Humility in Romantic Relationships

Authored by: Rachel C. Garthe , Chelsea A. Reid , Terri N. Sullivan , Brianne Cork

Handbook of Humility

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138960008
eBook ISBN: 9781315660462
Adobe ISBN: 9781317337164


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Humility contributes to the quality of relationships, as humble individuals demonstrate interpersonal virtues such as patience, gentleness, respect, and empathy (Means, Wilson, Sturm, Biron, & Bach, 1990). Humble individuals are able to view themselves accurately, are other-oriented, and are able to recognize their own limitations (Davis et al., 2011). This chapter illustrates how humility functions within romantic relationships and proposes that humility contributes to the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation (VSA) model (Karney & Bradbury, 1995). The VSA framework is a commonly used model to explain adjustments and the maintenance processes of romantic and committed relationships; partners’ enduring traits and vulnerabilities, couples’ adaptive processes, and stressors ultimately affect relationship quality and satisfaction. We theorize that humility is an enduring trait that should be considered in the VSA framework, because scholarship demonstrates that humility is associated with both adaptive processes and stressors and relationship quality. Finally, although Karney and Bradbury (1995) hypothesized that enduring traits and vulnerabilities within the VSA model are relatively stable, it also is important to examine how enduring traits, such as humility, may change during the course of romantic relationships. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research and clinical applications of humility in romantic relationships.

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