The stories couples live by

William L. Dunlop*, Janina Bühler, Amir Maghsoodi, Nicole Harake, Dulce Wilkinson, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Within social and personality psychology, researchers interested in narrative and storytelling have most often considered participants’ life stories, or narrative identities. This focus has led to the construction of the “narrative identity approach,” a conceptual and empirical paradigm tailored to assessing participants’ storied sense of self. Narrative processing is a common route by which individuals understand not only themselves, their lives, and variety of social phenomena, including their romantic relationships. As such, we argue on behalf of the application of the narrative identity approach to the study of romantic relationships. In this paper, an overview of the theoretical and methodological components of this approach is presented. This is followed by a summary of a preliminary study piloting a method for assessing the story-based identity couple members have constructed about their current romantic relationships. Twenty female-male couples completed an interview assessing the story of their romantic relationships. These interviews were administered individually, such that each couple member provided his or her stories separately and privately. Associations between the affective features of these stories, attachment styles, and relationship satisfaction are explored. Those who disclosed affectively positive stories tended to report lower levels of avoidant attachment and higher levels of relationship satisfaction. The narrative identity approach represents a noteworthy resource for relationship researchers that will be useful for future research on romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • attachment styles
  • contamination
  • narrative identity
  • redemption
  • romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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