, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 597–609 | Cite as

The Effect of Mindfulness on Relationship Satisfaction via Perceived Responsiveness: Findings from a Dyadic Study of Heterosexual Romantic Partners

  • Kathryn C. Adair
  • Aaron J. Boulton
  • Sara B. Algoe


Trait mindfulness has been linked to romantic relationship satisfaction, but what are the mechanisms of action that give rise to this association? The current study tested the possible mechanism of perceived responsiveness in a partner (i.e., perceiving that a romantic partner is understanding, validating, and caring) who had the opportunity to provide support. We hypothesized that individuals higher in trait mindfulness would rate their partners higher in responsiveness, which in turn would predict greater relationship satisfaction in the rater. We also examined a cross-dyad path, in which partners of more mindful participants would view them as more responsive and thus have greater relationship satisfaction. In a laboratory study, each member of 127 heterosexual couples (n = 254) completed measures of trait mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Couple members later took turns discussing a personal concern and then reported their partner’s responsiveness during that conversation. An actor-partner interdependence mediation model revealed that perceived responsiveness mediated the mindfulness and relationship satisfaction association. Participants higher in Non-judgment and Observing facets of trait mindfulness rated their partners higher in responsiveness, which predicted relationship satisfaction. In addition, participants higher in Acting with Awareness both (1) rated their partners as higher in responsiveness, and (2) were perceived by their partners as more responsive, with both paths mediating effects on relationship satisfaction. The results for Acting with Awareness, however, should be interpreted with caution, due to poor model fit. Thus, mindfulness may facilitate relationship satisfaction through heightened perception of partners’ responsiveness both within and across dyads.


Mindfulness Trait mindfulness Relationships Relationship satisfaction Perceived responsiveness Responsiveness 



We are particularly grateful to Ansley Foster, Alysa Dalbo, and Ayush Kaushish for conducting the behavior coding. We would also like to express our sincere appreciation for feedback on this manuscript from the graduate student members of the third author’s lab as well as Patrick Dwyer and Barbara Fredrickson. The names of the hardworking members of the research teams who contributed to this project may be found on the website of the third author.


This work was supported by the Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude Project run by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center in partnership with UC Davis with funding from the John Templeton Foundation, awarded to the third author.

Author Contributions

KCA: developed the research question and hypotheses, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. AJB: developed the analytic plan, analyzed the data, wrote sections of the methods and results, and edited the manuscript. SBA: designed and executed the study, helped develop the hypotheses and the data analytic plan, and assisted in writing and editing the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All participants provided informed consent.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12671_2017_801_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© US Government (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn C. Adair
    • 1
  • Aaron J. Boulton
    • 2
  • Sara B. Algoe
    • 3
  1. 1.Duke University Health SystemDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of DelawareNewarkUSA
  3. 3.University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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