Need Fulfillment and Goal Pursuit

Humans have myriad important needs that they seek fulfillment of in the course of their lives. Ranging from the individual needs for independence, self-expansion, or self-improvement, to the interdependent needs for companionship, care-giving, security, and sexual contact, our close relationships with others provide a venue for seeking and obtaining experiences that fulfill these needs (VanderDrift & Agnew, 2012). In my work, I have seen that the more individuals can rely on their partner for their companionship and friendship needs, the more satisfying and long-lasting the relationship is (VanderDrift, Agnew, & Besikci, 2016; VanderDrift, Wilson, & Agnew, 2013). The more they can rely on their partner for self-expanding needs, the more they derogate potential alternatives, thus buffering the relationship from threat (VanderDrift, Lewandowski, & Agnew, 2011). The more they can rely on their partner for their security and independence needs, the more attachment security they achieve over time (Arriaga, Kumashiro, Finkel, VanderDrift, & Luchies, 2014).

However, my work has also shown that there is nuance to how need fulfillment impacts relationship outcomes. When an individual has a highly salient personal goal (i.e., a goal that is inherently about self-improvement rather than relationship improvement) a series of cognitive adaptions arise to facilitate the goal pursuit (e.g., narrow focus, one-sided processing). These adaptations are beneficial for the goal pursuit, but hinder relationship maintenance. In brief, individuals who are focused on a personal goal are less able and willing to meet their partners’ needs, regardless of how much their partner contributes to their goal pursuit (VanderDrift & Agnew, 2014). This paper seemingly stands apart from a sizable literature that suggests personal goal pursuits and relationships are often simultaneously, successfully pursued. It also stands apart from my previous work on need fulfillment that touts the benefits for the relationship of ample need fulfillment. Combined, it appeared that need fulfillment, whereas a seemingly vitally important aspect of relationships when ample, does not impact relationships as severely when lacking.

Relevant Publications

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  • VanderDrift, L. E., Agnew, C. R., & Besikci, E. (2016). Friendship and Romance. In M. Hojjat & A. Moyer (Eds.), The Psychology of Friendship (pp. 109-122). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.