Degree Name

Doctor of Psycology (Clinical)


School of Psychology


While much has been written about trait emotional intelligence (EI) in the last decade and while it would seem to have obvious conceptual relevance to romantic relationships, few studies have examined trait EI and its links to relationship satisfaction. The current project examined the influences of self-rated trait EI and couples’ communication patterns on the relationship satisfaction of heterosexual cohabiting couples. To date, no study has examined the influences of trait EI and communication patterns on the relationship satisfaction of both partners. Two studies were conducted, and both used statistical modelling techniques to analyse actor and partner effects to gain a more complete understanding of couple processes. Study 1 used a cross-sectional approach to examine the variables, while Study 2 analysed the effects over a 12-month period. The studies found a number of interesting and important effects that help to provide a greater understanding of relationship satisfaction.

In Study 1, self-rated trait EI was found to be related to couples’ communication patterns and relationship satisfaction, as expected. Importantly, an individual’s selfrated trait EI was found to predict their relationship satisfaction. When examining an individual’s estimates of their spouse’s trait EI, two effects were found: individuals who tended to idealize their partner’s trait EI reported greater satisfaction; and individuals high in trait EI tended to see their partners as similar to themselves in trait EI. In relation to the communication patterns, an individual’s reports of the avoidance and withholding communication pattern was the strongest cross-sectional predictor of satisfaction. Furthermore, actor effects only were found for all variables, indicating that an individual’s perceptions of their personality and the couple communication patterns were the strongest predictors of his or her satisfaction.