Article

Effects of an intervention designed to enhance romantic relationship excitement: A randomized-control trial.

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Abstract

Applying the positive-psychology paradigm to romantic relationships, this study used a randomized control trial to evaluate the effects of a 4-week online intervention designed to increase romantic-relationship excitement. One hundred one couples were randomly assigned to either a 4-week online relationship excitement program (n = 50) or a waiting list control condition (n = 51). The intervention provided couples with ideas for exciting activities and encouraged them to participate in shared exciting activities for 90 min/wk. An intention-to-treat analysis of covariance showed that the exciting-activities couples had significantly higher levels of romantic-relationship excitement, positive affect, and relationship satisfaction at postintervention. A follow-up assessment of couples in the experimental condition showed that as a group they continued to have significantly higher scores at 4 months postintervention than at baseline. The findings, which are consistent with learning, broaden-and-build, and self-expansion theories, indicate that it is possible to increase relationship excitement with a brief inexpensive online intervention, and that increasing excitement produces enduring beneficial effects on couple positive affect and relationship satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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... When spending time with a relationship partner, what kinds of activities are most beneficial? A series of diverse studies, focusing on the link between shared activities and satisfaction, suggest that couples can increase their love and relationship satisfaction by participating together in "self-expanding activities"-activities that have been conceptualized as novel, challenging, interesting, fun, and arousing in nature (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman, Aron, & Bergen, 1993). In four studies, we seek to uncover whether arousal is a necessary ingredient in influencing relationship quality and individual well-being. ...
... For example, research using experience sampling found that the experience of activation (conceptualized as excitement, involvement, alertness, and activity) positively correlates with relationship quality (Graham, 2008). Similarly, the benefits of a relationship enhancement program on relationship satisfaction were largely attributable to engaging in self-expanding activities (e.g., Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Although such results are compelling, measures of selfexpansion included an element of arousal. ...
... Previous research on couples' joint participation in tasks that were self-described as "exciting" included tasks that were either self-expanding or arousing or both (Aron et al., 2000;Studies 1 and 2;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman et al., 1993). Others employed experimental manipulations that confounded self-expansion with arousal (Aron et al., 2000;Studies 3-5). ...
Article
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Participation in shared self-expanding activities benefits both relationships and the self. However, most studies use tasks that combine self-expansion and arousal within one activity, making it difficult to know what drives the benefits. We tested the distinct effects of self-expansion and arousal in four studies. In Studies 1 and 2, 35 married couples and 106 friend pairs completed experiments manipulating self-expansion and arousal. Self-expansion (and not arousal) predicted relationship and individual outcomes. In Studies 3 and 4, 200 married individuals and 202 individuals thinking of a close friend reported perceptions of self-expansion and arousal during activities. Simultaneous regressions showed self-expansion, controlling (or not controlling) for arousal, predicted relationship, and individual outcomes. Results suggest that self-expansion is central for deriving benefits of shared activities, while arousal does not seem to be necessary.
... Outcomes encompassed improvements in daily relationship satisfaction, positive emotions, and life satisfaction as well as decreases in negative emotion (Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2016). Coulter and Malouff (2013) conducted a four-week online intervention to enhance romantic-relationship excitement toward activities practiced 90 min a week. The results revealed positive affect and relationship satisfaction enhancements, with effects maintained during a four-months follow up compared with a wait-list control (WLC) group. ...
... The results revealed positive affect and relationship satisfaction enhancements, with effects maintained during a four-months follow up compared with a wait-list control (WLC) group. Some of the previously mentioned positive psychological interventions were conducted in a lab with specific training and continued at home by the participants (Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2016;Woods et al., 2015), whereas the other was essentially an online self-help intervention (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). ...
... Moreover, within-group comparisons for the Couple+ intervention group showed significant decreases in a coercion communication pattern. These outcomes are consistent with the findings in the literature (Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2016;Bolier et al., 2013;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Hilpert et al., 2016). ...
Chapter
Distress and discord within couples lead to several impairments, including physical and psychological deterioration, and dramatically reduce life satisfaction levels. This chapter raises the following question: Is it possible to maintain and improve a dyadic bond, individual well-being and life satisfaction through a specific intervention? Although much literature has already addressed this issue via positive psychology interventions (PPIs) at the individual level, the involvement of couple dynamics is understudied. This chapter addresses the theoretical background and practical details of the implementation of a four-week theory-driven preventive self-help dyadic PPI called Couple+, which was adapted for heterosexual couples living in France. A preliminary study was conducted to assess the innovative multicomponent Couple+ intervention, which encompassed daily activities designed for the members of the dyad. The aim of Couple+ was to encourage romantic relationship development and maintenance by improving the couple’s functioning. The effect of this intervention was measured and compared with a control group on a waiting list. The preliminary results showed significant improvements in positive emotions, communication patterns, and dyadic adjustment. Considering Couple+ as a success in terms of feasibility and implementation, as well as both dyadic and individual outcomes, this study appears to be the first step toward the development of self-help positive psychology activities dedicated to improving the lives of couples.
... When romantic couples feel like they are "stuck in a rut" in their relationship, popular advice given to combat such feelings of relational boredom is to plan dates to "spice things up" and revive passion (e.g., Gottman et al., 2019). Such advice is not unfounded as evidence suggests that engaging in exciting, shared activities can increase relationship quality (Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Harasymchuk et al., 2021), and spark passion and desire (Aron et al., 2000;Muise et al., 2019). Despite evidence suggesting the potential benefits of exciting activities, the actual implementation of them in daily life might be challenging due to practical barriers (e.g., childcare, time, finances) and relationship factors, notably, feelings of boredom. ...
... Evidence has linked the occurrence of exciting, shared activities (vs. less exciting or familiar activities) with increased relational self-expansion , relationship satisfaction (Coulter & Malouff, 2013), sexual desire (Muise et al., 2019), and passionate love (Aron et al., 2000). ...
... First, the current study is the first to our knowledge to examine relational boredom as a potential obstacle to exciting, shared activities in couples' daily lives. While researchers know that exciting, shared activities promote relational self-expansion and relationship quality (Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Graham, 2008;Muise et al., 2019), less attention has been focused on factors that impede these activities. Second, another contribution of this work is that in addition to the occurrence of exciting, shared activities, we also consider the quality, acknowledging that not all shared activities, even exciting ones, are similarly rewarding. ...
Article
Although engaging in exciting, shared activities with a partner is one strategy for warding off relational boredom , people might be less likely to pursue these activities when they are bored, which could have implications for the maintenance of passion in romantic relationships. In the current study, we assessed couple members' (N = 122 couples) daily experiences of relational boredom, the occurrence and quality of exciting , shared activities, and passion in a 21-day daily diary study and followed up with participants 3 months later. Overall, there was evidence that relational boredom obstructed the occurrence and quality of exciting, shared activities. In turn, less enjoyable shared activities were associated with lower daily passion, and engaging in fewer exciting, shared activities accounted for declines in passion over time. Implications of the findings for passion decay are discussed. K E Y W O R D S relational boredom, relationship maintenance, self-expansion, shared leisure Statement of Relevance: The benefits of exciting, shared activities for promoting passion in intimate relationships are well-documented, however, less is known about what challenges couples face when engaging in such activities in their daily lives. In the current study, we demonstrate that relational boredom impeded exciting, shared activities in couples' daily lives, which was associated with a lower passion that day, as well as declines in passion over time.
... The positive psychology field suggests that intentional activities influence well-being at the individual level and increase happiness with lasting changes (Bolier et al., 2013;Donaldson, Dollwet, & Rao, 2015;Mitchell, Vella-Brodrick, & Klein, 2010;Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005;Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). Positive social bonds are fundamental for the growth of personal happiness (Reis & Gable, 2003), and happiness can become a dyadic quest (Hilpert et al., 2016) for specific activities that promote couples' positive attributes (e.g., Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2016;Coulter & Malouff, 2013). ...
