URC

The Effects of Romantic Perfectionism on Disclosure in Romantic Relationships

Dustin P. Bailey
William E. Snell, Jr.*

Southeast Missouri State University


ABSTRACT

Two studies were conducted to investigate whether romantic perfectionism would influence people's willingness to disclose information about a previous romantic relationship with their current intimate partner. Experiment I accomplished this goal by asking 53 students to indicate how willing they would be to discuss 25 relationship topics with an intimate partner, using the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS). In Experiment II female participants were pre-selected based on their involvement in an ongoing intimate relationship. In general, the results for both investigations indicated that people's willingness to discuss their past romantic relationships with their current intimate partner depended on their own romantic perfectionism and the particular relationship topics assessed by the RDS. Other results indicated that attachment style also appears to be a factor in people's relationship disclosure tendencies. The discussion focuses on romantic perfectionism and the use of the Relationship Disclosure Scale in counseling settings.

The Effects of Romantic Perfectionism on Disclosure in Romantic Relationships

Although in the past the concept of perfectionism received relatively little empirical study, beginning in the late 1970s and the 1980s several pioneers developed and laid the groundwork for the field of psychology known now as perfectionism. Some of these scholars have argued that perfectionism can be beneficial in some cases but that in other contexts perfectionism can be excessive and harmful to oneself and/or others. Hamachek (1978), in fact, emphasized the distinction between the healthy and unhealthy aspects of perfectionism. Other pioneers in this area of psychology include Burns (1980) and Pacht (1984), who seemed to agree that perfection is mainly an unhealthy pursuit in life. Of course the pursuit of success and the achievement of great things do not necessarily constitute a faulty lifestyle, but these researchers do suggest that personal worth is not determined by one's accomplishments (Burns, 1980; Pacht, 1984). As noted by many authors, perfectionism is not the healthy quest for success as much as it is the fear of failing (Hamachek, 1978; Pacht, 1984). Many perfectionistic people are characterized by all or nothing thinking (Burns, 1980) or the God/scum phenomenon (Pacht, 1984), where they believe that they are either highly successful or else a complete failure (Hamachek, 1978). A common feature of perfectionism that seems to resonate through the research literature is that perfectionists often set excessively unrealistic, rigid, and extreme standards for their own personal achievements. These standards are so excessive and extreme that it is virtually impossible for people to attain them (Burns, 1980; Hamachek, 1978; Pacht, 1984).

More recently, scholars have begun to take a multidimensional approach to the study of perfectionism. Hewitt and Flett (1991) have argued for three unique aspects perfectionism, and they developed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS) to measure the three aspects of perfectionism. The validity and reliability of this instrument have been confirmed in numerous research studies (Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, & Mosher, 1991; Flett, Hewitt, & De Rosa, 1996; Hewitt & Flett, 1989; 1991; Hewitt, Flett, Turnbul-Donovan, & Mikail, 1991). According to Hewitt and Flett, perfectionism consists of self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and socially prescribed perfectionism (Hewitt & Flett, 1989; 1991). Self-oriented perfectionism involves striving for perfection coupled with a fear of failure (Blankstein, Flett, Hewitt, & Eng, 1993). Such perfectionistic tendencies can lead to depression due to self-blame (Hewitt & Flett, 1990; Hewitt, Mittelstaedt, & Flett, 1990; Hewitt, Mittlestaedt, & Wollert, 1989). It has been found that females who have higher levels of self-oriented perfectionism report that both their mother and their father tend to act in a warm and authoritative manner, indicating that females set their own goals and aspirations when they sense a supportive family environment (Flett, Hewitt, & Singer, 1995). Other-oriented perfectionism deals with the desire for one's significant others to be unrealistically ideal in their actions. As reported by Hewitt and Flett (1991), other-oriented perfectionism may often lead to conflicts in one's romantic relationships due to unmet expectations and desires. By contrast, socially prescribed perfectionism entails the belief that significant others have unreasonably rigid and extreme standards for oneself. These individuals tend to evaluate their behavior more often than others, due to fears of looking foolish in front of others (Alden, Bieling, & Wallace, 1994; Blankstein et al., 1993). Socially prescribed perfectionism has been found to contribute to poor psychosocial adjustment as well as emotional inhibition (Flett et al., 1996) and several forms of anxiety (Saboonchi & Lundh, 1997). Perfectionism, in general, has been found to correlate in an inverse manner with self-actualization and has been found to be directly associated with several indices of irrational thinking (Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, & Koledin, 1991). Regarding dating relationships, socially prescribed perfectionism has been found to hinder communication by producing maladaptive response tendencies (Flett, Hewitt, Shapiro, & Rayman; 2001); by contrast, other-oriented and self-oriented perfectionism have been found to be directly related to greater relationship communication and other positive aspects of people's romantic relationships (e.g., trust and coping). Moreover, in marital relationships of four years or less, research indicates that socially prescribed perfectionism was detrimental to the marital relationship (Haring, Hewitt, & Flett, 2003). Along with affecting one's own actions in a marital relationship, research indicates that perfectionist tendencies also affect the behaviors of one's romantic partner. Socially prescribed perfectionism seems to be associated with the use of conflictual coping strategies (i.e., sarcasm, nagging, blaming, demanding change) and trait anger, both of which are known to be disadvantageous to intimate relationships (Haring et al., 2003). Wiebe and McCabe (2002) have used the Hewitt and Flett scale of multidimensional perfectionism to examine interpersonal behaviors in relationships, finding that other-oriented perfectionism accounted for greater hostility and depression (among women), both of which are problematic for one's intimate relationships.

