Self-Compassion Is Key to Healthy Relationships, New Study Finds

self-compassion in relationships

A new study looks into how self-compassion can help you form healthier relationships. It’s been well-documented that compassion for your partner in a relationship leads to higher relationship satisfaction, but what about compassion for yourself? Working on your own mental health can have positive benefits for those you are in relationships with. 

This German study surveyed 209 heterosexual couples to determine their individual levels of self-compassion and what it meant for their relationship. The results demonstrated that self-compassion resulted in healthier, happier, longer-lasting relationships. 

What is self-compassion? 

Self-compassion refers to the practice of treating oneself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance, especially in moments of difficulty or suffering. It involves acknowledging one’s own pain and struggles, offering oneself comfort and support, and recognizing that suffering is a part of the shared human experience. Self-compassion involves three key components:

  1. Self-Kindness: Showing oneself compassion, warmth, and understanding instead of self-criticism or judgment.
  2. Common Humanity: Recognizing that everyone experiences challenges, pain, and imperfections, fostering a sense of connection and commonality with others.
  3. Mindfulness: Being present in the current moment, observing one’s feelings and experiences without judgment, and accepting them with openness and non-reactivity.

Practicing self-compassion can have numerous benefits, such as reducing self-criticism, enhancing emotional well-being, promoting resilience, and improving overall mental health. It is a valuable tool for cultivating self-care and nurturing a positive relationship with oneself.

The study also found that when individuals in a relationship reacted compassionately to their own inadequacies, suffering, and pain, both members of the couple benefited. They were both happier. 

What are the benefits of self-compassion?

It’s already been proven that self-compassion has great benefits for the individual, including:

  • Personal well-being 
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Conflict resolution
  • Healthily deals with jealousy 
  • Reducing Self-Criticism
  • Managing Stress
  • Enhancing Emotional Resilience
  • Building Self-Worth
  • Improving Mental Health
  • Promoting Healthy Relationships
  • Boosting Self-Care
  • Increasing Motivation

The study also took into account different areas of their life. For example, some people may hold a lot of self-compassion for themselves at work, but not in a relationship. Or, self-compassion in a relationship may extend to verbal arguments, but not to physical intimacy. To maximize the benefits self-compassion has on yourself and your relationships, try to practice it in all areas of your life. 

How to cultivate greater self-compassion 

Self-compassion has many health benefits both for yourself and your relationship. Fortunately, self-compassion is not something we are either born with or without. It can be trained. 

This is important for couples therapists to understand, as teaching self-compassion to their clients can help mend relationship issues and strengthen connections. If you are in a relationship that could benefit from relationship counseling, ask your couple’s therapist to work on developing self-compassion with you. 

You can also develop self-compassion at home with your partner. 

To increase self-compassion, try:

Practice Affirmations or Releasing Statements

Affirmations are positive things you say about yourself. (I have what it takes. I can do this.) Releasing statements are very similar but instead of encouraging you, they give you permission to fail. (It’s okay that I’m upset right now. It makes sense that I’m having a hard time.) This cultivates forgiveness and empathy for yourself. 

Cultivate Mindfulness

Embrace mindfulness to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing you to respond to yourself with compassion and understanding. As an added challenge, try to practice mindfulness with your partner by going for mindful walks together, meditation together, or eating mindfully (without other stimuli like the TV or social media).

Recognize Common Humanity

Remember that everyone experiences hardship and imperfection. Acknowledge that struggles are a natural part of the human experience, fostering a sense of shared connection and empathy.

Challenge Self-Criticism

When self-criticism arises, challenge and reframe negative thoughts. Replace self-criticism with self-compassionate affirmations and perspectives.

Seek Support

Reach out to understanding friends, family members, or a therapist who can offer empathy and support as you navigate your journey toward greater self-compassion.

Engage in Self-Care

Prioritize activities that nourish your body and spirit, such as meditation, spending time in nature, engaging in hobbies you love, and getting enough rest.

Embrace Imperfection

Recognize that it’s okay to be imperfect and that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. Embracing imperfection fosters self-compassion.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

Validate your emotions and experiences without judgment. Embracing your feelings with kindness fosters a sense of self-compassion and understanding.


Developing self-compassion takes time and practice, but each step you take toward self-kindness and understanding can have a positive impact not only on your relationship with yourself but also on your connections with others. As you cultivate self-compassion, you’ll find yourself bringing greater warmth and empathy to your relationships, nurturing deeper connections and understanding.

If you are struggling to bring self-compassion into your relationship, a couples counselor can help. These are licensed professionals trained to deal with interpersonal issues, work through past hurts, and mend relationships. They can help you strengthen your relationship through self-compassion.