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Positive and negative: Partner derogation and enhancement differentially related to relationship satisfaction


  • This research was supported by Grant MH60366 from the National Institute of Mental Health to Niall Bolger at New York University. I wish to thank Patrick Shrout, Niall Bolger, James Uleman, and Edgar Coons for their advisement on the dissertation research on which this article is based. I would also like to thank Patrick Shrout, Christopher Burke, and Masumi Iida for their comments on earlier versions of this article. Finally, I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.

Gwendolyn Seidman, Psychology Department, Albright College, 13th and Bern Streets, Reading, PA 19612, e-mail:


Previous research on positive illusions has treated negatively biased views of one's romantic partner as existing along the same continuum as positively biased views. However, research on the greater psychological impact of negative events suggests that overly negative views of one's partner (derogation) may have a stronger association with relationship outcomes than overly positive views (enhancement). In this study, 353 couples completed 2 measures of relationship satisfaction and rated themselves and their partners on 3 trait domains. For most domains, with the exception of interpersonal virtues, derogating one's partner was a stronger predictor of satisfaction than enhancing one's partner. Being the object of derogation or enhancement had little association with relationship satisfaction, with some exceptions.