In addition to Flett and Hewitt, Frost and his colleagues have also undertaken a multidimensional analysis of perfectionism (Frost, Heimberg, Holt, Mattia, & Neubauer, 1993; Frost & Henderson, 1991; Frost, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1991; Frost & Marten, 1990; Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990), by developing another instrument for measuring perfectionism, the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (F-MPS). The Frost measure of perfectionism assesses five components of perfectionism: personal standards, concern over mistakes, parental expectations, doubting of actions, and organization. Personal standards is the setting of unreasonably high standards and the evaluation of oneself according to these standards. The concerns over mistakes subscale is associated with having thoughts about even small mistakes being overall failure and any other negative reaction to errors. Parental expectations involves the belief that one's parents expect extremely rigid and excessive accomplishments from oneself that are often unattainable. Doubting of actions involves the tendency of perfectionist people to doubt their abilities to accomplish things and to be able to complete tasks appropriately. Lastly, the organization subscale reflects the tendency to be very organized and to have things thoroughly planned out. Research has indicated that the Frost measure of perfectionism has adequate reliability and validity (Frost et al., 1990; Frost et al., 1991; Frost & Henderson, 1991; Frost, Heimberg, Holt, Mattia, & Neubauer, 1993; Frost & Marten, 1990).

Research with Frost's measure of perfectionism has also found that mothers' perfectionist tendencies are often passed along to their daughters, in turn fostering greater psychopathology (Frost et al., 1991). However, this same research showed that fathers' perfectionism tends to produce fewer symptoms of psychopathology in their daughter (Frost et al., 1991). Also, other research indicates that perfectionism causes a level of test anxiety that hinders people's writing performance (Frost & Marten, 1990). Additional research evidence shows that concern over mistakes, a component of perfectionism, was directly associated with anxiety in female athletic competitions. Also, two other aspects of perfectionism--concern over mistakes and doubts about actions--were found to be inversely associated with self-assurance in athletic competitions (Frost & Henderson, 1991). A common theme in the Frost five-dimensional approach has been a focus on the level of performance anxiety that is associated with perfectionism. Whether it is in writing performance (Frost & Marten, 1990) or athletic competitions (Frost & Henderson, 1991), people with perfectionist tendencies view performance as an opportunity to fail as opposed to an opportunity to succeed. Moreover, other research with the Frost perfectionism instrument has focused on writing performance (Frost & Marten, 1990), parental influence (Frost, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1991), and athletic performance (Frost & Henderson, 1991). Other forms of anxiety (i.e., social and specific phobias, agoraphobic fears, and fears of bodily injury, illness, and death) have been found to be associated with two of the F-MPS subscales, concern over mistakes and doubts about actions (Saboonchi & Lundh, 1996).

Some recent research has begun to examine the interface between the Hewitt-Flett and the Frost approach to the study of perfectionism. More specifically, the measure of perfectionism developed by Frost and his colleagues has been compared to the multidimensional instrument developed by Hewitt and Flett (Flett, Sawatzky, & Hewitt, 1995; Frost et al., 1993). This research indicated that substantial overlap exists between the two measures of perfectionism. For example, the self-oriented subscale of Hewitt and Flett and the personal standard subscale of Frost were found to measure conceptually similar tendencies. Other results from the same study revealed that the subscales of concern over mistakes, parental criticism, and parental expectations proposed by Frost and his colleagues were closely associated with the Hewitt and Flett measure of socially-prescribed perfectionism, and that the Hewitt and Flett measure of other-oriented perfectionism was comparable to two of the Frost subscales, the personal standards subscale and the concern over mistakes subscale. Other findings showed that the adaptive, positive aspects of perfectionism were associated with organization, personal standards, self-oriented perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism; whereas the more maladaptive, negative aspects of perfectionism consisted mainly of concern over mistakes, parental criticism, parental expectations, doubts about actions, and socially-prescribed perfectionism. Overall, this research indicates that these two independent measures of perfectionism are closely related to each other and that both the Hewitt-Flett and the Frost conceptual approaches should be utilized in future research in the field of perfectionism (Flett et al., 1995; Frost et al., 1993).

