Sacrificing your own gratification to better meet someone else’s needs doesn’t come easily to all of us, but a new study published this March by the American Psychological Association  suggests that this might be key to maintaining a strong relationship.
The study, carried out at the University of North Texas, conducted research with 459 participants and found a strong positive correlation between perceptions of humility and lasting relationship outcomes. In other words: people who were humble appeared to have longer lasting and more satisfying relationships.
What does humility look like in relationships and why is it so important? People who might be described as modest or humble are often more open to other people’s points of view . They might be confident in their own opinions, but less inclined to insist on being ‘right’ all the time. People with high levels of humility are often up for learning new things, think of other people’s feelings, and are able to compromise and put others’ needs before their own.
The importance of humility might seem self-evident: no-one wants to be with a partner who is selfish or arrogant all the time. Two co-authors of the study, Don Emerson Davis Jr and Joshua N. Hook, explained that humility is not only pleasant for your partner, but it actually strengthens the bond between you: “Commitment promotes a sense of “we-ness” in close relationships so that individuals enjoy sacrificing for a partner” – so self-sacrifice isn’t all hard work and denying yourself of what you want; it actually becomes enjoyable once you have bonded with another person. This “we-ness” becomes a self-renewing circle of trust and intimacy, making the relationship stronger. These bonds also mean that any conflict in the relationship is easier to resolve as partners feel more supported by each other.
What can we take from this study? Being considerate of your partner and learning to put their needs before your own at least some of the time appears to be very important. In today’s modern social climate, we often feel as though we are on display: social media and online dating sites encourage us to put our best face forward and show the world how brilliant we are. This study suggests that, though it is important to have confidence in ourselves, we are more likely to have a lasting relationship if we take a step back from self-promotion and remain humble and open to new experiences.