Can being shy ruin your marriage?

Do shy people struggle to maintain their relationships just as they struggle to develop them? The current research addressed this question through one cross-sectional and one longitudinal study in which recently married couples reported their levels of shyness, relationship self-efficacy, marital problem severity, and marital satisfaction. Multilevel modeling revealed that (a) shyness was negatively associated with concurrent marital satisfaction in Study 1 and with declines in marital satisfaction in Study 2, (b) the association between shyness and satisfaction was mediated by low levels of relationship self-efficacy in Study 1 and Study 2, and (c) the association between relationship self-efficacy and concurrent marital satisfaction was mediated by concurrent marital problems in Study 1, and the association between relationship self-efficacy and declines in marital satisfaction was mediated by worsening marital problems in Study 2. These findings join a growing body of research demonstrating the cognitive mechanisms through which personality shapes relationships.

Source: “Shyness and Marriage: Does Shyness Shape Even Established Relationships?” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 36, No. 5, 665-676 (2010)

Talking about the study, the researchers elaborated:

…researchers Levi Baker and James K. McNulty found that shyness was linked both to more severe marital problems among newlyweds and to overall lower marital quality. Shyer people reported more problems with issues like trust, jealousy, money, and household management… The authors suggest that shyness makes it more difficult for people to enter into social relationships and, because shy people feel more social anxiety, they are less confident in dealing with the inevitable problems that marriage entails.


Other studies have shown that the level of optimal “verbal disinhibition” is different for males and females in a relationship:

Couples in which the woman is more verbally disinhibited than the man (man-more-inhibited couples) report lower satisfaction than couples in which the man is more verbally disinhibited (woman-more-inhibited couples). A violation of traditional gender roles is hypothesized to underlie this phenomenon. It was predicted that members of man-more-inhibited couples would be rated less likeable than woman-more-inhibited couples, and disinhibited men would be rated more competent than other males and females. To test these hypotheses, 95 undergraduate participants from a southwestern US university viewed a videotaped conflict between a man-more-inhibited or woman-more-inhibited couple. As predicted, members of man-more-inhibited couples were rated less likeable than members of woman-more-inhibited couples and disinhibited husbands were rated more competent than all other targets.

Source: “Is Silence More Golden for Women than Men? Observers Derogate Effusive Women and their Quiet Partners” from Sex Roles, Volume 57, Numbers 7-8 / October, 2007

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