The occurrence and correlates of emotional interdependence in romantic relationships.

Laura Sels, Jed Cabrieto, Emily Butler, Harry Reis, Eva Ceulemans, Peter Kuppens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Interdependence, including emotional interdependence, is widely considered to be a cornerstone of close relationships. Through frequent interactions, romantic partners are thought to continuously exchange, influence, and respond to one another’s emotions, leading their feelings to become closely aligned over time. Although prior research has shown that such emotional interdependence can arise in couples, no research to date has comprehensively investigated its occurrence, degree, consistency and correlates. Across 3 different studies, we examined whether and to what extent couples indeed show interpersonal emotional connections (compared to pseudocouples). Additionally, we investigated its consistency and moderating factors, by examining emotional interdependence across different types of emotions (negative vs. positive vs. emotional extremity), timescales (second-to-second vs. daily life), and situational contexts (supportive vs. conflictual), and by inspecting associations with indicators of relationship closeness (relationship longevity, cohabitation status, commitment, and closeness in terms of including the other in the self). The findings show limited evidence for emotional interdependence. The overall mean level of interdependence was significantly larger than that of randomly composed couples, but only a minority of the couples demonstrated emotional interdependence to a greater extent than these pseudocouples. Moreover, the degree to which couples exhibited emotional interdependence showed little consistency across timescales and contexts, and was not clearly associated with relationship closeness. We discuss potential implications for the field of interpersonal emotion dynamics. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-158
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • close relationships
  • emotion
  • emotion transmission
  • interdependence
  • interpersonal emotion dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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