The current study was designed to examine the effects of romantic perfectionism on people's relationship disclosure in their romantic relationships. Following the tradition of Hewitt, Flett, and Frost, Snell and Haney (2003) applied a multidimensional approach to the concept of romantic perfectionism. They developed the Multidimensional Romantic Perfectionism Questionnaire (MRPQ), to assess seven aspects of romantic perfectionism: (1) self-oriented romantic perfectionism (i. e., the tendency to believe that one must be a perfect romantic partner and set relationship standards that reflect this), (2) romantic self-doubt and partner's criticisms (i. e., the tendency to believe that one's own romantic behaviors lack sufficient quality, combined with having critical appraisals of one's romantic behaviors by one's romantic partner), (3) partner's prescribed perfectionistic expectations (i.e., the tendency to believe that one's romantic partner expects one to be a perfect romantic partner), (4) self oriented perfectionistic organization (i.e., the tendency to believe that one's daily romantic activities must always be precise and orderly), (5) partner's own self-oriented romantic perfectionism (i. e., the tendency to believe that one's romantic partner has very strict and rigid standards about being a romantic partner), (6) socially prescribed romantic perfectionism (i. e., the tendency to believe that society demands one to be absolutely perfect as a romantic partner), and (7) prescribed romantic perfectionism for one's partner (i. e., the tendency to have rigid, inflexible standards for one's own romantic partner). Research findings by Snell and Haney (2003) indicate that men seem to have more rigid perfectionism in their relationships than do women. Also, their research appears to indicate that early relationships (i. e., one's relationship with their parents) may lay the groundwork for the nature of one's future romantic perfectionistic tendencies. These researchers also found that fearfully attached individuals reported higher scores on the MRPQ subscale romantic self-doubts.

The purpose of the present research was to examine the influence of romantic perfectionism on people's willingness to discuss aspects of a previous intimate relationship with a current romantic partner, using a modified version of the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell, Hampton, & McManus, 1992). The modified version of the RDS used in the present investigation was designed to measure how willing individuals would be to discuss several aspects of a previous romantic relationship with their current romantic partner, as assessed by the 25 subscales on the RDS (Snell et al., 1992; Snell, Weissert, & Reed, 2002). Previous research using this modified version of the RDS has suggested that women are more likely than men to disclose information about their most romantic feelings and views (Snell et al., 1992). Also, this research has indicated that women with a more secure attachment style were more likely to discuss their past intimate relationships, while the opposite trend tended to characterize males. Additionally, women with preoccupied, dismissing, and fearful attachment styles were found to be less likely to disclose information about their past romantic experiences to their current romantic partners. By contrast, the opposite pattern was found to characterize males, in that fearfully attached men reported a greater willingness to discuss past relationship dynamics with their current romantic partners. However, fearfully attached males were found to be less likely to discuss the love they felt for a previous intimate partner with their current romantic partner. No similar connection was found with females (Snell et al., 2002).

In order to examine the association between romantic perfectionism and people's willingness to discuss aspects of their previous romantic relations with a current romantic partner, a preliminary investigation was conducted. This study involved an examination of whether romantic perfectionism would be associated with people's relationship disclosure tendencies (cf. Snell et al., 1992). Relationship disclosure was assessed through the use of the Relationship Disclosure Scale (Snell et al., 1992), and romantic perfectionism was assessed with the Multidimensional Romantic Perfectionism Questionnaire (MRPQ). Snell and Haney (2003) have demonstrated that romantic perfectionism can be measured through the use of questionnaire techniques.

It was predicted that one of Snell and Haney's (2003) romantic perfectionism subscale, romantic self-doubt/partner's criticism, would be negatively associated with the love subscale on the RDS. More specifically, it is expected that romantic partners would be less willing to share information about a previous relationship's emotional closeness if they were characterized by romantic self-doubt. This prediction was based on previous research showing that people who are fearfully attached are less likely to discuss the love they had for a previous intimate partner with their current romantic partner (Snell et al., 2002). Also, Snell and Haney (2003) found that fearfully attached individuals score higher on the romantic self-doubt subscale of the MRPQ. Taking these two previous findings into consideration, it seemed reasonable to expect that the RDS love subscale would be found to be indirectly related to the MRPQ subscale that assesses romantic self-doubt/partner criticism.

