Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Dating Couples' Spiritual Intimacy Predicts Relationship Satisfaction and Commitment Beyond Emotional Intimacy

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Meagan Docherty (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Carolyn Tompsett (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Jane Schoonmaker Rodgers (Committee Member)


This study assessed linkages between emerging adults' self-reports of spiritual intimacy with their dating partners and their romantic relationship commitment, satisfaction, and emotional intimacy. Spiritual intimacy refers to partners vulnerably disclosing their religious/spiritual (R/S) experiences to one another and empathically listening to one another’s disclosures. The sample consisted of 218 Midwestern college students (83% female, 84% Caucasian/white, 78% heterosexual) who self-identified as being in a non-marital (i.e. dating) romantic relationship and completed a cross-sectional survey. As expected, greater spiritual intimacy in a dating relationship predicted greater relationship satisfaction (β = .43, Δ R2 = .18, p < .01), commitment (β = .34, Δ R2 = .13, p < .01), and emotional intimacy (β =.37, Δ R2 = .14, p < .01) after controlling for relevant demographic information. Moreover, spiritual intimacy continued to significantly predict relationship satisfaction (β = .20, Δ R2 = .03, p < .01) and commitment (β = .15, Δ R2 = .02, p < .01) after controlling for the effects of emotional intimacy. These findings suggest that spiritual intimacy captures elements of romantic relationship functioning that may otherwise go unnoticed by typical measures of communication skills or emotional closeness. This study is one of the first to look at R/S communication processes in dating relationships and appears to be the first to compare spiritually intimate communication with emotionally intimate communication. Discussion of this study highlights how researchers, educators, and counselors interested in close relationships could further explore the reciprocal roles of spiritual and emotional intimacy in fostering couples' commitment and satisfaction.