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Abstract

A recent extension (Beach, & Tesser, 1993) of Tesser's self-evaluation maintenance model (SEM: Tesser, 1988) proposed that a person's motivation to feel good about the self, and his or her concern for the partner's need to feel good about the self, can affect the couple's interaction behavior. In the present study, individual differences in the motivation to maintain one's own and one's partner's SEM needs are used to predict the couple's problem-solving discussion behaviors. Fifty-three married couples were videotaped for 20 minutes while discussing an important relationship issue on which there was disagreement. From these video records, husbands' and wives' favorable and unfavorable discussion behaviors were coded. During a subsequent session, couples reported their affective reactions to a number of SEM scenarios recalled from memory, which were used to create an individual difference measure representing the strength in motivation to maintain one's own and one's partner's self-evaluation needs. In general, husbands' and wives' responsiveness to their partners' SEM needs was associated with favorable interaction behavior, whereas responsiveness to one's own SEM needs was associated with unfavorable interaction behavior. The results of this study suggest that the extended SEM model provides an experimental framework that incorporates research directed at both the elucidation of individual differences and the examination of the couple as a unit.