The Role of Self-Compassion in Romantic Relationships

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BetterUp Studios

5 min

In this BetterUp article, learn how self-compassion can enrich your relationships with those around you. You will become more forgiving, considerate, and open to compromise.

Self-Compassion: Not Just for Yourself

Don't let the term "self" fool you. Your level of self-compassion affects those around you and your relationships with them as well.

In fact, a 2012 study by Kristin D. Neff & S. Natasha Beretvas suggests that self-compassionate people tend to have healthier romantic relationships than people with low self-compassion. When it comes to relationships, your level of self-compassion may be even more important than your self-esteem or attachment style.

Red thread tied on branch

In relationships, self-compassionate people tend to be:

  • More caring, affectionate, and considerate, according to their partners

  • More accepting of their own imperfections and their partner's limitations

  • More willing to grant their partner autonomy

  • More likely to compromise when conflict arises

People with low self-compassion tend to be:

  • More detached

  • Harder on themselves and their partner

  • More controlling of their partner's actions

  • More likely to overreact when angry at their partner

People in relationships with self-compassionate people tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. That could be because self-compassion individuals have the power to bring out the best in others.

The study suggests if one partner displays self-compassion, “the other partner might take a similarly self-compassionate stance, meaning that conflicts would be less likely to spiral out of control through a process of mutual blame and ego-defensiveness."

These are key lessons for both home and work. All of the qualities that made self-compassionate people so effective in their romantic relationships would also make them great colleagues and managers.

Being more comfortable forgiving mistakes and granting autonomy, for example, are both qualities that bring out the best in employees.

Enhancing Self-Compassion

If you want the relationship benefits that come with self-compassion but feel you have a long way to go when it comes to being kind to yourself, don’t worry. Self-compassion can be learned.

Here are a few ways to begin:

  1. Learn with Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) method, which teaches you to accept emotions and treat yourself with a kind and non-judgmental attitude.

  2. Use Mindfulness Based Relationship Enhancement (MBSRE) techniques, which specifically focus on the role of mindfulness in relationships.

  3. Practice Compassionate Mind Training, which teaches you how to reduce harsh self-criticism.

A coach or therapist can help get you started with any of these exercises. Or you could take the initiative and begin to research them yourself.

If you need a little motivation, just remember that striving for self-compassion is a gift to others as well as to yourself.

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