According to the results of a recent study, shyness can be a killjoy in relationships. Sarah L. Tackett of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Utah recently led a study that examined how shyness affected self-esteem and how together, these traits affected relationship satisfaction in a sample of 14,807 romantic couples. For her study, Tackett asked each partner to rate the other on levels of shyness. Then, each partner was to rate their own shyness and self-esteem. Finally, each partner was asked to rate their overall level of relationship satisfaction.
The results revealed that perceived shyness of one partner was directly predictive of that same partner’s low self-esteem and low relationship satisfaction. In other words, if a husband saw his wife as shy, the wife reported low levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with the relationship. The same was true if a woman reported having a shy spouse. These results show that shyness can create a path for unhappy relationships. Tackett believes there are many reasons for this trajectory.
Perhaps shy individuals are uncomfortable voicing their opinions and find it easier to accept an unsatisfying relationship than to pursue a new, more rewarding one. Also, outgoing people who are involved with shy individuals may be perceived as threats, thus diminishing the self-esteem of the shy partner. Another possibility is the lack of shared experiences. When couples can engage in activities together, they can share the joy of those experiences. If one partner is introverted and unable or unwilling to participate, it limits the opportunity for shared adventures, thus minimizing the enjoyment of the two as a couple. These results support existing research that suggests shy people have difficulty navigating the intimate nuances of romantic relationships. Tackett believes her study sheds light on some of the challenges couples with opposing personalities may face. Her work provides avenues of exploration for couples dealing with shyness. She hopes future work continues to venture down these avenues. “By doing so, it is hoped that attention will be given to the need to help shy individuals and their partners in order to foster positive relationships,” said Tackett.
Tackett, Sarah L.; Nelson, Larry J.; and Busby, Dean M. Shyness and relationship satisfaction: Evaluating the associations between shyness, self-esteem, and relationship satisfaction in couples. American Journal of Family Therapy. Jan/Feb2013, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p34-45. 12p. 1 Diagram, 1 Chart. DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2011.641864.
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