Experiment I

Method
Participants. The participants in the present research were drawn from several lower division psychology courses at a small Midwestern university. The sample consisted of 53 participants (28 males; 25 females) who were assessed during the Spring of 2005. They volunteered to participate in the research projects as one way to partially fulfill requirements in their course. About 62% of the participants (n = 33) were between the ages of 16-20, while nearly 6% (n = 3) were over the age of 39. About 85% of the sample (n = 45) reported that they had never been married, and the others were either currently in their first marriage (n = 3) or else divorced (n = 3). About 79% of the sample (n = 42) were lower-division students, and the others were juniors (n = 7) or seniors (n = 4). Almost 41% of the sample reported their own or family's annual income of over $50,000 (n = 22). Over half of the sample (n = 28) stated that they were not currently dating someone exclusively.

Measures. The participants were administered the MRPQ (Snell & Haney, 2003), the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell et al., 1992), and a sheet of demographic items.

The Multidimensional Romantic Perfectionism Questionnaire (MRPQ; Snell & Haney, 2003) is a 65-item self-report instrument designed to measure several aspects of romantic perfectionism. The 65 items that comprise this instrument were written in accord with the extant perfectionism literature (cf. Frost et al., 1990; Hewitt & Flett, 1989), and included items related to the following perfectionistic-related concepts: (1) self-oriented romantic perfectionism (which involves extremely high self-standards for oneself as a partner and an excessive motivation to be a perfect romantic partner); (2) romantic self-doubt and partner's criticisms (defined as a general dissatisfaction with or uncertainty about the quality of one's romantic behaviors and abilities, combined with an expectation of critical evaluations of one's own romantic behaviors and abilities by one's partner); (3) partner's prescribed perfectionistic expectations (which involves the perception that one's own relationship partner expects one to be a perfect romantic partner); (4) self-oriented perfectionistic organization (defined as a person's tendency to emphasize orderliness and precision in the day-to-day activities of being a romantic partner); (5) partner's own self-oriented romantic perfectionism (which involves the perception that one's own romantic partner has rigid and extreme self-standards of conduct as a romantic partner); (6) social prescribed romantic perfectionism (which involves the belief that society in general expects one to be a perfect romantic partner); (7) prescribed romantic perfectionism for one's partner (which involves perfectionistic romantic expectations for one's own partner). Responses to the MRPQ items were coded on a 5-point Likert scale: not at all characteristic of me (0), slightly characteristic of me (1), somewhat characteristic of me (2), moderately characteristic of me (3), and very characteristic of me (4). Snell and Haney (2003) provided evidence supporting the reliability (i.e., internal consistency) of the MRPQ subscales. In addition, Snell and Haney's (2003) evidence for the validity of the MRPQ indicated that several aspects of the romantic perfectionism were associated with the respondents' perceptions of their parents' parental behaviors, their relationship affect and cognitions, and their adult romantic attachment tendencies.

The Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell et al., 1992) was designed to measure people's willingness to disclose personal information about their intimate relationships to others. The RDS consists of 25 subscales grouped into five conceptual clusters (with five subscales each): (a) love, closeness, and sex; (b) oneself as an intimate partner and one's psychological reactions to intimate relationships; (c) personal characteristics of the partner; (d) domestic issues; and, (e) relationship stress. Each RDS subscale consists of three items. Participants were asked to respond to the 75 items on the RDS by indicating how willing they would be to discuss the 25 aspects of their former intimate relationships (as measured by the RDS) with their current romantic partner. The following 5-point Likert scale was used to assess their responses: I would not be willing to discuss this topic with my present partner (0), I would me slightly willing to discuss this topic with my present partner (1), I would be moderately willing to discuss this topic with my present partner (2), I would be mostly willing to discuss this topic with my present partner (3), and I would be totally willing to discuss this topic with my present partner (4). Higher scores thus corresponded to greater willingness to discuss aspects of a previous love relationship with a current intimate partner. Using the RDS, Snell et al. (2002) have shown that that women's and men's attachment styles were systematically related to their willingness to disclose aspects of their previous relationships with their present intimate partner. Those with a stronger, more secure attachment to their current intimate partner were found to be more willing to reveal personal information about their past loves to their current partners, whereas those characterized with stronger fearful, dismissing, and preoccupied attachment styles, respectively, were less willing to engage in such romantic disclosure, as measured by the RDS. Snell et al. (1992) have also shown that that people's willingness to discuss their intimate relationships with counselors depended on their own gender, the gender of the counselor, and the particular relationship topics assessed by the RDS. In addition, several personality variables associated with romantic esteem and romantic consciousness were found by Snell et al. (1992) to be associated with women's willingness to engage in relationship disclosure with male and female counselors. These same researchers also provided evidence for the reliability of the 25 RDS subscales; the alphas ranged from a low of .87 to a high of .97, with an average of .93.

