This research examined the consequences of targeting the self versus the partner when trying to improve intimate relationships. As predicted, when participants (N = 160) focused their relationship improvement attempts on changing the partner, individuals reported more negative improvement strategies, lower improvement success, and, in turn, more negative relationship evaluations. Self-focused improvement attempts and participants’ own self-regulation efforts, however, were not associated with more positive relationship evaluations or improvement. Instead, individuals reported more improvement and greater relationship quality when partners were perceived to be engaging in successful self-regulation efforts. The results suggest that targeting the partner may do more harm than good despite that relationship evaluations pivot on whether the partner produces change.
Source: “Improving intimate relationships: Targeting the partner versus changing the self” from Journal of Social and Personal Relationships