Power As A Positive Force In Romantic Relationships

Ledina Imami, Wayne State University


Power is commonly believed to have negative consequences for interpersonal relationships given that powerholders may be more focused on their needs and more likely to prioritize their interest at the cost of others. But what if power could be a benevolent force for relationships? This dissertation explored this question by investigating the influence of power on processes that promote the strength of romantic relationships. Building on the idea that powerful individuals are highly focused on their goals, this work intended to show that, when their interpersonal goals become important, high-power partners are more likely to think and behave in ways that benefit their romantic partner. On the other hand, power was expected to lead to negative consequences for romantic relationships if the individual goals of high-power partners rise in importance and overshadow their interpersonal goals. These notions were empirically tested in two studies using a variety of outcomes. Study 1 attempted to demonstrate the effect of momentary goal accessibility on the influence of power in relationship-maintenance processes in the context of forgiving a partner’s transgression. This study experimentally manipulated power and the accessibility of personal vs. interpersonal goals. Study 2 tested if commitment to one’s romantic partner, which indicates a strong goal of maintaining one’s relationship, attenuates the influence of personal goal accessibility on the intentions of high-power partners to forgive a partner’s transgression. Results indicated few significant findings which did not conform to hypotheses. Although this work did not provide support for the hypothesized effects, it is raises important questions about understanding when and how power may act as a positive force in romantic relationships.