Relationship Science Roundup - October 2021
Fall has reached us in full force on this side of the world, and the air is getting crisper by the hour. There is nothing cosier than cuddling up with a hot cup of tea….and reading the latest journal article! Right? Ok, maybe not. But some great new research has come out this month that is worthy of a read.
Here is the latest in the science of relationships:
1) Do you tend to compare your relationship to others? Turns out people do this a lot, and often think that they are, for example, happier, have more respect for one another, and communicate better than other couples do. Of course, people also think that other couples are better than their own, which can be quite harmful for their own as well as their partner’s relationship satisfaction. This means that thinking that another couple is doing better than your own not only makes you feel worse about your relationship, but it also makes your partner feel worse as well! Article is here: https://psyarxiv.com/8j2ds/ Twitter thread by lead author: https://twitter.com/spicy_thai/status/1448040862781423623
2) Is there such a thing as too much socializing? There is loads of research showing a strong positive link between a healthy social life and better wellbeing, and that too infrequent social contact can be bad news for health. But it seems like there is a point after which the benefit reaches a plateau. In two large studies with European participants, researchers found that having a moderate level of social contact (monthly or weekly) was good for health, but anything beyond that did not provide any additional benefit, and was related to worse health outcomes in some cases! Journal article here, as well as Psychology Today article.
3) Some research suggests that people in couples with different sociocultural backgrounds are less satisfied than those with similar backgrounds because of additional stressors faced by these couples (e.g. discrimination). However, a new meta-analysis challenges this assumption, finding no or small support for this claim. Article here.
4) Are single people happy? Building off of the budding literature on "singledom", a study examining over 3000 people over the course of 10 years found that people were more satisfied than not, but people became less and less satisfied over time with being single. This was worse for men, older adults, highly educated people, and those with health issues. Article here.
5) More COVID-19 related relationship research is out! Another special issue from the Journal of Social and Personal relationships showcases some interesting findings. A couple highlights of the issue:
a. Not all couples experienced the pandemic in the same way: among a sample of 200 participants, 28.6% of people said their relationships had gotten better, 28.6% worse, 29.9% stayed the same, and 8.0% were mixed. Article here.
b. There is a term for when you receive support, either in quantity or quality, that is different
than what you desire: it’s called the support gap. It can happen in many different contexts, from work relationships to romantic ones, from friendships to family, and can undermine your satisfaction with your relationship and increase stress. A group of researchers examined this phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic, and found that people actually reported receiving more support than desired! Nice to hear some good news for a change. Important caveat: the sample was mostly White, educated, and lived in the United States. Article here.
Curious for more? Check out the previous Relationship Science Roundup.