Satisfaction and Power in Intimate Relationships
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
STITZINGER, M. J. (2003). Satisfaction and Power in Intimate Relationships. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved July 26, 2017 .

Satisfaction and Power in Intimate Relationships
MEGAN J. STITZINGER
-NONE- -NONE-

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (eyhammer@loyno.edu)
ABSTRACT
This study looked at whether the amount of power one holds in a relationship is associated with the amount of satisfaction one feels they are receiving from the relationship. A survey was used to measure 50 participants’ amount of power and satisfaction held in their relationship. The survey directly asked the participants how much power they had in their relationship and how satisfied they were with that relationship. The hypothesis was that the more power one held in a relationship the more satisfied they would be. No support for the hypothesis was found. This implied that the more power one had in a relationship the less satisfied they were. However, the data did find that the longer one was in a relationship the less satisfied they were and that both males and females felt that the male held more power in a relationship.


INTRODUCTION
There is a constant dilemma in today’s society to discover how to pursue one’s own needs, while at the same time dealing with their partner’s needs and goals (Howard, Blumstein, and Schwartz, 1986). Partners in intimate relationships do not always have the identical needs and desires as their partner (Howard et al. 1986); therefore, it is necessary for people to discover ways to satisfy those needs and desires if the relationship is to be a success in the future. In addition, it is important for men and women to understand the differences in power that may occur in their relationship in order to satisfy their partner’s needs and goals. Previous research on relationship outcomes of power balances has yielded inconsistent findings (Sprecher and Felmlee, 1997). Since previous research has not found any consistencies is incorrect to say that there is a difference in balance of power and that there is a relationship between power, gender, and satisfaction? This area should be researched more thoroughly until there are fewer inconsistencies.

Harvey, Beckman, Browner, and Sherman (2002) studied how couples define power in intimate relationships and what makes each partner feel powerful in relationships. Data was collected from 39 couples of Mexican origin. In this research, outcomes of power were determined by each partner using his or her resources to negotiate what each need or want was in the relationship. Women stated that they felt more powerful in relationships when they make unilateral decisions and have economic independence. Men stated that they felt more powerful when they have control over their partner and bring home money. Participants agreed that women make decisions about household matters and children, while men make decisions related to money.

