Self‐compassion Benefits Both People in a Relationship

relationship benefits

Being more accepting of your own flaws in a love relationship can result in happier couples. This is the outcome of a new study from Otto Friedrich University Bamberg and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

A total of 209 heterosexual couples were surveyed. The findings reveal that men, in particular, gain from their partner’s self-compassion. Self-compassion can be learned, hence the findings have significance for couples’ therapy.

“Self-compassion is the act of having a caring, kind and attentive attitude towards oneself, especially with regard to your own shortcomings. We found that one’s ability to react compassionately to one’s own inadequacies, suffering and pain in the relationship benefits both members of the couple. In this way, an actor’s self-compassion not only improves their own happiness, but also their partner’s,”

said lead author Dr. Robert Körner from the University of Bamberg.

Impact on Both Partners

In the study, men in heterosexual relationships, in particular, reported high levels of relationship satisfaction when their partner was self-compassionate.

Actor-Partner Interdependence Mode
Actor-Partner Interdependence Model with relationship satisfaction predicted by self-compassion. Continuous arrows = actor effects. Dashed arrows = partner effects.
Credit: Personal Relationships, 1–25. Doi: 10.1111/pere.12535

Self-compassion levels have already been shown to have an impact on personal well-being. They can also influence how people see their love relationships, how content they are, and how they respond to their partners.

This covers, for instance, how they handle disagreements or jealousy. In the present investigation, researchers have taken an additional measure to obtain a deeper awareness of the potential impact of self-compassion on romantic relationships.

“So far, studies have mainly been conducted that relate to one person in the relationship. We interviewed both people in the romantic relationship,”

explained Dr. Nancy Tandler from the Institute of Psychology at MLU.

Role of Self-compassion Context

The researchers employed a comprehensive relationship satisfaction survey to account for many characteristics of the romantic relationship. The test volunteers were asked questions about their sexual satisfaction and the potential long-term benefits of their relationship.

The researchers also looked at the connection at a relationship-specific level by analyzing not only individual self-compassion, but also self-compassion within the relationship.

“This approach takes into account the fact that people behave differently in different areas of life,”

explained Professor Astrid Schütz from the University of Bamberg.

For example, there can be a difference in how self-compassionate a person is after a conflict in a romantic relationship and how self-compassionate the person is after a conflict at work. For the study, the researchers surveyed a total of 209 German-speaking heterosexual couples between January and December 2022 in the form of online questionnaires.

Next Steps

Further research should focus on same-sex relationships and couples from other countries, as romantic expectations vary depending on culture, relationship model, sex, and gender roles.

“In addition to the substantive findings, we conclude that it is important to consider the interrelationship between the relationship partners in order to understand the full potential of self-compassion as a resource for happy relationships,”

said Nancy Tandler.

According to the researchers, the new study’s findings can be very valuable for couple therapy because self-compassion can be promoted and developed. For example, after experiencing failure or personal inadequacies, you could ask yourself, “How would I treat a boyfriend or girlfriend in such a situation?” You may then provide this level of care to yourself.


Self-compassion means being supportive and kind to oneself when experiencing failure or inadequacies. It is associated with adaptive intrapersonal and relational outcomes for individuals. This evidence was extended by using an Actor-Partner Interdependence framework. Other-sex couples (N = 209) completed measures of self-compassion, relationship-specific self-compassion, and relationship satisfaction. Both self-compassion measures were related to global relationship satisfaction and facets thereof (e.g., sexuality, engagement, trust) for actors. Relationship-specific self-compassion was also positively related to the partner’s relationship satisfaction (particularly for men). It is suggested that researchers (a) consider the interdependence of the partners when analyzing self-compassion in relationships and test for partner effects and (b) use fine-grained and domain-specific measures to develop a more complete understanding of self-compassion’s associations with criterion variables.

  1. Körner, R., Tandler, N., Petersen, L.-E., & Schütz, A. (2024). Is caring for oneself relevant to happy relationship functioning? Exploring associations between self-compassion and romantic relationship satisfaction in actors and partners. Personal Relationships, 1–25. Doi: 10.1111/pere.12535