Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Only You Can Improve Your Relationships

We all have relationship problems. I've talked about a lack of dedication, giving too much (or too little),  focusing too much on the short-run, sharing too much (or too little), or fostering anger instead of resolving conflict. The pattern in all of those previous posts is what I can do, not what the other person can do. Here's why:
This research examined the consequences of targeting the self versus the partner when trying to improve intimate relationships. As predicted, when participants (N = 160) focused their relationship improvement attempts on changing the partner, individuals reported more negative improvement strategies, lower improvement success, and, in turn, more negative relationship evaluations. Self-focused improvement attempts and participants’ own self-regulation efforts, however, were not associated with more positive relationship evaluations or improvement. Instead, individuals reported more improvement and greater relationship quality when partners were perceived to be engaging in successful self-regulation efforts. The results suggest that targeting the partner may do more harm than good despite that relationship evaluations pivot on whether the partner produces change.
To clarify, trying to change your partner only makes it worse. Trying to change yourself doesn't improve it for you, but it does for your partner. So we should always focus on self improvement and find others who do the same. If you can understand each other, you can love each other.

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