Expectations for future relationship satisfaction: Unique sources and critical implications for commitment

Levi R. Baker, James K. McNulty, Laura E. VanderDrift

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Contemporary perspectives on relationship commitment posit that intimates decide whether or not tomaintain a relationship based on their commitment to that relationship, and that they base suchcommitment partially on their current satisfaction with that relationship. Nevertheless, given that endinga relationship requires knowing about both the current state of the relationship and the likely future stateof the relationship, we propose that people base their commitment to a relationship more on theirexpected future satisfaction with the relationship than on their current satisfaction with that relationship.Six studies provided evidence for these ideas. Study 1 demonstrated that expected satisfaction is shapedby not only current satisfaction but also several unique indicators of the likelihood of future satisfaction,including anticipated life events, plans to improve the relationship, and individual differences. Then,using a combination of cross-sectional, experimental, and longitudinal methods, Studies 2 through 6demonstrated that (a) expected satisfaction was a stronger predictor of relationship commitment,maintenance behaviors, and/or divorce than was current satisfaction and (b) expected satisfactionmediated the association between current satisfaction and these outcomes. These findings highlight notonly the need to incorporate expected satisfaction into extent perspectives on commitment, but also theimportance of expectations for decision-making processes more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-721
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Commitment
  • Expectations
  • Interdependence theory
  • Romantic relationships
  • Satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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