What is the Psychology of Romance?

Personality and romantic relationships are linked through transactional ties and co-develop dynamically, continuous, and reciprocally. Transactional ties or personality–relationship transactions, are related to neuroticism, low self-esteem, and insecure attachment. Higher interpersonal vulnerabilities and lower relationship satisfaction might be predictors for higher within-person variability of daily perceived responsiveness, positive expectations, and self-disclosure.

The interpersonal vulnerabilities of neuroticism, low self-esteem, anxious attachment, and avoidant attachment constitute a challenge for the romantic couple. Neuroticism reflects general insecurity, such as the tendency to experience irritability, and increased fearfulness. In terms of emotional relationship components, persons high in neuroticism tend to show their emotions more readily and blame their partners for the feelings that the target person has. Moreover, they interpret ambiguous situations and partner behaviours more negatively and anticipate that an upcoming interaction with their partner will be negative. They tend to act more negatively toward their partner and are less forgiving.

Whereas, low self-esteem represents an insecure attitude toward the self and low perception of self-worth. Moreover, people with low self-esteem tend to report lower partner caregiving responsiveness; expressed as reporting their partners to be less accessible, responsive, and less engaged.


To better understand selection and socialization effects in couples, a study by Bühler et al 2020,

targeted reciprocal transactions between interpersonal vulnerabilities and relationship satisfaction. It was shown that much higher levels of anxious and avoidant attachment are consistently linked to a decrease in relationship satisfaction. Partner effects emerged for anxious attachment, signifying that higher levels of anxious attachment were tied to a decrease in the partner’s relationship satisfaction. Whereas, a lower level of relationship satisfaction was linked to an increase in the target’s avoidant attachment and to an increase in the partner’s anxious attachment.

As a result, in terms of selection effects, we found that people with low self-esteem and insecure attachment experienced lower average levels of beneficial daily relationship components. Couple members with interpersonal vulnerabilities had lower average levels of relationship components, and less satisfied couple members had lower average levels and higher within-person variability of these components.

Bühler et al 2020
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