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Psychologists explain how neurotic people may benefit from a romantic relationship

May 9, 2014
Brain & Behavior

It is springtime and they are everywhere: Newly enamored couples walking through the city hand in hand, floating on cloud nine. Yet a few weeks later the initial rush of romance will have dissolved and the world will not appear as rosy anymore. Nevertheless, love and romance have long lasting effects.

Psychologists of the German Universities of Jena and Kassel discovered that a romantic relationship can have a positive effect on personality development in young adults. Researchers report on this finding in the online edition of the renowned science magazine Journal of Personality (DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12102). The scientists focused on neuroticism – one of the five characteristics considered to be the basic dimensions of human personality which can be used to characterize every human being. “Neurotic people are rather anxious, insecure, and easily annoyed. They have a tendency towards depression, often show low self-esteem and tend to be generally dissatisfied with their lives,” Dr. Christine Finn explains, who wrote her doctoral dissertation within the framework of the current study. “However, we were able to show that they become more stable in a love relationship, and that their personality stabilizes,” the Jena psychologist says.
245 couples in the age group 18 to 30 years interviewed

The scientists have accompanied 245 couples in the age group 18 to 30 years for nine months and interviewed them individually every three months. Using a questionnaire the scientists analyzed the degrees of neuroticism as well as relationship satisfaction. Moreover, the study participants had to evaluate fictitious everyday life situations and their possible significance for their own partnership. “This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently,” Finn explains. For instance, they react more strongly to negative stimuli and have a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negatively instead of positively or neutrally.

The scientists found that this tendency gradually decreases over time when being in a romantic relationship. On the one hand, the partners support each other, according to Christine Finn. On the other hand, the cognitive level, i.e. the world of inner thought of an individual, plays a crucial role: “The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality – not directly but indirectly – as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change,” Finn emphasizes. To put it more simply: Love helps us to tackle life with more confidence instead of seeing things pessimistically straight away.
“Young adults entering a relationship can only win”

The scientists were able to observe this effect in men as well as women. “Of course everyone reacts differently and a long, happy relationship has a stronger effect than a short one,” Prof. Dr. Franz J. Neyer says. He is the co-author of the new publication and chair of Differential Psychology of the Jena University. “But generally we can say: young adults entering a relationship can only win!”

For Christine Finn the results contain yet another positive message – not only for people with neurotic tendencies but also for those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders: “It is difficult to reform a whole personality but our study confirms: Negative thinking can be unlearned!”
Original Publication:
Finn, C., Mitte, K. & Neyer, F.J.: Recent Decreases in Specific Interpretation Biases Predict Decreases in Neuroticism. Evidence from a Longitudinal Study with Young Adult Couples. Journal of Personality (2014),http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jopy.12102/abstract (DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12102).


Psychologists explain how neurotic people may benefit from a romantic relationship

5 Responses to Psychologists explain how neurotic people may benefit from a romantic relationship

  1. Ri-Cristel Bezuidenhout(u04568207) May 20, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    I believe this is true and could be connected to the psychology of color – RED also the color of Love which stands for passion, energy and warmth. It is a positive color as those involved in a relationship filled with confidence leaving behind low self-esteem, depression moodiness and negativity experienced by sufferers from neuroticism. Tipically that is why the month of love is symbolised by red, roses, decorations, hearts, even restaurants uses the color red to stimulate appetite and sexuality or intimacy. I believe strongly that being in an intimate relationship or surrounding yourself with the positive color of red can benefit neurotic people.

  2. BUHLE (13060938) May 14, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    yes, true Chris. However there is a difference between a normal relationship and an intimate, supportive relationship. When one finds an intimate relationship, a sense on belonging and feeling of importance comes into play. The insecurities and low self-esteem sheds off and boosts one self worth.

  3. Chris May 13, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    No I do not agree Buhle, because it all depends on who you are as a person. We are all different and not everyone gains self esteem from a relationship, others do not even change when they are in a relationship.

  4. Nkululeko May 13, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    I agree with 13060938, Relationships help boost an individuals self esteem, trust me I’ve been there. I was once very shy and had a low self esteem, but when I fell it all mysteriously disappeared. But I think that when that special someone leaves you, You might find it easy to maintain that high self esteem because that person would’ve left you feeling better about yourself.

  5. BUHLE (13060938) May 10, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    It is amazing to see how a relationship one has can change their lives for the better. In this case medicine is limited cause it cant heal or reach a persons heart like an intimate and supportive relationship. When one feels loved, the low self-esteem and anxiety decreases. putting an exponential decrease in the neurotic symptoms. This is a new method of curing a sickness without tempering with the body or prescribing medication. My concern however is: what happens to the neurotic person when the relationship ends? will they become worse or return to their previous behavior? Or will they maintain this new behavior without their partner?

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