Procedure. When the participants arrived at the testing room, the purpose of the study was briefly described to them and they were asked to read and sign an informed consent form. They were guaranteed complete anonymity and were assured that their responses would be kept in complete confidentiality. All participants who entered the experiment agreed to participate. Each participant then received a questionnaire booklet containing the various measures. The presentation order was as shown above. Following the completion of the measures, the participants received a written debriefing form that explained the purpose of the study. The completion of the questionnaire booklet required approximately 40-45 minutes. Small groups of up to 11 participants were tested during each session of the seven separate sessions.

Results
The correlations between the MRPQ subscales and the RDS are presented in Table 1. An inspection of Table 1 indicates that people's orderliness and precision in their romantic relationship was found to be positively associated with the RDS subscales of love (r = .23, p < .050), relationship commitment (r = .27, p < .027), relationship change (r = .26, p < .030), self-esteem enhancement (r = .30, p < .015), domestic responsibilities (r = .28, (p < .021), financial decision-making (r = .27, p < .029), and career impact (r = .24, p < .043). Also, this same perfectionistic tendency was found to be correlated at a borderline level of significance with the RDS subscale that assessed self-esteem erosion (r = .23, p < .051). Finally, Table 1 also reveals that people's perfectionistic expectations for their partner was found to be negatively correlated with the RDS subscale assessing their willingness to discuss the emotional closeness they felt in a previous romantic relationships with their current romantic partner (r = -.23, p < .050).

Discussion
The purpose of Experiment I was to use both the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell et al., 1992) and the Multidimensional Romantic Perfectionism Scale (MRPQ; Snell & Haney, 2003) to determine how romantic perfectionistic tendencies would influence people's willingness to disclose personal information about a previous romance with a current intimate partner. It was expected that people's willingness to discuss how much they loved a previous romantic partner with a contemporary romantic partner would be indirectly associated with the amount of romantic self-doubts about their current partner that they currently (as measured by the corresponding subscale on the MRPQ). This prediction was based on past research showing that those individuals with greater self-doubt about their relationships were more likely to have a fearful attachment style, which in turn lead them to be less willing to discuss the love aspects of a previous romance with their current partner (Snell et al., 2002, Snell & Haney, 2003).

The present results failed to support this prediction. That is, there was no evidence in this research that the MRPQ subscale assessing romantic self-doubt/partner's criticisms was indirectly related to the RDS subscale assessing people's willingness to discuss how much love they felt for a previous romantic partner with their current relationship partner. What might explain this failure to find evidence for the prediction? Previous research has reported that only among males was there evidence of a relationship between a fearful attachment style and disclosure tendencies associated with love (Snell et al., 2002). In order to explore this idea more closely, as it applied to the present research, similar correlations were computed separately for the male and female participants in the current study. These findings revealed a trend toward a significant positive correlation for males (r = .26, p < .090) and only a weak correlation for females (r = .10, p < .317). These correlational findings-taken in combination with Snell and Haney's (2003) finding that individuals who were both fearful and preoccupied scored higher on self-oriented romantic perfectionism as well as romantic self-doubts--would suggest that the failure to find evidence supporting the prediction may have been due to a possible conjoint influence of two attachment styles. That is, these additional correlational results suggest a level of comorbidity on the part of fearful and preoccupied individuals, which was not initially obvious, but which might have caused a confounding in the present results. It is possible that an overlap exists with these two attachment styles in their respective influence on the disclosure measure, since previous research also failed to identify an association between a fearful attachment style and the particular RDS subscale focusing on previous romantic love (Snell et al., 2002). In fact, Snell et al. (2002) found that only among males was the fearful attachment tendencies actually associated with people's willing to communicate with their current partners about the love that characterized their past romantic relationships. Future research on this topic will need to take these considerations into account.

The results from Experiment I did, however, reveal evidence for several unexpected findings between romantic perfectionism and romantic disclosure (Snell et al., 1992). For example, self-oriented romantic organization was found to be associated with a variety of RDS subscales (see Table 1). In particular, it was found that people who thought that their daily activities of being a romantic partner must be precise and orderly (i. e., those with greater romantic organization) indicated that they would be more willing to discuss the love they experienced in a previous relationship with their current partner. In addition, self-oriented romantic organization was found to be directly related to the respondents' willingness to discuss the following additional topics with their current romantic partner: the amount of relationship commitment that characterized a past romance of theirs, any change/flux in their previous romance, and the manner in which their own self-esteem was either enhanced or eroded by their previous romantic relationship, the sharing of domestic responsibilities in the previous relationship, the financial decision-making in the previous relationship, and the impact the previous relationship had on their career. Another unrelated finding revealed that individuals who expected greater romantic perfectionism from their current partners indicated that they themselves would be less likely to discuss the emotional closeness that characterized their previous romantic relationship with their current romantic partners.

