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New Research Shows This Is The Key To A Healthy Relationship

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New Research Shows This Is The Key To A Healthy Relationship

Study finds the key to a healthy relationship by measuring couples relationship satisfaction.

New research shows the connection between self-esteem and couples’ satisfaction.

Our self-esteem is not static. It fluctuates over the day, the week, and indeed, over our entire lifespan. I’ve previously written about how having higher self-esteem benefits our ability to manage stress and anxiety, as well as how it aids our recover from psychological injuries such as rejection and failure. (See “Does Your Self-Esteem Function as an Emotional Immune System?“)

Now a new study demonstrates that boosting your self-esteem could also benefit your relationship—and your partner. The study(link is external), reported in the journal Developmental Psychology, examined how changes in self-esteem over time affected a couple’s satisfaction with their relationship. The study used two data sets that included hundreds of couples in one, and thousands in the other. The data sets included assessments of the individuals’ self-esteem as well as their relationship satisfaction, taken several times over a period of 12 and 15 years, respectively. (Since life events can strongly influence both self-esteem and relationship satisfaction, the researchers used statistical methods to control for factors such as age, health, and employment status.)

The team reported that the higher a couple’s initial self-esteem was, the happier they tended to be in their relationship. They also found that changes in self-esteem over time were strongly related to changes in relationship satisfaction—specifically, increases in individual self-esteem heralded improvements in relationship satisfaction while drops in individual self-esteem predicted drops in the couple’s satisfaction.

Of note, there was no gender difference in how changes in self-esteem impacted relationship satisfaction for both members of the couple. That is, the self-esteem of women was no more “important” to relationship satisfaction that that of men in this study, and vice versa.

Another interesting finding was that self-esteem similarity between members of the couple (whether they both had high or low self-esteem, or whether one was high and the other low) did not influence the development of their relationship satisfaction.

These findings provide an interesting confirmation of a phenomenon observed by many psychotherapists—that when individual clients report improvements in self-esteem, they often report being happier in their relationship as well—and that their partner seems happier, too. Similarly, when life events conspire to decrease an individual’s self-esteem, such changes are often accompanied by reports of experiencing their relationship as less satisfying.

This link between individual self-esteem and relationship satisfaction is an interesting one because it means couples therapy is not the only venue by which a couple might improve their relationship. As the study illustrates, if one member of a couple can improve his or her self-esteem, it is likely to benefit the couple as a unit.

In other words, individual psychotherapy and other self-improvement programs can benefit not just those individuals but their partners as well.

For those interested in learning more about science-based techniques for improving self-esteem, check out Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts (link is external)(Plume, 2014).

Check out my TED talk and learn how to boost your Psychological Health (link is external)

Like The Squeaky Wheel Blog Facebook page, post questions or comments about this article and I will answer them.(link is external)

Join my email list and receive an exclusive gift article(link is external) — How to Recover from Rejection.

Visit my website(link is external) and follow me on Twitter @GuyWinch

[Guy Winch]

Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, keynote speaker, and author whose books have already been translated into thirteen languages. His most recent book is Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013). The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem (Walker & Company) was published in January 2011. Dr. Winch received his doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University in 1991 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in family and couples therapy at NYU Medical Center. He has been working with individuals, couples and families in his private practice in Manhattan, since 1992. He is a member of the American Psychological Association. In addition to the Blog on this site, Dr. Winch also writes the popular Squeaky Wheel Blog on Psychology Today.com, and blogs for Huffington Post.

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