Self-determination theory posits 3 basic psychological needs: autonomy (feeling uncoerced in one's actions), competence (feeling capable), and relatedness (feeling connected to others). Optimal well-being results when these needs are satisfied, though this research has traditionally focused on individual well-being outcomes (e.g., E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan, 2000). Three studies examined the role of need fulfillment in relationship functioning and well-being. Study 1 found that fulfillment of each need individually predicted both individual and relationship well-being, with relatedness being the strongest unique predictor of relationship outcomes. Study 2 found that both partners' need fulfillment uniquely predicted one's own relationship functioning and well-being. Finally, in Study 3, the authors used a diary recording procedure and tested a model in which the association between need fulfillment and relationship quality was mediated by relationship motivation. Those who experienced greater need fulfillment enjoyed better postdisagreement relationship quality primarily because of their tendency to have more intrinsic or autonomous reasons for being in their relationship.
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