Relational Orientation Styles and Relationship Quality: Sacrifice Motives in Romantic Relationships

Do Couto, Lisa
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University of Guelph

Positive and fulfilling close interpersonal relationships provide numerous benefits for individuals. Relational orientation styles have previously been linked to differences in the quality of these close relationships; however, there is a limited understanding of how relational orientation styles impact behaviours in relationships that lead to these differences. Sacrifice behaviours, and in particular sacrifice motives, have been known to impact the quality of close relationships. The current research examined the links between relational orientation styles, sacrifice motives, and relationship quality. In study 1, 455 individuals in a romantic relationship completed a cross-sectional survey in order to investigate the relational orientation model of sacrifice motives and relationship quality. Greater interdependent self was related to sacrifices for both approach and avoidance motives, and overall positive relationships. Whereas individuals with greater silencing self, the maladaptive relational orientation style, reported sacrificing in order to avoid negative consequences and described poorer relationship quality. In study 2, 84 romantic couples completed a 7-day daily experience study. Sacrifice frequency was low and participants on average only reported making a sacrifice on average once a week. The low sacrifice frequency prevented a full investigation of the dyadic relational orientation model of sacrifice motives and relationship quality; although direct effects found in study 1 were supported. Further, perceptions of a partner’s sacrifice motives were examined. Participants’ perceptions of their partner’s approach sacrifice motives were based on an assumed similarity bias, whereas perceptions of avoidance sacrifice motives were based on both an assumed similarity bias and a partner’s actual avoidance motives. Participants experienced positive relationship quality when they accurately perceived their partner’s approach sacrifice motives and when their partners over perceived their own avoidance sacrifice motives. The current research extends understandings of relational orientation styles and their impact on behaviours, motives, perceptions, and quality of romantic relationships.

relational orientation, approach motivation, avoidance motivation, sacrifice motives, relationship quality, romantic relationships