Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner seemed to change personalities the longer you dated or after you got married? Or do you ever act one way in a relationship but then completely different in another? What you're experiencing is what we call self-concept confusion, or the idea that we don't have a clear sense of who we are, what we believe, and what we want from life.
Gary Lewandowski and a small team of scholars from New Jersey found that people with more self-concept clarity are happier in their relationships and here's why:
Sharing of Self
It's crucial in any intimate relationship to be able to share our truest selves with our partners so we can feel connected and get to know each other deeply. Those who experience self-concept confusion have a difficult time sharing real information about themselves because it's difficult for them to parse out what are their own beliefs and feelings versus what are their partner's beliefs and feelings they've simply adopted. It's important to have a strong sense of clarity surrounding what we know we like and dislike, so we can be individuals in our relationships instead of just morphing to what our partners want from us.
We're not saying here that you can never grow and change in your relationships. On the contrary, those who have a strong self-concept are usually able to adopt characteristics and traits that they like from their partners and change for the better. So just because you know who you are doesn't mean you stop accepting influence from your partner. It just means you know when you're beginning to lose yourself in the relationship.
Just knowing who you are may not be enough to be happy in your relationships because if you know who you are but don't like yourself, you might find it difficult. The study found that those with higher self-concept clarity generally had higher self-esteem as well, but it wasn't always a given. Those with high self-esteem were more committed to their relationships, which led to higher overall happiness. So if you're feeling unconfident or confused about who you are exactly, maybe take some time to get back to the basics of what you believe and feel and get centered with yourself before you go changing in your relationship. Research is showing that this could help your relationship health and happiness!
The Relate Institute is a not-for-profit organization that revolves around the aim of distributing the Relate Assessment - the most comprehensive premarital/marital assessment available - to as many couples and individuals as we can reach. We believe that all may benefit from assessing personal strengths and weaknesses as relationship partners, and work to help make relationship success a reality.