Relationship Distress: Empirical Evidence for a Relational Need Perspective

  • Lesley L. VerhofstadtEmail author
  • Gilbert M. D. Lemmens
  • Gaëlle Vanhee
Part of the European Family Therapy Association Series book series (EFTAS)


Alleviating relationship distress within couple therapy requires evidence-based insights into the origins of relationship conflict and dissatisfaction. Within the current chapter, a relational need perspective on relationship distress is taken, and research empirically testing the following questions will be summarized: Does relationship dissatisfaction result from partners being unable to meet each other’s needs? And if so, what kind of needs? Is it a question of need dissatisfaction or need frustration? Does relational need frustration affect the number of times couples argue? How do partners emotionally react when their needs are unmet within their relationship? Which destructive behaviors – intended to cope with need dissatisfaction or frustration – result from a partner’s emotions? Evidence from literature review, surveys, recall/imagine research, and observational research – conducted within samples of couples and individual partners – will be presented, and implications for theory, research, and clinical practice will be discussed.


Couples Relational needs Conflict Relationship (dis)satisfaction Multi-method research 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lesley L. Verhofstadt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gilbert M. D. Lemmens
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gaëlle Vanhee
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryGhent University HospitalGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Head and Skin – Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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