I’ve been studying and practicing the psychological concept of self-compassion lately.
Self-compassion allows us to be gentle to ourselves in times of suffering or failure. It is basically an expression of good will and kindness to ourselves.
Many find self-compassion an even better indicator of mental health than self-esteem. No doubt, this is because self-esteem only makes us feel good when we are ahead of others. On the other hand, self-compassion allows us to soothe the pain we feel in times of failure.
In self-compassion, you say to yourself, “It’s human to make mistakes, and it’s okay to be human.”
I find it interesting how self-compassion is an indicator of relationship health as well. Of course, this is because how we treat ourselves often affects others in the long run. For instance, women who are harsh to themselves become critical to others. In other words, being compassionate to myself benefits my loved ones too.
Dr. Neff and Beretvas from the University of Texas surveyed 104 couples to see self-compassion’s effect in real relationships.
Here are some of the relationship benefits they uncovered:
More well-being and satisfaction
Self-compassion has always been known to make you resilient in times of stress and failure. As a result, most couples who have higher self-compassion rated greater satisfaction.
Caring and intimacy
People in the study were asked on how caring their partners were. As expected, people rated their self-compassionate partners as more caring. No doubt, we cannot give what we do not have, self-compassion included.
Less controlling and verbally aggressive
The participants reported less verbal aggression and controlling tendencies from their self-compassionate partners. Self-critical partners are usually the ones that bark most aggressively. Control and aggression are also major barriers to intimacy.
Emotional security in the relationship
Self-compassionate adults tend to adopt secure attachments. For this reason, they are comfortable with intimacy and sharing their feelings with their partner. Also, they worry less that their partner will abandon them.
The researchers suggest that self-compassion could be the one thing stopping you from lashing out, perpetuating a cycle of blame and criticism. (Read: 4 Ways Relationships Break: The Four Horsemen) All it takes is one person to reach out with kindness. When we receive critical remarks, it’s up to us to overreact or respond compassionately.
You may ask,”How do I know if my partner is self-compassionate or not?”
Check how your partner copes with your problems in the relationship. Does he/she tend to react critically to others or to the self? According to the same study, people are pretty good at judging their partner’s self-compassion. Yes, our intuitions are that good.
Alternatively, you can take this valid test for free.
One thing is certain though. Whether your relationship is tense or going strong, you want to express compassion and good will. Ultimately, we have more control in our relationships than we think.