Loving Freedom: Concerns With Promotion or Prevention and the Role of Autonomy in Relationship Well-Being

Chin Ming Hui*, Daniel C. Molden, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Close relationships fulfill many important needs. However, not all of these needs are equally salient under all circumstances. This article investigated how the broad motivational context in which people evaluate relationships affects the salience of particular needs, thereby altering how the fulfillment of these needs predicts relationship well-being. Across 5 studies, participants reported how well their current romantic relationship met their needs for self-direction and autonomy, either by providing support for the fulfillment of these needs (Studies 1-3) or by allowing them to feel that they autonomously choose to remain in the relationship (Studies 4 and 5). In motivational contexts emphasizing personal growth and advancement (promotion), one's own independent priorities could become more salient, increasing the relevance of autonomy experiences when evaluating relationship well-being. However, in motivational contexts emphasizing safety and security (prevention), autonomy experiences might not be especially salient and thus might not have any special relevance when evaluating relationship well-being. Both measurements and manipulations of participants' motivations for growth or security consistently supported these hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-85
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomy
  • Close relationships
  • Regulatory focus
  • Relationship well-being


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