BACKGROUND: Withdrawing effort and commitment from important goals (i.e. goal disengagement) has been discussed as an effective aspect of goal adaption. However, studies have focused especially on between-person differences. The present studies aimed to investigate within-person differences in goal disengagement within a dyadic context of romantic couples. Across two different health behaviors, we specifically tested whether goal disengagement would be associated with better well-being, but lower goal achievement in everyday life.
METHODS: In two dyadic daily diary studies (Study 1: 61 overweight couples aiming to become physically active; Study 2: 83 dual-smoker couples aiming to quit smoking), both partners independently reported on goal disengagement, positive and negative affect. Behavioral goal achievement was measured via accelerometer (Study 1) and self-report (Study 2).
RESULTS: Analyses based on the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model revealed that across both studies, one's own goal disengagement was related to lower well-being and a lower likelihood for goal achievement on a daily level (actor effects). Only in Study 1 were partner effects on negative affect and goal achievement found.
CONCLUSIONS: In daily life, goal disengagement may not be as adaptive for well-being and goal achievement in health behavior change. Dyadic associations were not consistent, and might be more context-sensitive.