“Neurotic people are rather anxious, insecure, and easily annoyed. They have a tendency towards depression, often show low self-esteem and tend to be generally dissatisfied with their lives,” said psychologist Dr. Christine Finn of the University of Jena in Germany. “However, we were able to show that they become more stable in a love relationship, and that their personality stabilizes.”
For the study, scientists recruited 245 couples (ages 18 to 30) and interviewed them individually every three months for nine months total. Participants completed questionnaires, allowing the scientists to analyze the degrees of neuroticism as well as relationship satisfaction.
Furthermore, the participants were asked to evaluate fictitious everyday life situations and to determine their possible significance for their own relationship.
“This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently,” said Finn. For example, they react more dramatically to negative stimuli and have a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negatively instead of positively or neutrally.
The scientists found that, while in a romantic relationship, neurotic behavior seemed to gradually decrease over time.
For one thing, they receive support from each other, said Christine Finn. Secondly, the world of inner thought plays a crucial role: “The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality — not directly but indirectly — as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change,” Finn said.
In other words, love helps us tackle life with more confidence instead of viewing things in a pessimistic way. The researchers observed this effect in both men and women.
“Of course everyone reacts differently and a long, happy relationship has a stronger effect than a short one,” said Dr. Franz J. Neyer, co-author of the new publication and chair of differential psychology at Jena University. “But generally we can say: young adults entering a relationship can only win!”
According to Finn, the results contain a positive message, not only for people with neurotic tendencies but also for those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders: “It is difficult to reform a whole personality, but our study confirms negative thinking can be unlearned.”