A psychological concept called “ego effectiveness” seems to play an important role in how relationships work

Ego effectiveness refers to the ability to act in accordance with one’s ideal self-image. New research published in the Personality Magazine points out that increased ego effectiveness is associated with multiple positive relationship outcomes, while lower ego effectiveness levels are associated with multiple negative outcomes.

“We’ve noticed that people do things that they know aren’t the best things. For example, they may skip opportunities or yell at others out of fear, even though they know it’s probably not a good idea. We developed a method to assess these differences in ego alignment,” said study author Michael D. Robinson, a professor at North Dakota State University.

For their research, Robinson and his colleagues surveyed 183 college students and 212 people recruited by Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk about their personality traits and relationship dynamics. All participants were involved in a romantic relationship at the time of the study.

To examine ego effectiveness, participants were presented with ten scenarios involving potential threats, dilemmas, or challenges in romantic relationships. Each scenario was paired with four possible responses. Participants were first asked to rate the effectiveness of each response to the scenarios. Then they were presented with the ten scenarios and asked how they would react to them. Those who had a close match between what they thought they “should” do and what they thought they “would do” had high ego effectiveness.

Participants also provided the names and email addresses of three friends or family members they knew fairly well. The researchers reached out to these individuals for peer reports on the participants’ personalities, attachment styles, and other factors.

Robinson and his colleagues found that participants with higher ego effectiveness tended to be happier and more engaged in their romantic relationships. Increased ego effectiveness was also associated with increased responsiveness and engagement in relationships. In other words, those who showed higher ego effectiveness were more likely to agree with statements such as “I listen when my partner shares their deepest feelings.”

Participants with higher ego effectiveness also seemed to deal with relationship problems in systematically different ways. Those high in ego effectiveness were more likely to take direct action to overcome a relationship problem and were less likely to rely on problematic practices such as denial and withdrawal.

Those with low ego effectiveness, on the other hand, were more likely to report aggressive relationship behaviors, such as B. hitting, pushing or grabbing the partner. They were also more likely to try to manipulate their partners.

The results show “that some people have changed to do what they think they should be doing. Others act and react in ways that are not consistent with any ego considerations. Differences like that are pretty important in managing one’s relationships,” Robinson told PsyPost.

However, the researcher noted that “we still don’t know how or why some people are ego-effective individuals. Longitudinal studies would also be of interest.”

“What we’re emphasizing in part is the value of the new technique in determining whether the person is acting in an ego-consistent manner,” added Robinson. “The method is more reliable (and less inferential) than previous methods of assessing ego strength or related constructs.”

Aligning the Self and Reaping the Benefits: Ego Effectiveness in Romantic Relationships study was authored by Michael D. Robinson, Roberta L. Irvin, and Michelle R. Persich.

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