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We're no longer seeing each other. As I read the text from my friend, I wondered what could have happened. Just the week before, I'd met the fellow she'd been seeing, along with his two kids from his prior marriage.
Nevertheless, not all attempts to improve a relationship will be successful, and thus deciding whether or not to dissolve a relationship requires considering what the future of the relationship will be like.
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Because the implications of each event may differ for each participant e. Nevertheless, we argue that there are several independent sources of expected satisfaction that can cause it to functionally diverge from current satisfaction and thus independently predict commitment. Existing theoretical perspectives e. In Study 2, people in romantic relationships reported their current relationship satisfaction, expectations for future relationship satisfaction, and current commitment to their relationship.
This version of the LES presents participants with 60 major life events across nine domains e. For these reasons, we argue that intimates may base their commitment to a relationship on their expectations regarding the likelihood that they will be satisfied in the future rather than whether or not they are satisfied at the present; such expected satisfaction is likely based partially on current satisfaction but should also reflect additional factors relevant to the future.
Coefficient alpha was. Empirical evidence is consistent with these ideas. Most notably, Le and Agnew conducted a meta-analysis of 60 samples that tested the main tenets of interdependence theory and, crucially, documented that current relationship satisfaction appeared to be the strongest predictor of commitment.
Five items ask participants to respond according to a 7-point scale, whereas one item asks participants to respond according to a point scale. But even events that do not directly involve the relationship, such as beginning a new job, losing a job, becoming ill, or moving to a new residence can alter life experiences in ways that change the relationship e.
First, we predicted that anticipated life events, plans to improve the relationship, and individual differences e. In Study 3, we asked people to report their commitment to a hypothetical relationship after imagining that the relationship a was either currently satisfying or unsatisfying and b would be either satisfying or unsatisfying in the future. To address concerns that any effects in these studies reflected semantic confounds related to the use of self-report measures of cognition, Studies 5 and 6 assessed the implications of current and expected satisfaction for two important behavioral indicators of commitment—relationship maintenance behaviors Study 5 and divorce Study 6.
These findings highlight not only the need to incorporate expected satisfaction into extent perspectives on commitment, but also the importance of expectations for decision-making processes more broadly. The remainder of this introduction is organized into four sections.
Expectations for future relationship satisfaction: unique sources and critical implications for commitment
Longitudinal studies have provided similar support e. In the next section, we develop the argument that expected satisfaction is a stronger predictor of commitment than is current satisfaction by arguing expected satisfaction is based on not only current satisfaction, which reflects prior experience, but also three additional factors relevant to the future of the relationship: plans to improve the relationship, any anticipated life events, and individual differences. Weighted event scores were created that were a product of the likelihood and impact scores, and these weighted scores expectations summed.
Finally, research also indicates that individual differences in neuroticism are associated with more pessimistic interpersonal expectations McNulty, Although such individual dating are associated with current satisfaction Jackson. The remaining participants 48 men, 52 women had a mean age of Participants reported being in a relationship for an average of This measure requires individuals to report agreement with six items that assess relationship satisfaction e.
All items were summed.
For dating items, participants were first instructed to think about the current state of their relationship. In Study 1, people in romantic relationships reported anticipated life events, plans to improve the quality of their relationship, individual differences e. The next five studies tested whether current satisfaction exerted unique and stronger effects on commitment than did current satisfaction and mediated the effects of current satisfaction that did emerge.
Likewise, people with high self-esteem tend to be more confident that other will accept them e. This sample size was obtained because a power analysis anticipating medium effect sizes indicated that expectations power to detect an association between relationship satisfaction and the predicted determinants of satisfaction was greater than. According to contemporary conceptualizations of interdependence theory e. The second section, in contrast, Jackson theoretical and empirical challenges to this perspective that suggest that current satisfaction provides limited information on which to base relationship decisions and thus expected satisfaction serves as a more functional and proximal source of commitment.
Finally, the fourth section describes three cross-sectional studies, three experiments, and one longitudinal study that tested these ideas. One dating source is anticipated life changes. Despite the high reliability of both measures, current satisfaction was, as expected, not perfectly correlated with expected satisfaction. Participants were individuals 53 men, 57 women who were in a relationship for at least three months and were recruited using the Mechanical Turk service on amazon.
Specifically, in Study 5, newlywed couples reported their current and expected relationship satisfaction, participated in a task that assessed their tendency to attend to attractive others, and reported the extent to which their partners engaged in constructive relationship maintenance behaviors. Expectations More. Although the direction and extent to which such changes shape expected satisfaction may vary from person to person, it is likely that most people at least recognize the possibility that such changes will Jackson their relationships.
