Being in love can influence a lot of things in your lifeÃ¢â‚¬”like your Saturday night plans or your Facebook relationship status. And apparently, it could have a pretty neat effect on your personality, too. Being in a relationship could help people who are typically more neurotic become more confident and see the world more positively, according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality.
Neuroticism is one of the "Big Five" traits that psychologists use to describe a person's personality. Someone who ranks high in the trait often feels anxious, hostile, or sad, says study author Christine Finn, Ph.D., of Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. Everyone falls somewhere on the neuroticism continuum, she says. In the current study, researchers examined 245 couples four times over the course of nine months. The participants, all ages 18 to 30, answered questions about their current relationship and questions to gauge their level of neuroticism.
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They were also asked about hypothetical relationship situations, which were meant to gauge if the person had a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negativelyÃ¢â‚¬”something that neurotic people tend to do. For example, one question asked participants what they would think if their partner hadn't said "I love you" in a while and made note of how they reacted.
Get this: Levels of neuroticism decreased in participants over the course of nine months. And even though they only decreased a small amount overall, that's because personality traits are pretty stable, and nine months doesn't allow too much time for change, says Finn. Interestingly, some of the people showed larger drops in neuroticism than others, and these people also became less likely to turn ambiguous scenarios into negative ones. Basically, people in relationships were starting to mellow out a bit.
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"We found out that being in a relationship may change the way with which neurotic persons perceive the world," says Finn. "That is, when looking through their glasses, the world has become brighter and more positive. And this more positive thinking helps them to overcome their negative feelings and to mature in their personality."
Also neat: Even people who don't rate high for neuroticism can reap some of these benefits from a relationship. "Someone who is already self-confident and feels positive even in stressful situations may become even more positive," says Finn. "One may say that people in general benefit from a relationship but that neurotic persons benefit the most."
The authors do write that the study had some limitations. For example, the results were based on self-reported responses, the study only showed association (not causation), and the authors didn't know for sure if anything else was happening in these people's lives to impact the results. (Maybe they landed their dream job or, heck, won the lottery!)
Nonetheless, it's a cool finding. It's also definitely not the only one out there about the interesting ways love influences our bodies and minds. Check out 10 fascinating things that happen to your body when you're in love, and six strange ways your relationship status affects your health.
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