... Furthermore, if one partner experienced gratitude, relational growth was nurtured by an upward spiral for each partner in the relationship, adding adaptive value for both partners, as suggested by the find-remind-and-bind theory (Algoe, 2012;Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2016). Another intervention intended to enhance committedrelationship excitement, with activities practiced for 90 min a week, also led to positive affectivity and relationship satisfaction, with follow-up data showing effect maintenance (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). In another study, training on the basis of active-constructive responses (i.e., enthusiastic and supportive responses to the partner's good news) created a positive impact with successful capitalization (i.e., social sharing of positive experiences) of positive events by the partner (Gable, Reis, Impett, & Asher, 2004;Woods, Lambert, Brown, Fincham, & May, 2015). ...
... Hypothesis 1 On the basis of assumptions by Algoe and Zhaoyang (2016) and Coulter and Malouff (2013), we hypothesize that couples in the intervention group will show benefits in subjective wellbeing compared with couples from the waiting list control (WLC) group. That is, we expect improvements in satisfaction with life and positive emotion and a decrease in negative emotion in couples from the intervention group compared with couples from the WLC group. ...
Article
In this randomised study, a multi‐component, theory‐driven, autonomous self‐help positive psychology intervention (PPI) for couples was examined. This intervention was not designed for distressed couples but rather to address autonomous couples with a good initial level of functioning who, nonetheless, wished to improve it. The objective was to assess the efficacy of the PPI on satisfaction with life, affective life, communication patterns and dyadic adjustment in each member of the dyad. The 4‐week PPI encompassed dyadic and individual daily activities. Thirty‐eight couples were assigned to an intervention group (n = 20 couples) or a waiting list control (WLC) group (n = 18 couples). Assessments were conducted prior to and after the PPI, with an immediate post‐test and a follow‐up. Ninety‐two percent of the PPI was completed by the participants. Linear mixed models revealed improvements in positive emotions, communication patterns of mutuality and dyadic adjustment from the pre‐test to the immediate post‐test in the intervention group compared to the WLC group. Effects of dyadic adjustment were maintained from pre‐test to 1‐month follow‐up in the intervention group. This pilot study suggests that the realisation of intentional dyadic activities presents an interesting approach to contribute to individual positive emotions and dyadic functioning. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... The 4 programs whose effectiveness was reported in these articles were (1) OurRelationship Georgia Salivar, 2018Roddy Nowlan, & Doss, 2017;Roddy Rothman, & Doss, 2018;Roddy et al., 2020, Roddy et al. 2020bRothman et al., 2019), which was adapted from Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (Christensen et al., 2004); (2) ePREP (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2011Doss et al., 2020) and PREP (Loew et al., 2012), two adaptations of Prevention and Relationship Education Preparation workshops (Stanley et al., 2006), which are based on extensive, longitudinal marital research (e.g. Markham et al., 1993); (3) an unnamed marriage education program (Duncan et al., 2009) based on Gottman's (1994Gottman's ( , 1999 couple interaction research, a selfhelp book (Markman et al., 2001) and a clinician handbook (Stuart, 2004); and (4) a relationship excitement program (Coulter & Malouff, 2013), which was suggested by studies on the influence of new and exciting activities on relationship quality (Aron et al., 2000). ...
... Six of the nine prospective studies used a wait-list (Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Doss et al., 2016Doss et al., , 2020Duncan et al., 2009) or attention placebo control that either involved reading parenting information for adoptive parents (Loew et al., 2012) or material on anxiety, depression, and relationships (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2011. Three studies investigated OR effectiveness with differing amounts of coaching support (Roddy et al., 2017Rothman et al., 2019), but without a no-treatment control group. ...
... With two exceptions (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2014;Loew et al., 2012), the primary outcome was improvement in couples' self-reported relationship quality or satisfaction. Other targeted relational outcomes were improvements in communication skills, both observed (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2011) and self-reported (Duncan et al., 2009;Loew et al., 2012;Roddy et al., 2017); relationship confidence, commitment (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2014); emotional support and relationship excitement (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Reductions in communication conflict and intimate partner aggression (Braithwaite & Fincham, 2011Doss et al., 2020) were also assessed in a few studies. ...
Article
Full-text available
Due to logistical and financial barriers that keep many distressed couples from seeking psychotherapy, online relationship education is a more accessible alternative. In the decade since a web-based program showed equivalent effectiveness to traditional marriage education (Duncan et al., 2009), several fully online programs have been developed and evaluated. We reviewed nine studies of four different programs that sampled 2,000 + couples. Specifically, we rated each study’s experimental rigor and compared research designs, theoretical and empirical grounding, average post-intervention and follow-up effect sizes, and differential effectiveness. Across studies, measured outcomes included relational (improved satisfaction, quality, confidence, commitment, communication; reduced conflict and aggression) and individual functioning on various indices of mental and physical health, emotional expression, and quality of life. Finally, we discuss the strengths and limitations of the research evidence, describe the two most evidence-based programs (ePREP and OurRelationship) in some detail and make recommendations for future study of these promising kinds of interventions.
... Shared recreation and joint leisure activities are examples of interactive maintenance behaviors that have been identified as important markers of relationship quality (e.g., Busby et al., 1995;Fowers & Olson, 1993). Despite the seemingly inconsequential nature of shared leisure activities and viewing them as a "bonus activity" (Claxton & Perry-Jenkins, 2008, p. 28), growing evidence suggests that shared recreation is important for promoting closeness in established relationships (e.g., Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Rogge et al., 2013). One important model that explains why certain forms of shared recreation is beneficial to relationships is the self-expansion model. ...
... There is mounting evidence that, despite the potentially risky nature of exciting activities (e.g., fear of embarrassment, departure from security; Bacev-Giles, 2019, see also Aron et al., 2001 for a discussion), engaging in these activities with a partner can promote higher relationship quality (Aron & Aron, 1986, 1996Aron et al., 2000;Graham, 2008;Harasymchuk et al., 2020;Muise et al., 2019). Researchers have examined the beneficial effects of exciting shared activities in the context of the lab (Aron et al., 2000), by giving homework instructions (Coulter & Malouff, 2013), and by measuring exciting activities as they naturally occur in people's daily lives (Harasymchuk et al., 2020). Thus, the focus of much of this past work has been on the outcomes of exciting shared activities. ...
... In this study, participants could design any type of date, without any instructions about its qualities (e.g., about it being exciting). 1 This design differs from past studies that have provided guidelines about the types of exciting activities that couples engaged in outside of the lab (e.g., Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman et al., 1993). Additionally, rather than an "exciting: yes or no" format that has been used in more naturalistic assessments (e.g., Harasymchuk et al., 2020), participants rated the extent of exciting elements in the date. ...
Article
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Spending time with a romantic partner by going on dates is important for promoting closeness in established relationships; however, not all date nights are created equally, and some people might be more adept at planning dates that promote closeness. Drawing from the self-expansion model and relationship goals literature, we predicted that people higher (vs. lower) in approach relationship goals would be more likely to plan dates that are more exciting and, in turn, experience more self-expansion from the date and increased closeness with the partner. In Study 1, people in intimate relationships planned a date to initiate with their partners and forecasted the expected level of self-expansion and closeness from engaging in the date. In Study 2, a similar design was employed, but we also followed up with participants 1 week later to ask about the experience of engaging in their planned dates (e.g., self-expansion, closeness from the date). Taken together, the results suggest that people with higher (vs. lower) approach relationship goals derive more closeness from their dates, in part, because of their greater aptitude for planning dates that are more exciting and promote self-expansion.
