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Are You Ready For A Relationship?

10 Ways to Know You’re Ready for a Relationship

When speaking about relationships, we often discuss what would make someone a good man or what would make them a good woman in terms of being a partner. I think what often goes overlooked, is the introspective aspect of building a solid foundation with someone, and what it really means to be “ready” for a relationship.

It doesn’t matter if you find the man or woman of your dreams if you’re not ready to have them in your life. It also brings about the possibility of the harsh truth that they may not be interested in you in return, if you’re not in the right place emotionally.

So, what does this all look like?

You will be as good as you can, as often as you can.

I was going to say “you’re ready to do your best for someone, every day” but let’s be realistic — we are all human and we all have good days and bad days. We can only give so much and sometimes need to be supported ourselves.

What’s important here is that you’re ready to put solid, consistent effort into your partner, your relationship, and even developing yourself. If you’re not ready to do that, then it’s best to not commit to someone who would do it for you (yet).

You’ll put someone else’s interests ahead of your own.

There is compromise and sacrifice in every relationship. This could mean anything from watching a type of movie you don’t like, to moving to a new city or state for the one you love. The bottom line is, in a happy, healthy relationship — your partner’s happiness is just as important as your own.

Your willingness to put them first at times is a signal of your readiness to commit.

You understand the importance of communication.

Communication is the backbone of a relationship in terms of keeping both partners feeling heard and understood. Nobody can read your mind, nor should they expect you to try to read theirs. Being able to openly and honestly communicate with the person you’re committed to can make or break your relationship.

You’ve got some semblance of a path in life.

It’s difficult to plan a future with someone who has no future plans for themselves. Things change and life throws curveballs at us — nobody can be expected to have it all figured out, but giving it a try is a good start.

You can let the little things slide.

No matter how well two people get along, odds are you will not like every. single. little. thing. about the other person. There may be small quirks that you’ve got to accept (and maybe ignore). If you get annoyed by everything they do, it will cause unnecessary tension in the relationship.

You’re ready to accept someone as they are.

You can’t enter into a relationship with the hopes of molding someone into who you want them to be. It’s important to note that in a healthy relationship, both partners will motivate each other to become the best versions of themselves — this is not the same as trying to change someone’s nature.

Happiness comes from the ability to be honest, and the ability to be honest comes from being able to open up to someone without being judged.

You don’t look for someone to complete you.

You, right now, are a whole complete person. If you think you need to be in a relationship in order to be “complete,” you will always be looking for something you can never find. True fulfillment and satisfaction comes from within, and you cannot fully, effectively give yourself to someone until you’ve found it.

You don’t need someone to complete you, only someone to accept you completely.


You are happy being single.

If you’re not happy being single, you won’t be happy in a relationship. As said in the point above, true happiness comes from within. Single is simply a word to describe someone who is strong enough to live their life by themselves until the right person comes along to share it with.

If you’re constantly searching for a relationship out of loneliness, you will find yourself with the first person who comes along that is interested in you. We all need to have the dignity and self-respect to only commit ourselves to those who deserve it, and the only way to be able to wait for that is to be happy before they come along.

Your ex is no longer a factor.

We all have a past, and the new person in our life needs to be able to accept that. But, we also have to accept that about ourselves, and be able to leave it in the past. Obviously this is not cut and dry if there are children involved or other mutual commitments independent of the relationship.

I understand that in some rare occasions people stay friendly with their exes or maybe even spend time together, but in most situations, in order to truly move on we need to spend time completely cut off from them. No communication, no time together, nothing.

Until you are completely over your ex and can give your full time and attention to someone new, it is better not to commit.

You are ready to blend your life into someone else’s.

While a relationship cannot be your entire life, it does permeate its entirety. You become connected with their friends, families, hobbies, pets, living situations… and they become connected with yours.

Sure, some privacy is important, but your willingness to fully accept someone into your life and routines is what will let the other person know you truly care and are ready to make a commitment to them. They will become your teammate in taking on life together. You will be building bridges between your lives rather than walls.

More important than some sort of “checklist” though, is something nobody else can ever tell you — how you feel inside. I believe when we reach the right phase in life or come across the right person, we will know we are ready to leave the single life behind and build a life alongside them.

But, until that person comes along, it’s important to work on ourselves and define our own happiness which we can then share with them.

When you are ready, you will know.

