According to interpersonal script models, people’s responses to relational events are shaped by the reaction they expect from a close other. We analyzed responses to dissatisfaction in close relationships from an interpersonal script perspective. Participants reported on how a close friend or romantic partner would react to their expressions of dissatisfaction (using the exit-voice-loyalty-neglect typology). They were also asked to forecast whether the issue would be resolved (i.e., anticipated outcomes). Our main hypothesis was that people’s expectations for how a close other would respond to dissatisfaction would be dependent on their own self response. Further, we predicted that passive responses would be more common and viewed as less deleterious to a friendship than a romantic relationship. Results indicated that the responses that were expected from close others were contingent on how self responded. Moreover, as predicted, these contingencies followed different tracks depending on the type of relationship. Friends were more likely to expect passive responses to self’s expression of dissatisfaction, especially if self responded with neglect, whereas romantic partners expected more active responses. Furthermore, people anticipated that the issue would be more likely to be resolved if their friend (vs. romantic partner) responded passively and less actively (especially for destructive responses). It was concluded that people hold complex, nuanced interpersonal scripts for dissatisfaction and that these scripts vary, depending on the relationship context.

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Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
Department of Psychology

Harasymchuk, C, & Fehr, B. (Beverley). (2018). Responses to dissatisfaction in friendships and romantic relationships: An interpersonal script analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi:10.1177/0265407518769451