Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 37–49

When Romantic Partners’ Goals Conflict: Effects on Relationship Quality and Subjective Well-Being

Research Paper

Abstract

Most studies have explored goal pursuit from an intraindividual perspective; however, it is becoming increasingly clear that people’s relationships influence many aspects of goal pursuit (Fitzsimons and Finkel in Curr Direct Psychol Sci 19(2):101–105, 2010). The current study examined the influence of goal conflict between romantic partners on relationship quality and the subjective well-being of the partners. In a sample of 105 dating couples (N = 210) both partners provided ratings of their subjective well-being, relationship quality, and the degree of conflict they experience when trying to pursue their goals. Structural equation modeling was used to conduct dyadic analyses on the variables. Results showed that both partners’ reports of higher goal conflict were directly associated with lower relationship quality and lower subjective well-being. Lower relationship quality was, in turn, also associated with lower subjective well-being. Furthermore, one partner’s report of goal conflict was indirectly related to the other partner’s subjective well-being through relationship quality. These findings indicate that relational influences on goal pursuit have implications not only for goal pursuit but also for well-being and relationship quality.

Keywords

Goal conflict Goal pursuit Interdependence theory Romantic relationships Relationship quality Subjective well-being 

References

  1. Austin, J. T., & Vancouver, J. B. (1996). Goal constructs in psychology: Structure, process, and content. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 338–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bradbury, T. N., Fincham, F. D., & Beach, S. R. H. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 964–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2004). Understanding and altering the longitudinal course of marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66, 862–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brunstein, J. C. (1993). Personal goals and subjective well-being—a longitudinal-study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(5), 1061–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brunstein, J. C., Dangelmayer, G., & Schultheiss, O. C. (1996). Personal goals and social support in close relationships: Effects on relationship mood and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(5), 1006–1019. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.5.1006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.95.3.542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener, M. L., & Diener McGavran, M. B. (2008). What makes people happy? A developmental approach to the literature on family relationships and well-being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 347–375). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1995). Resources, personal strivings, and subjective well-being—a nomothetic and idiographic approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(5), 926–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Driver, J. L., & Gottman, J. M. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43(3), 301–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emmons, R. A. (1986). Personal strivings—an approach to personality and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(5), 1058–1068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Emmons, R. A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation and spirituality in personality. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Emmons, R. A., & King, L. A. (1988). Conflict among personal strivings—immediate and long-term implications for psychological and physical well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1040–1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Finkel, E. J. (2010). Interpersonal influences on self-regulation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(2), 101–105. doi:10.1177/0963721410364499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Fishbach, A. (2010). Shifting closeness: Interpersonal effects of personal goal progress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(4), 535–549. doi:10.1037/a0018581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Shah, J. Y. (2008). How goal instrumentality shapes relationship evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(2), 319–337. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.95.2.319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gere, J., & MacDonald, G. (2010). An update of the empirical case for the need to belong. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 66(1), 93–115.Google Scholar
  20. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2000). Timing of divorce- predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14-year period. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 737–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A Two-Factor Model for Predicting When a Couple Will Divorce- Exploratory Analyses Using 14-Year Longitudinal Data. Family Process, 41(1), 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heller, D., Watson, D., & Ilies, R. (2004). The role of person versus situation in life satisfaction: A critical examination. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 574–600. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Impett, E. A., & Gordon, A. M. (2008). For the good of others: Toward a positive psychology of sacrifice. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Positive psychology: Exploring the best in people (pp. 79–100). Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  24. Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. W. (1978). Interpersonal relations. A theory of interdependence. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  25. Kelly, R. E., Mansell, W., & Wood, A. M. (2011). Goal conflict and ambivalence interact to predict depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 531–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King, L. A. (2008). Interventions for enhancing subjective well-being: Can we make people happier and should we? In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 431–448). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(3), 527–539. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.3.527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111–131. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muthén, L., & Muthén, B. (2007). MPlus 5. Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  32. Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., & Simpson, J. A. (2010). Helping each other grow: Romantic partner support, self-improvement, and relationship quality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(11), 1496–1513. doi:10.1177/0146167210383045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rafaeli, E., Cranford, J. A., Green, A. S., Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2008). The good and bad of relationships: How social hindrance and social support affect relationship feelings in daily life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(12), 1703–1718. doi:10.1177/0146167208323742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Read, S. J., & Miller, L. C. (1989). Inter-personalism: Toward a goal-based theory of persons in relationships. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Goal concepts in personality and social psychology (pp. 413–472). Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  35. Rusbult, C. E., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2003). Interdependence, interaction, and relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 351–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schimmack, U., Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2002). Life-satisfaction is a momentary judgment and a stable personality characteristic: The use of chronically accessible and stable sources. Journal of Personality, 70(3), 345–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shah, J. (2003). The motivational looking glass: How significant others implicitly affect goal appraisals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(3), 424–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shah, J. Y. (2005). The automatic pursuit and management of goals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(1), 10–13. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00325.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 38(1), 15–28. doi:10.2307/350547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Van Lange, P. A. M., Rusbult, C. E., Drigotas, S. M., Arriaga, X. B., Witcher, B. S., & Cox, C. L. (1997). Willingness to sacrifice in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(6), 1373–1395. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.72.6.1373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Foster, C. A., & Agnew, C. R. (1999). Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(5), 942–966. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.5.942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yovetich, N. A., & Rusbult, C. E. (1994). Accommodative behavior in close relationships: Exploring transformation of motivation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 30(2), 138–164. doi:10.1006/jesp.1994.1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada

Personalised recommendations