Sasha Alex Lessin, Ph. D.

Five Ways of Assessing Relationship Satisfaction* By Sasha Alex Lessin, Ph.D., Janet Lessin, Daniel Eckstein, Ph.D. & Jason Kaufman, Ph.D.

Eckstein (2001) used the acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y. to describe Fitness Strategies,

Adaptability, Moving Through Loss, Independence, Longevity, and Your Motivation. Feedback on one’s perceived relationship satisfaction is an essential component to relationship renewal, Eckstein & Cohen (1998) previously proposed a couple’s relationship satisfaction survey based on 21 variables. The current article introduces five specific ways partners can rate personal satisfaction. It has been adopted from the earlier work of Corrierre & Hart (1977,1979).

There are four sections to the present article. In section I, you as a couple are asked to rate your personal satisfaction of your relationship using five specific defined characteristics. Section Il features a discussion of the importance of feedback in relationships. Section Ill consists of the actual graphing of your scores. Section IV give some specific suggestions for improving your relationship together.

  1. Rate Your Relationship

Chart your couple conduct and refine your relationship. The graph you create below shows your dynamics–interaction, emotion, expression, clarity (understanding) and contact (feeling of connection) in your relationships. You graph these dynamics on the chart on a 1-5 scale. Based on your graph, you pledge behaviors that balance your ratings on the five dimensions. (Balance, on the graph, means interaction, feeling, expression, clarity and connection all rate Is, 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s)

Describe your dual dynamics—identify on the following fitness graph below. Your ratings will reveal routes to refine and enrich your relationship.


With your partner, discuss how much you have fun, break bread together, do duties, and dialogue with each other. How much time each day are you together?

Circle l, 2, 3, 4 or 5 for activity.

5: intense. You interact on most days. You work, play, relax, and go places together. 4: strong. At least five times a week you eat, play, visit or have guests together.

3: moderate. You do some things as a couple each week. 2: slight. You rarely romp, only doing things some weeks.

1: inactive. You usually go your separate ways.

Put a dot above the word “interaction” on the graph above. Write the number (1 ,2,3,4 or

5) below the word, “interaction”.


How passionately do you feel affection, attraction, apprehension, anguish and anger back and forth between you? Rate your couple feeling. Measure emotion, not its expression. Choose one of these:

5: intense. You experience all the feelings toward each other.

4: strong. You feel deeply about each other.

3: moderate. You have some emotion for each other, but you restrict feelings, some most

of the time.

2: slight. You feel something for each other only occasionally.

1: indifferent. Why are you together?

Put a dot above “feeling” on the graph. Write the number below, “feeling”.


How do you emote? Do you yell, gesture, slam doors, write love notes, confront, cry, hug, kiss? Do you hush, withdraw, keep calm, stay secretive, avoid touch, or hide your feelings? Does the strength of what you show match the force of what you feel? Rate how expressive you-two are. Put a dot above “expression” on the graph. Write the number below, “expression”.

5: intense. You both show what you feel in word, tone, volume, gesture, behavior. You say how you feel. You hide little.

4: strong. You show most emotions, but you suppress jealousy, anger or lust awhile. 3: moderate. You share your thoughts often, passion less. You conceal certain feelings.

You deny “bad” feelings or vent them indirectly, maybe months later.

2: slight. You seldom exhibit emotion. You and your lover may infer that you feel affection, but you don’t express it.

1: concealed. You hide feelings.


Assess how much you and your partner know what goes on between you and why. Can you catch the cares and prior patterns motivating you? Do you look at how you relate and select different ways? How easily and fairly do you divide duties? Rate your couple clarity. 5=clear; 4=good; 3=misty; 2=cloudy; l=fog-bound. Enter the rating on the graph.


Do you touch each other? Do you touch in a special way? When you talk, how much do you reveal yourself? How honest are you? How much do you share your thoughts and feelings, risking the other’s anger or rejection? How much do you influence each other?

In authentic contact you each see and care how the other feels. Both feel known. You’re active, clear, open. You talk and touch much. Rate your contact. Enter this rating on the chart:

5: authentic. You influence, support, stroke and care in- tensely for each other.

4: strong. You are close, trusting, dear friends. You often touch.

3: moderate. You share some, hide some.

2: slight. You relate in roles.

l : poor. You’re uninvolved, isolated, alienated.

Il. The Importance of Feedback in Romantic Relationships

The romantic relationship shared by a couple is a complex dynamic. Each couple is comprised of two unique individuals with their own personal characteristics and histories. The resultant dynamic can give rise to experiences in a relationship that are wonderful and lasting. However, every couple is comprised of two individuals. It is therefore invariant that the exultations of the relationship will sometimes be tempered by the tribulations.

Certainly, involvement in a healthy romantic relationship can provide much in the way of social support. Perceptions of social support have indeed been found to positively affect both psychological physiological well-being. Not only can the presence of perceived social support tend to lend emotional strength, but it may facilitate stress reduction (e.g., DeVries, Glasper, & Detillion, 2003) and even accelerate wound healing (Detillion, Craft, Glasper, Prendergast, & DeVries, 2004). Indeed, such mind-body reactions to the perception of adequate social support have been widely demonstrated in recent literature (see Ray [20041 for a recent and comprehensive review). Social support can thus be an important benefit to the partners in a romantic relationship. Nonetheless, every relationship experiences difficulties on occasion, resulting in negative emotions and interactions (Flora & Segrin, 2000) that presumably disrupt the healthy effects of social support. The real problem is that the couple often remains unaware of their roles in these problems, fearing or simply not knowing how to ask one another for feedback.

