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May 09, 2014 10:47 AM EDT

Romantic Relationships Have A Positive Effect On Personality Development

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Romantic relationship may help neurotic people stabilize their personality, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that a romantic relationship can have a positive effect on personality development in young adults. They focused on neuroticism -- one of the five characteristics considered to be the basic dimensions of human personality which can be used to characterize every human being.

"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," researcher Dr. Christine Finn said in a statement. "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 in the age group of 18 to 30 years. They followed the couples for nine months and interviewed them individually every three months.  Using a questionnaire the scientists analyzed the degrees of neuroticism as well as relationship satisfaction. The study participants had to evaluate fictitious everyday life situations and their possible significance for their own partnership.

"This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently," Finn said.

They react more strongly to negative stimuli and have a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negatively instead of positively or neutrally, she said.

Based on their findings, this tendency in neurotic people gradually decreases over time when being in a romantic relationship.

On the one hand, the partners support each other, according to Finn. On the other hand, the cognitive level, i.e. the world of inner thought of an individual, plays a crucial role.

Finn said love helps people tackle life with more confidence instead of seeing things pessimistically straight away.

Finn said the results contain yet another 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!

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