We’ve all heard that life’s problems don’t disappear because of a romantic relationships. But according to a new German study, love really might conquer all. Researchers found that positive romantic relationships can help stabilize people who tend toward neurosis. Neuroticism is dismissed by many in the mental health community; many mental health professionals see that it pathologizes personality traits, reducing mental health issues to an overall personality flaw. For the purposes of this article, we are recognizing neuroticism as a collection of traits including anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem, and unhappiness.
Psychologists have long viewed neuroticism as a relatively stable personality trait. People who score high on measures of neuroticism tend to continue to score high months and even years later. But researchers wanted to see how a romantic relationship affected people who tended to be labeled neurotic. They followed 245 couples ranging in age from 18 to 30 for three months.
Using questionnaires, researchers identified some participants as having neurotic tendencies, then asked participants about their relationship satisfaction. Because people with neurotic tendencies often react negatively to everyday events, researchers also presented participants with various scenarios and asked them to evaluate how these scenarios might affect their relationships.
Researchers found that, as the duration of a romantic relationship increases, the negative reactions that people reported on questionnaires decreased. The researchers speculate that this may be because a romantic relationship increases the frequency of positive emotions, and that this process can help people with neurotic tendencies unlearn negative emotions.
Will Romance Treat Anxiety?
The prospect that romance can treat anxiety and negativity is a promising one. However, researchers only looked at people in a romantic relationship. They did not evaluate whether the positive effects continued after the relationship ends, and this leaves open another avenue for potential future research.
It’s also important to note that rushing into a relationship is still not a good treatment for anxiety. The study only looked at people in relatively stable, healthy relationships. The results might look much different for people in abusive or unhappy couples, and the effects of such a relationship on an already anxious person could be even more pronounced.
We already know, for example, that a bad relationship can lead to physical illness, so people with neurotic tendencies shouldn’t pursue relationships solely to “cure” their anxiety. Ultimately, this study is part of a mounting body of research that shows that a healthy relationship yields healthy results.
- Hodgekiss, A. (2013, February 18). How a bad relationship can make you ill—by damaging your immune system. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2280629/Being-anxious-relationship-make-ill–damaging-immune-system.html
- Love makes you strong: Romantic relationships help neurotic people stabilize their personality. (2014, May 9). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509074114.htm
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.