Thus, it is not the presence of difficulties that are so problematic to a relationship as the manner in which the partners approach them. Stanley, Markman, and Whitton (2000) suggested that communication about conflict and commitment has a major effect on how partners perceived their relationships. In their study, communication appeared to play a central role in relationship satisfaction due to its facilitation of a sense of safety within the relationship. Similarly, Flora and Segrin (2000) found that relationship satisfaction was greater when partners listened to one another without stating complaints. This was especially true when partners did not withdraw from one another, and maintained eye contact, during more difficult interactions (Flora & Segrin, 2000). What these studies demonstrate is the antagonistic potential of withdrawal and derisiveness to degrade the perceptions of social support and safety within a relationship.

Sternberg’s (1986) tripartite theory of love provides a useful approach for a couple to learn how to communicate within a relationship and thereby support one another. The theory identifies love within a relationship as a complex whole that appears to be both genetically instinctual and socially learned. It posits that love in is variably comprised of three components: (a) intimacy, (b) passion, and (c) commitment. All three of these components are present to some degree within a romantic relationship. However, the relative standing of each component may not be congruent between the partners. Intimacy forms the common center of loving relationships. It refers to those emotions in a relationship that promote closeness and exchange. Thus, there are often both selfish and altruistic aspects of intimacy that are present in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. Passion manifests itself in the psychological and physiological arousal that may motivate interactions in romantic relationships. Passion and intimacy may not necessarily covary in a positive manner. For example, it is possible for a couple to be highly passionate but not overly intimate, or vice versa. Finally, commitment consists of both the short-term decision that the couple loves one another, as well as the long-term decision to maintain the romantic relationship. Commitment is thus a rather cognitive aspect of love (Sternberg, 1986).

Partners may provide meaningful feedback to one another by exploring together the relative importance they attribute to each of these three components of love. The first step is for each partner to determine a relative weight for each component regarding how he or she currently perceives the relationship. The second step is to weigh each component of intimacy, passion, and commitment as to how the partner would ideally like the relationship to function. What is important for the couple to identify through this guided communication is their degree of match. Balance among the three components is not important if both partners agree on the relative importance of each. In this manner, Sternberg’s (1986) tripartite theory of love can provide a means with which couples may communicate about their needs and desires.

Ill.        Graph Couple Fitness

Connect the rating points on the graph for each dynamic. The graph shows your strengths as a couple. It also shows how to refine your relation. Underline the low mark on the graph (next to the least developed dynamic). Imagine your behavior and feelings lifting the low point to the level of other dynamics. If your graph has a vertical line (all 3’s, for example), then your dynamics balance. You’re prepared for progress. Select steps to fine tune your sharing. Circle the high mark. Picture the positive results after you reduce it.

Commit to an action to improve your couple dynamics–to treat your darling better, feel more together or understand and contact more deeply. Read the sample actions. Some raise a dynamic, others lower it. Create an option which moves interaction, feeling, expression, understanding or contact toward balance (a vertical line on your graph).

  1. Six Suggestions for Relationship Improvement
  2. Sample Steps to Improve Interaction

Do something as lovers.

Work, play, run, hike or picnic.

Share a chore you usually don’t.


Forgo frantic activity. Loaf together at the beach.

Finish: “We can improve our interaction by…”

  1. Facilitate Feeling

You feel all the time. Notice your feelings now.

Raise your feeling level.

Recall times you felt sad, angry, scared, strong, or loving.

Calm yourself: relax, breathe deeply. See your passions as waves washing the shore.

Finish: “With you, Dear, I’d like to feel…”

“I’ll facilitate the feeling in our relation by…”

  1. Exercise Expression

See your beloved. Experience emotion toward her or him.

Realize that one day she or he will die. Pretend you are present at the last moment.

What would you say that you haven’t?

What do you wish to change about yourself in that scene?

Say, “I love you,” to your darling.

Say you’re glad you’re together.

When your lover says something you dislike say,” I don’t like what you said.”

Discuss it till you both feel OK

Imagine the consequences for your couple if you disclose more.

Talk less and listen more.

Show annoyance or anger to each other. Talk till you feel loving. Then hug.

Finish: “A small step I’ll take to express more (or less) in our relation is…”

  1. Stretch Understanding

Finish five sentences about your bond starting with, “I understand…”

“With us, I’m confused about…” (Complete.)

List ten ways your coupling differs from your parents’.

Think often ways your lover differs from your parent of the opposite sex. Then explain them.

Tell what you want from your lover. How do you settle for less?

If you know it all, stop looking to know more. Live from the answers you have now.

Complete: “I’ll understand you better by…”

  1. Correct Couple Contact

Walk or jog together once a week. Talk about yourselves and your feelings as you move.

Subtract any contact that smothers. Withdraw awhile each day, then reunite refreshed.

Finish: “I’ll improve contact with you this week by…” (Say what you’ll do.)

Tell your love, “This week, I commit myself to…” (Designate a deed you’ll do to balance your bond.)

Complete 3 graphs rating your five dynamics (interaction, emotion, expression, clarity and contact) for three successive weeks, the last two weeks of which you live from the steps you committed to for balancing your dynamics. Draw the 3 graphs for the instructors to see.

Describe the trends, variation or stability in the three graphs. How did the behavior you pledged affect your functioning?

Look at your last graph. What’s the next doable step for more balance?


Lessin, A, Lessin J. Ecstein, D., Kaufman, J.,

2005, Five Ways of Assessing Relationship Satisfaction, The Family Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 4


Corrierre, R. & Hart, J. (1979). Psychological Fitness, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich


Corrierre, R. & Hart, J. (1977). The Dream Makers, New York: Funk & Wagnalls,

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *