The Prediction of Marital Satisfaction Through Attachment Styles and Love Story


Farnoush Sina 1 , Samaneh Najarpourian 2 , * , S. Abdolvahab Samavi 2

1 Department of Counseling and Psychology, University of Hormozgan, Bandar Abbas, Iran

2 Department of Counseling and Psychology, Research Center of Educational and Behavioral Sciences, University of Hormozgan, Bandar Abbas, Iran

How to Cite: Sina F , Najarpourian S , Samavi S A. The Prediction of Marital Satisfaction Through Attachment Styles and Love Story, Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2018 ; 12(4):e62774. doi: 10.5812/ijpbs.62774.


Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences: 12 (4); e62774
Published Online: October 2, 2018
Article Type: Original Article
Received: October 11, 2017
Revised: June 4, 2018
Accepted: July 15, 2018


Background: Generally, people tend to create stories relevant to their romantic beliefs based on their personalities and personal experiences.

Objectives: The current study aimed at investigating and determining the role of attachment styles and the Sternberg love story to predict marital satisfaction.

Methods: The current descriptive-correlational study was conducted on a population including all couples in Qeshm Island, Iran. The 400 participants (200 couples) were selected through stratified sampling method. To collect the needed data, three different instruments were employed namely couples satisfaction index (CSI), the Sternberg love story index, and experiences in close relationships questionnaire. The collected data were analyzed through correlation and multiple regression analyses.

Results: The results of the study revealed that the male dominant love story, male and female social receptivity, and male entertainment significantly and positively predicted the marital satisfaction. On the other hand, female and male anxious and avoidance attachment, female dominant, female and male submission, and female self-pleasure negatively and significantly predicted marital satisfaction. It is noteworthy that the relationship between entertainment love story in females and pleasure love story in males was not significant. Totally, 49% of marital satisfaction variance in males and 77% of marital satisfaction variance in females were accounted by predictor variables.

Conclusions: Variety of male and female love story and attachment styles can affect marital satisfaction.

1. Background

Marriage is considered as the most exciting and stressful event of every human being's life; people progress in their growth process with marriage, and family is introduced as a social entity or institution, which is the result of marital bond between males and females (1). One of the aspects of couples' relationship is the quality of marital life, which plays a vital role to evaluate the overall quality of family relationships; the quality of marital life is a multi-aspect concept and includes various dimensions of couples' relationships such as agreement, satisfaction, happiness, solidarity, and commitment (2). Consequently, various factors affect the strength and endurance of the family, including satisfaction of the couples (1). Hakins defined marital satisfaction as a sense of contentment, gratification, and pleasure by the husband and wife when they consider all aspects of their marriage (3). Marital satisfaction as an important aspect of a person's overall life satisfaction (4-8) is one of the most important factors of life development and goal achievement, which gives meaning to the life of many adults (5, 6, 9).

One of the most important factors in marital satisfaction is the attachment styles of couples in adulthood (10-13). Researchers believe that today attachment theory is an important and prominent theory to realize the romantic relationships of adults including the relationships between spouses (14, 15). Attachment styles are the patterns of expectations, needs, emotions, and social behavior derived from previous attachment experiences and typically originate from relationships with parents (11, 12). Some people also feel that their spouses support them and take care of them when they need it, while others are scared of being abandoned (12, 16-19). In most studies, the relationship between attachment styles and marital satisfaction is the same both for males and females (12, 20-22).

Love is another very important factor in marital satisfaction (23, 24). Sternberg considered love as a mental phenomenon including behavioral (intimacy), emotional (desire or pleasure), and cognitive components (25, 26). Later, Sternberg added love metaphors and discussed love with parables in various stories (27). In love as a story perspective, it is assumed that people tend to love the ones with stories identical or similar to theirs, but with complementary roles; thus with some potentially similar or different aspects (27-29). Sternberg listed 25 types of stories, eight of which have complementary roles (29, 31). All of these stories are summarized in five main factors, namely popular stories, dominance stories, submission stories, pleasure stories, and entertainment stories (26).

Sternberg believed that relationship problems cannot be treated by changing habits and behaviors, and the roots of problems are in the incompatible stories. If this is true, then problems in a relationship indicate the need to change the love story (or change partners). He suggests that correctly understanding both partners' stories helps a couple to decide what needs and expectations cause the difficulties (25). Some gender differences are also reported in relation to the types of love; therefore, Dion and Dion believed that love in males is more passionate than females and females are comradelier than males (32). According to the approach of the Sternberg love story, people begin to make love stories since their birth, which forms their expectations of romance in adulthood. The love story for each person forms a spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and motivations that their conflicts in couples lead to different stories and functions. On the other hand, the emotional bond between mother and child causes the attachment style. This attachment style is the basis for closeness or distance in marital relationships. Since the basis of love story and attachment style are the initial experiences of childhood, and the relationship between these variables and marital satisfaction is studied less in the past, the current study aimed at examining the relationship between attachment style and love story formed in childhood with marital satisfaction reported in adulthood.

2. Objectives

The aim of this study was to determine the predictive role of attachment styles and love story for marital satisfaction.

3. Materials and Methods

The current descriptive-correlational study aimed at identifying the relationship between marital satisfaction with attachment styles and couples' love stories. The statistical population of the current study included all married people living in Qeshm Island, Iran living at least one year together; this community was selected to control the effect of honey moon on marital satisfaction, since it is assumed that at the beginning of the marriage, marital satisfaction is high. Qeshm is an island in South of Iran and the largest island in the Persian Gulf. Due to the special economic status of the island, in addition to the natives, a lot of people from other parts of Iran live there. For this reason, there are cultural varieties among Qeshm residents that increase the generalizability of the current study findings; the ability of the couples to read and write was a requirement. A sample of 200 couples were selected by relative sampling method from all urban residential areas. Participants were informed about the objectives of the study that contribution was voluntary and anonymous; they could withdraw from the study at any time and that they were not enforced to answer all the items in the scales. The current study proposal was approved by the Ethics Committee of the university. Since altogether three questionnaires and eight subscales were evaluated in the current study, and considering at least 25 subjects for each small scale, the smallest approximate sample size was estimated 200 couples. The study sample was collected by referring to the homes. The demographic information for subjects is reported in Table 1.

Table 1. Demographic Information of Subjects
Age, y
Less than 276616.5
27 - 3410526.25
34 - 4519047.5
Above 45399.75
Duration of marriage, y
Less than 1013734.25
10 - 2020952.25
Above 205413.5

3.1. Data Collection Instruments

3.1.1. Couples Satisfaction Index

This tool was developed by Funk and Rogge (39) to measure marital satisfaction. This questionnaire has 32 items scored based on a six-point Likert scale. The first item that measures the degree of happiness in a relationship has a seven-point spectrum. In all questions, except question six, the higher the score of the individual, the higher is his/her marital satisfaction. This measure has convergent and divergent validities (15, 32). Funk and Rogge (39) reported Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.98 for the form with 32 questions; in another study, to examine internal consistency, the data of 16 couples were studied and Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.96 was obtained. The reliability of the questionnaire in the current study was 0.97 using Cronbach's alpha method. In order to examine the convergent validity of long-form of CFI, Nilforooshan and Navidian (15) simultaneously conducted the intimacy and marital adjustment scale (29); the correlation coefficient of CFI was obtained with the intimacy scale of 0.76 and marital adjustment scale of 0.89, where both were significant at the level less than 0.001

3.1.2. The Sternberg Love Story Index

This index was designed by Sternberg and is standardized by Karami and Alaei Koljahi (30), in Iran. Love story index is a test designed based on the theory of "love as a story" to identify couples' love story in two forms of males and females, and ultimately to predict their satisfaction in their intimate relationship according to the similarity of couples' love profile; each form of this index includes 25 types of stories and there are complementary roles in eight stories, which with the complementary roles of each form, measure a total of 33 stories and roles. Each story has four locution and two locutions are considered for each role in stories that include roles. The locutions of each form totally reaches 100 that ask for the opinion of the respondent for each item and require the subject to score the locution based on a Likert scale of 1 to 7 according to his/her degree of agreement with that locution. All of these stories are summarized in main factors of popular, dominance, submission, pleasure, and entertainment stories. The validity of the questionnaire was examined separately in two groups considering the impressionability of stories by the culture and that females and males were not equally affected by sociocultural issues (25, 28). To validate this index, Karami and Alaei Koljahi used criterion validity and correlated the love story index with the scale of Hudson couples marital satisfaction index; the results showed a correlation between these two indices (0.33), significant at 0.01 level (30). Regarding the reliability of this test, the overall correlation coefficient obtained by calculation of 33 means of stories through retrieval method was 0.992 and 0.997 for males and females respectively, significant at 0.001 level. In this research, the Cronbach's alpha obtained from the calculation of 33 means of stories was 0.89 for the male group and 0.90 for the female group (P = 0.001), indicating very good reliability of the index according to the obtained values.

3.1.3. Revised Questionnaire of Experiences in Close Relationships

It is developed by Vicary and Fraley (44); it is a 36-item questionnaire about adult attachment, where items 1 to 18 concern anxiety and items 19 to 36 are associated with avoidance scale. Vicary and Fraley (44) reported that the results of examining the validity of revised questionnaire of experiences in close relationships showed a correlation of 0.40 to 0.60 between anxiety scale of the revised questionnaire of experiences in close relationship and the anxiety section in Hazan and Shaver scale, and a correlation of 0.27 to 0.43 between avoidance scale of revised questionnaire of experience in close relationships and avoidance section of Hazan and Shaver scale; the significant range of these coefficients was reported from 0.0001 to 0.006. Nilforooshan and Navidian (15) showed the reliability coefficient of 0.91 for anxiety scale and reliability of 0.93 for avoidance scale with a three-week interval test-retest. In the current study, alpha coefficient was reported 0.88 and 0.89 for anxiety and avoidance scales, respectively

4. Results

The descriptive data regarding the variables in the current study sample is presented in Table 2. According to Table 2, given the skewness and kurtosis in (-2, +2) interval, the distribution of the data of the study variables was normal.

Table 2. The Descriptive Data of the Study Variables
VariableMeanStandard DeviationSkewnessKurtosis
Male marital satisfaction109.4738.76-0.684-0.830
Male anxiety attachment46.8716.361.1690.433
Male avoidant attachment48.8516.29-1.142-0.0348
Male popular199.3828.165-0.289-0.337
Male dominance81.7725.720.005-0.861
Male submission38.9557.680.494-1.035
Male pleasure32.608.600.7510.199
Male entertainment46.35510.50-0.2760.983
Female marital satisfaction106.63536.279-0.679-0.927
Female anxious attachment48.14518.880.380-0.641
Female avoidant attachment83.1213.524-1.2751.208
Female popular209.7622.57-0.7810.340
Female dominance82.1321.7990.733-0.617
Female submission36.8156.9461.0120.096
Female pleasure27.658.3210.243-1.202
Female entertainment36.51510.626-0.1030.359

Regression analysis was employed to examine the study hypotheses. Before analyzing data related to hypotheses, data were examined to ensure that they meet basic assumptions of regression analysis. For this purpose, three regression assumptions including lost data through replacing them with mean variable, normality of the data by Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, and multi-collinearity using tolerance statistical indices and variance inflation factor were investigated, and the results showed that all assumptions of regression analysis were established (Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3. Matrix of Correlation Between Variables in Males
Marital SatisfactionAnxiety AttachmentAvoidant AttachmentPopularDominanceSubmissionPleasureEntertainment
Marital satisfaction1-0.141 *, P < 0.0390.146*, P < 0.470.350**, P < 0.0010.625**, P < 0.001-0.305**, P < 0.0010.045, P < 0.2690.541**, P < 0.001
Anxiety attachment1-0.366**, P < 0.001-0.149*, P < 0.036-0.415**, P < 0.0010.598**, P < 0.001-0.414**, P < 0.001-0.321**, P < 0.001
Avoidant attachment1-.098, P < 0.17-0.195**, P < 0.0060.312**, P < 0.001-0.193**, P < 0.006-0.188**, P < 0.008
Popular10.363**, P < 0.001-0.177*, P < 0.0130.092, P < 0.1990.300**, P < 0.001
Dominance1-0.788**, P < 0.0010.138*, P < 0.0520.822**, P < 0.001
Submission1-0.496**, P < 0.001-0.621**, P < 0.001
Pleasure10.016, P < 0.824
Table 4. Matrix of Correlation Between Variables in Females
Marital SatisfactionAnxiety AttachmentAvoidant AttachmentPopularDominanceSubmissionPleasureEntertainment
Marital satisfaction1-0.307 **, P < 0.001-0.161*, P < 0.0230.358**, P < 0.001-0.863**, P < 0.001-0.512**, P < 0.0010.169*, P < 0.0170.119, P < 0.094
Anxiety attachment10.427**, P < 0.001-0.099*, P < 0.165-0.191**, P < 0.0070.222**, P < 0.002-0.239**, P < 0.001-0.228**, P < 0.001
Avoidant attachment1-0.051, P < 0.4710.122**, P < 0.0880.112**, P < 0.116-0.192**, P < 0.007-0.034**, P < 0.635
Popular1-0.293**, P < 0.001-0.446*, P < 0.001-0.668, P < 0.0010.237**, P < 0.001
Dominance10.537**, P < 0.0010.206*, P < 0.004-0.072, P < 0.317
Submission10.256**, P < 0.001-0.233**, P < 0.001
Pleasure1-0.041, P < 0.563

To examine the first hypothesis, namely "there is a significant multiple relationship between attachment styles and love stories with marital satisfaction among males", multiple regression analysis was employed and the results are presented in Table 5. As shown in Table 5, according to the results of regression by stepwise method, attachment styles and love story components were entered into the analysis, among which anxious attachment variable and popular, and pleasure from love story of males components were automatically removed from the analysis. In the first step, there was dominance component where its R and R2 were 0.69 and 0.39, respectively; in the second step, by adding submission variable, R and R2 were obtained 0.69 and 0.48, respectively; and in the third step by adding avoidant attachment, R and R2 were 0.70 and 0.49, respectively. Therefore, R and R2 of this analysis were 0.70 and 0.49, respectively. Thus, 49% of marital satisfaction changes in males were determined by dominance, submission, and avoidant attachment style components.

Table 5. The Results of Normality Test
VariableKolmogorov-Smirnov Test
Marital satisfaction1.460.361.870.20
Anxious attachment1.120.421.560.28
Avoidant attachment1.320.311.280.34

To examine the second hypothesis, namely "there is a significant multiple relationship between attachment styles and love stories with marital satisfaction of females", multiple regression analysis were also used, the results of which are presented in Table 6.

Table 6. The Results of Multicollinearity
VariableMulticollinearity Index
Marital satisfaction0.7581.3190.7521.330
Anxious attachment0.7481.3370.5311.881
Avoidant attachment0.7891.2680.7921.263

As shown in Tables 7 and 8 according to the results of regression in a stepwise method, attachment styles and females' love stories were entered into the analysis, among which avoidant attachment variables, dominance, entertainment, and pleasure from love story components were automatically removed from the analysis. In the first step, there was dominance component where R and R2 were 0.86 and 0.74, respectively; in the second step by adding avoidant attachment variable, R and R2 were obtained 0.87 and 0.76, respectively; and in the 3rd step by adding popular variable, R and R2 were 0.88 and 0.77, respectively. Therefore, R and R2 of this analysis were 0.88 and 0.77, respectively; indicating that, 77% of marital satisfaction variance in females was determined by dominance, avoidant attachment, and popular components.

