Testing an interpersonal process model of intimacy using intimate discussions of committed romantic couples



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas A&M University


This study attempts to better understand relationship processes that promote or enhance a couple??s experience of emotional intimacy in their relationship. An overarching goal of the research is to test Reis and Shaver??s (1988) interpersonal process model of intimacy with a sample of committed, romantic couples. The interpersonal process model asserts that discussions involving self-disclosure and empathic responding will result in subjective feelings of emotional intimacy. Reis and Shaver??s model suggests that more vulnerable self-disclosure will promote deeper levels of emotional understanding and concern, subsequently resulting in greater subjective intimacy. Analyses tested the interpersonal process model of intimacy by examining self- and partner-reports of self-disclosure, empathic responding, and emotional intimacy. In this study, data were collected on 108 committed romantic couples from the community. Couples completed a packet of questionnaires individually and then engaged in videotaped interactions in which they discussed times when (a) someone other than their partner hurt their feelings (low-risk), and (b) their partner hurt their feelings (high-risk). The discussion topics were aimed at eliciting vulnerable self-disclosure and empathic responding. Results support the interpersonal process model, showing that self-disclosure and empathy are positively related to greater reports of post-interaction intimacy. Empathy proved to have a stronger impact on intimacy in high-risk discussions than low-risk discussions. The impact of self-disclosure and empathy on intimacy did not differ for men and women, suggesting that similar processes are at work for both genders. Methodological and clinical implications are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.