By James Michael Sama     Jul 13, 2014
 
James Michael Sama is a writer, actor and public speaker who writes regularly on his website jamesmsama.com
 
Follow James Michael Sama on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JamesMSama
 
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Eight Signs You May Not Be Ready for a Relationship

I know what you’re thinking right now. “Of course, I’m ready for a relationship. It’s what I’ve been waiting so long for! I just need to know how I can get one started!”

Well, I’m certainly not arguing that you want a real relationship. I’m asking if you’re ready for a real relationship. That one’s tough to answer, because it entails really looking at yourself and your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in a real, open, and honest way. And that’s never easy.

One thing I can tell you is that I’ve been there. I’ve been in that spot where all I could think about was how I so wanted a real relationship, with all of the affection, understanding, support and love that comes with it. And that’s when I asked myself this very same question and I realized that I didn’t like the answer. I had some major changing to do. So how do you know if you’re ready for a relationship before you start one with either the wrong guy or Mr. Right at the wrong time?

If you’re showing any of these warning signs, it means you have some work to do on yourself before you can be in a healthy, happy relationship with someone else:

1. Your compass is not pointing north. Your great-guy compass is off. It’s consistently pointing you to the wrong type of guy. This typically happens because you’re subconsciously trying to sabotage the relationship from the beginning by choosing a guy who’s not actually relationship material.

Your friends and family have warned you that he’s a player, or a loser, or a (enter your favorite derogatory term for a bad boyfriend here) but you’ve written them off, believing that you’re going to be the one woman that can change him into the perfect partner. No, the truth is that inside you know you won’t change him, and that’s actually fine with you because you subconsciously fear a deep relationship.

2. You need a man to feel happy. You feel miserable unless you’re coupled up. If you get an invite to a party or event, and you don’t have a man to bring, then you’re likely to make up an excuse, send your regrets, pass up the night out and sit at home feeling sorry for yourself because you are “oh, so alone.”

Then, you spend the entire night Googling “best places to meet men” and reading articles about what men find attractive instead of doing something that would make you happy (like going to the party you were invited to.) The truth is that if you did meet a great guy while in this mindset, you’d hold on so tight so quickly that you’d most likely strangle the relationship anyway. Find what makes you happy before you’re in a relationship, then find someone to share that happiness with.

3. You believe you can save him. Many women have a savior complex and they find themselves a project guy. What this really means is that they’re looking for dysfunction so that they have the drama in their lives that they subconsciously crave. It may stem from a variety of sources but the end result is that you will wind up with exactly what you’re looking for, a real project. Which, when translated means someone with some serious personal problems of their own. These problems should be left to the trained professionals. Don’t try to be a therapist.

4. You’re looking for someone to save you. If your self-talk sounds something like “I’m such a mess” or “Why am I so insecure sometimes?” then you need to get that taken care of before you can be in a relationship. Otherwise, you’ll either attract a partner that has the savior complex (see above) or you’ll attract a partner with the same issues. And as much as misery loves company, misery plus misery doubles the misery. Don’t go there.

5. You’re looking for someone to complete you. Yes, it’s true. Back in the day, I loved the movie Jerry Maguire as much as all of the other teary-eyed girls in the theater, but the truth is, as much as “you complete me” sounds so romantic, it should actually be “you complement me.” If you’re not a whole person to begin with then the only thing you’ll be completing is your part in a completely dysfunctional relationship. And while that may still make for a good movie (think: As Good as it Gets), it’s no fun in real life.

6. You’re spending more time pursuing love than pursuing your interests.  I realize that in order to meet men you need to get out there and be sociable, whether “out there” means the local ski club or the local web scene and I’m all for that. In fact, I highly recommend it. But if you’re not actively pursuing your own interests at the same time, then there’s a problem. If you’re thinking to yourself right now, “The only thing I’m interested in is meeting a man,” then you’re in the deep.

As I’ve said before, the best way to meet the right Mr. Right is by doing things and going places that you’d do or go to anyway, even if there was no chance of meeting a man. So, if you find yourself on Saturday nights obsessing over and constantly tweaking every word on your online dating profile, then you’re wasting valuable time that you could be spending pursuing your own interests. If you don’t have any interests, then you aren’t very interesting and that means that you’re hoping a guy will add interest to your life. He won’t because he won’t stick around long enough to.

7. You haven’t unpacked your baggage. If you find yourself still dealing with the emotional scars left from the shrapnel of a previous breakup, particularly if you’re still feeling angry then you need to finish your emotional healing before starting a new relationship. Many women believe that a man, sometimes any man, will get their mind off of their ex and into a better place. The problem is that it never really works. What it will do is keep your mind off of the man that you’re now starting a relationship with, cause you to feel guilty, cause him (and maybe you, too) to feel resentful, and generally make a big mess for everyone. Leave the rebounding to the basketball players.