The findings from Experiment I may be examined within the context of previously published research on perfectionism. Frost and his colleagues have found that perfectionistic organizational tendencies constitute a beneficial aspect of perfectionism (Frost et al., 1990; Frost et al., 1993); for example, people with less perfectionistic organization have been found to procrastinate, which has been stated as problematic by perfectionists (Johnson & Slaney, 1996). Also, positive relationship affect was found to be associated with perfectionistic organizational tendencies (Frost et al., 1993). In addition, Snell and Haney (2003) found that secure individuals reported greater perfectionistic organizational tendencies. A secure attachment style has also been found to be associated with greater satisfaction and relationship self-esteem (Snell & Haney, 2003). The results of the current research are consistent with these past research findings in that they underscore the importance of the positive, adaptive features of perfectionism. Individuals who are more romantically organized will generally be more secure in their attachment styles and they will have a greater willingness to disclose personal information to their current romantic partner, all of which are adaptive and beneficial in nature.

Lastly, it is important to note that the present research showed that prescribed romantic perfectionism for one's partner was negatively associated with people's willingness to discuss the amount of emotional closeness they felt for a previous romantic partner (as assessed by the RDS). This was the only significant finding regarding prescribed romantic perfectionism for one's partner, but many of the other RDS subscales were also found to be negatively associated with this perfectionistic tendency (but to a lesser degree). Such findings are consistent with research suggesting that less disclosure in a relationship is associated with greater dissatisfaction (Hendrick, 1981; Hendrick, Hendrick, & Adler, 1988). Also, these results are consistent with Hewitt and Flett's (1991) finding that other-oriented perfectionism can lead to conflicts in relationships due to unmet expectations and desires. When people expect romantic perfectionism from their romantic partners, dissatisfaction with their may occur due to any resulting unmet expectations and less disclosure.

Although this first experiment provided helpful information about the impact of romantic perfectionism on people's willingness to discuss personal information about their previous love relations with their current romantic partners, there was a need to improve the experimental design of this research and a need to broaden the research focus itself. Toward the accomplishment of these goals, another research investigation was conducted. In Experiment I, over half of the sample indicated that they were not exclusively dating one person. In light of this shortcoming, the participants in Experiment II were required to be in a current, ongoing romantic relationship and to have had previous relationship experience. In addition, the concept of attachment was used to explain why there was no evidence supporting the prediction that romantic self-doubt would lead to less willingness to discuss the love that people felt for their previous lovers with their current romantic partners. Thus, another goal of Experiment II was to incorporate a measure of relationship attachment into the research design. Thus, Experiment II used the Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ), a measure developed by Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) to determine whether fearful and/or preoccupied types of attachment would mediate the relationship between romantic perfectionism and relationship disclosure.

Experiment 2

Method
Participants. The participants in this second study were drawn from several lower division psychology courses at a small Midwestern university. All participants were required to be in a current romantic relationship with at least some relationship experience in the past. The resulting sample consisted of 43 female participants who were assessed during the Fall of 2005. The participants volunteered to participate in the research projects as one way to partially fulfill requirements in their course. About 61% of the participants (n = 26) were between the ages of 16-20, while one was over the age of 39. About 74% of the sample (n = 32) reported that they had never been married, and the others were either currently married (n = 9) or else divorced (n = 2). About 74% of the sample (n = 32) were lower-division students, and the others were juniors (n = 6) or seniors (n = 4).

Measures. The participants were administered the MRPQ (Snell & Haney, 2003), the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell et al., 1992), and a sheet of demographic items. In addition to the MRPQ and RDS, participants completed Bartholomew's measure of relationship attachment (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991).

The Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) was designed to measure four separate attachment styles among young adults: (a) secure, (b) fearful, (c) preoccupied, and (d) dismissing. The scenarios designed to operationalize each of the four attachment styles were, respectively: (a) It is easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me; (b) I am uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others; (c) I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others do not value me as much as I value them; and (d) I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.

In responding to the RSQ, the participants were asked to indicate how much each of the four scenarios was descriptive of them, using a 5-point Likert scale: not at all like me (1), slightly like me (2), somewhat like me (3), moderately like me (4), very much like me (5). Higher RQ scores thus corresponded to greater agreement with each respective type of attachment style (i. e., 4 separate subscale scores were generated). Evidence for the reliability of the RQ subscales was provided by Bartholomew (1989), who reported that the test-retest reliabilities for the RQ subscales ranged from a low of .49 to a high of .71 (cf. Scharfe & Bartholomew, 1994). Evidence for validity of the RQ has been provided by Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991).

