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12.03.2020 | Research Paper Open Access

Lonely Me, Lonely You: Loneliness and the Longitudinal Course of Relationship Satisfaction

Journal of Happiness Studies
Marcus Mund, Matthew D. Johnson
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10902-020-00241-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Individuals feel lonely when they perceive a discrepancy between the amount of closeness and intimacy in social relationships they desire and what they actually experience. Across several studies, partner relationships have consistently been found to be the most powerful protective factor against loneliness. Previous research on this topic, however, has exclusively focused on loneliness as a concomitant or outcome of low relationship quality, but not as a predictor in its own right, which is surprising given the trait-like features of loneliness. In the present study, we investigated the role of loneliness in predicting later levels and the development of relationship satisfaction over a period of 8 years in a heterogeneous sample of 2337 stable couples drawn from the German Family Panel. By applying Actor–Partner Interdependence Models and dyadic response surface analyses, we found that loneliness evinced substantial negative actor and partner effects on relationship satisfaction and its development over 8 years. Furthermore, we found that women were most satisfied with their relationships when both partners scored low on loneliness, whereas men were most satisfied when their own loneliness was low, irrespective of their partners’ loneliness. Congruently low levels of loneliness between women and men as well as declines in loneliness of at least one partner were additionally associated with increases in relationship satisfaction over time.

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