Employing a behavioral observation paradigm, we tested whether hightrust partners buffered the reactions of low-trust partners during a conflict discussion to create more positive post-conflict outcomes, or whether low-trust partners pulled down high-trust partners to create more negative post-conflict outcomes. Ninety-five married couples discussed a conflict and reported felt closeness to their partners both pre- And post-discussion. As hypothesized, low-trust partners were more influential than high-trust partners. When at least one relationship partner was low in trust, both partners felt less close following the conflict discussions. Partners felt increased closeness following conflict only when both partners scored high in trust. Observer-rated behaviors of forgiveness and contempt both mediated the link between dyadic trust and felt closeness. These findings extend our understanding of trust in romantic relationships by identifying some of the behavioral consequences of being high versus low in trust, and by illuminating the importance of viewing trust dyadically to achieve a fuller understanding of how romantic couples manage conflict.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant BCS 9732476 to Jeffry A. Simpson.