... By nature, the self-expansion process is positive and rewarding for intimate relationships. Research has found that people who experience greater levels of relational self-expansion tend to reap rewards such as greater relationship quality (e.g., Aron et al., 2000;Carson, Carson, Gil, & Baucom, 2004;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Muise et al., 2019;Reissman et al., 1993), and greater individual well-being Mattingly & Lewandowski, 2013). For instance, through two 21-day daily diary studies of couples, Muise and colleagues (2019) assessed relational self-expansion through a daily selfreport measure and found that people reported greater relationship satisfaction as well as increased sexual desire on days when their evaluations of relational self-expansion were greater than usual. ...
... Activities which promote relational self-expansion (i.e., broadening of the sense of self and relationship) have often been described as exciting (Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Muise et al., 2019), novel and arousing (Aron et al., 2000;, and challenging (Aron & Aron, 1986;Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Hill, 1988;Graham & Harf, 2015). Descriptors of couple activities which help to broaden one's sense of self and their relationship have also included: fun and interesting (Tomlinson, Hughes, Lewandowski, Aron & Geyer, 2018), boring (reverse-coded) and dull (reverse-coded; Aron et al., 2000;Lewandowski & Aron, 2004;Tomlinson et al., 2018), and active (Hill, 1988), as well as adventurous, playful, romantic, and spontaneous (Malouff, Mundy, Galea, & Bothma, 2015). ...
... Activities which promote relational self-expansion (i.e., broadening of the sense of self and relationship) have often been described as exciting (Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Muise et al., 2019), novel and arousing (Aron et al., 2000;, and challenging (Aron & Aron, 1986;Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Hill, 1988;Graham & Harf, 2015). Descriptors of couple activities which help to broaden one's sense of self and their relationship have also included: fun and interesting (Tomlinson, Hughes, Lewandowski, Aron & Geyer, 2018), boring (reverse-coded) and dull (reverse-coded; Aron et al., 2000;Lewandowski & Aron, 2004;Tomlinson et al., 2018), and active (Hill, 1988), as well as adventurous, playful, romantic, and spontaneous (Malouff, Mundy, Galea, & Bothma, 2015). ...
Thesis
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Incorporating growth (i.e., broadening one’s perspective of the self, partner, and world) is an important feature for the maintenance of satisfying and long-lasting intimate relationships. However, as relationships progress and people increasingly gain familiarity with their intimate partner, the opportunities for growth decline. According to the self-expansion model, one way that people can add growth to their relationship is by engaging in exciting (i.e., novel and arousing) couple activities. Although exciting couple activities have been associated with many relational benefits, it is unclear whether certain threat-related conditions might be related to poorer relational self-expansion and relational self-expansion outcomes, such as engagement in exciting couple activities. Through a 21-day daily diary study of community couples (N = 122), the present study investigated the effects of relationship threats on the occurrence of exciting couple activities and ratings of relational self-expansion. It was hypothesized that insecure attachment styles (i.e., trait-based) and daily relationship threats (i.e., state-based) would negatively predict people’s overall exciting activity experiences and ratings of relational self-expansion. Data analyses were guided by the Actor-Partner Independence Model (APIM). Contrary to my hypotheses, there was inconsistent support for the association between attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety and relational self-expansion. Consistent with my hypotheses, people (and their partners) reported lower relational self-expansion, and also were significantly less likely to engage in exciting couple activities on days when relationship threats (e.g., rejection, disappointment, feeling misunderstood) were greater than usual. Furthermore, on days when people engaged in exciting couple activities and felt greater relationship threats, they reported a less successful exciting couple activity experience. Although there was evidence that relationship threats negatively predicted people’s daily activity experiences on the same day, relationship threats were not related to the occurrence of exciting couple activities on the following day. In conclusion, this study offers evidence suggesting that state-based threat concerns might be one obstacle that couples face in promoting growth within intimate relationships.
... Exciting activities in longterm relationships have been associated with benefits for the relationship, including higher relationship satisfaction and sexual desire (e.g., Aron et al., 2000;Muise et al., 2019;Reissman et al., 1993). More specifically, couple activities that are novel, arousing, and exciting have been found to increase relationship satisfaction (Aron et al., 2000;Carson et al., 2007;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman et al., 1993). For instance, in a series of studies, participants who engaged in an obstacle course task together that was novel and arousing (i.e., partners were velcroed together and creatively moved a foam cylinder through an obstacle course) had higher levels of subsequent relationship satisfaction than those in a control group (who played a mundane activity involving a ball; Aron et al., 2000). ...
... In another study, when couples engaged in exciting activities together each week over a 10-week period, they reported feeling more satisfied with their relationship than couples in a no-activity control group or even couples who engaged in pleasant activities together (Reissman et al., 1993). In addition, couples who participated in an online excitement intervention for their relationship (i.e., couple members jointly created a list of 10 shared activities that had qualities such as novelty, excitement, interest, and challenge) for 90 min a week (over 4 weeks) displayed increased positive affect, excitement, and relationship satisfaction 4 weeks later compared to those in a control group (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Research has also shown that exciting activities that naturally occur in the context of couples' daily lives have relationship benefits. ...
... In sum, the experience of engaging in exciting activities has been linked with increased relationship satisfaction when researchers have studied couples in the lab (e.g., Aron et al., 2000), when they engage in researcher-directed "take-home" interventions (e.g., Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman et al., 1993) and in the context of people's daily lives (Graham, 2008;Muise et al., 2019). There is also some evidence that engaging in an exciting couple activity (i.e., a date) is associated with higher relational self-expansion (Harasymchuk & Walker, 2018). ...
Article
Self-expansion in intimate relationships (i.e., broadening one’s perspective through engaging in novel, exciting activities with a partner) has been associated with relationship benefits. The goal of this study was to propose a motivational model of self-expansion to understand what prompts people to engage in self-expanding activities in their relationship on a daily basis. We hypothesized that when people report stronger daily approach relationship goals (i.e., goals focused on pursuing growth, intimacy, and rewards), they would report a greater likelihood of engaging in novel, exciting activities that enhance self-expansion and ultimately promote greater satisfaction in romantic relationships. To test our model, we recruited 122 couples for a 3-week daily diary study. In support of our hypotheses, on days when people (or their partners) reported higher than their usual approach relationship goals, they reported higher relational self-expansion, which was due, in part, to a greater likelihood of engaging in novel, exciting activities with the partner. In turn, higher relational self-expansion was associated with higher daily relationship satisfaction. Our findings have implications for understanding what promotes relationship growth on a day-to-day basis and the outcomes of daily approach-oriented relationship goals.
... Fortunately, research has shown that engaging in shared activities that are novel and exciting can revitalize feelings of self-expansion in the context of a long-term relationship (Aron & Aron, 1986, 1996, and this can have important implications for relationship satisfaction. Indeed, experimental evidence from in-lab studies (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000;Graham & Harf, 2015) and "homework style" studies conducted outside the laboratory (Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman, Aron, & Bergen, 1993) support the notion that self-expanding (e.g., novel, exciting, interesting, and challenging) activities increase relationship quality. For example, couples randomly assigned to a 4-week online intervention that involved 1.5 h of shared exciting activities (that participants themselves gener-ated) had greater pre-to postmeasurement increases in relationship quality than couples in a wait-list control group (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). ...
... Indeed, experimental evidence from in-lab studies (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000;Graham & Harf, 2015) and "homework style" studies conducted outside the laboratory (Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman, Aron, & Bergen, 1993) support the notion that self-expanding (e.g., novel, exciting, interesting, and challenging) activities increase relationship quality. For example, couples randomly assigned to a 4-week online intervention that involved 1.5 h of shared exciting activities (that participants themselves gener-ated) had greater pre-to postmeasurement increases in relationship quality than couples in a wait-list control group (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). These studies provide clear evidence that selfexpansion is associated with higher relationship satisfaction, but the evidence to date does not suggest why engaging in selfexpanding activities with a partner increases relationship quality. ...
