Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship Satisfaction: High Need Satisfaction or Low Need Frustration?

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship Satisfaction: High Need Satisfaction or Low Need Frustration?

Article excerpt

According to self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000), people have psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness that have to be fulfilled by their partners in order to form high-quality intimate relationships (Knee, Porter, Rodriguez, 2014; La Guardia & Patrick, 2008). In several studies testing this assumption, greater relational need satisfaction did, indeed, prove to be associated with better relationship outcomes (e.g., less conflict, better conflict resolution, greater relationship satisfaction, greater commitment, more secure attachment to the partner, and more emotional reliance on the partner; La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci, 2000; Patrick, Knee, Canevello, & Lonsbary, 2007; Ryan, La Guardia, Solky-Butzel, Chirkov, & Kim, 2005; Uysal, Lin, Knee, & Bush, 2012). Each of the specific SDT needs has been found to be a unique predictor of relationship outcomes, but satisfaction of the need for relatedness tends to be most strongly associated with relational outcomes (Patrick et al., 2007).

Hence, although there are theoretical and empirical grounds for a needs perspective on intimate relationship functioning, an important gap in the literature can be identified. More specifically, as all published researchers that we identified have focused on need satisfaction in relationships, little is currently known about the role of need frustration within intimate relationships, especially as compared to need satisfaction. This is an important issue, as both satisfaction and frustration of needs might have unique value in predicting relationship outcomes. Conceptually, need satisfaction and need frustration are regarded as separate concepts instead of polar opposites (Bartholomew, Ntoumanis, Ryan, & Thøgersen-Ntoumani, 2011; Vansteenkiste & Ryan, 2013). Relational need frustration involves more actively and directly undermining a partner's needs, as compared to more passively not satisfying one's own needs (i.e., absence of need satisfaction; Vansteenkiste & Ryan, 2013). As delineated by La Guardia and Patrick (2008), frustration of relational needs occurs when partners feel controlled or pressured to behave in a certain way (i.e., autonomy frustration), have induced feelings of failure and doubts (i.e., competence frustration), and feel rejected and abandoned by their partner (i.e., relatedness frustration); whereas relational need satisfaction involves partners experiencing a sense of volition and psychological freedom (i.e., autonomy satisfaction), a feeling of effectiveness and mastery to attain desired goals (i.e., competence satisfaction), and a successful stable bond with their partner in which they feel loved (i.e., relatedness satisfaction).

To summarize, empirical evidence is available on the association between need satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, and a conceptual distinction is made between the satisfaction and the frustration of one's relational needs. However, to the best of our knowledge, no previous researchers have investigated the differential role of relational need satisfaction and need frustration in explaining relationship satisfaction. Our aim in the current study was, therefore, to examine the prediction that the satisfaction, as well as the frustration, of one's relational needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) would contribute positively (satisfaction) and negatively (frustration), to satisfaction with one's intimate relationship. Therefore, we formed the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: Satisfaction of one's relational needs will contribute positively, and frustration of one's relational needs will contribute negatively, to satisfaction with one's intimate relationship.

Furthermore, researchers of individual outcomes have shown that, compared to need frustration, need satisfaction is more strongly related to positive individual outcomes (e.g., growth, well-being) and that, compared to need satisfaction, need frustration is more likely to predict negative individual outcomes (e. …

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