A full-blown argument is an inevitability when you’re in a loving, long-term relationship.
Why? Because you’re at your most vulnerable when you’re with your partner. Your sensitivities are at their rawest. If you love someone and want nothing more than to build a life with them, arguments will crop up from time to time. It’s normal.
That being said, you know what else is normal? Experiencing doubts about the longevity of your relationship straight after a major bust-up. You’ve committed to one another, sure, but there will always be days when you question whether fulfilling that commitment is going to make you truly happy. Psychologists have got a term for this feeling of certainty (or lack thereof) that your relationship has staying power: relationship confidence. And research fresh out of Canada is suggesting that its significance in determining the long-term success of a relationship has long been erroneously sidelined.
What is relationship confidence?
Relationship-confident people believe that both they and their partner have the skills to maintain their love indefinitely, both on a personal level and as a team. These couples navigate the trials and tribulations of living together and loving one another day in, day out, and feel all the stronger for it. Relationship confidence is similar to — but decidedly distinct from — relationship satisfaction, which is often far simpler to ascertain.
In their study, hot off their presses for 2020, Associate Professor Matthew Johnson and colleagues assert that a key factor in being relationship-confident is self-efficacy:
The belief in one’s ability to execute the actions needed to achieve a desired outcome in the course of one’s life.
Self-efficacy operates according to the principle of reciprocal causation. In other words, relationship confidence represents an amalgam of the effects of your personality, behavior and environment. Your partner’s relationship skills constitute a part of that reciprocal causation.
Have social psychologists been overlooking relationship confidence?
Johnson et al. propose that relationship researchers have historically neglected relationship confidence when considering the variables involved in relationship success, having instead focused disproportionately on happiness and relationship satisfaction. Significantly, the team asserts that the quality of relationship confidence should be a strong predictor — perhaps even stronger than relationship satisfaction — of a couple’s long-term success. How did they reach this conclusion?
The researchers studied young adults in committed but unmarried relationships over a four-year period to ascertain not just the course of their coupledoms, but also what factors influenced and determined the trajectory of relationship confidence over an extensive timespan. They collated demographic data such as whether the couple cohabited, the length of their relationship and whether they had children. Participants’ attachment styles were assessed and they periodically took the Relationship Confidence Questionnaire, responding to such statements as:
- I’m confident about our future together.
- I feel positive about our prospects to make this relationship work for a lifetime.
- We can handle whatever comes our way.
- We have the skills to make a marriage last.
The team found that the three primary predictors of a successful relationship over time were a) positive interactions, b) few negative interactions, and c) high relationship satisfaction. They concluded that:
The developmental course of relationship confidence is shaped by the dynamics of the relationship itself. Different aspects of relationship functioning prove mutually reinforcing.
Are you relationship-confident — and what can you do if you’re not?
The pernicious sensation of doubt about your relationship can be seriously worrying. You’ve built a life together, perhaps bought a home, started a family even — but remember, it can be hard to keep objective in the throws of an argument. The key is communication.
By defusing arguments and thereby preventing negative interactions from escalating into all-out shouting matches, you hone both your own interpersonal skills and those of your partner. This in turn will increase your motivation to find common ground and compromise, not to mention ultimately serve to deepen your love for them. You can’t always control external factors from threatening your relationship, but when the going gets tough, keep your eyes on the relationship and all the joy it brings. You’ve got this.
Maclynn International is an elite global dating consultancy based in New York. Our network is comprised of exceptional singletons who are ready to settle down with someone special. That’s why we focus exclusively on cultivating long-term and meaningful relationships between some of the world’s most amazing people. Get in touch today and let us set you on the path to getting relationship-confident!