Yes, that’s what I said.
Want to rekindle that spark of romance in your relationship? Well, try a little self-compassion. Want to be a better lover? Well, try a little self-compassion.
Ok, that’s not exactly what the research said, but let me tell you what it did say and then tell me I’m not on to something good here.
The Research on Self-Compassion
According to Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher at the University of Texas in Austin, self-compassion “involves being kind, caring, and understanding towards oneself when feelings of suffering are present—suffering that stems either from uncontrollable life events or from personal flaws and failings.”1
Self-compassion “honors the fact that all human beings have both strengths and weaknesses, rather than trying to manipulate self-images so that they are more positive. It acknowledges the reality that we are imperfect human beings who experience suffering, and are therefore worthy of compassion.”1
In fact, numerous research studies have shown that self-compassionate people (as compared to those who harshly judge themselves):
- Experience healthier romantic relationships.
- Experience greater relational well-being in terms of feeling worthy, being happy, feeling authentic and being able to express opinions in one’s romantic relationship.
- Experience greater well-being within the context of interpersonal relationships.
- Are more likely to compromise in times of relationship conflict, considering the needs of both self and partner.
- Are more likely to be authentic when resolving conflicts.
- Have more compassionate goals in their friendships.
- Provide greater social support.
- Encourage interpersonal trust with friends.
- Experience partners’ relationship satisfaction.
- Grant partners more autonomy.
Self-compassionate people are described by their partners as:
- Being significantly more caring (i.e., affectionate, warm, and considerate).
- Displaying higher levels of relatedness with their partner.
- Being significantly more accepting of their partners.
Overall, self-compassionate people:
- Are kind and caring toward themselves.
- Accept themselves as imperfect human beings.
- Can (to a large extent) meet their own needs for comfort, kindness, and belonging.
Self-compassionate people experience:
- More happiness
- More optimism
- More life satisfaction
- More resilience
- More intrinsic motivation
- Greater levels of emotional intelligence
- Greater emotional well-being overall
- Greater wisdom
- Better coping skills
Those in relationship with self-compassionate partners were more likely to report being satisfied with their relationship. It would seem that the degree to which people are kind to themselves is associated with how kind they are to relationship partners, as assessed by partners’ perceptions of their behavior.
“Results…suggest that a self-compassionate stance may spill over into romantic relationships, allowing people to be more accepting, caring, and intimate with their partners.”1
In contrast, research also suggests that people who are hard on themselves tend to be hard on those around them as well.
Experiences of self-judgment, feelings of isolation, and ruminative mindsets of people who are lacking in self-compassion may also directly contribute to their partner’s lessened relationship satisfaction, according to Neff and Beretvas.1
Self-Compassion: The Missing Ingredient in Your Relationship
So, to return to the topic at hand, do you want to rekindle that spark of romance in your relationship? Well try a little self-compassion.
Want to be a better lover? Try a little self-compassion.
If you are single and hoping to attract the right person into your life, try a little self-compassion and you never know what wonders it may do for you and your love life.
Surely, the benefits of cultivating a self-compassion practice and strengthening that self-kind, self-caring internal dialogue will benefit you in your own relationship with yourself, your body, and your spirit regardless of whether you are romantically inclined or not!
So be your own Valentine this February and give yourself lots and lots of self-compassion. Inevitably, it will be the way to give your other Valentines a great gift!
The more self-compassionate you become, the better overall human being you will be.
So become the best version of yourself by becoming more self-compassionate through daily practice and mindful mediations. Visit Kristin Neff’s website for more tools and meditations, and try our own Self-Compassion meditation adapted from her work:
1Neff, Kristin D., and S. Natasha Beretvas. “The Role of Self-compassion in Romantic Relationships.” Self and Identity 12.1 (2013): 78-98.