... SELF-EXPANDING, DESIRE, AND SATISFACTION typically did, they felt more sexual desire for their partner, and in turn, they were more likely to engage in sex, more likely to enjoy the sexual experience, and felt more satisfied with their relationship as a whole. Previous research has demonstrated the causal association between engaging in self-expanding activities and relationship satisfaction in experimental studies in which couples were assigned to engage in experimenter-prescribed activities (e.g., Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Graham & Harf, 2015;Reissman et al., 1993), and the current findings extend this work to demonstrate that self-expanding activities are also associated with relationship satisfaction (and sexual desire, activity, and satisfaction) in daily life. ...
Article
In the early stages of romantic relationships, sexual desire is often intense, but over time, as partners get to know each other, desire tends to decline. Low sexual desire has negative implications for relationship satisfaction and maintenance. Self-expansion theory suggests that engaging in novel activities with a long-term romantic partner can reignite feelings of passion from the early stages of a relationship. Across 3 studies using dyadic, daily experience, longitudinal, and experimental methods, we find evidence for our central prediction that engaging in self-expanding activities with a partner is associated with higher sexual desire. In turn, we found that higher desire fueled by self-expansion is associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Self-expansion, through sexual desire, is also associated with an increased likelihood that couples will engage in sex, and when they do engage in sex, they feel more satisfied with their sexual experiences. We also demonstrate that the benefits of self-expansion for relationship satisfaction are sustained over time, and that the effects cannot be attributed solely to increases in positive affect, time spent interacting with the partner or closeness during the activity. Implications for self-expansion theory and sexual desire maintenance in relationships are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
... More specifically, activities in relationships that are shared (i.e., both couple members engage in them together), novel, arousing, and exciting have been found to increase relationship satisfaction (Aron et al., 2000, Studies 3-5;Carson, Carson, Gil, & Baucom, 2007;Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman, Aron, & Bergen, 1993) and are associated with decreased relational boredom (Aron et al., 2000, Studies 1 & 2). For instance, Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, and Heyman (2000, Studies 3-5) found that participants who engaged in an obstacle course task together that was novel and arousing (i.e., partners were velcroed together and creatively carried a ball through an obstacle course) had higher levels of subsequent relationship satisfaction than a control group (who played a more mundane ball game together). ...
... Reissman, Aron, and Bergen (1993) found that couples who engaged in exciting ''relationship homework'' for 1.5 hr a week (over a 10week period) displayed greater increases in relationship satisfaction than the group assigned to engage in pleasant activities. Similarly, Coulter and Malouff (2013) found that couples who participated in an online excitement intervention for their relationship displayed increased positive affect, excitement, and relationship satisfaction 4 months later (vs. control group). ...
Article
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The goal of this study was to examine how people respond to relational boredom in the context of growth-enhancing (i.e., novel) and security-restorative (i.e., familiar) shared activities. In Study 1, people’s prescriptive and descriptive beliefs for responding to relational boredom were assessed. Next, we developed a prime of relational boredom (Study 2a) and examined its effects on behavioral intentions for shared activities (Studies 2b and 3) as well as qualities of a planned date (Study 3). In Study 1, people thought they should engage in more growth-enhancing novel activities when bored (but not more security-restorative ones). However, for likely ratings (Study 1) and behavioral intentions (Studies 2b and 3), there were inconsistent findings for the idea that boredom prompts novel shared activities. Instead, in the context of relational boredom, people consistently displayed a pattern of being less likely to engage in security-restorative familiar shared activities.
... Flere studier har vist at både delte og individuelle erfaringer kan opprettholde selvutvidelse i parforholdet over tid (Xu, Lewandowski & Aron, 2016). Delte erfaringer med aktiviteter som er nye, utfordrende og spennende kan bidra til økt selvutvidelse fordi også parforholdet da kan oppleves som mer spennende (Gardner, Gabriel & Hochschild, 2002;Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Spesielt har aktiviteter forbundet med høy positiv affekt, eksempelvis dansetimer, vist seg å ha en langvarig positiv effekt (Graham, 2008). ...
... Funnene kan si noe om hva par som likevel ønsker å holde sammen på tross av denne tvilen, kan gjøre. Det er tidligere implisert at par som kommer til et vendepunkt der kjedsomhet blir dominerende, og der andre arenaer for utvidelse av selvet blir mer attraktivt, kan prøve ut nye og spennende aktiviteter sammen (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Videre antyder våre funn at andre elementer, som å gjøre seg sårbar ovenfor hverandre, videreutvikle parets interne verden gjennom former som humor og å fortsette å bruke hverandre som en trygghet, kan bidra til større selvutvikling gjennom utvikling av «vi-et». ...
Article
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“I feel like an extended organism” – Young adults’ experience of contemporary romantic relationships The period before young adult couples choose to commit is prolonged compared to a few decades ago. By applying Grounded Theory, this qualitative study explores how young adults experience contemporary romantic relationships. We interviewed 10 Norwegian students from ages 20 to 29 years. The most central finding was the informants’ experiences of becoming something more in the relationship with the partner. This self-expansion seemed to build upon two main processes: (1) Building joint identity refers to the experience that mutually exposing one’s own vulnerability enhances joint identity. Becoming adults together also promotes joint identity and illuminates how couples provide care for each other, and expands the self through facilitating joint identity. The use of internal humour is also emphasized and may be more important for the establishment of romantic relations than previously recognized. (2) Doubting the shared identity emphasize how a new transitional phase can raise questions about one’s own choices in a period where “I” is prioritized before “we”, and where the couples avoid to discuss commitment. Altogether, the findings highlight new aspects and connections between established theories, which may provide a better understanding of the present dilemmas young couple experience. Increased insight about commitment processes among young adults may have clinical relevance and implications for further theory development.
... A variety of studies have produced promising results (e.g., Aron et al., 2000;Coulter & Malouff, 2013), but previous interventions tend either to give specific instructions that limit applicability for many couples or offer generalized suggestions that cannot easily be investigated in research. ...
... On one side of the spectrum, interventions prescribing detailed scheduling (e.g., "Magic Five Hours"; Gottman, 1999) or requiring time-based involvement (e.g., prompting couples to devise 10 different 90-minute activities; Coulter & Malouff, 2013) may inadvertently exclude couples that are confined by time-constraints and discordant availability (Fraenkel & Wilson, 2000). On the other side of the spectrum, generalized suggestions (e.g., "date nights"; Wilcox & Dew, 2012) have indefinite variability for application. ...
Thesis
The Affectionate Gesture Planner (AGP) is a smartphone application (i.e., “app”) that aims to increase relationship satisfaction for couples in long-term relationships by prompting couples to complete loving acts for each other on a daily basis. The AGP app is informed by concepts from social exchange theory and the investment model (Rusbult, 1983), which predict that increasing the mutual exchange of beneficial investments to the relationship improves the quality and stability of the relationship. The present study is a formative evaluation on the prototype of the AGP app. Based on participant feedback, the AGP app will be improved prior to future trials. Future models of the AGP app will be used to compare the efficacy of using standardized suggestions versus personalized prompts.
... neutral or familiar) activities together, they experience greater relationship quality immediately and over short periods of time (Aron et al., 2000;Graham & Harf, 2015;Muise et al., 2019). Additionally, in one study, couples who were randomly assigned to a 4-week online intervention that asked them to engage in shared exciting and interesting activities reported greater pre-to post-measurement increases in relationship quality compared to couples in a waitlist control group (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). A logical extension of this promising research would be to test the efficacy of these experimental manipulations in predicting couples' affect and health over time. ...