Table 7. The Results of Regression Analysis of Predictive Variables of Males Marital Satisfaction in Stepwise Method
Criterion VariableIndex Variable PredictorMRR2FPRegression Coefficent
Marital satisfactionDominance0.620.39126.530.0010.6211.240.001
Avoidant attachment0.700.4964.890.0011.0212.60< 0.001-0.54-6.470.001-0.11-2.180.03
Table 8. The Results of Regression Analysis of Predictive Variables of Females Marital Satisfaction in Stepwise Method
Criterion VariableIndex Variable PredictorMRR2FPRegression Coefficent
Marital satisfactionDominance0.860.74574.140.001-0.86-23.710.001
Anxious attachment0.870.76321.390.001-0.83-23.71< 0.001-0.15-4.260.001

5. Discussion

The current study aimed at examining the prediction of marital satisfaction through attachment style and love story in two groups of males and females. The results of the first hypothesis analyzed by stepwise regression method, showed that 49% of marital satisfaction variance in males were determined by dominance, submission, and avoidant attachment style components. In addition, according to the results of stepwise regression analysis 78% of marital satisfaction variance in females was determined by avoidant and anxious attachment components, love story components of popular, dominance, submission, and pleasure and entertainment.

The inverse and significant relationship between marital satisfaction and avoidant and anxious styles and the predicting role of these variables for marital satisfaction were aligned with the results of many studies (10, 14, 33, 34). The results of some studies showed that mothers and fathers who reporting more anxious attachment, had less satisfaction in their marital relationships. Therefore, anxious attachment style can significantly predict marital dissatisfaction in couples' marital relationships when they become parents.

The ones that were less secure, whether anxious or avoidant, or both, generally reported less satisfaction in their interactions (12). Spouses with both attachment styles were anxious, had a very poor performance, and were involved in many emotional distresses (7, 18, 20, 35). Results of another study indicated that in couples that husband and wife had the same attachment style, in other words both of them were secure or avoidant or ambivalent, their marital satisfaction was higher than those of the couples with different attachment styles. Among different attachment styles, the lowest marital satisfaction belonged to the couples that one of them had avoidant attachment style and the other had ambivalent attachment style (3, 6, 11, 12, 33-36). Studies also showed that people with secure attachment believed that they deserved love and they also felt intimacy and comfort; but people with insecure attachment tended to experience lower levels of trust, satisfaction, intimacy, and stability in their romantic relationships (12, 14, 15, 33). The relationship between anxious attachment style and marital satisfaction can be determined by the fact that such people are not certain about other people's love and are not sure whether they are worthy to be loved or supported; this situation accompanied by suspicion and fear leads to distrust following irritant feelings and jealousy and their relationships are often accompanied by the anxiety about losing the beloved person (17, 21, 34, 35). It is obvious that this perpetual feeling of fear of being rejected together with low self-esteem and subsequent mistrust and irritant feelings cause the ultimate dissatisfaction in couples, and in the current study there was also a negative and significant relationship between the two variables. Furthermore, to justify the relationship between avoidant attachment style and marital satisfaction, it can be also said that avoidant insecure individuals can hardly establish intimate relationships with others; they highly rely on themselves and if anybody wants to be very close to them, they become upset; they cannot trust their spouses and they suppress or hide their emotions (5, 11, 34, 36). Obviously, the traits such as mistrust and suppressing emotions are consistent with the dissatisfaction of the relationship, and the current study also reported this conclusion.

The results of relationships between marital satisfaction and love story showed that for males the relationship between marital relationship and popular and dominance and entertainment traits was positive and significant; the relationship between marital satisfaction and dominance was negative and significant; and the relationship between marital satisfaction and pleasure was not significant.

In females, there was a positive and significant relationship between marital satisfaction and popular trait, and a negative and significant relationship between marital satisfaction and dominance and submission and pleasure; there was also no significant relationship between marital satisfaction and entertainment.

