Autonomy and need satisfaction in close relationships: Relationships motivation theory

Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

170 Scopus citations


Establishing and maintaining close relationships are among the most important and autonomously pursued aspects of people's lives. This chapter reviews the motivational dynamics of close relationships using Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT), a mini-theory within Self-Determination Theory. RMT posits a basic psychological need for relatedness that mobilizes people to pursue relationships, yet not all relationships are of high quality and satisfy the relatedness need. Even among warm relationships only those in which both partners experience autonomy and provide autonomy support to the other are deeply satisfying of the need for relatedness and are experienced as being of high quality. In contrast, control, objectification, and contingent regard thwart not only the autonomy need but also the relatedness need resulting in poor quality relationships. Need supports predict better dyadic functioning, more trust and volitional reliance, and greater wellness, and mutuality of need supports yields the most positive relationship outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Motivation and Interpersonal Relationships
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Research, and Applications
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9789401785426
ISBN (Print)9401785414, 9789401785419
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. All rights are reserved.


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