Going Deeper… How Each Aspect of Relationships Impact Your Well-Being


There are many aspects to romantic relationships that impact not just your level of satisfaction in the relationship, but also the overall happiness of both partners. They include passion vs. compassion, sexual satisfaction, conflict/hostility, attachment style, and the relationship stage.

Passion vs. Compassion in a Relationship and How It Impacts Well-Being

Both are valuable! Both passionate and companionate love are positively related to relationship satisfaction (Hendrick, 1988).

Passionate love more strongly predicts positive and negative affect, while companionate love more strongly predicts life satisfaction (Kim & Hatfield, 2004). In other words, passion improves the experiences you have in the moment with your partner, but when couples have compassion for each other, it creates a blanket overall satisfaction they have with their life. 

Sexual Satisfaction and Well-Being

Sexual satisfaction is significantly related to relationship stability and quality (Sprecher and Cate, 2004). Being able to communicate with a partner about sexual needs and to receive what one desires are both important aspects of relationship satisfaction. Ask yourself how you can achieve this with your partner.

Harmful Relationships and Well-Being

Of course, harmful relationships are bad for our happiness. But it goes further than that. 

Studies have found poor marital quality in particular is linked to poor immune and endocrine functioning, depression, anxiety, and problem behaviors (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001; Sampson, Laub, & Wimer, 2006; Umberson & Williams, 1999).

High conflict and hostile relationships in general have been linked to poor mental health, creating higher levels of depression, anxiety, aggression, and substance abuse (Hawkins & Booth, 2005; Horwitz, McLaughlin, & White, 1998; Umberson, Williams, Powers, Liu, & Needham, 2006; Whisman, 2007).

It's important to note that conflict is okay, natural even, but healthy conflict management is an important antidote.

Attachment Style and Well-Being

What’s important here is that you feel secure in your relationship. A secure attachment style is strongly linked to high quality romantic relationships (Banse, 2004; Simpson, 1990). Secure attachment has also been linked to higher levels of subjective well-being or overall happiness.

While insecure attachment styles (i.e., avoidant and anxious) are negatively related to well-being (La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci, 2000; Li & Fung, 2014; Schiffrin, 2014; Van Buren & Cooley, 2002). 

Romantic Relationship Stages and Well-Being

With each increase in relationship commitment level, there is an increase in subjective well-being. In other words, the deeper and more committed you get, the happier you are. To punctuate that point, those who are married are happier than those who are cohabitating, casually dating, monogamously dating, or rarely date. Married adults report greater levels of happiness compared to those who are single, divorced, separated, or cohabitating (Dush, Taylor, & Kroeger, 2008; Glenn & Weaver, 1979; Gove et al., 1990; Mastekaasa, 1994; Myers, 2000; Proulx, Helms, & Buehler, 2007; Stack & Eshleman 1998).

Why might this be? The hypothesis is that there's a growing level of commitment and stability that accounts for the differences in well-being (Brown, 2000; Dush & Amato, 2005). That stability helps our sense of security and allows us to flourish in other areas of our life. 


Wrapping it all up, recent studies have found that finding and maintaining a relationship that makes you happy requires (a) that you maintain both passion and compassion for each other, (b) that you feel sexually satisfied, and comfortable discussing it, (c) that you resolve conflict in a healthy way, (d) that you both feel secure in the relationship, and finally (e) that you're moving toward deeper levels of commitment. 



