When Is Impulsivity Good for Your Relationship?

woman riding in convertible with arms raisedDoes your spouse often make rash decisions and enjoy spur-of-the-moment activities? Is your wife or husband lacking in self-control? If so, you may be rolling your eyes thinking of all of the conflicts this behavior has caused. But according to a recent study conducted at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, people with low self-control may actually be less selfish. “We did not believe that this was true in every context, and especially not in close relationships,” said Francesca Righetti, lead researcher on the study.

Righetti and her team enlisted couples and explained that they would have to interview 12 complete strangers about embarrassing situations. The experiment was a ruse, and although the couples did not have to complete the task, Righetti wanted to know how each partner would assume the uncomfortable responsibility assigned to them.

The results revealed that those with high levels of self-control and low impulsivity chose to share the burden equally with their partners, but did not offer to do more. However, those with high levels of impulsivity and low self-control freely chose to interview more than their six assigned strangers so as to lessen the burden to their partners.

Righetti followed up that experiment with a second one that examined how self-control affected sacrifice in relationships and forgiveness. She found that even though impulsive partners were willing to give up their own time and comfort for their partners, they were not quick to forgive transgressions.

Righetti believes that individuals rely on self-control to look at the bigger picture of the relationship and those with low self-control may stay focused on the transgression and be unable to readily forgive. Regardless, these findings show that impulsive individuals may make great partners in the short term. But in the long run, low self-control and lack of personal assertiveness could result in dissatisfaction and a very unbalanced sense of power within the relationship.

Low self-control promotes selfless behavior in close relationships. Science Daily (n.d.): n. pag. Web. sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627142553.htm

© Copyright 2013 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.

  • Leave a Comment
  • brian fowler

    brian fowler

    July 6th, 2013 at 4:36 AM

    I don’t want nor do I need the uncertainty of an impulsive partner in my life. There is far too much uncertainty and disruption that will naturally go along with that, and I really don’t need that

  • Link


    July 7th, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    Impulsive and being like, hey let’s take a spontaneous little road trip? I am good with that. But impulsive to the point of being unpredictable and harming the relationship? That’s not for me. I like someone steady and predictable most of the time. I don’t think too many of us are going to thrive after being with someone who you never know from day to day what to expect from them

  • uma


    July 8th, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    impulsive vs. reliable?
    impulsive vs. stability?

    i want relaibility and stability far more than someone who is always acting on a whim

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.