The Buffer Zone: Romance and Insecurity

The Huffington Post:

Let’s call them Linda and Max. They’ve been a committed couple for some years now, but Max brings a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship. Previous girlfriends treated him shabbily, and as a result he’s insecure about Linda, not entirely convinced she loves him. On occasion this persistent fretting makes him act like a . . . well, a jerk.

You know Linda and Max. I know I do–or at least versions of them. Most people would say they’re doomed as a couple, yet they last. Somehow, when Max is threatened, Linda knows to give him the reassurances he needs. She intuitively helps him control his emotions and feel safer, and as a result he behaves better. Over time, Max has come to feel better about himself, and as a couple they are happier than ever.

This dynamic is known as “partner buffering,” and it’s very common in relationships. In fact, couples use it every day without even being aware of what they are doing. Yet as commonplace as buffering is, it remains poorly understood–unstudied really. Even relationship specialists have tended to focus on individuals–how Max’s insecurities shape him as a partner–ignoring the whole couple’s interplay of emotions and actions.

This is changing, thanks in large part to psychological scientists Jeffry Simpson of the University of Minnesota and Nickola Overall of the University of Auckland. Simpson and Overall have been working for some time on a dyadic model that they believe better illuminates how real couples deal with insecurity issues every day.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology. Follow Wray on Twitter @wrayherbert.

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