Personality Strengths in Romantic relationships: Measuring Perceptions of
Benefits and Costs and Their Impact on Personal
and Relational Well-Being
Todd B. Kashdan, Dan V. Blalock, Kevin C. Young, Kyla A. Machell, Samuel S. Monfort,
Patrick E. McKnight, and Patty Ferssizidis
George Mason University
Three studies using samples of people in romantic relationships were conducted to create a new
individual difference measure of partner strengths in couples. The 2 perceptions of partner strengths
included (1) appreciation of their use and effectiveness and (2) recognition of costs associated with their
use. Factor analyses supported 2-factors and we found that greater appreciation of partner strengths
predicted greater relationship satisfaction, commitment, investment, intimacy, self-expansion, and sup-
port for goal pursuit; recognizing significant costs with partner strengths was inversely related to several
outcomes. Using a 1-week daily diary, we found that appreciation of partner strength use and recognition
of costs associated with these strengths predicted daily relationship satisfaction and whether basic
psychological needs were met within the relationship. The explanatory power of partner strength
perceptions could not be explained by the actual character strengths or Big Five personality traits of
partners, support for positive self-disclosures (capitalization), or gratitude for relationship partners.
Finally, we found that the relational consequences of partner strength perceptions were not just “in the
head” of the perceiver—influencing partner relational outcomes. This research program provides evi-
dence for the use of a new measure of how strengths are perceived to better understand romantic couples
and aspirational targets in clinical interventions.
Public Significance Statement
This research program suggests that the beliefs we hold about the personality strengths of our
romantic partners influence our well-being and their well-being. This is the first study to show an
appreciative mindset about another person’s strengths has a positive influence on the relationship and
the belief that their strengths have a downside has an adverse influence.
Keywords: interpersonal relationships, character strengths, gratitude, capitalization support, psycholog-
Over the past decade, prominent models have emerged high-
lighting the importance of personality strengths in understanding
and improving psychological and social well-being (King & Trent,
2012;Linley, 2008;Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Scholars agree
that strengths serve as assets that promote adjustment and adapta-
tion (Noftle, Schnitker, & Robins, 2011). Strengths are trait-like
features of personality in that “they exist in degrees and can be
measured as individual differences (Park, Peterson, & Seligman,
2004, p. 603).
Prior strengths research has been limited to the effects of en-
dorsing strengths in oneself. In the current research, we advance
the study of personality strengths by exploring perceptions about
another person’s strengths. Theorists argue that there is an adaptive
value in recognizing and appreciating the strengths of one’s part-
ner, effects that influence the quality of the relationship to the
perceiver and the object of those perceptions (Murray, Holmes, &
Collins, 2006). For example, a partner who is extremely fair,
ensuring that everyone is treated equally at a family gathering,
might be viewed as an ideal future parent, increasing the perceiv-
er’s optimism about the future of the relationship. Similarly, it may
be maladaptive to recognize a large number of costs associated
with the personality strengths possessed and used by one’s roman-
tic partner. For example, a partner who is extremely curious may
go off on their own when traveling, talking to local merchants and
following small animals on day hikes, which may make her inac-
cessible in the relationship at times.
Because it is an empirical question, rather than fact, that per-
sonality strengths lead to unmitigated positive consequences, it is
surprising how infrequently researchers explore the potential costs
This article was published Online First April 6, 2017.
Todd B. Kashdan, Dan V. Blalock, Kevin C. Young, Kyla A. Machell,
Samuel S. Monfort, Patrick E. McKnight, and Patty Ferssizidis, Depart-
ment of Psychology, George Mason University.
Preparation of this article was supported by funding to the Todd B.
Kashdan from the Values in Action Institute and the Center for the
Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Todd B.
Kashdan, Department of Psychology, MS 3F5, George Mason University,
Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: email@example.com
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Psychological Assessment © 2017 American Psychological Association
2018, Vol. 30, No. 2, 241–258 1040-3590/18/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pas0000464