"You are My Everything" is Too much of a Good Thing

When a person’s sense of self-worth is contingent upon their relationship, researchers call this Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem (RCSE).  University of Houston researcher Chip Knee believes that when people base too much of their self-worth on their relationship, it can be unhealthy. More specifically, when people are highly committed to their relationship, they can be devastated when even minor things go wrong in their relationship. In a series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Knee and his colleagues followed a group of participants over a 14 day period and studied their journal entries. They found that people with high RCSE were more likely to feel badly about themselves when things in their relationship were not going well – regardless of who was deemed to be responsible for the relationship problems.

People who have a fear of commitment are likely to see this research as proof that commitment is a dangerous thing. However, these people will have missed the larger point. Relationships, like all things in nature, thrive on diversity. A strong commitment to your partner is recommended if you desire a deeper and trusted relationship. Being too committed is not the problem, nor is it the threat to self-esteem that the study suggests. The real threat to self-esteem is an exclusive reliance on one person to be “your everything”. Self-esteem is dependent on the totality of your relationships as well as your successful engagement in activities, hobbies, and work. Maintaining this diversity is just as important in your personal life, as a diversified ecosystem is in nature, or as  a diversified portfolio is for financial investments. Bottom line – make a strong commitment to your spouse but don’t make it your only source of fulfillment or self-esteem.
What are you feelings with regard to commitment? Do you try and keep your distance from your partner in order to protect against being hurt by them? Has this worked for you or has it backfired and turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy? What are your thoughts.

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