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How love makes you stronger

Love makes you strong, says a new study, "Recent Decreases in Specific Interpretation Biases Predict Decreases in Neuroticism. Evidence From a Longitudinal Study With Young Adult Couples," published online April 15, 2014 in the Journal of Personality. In the study, psychologists explain how neurotic people may benefit from a romantic relationship. A long, happy relationship affects you more and for a much longer time than a short romantic relationship.

How love makes you stronger.
Anne Hart, photography.

If it's springtime or summer, and newly enamored couples seem to be everywhere, walking through the city hand in hand, floating on cloud nine. Yet a few weeks later the initial rush of romance will have dissolved and the world will not appear as rosy anymore. Nevertheless, love and romance have long lasting effects. But love can make someone blind to the red flags that arise along the way of the relationship.

Are you familiar with being loved growing up or with being abused or seeing one of your parents abused by a live-in partner or spouse, or aggressive child? Were you daddy's princess? Or did your dad say he wished he had a boy instead of a girl, that perhaps girls are 'trouble' or costly? But boys can bring home the bacon and bond (or compete) with dad? Or was mom unwilling to make any beneficial changes? Whatever what's familiar to you, psychologists found that love, or rather a romantic relationship can have a positive effect on your personality development? Would that include having a pet or only apply to a person to love?

Psychologists of the German Universities of Jena and Kassel discovered that a romantic relationship can have a positive effect on personality development in young adults in a new study,

Researchers report on this finding in the online edition of the science magazine Journal of Personality. The scientists focused on neuroticism - one of the five characteristics considered to be the basic dimensions of human personality which can be used to characterize every human being. "Neurotic people are rather anxious, insecure, and easily annoyed. They have a tendency towards depression, often show low self-esteem and tend to be generally dissatisfied with their lives," Dr. Christine Finn explains, who wrote her doctoral dissertation within the framework of the current study. "However, we were able to show that they become more stable in a love relationship, and that their personality stabilizes," the Jena psychologist says, according to the news release. How has a love relationship made you more stable regarding your personality traits, choices, or preferences?

Does a love relationship count when it's with a pet, a robot, tree, or doll, or does it have to be another human? And are love relationships stable enough to enable you to be stable over a lifetime, even if the object of your love is no longer there in person daily, for example when a love one has crossed over, but you keep the person's ashes on your desk? On the other hand, what type of relationships constitute love?

Can romance be experienced vicariously, as in reading or creative hobbies, for example by the isolated elderly, when friendships are platonic or difficult to find...for example, older adults in living situations where they are rarely or never visited by others they knew many years ago? The study focused on couples under the age of 30, actually ages 18 to 30, the years when most people are likely to form romantic relationships.

245 couples in the age group 18 to 30 years interviewed

The scientists have accompanied 245 couples in the age group 18 to 30 years for nine months and interviewed them individually every three months. Using a questionnaire the scientists analyzed the degrees of neuroticism as well as relationship satisfaction. Moreover, the study participants had to evaluate fictitious everyday life situations and their possible significance for their own partnership. "This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently," Finn explains, according to the news release. For instance, they react more strongly to negative stimuli and have a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negatively instead of positively or neutrally.

The scientists found that this tendency gradually decreases over time when being in a romantic relationship. On the one hand, the partners support each other, according to Christine Finn. On the other hand, the cognitive level, i.e. the world of inner thought of an individual, plays a crucial role: "The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality - not directly but indirectly - as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change," Finn emphasizes, according to a May 9, 2014 news release, "Love makes you strong." To put it more simply: Love helps us to tackle life with more confidence instead of seeing things pessimistically right away.

"Young adults entering a relationship can only win"

The scientists were able to observe this effect in men as well as women. "Of course everyone reacts differently and a long, happy relationship has a stronger effect than a short one," Professor Dr. Franz J. Neyer says, according to the news release. He is the co-author of the new publication and chair of Differential Psychology of the Jena University. "But generally we can say: young adults entering a relationship can only win."

For Christine Finn the results contain yet another positive message - not only for people with neurotic tendencies but also for those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders: "It is difficult to reform a whole personality but our study confirms: Negative thinking can be unlearned." Authors of the study are Finn, C., Mitte, K. and Neyer, F.J.