8. You’re bending and twisting yourself like a pretzel to fit what you think the person you’re attracted to might like. If you find yourself trying to be something other than what you naturally are, then it’s a major red flag. This was one of the biggest problems I had in my own dating career, as I pretended to be a skier or a big golf fan when in reality I hadn’t even had an interest in either until I was attracted to a guy who did.

If you find that you’re often trying to change something about yourself thinking it will make you more attractive to the guy you just met, then you are, like I was, lacking in self-esteem and confidence in yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself, this is very common but it means that you need to work on finding and loving the real you before trying to love someone else.

If any of the above sound like you, then you need to start looking inward and making some changes to your life in order to get yourself ready to be with someone else. The good news? Once you have these licked, you will be ready for a real relationship. And then you’ll be in good emotional shape to start attracting the kind of man that you want to be in a relationship with, and he’ll want to be in a relationship with you too.

Why? Because you’ll both be emotionally healthy. So, when Mr. Right does walk into your life, you’ll both be in the right state of mind, in the right place, at the right time. And it doesn’t get any more right than that.

By Guest Contributor Jane Garapick, YourTango


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Fun Fact Friday

    • Washing your hands makes you more optimistic.

    • 11% of the world is left-handed.

    • It takes 5 different parts of your brain for you to understand and laugh at a joke.

    • Our brains have a negativity bias and will remember negative memories more than good ones. This helps us to better protect ourselves.

  • It’s ok and “I’m fine” are the two most common lies spoken in the world.

  • A protein in human saliva called histatin can help wounds heal faster.

  • A beautiful face attracts more partners than a beautiful body, according to a scientific survey.

  • Single people tend to be less selfish than married people, according to new research.



Happy Friday  🙂
 
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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Fun Fact Friday

  • More than one-third of married couples in Canada sleep in separate bedrooms. 
  • Having a low opinion of yourself is not modesty. It’s self-destruction. 
  • People who eat fish at least once a week have thicker, stronger and more resilient brains.
  • 71% of breakups happen because of mood swings.
  • Every year, about 86,000 people are injured by tripping over their pets. 

 

ingredient_label
Ranch dressing (and many other foods) contain titanium dioxide to keep it white
– Titanium dioxide is also used in most sunscreens and might be a carcinogen.
  • When soft music is playing in the background, people are able to focus better.
  • Kissing can increase your lifespan.
  • Studies have proven that driving in city traffic is just as stressful as participating in extreme sports like skydiving.
  • Ranch dressing contains titanium dioxide to keep it white – Titanium dioxide is also used in most sunscreens and might be a carcinogen.
Happy Friday!

 source: https://twitter.com/faccccct


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Fun Fact Friday

  • The world’s quietest room is so quiet it can give you hallucinations. No one has been able to stay in the room longer than 45 minutes.
  • Pumpkin is not a vegetable, scientifically it is a berry.
  • You have a second brain in your gut, called the Enteric Nervous System. This is where the term ‘gut feeling’ comes from.

  • The human brain isn’t fully functional for learning until after 10 AM, science has proved that schools begin way too early.
  • Being in a negative relationship can weaken your immune system.
  • Over thinking can cause hair loss.
  • What you wear has an effect on how you behave.
Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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What Is Attachment Theory?

Introduction to attachment theory in developmental psychology, including Bowlby and Ainsworth’s contributions, evaluation and criticisms of attachment theory.

Attachment theory is a concept in developmental psychology that concerns the importance of “attachment” in regards to personal development. Specifically, it makes the claim that the ability for an individual to form an emotional and physical “attachment” to another person gives a sense of stability and security necessary to take risks, branch out, and grow and develop as a personality. Naturally, attachment theory is a broad idea with many expressions, and the best understanding of it can be had by looking at several of those expressions in turn.

John Bowlby

Psychologist John Bowlby was the first to coin the term. His work in the late 60s established the precedent that childhood development depended heavily upon a child’s ability to form a strong relationship with “at least one primary caregiver”. Generally speaking, this is one of the parents.

