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Self-Control and Relationships


Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash


Have you ever noticed that our worst arguments occur at the end of a long day?  Is it possible that our willpower or self-control is depleted after a stressful day of decision-making at work or home?  Researcher and author Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D. who wrote “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”  found that willpower is a limited resource subject to being used up.  He concluded that the same energy that is used for self-control is also used for making decisions.  Interestingly, researchers also discovered that low levels of glucose resulted in reduced levels of self-control.   The research did suggest that self-control and willpower can be strengthened.  Dr. Baumeister recommends practicing self-control by doing things deliberately different from your normal way of doing things or replenishing glucose; even just a glass of lemonade can improve self-control.  What are the implications for relationships?   His findings raise several questions about whether couples are more susceptible to infidelity, conflict, and self-destructive behaviors when their willpower has been depleted. Couples can benefit from avoiding having conflictual or difficult conversations after 9pm and scheduling a time that allows for downtime prior to the discussion.  Obviously stress impacts our self-control abilities and managing stress through healthy coping will improve our willpower. Try taking a walk after dinner before engaging in deep discussions or set a time limit for conversations.  Some people do better in the morning, others are night owls and then there are those who are best in middle of the day.  Respect what works best for your partner and seek an agreeable compromise.  Recognize the areas of self-control that you struggle with whether it is food, spending, alcohol, media, or work and choose to take action.  Be aware that timing, stress, food intake, and decision-making can all impact self-control.  Take charge today!

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