Article
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A growing body of literature suggests that specific markers of relationship quality are meaningfully linked to health outcomes. We tested whether relational self‐expansion potential might be one of these markers in cross‐sectional samples of individuals and romantic couples. Study 1 found that greater self‐expansion potential was linked to better perceived physical health via both higher positive affect (PA) and lower negative affect (NA). Study 2 replicated these findings for PA (but not NA) and revealed both actor and partner effects of self‐expansion potential. Results remained robust when statistically accounting for gender, age, body mass index, agreeableness, neuroticism, and perceived partner responsiveness. These findings identify a new relationship‐level “active ingredient” associated with health and have implications for future physical health studies.
... for exciting activities and encourages them to participate in shared exciting activities for 90 min per week for a 4-week period (Coulter & Malouf, 2013). In a recent test of this intervention, 101 couples, virtually all of whom were married or cohabitating, were randomly assigned either to this relationship excitement intervention or to a wait-list control condition. ...
Article
Throughout American history, the fundamental purpose of marriage has shifted from (a) helping spouses meet their basic economic and political needs to (b) helping them meet their intimacy and passion needs to (c) helping them meet their autonomy and personal-growth needs. According to the suffocation model of marriage in America, these changes have had two major consequences for marital quality, one negative and one positive. The negative consequence is that, as Americans have increasingly looked to their marriage to help them meet idiosyncratic, self-expressive needs, the proportion of marriages that fall short of their expectations has grown, which has increased rates of marital dissatisfaction. The positive consequence is that those marriages that succeed in meeting these needs are particularly fulfilling, more so than the best marriages in earlier eras. In tandem, these two consequences have pushed marriage toward an all-or-nothing state.
... Although these results should be further examined and replicated, they provide initial support that novel environments may also stimulate the release of oxytocin. For couples, this may potentially translate to finding new and challenging activities for date nights rather falling into regular routines as has been illustrated in other couple relationship findings (e.g., Coulter & Malouff, 2013). ...
Article
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Objective: To evaluate the release of oxytocin as a biomarker of romantic‐partner attachment during couple recreation. Background: To date, no studies have examined the impact of distinct types of recreation activities on the release of oxytocin. The Ecology for Family Experience framework, which highlights the divergent experience of family members, guided the experimental design. Method: A total of 20 cohabitating or married couples were randomly assigned to one of the following two experimental groups: board games or art class. Urinary oxytocin was measured before and after the recreational activity. Analysis of covariance was used to determine group differences in oxytocin levels. Results All groups released oxytocin during couple activities. Men in the art class demonstrated oxytocin response twice the level than other groups. Couples in the art class reported more partner touching than couples playing board games. A significant environmental impact was also identified. Conclusion: Oxytocin is released during couple recreational activities. Some types of activities may contribute to higher release of oxytocin than others. Key factors may include touch, novelty, and sex. Implications: Findings support the Ecology of Family Experience framework as a useful tool in examining factors of divergent and convergent couple experiences. Researchers should further explore the role of touch and environment in the release of oxytocin during couple activities.
... A four-week, internetbased intervention designed to increase romantic relationship excitement was tested in a community sample of Australian couples. This program led to higher levels of romantic relationship excitement, positive affect, and relationship satisfaction when compared to a waitlist control group (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Additionally, a separate study explored the couple functioning in couples that were randomized to either a different internet-based intervention, a traditional couple workshop, or a waitlist control group. ...
Although there are a number of highly efficacious in-person treatments designed to ameliorate relationship distress, only a small proportion of distressed couples seek out in-person treatment. Recently developed internet-based interventions based on these in-person treatments are a promising way to circumvent common barriers to in-person treatment and give more distressed couples access to these efficacious interventions. The overarching aims of this review are to provide couple and family therapists with a broad overview of the available internet-based interventions and provide suggestions about how these interventions might be utilized before, during, or after in-person treatment. The majority of the review centres on internet-based interventions for distressed couples and covers four distinct types of resources: relationship advice websites; assessment/feedback interventions; enrichment interventions for satisfied couples; and interventions targeting at-risk or distressed couples. Included is a case study of one couple's journey through a newly developed intervention targeting at-risk couples, OurRelationship.com. Internet-based interventions targeting individual psychopathology (e.g. anxiety and depression) are also reviewed. These interventions would be particularly useful as an adjunctive resource for in-person couple or family therapy when referrals for a concurrent in-person individual therapist are not feasible (because of time, financial, or geographic constraints). We close with three appendices: two appendices with information on currently available internet-based interventions; and one appendix with recommendations on how to incorporate these resources into in-person therapy.
... Engaging in shared selfexpanding activities as a couple is associated with greater self-other overlap (i.e., expanding the self to include aspects of the partner) and can motivate partners to engage in more relationship maintenance behaviors (e.g., physical affection, accommodation, and willingness to sacrifice; Aron & Aron, 1996;Ledbetter, 2013;McIntyre, Mattingly, & Lewandowski, 2015). Experimental evidence from in-lab studies (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000;Graham & Harf, 2015) and "homeworkstyle" studies (e.g., engaging in one exciting activity per week for 90 min; Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Reissman, Aron, & Bergen, 1993) demonstrates that self-expansion increases relationship quality. However, past research on self-expansion has primarily focused on community samples who are typically highly satisfied with their relationships. ...
Article
Regular positive sexual interactions are one reason why relationships have health and well-being benefits, yet low sexual desire is among the most common sexual problems reported by women. One interpersonal factor that has been associated with greater sexual desire and satisfaction in community couples is self-expansion (i.e., expanding one’s sense of self through novel, exciting, and broadening activities with a partner). In the current study, we recruited 97 couples in which the woman was diagnosed with clinically low sexual desire to test how self-expansion was associated with both partners’ sexual and relationship well-being. When women with low desire reported higher self-expansion, they reported greater relationship and sexual satisfaction, higher desire, and couples were more affectionate. When their partners reported higher self-expansion, they felt more satisfied with their sex life and relationship (and so did the women), lower sexual distress and less relationship conflict, and couples were more affectionate. Our findings suggest that self-expansion is associated with greater relationship and sexual well-being for couples with low desire, as well as less sexual distress and relationship conflict. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
... We found that most online programs address perceptions, with very few measuring actions. Interventions targeting the promotion of interpersonal well-being (e.g., positive relationships, conflict resolution, and partner support) typically measured perception outcomes such as depression, relationship satisfaction, happiness, and romantic passion [11][12][13] rather than behavioral outcomes. One computer-based program found significant improvements in communication behaviors in a sample of young adults. ...
Article
Objective: Fun For Wellness (FFW) is a new online intervention designed to promote growth in well-being by providing capability-enhancing learning opportunities (e.g., play an interactive game) to participants. The purpose of this study was to provide an initial evaluation of the efficacy of the FFW intervention to increase well-being actions. Materials and methods: The study design was a secondary data analysis of a large-scale prospective, double-blind, parallel-group randomized controlled trial. Data were collected at baseline and 30 and 60 days postbaseline. A total of 479 adult employees at a major university in the southeast of the United States of America were enrolled. Participants who were randomly assigned to the FFW group were provided with 30 days of 24-hour access to the intervention. A two-class linear regression model with complier average causal effect estimation was fitted to well-being actions scores at 30 and 60 days. Results: Intent-to-treat analysis provided evidence that the effect of being assigned to the FFW intervention, without considering actual participation in the FFW intervention, had a null effect on each dimension of well-being actions at 30 and 60 days. Participants who complied with the FFW intervention, however, had significantly higher well-being actions scores, compared to potential compliers in the Usual Care group, in the interpersonal dimension at 60 days, and the physical dimension at 30 days. Conclusions: Results from this secondary data analysis provide some supportive evidence for both the efficacy of and possible revisions to the FFW intervention in regard to promoting well-being actions.