In the case of dominance love story variable, the current study findings were consistent with those of some other studies on females and not consistent with those of males. Some researchers showed a negative significant relationship between marital satisfaction and dominance love story (24, 37); in another research there was a negative significant relationship between entertainment, dominance, and submission love stories and satisfaction (24, 26). None of these stories had a positive significant relationship with marital satisfaction, in other words, the stories by themselves had no positive relationship with marital satisfaction, but when both spouses had the same story, due to the similarity of their stories, their satisfaction with their relationship was higher. In the study on the relationship between dominance love story and marital satisfaction, it can be said that according to the definition of this love story, the most important features of these stories were supremacy, power, and taking advantage of one partner from the other one. In such stories, the rules of relationship between spouses is defined and determined by one person. A person with such a story looks at his/her partner as a person whose role is merely to meet his/her needs. It is obvious that when one of the spouses is going to seize power and control over marital life as well as wishes to decide on all affairs of life on his/her own, it stimulates dissatisfaction of the other partner, particularly when this person builds up inconsistency and dissatisfaction, conflict and dissatisfaction are subsequently revealed throughout the life of this couple. But in males, since based on their gender role they tend to take control, power, and general decision making by their own, dominance love story is not necessarily accompanied with low marital satisfaction; thereby, the results of the current study also revealed a positive significant relationship between this type of love story and marital satisfaction for males; particularly if the story of their spouses was submission (complementary to dominance).

A study showed a positive significant relationship between marital satisfaction and popular love story. In this case, it can be said that based on the definition, in such stories the relationships of spouses is accompanied by cooperation and such stories have positive relationship with marital satisfaction. In the current study, since the couples of this story had cooperation and mutual understanding, they reported higher marital satisfaction.

In case of the relationship between dominance love stories, the findings of the current study were consistent with those of the studies that revealed a negative significant relationship between dominance love story and marital satisfaction (12, 15, 19, 30, 38). What can be said about the relationship of submission love story and marital satisfaction is that in such stories, there is inequality of roles; the couples with such stories tend to obey their spouses and avoid argument. Such people refuse to involve in useful and constructive conversations, and accordingly fail to establish an intimate relationship. It is clear that one of the spouses has no will, and after a while becomes tired and bored of being under the control of his/her counterpart, thus they do not attain a satisfied, deep, and real relationship.

Regarding the relationship between entertainment love story and marital satisfaction, the results of males group were inconsistent with the results of the studies that reported a negative significant relationship between marital satisfaction and entertainment love story (35, 36). The relationship between entertainment love story and marital satisfaction is examined in a way that by definition, the couples with such stories look at their relationships as entertainment and fun, their relationships are superficial and there is emotional gap between spouses; therefore, they do not achieve an intimate, deep, and real relationship. But in the current study and given the dominant culture, it seems that the couples with entertainment type love stories, did not report more marital dissatisfaction since they do not take life more serious than it is and probably do not have absolute idealized view toward life and take it easy.

In case of negative relationship between pleasure love story and marital satisfaction for females it can be said that according to the definition of this love story, the importance and prominence of physical and sexual pleasure are remarkable (35, 38, 39). It is evident that when a person is valued only in the domain of sexuality and look and probably two other sides of the Sternberg triangular theory of love (commitment and intimacy) are ignored, the person is disappointed with this relationship, which subsequently reveals dissatisfaction and conflict and low scores in marital satisfaction.

5.1. Conclusion

The variety of love story from Sternberg's view point among different people and unique features of each story that reveals a person's world-view and is closely associated to his/her life, and on the other hand, the accompaniment of love story with attachment styles show the type of emotional connection of people in their intimate relationships, and it seems that combination and accompaniment of these two variables could be a good predictor for the degree of couples' marital satisfaction and even for the ones on the verge of marriage.

In the process of therapy, the investigation of the attachment style and love story of couples can help to diagnose problems, and it is used in therapeutic interventions. Therefore, when couples are aware of their attachment styles and love stories and those of their partners, they can understand the roots of some problems and better solve them. Based on unmet attachment needs, many researchers reported the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions to increase marital satisfaction (10, 40-43).

Due to the employment of self-report data and not verifying the results with other sources of data collection such as interviews; exhaustion resulted from long questions and generalization of obtained results to other areas according to dominant conditions on the island and its residents were among limitations of the current study.

Regarding the nature of love story in different people, it is suggested that the relationship between this variable with other structures related to marital relationships such as marital conflict, marital burnout, quality of life, etc. also to be investigated in future studies; moreover, the results of the current study and other similar studies in premarital education, marital life enrichment coaching as well as clinics and health centers could be employed to evaluate the source of conflicts in couples for the ones that refer such places for treatment.



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