Romantic relationships establish special bonds between partners. Oftentimes, passionate rapport leads to permanent partnerships, and ultimately, the start of families.
Sometimes, however, one or both partners place too much emotional weight on their relationship. As a result, men or women may tend to evaluate their self-worth solely based on the outcomes of their romantic interactions. This is what psychologists term as relationship-contingent self-esteem (RCSE), and, according to University of Houston researcher Chip Knee, it's an unhealthy factor in romantic relationships.
"Individuals with high levels of RCSE are very committed to their relationships, but they also find themselves at risk to become devastated when something goes wrong -- even a relatively minor event," said Knee, UH assistant professor of psychology and director of the university's Interpersonal Relations and Motivation Research Group. "An overwhelming amount of the wrong kind of commitment can actually undermine a relationship."
Knee added that RCSE can trigger depression and anxieties during even the most minor or common relationship-based incidents, such as miscommunication, short spats over noncritical matters or a critique of one's personality or appearance.
It also factors into one or more partners developing manic, obsessive (or needy) behaviors with regard to love.
RCSE might place one at risk for serious mood changes after break-ups, divorce or threats to one's relationship. Identifying it during the early stages of a relationship can prevent such negative outcomes or help partners recognize that they are incompatible.
Knee and a group of researchers observed the impact of RCSE among heterosexual college students in a series of studies. Their findings were presented in the paper "Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem - The Ups and Downs of Romantic Relationships," published in the flagship Journal of Personality and Social Psy
Contact: Mike Emery
University of Houston