Regulating partners in intimate relationships: the costs and benefits of different communication strategies

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Mar;96(3):620-39. doi: 10.1037/a0012961.


This study tested the success of communication strategies used by relationship partners (N = 61 romantic couples) who were videotaped while trying to produce desired changes in each other. Strategies varying in valence (positive vs. negative) and directness (direct vs. indirect) were differentially associated with postdiscussion perceptions of success as well as ratings of demonstrated change in targeted features gathered at 3-month intervals during the following year. Direct strategies (positive and negative) were initially perceived as relatively unsuccessful but predicted increased change over the next 12 months as reported by the targeted partners and (for positive-direct strategies) as perceived by female agents. Positive-indirect strategies, in contrast, were associated with higher concurrent perceived success but did not predict later change. Increases in problem severity also forecasted lower relationship quality over time. These findings indicate that one mechanism through which regulation strategies impact relationship outcomes is the extent to which engaged strategies are successful at producing desired change.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Perception / physiology
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Behavior
  • Videotape Recording
  • Young Adult