  1. Banse, R. (2004). Adult attachment and marital satisfaction: Evidence for dyadic configuration effects. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2, 273-282.
  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.
  3. Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1983). American couples: Money, work, sex. New York: William Morrow.
  4. Brown, S. L. (2000). The effect of union type on psychological well-being: Depression among cohabitors versus marrieds. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 241-255.
  5. Buss, D. M. (2000). The evolution of happiness. American Psychologist, 55, 15-23.
  6. Cassidy, J. (2000). Adult romantic attachments: A development perspective on individual differences. Review of General Psychology, 4, 111-131.
  7. Chambel, M. J., & Curral, L. (2005). Stress in academic life: Work characteristics as predictors of student well-being and performance. Applied Psychology, 54, 135-147.
  8. Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American Psychologist, 59, 676-684.
  9. Cotton, S. J., Dollard, M. F., & de Jonge, J. (2002). Stress and student job design: Satisfaction, well-being, and performance in university students. International Journal of Stress Management, 9, 147-162.
  10. Cutrona, C. E., & Russell, D. W. (1987). The provisions of social relationships and adaptation to stress. Advances in Personal Relationships, 1, 37-67.
  11. Davis, K. E., & Latty-Mann, H. (1987). Love styles and relationship quality: A contribution to validation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 409-428.
  12. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 80-83.
  13. Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31, 419-436.
  14. Drigotas, S. M., Rusbult, C. E., & Verette, J. (1999). Level of commitment, mutuality of commitment, and couple well-being. Personal Relationships, 6, 389-409.
  15. Dush, C. M. K., & Amato, P. R. (2005). Consequences of relationship status and quality for subjective well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 607–627.
  16. Dush, C. M. K., Taylor, M. G., & Kroeger, R. A. (2008). Marital happiness and psychological well-being across the life course. Family Relations, 57, 211-226.
  17. Efklides, A., Kalaitzidou, M., & Chankin, G. (2003). Subjective quality of life in old age in Greece. European Psychologist, 8, 178-191.
  18. Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 904-917.
  19. Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228-245.
  20. Glenn, N. D., & Weaver, C. N. (1979). A note on family situation and global happiness. Social Forces, 57, 960-967.
  21. Gove, W. R., Style, C. B., & Hughes, M. (1990). The effect of marriage on the well-being of adults: A theoretical analysis. Journal of Family Issues, 11, 4-35.
  22. Hawkins, D. N., & Booth, A. (2005). Unhappily every after: Effects of long-term, low-quality marriages on well-being. Social Forces, 84, 451-471.
  23. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1994). Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 5, 1-22.
  24. Hendrick, C., & Hendrick, S. (1986). A theory and method of love. Journal of Social and Personal Psychology, 50, 392-402.
  25. Hendrick, S. S., Dicke, A., & Hendrick, C. (1988). The relationship assessment scale. Journal of Social and Personal Relationship, 15, 137-142.
  26. Holder, M. D. (2012). Predictors and correlates of well-being. In Happiness in children: Measurement, correlates, and enhancement of positive subjective well-being. SpringerBriefs in Well-Being and Quality of Life Research (pp. 35-38). Springer, Dordrecht.
  27. Horwitz, A. V., McLaughlin, J., & White, H. R. (1998). How the negative and positive aspects of partner relationships affect the mental health of young married people. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 39, 124-136.
  28. House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241, 540-545.
  29. Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health, 78, 458-467.
  30. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L., (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 472-503.
  31. Kim, J., & Hatfield, E. (2004). Love types and subjective well-being: A cross-cultural study. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 32, 173-182.
  32. La Guardia, J. G., Ryan, R. M., Couchman, C. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Within-person variation in security of attachment: A self-determination theory perspective on attachment, need fulfillment, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 367-384.
  33. Lee, J. A. (1977). A typology of styles of loving. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , 3, 173-182.
  34. Li, T., & Fung, H. F. (2014). How avoidant attachment influences subjective well-being: An investigation about the age and gender differences. Aging and Mental Health, 18, 4-10.
  35. Love, A. B. & Holder, M. D. (2015). Can romantic relationship quality mediate the relation between psychopathy and subjective well-being? Journal of Happiness Studies, 17, 2407-2429.
  36. Mastekaasa, A. (1994). The subjective well-being of the previously married: The importance of unmarried cohabitation and time since widowhood or divorce. Social Forces, 73, 665-692.
  37. Mehta, C. M., Walls, C., Scherer, E. A., Feldman, H. A., & Shrier, L. A. (2016). Daily affect and intimacy in emerging adult couples. Journal of Adult Development, 23, 101-110.
  38. Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Pereg, D. (2003). Attachment theory and affect regulation: The dynamics, development, and cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 77-102.
  39. Myers, D. (2000). The funds, friends and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, 56–67.
  40. Perry-Smith, J. E. (2006). Social yet creative: The role of social relationships in facilitating individual creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 85-101.
  41. Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 576-593.
  42. Resnick, M. D., Bearnman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., et al. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 823-832.
  43. Richards, M., Hardy, R., & Wadsworth, M. (1997). The effects of divorce and separation on mental health in a national UK birth cohort. Psychological Medicine, 27, 1121-1128.
  44. Riehl-Emde, A., Thomas, V., & Willi, J. (2003). Love: An important dimension in marital research and therapy. Family Process, 42, 253-267.
  45. Reis, H. T., Clark, M. S., & Holmes, J. G. (2004). Perceived partner responsiveness as an organizing construct in the study of intimacy and closeness. In D. J. Mashek & A. P, Aron (Eds.), Handbook of closeness and intimacy (pp. 201-225). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  46. Reis, H. T., Lemay, E. P. Jr., & Finkenauer, C. (2017). Toward understanding understanding: The importance of feeling understood in relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11, e12308.
  47. Sampson, R. J., Laub, J. H., & Wimer, C. (2006). Does marriage reduce crime? A counterfactual approach to within-individual causal effects. Criminology, 44, 465-508.
  48. Schiffrin, H. H. (2014). Positive psychology and attachment: Positive affect as a mediator of developmental outcomes. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 1062-1072.
  49. Simpson, J. A. (1990). Influence of attachment styles on romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 971-980.
  50. Sprecher, S., & Cate, R. M. (2004). Sexual satisfaction and sexual expression as predictors of relationship satisfaction and stability. In J. H. Harvey, A. Wenzel, & S. Sprecher (Eds.), The handbook of sexuality in close relationships (pp. 235-256). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  51. Stack, S., & Eshleman, J. R. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 527-536.
  52. Taylor, Z. E., Doane, L. D., & Eisenberg, N. (2013). Transitioning from high school to college: Relations of social support, ego-resiliency, and maladjustment during emerging adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 2, 105-115.
  53. Umberson, D., Williams, K., Powers, D. A., Liu, H., & Needham, B. (2006). You make me sick: Marital quality and health over the life course. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47, 1-16.
  54. Uysal, A., Lin, H. L., Knee, C. R., & Bush, A. L. (2012). The association between self-concealment from one's partner and relationship well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 39-51.
  55. Van Buren, A., & Cooley, E. L. (2002). Attachment styles, view of self and negative affect. North American Journal of Psychology, 4, 417-430.
  56. Walen, H. R., & Lachman, M. E. (2000). Social support and strain from partner, family, and friends: Costs and benefits for men and women in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17 , 5-30.
  57. Whisman, M. A. (2007). Marital distress and DSM-IV psychiatric disorders in a population-based national survey. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 638-643.
  58. Williams, D. G. (1988). Gender, marriage, and psychosocial well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 9, 452-468.
  59. Wu, Z., & Hart, R. (2002). The effects of marital and nonmarital union transition on health. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 420-432.

Leave a comment