Procedure. When the participants arrived at they testing room, the purpose of the study was briefly described to them and they were asked to read and sign an informed consent form. They were guaranteed complete anonymity and were assured that their responses would be kept in complete confidentiality. All participants who entered the experiment agreed to participate. Each participant then received a questionnaire booklet containing the various measures. The presentation order was as shown above. Following the completion of the measures, the participants received a written debriefing form that explained the purpose of the study. The completion of the questionnaire booklet required approximately 40-45 minutes. Small groups of up to 13 participants were tested during each session of the 6 separate sessions.

Results
Results for Romantic Perfectionism and Relationship Disclosure. The correlations between the MRPQ subscales and the RDS are presented in Table 2. An inspection of Table 2 indicates that people who had self-doubts about their romantic relationships were more willing to discuss the financial decision-making aspects of their previous intimate relations with their current romantic partner (r = .26, p < .045). Table 2 also reveals that respondents with greater romantic perfectionism reported being less willing to discuss the following aspects of their previous intimate relations with their current romantic partner: sexual compatibility (r = -.29, p < .032) and partner's sensuality (r = -.27, p < .04). In addition, people who felt greater social pressure to be a perfect romantic partner were less willing to discuss the following two aspects of their previous love relationships with their current romantic partner: their previous partner's sensuality (r = -.27, p < .043) and the gender-role arrangement in their previous intimate relationships (r = -.31, p < .024).

Results for Relationship Attachment and Relationship Disclosure. The correlations between the RSQ and the RDS are presented in Table 3. An inspection of Table 3 shows that respondents with a secure attachment style were more willing to discuss the following features of their previous love relationships with their current romantic partner: relationship change (r = .36, (p < .009) and self-esteem erosion (r = .28, (p < .032). Table 3 also reveals that university females who were characterized by a fearful type of romantic attachment style were less wiling to discuss relationship change in a previous relationship with their current romantic partner (r = -.37, (p < .010). Finally, it can be seen in Table 3 that college women with a dismissing approach to their relationship reported being less willing to discuss several aspects of their previous intimate relations with their current romantic partner: relationship change (r = -.32, (p < .018), self-esteem erosion (r = -.40, (p < .004), and relationship stress (r = -.31, (p < .022).

Results for Relationship Attachment and Romantic Perfectionism. The correlations between the RSQ and the MRPQ are presented in Table 4. An examination of Table 4 reveals college women with a fearful attachment style reported greater romantic self- doubt and partner's criticisms (r = .37, (p < .007) and greater romantic pressure from their romantic partner (r = .28, (p < .036). Also, the dismissing attachment style in university females was found to be associated with romantic partners who were less perfectionistic about their love relationships--partner's own self-oriented romantic perfectionism (r = -.45, (p < .001).

Discussion
The purpose of Experiment II was to use both the Relationship Disclosure Scale (RDS; Snell et al., 1992) and the Multidimensional Romantic Perfectionism Scale (MRPQ; Snell & Haney, 2003) to determine how romantic perfectionistic tendencies would influence people's willingness to disclose personal information about a previous romantic relationship with a current intimate partner. Experiment II was designed to extend the findings reported in Experiment I, by including only participants who were both currently in a romantic relationship and who had previous experience with a romantic relationship. It was expected that people's willingness to discuss how much they loved a previous romantic partner with a contemporary romantic partner (as measured by the RDS love subscale) would be inversely associated with the amount of romantic self-doubts they felt about their current romantic partner and current romantic relationship (as measured by the corresponding MRPQ subscale). This prediction was based on past research showing that those individuals with greater romantic self-doubt and criticism about their relationship were more likely to have a fearful attachment style, which in turn lead them to be less willing to discuss how much they loved a previous romantic partner with their current romantic partner (Snell et al., 2002, Snell & Haney, 2003).

However, the results of Experiment II failed to support this hypothesis. Though, other results did show that individuals with a fearful attachment style had a strong tendency to possess self-doubt and/or receive criticism from their romantic partners there was no evidence that female college students with greater romantic self-doubt were less willing to discuss their love for their previous romantic lovers with their current romantic partners. Why was there a failure to support this hypothesis? It appears that attachment style plays a large role in the openness and perfectionist aspects of romantic relationships. This result may be due to the permanency of one's attachment style as opposed to the relatively temporality of relationships. Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) have argued that one's current adult attachments may be influenced by the nature of the parent-child attachment experienced in the family that is, that attachment styles are formed when people are very young, due to their parental bonding experiences. However, people's current and past relationship experiences occur later in life when one's personality and attachment may be said to have been already established. This reveals that individuals' attachment styles may affect many aspects of those individuals' future relationships.