Similarly, Kollock, Blumstein, and Schwartz (1994) examined how couples in intimate relationships decide whether their relationship is equitable. Couples were chosen at random to participate in the study. Data was gathered from approximately 72 married and 48 cohabitating couples. 18 months after the initial questionnaire, each partner completed a follow-up questionnaire that assessed whether the relationship was still intact, and if so, how it had changed. Respondents were asked questions adapted from the Hatfield Global Measure of equity-inequity. On average, males rated themselves as having benefited more in their relationships than females. Males also contributed more income and less housework to the relationship than did their partners. Sprecher and Felmlee (1997) went beyond defining power and focused their research on the manner that gender is related to power in dating relationships. The study was conducted over a period of four years and was a multipurpose, longitudinal study conducted with heterosexual, romantic couples. The study consisted of 41 couples of whom participated in multiple follow-ups. The partners completed the questionnaire at the same time but independently of each other. Two global self-report measures were used to measure the level of power. In conclusion, the study indicated that the higher the level of power for one partner, the lower the score for the other partner. The modal response for the power item, for both genders, was “equal”. However, in cases in which individuals reported imbalances in power in their relationship, participants were more likely to view the man rather than the woman. Howard, Blumstein, and Schwartz (1986) examined the influence tactics in relationships. More specifically, Howard et al. (1986) reported research on the factors that determine the techniques partners choose in order to get what they want from those the love. This study examined the influence of interpersonal dependence on the use of influence tactics in 137 homosexual couples and 98 heterosexual couples. Twenty-four questions on a 9-point scale regarding influence tactics studied manipulation, supplication, autocracy, disengagement, and bargaining. The interviewed couples were selected randomly within groups defined by the length of their relationship and the level of their education. A couple of years after the completion of the study each partner was asked to complete a follow-up interview that evaluated whether the romantic relationship was still intact, and if so, how it had changed. The results of the study concluded that bargaining is perceived as being used considerably more frequently than other tactics, whereas bullying and supplication are perceived as being used approximately equal amount of times. In addition, the study also found that the tactics that are used more frequently by one partner are strategies that are unlikely to disrupt the day-today stability of the relationship, and therefore, those that are least frequently used are likely to be particularly disruptive the relationship. Those that use influence tactics more often are likely to be the partner with the most power. Rather than looking specifically at the influence tactics used in a relationship and how it relates to satisfaction, Michaels, Edwards, and Acock (1984) studied the relative impact of inequality and inequity of outcomes on relationship satisfaction. The equality hypothesis – which states that relationship varies inversely with the difference between two partners’ outcomes – was used to support the researchers’ hypothesis. The participants in this study were recruited from 11 sociology class from a large state university. Volunteers completed a 66-item questionnaire that reported on a variety of aspects of their close relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Relationship satisfaction was assessed with a single 7-point Likert item on which subjects were asked to indicate how satisfied they felt when they considered all aspects of their relationship. Michaels et al. (1984) investigation of relationships revealed that satisfaction increases as one move from extreme disadvantage to equality, but it also continues to increase as one gains more power than the other partner in the relationship. The present study extends previous research by examining power and satisfaction in relationships. Unlike previous research, this study has sought to find whether the amount of power one holds in a relationship is directly linked to how satisfied one feels in that particular relationship. Previous studies have looked at influence tactics in relationships that have an effect on power (Howard, Blumstein, and Schwartz, 1986). Other studies have shown that satisfaction increases as one move from extreme disadvantage to equality, but it also continues to increase as one gains more power than the other partner in the relationship (Michaels, Edwards, and Acock 1984). Some studies even looked at the balance of power in intimate relationships over time from both the male and female perspective (Sprecher and Felmlee, 1997). This past study took the concept of power in intimate relationships and satisfaction in intimate relationships and examined the level power is relative to the level of satisfaction and whether gender affects either variable. The participants in the present study answered a survey with questions pertaining to satisfaction and power in relationships. The survey contained questions that measure the amount of power one has in a relationship and the level of satisfaction received from that relationship. It was hypothesized that in intimate relationships: the more power one has in a relationship, the more satisfied they will be and the less power one has in their relationship, the less satisfied they will be.


METHOD
PARTICIPANTSThe participants consisted of sixty undergraduate students from Loyola University New Orleans. The participants were volunteers who were recruited through classes and sign up sheets. Although no participants were paid, some participants received class credit from their professor for participating. The average ages of participants were 19 years old. Approximately 25 men and 35 women participated. Volunteers completed an 18-item questionnaire reporting on aspects of their amount of power and satisfaction in their current or past relationships. A total of 60 surveys were returned, but the sample used for the analyses reported consisted of 50 undergraduate participants who indicated that they were in a current relationship or had been in a past relationship. Volunteers were treated in accordance with the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” (American Psychological Association, 2002).

