School of Behavioral & Brain Sciences;
School of Interdisciplinary Studies
PhD, The University of Texas at Austin
Intimacy Development, Marital Relations, and Depression
A recent National Opinion Research Survey tells us that, once our survival needs are met, no single aspect of our lives contributes more to our satisfaction with life or to our sense of psychological well-being than our intimate relationships. Yet despite our best efforts, the seeds of relationship demise are often visible from the very beginning of a relationship.
How a couple recovers from conflict is as important to the ongoing functioning of their relationship as is their behavior during conflict. In order to sustain a high level of intimacy and satisfaction over many years and through many disagreements, a couple must be able to come back together after a conflict and re-establish their intimate bond. Recent research (Salvatore, Chun Kuo, Steele, Simpson, and Collins, 2011) affirms that having a partner who is better at conflict recovery is associated with experiencing more positive relationship emotions and greater relationship satisfaction. Evidence abounds demonstrating the significance of how the partners talk to one another and how they manage their problem-solving efforts (Bradbury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000). Less information is available about how couples reconcile emotionally following conflict, and how quickly.
The Couples Daily Lives Study is dedicated to learning more about how couples recover from conflict and return to intimate relating following conflict in their day to day lives. We are especially interested in how couples reconcile emotionally after conflict, and the impact of their reconciliation efforts on the health of their relationship. We are currently involved in two projects designed to further our knowledge in this area: 1) We are investigating couple partners' behavior during and after conflict as these influence partners' emotional recoveries from conflict, and 2) we are developing a classification system to help us study couples' reconciliation efforts, and determine what type of effort is most likely to result in emotional recovery from conflict and intimate relating on days following conflict.
We are also interested in psychological differentiation as a predictor of successful intimate relating, relationship satisfaction and attachment security. Individuals who are "differentiated," to use Murray Bowen's term, are able to function independently, avoid monitoring their partners too closely, uphold relational intimacy, treat themselves and their partners' needs with respect and concern, and avoid excessive emotional volatility. According to Bowen, differentiation is the result of a clear psychological separation between one's own will and the other's, and a willingness to perceive and respect both self and other while still maintaining an intimate relationship. Whether psychological differentiation is a single indicator of psychological maturity, or whether it is a combination of several characteristics, each of which makes an independent contribution to relationship functioning, has yet to be discovered.
Prager, K.J., (2013). The Dilemmas of Intimacy: Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment. Routledge.
Prager, K.J. and Roberts, L. (2004). Deep Intimate Connection: Self and Intimacy in Couple Relationships. In Mashek, D. and Aron, A. (Eds.) The Handbook on Closeness and Intimacy. Lawrence-Ehrlbaum.
Prager, K.J. (2002). Intimacy. Encyclopedia of Marriage and the Family. New York : Macmillion.