... The dual conceptualisation of love (attraction and virtue) by Jeffries (2002) helps explain why we found a differential pattern of associations for love and excitement: the latter contains elements of pleasure and sexual attraction, and it cannot be said to be the same thing as love. In a related development, a previous study found that an experimental increase in relationship excitement by means of a therapeutic intervention led to significantly higher levels of relationship satisfaction (Coulter and Malouff 2013). The study of marital values and virtues is therefore not of purely academic interest but may also have practical applications in marital therapy. ...
Article
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An individual’s value system plays an important role in their intimate relationship or marriage. Most marital satisfaction research to date has been carried out in high-income liberal Western societies. We conducted an original quantitative empirical survey of virtues and values to examine their effect on relationship quality and stability in a sample of 511 respondents from Slovenia, a post-socialist society in transition. The results showed that respondents rated health, love, and safety at the top of their hierarchy of values. The key finding was that the presence of love was associated with an individual’s subjective perception of relationship quality but had no effect on the self-evaluation of relationship stability. In addition to love, both family safety and comfort were significant correlates of relationship quality while self-respect was negatively correlated with relationship quality. Only excitement was found to have a statistically significant effect on relationship stability.
... Two interventions primarily focused on couples in more established relationships. One was labeled the excitement intervention (Coulter & Malouff, 2013) and was tested with middle-aged heterosexual couples (M = 35.0 years of age) who had been together for several (M = 9.7) years. ...
Article
Objective: To review brief couple interventions (BCIs), with a focus on contributions to theory, development, and implications for practice. Background: For decades, scholars have observed the individual and societal costs of relationship instability. Due to these costs, state and federal agencies have invested millions of dollars in relationship and marriage education programs with the hope of promoting the positive effects associated with healthy relationships. However, the plausibility of many of these interventions has been challenged, suggesting a need for renewed focus on different approaches to promote relationship quality and stability throughout the life course. Method: We searched numerous databases to review brief interventions used in multiple disciplines. This review resulted in 12 studies ranging from samples of young adults to established couples. Results: We found several interventions using distinct delivery methods and theoretical frameworks. These interventions targeted numerous individual and relational processes, such as self-esteem, distress related to conflict, and gratitude that promoted healthy relationship functioning. Conclusion: We provide evidence that brief interventions influence individual and relational processes by targeting factors relevant to couples across the life course. We ultimately find support for the utility of the vulnerability-stress-adaptation model when developing interventions for couples. Implications: On the basis of our review, we end with numerous practical suggestions for clinicians to adopt when developing programs to promote healthy relationships.
... increased sense of closeness via postoperative massage performed by a significant other [51]; benefits for marital adjustment following one way massage between couples [52], and improved relationships for both givers and receivers [39]. Relationship satisfaction can also be protected by increased positive emotions and behaviours [53] [54] as detailed below. ...
... for exciting activities and encourages them to participate in shared exciting activities for 90 min per week for a 4-week period (Coulter & Malouf, 2013). In a recent test of this intervention, 101 couples, virtually all of whom were married or cohabitating, were randomly assigned either to this relationship excitement intervention or to a wait-list control condition. ...
Article
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This article distills insights from historical, sociological, and psychological perspectives on marriage to develop the suffocation model of marriage in America. According to this model, contemporary Americans are asking their marriage to help them fulfill different sets of goals than in the past. Whereas they ask their marriage to help them fulfill their physiological and safety needs much less than in the past, they ask it to help them fulfill their esteem and self-actualization needs much more than in the past. Asking the marriage to help them fulfill the latter, higher level needs typically requires sufficient investment of time and psychological resources to ensure that the two spouses develop a deep bond and profound insight into each other's essential qualities. Although some spouses are investing sufficient resources-and reaping the marital and psychological benefits of doing so-most are not. Indeed, they are, on average, investing less than in the past. As a result, mean levels of marital quality and personal well-being are declining over time. According to the suffocation model, spouses who are struggling with an imbalance between what they are asking from their marriage and what they are investing in it have several promising options for corrective action: intervening to optimize their available resources, increasing their investment of resources in the marriage, and asking less of the marriage in terms of facilitating the fulfillment of spouses' higher needs. Discussion explores the implications of the suffocation model for understanding dating and courtship, sociodemographic variation, and marriage beyond American's borders.
... Hedonic aspects of couple flourishing involve high intensity and frequency of positive affect and experiences. Intimate relationships are one of the main sources of intense positive emotions including excitement, interest, joy, gratitude, love, compassion (Fitness & Williams, 2013), and positive affect predicts sustained high relationship satisfaction (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). ...
Article
Couple satisfaction has been extensively investigated, but little attention has been paid to the nature and assessment of high-quality, flourishing couple relationships. Particularly, current measures of relationship quality are insensitive at the upper end of the continuum, which in turn hinders progress toward understanding and facilitating flourishing couple relationships. Drawing on concepts developed in positive psychology, we proposed a theoretical framework of couple flourishing that incorporates hedonic and eudemonic components. Items to assess these aspects of couple flourishing were generated and administered online to a sample of 1,116 participants. Using combined methods of classical test theory and item response theory (IRT), we selected the most informative items to form 4-, 8-, 16-item versions of a Couple Flourishing Measure (CFM). IRT analyses show that the CFM discriminated variation at the upper range of relationship quality better than widely used measures of relationship satisfaction. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that couple flourishing was related to, but distinguishable from, relationship satisfaction. In an independent sample of 330 participants, we replicated the unifactorial structure of the CFM, and the distinguishability of couple flourishing from couple satisfaction. This research offers new insight into the concept of relationship flourishing. The sensitivity of the CFM at the high end of relationship quality makes it possible to test for predictors of relationship flourishing and evaluate interventions that seek to enhance flourishing.
... Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, and Heyman (2000) were able to increase reported passionate love (at least temporarily) in long-term relationship partners through an experimental task, suggesting there may be natural mechanisms that permit high levels of passionate love even in long-term relationships. Further, a randomized clinical trial experiment showed that couples who did exciting activities for 90 minutes per week for four weeks had increased relationship excitement, positive affect, and satisfaction four months later (Coulter & Malouff, 2013). Expressions of love, respect, passion, and desire predicted relationship satisfaction 15 months later in an observational longitudinal dyadic study (Graber, Laurenceau, Miga, Changan, & Coan, 2011). ...
... In other words, participating together in the intervention triggered feelings of excitement among partners, which enhanced relationship satisfaction (consistent with theory and research on the self-expansion model 36 ). This raises the question whether the relationship enhancing effects in this study could be attributed to mindfulness training, or whether engaging in any other exciting activity together would have enhanced relationship satisfaction 37 . More recently, Khaddouma and colleagues published the results of an uncontrolled pilot study, showing that twenty participants who engaged in an 8-week standardized mindfulness program (mindfulness-based-stress-reduction; MBSR) significantly increased in relationship satisfaction from before to after the training; no such increases were found in their partners 38 . ...
Article
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There is increasing scientific interest in the potential association between mindfulness and romantic relationship wellbeing. To date, however, experimental studies using active control groups and testing dyadic effects (i.e. examining both actor and partner effects) are lacking. In the current study, romantically involved individuals engaged for 2 weeks daily in either guided mindfulness exercises, or guided relaxation exercises. Participants, and their partners, completed measures of relationship wellbeing at pre- and post-intervention, and at 1-month follow up. The mindfulness intervention significantly promoted relationship wellbeing, for both participants (i.e. actor effects) and their partners (i.e. partner effects). However, these findings did not significantly differ from changes in relationship wellbeing in the relaxation condition. Theoretical implications of these findings for understanding the association between mindfulness and romantic relationship wellbeing are discussed. Moreover, the findings are discussed in light of recent debates about the relative lack of proper control groups in mindfulness research.
