Self-Compassion and Relationship Maintenance: The Moderating Roles of Conscientiousness and Gender

  • Baker L
  • McNulty J
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Abstract

Should intimates respond to their interpersonal mistakes with self-criticism or with self-compassion? Although it is reasonable to expect self-compassion to benefit relationships by promoting self-esteem, it is also reasonable to expect self-compassion to hurt relationships by removing intimates' motivation to correct their interpersonal mistakes. Two correlational studies, 1 experiment, and 1 longitudinal study demonstrated that whether self-compassion helps or hurts relationships depends on the presence versus absence of dispositional sources of the motivation to correct interpersonal mistakes. Among men, the implications of self-compassion were moderated by conscientiousness. Among men high in conscientiousness, self-compassion was associated with greater motivation to correct interpersonal mistakes (Studies 1 and 3), observations of more constructive problem-solving behaviors (Study 2), reports of more accommodation (Study 3), and fewer declines in marital satisfaction that were mediated by decreases in interpersonal problem severity (Study 4); among men low in conscientiousness, self-compassion was associated with these outcomes in the opposite direction. Among women, in contrast, likely because women are inherently more motivated than men to preserve their relationships for cultural and/or biological reasons, self-compassion was never harmful to the relationship. Instead, women's self-compassion was positively associated with the motivation to correct their interpersonal mistakes (Study 1) and changes in relationship satisfaction (Study 4), regardless of conscientiousness. Accordingly, theoretical descriptions of the implications of self-promoting thoughts for relationships may be most complete to the extent that they consider the presence versus absence of other sources of the motivation to correct interpersonal mistakes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)(journal abstract)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conscientiousness
  • Gender
  • Motivation
  • Romantic relationships
  • Self-compassion

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Authors

  • Levi R. Baker

  • James K. McNulty

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