A Special Way for Self-Esteem to Transform Relationships
Under good circumstances, having a healthy long-term romantic relationship means providing many things for one another, from tangible to intangible, overt to subtle. Ideally, individuals in a couple are not only intimate romantic partners, but life partners, even coaches for bringing out the best in one another. Couples can truly strive to be a smoothly-oiled team, providing support, counsel and concrete assistance with personal pursuits and goals, professional development, weathering life’s challenges resiliently, parenting, building and maintaining family and social relations, and self-actualization.
When things aren’t going well, individuals in a couple can be detached and preoccupied with other pursuits, neglecting one another. Or one person may be motivated and active in being a good partner, while the other is more checked out, leading to an unbalanced relationship and resulting dysfunction and dissatisfaction. Couples can engage in unhealthy relationships, unwittingly repeating developmental patterns, re-traumatizing and traumatizing anew one another. Couples can actively undermine one another, causing direct harm to themselves and those around them, culminating in destructive and painful endings which never seem to reach closure.
What makes for a fine-tuned relationship?
There are many important factors in determining how couples function. Over the years, relationship researchers have focused in on a special cluster of interconnected traits, comprised of self-esteem, self-efficacy and esteem support. Each person has an opportunity to provide different types of support and encouragement to their partners. When the both provide this support in a mutually interlacing way, it becomes a unified and unifying process, synergistic.
How could couples achieve this (admittedly idealized) flow state? As reviewed by Jayamaha and Overall from the University of Auckland in their important work on couples self-evaluation in support, esteem and self-efficacy (2018), study authors note that prior research has shown that higher self-esteem begets greater confidence in caregivers to provide care, and that this kind of support, in turn, increases feelings of self-esteem in care recipients.