The role of emotional capital during the early years of marriage : it’s about the little things

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Walsh, Courtney Michelle

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In ongoing relationships, partners often accumulate a number of shared positive moments together, referred to as emotional capital. Although these moments may seem trivial on the surface, emotional capital has been shown to be an important resource when faced with relationship threats. The proposed study aimed to examine the longitudinal effects of emotional capital using daily diary assessments collected from 167 couples across the first 3 years of marriage. Conceptually replicating prior work, we found that individuals who accumulated more emotional capital on average maintained greater levels of satisfaction on days of greater relationship threat when compared to those individuals who accumulated less emotional capital. We also tested whether (1) the trajectories of emotional capital across time predicted later reactivity and (2) whether the buffering effect of emotional capital became stronger over time. We did not find support for either of these predictions. Lastly, the current study examined whether emotional capital not only reduced reactivity, but also reduced the likelihood that spouses detected threats in the first place. Results indicated that compared to husbands who accumulated less emotional capital, husbands who accumulated more emotional capital exhibited less vigilance for their wives’ daily negative behaviors within the relationship. Wives’ vigilance for their husbands’ negative behaviors was unaffected by their accumulations of emotional capital.


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