Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem Predicts Self-Sacrifice to Resolve Conflict in the Face of More Severe Conflict




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Individuals whose self-esteem relies heavily upon being in and maintaining their romantic relationship may react to conflict with the partner as if it were a threat to the relationship, which in turn is a threat to the individual’s self-esteem. This study proposed to discover if individuals with more relationship contingent self-esteem (RCSE) responded more negatively to relationship conflicts than individuals lower in RCSE, especially during more serious conflicts, and as a result, react by sacrificing their own wants and needs to “save” the relationship. For this study, 225 cohabiting couples from the Couple’s Daily Lives study completed a one-time survey assessing their RCSE and 14 daily diaries measuring the presence of conflict, conflict severity, relationship satisfaction, self-sacrificing behavior to resolve the conflict, and affect. Results indicated that individuals with more RCSE did react more negatively to relationship conflict than individuals lower in RCSE, but only as those conflicts became more severe. Results also indicated that RCSE made no difference in the likelihood of individuals using self-sacrifice to resolve conflict, but did indicate that individuals high in RCSE feel more negatively when they must sacrifice in response to more serious conflicts compared to individuals low in RCSE. Finally, the evidence shows that the partners of individuals higher in RCSE tend to be more satisfied with their relationship regardless of their partner’s sacrifice, but all partners preferred it when their partner sacrificed to resolve the conflict rather than when they did not, especially when those conflicts were serious.



Couples—Psychology, Self-sacrifice, Interpersonal conflict, Self-esteem


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