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Self-compassion enhances relationship satisfaction

A study from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has revealed a profound connection between self-compassion and relationship satisfaction.

The findings suggest that being more forgiving and kind to oneself, particularly in the face of shortcomings within a romantic relationship, can lead to happier, more fulfilling partnerships.

Valuable insights 

The study, which involved 209 couples, provides valuable insights into the dynamics of romantic relationships. A striking result of the research indicates that men, in particular, experience higher levels of relationship satisfaction when their female partners practice self-compassion.

“Self-compassion is the act of having a caring, kind and attentive attitude towards oneself – especially with regard to your own shortcomings,” explained study lead author Dr. Robert Körner from the University of Bamberg. 

“We found that one’s ability to react compassionately to one’s own inadequacies, suffering and pain in the relationship benefits both members of the couple. In this way, an actor’s self-compassion not only improves their own happiness, but also their partner’s.”

Beyond personal well-being 

The implications of self-compassion extend beyond personal well-being, influencing various aspects of romantic relationships, such as conflict resolution, dealing with jealousy, and overall relationship satisfaction. 

Prior studies have mainly focused on individual perspectives within relationships. However, this research stands out by considering both partners.

Dr. Nancy Tandler from the Institute of Psychology at MLU emphasized the importance of interviewing both individuals in a relationship. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of how self-compassion affects each partner and the relationship as a whole. 

Relationship dynamics 

The researchers conducted a survey that covered a wide range of relationship aspects, including sexual satisfaction and the perceived long-term potential of the relationship.

The team also looked at the connection at a relationship-specific level by analyzing not only individual self-compassion, but also self-compassion within the relationship. 

“This approach takes into account the fact that people behave differently in different areas of life,” explained Professor Astrid Schütz from the University of Bamberg. For example, a person’s self-compassion after a romantic conflict may differ from their self-compassion following a work-related conflict. 

Study significance 

“This study is the first to thoroughly test reciprocal effects of self-compassion in couples. We found that a person’s self-compassion is related to the partner’s relationship satisfaction, but this effect pertains only to self-compassion in the context of the relationship, not to self-compassion in general,” wrote the study authors. 

“Apparently, when people are accepting of their own shortcomings and failures in a relationship, it benefits not only themselves but also the relationship and their partner’s relationship satisfaction. The findings are relevant for couples therapy.”

Fostering self-compassion 

Dr. Tandler suggests a practical approach for fostering self-compassion by considering how one would treat a partner in a challenging situation and then applying that same level of care and understanding to oneself.

“In addition to the substantive findings, we conclude that it is important to consider the interrelationship between the relationship partners in order to understand the full potential of self-compassion as a resource for happy relationships,” noted Dr. Tandler. 

The study is published in the journal Personal Relationships.

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