How couples use ego potency on a daily basis to have great relationships | Nancy Carbone
Let’s admit it: We tend to blame our partners when our relationships go wrong. Sometimes it is difficult to look at ourselves and say that we are guilty.
But what if I told you that there’s a psychological concept that helps determine whether you’re “good” at being in a healthy relationship — and that this concept has more to do with how you relate to yourself than how you relate to others?
There is a psychological technique that people in great relationships use on a daily basis.
It’s called “ego efficacy” and it seems to have a huge impact in determining the success of our relationships. But what is ego effectiveness and how does it determine how good you are in relationships?
A study published in the Journal of Personality explains, “There are components of the self that recognize effective courses of action and there are components of the self that enact behaviors. The goal of the research was to examine the fit between these different components of the self.”
This study determined that “both participants and partners reported greater satisfaction in their relationships with participants who scored higher on ego efficacy.”
In more casual terms, ego efficacy is a psychological concept that refers to a state in which your behavior is congruent with your ideal vision of yourself. Basically, it happens when you are honest and sincere with your words.
With someone whose effectiveness and ego mesh well, what you see is what you get, and both partners in relationships with these people report being very satisfied with their relationships.
While the study is informative, it stands to reason that the ability to have healthy relationships depends on having a healthy sense of self.
There is no need to cover up your actions or hide your behavior when you are aligned with your ideal self.
When your behavior does not match your ideal self, you lack ego efficacy.
Lack of ego efficacy occurs when you cannot face the truth about your actions if they are not in line with how you see yourself or your ideal self. This is a time when a person may lie, hide the truth, or hide to protect themselves from feeling bad about themselves.
When your behavior doesn’t align with your ideal self, you’re not bringing your best self — perhaps even your true self — into relationships. When your behavior doesn’t match how you want to see yourself, it’s easy to distort reality so that you appear to be a good person.
For example, a narcissist may use gaslighting to distort reality so he can look good and not have to confront his actions if he doesn’t want to admit he did something wrong. In this way, they maintain the positive image they have of themselves.
In other words, their view of themselves does not align with their actual behavior. The way they see themselves doesn’t fit who they are. Whereas a person with ego effectiveness sees himself as realistic, acts according to his ideal self, and does not need to manipulate others.
In order to understand the function of the ego, you have to look at Freud’s structure of the psyche. The personality structure consists of the id, superego, and ego.
The id is driven by aggressive and pleasure-seeking drives that seek immediate gratification and avoid pain. The superego attempts to live up to social expectations, which is often driven by feelings of guilt, shame, or judgment. The ego mediates between the id and the superego and lives according to the principle of reality (consciousness).
Having ego efficacy is when you can see things clearly and control your behavior so that you can respond rather than react.
If you have a weak ego, you may use defenses to deny something within yourself that you don’t want to face, finding a way to deny reality or distort the truth in some way so that you don’t have to face this painful truth. .
For example, when your partner criticizes your behavior and you can’t stand the fact that you did something wrong, you find a way to distort the truth so that it doesn’t seem so bad. In this way, your actions fall short of how you want to see yourself.
Having a healthy ego means that you do not react to your impulsive or aggressive desires, but rather acknowledge the truth of how you feel when you say what you feel.
How does ego efficacy affect the extent to which healthy relationships are maintained?
Having a healthy relationship is when you are able to express your true feelings that support your true personality. This way, you respond according to your ideal self and do not act defensively. Remember: Having ego efficacy is when your behavior is consistent with your true self.
Research by Michael D. Robinson, Roberta L. Irvin, and Michelle R. Persic (2022) has shown that increased ego efficacy is associated with many positive relationship outcomes, while low levels of ego efficacy are associated with many negative consequences.
Overall, partners felt more satisfied in relationships with those with higher ego efficacy. It found that partners felt greater commitment to relationships, and showed higher levels of intimacy, trust and love.
Partners reported that ego-active participants were more accessible, responsive, and involved in the relationship. These results showed that ego efficacy is related to relationship success.
Ego-active individuals were less likely to engage in denial or disengagement and less likely to engage in partner manipulation. They were better able to deal with relationship problems.
There are some key indicators that you are living in a “realistic ego,” i.e. not acting defensively or impulsively, leading to a successful romantic relationship.
1. Instead of responding, you can record your feelings and express them.
2. Instead of hiding things or ignoring problems, you can address them along the way.
3. Instead of acting on your own needs and interests, you can consider others in the relationship.
4. Do not give in to temptations or impulsive desires, but think carefully about the consequences and weigh the most appropriate response to deal with the situation.
5. Instead of showing anger that masks underlying emotions, you notice uncomfortable feelings such as jealousy or insecurity and seek to understand their source.
6. You have the ability to control emotions and talk about things.
7. You can sit angrily and bear the frustrating feelings instead of reacting in the heat of the moment.
8. Instead of distorting the truth, you are able to take responsibility for your actions and own your behavior.
When your ego is healthy, you will not fear the punitive superego. You can tone down your inner critic. You have compassion for yourself and others, so you are able to calm down after conflict and not judge yourself or others harshly.
When you live according to your true self, you can foster a deeper connection, rather than react in defensive ways.
Having a healthy ego allows you to live out your ideal self when your actions align with who you are.
You can live according to your inner truth and manage unwanted impulses and destructive urges, so that you have conscious control over yourself and the way you respond to others. This, in turn, can positively impact your romantic relationships.
Nancy Carbone is an author, relationship therapist, and psychotherapist. She specializes in the treatment of personality disorders and relational trauma, and is a certified mental health social worker.
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