The Highs and Lows of Love: Romantic Relationship Quality Moderates Whether Spending Time With One's Partner Predicts Gains or Losses in Well-Being

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2020 Apr;46(4):572-589. doi: 10.1177/0146167219867960. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


Previous research suggests both relationship status and relationship quality correlate with well-being. The present study extended these findings in three ways. First, we benchmarked individuals with various-quality relationships against uncoupled people to determine whether even low-quality relationships are associated with greater well-being than being unpartnered. Second, research suggests global well-being (e.g., life satisfaction) and experiential well-being (e.g., momentary affect) oftentimes have different predictors. Thus, we tested whether individuals report greater experiential well-being while with their partners. Finally, we examined whether daily time invested into one's relationship predicted well-being. Results indicated that being in a romantic relationship, interacting with one's partner, and investing greater time into the relationship all predicted greater well-being. However, these effects were moderated by relationship quality, such that being in even relatively neutral relationships and interacting therein were associated with lower well-being than being unpartnered.

Keywords: close relationships; day reconstruction method; life satisfaction; negative affect; positive affect; relationship quality; romantic relationships; subjective well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Young Adult