The Diverging Effects of Need Fulfillment Obtained from Within and Outside of a Romantic Relationship

Laura V. Machia, Morgan L. Proulx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


People have diverse psychological needs that they seek to have fulfilled to maximize their well-being. Romantic relationships are the primary source individuals use for need fulfillment, but fulfillment can come from other sources as well—friends, family, strangers, vocation, and recreation. Whereas having a bevy of available sources puts individuals at an advantage in terms of ensuring their needs are met, which source they utilize may ironically decrease the quality of their valued romantic relationship. Across three studies (total N = 5,169) with diverse methodologies (i.e., nationally representative, cross-sectional, longitudinal), we found that when people achieve psychological need fulfillment from sources other than their romantic partner, they view their relationship less positively (Study 1), perceive greater quality of alternatives to their romantic relationship, and think more about ending the relationship (Studies 2 and 3). Demonstrating robustness, these associations hold independent of the amount of fulfillment provided by the romantic partner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-793
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • alternatives
  • dissolution consideration
  • need fulfillment
  • romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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