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What romance can do for personality might surprise you

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Romance helps reduce neurotic behavior

What can being in love, married or otherwise partnered do for your personality? The answer might surprise you. It seems romance is good therapy that has long-lasting positive effects on helping to curb neuroticism and help us think more positively.

Love makes personality more stable, study finds

Psychologists of the German Universities of Jena and Kasser have found romance helps young people with personality development in ways that may have not been previously understood.

The psychologists looked at how romance can have a positive affect on reducing neurotic behaviors.

"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 in a press release. "However, we were able to show that they become more stable in a love relationship, and that their personality stabilizes," Finn added.

For their study the researchers used questionnaires to measure degree of neuroticism among 245 couples that were followed by the investigators for nine month. The couples were interviewed every 3 months to determine how satisfied they were with their relationship and the degree of neuroticism.

The couples also had to decide how they would react to fictitious situations that would impact their every day lives.

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"This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently," Finn said. For instance, neurotic individuals react more strongly to negative stimuli and tend to interpret situations negatively as opposed to seeing things neutrally or in a positive light.

But the researchers found romance has a way of reducing neurotic behaviors, making people more positive. Being in love can change negative personality traits.

"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 says.

Love lifts anxiety and depression too

Psychologists often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help facilitate personality disorders that can affect happiness and thwart relationships, but change can be difficult for most people.

Study co-author Prof. Dr. Franz J. Neyer says a long happy relationship has a stronger effect on personality than a short one.

Romance is not only good for helping reduce neurotic behavior. Finn says being in love can also reduce anxiety and lift depression. But the study also has another positive message Finn said. It shows "negative thinking can be unlearned!"

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Updated 5/16/2014