Most expectations are based partly on prior experience Olson et al.
Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Ten participants were excluded from analyses because they failed attention checks. The first section briefly reviews theoretical and empirical work on relationships suggesting that intimates base their commitment to a relationship primarily on their current satisfaction with that relationship.
Nevertheless, not all relationships are equally helpful in this regard. Internal consistency was high. The most obvious of these are those that directly involve the relationship, such as datingbeginning to cohabitate with a partner, becoming engaged or married, or moving closer or further away from a partner. The third section identifies unique sources of expected satisfaction that may cause it to diverge from current satisfaction. In an effort to maintain consistency despite Jackson different des and data obtained across studies, we always use a subsequent analysis to directly expectations the magnitude of the association between expected satisfaction and commitment to the association between current satisfaction and commitment.
Accordingly, positive scores indicated that participants anticipated more positive changes to the relationship whereas negative scores indicated that participants anticipated more negative changes to their relationships. We tested whether anticipated life events, plans to improve the relationship, and individual differences explained variance in expected satisfaction that was unique from current satisfaction. Nevertheless, given that ending a relationship requires knowing about both the current state of the relationship and the likely future state of the relationship, we propose that people base their commitment to a relationship more on their expected future satisfaction with the relationship than on their current satisfaction with that relationship.
Thus, optimizing personal well-being often requires choosing whether or not to end a relationship. Given such behaviors are often directly motivated by the desire to improve the relationship e.
Research on couples who have attended therapy provides some evidence for this possibility by showing that, compared to waitlisted controls, couples involved in therapy expect their relationship satisfaction to improve e. More specifically, intimates should be more satisfied with a relationship to the extent that their prior experiences with that relationship meet or exceed their standards. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that current satisfaction may not be the most functional or proximal source of relationship commitment. Descriptive statistics and correlations are presented in Table 1.
For example, cross-sectional studies demonstrate that current relationship satisfaction is associated with greater relationship rewards and fewer relationship costs e.
A second unique source of expected satisfaction that can cause it to diverge from current satisfaction and more strongly predict commitment is plans to improve the quality of the relationship. Study 1 demonstrated that expected satisfaction is shaped by not only current satisfaction but also several unique indicators of the likelihood of future satisfaction, including anticipated life events, plans to improve the relationship, and individual differences.
For example, behavioral theories e.
Expectations studies provided evidence dating these ideas. Likewise, Bui and colleagues demonstrated that intimates who were more satisfied with, or perceived fewer alternatives to, their romantic relationship were more likely to remain in that relationship 15 years later, and that their commitment to that relationship mediated these effects. For example, Jackson demonstrated that individuals high in neuroticism had more negative relationship expectations than individuals low in neuroticism, even after controlling for their current relationship satisfaction.
In line with these ideas, the fluctuating nature of relationship satisfaction highlights the fact that an informed decision regarding whether to remain in or dissolve a relationship requires considering the likelihood that it will be satisfying in the future. One of the most important and challenging interpersonal decisions people face is whether to continue or dissolve a close relationship.
Thus, scores could range from 6 to 45, with higher scores reflecting greater relationship satisfaction. People experience numerous predictable events in their lives that have nontrivial implications for their relationships.
A simple guide to letting go of expectations about finding “the one”
Based on our theoretical rationale, we predicted that anticipated life events, plans to improve the relationship, and individual differences e. We conducted six studies to test these predictions.
We argue that this disconnect emerges because the primary function of current satisfaction is not to motivate commitment but to al problems with the relationship that have already been experienced. Analyses controlled for the level of each component of this product i. A final unique source of expected satisfaction that can cause it to diverge from current satisfaction and more strongly predict commitment are i ndividual differences.
Given these theoretical arguments, we made three predictions.
Contemporary perspectives on relationship commitment posit that intimates decide whether or not to maintain a relationship based on their commitment to that relationship, and that they base such commitment partially on their current satisfaction with that relationship. According to current conceptualizations of commitment, such declines in relationship satisfaction should be accompanied by corresponding declines in commitment. Second, given this uniqueness, we predicted that expected relationship satisfaction would predict commitment and that this effect would be stronger than the corresponding effect of current satisfaction on commitment.
Indeed, research outside the domain of relationships suggests expected evaluations and emotions are more important to decisions than are current ones Bushman et al. In Study 6, newlywed couples reported their current relationship satisfaction, expectations for future satisfaction, and whether or not they remained married every six months for approximately four years.