MATERIALSWhen the participants first arrived to the room, they were given two informed consent forms that were entitled, “A Study of Relationships”. One copy was kept by the participants for their records and the second was turned into the researchers. The informed consent form listed the benefits and risks of the study and stated that if any time they should become depressed as a result of the study they should contact Career Counseling Services as soon as possible. Next, the participants were handed the 18-item questionnaire that was divided into three parts: demographics, satisfaction, and power. The demographics portion of the survey consisted of seven questions. The first four questions were concerning the gender, age, year in school, major of the participant, and if they are currently in a committed relationship and if so for how long, and have they ever been in a past committed relationship. The second portion of the questionnaire consisted of questions concerning the amount of satisfaction the participant has received from their current or past relationship. The six items pertaining to satisfaction are an adaptation of the Hendrick Assessment Scale (1998). One item was a direct question on satisfaction: “In general, how satisfied are you with your satisfaction?” (responses range from 1 = unsatisfied to 4 = extremely satisfied). Second, a question concerning needs were asked: “How well does your partner meet your needs?” (responses range from 1 = poorly and 4 = extremely well). The third and final part of the questionnaire consisted of questions concerning the amount of power the participants have in either their current relationship or a previous relationship. The questions were an adaptation from a study by Sprecher and Felmlee (1997). One question directly asks: “In your relationship, who has more power?” (responses range from 1 = I have much more power; 4 = we both have equal power; and 7 = my partner has much more power) Second, a question concerning decision making was asked: “In your relationships, who makes more of the decisions about what the two of you do together?” (responses range from 1 = I do almost always; 4 = we both do equally; and 7 = my partner does almost always). DESIGN AND PROCEDURE This study looked at the subject variable of power, and how the level of power is associated with satisfaction. The study also looked at gender its relation to power and satisfaction in an intimate relationship. All participants were given the same questionnaire mentioned above. Random Sampling was used in the study. Power is defined as the control of resource that provides the power holder with the potential of exercising influence (Howard, Blumstein, and Schwartz, 1986). In the study, satisfaction is defined as the fulfillment of gratification of a need or desire. Testing took place over a one-week period. Each participant signed up for a particular time slot on a sign up sheet. When the participants arrived, they were given two informed consent forms and were told that they were to be read over thoroughly, signed and dated, and told to give one to the researchers and keep the other for their own records. Next, the participants were told that everything would remain anonymous. The participants were then handed the questionnaire and were instructed to answer the questions pertain to their current relationship and if they were not in a current relationship to answer the questions pertaining to a past relationship and if they have not had an intimate relationship to answer the questions hypothetically. The participants had no time constraints, although it took no longer than 10 minutes to complete. Following the completion of the survey, the participants put the survey in an envelope. The subjects were then debriefed and the focus of the study, power and satisfaction, was explained. It was at this time that the researchers thanked and dismissed the participants.


RESULTS
All statistical tests were run using the SPSS program. Pearsons Correlations Test were run in ordered to determine results of the present study. There were 40 females and 14 males, making the total number of participants 54. Out of that 54, 20 answered the questions referring to their current relationship, 26 answered the questions referring to a past relationship, and 8 participants have never been in a relationship and answered all questions hypothetically. Forty-six participants relationship status was valid and the data collected from their answers were used, whereas the questions that were answered hypothetically were thrown out. Reported satisfaction in relation to power in the sample of the present study was very low. Mean satisfaction on a four-point item (1 = not at all satisfied; 4 = extremely satisfied) was 3.0913 with a standard deviation of .7273. The reported mean power on a seven-point item (1 = more power; 7 = no power) was 3.6481 with a standard deviation of .9053. The hypothesis stated that the more power one has in a relationship, the more satisfied they would be in their relationship. This hypothesis was not supported by the data. In fact, the data showed quite the opposite of what was expected. Interestingly, those with more power were less satisfied in their relationship (r = .331, p<.05). Unexpected results showed that there is a significant association between the length of one’s relationship and the amount of satisfaction they receive from that relationship. That is, the longer one was in a relationship the less satisfied one was (r = -.513, p<.05). It was also found that the male participants felt that they had more power than females in relationships (r = .524, p<.05), while many women felt that they had less power in relationships (r = .275, p<.05). Sprecher and Felmlee’s (1997) data supported the results that were found in the present study.


DISCUSSION
The present study looked at the relationship between power and satisfaction in intimate relationships. The stated hypothesis was completely unsupported by the data. The amount of power one has in a relationship has no association to the amount of satisfaction one feels they are receiving. Looking at the Michaels, Edwards, and Acock (1984) study that found that satisfaction increases as one gains more power than the other partner in the relationship. The researchers expected the results that Michaels, Edwards, and Acock found to parallel the results that they were to find in their present study. Additional results provided the researchers with information that found that both men and women felt that men held more power in an intimate relationship. These results were consistent with Sprecher and Felmlee’s study. Sprecher and Felmlee found that a significant portion of males reported that the man had more power (35%) than the women (19%). The major problem with this study was that there were simply not enough participants. There were not an adequate number of participants to reach any accurate conclusions about the relationship of power and satisfaction. Any future studies will need to have a more representative sample, focusing on having an equal number of males and females. Another problem was found within the sample. Only 20 participants that were surveyed were currently in a relationship. This affected the study a great deal. Any future studies need to have more individuals who are currently in a relationship. Those who were surveyed that answered the questions pertaining to their past relationships had a negative attitude toward their past relationship. Therefore, affecting the level of satisfaction of those in past relationships was effected. In order to conduct a more successful study, future researchers should focus strictly on couples who are currently in a relationship rather than those who are reflecting upon their past relationships.