... The Cronbach's alpha of this scale has been shown to approximate .86 (Coulter & Malouff, 2013;Hendrick et al., 1998) and generated a value of .85 in this study. ...
Article
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Whether perceived differences between romantic partners compromises or enhances relationships may depend on the characteristics of individuals. This study explores the possibility that differences in capabilities but not motives enhance relationship satisfaction—but only when the individuals feel connected to their future identity. In particular, when individuals feel connected to their future identity, their primary motivation is to accrue capabilities and resources that could be useful in subsequent decades. They will thus seek partners with capabilities they have yet to acquire because, consistent with self-expansion theory, they tend to perceive these abilities as part of their own self-concept. To test this premise, 152 individuals rated the motives and capabilities of both themselves and their partners and also answered questions that gauge their relationship satisfaction and connectedness to their future identity. Perceived differences in motives and capabilities were inversely associated with relationship satisfaction. However, when participants felt connected to their future identity, the inverse association between differences in capabilities and relationship satisfaction diminished. Accordingly, if individuals perceive their lives as stable, they can embrace some differences between themselves and their partner.
Article
An interpretative phenomenological study of newlywed couple leisure was conducted to understand the role of leisure in the development of relationship dynamics and couple identity. Nine couples were interviewed twice, using open-ended questions that explored the role of leisure in their relationship development. Data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological processes. Couples viewed leisure as a crucial part of their relationships, helping them develop their identities as couples through creating shared meaning and opportunities to improve communication and conflict management skills. Findings can be used to encourage couple exploration of positive leisure experiences during courtship and early marriage, including therapeutic interventions and relationship education programs that teach couples to incorporate joint leisure strategically into their relationships.
Article
Counseling psychologists are in a prime position to claim preeminence in the field of applied positive psychology. A number of misunderstandings or misconceptions of positive psychology seem to interfere, however, with the focus (or lack thereof) that has been placed upon training counseling psychologists to utilize and contribute to positive psychological scholarship and applications. In this article, the most commonly reported misconceptions are addressed, and foundational information regarding positive psychological constructs, theories, and processes most relevant to the applied work of counseling psychologists is reviewed. Counseling psychologists are encouraged to claim positive psychology as the logical extension of our humanistic roots and to consider how to both utilize and contribute to the growing body of positive psychological scholarship.
Article
This study examined when the shared activity of extreme sports predicts relationship closeness. Participants who were skydivers involved in a relationship with a nonskydiver or a fellow skydiver were asked about perceived severity and perceived likelihood of possible negative events related to skydiving. Those who shared the activity of skydiving with their relationship partner reported higher levels of closeness than those who did not. However, this difference was contingent on perceptions of skydiving. Among those who perceived that possible negative events related to skydiving would be likely to happen but low in severity, closeness was higher if skydiving was an activity they shared with their partner. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the role of shared activities in relationship closeness.
Article
In Study 1, 103 adults involved in an exciting romantic relationship described how they keep their relationship exciting. The responses provided the foundation for a new model of how couples keep their relationship exciting. The model includes exciting activities that are passionate, adventurous, playful, sexual, spontaneous, and romantic, along with three relationship-maintaining activities: communicating effectively, joint activities, and autonomy. In Study 2, 104 adults rated their relationship on the three relationship-maintenance variables, on exciting activities, on excitement, and on relationship satisfaction. The relationship-maintenance and exciting activities showed significant associations with both excitement and satisfaction, providing preliminary support for the model.
Article
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Close relationships have the potential to fundamentally alter relationship partners’ self-concepts and, consequently, can impact individuals’ mental health. One type of relationship-induced self-concept change is self-expansion, which describes the cognitive reorganization of the self that can occur when individuals include aspects of their partner into the self, or when they share novel and challenging activities together. In the current research, we hypothesized that greater self-expansion would be associated with fewer depression symptoms. In support of this hypothesis, across four studies using cross-sectional, dyadic, daily diary, and longitudinal methodologies, we found that self-expansion was negatively associated with depression symptoms. This association was robust and remained a significant predictor of depression symptoms when controlling for demographic factors (gender, age, relationship length; Studies 1–4) and known risk factors of depression (dysfunctional attitudes, major life stressors, self-concept clarity; Study 2). Moreover, individuals’ self-expansion negatively predicted depression symptoms at the daily level (Study 3) and longitudinally over 9 months (Study 4). These results are the first to show the link between self-expansion and depression symptoms, suggesting that self-expansion may have robust benefits for individuals, beyond improving relationship dynamics.
Chapter
Interdependence, Interaction, and Close Relationships - edited by Laura V. Machia June 2020
Article
Introduction: Companionship (i.e., enjoyable shared activities) is associated with higher emotional and relational well-being. However, the role of companionship for emotional well-being and relationship satisfaction in older couples' everyday life is not well understood. This article studies time-varying associations of companionship with emotional and relational well-being as older couples engage in their everyday life. Methods: Participants provided three data points a day over 7 days using electronic surveys that were simultaneously completed by both partners. A total of 118 older heterosexual couples reported momentary companionship, positive and negative affect, and closeness. Data were analyzed using an intensive longitudinal dyadic score model. Results: Couples with higher average companionship showed lower overall negative affect, more overall positive affect, and higher overall closeness. During moments of elevated momentary companionship, partners reported more positive affect, less negative affect, and higher closeness. Regarding between-couple partner differences, i.e., when the female partner's momentary companionship was higher on average than the male partner's momentary companionship, the female partner also showed less negative affect, more positive affect, and higher closeness than the male partner. During moments in which the female partner's momentary companionship was higher than the male partner's momentary companionship, the female partner showed less negative affect, more positive affect, and higher closeness than the male partner. Discussion: Older couples show a consistent link between companionship and emotional well-being and closeness in everyday life emphasizing the importance of studying companionship in close relationships.
Article
When my husband and I were dating, I told him that love was like a watercolor painting. “Once it's ruined,” I said, “you can't fix it.” I explained that one wrong stroke in a watercolor was tragic because, when applying pigment to white paper, you can't lighten what's already dark. “And that's how relationships work,” I said. But Jason was skeptical. Why wasn't love, he wondered, more like an oil painting? Why can't you rework a section of your relationship that isn't turning out so well, layering on the paint as thickly as needed, to make it more beautiful?
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In an integrative review, we examine four theories and models of romantic passion to determine what causes feelings of romantic passion. Although a growing consensus has emerged for the definition of romantic passion, we suggest that this is largely not the case for the source of romantic passion. We outline how four different perspectives—Limerence Theory, the Rate of Change in Intimacy Model, the Self‐Expansion Model, and the Triangular Theory of Love—propose four different potential sources of romantic passion and review empirical support in favor and against each. For each of these perspectives, we additionally outline the predicted trajectory of passion that follows from each theorized source of passion, as well as each perspective's view on the ability for passion to be controlled and up‐regulated. In identifying ways in which these theories and models offer conflicting predictions about the source of romantic passion, this review points to ways in which a more comprehensive model may be developed that integrates across these four perspectives.
Article
Online access to relationship enhancing educational resources are needed now more than ever, and there is a growing number of available programs for couples to choose. But, what is the evidence that these programs improve individual and relationship well‐being? We conducted a meta‐analysis, using random‐effects, examining individual and relationship outcomes of online relationship education programs. We identified 12 publications included in the analysis, and found that online relationship education programs produced significant effects in increasing relationship satisfaction, communication skills, relationship confidence, positive relationship qualities, and decreasing negative relationship qualities. At the individual‐level, we found that online relationship programs reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms, increased health satisfaction, and overall quality of life. Additionally, we found no differences related to gender, whether or not couples were identified as “distressed,” whether or not the programs were “enhanced,” or length of the program.
