As a psychotherapist and dating/relationship coach, I am frequently asked to weigh in on how someone can be sure they are choosing the right person when dating, or if they are married, if their spouse is the right one for them. My simple answer for years has been that healthy and mutually satisfying relationships are ones in which the individuals bring out the best in each other. It appears that science is backing this up.
The Deseret News ran a piece yesterday on a study published last year in the journal Personal relationships that found that the people we care about have a lot of impact on how we see ourselves, and that the happiest relationships are those in which people perceive positive change in themselves. In other words, their relationship has helped bring out the best in them.
Of course, the opposite also hold. In some relationships, people bring out the worst in one another. It’s not a simple bad guy, good guy dynamic like we want to believe. It’s just that the combination of those two selves doesn’t work well for one or both of them.
The study uses the term “self-pruning,” of less desirable traits—which is not the result of nagging or criticism, rather the partner acts as a kind of mirror to a negative behavior and this helps the other person to recognize and change it.
Another study mentioned in the piece is one done by Psychology Today in which the author talks about the ability to recognize undesirable personality traits that can lead to unhappiness in a future relationship. Apparently some folks have better radar for this, but I believe anyone can sharpen theirs with a little focused effort.
Relationship success has always been the result of choosing with one’s heart and head, and science is now backing this up.
Want to hear more on the difference between normal wedding jitters and something more serious? Click here