Despite that the hypothesis was not supported, important information about power and satisfaction in intimate relationships was gained. There was an association found for power one has in an intimate relationship and their level of satisfaction with that relationship. However, there were certain limitations in the study. First, it is important to note that the data represents only a small sample of the population. In addition to there being a small amount of participants who were currently in a relationship or had been in a past relationship, all participants were from a college campus; this too was a particular group that is not representative of the larger population. Future studies should take participants from a larger sample pool. Future studies should also have an equal amount of males and females in order to make the study more representative of the population. Furthermore, the present study had a range of participants that answered the survey questions pertaining the a current relationship or if they were not in a current relationship they were instructed to answer the questions referring to a past relationship, and if they had never been in a relationship they were instructed to answer the questions hypothetically. The results of the present study were possibly hindered by those who answered the questions in response to a past relationship. This did dramatically affect the results because the participant had negative overall opinion of that relationship and therefore felt less satisfied with the past relationship. Future studies should focus only on participants who are currently in a relationship in order to get superior results. In addition, the data taken from our survey represents couples’ opinions or perceptions of the balance of power in their relationship. These perceptions may vary from participant to participant and may not reflect the correct balance of power. Every individual has a different idea of what power is. These perceptions may not reflect the level of power that might be evidenced if we had obtained observations of couples engaging in some sort of activity such as a decision making task. Future research on power and satisfaction could benefit from samples that are more diverse by focusing on those who are currently in a relationship. Further studies may also want to consider inequalities and imbalances in relationships that occur over time. It would be interesting for researchers to see how the balance of power gradually changes over time and how this affects satisfaction in a relationship. The constant dilemma in today’s society for one to discover how to pursue one’s own needs, while at the same time dealing with their partner’s needs and goals could benefit from this research. Partners in intimate relationships do not always have the identical needs and desires as their partner (Howard et al. 1986); therefore, it is necessary for people to discover ways to satisfy those needs and desires if the relationship is to be a success in the future. In addition, it is important for men and women to understand the differences in power that may occur in their relationship in order to satisfy their partner’s needs and goals. The results found in this research could be of some help to those who are in intimate relationships. It would be very helpful and beneficial to those in relationships to apply the results that were found to their own relationship in order for it to be more successful and satisfying. This research will allow people to realize that in order for both individuals in the relationship to be truly satisfied their needs to be equality among them. In conclusion, the present study has found that the more power one has in a relationship the less satisfied they will be in that relationship. The results also yielded that the longer one is in a relationship the less satisfied they become in that relationship. In studying relationship power and satisfaction one will be able to better understand the dynamics of a relationship and possible be able to improve their current or future relationship as a result of these findings.


REFERENCES
Harvey, M., Beckman, L, Browner, C., and Sherman, C.A.(2002). Relationship power, decision making and sexual relationships: An exploratory study of couple with Mexican origin. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 284-295.

Howard, H., Blumstein P., and Schwartz, P. (1986). Sex, Power, and Influence Tactics in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 102-109.

Kollock, P., Blumstein, S., and Schwartz, P. (1994). The judgment of equity in intimate relationships. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 340-351.

Michaels, M., Edwards, E., and Acock, C. (1984). Satisfaction in intimate relationships as a function of inequality, inequity, and outcomes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 47, 347-357.

Sprecher, S., and Felmlee, D. (1997). The balance of F power in romantic heterosexual couples over time from “his” and “her” perspectives. Sex Roles, 37, 361-379.

Submitted 12/6/2003 11:58:27 AM
Last Edited 12/6/2003 12:31:47 PM
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