Can You Relate? The Importance of Need Satisfaction for the Quality and Progressive Union Formation Process of Intimate Relationships

Franziska Schmahl, Sabine Walper


This article deals with the significance of autonomy and relatedness as central needs in intimate relationships. It examines the influences of need satisfaction on relationship quality and progressive union formation (“institutionalisation”) processes of intimate relationships. Using a random sample of 1,914 couples in a longitudinal, dyadic survey design, we ascertained the actor and partner effects of autonomy and relatedness on relationship quality and the union formation process. A cluster analysis resulted in four types of relationship need satisfaction, distinguished by high values in both domains, high values in only one of the domains, or low need satisfaction in both domains. Balanced fulfilment of autonomy and relatedness predicts the comparatively highest values of relationship satisfaction and future orientation (commitment). Moreover, low need satisfaction in relationships reduces the progress of union formation processes (cohabitation, marriage, childbirth). Women demonstrate more intense actor and partner effects of relationship need satisfaction than men.


Need satisfaction; Autonomy; Relatedness; Intimate relationships; Gender difference

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