Is It Me or Him? How Relationship Discrepancies Bring Couples Even Closer

By Sharon Moore on July 17, 2012

In intimate relationships, people behave depending on where they blame their shortcomings – whether to their own selves or to their partners. Although they are associated with dissatisfaction, relationship discrepancies could actually bring couples closer, a new study suggests.

According to the Ideal Standards Model (ISM), a partner starts to feel dissatisfied when the significant other fails to live up with his or her expectations. Or, when they feel that they are not living up to their partner’s standards. The first situation is referred to as partner-generated discrepancy (PD) while the second one is the so-called self-generated discrepancy (PD-Self). Said relationship discrepancies are indirectly caused by each partner, although they might be unaware of it all the time. 

What are the effects of PD and PD-Self?

According to the study carried out by Sandra D. Lackenbauer from the Department of Psychology at Western University in Ontario, Canada, the PD and PD-Self trigger the onset of certain behaviours the couple. Lackenbauer and her team of researchers looked into the lives of married and unmarried couples and investigated how the PD and PD-Self affect their behaviour within the relationship.

Lackenbauer assessed how PD affected motivation, avoidance, feelings of self-worth and agitation. In the first three studies, Lackenbauer found that those with high levels of PD-partner felt dejected while those with high levels of PD-self had more agitation. This was especially evident on scales that measured trustworthiness and feelings of warmth and caring. In the final two studies, the participants with PD-partner led to promotion-focused emotional responses while the presence of PD-self resulted in more prevention-based strategies.

Relationship Discrepancies and Satisfaction

Although the ISM model suggests that such discrepancies tend to result in dissatisfaction, the study findings show otherwise. Instead of negatively affecting the relationship, the researchers found that both the PD and PD-Self could benefit the relationship in some ways.

In one experiment for instance, they found that participants who demonstrated PD-partner are likely to engage in a more nurturing behaviour, which is healthy for any relationship and could lead to satisfaction. Meanwhile, those who have high levels of PD-Self tend to work hard and do their best to lessen the feelings of insecurity and abandonment by enriching their resources so they could at least, cope with the status of their partners. They also make necessary efforts to be or at least get closer to their partner’s ideal mate. These things, according to Lackenbauer can actually replenish the discrepancy and give more sense of satisfaction.

Lackenbauer calls for more research to fully determine the effects of relationship discrepancies and to what extent do they impact satisfaction in couples.


Source of this article:

Lackenbauer, S. D., Campbell, L. (2012). Measuring up: The unique emotional and regulatory outcomes of different perceived partner-ideal discrepancies in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029054 




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