As individuals develop, it is natural to reference social situations to learn about the self. Even as adults, some learning about the self comes from interactions with others. However, when adults consistently allow others to define their sense of self, their focus may shift away from connection and intimacy toward external factors. No studies have examined how allowing others to define the sense of self is associated with intimacy and satisfaction in relationships. Using structural equation modeling, this study examined whether allowing others to define the self is associated with a decrease in emotional intimacy, relational satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction and whether this relationship might be mediated by sense of self. I used a sample (n = 421) of U.S. adults in committed sexual relationships. Three common ways of allowing others to define the self—emotional fusion, externalized self-perception, and social comparison—were considered relative to the relational outcomes. Gender differences in the model were also considered. Results showed a negative association between all three ways of allowing others to define the self and all three relational outcomes for men, and negative associations between emotional fusion and externalized self-perception and all three relational outcomes for women. These associations were mediated by sense of self such that those who reported allowing others to define the self, also reported a weaker sense of self. Having a strong sense of self was positively associated with emotional intimacy, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction. This indicates that looking to outside sources to define the self may hinder intimacy and satisfaction in relationships. Further implications are discussed.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Price, Amber A., "How Does External Referencing Define Sense of Self and Link to Relational Well-Being?" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 8900.
intimacy, sexual satisfaction, sense of self, relationship satisfaction, external referencing, social comparison, emotional fusion