999). Follow-up research should examine the con-
ditions under which previous investments into a relationship
do and do not motivate future commitment.
Conclusion
In conclusion, our research demonstrates that a person who
is perceived as putting more into a relationship is likely to
have a partner who feels more strongly tied to the relation-
ship. Although this stronger tie arises in part because a part-
ners investment signals that they can be trusted, the more
novel contribution of this work is a demonstration that such
investment provides rewards for which one is grateful. As
such, this work suggests that partner investments motivate
people to commit to their relationships not only because
those investments generate feelings of safety and trust in the
partners regard, but because gratitude makes people want to
invest to reap the benefits and pleasures of a rewarding, inti-
mate connection.
Authors’ Note
Research materials from the current set of studies are available by
request from the corresponding author at samantha.joel@utoronto.ca.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to Geoff
MacDonald and Emily A. Impett, and a grant from the Templeton
Advanced Research Program, sponsored by the Metanexus
Institute on Religion and Science, with the generous support of the
John Templeton Foundation awarded to Dacher Keltner. Samantha
Joel was supported by a Joseph Armand Bombardier CGS
Doctoral Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada, and Amie M. Gordon was supported
by a graduate research fellowship from the National Science
Foundation.
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... Moreover, research suggests that gratitude expression in a close personal relationship can be a reciprocal response to the beneficiary's appraisal that the benefactor holds a positive relationship intention. That is, individuals express gratitude in response to their partner's gratitude expression in various ways (Amaro, 2017;Chang & Algoe, 2019) and to their partner's relational investment (i.e., sacrifice on their behalf; Joel et al., 2013). ...
... limited to relational investment(Joel et al., 2013), social acceptance (MacKenzie & Baumeister, 2019), thoughtful behaviors (Algoe et al., 2010), forgiving (Mooney et al., 2016), friendly touch (Simão & Seibt, 2015), favor giving (Goei & Boster, 2005; Hendrickson & Goei, 2009; MacKenzie et al., 2014), gift giving (Cavanaugh et al., 2015; Luo et al., 2019), helping or otherbenefiting behaviors (Converse & Fishbach, 2012; Forster et al., 2017), and sacrifice (Righetti et al., 2020; Visserman et al., 2018; Zoppolat et al., 2020). For example, Algoe et al. (2010) found ...
... found that feeling appreciative toward one's partner was positively related to one's relationship commitment, responsiveness, and relationship stability. Likewise,Joel et al.'s (2013) experimental study (Study 1) found that state gratitude, above and beyond trust, was positively related to relationship commitment.Joel et al. (2013, Studies 2 and 3), using a different method (daily surveys), replicated the positive association between state gratitude and relationship commitment. This pattern was also found byKashdan et al. (2018). ...
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... Finally, this study contributes to a growing body of literature on the importance of partner perceptions in intimate relationships (Campbell et al., 2005;Impett et al., 2005;Joel et al., 2013;Muise et al., 2016) and an emerging literature on sexual goals (Impett et al., 2005;Muise et al., 2013). By bridging these two lines of work, the current study highlights the importance of studying perceived partner motives in the sexual domain. ...
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... A longitudinal study of couples corroborates this finding; gratitude supports dyadic cycles of relationship maintenance behaviors (Kubacka et al., 2011). Gratitude in response to witnessing a partner's sacrifices and investments increased subsequent investment in and commitment to that partner (Joel et al., 2013;Visserman et al., 2018). Appreciation of one's partner also appears to aid in relationship maintenance by increasing the comfort individuals feel in voicing their concerns about the relationship (Lambert & Fincham, 2011). ...
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... In this vein, gratitude facilitates goal contagion, making people adopt the goal implied by a social other's behavior (Jia et al., 2014). Gratitude is associated with perceived support from peers and family members (Froh et al., 2009a(Froh et al., , 2009b, and predicts increased relationship commitment, quality, maintenance, and satisfaction between the benefactors and the gift recipients (Algoe et al., 2008;Joel et al., 2013;Kubacka et al., 2011;Park et al., 2019). Meanwhile, when people show a reduced intention for social connection and bonding, considering or even acknowledging others' personhood becomes less relevant and thus objectification can occur (e.g., Powers et al., 2014;Waytz & Epley, 2012). ...
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