One must look at a person's past relationship experience in order to better grasp the reasoning for a failed hypothesis. When separating those participants who had serious past romantic relationships (previously serious dating, engaged, or married) from those whose past relationships were not as serious (previous casual dating only), it was revealed that those who have had past serious relationships were less likely to discuss aspects of love with current intimate partners (r = -.02, (p < .46, n = 26) than those who had casual dating experiences only (r = .21, (p < .21, n = 17). This may be explained by assuming those who did not have serious relationships were less likely to be "in love" than those who had previously been in serious romantic relationships. If one has never previously been in love, then they would be more likely to discuss those aspects, for they did not exist, with their current partner.

The results from Experiment II did, however, reveal evidence for several unexpected findings associated with romantic perfectionism and romantic disclosure (Snell et al., 1992). For example, women that think their romantic partner has very strict and rigid standards as how they should be as a romantic partner seemed to be associated with less disclosure in the areas of the sexual compatibility and sensuality concerning the women's past romantic relationships (see Table 2). Also, if women feel that society expects them to be perfect romantic partners they will be less likely to discuss the gender-role issues and the sensuality of their former partners with their current romantic partners. Romantic self-doubt and partner's criticisms associated negatively with the discussion of financial-decision making issues in past relationship experience (see Table 2). If women perceive their partner to have high standards for themselves then it would make sense to not talk with high regard about a past relationship, especially when that past relationship topic is sexual compatibility and sensuality. These two aspects would only serve as detrimental to the other's self-esteem.

The last sets of results pertained to people's attachment tendencies, as conceived by Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991). The results revealed that securely attached females style are more willing to discuss the aspects of a past relationship with an intimate partner on all measures (see Table 3). However, females characterized by more fearful attachment styles were less likely to discuss previous relationships with their current partners. Also, those described as more dismissing in nature are less likely to discuss aspects of a past intimate partner in a romantic relationship. The findings of Snell et al. (2002) are consistent with the findings of the current study. In their study, it was discovered that more securely attached females revealed more of aspects concerning past intimate partners than did fearfully or dismissing attached females.

In our current study, it was found that women who had more maladaptive aspects of romantic perfection, as measured by the MRPQ subscales, tended to be fearfully attached by nature. This is supported by previous research by Snell and Haney (2003). They found that a fearful attachment orientation to relationships was associated with the more detrimental and negative aspects of romantic perfectionism, such as romantic self-doubts and critical partners. Contradictory to previous research, this study found that individuals with dismissing attachment styles have a tendency of having partners who are less perfectionistic about the romantic relationships - partner's own self-oriented romantic perfectionism. This may be due to the defensive nature concerning relationship need of individuals with dismissing personalities. Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) defined a dismissing attachment style as the style distinguished by a defensive denial of the need of desire for social contact and intimacy. The present research seems to support this in that individuals who possess a dismissing attachment style may not need a partner who is perfect or expects oneself to be perfect.

It appears that due to one being in a current romantic relationship (Experiment I), many differences are present compared to individuals who are not in a current romantic relationship (Experiment II). Those currently in a romantic relationship with a relationship past did not discuss any of the RDS topics as compared to self-oriented romantic organization with significance with those who participated in Experiment I. It is possible that one's perception of what they may discuss with a partner alters as they actually get into a relationship. Possibly, the ideal for one's romantic organization changes as the reality of a relationship occurs. Also, it appears that a current relationship changes one's belief that talking of past relationships in terms of partner's sensuality and sexual compatibility.

General Conclusions

In conclusion, the present research suggests that many factors contribute to the amount of disclosure in a romantic relationship. First of all, romantic perfectionism has many effects on the romantic relationships of individuals. It appears that former relationship experiences play a significant role in the amount of disclosure and discussion with a current intimate partner. Attachment styles, too, play a very prominent role in the level of disclosure in a romantic relationship. Such results have implications for counseling settings. Knowing the associations between the different areas of the RDS and perfectionistic tendencies, the RDS would seem to be useful to help pinpoint any problem areas in people's romantic relationships, thus offering the possibility of contributing to greater relationship improvement.

Several limitations associated with the present program of research warrant mentioning. First, it is important to note that the data were self-report in nature, and thus future researchers may want to examine some of the behavioral implications of romantic perfectionism. Second, the samples in the current research consisted of only a relatively small group of students from a small Midwestern university; future researchers may want to broaden their research scope by including a much larger and a much broader sample. The definition of love in a current or past relationship is also needed. The current research assumed that love could exist in certain contexts while likely not existing in others. Questions concerning the love individuals had for their current romantic partners as well as the love they had for past romantic partners need to be asked in order to deter from such assumption. It would also be interesting to conduct a longitudinal study to identify whether people's willingness to self-disclose about their previous romances would be influenced by their partner's own romantic perfectionistic tendencies. The present research represents an initial attempt to examine these ideas.

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Tables 1-4 (Word Document)

 


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