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Purpose The purpose of the present meta-analysis is twofold: 1) determine the aggregated statistical effect of cognitive-behavioral couples therapy (CBCT) for relationship distress in randomized controlled trials and 2) use the findings to inform clinical social work practice and research. Methods A systematic review was conducted using electronic databases and the reference lists of included studies. The random effects model meta-analysis used a hedges’ g effect size. Results After the removal of an outlier, a homogeneous (Q = 16.66, df = 12, p = .16, I ² = 27.96), significant, moderate effect favoring CBCT (Hedges’ g summary effect = .421, Z = 4.51, p < .0001, 95% confidence interval: 0.238 to 0.604, standard error = .093, variance = .009, k = 13) was obtained. Discussion It is anticipated that cognitive-behavioral/evidence-based social work clinicians and researchers will use the findings to support their clinical practice and advance their clinical research, respectively.
Article
Cambridge Core - Social Psychology - Interdependence, Interaction, and Close Relationships - edited by Laura V. Machia
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Cambridge Core - Social Psychology - The New Psychology of Love - edited by Robert J. Sternberg
Chapter
The formation and functioning of close relationships can alter individuals’ self-concepts in such a manner that the self-concepts are cognitively linked with the partner; however, relationship dissolution directly threatens the loss of this intertwined self-concept. In this chapter, we first discuss the degree to which prior relationship-induced self-concept change predicts, and in some cases inoculates against, dissolution. Second, we discuss the extent to which relationship dissolution leads to subsequent self-concept changes within individuals (e.g., loss of self-concept content, increased self-concept confusion), as well as the mechanisms underlying whether these post-dissolution self-concept changes are deemed harmful versus beneficial. Third, we explain how individuals may recover from post-dissolution self-concept changes by seeking to repair or restore the damaged self-concept. Finally, we briefly identify avenues for future research that scholars may consider pursuing.
Chapter
When individuals enter into close relationships, they can experience a variety of changes to the self-concept; these changes are directly linked to and affected by their relational partners. This chapter first explores the theoretical underpinnings of relationship-induced self-concept change by describing three key complementary perspectives: cognitive interdependence, self-expansion, and the two-dimensional model of relational self-change. These perspectives identify how close relationships can alter the size, structure, and diversity of individuals’ self-concepts (e.g., through self-other integration). Second, we review the consequences of relationship-induced self-concept change (e.g., relationship quality, maintenance behaviors). Finally, the chapter explores the empirical measurement of relationship-induced self-concept change by overviewing various operational definitions and methodologies, ranging from self-report to open-ended responses to response latencies to symbolic representations of the self-concept.
Article
Past research has established the relational benefits of engaging in novel tasks with a romantic partner. However, little empirical evidence exists for the mechanisms responsible. The current research examined growth experiences—the proposed and tested mechanism in past work—as well as security experiences, a previously unexplored mechanism. Using a recall paradigm, Study 1 found that people reported high feelings of security (e.g., reliance, trust), in addition to growth (e.g., fun, excitement), when pursuing novel activities with a romantic partner. In Study 2, romantic couples engaged in a novel or control task. We assessed feelings of growth and security, and examined couples' post-task relationship satisfaction. Results revealed that while growth feelings mediated the link between task condition and relationship satisfaction, consistent with past work, so too did feelings of security. When growth and security were included as simultaneous mediators in the model, feelings of security emerged as a stronger mediator.
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The current research administrated with the goal of studying the dimensions of marital interactions, conflict resolution styles in prediction marital quality in men and women of Qazvin City. The research is descriptive-correlation. 149 married women and 150 married men from five regions of Qazvin City were selected in two-stage sampling, and responded to the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Texas Tech Relationship Interaction Scale and Conflict Resolution Styles Questionnaire. The results showed that there was significant correlation between all the studied variables. The stepwise regression analysis also showed that exciting activities, salutary recognition, small-talks, and feedback of the components of marital interaction and conflicts involvement, adjustment and compatibility, avoidance and withdrawal of conflict resolution styles can be predict marital quality. Maintenance behaviors in interaction with spouse and take an appropriate style in conflict resolution can be considered as a guarantee of marital quality, and stability of couples. Key words: Marital interaction, marital conflict, marital quality
Book
Relationship maintenance encompasses a wide range of activities that partners use to preserve their relationships. Despite the importance of these efforts, considerably more empirical focus has been devoted to starting (i.e. initiation) and ending (i.e. dissolution) relationships than on maintaining them. In this volume, internationally renowned scholars from a variety of disciplines describe diverse sets of relationship maintenance efforts in order to show why some relationships endure, whereas others falter. By focusing on 'what to do' rather than 'what not to do' in relationships, this book paints a more comprehensive picture of the forms, functions, and contexts of relationship maintenance. It is essential reading for scholars and students in psychology, communication, human development and family science, sociology, and couple/marriage and family therapy.
Article
The self-expansion model posits that engaging in challenging activities with one's romantic partner increases the quality of that romantic relationship. Research on flow suggests that the optimal level of challenge for such experiences is determined by the skill of the individual. In a series of 5 studies spanning experimental, survey, and experience sampling methodologies, we elaborate on the self-expansion model to describe how activity challenge effects romantic relationship quality. The results suggest that engaging in challenging activities with one's partner results in increases in relationship quality, though this effect is dependent on the skill of the individual. Changes in affect appear to fully mediate this process. We present a theoretical model combining self-expansion and flow theories.
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This study showed that couples' newlywed marriages and changes in their union over the first 2 years foreshadow their long-term marital fate after 13 years. Consistent with the enduring dynamics model, differences in the intensity of newlyweds' romance as well as the extent to which they expressed negative feelings toward each other predicted (a) whether or not they were happy 13 years later (among those who stayed married) and (b) how long their marriage lasted prior to separation (for those who divorced). The results provide little support for the idea that emergence of distress (e.g., increasing negativity) early in marriage leads to marital failure but instead show that disillusionment--as reflected in an abatement of love, a decline in overt affection, a lessening of the conviction that one's spouse is responsive, and an increase in ambivalence--distinguishes couples headed for divorce from those who establish a stable marital bond.
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The sixth paper in this series discusses the design and principles of randomised controlled trials.
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The mundane and often fleeting moments that a couple experiences in their everyday lives may contribute to the health or deterioration of a relationship by serving as a foundation to major couple events such as conflict discussions and caring days. This study examines the role of playfulness and enthusiasm in everyday life to the use of humor and affection during conflict. Using observational methods, we studied 49 newlywed couples in a 10-minute dinnertime interaction and in a 15-minute conflict discussion. The conflict discussion was coded using the Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF; Gottman, Coan, & McCoy, 1996), and a new observational system was developed to capture dinnertime interactions in a seminatural setting. We analyzed the data using path analysis and found a stronger path model when the direction of correlation moved from daily moments to the conflict discussion. These findings provide preliminary support for the importance of daily moments in couple relationships, but this research was strictly observational and therefore correlational, so further research is necessary to determine direction of causation.
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The divorce rate in the United States is extremely high. It is estimated that between 50% and 67% of first marriages end in divorce. For second marriages, failure rates are even higher. There are strong negative consequences to separation and divorce on the mental and physical health of both spouses, including increased risk for psychopathology, increased rates of automobile accidents, and increased incidence of physical illness, suicide, violence, homicide, significant immunosuppression, and mortality from diseases. In children, marital distress, conflict, and disruption are associated with depression, withdrawal, poor social competence, health problems, poor academic performance, and a variety of conduct-related difficulties. Though intervention techniques might be expected to reduce these grim statistics, our best scholars have concluded that marital therapy is at a practical and theoretical impasse. This article discusses the progress of research on the study of marriage.
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