Exploring links between shyness, romantic relationship quality, and well-being



Publication Details

Rowsell, H. Claire. & Coplan, R. J. (2013). Exploring links between shyness, romantic relationship quality, and well-being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 45 (4), 287-295.


Romantic relationship quality. In the current study, we considered different components of romantic relationship quality, including specific aspects of current relationships, as well as more general romantic relationship attitudes and beliefs. For example, intimacy refers to the closeness and interdependence, affection and warmth, and the extent of self-disclosure within a romantic relationship (Perlman & Fehr, 1987). Sexual satisfaction represents the thoughts, feelings, personal/sociocultural attitudes, and biological variables that contribute to an individual's positive sexual experiences (Penhollow & Young, 2008). Levels of intimacy and sexual satisfaction are both strong predictors of the success of romantic relationships, and are often used as indices of relationship quality (Burleson, Trevathan, & Todd, 2007; Penhollow & Young, 2008; Young, Denny, Luquis, & Young, 1998). Overall, romantic relationships characterized by higher quality tend to be associated with greater well-being (Birditt & Antonucci, 2007; Lanz & Tagliabue, 2007; Segrin, Powell, Givertz, & Brackin, 2003). Romantic relationship quality also appears to be influenced by individuals' more general attitudes and beliefs regarding close relationships (Miller & Hoicowitz, 2004; Noftle & Shaver, 2005). For example, from an attachment perspective (Bowlby, 1973), internal working models are described as cognitive-affective representations that people form of the bond they have with their attachment figure and the expectations they have within close relationships. Variations related to attachment anxiety (i.e., anxiety about rejection, abandonment, and relational self-worth and acceptance) and attachment avoidance (avoidance of intimacy, discom- fort with closeness and interdependence) have been shown to contribute toward individual differences in feelings, thoughts, and behaviours among adults in close relationships (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; [Collins] et al., 2006; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Noftle & Shaver, 2006). As well, more positive romantic attachment beliefs also tend to promote psychological well-being (Collins et al., 2006; Noftle & Shaver, 2006). As described earlier, results from Study 1 indicated that young adults currently in romantic relationships reported lower levels of shyness than young adults not in a relationship ([Asendorpf] et al., 2008; [Leck], 2006). Our results further suggested that, even when they find romantic partners, shy individuals may be prone to experience poor relationship quality. Across both studies and across multiple indicators, shyness was robustly negatively related to a range of indices of romantic relationship quality. These results support previous research indicating that shyer individuals tend to form relationships less positive in quality (e.g., Koydemir & Demir, 2008; [Nelson] et al., 2008), and extend our knowledge by including multiple aspects of relationship quality (e.g., intimacy, sexual satisfaction, and romantic attachment beliefs). For example, because open communication and intimacy are important for sexual satisfaction (Byers & Demmons, 1999; Cupach & Comstock, 1990), and shyness is associated with difficulty communicating (especially about personal matters) and decreased responsiveness (Bradshaw, 2006; Koydemir & Demir, 2008; [Zimbardo], 1997), shyer individuals would seem more likely to report lower sexual satisfaction. Self-disclosure, warmth, and responsiveness are key components of intimacy (Kalliopuska, 2008), which may also help to account for its negative association with shyness.

Please refer to publisher version or contact your library.



Link to publisher version (DOI)