Why Some In Miserable Relationships Don’t Complain (M)

In an unhappy marriage often one partner fails to speak up about problems affecting them both, but why?

In an unhappy marriage often one partner fails to speak up about problems affecting them both, but why?

People with low self-esteem are more likely to stay in an unhappy marriage, a study finds.

They are also likely to keep quiet about any problems in the relationship.

This is probably due to concerns about being rejected.

Dr Megan McCarthy, the study’s author, said:

“There is a perception that people with low self-esteem tend to be more negative and complain a lot more.

While that may be the case in some social situations, our study suggests that in romantic relationships, the partner with low self-esteem resists addressing problems.”

Unhappy marriage

The study tested the effects of low self-esteem on relationships.

The researchers found that not speaking up about problems led to more overall dissatisfaction with the relationship.

Dr McCarthy said:

“We’ve found that people with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them.

This can drive low self-esteem people toward defensive, self-protective behaviour, such as avoiding confrontation.”

Dr McCarthy said:

“If your significant other is not engaging in open and honest conversation about the relationship it may not be that they don’t care, but rather that they feel insecure and are afraid of being hurt.”

Dealing with serious issues

The study also found that people with high self-esteem who are agreeable tend to disclose their emotions more readily.

The reason is that they are more trusting of their partner’s caring nature.

In contrast, those with with low self-esteem found it harder to admit difficult emotions like sadness or to share risky thoughts with their partner.

Dr McCarthy said:

“We may think that staying quiet, in a ‘forgive and forget’ kind of way, is constructive, and certainly it can be when we feel minor annoyances.

But when we have a serious issue in a relationship, failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive.”

Dr McCarthy concluded:

“We all know that close relationships can sometimes be difficult.

The key issue, then, is how we choose to deal with it when we feel dissatisfied with a partner.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (McCarthy et al., 2017).

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.