For better romantic relationships, be true to yourself, suggests a new study.
The study examined how dating relationships were affected by the ability of people to see themselves clearly and objectively, act in ways consistent with their beliefs, and interact honestly and truthfully with others.
In other words, the ability to follow the words of William Shakespeare: "to thine own self be true," said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Newark campus.
Findings showed that college students who reported being more true to themselves also reported more positive dating relationships.
"If you're true to yourself, it is easier to act in ways that build intimacy in relationships, and that's going to make your relationship more fulfilling," Brunell said.
The study appears online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and will be published in an upcoming print edition.
Participating in the study were 62 heterosexual couples, all of whom were college students. The participants completed a long list of questionnaires in three separate sessions that took place about two weeks apart.
The first set of questionnaires probed how true participants were to themselves, a characteristic that psychologists call "dispositional authenticity." This was measured through the answers to questions like "For better or for worse, I am aware of who I truly am."
In the second phase, participants answered questions examining various aspects of their relationship functioning, including their willingness to discuss their emotions with their partner, and whether they kept secrets.
The third phase involved measures of relationship satisfaction and personal well-being.
Overall, the study found that both men and women who reported being more true to themselves also behaved in more intimate and less destructive ways with their partner, and that led to them feeling their relationship was more positive. In addition, they also reported greater personal well-being.
But the study revealed an interesting gender difference in how authenticity in men and women affected their partners, Brunell said.
Men who were more true to themselves had partners who showed more healthy relationship behaviors. However, there was no significant relationship between women being true to themselves and men's relationship behaviors, the study found.