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  • Writer's pictureGiulia Zoppolat

Relationship Science Roundup – Summer 2022

Summer reading is its own kind of genre, usually involving what are known as “beach reads,” typically light, easy to digest, fun. Psychology research papers don’t exactly fall into this category, but I found these papers interesting enough to read even on these warm summer days, and I hope you do too! Here is the latest in the science of relationships, Summer 2022 edition, for a bit of an alternative “beach read.”


1) Satisfaction with being single increases after middle age. That’s right, people are more satisfied with being single between 40-80 years of age, and they tend to desire being with a partner less and less over time. Why may this be? One possibility is that older adults can benefit from strong and stable social networks that provide much of the types of benefits (companionship, support etc.) that a partner can provide. This article counteracts some other findings from research that showed that people became less satisfied with being single as time went on. Research article here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35708941/



2) You know when you feel like texting someone to reach out, but you don’t? New research published in JPSP finds that we tend to underestimate how much people value hearing from us. So, text your friends, even those you have lost touch with. Even brief messages to say hi or to check in can show you are thinking of them can make a big difference! Chances are they will be pleasantly surprised and feel appreciation.


3) Have you heard of the saying “Happy wife, happy life?” This saying is surely outdated, and scientifically inaccurate.

A new study published in PNAS shows that a more accurate slogan should instead be “Happy spouse, happy house!” Despite the idea that women’s happiness has stronger influence on the relationship and the people it, in two new rigorous studies (one with 901 mixed-gender couples who provided daily data over 21 days and one yearly study with 3405 couples over fine-year span) researchers found no gender differences in this regard. Instead, both men and women’s relationship satisfaction were equally predictive of their own and their partner’s future satisfaction. Time to let go of the age-old stereotype that women have all the emotional power. Research article here: https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2209460119 More accessible write up here: https://phys.org/news/2022-08-happy-wife-life-spouse-house.html.


4) Is your attachment style showing? In a speed dating study with 164 singles, researchers found that people can accurately detect their date’s attachment anxiety (i.e. their need for reassurance and fear of rejection) but not their attachment avoidance (i.e. their need for distance and independence). The more accurate the perception of the attachment anxiety of their date, the less interested people were in pursuing the match. While both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance have been shown to have negative effects on relationship dynamics, it might be easier, when initially dating, to hide one’s attachment avoidance than one’s attachment anxiety.



5) We’ve all heard that communication is important for relationships. But how to communicate well is not so easy, and can depend on several contextual factors, such as culture. In three studies comparing Chinese and European Americans in romantic relationships, researchers found that Chinese preferred indirect communications more than European Americans, while European Americans preferred direction communication by their partner. Importantly, each group felt more satisfied in their relationship when imagining their partner using their preferred mode of communication. This means that communication is important, but how we communicate matters a great deal, and culture can play a big part in that. Research article here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/00220221221088934?journalCode=jcca.


6) Romantic relationships take time and energy. One by-product of this is that being in a romantic relationship decreases satisfaction with work-life balance. In a study tracking people as they entered in and out of romantic relationships, researchers found that people were more satisfied with their work-life balance when not in a relationship compared to when they entered into one, and then again became more satisfied with work-life balance when they were no longer in a relationship again. But before declaring that relationships are bad for work, it is important to note however, that people were more satisfied with their life and career overall when in a relationship compared to when they were not, despite the additional strain entering into a relationship seems to put on the balance between the private and professional spheres. Research article here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1359432X.2022.2104717?journalCode=pewo20.


7) Sense of purpose of life is important. Duh. But how can we get those daily doses in purpose that are so important for our physical and psychologically health? In a study tracking older adults (mean age was 70), who tend to generally report lower purpose in life, researchers found that participants’ sense of purpose was higher on days when they had positive social interactions with others. This effect held when accounting for health and relationship status. This boost in purpose was particularly powerful for retired individuals. This is an important finding considering that older adults have higher risk of cognitive and physical decline, but a sense of purpose can help people live longer, healthier, and happier lives. These findings join a rich and convincing body of research that has time and again found that social relationships are key for our long-term health and well-being. Research article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1064748121005480?casa_token=gaXBK13V8qQAAAAA:0PfB_1ZlAzL7MA2G3kVsfUHMqY54I9yhktXjqrnjyRBEZAVr_z8bZj5bK_k-fNKfqsZmcEt7UfA More accessible write up here: https://source.wustl.edu/2022/07/social-interactions-tied-to-sense-of-purpose/.


That’s it for this instalment! Curious for more? Check out the previous Relationship Science Roundup.






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