Desire for Unmitigated Communion as a Predictor of Partner Relationship Quality and Life Satisfaction

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The current research conceptualizes and examines a previously unexplored desire in interpersonal relationships: the desire for unmitigated communion from relationship partners. Unmitigated communion refers to the tendency to exhibit concern for others to the exclusion of one’s own needs (Helgeson & Fritz, 1998). While prior research has associated unmitigated communion with interpersonal relationship outcomes, little work has been done in examining whether people desire unmitigated communion from close relationship partners, and what effects these desires may have on others. In the current research, I posit that people sometimes desire their partner’s unmitigated communion, and investigate various potential antecedents and consequences of this desire. Throughout 4 studies, I developed a Desire for Unmitigated Communion scale and investigated its psychometric properties, including internal consistency and latent factor structure (Studies 1 and 3), test-retest reliability (Study 2), and incremental validity (Study 4). Results suggested items assessing people’s desire for a partner’s sacrifice, worry, and dependence reflected a single latent construct, which I refer to as the desire for unmitigated communion. The scale exhibited questionable test-retest reliability in Study 2, and predicted a partner’s relationship satisfaction and feelings of harmonious passion in Study 4. I also assessed predictors and antecedents for this desire in Studies 3 and 4. Results from Study 3 revealed that psychological entitlement, attachment anxiety, and beliefs that sacrifice and devotion are healthy independently predicted increased desire for unmitigated communion. Results from Study 4, a cross-sectional dyadic study, further revealed that the desire for unmitigated communion helped to explain the relationship between a variety of factors (psychological entitlement, attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, devotion beliefs) and a partner’s relationship commitment. Results also revealed that participant’s desire for unmitigated communion predicted reduced relationship satisfaction and harmonious passion for their close relationship partners, primarily when partners were low in actual unmitigated communion, relative to when they were high in unmitigated communion. Implications of these results are discussed.