Self Esteem and Satisfaction in Romantic Relationships

Topics: Self-esteem, Psychology, Interpersonal relationship Pages: 13 (1941 words) Published: March 29, 2011
Self-esteem is a widely studied construct in psychology. It has even gained popularity over

time, and spilled into the mainstream media. While it is a widely known concept, it has come to

encompass an array of attitudes, not all of which are accurate (Crocker & Park, 2004). However,

before detailing into an account on self-esteem, we first need to define it. Self-esteem simply put

is the amount of value people put onto themselves. (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs,

2003). Hence, individuals with high self-esteem (HSEs) have a positive evaluation of themselves,

whereas individuals with low self-esteem (LSEs) have a negative evaluation of themselves. It is

only a perception, based on an evaluation of his or her characteristics, not on objective measures.

While the idea that HSEs do much better in life than LSEs is attractive and popular, recent

research has shown that HSE does not necessarily lead to success in school, or at work.

(Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003; Crocker & Park, 2004). While HSE does not

necessarily lead to success, HSE is more advantageous in interpersonal relationships. LSEs were

chronically dissatisfied with their romantic relationships (Cavallo, Fitzsimons & Holmes, 2009).

This can be explained by the tendency for LSEs to engage in potentially destructive behaviors like

hostility, avoidance or aggression. (Bellavia & Murray, 2003; Crocker & Park, 2004)

LSE’s lower satisfaction in their romantic relationships compared to HSEs can be

explained by several reasons. Firstly, LSEs yearn for higher levels of acceptance from their

partners, but are less willing to accept positive feedback. They also believe that their partner’s

love is conditional, upon presence of certain positive qualities. Unsure if they possess such

qualities, they do not develop trust towards their partner. LSEs also have self-concept confusion,

leaving them more vulnerable to external sources of stimuli, which can negatively alter their self-

perception. LSEs are also more likely to pursue self-protection instead of intimacy when faced

with relationship threats. Also, having too much of high self esteem, in terms of narcissistic

tendencies is also less likely to bring about satisfaction in relationships.

Sociometer Hypothesis

According to Leary, Tambor, Terdal and Downs (1995) self-esteem serves as a meter

which indicates to the self any signs of social exclusion by judging responses and reactions from

others. This implies that LSEs yearn for higher levels of acceptance than HSEs. People with low

self-esteem want their partners to see them more positively than they see themselves (Murray et

al., 2001). Yet, LSEs continuously underestimate how positively their partners consider them

(Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 2000). This has a detrimental effect because while LSEs require

more approval, they are also less willing to accept the approval they receive. Hence, this makes

keeps them in a vicious cycle, as they are unable to receive the approval they require.

Dependency Regulation

According to the dependency regulation model proposed by DeHart, Pelham, and Murray

(2004), people are self protective, when it comes to developing attachment towards others.

Therefore, they will only allow themselves to get close and attached to a partner when they feel

that their partner’s love is secure. (Sciangula, & Morry, 2009). However, LSEs are more likely to

believe that that their partner’s acceptance is conditional, whereby they will only be accepted if

they possess positive characteristics. (Baldwin & Sinclair, 1996). Since people believe that others

view of them is congruent to their own views (Swann, Pelham, & Krull, 1989), LSEs end up

projecting their negative views of themselves as their partner’s appraisals (Murray, Holmes,

Griffin, Bellavia, & Rose, 2001). Thus they are less likely to get intimate in...
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