Self-expansion and flow in couples' momentary experiences: an experience sampling study

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Sep;95(3):679-94. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.3.679.


The self-expansion model of close relationships posits that when couples engage in exciting and activating conjoint activities, they feel connected with their partners and more satisfied with their relationships. In the present study, the experience sampling method was used to examine the predictions of the self-expansion model in couples' momentary experiences. In addition, the author generated several new hypotheses by integrating the self-expansion model with existing research on flow. Over the course of 1 week, 20 couples were signaled at quasi-random intervals to provide data on 1,265 unique experiences. The results suggest that the level of activation experienced during an activity was positively related to experience-level relationship quality. This relationship was consistent across free-time and nonfree-time contexts and was mediated by positive affect. Activation was not found to predict later affect unless the level of activation exceeded what was typical for the individual. Also examined was the influence of interpersonal context and activity type on self-expansion. The results support the self-expansion model and suggest that it could be considered under the broader umbrella of flow.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self Concept*
  • Young Adult