Bowlby’s studies in childhood development and “temperament” led him to the conclusion that a strong attachment to a caregiver provides a necessary sense of security and foundation. Without such a relationship in place, Bowlby found that a great deal of developmental energy is expended in the search for stability and security. In general, those without such attachments are fearful and are less willing to seek out and learn from new experiences. By contrast, a child with a strong attachment to a parent knows that they have “back-up” so to speak, and thusly tend to be more adventurous and eager to have new experiences (which are of course vital to learning and development).

There is some basis in observational psychology here. The baby who is attached strongly to a caregiver has several of his or her most immediate needs met and accounted for. Consequently, they are able to spend a great deal more time observing and interacting with their environments. Thusly, their development is facilitated.

For Bowlby, the role of the parent as caregiver grows over time to meet the particular needs of the attached child. Early on, that role is to be attached to and provide constant support and security during the formative years. Later, that role is to be available as the child needs periodic help during their excursions into the outside world. 1

Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth would develop many of the ideas set forth by Bowlby in her studies. In particular, she identified the existence of what she calls “attachment behavior”, examples of behavior that are demonstrated by insecure children in hopes of establishing or re-establishing an attachment to a presently absent caregiver. Since this behavior occurs uniformly in children, it is a compelling argument for the existence of “innate” or instinctual behavior in the human animal.

The study worked by looking at a broad cross-section of children with varying degrees of attachment to their parents or caregivers from strong and healthy attachments to weak and tenuous bonds. The children were then separated from their caregivers and their responses were observed. The children with strong attachments were relatively calm, seeming to be secure in the belief that their caregivers would return shortly, whereas the children with weak attachments would cry and demonstrate great distress under they were restored to their parents.

Later in the same study, children were exposed to intentionally stressful situations, during which nearly all of them began to exhibit particular behaviors that were effective in attracting the attention of their caregivers – a keen example of attachment behavior. 2

mother-child
J. A. Hampton  Topical Press Agency   Getty Images


Hazan and Shaver

Early on, one of the primary limitations of attachment theory was that it had only really been studied in the context of young children. While studies of children are often instrumental in the field of developmental psychology, that field is ideally supposed to address the development of the entire human organism, including the stage of adulthood. In the 1980s, Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver were able to garner a lot of attention, then, when they turned attachment theory on adult relationships. 3 

In their studies, they looked at a number of couples, examining the nature of the attachments between them, and then observed how those couples reacted to various stressors and stimuli. In the case of adults, it would seem that a strong attachment is still quite important. For example, in cases where the adults had a weak attachment, there were feelings of inadequacy and a lack of intimacy on the part of both parties. When attachments were too strong, there were issues with co-dependency. The relationships functioned best when both parties managed to balance intimacy with independence. Much as is the case with developing children, the ideal situation seemed to be an attachment that functioned as a secure base from which to reach out and gain experience in the world.

Criticisms of Attachment Theory

One of the most common criticisms of attachment theory is that non-Western societies tend to offer up compelling counter-examples. For instance, in Papua New Guinea or Uganda, the idea of a child being intimately attached to a caregiver is somewhat alien, and child-rearing duties are more evenly distributed among a broader group of people. Still, “well-adjusted” members of society are produced, indicating that, at least in these societies, some other mechanism is acting in the place of the attachments that are so necessary for Western children.

Evaluation

Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development.

John Bowlby first coined the term as a result of his studies involving the developmental psychology of children from various backgrounds.

Mary Ainsworth conducted this research, discovering the existence of “attachment behavior” – behavior manifested for the purpose of creating attachment during times when a child feels confused or stressed.

Hazan and Shaver (1987) used the “Love Quiz” to demonstrate the applicability of attachment theory to adult romantic relationships.

Attachment theory has had a profound influence upon child care policies, as well as principles of basic clinical practice for children.

Critics of attachment theory point out the lack of parental attachment in many non-Western societies.

References
1 Bowlby, John. Attachment and Loss. 1969.
2 Ainsworth, M. “Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love.” Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1967.
3 Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. “Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationship.” Psychological Inquiry. 5 1-22, 1994.


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9 New Facts About Attraction We Learned in 2016

Do opposites attract? The kind of people who have more sex. Why men shouldn’t try to sound sexy, and more…

1. Opposites only attract when people are single

When people are single they are more attracted to faces that are dissimilar to their own, new research finds.

But, when people are already in a relationship, they are more attracted to faces that look similar to their own.

In other words: opposites attract for single people, but not for those in a relationship.

The reason that dissimilar faces attract could be down to avoiding incest or other people with similar genes.

2. Altruism linked to having more sex

People who help others out have more sex, new research concludes.

The more altruistic people are, the more sexual partners they have and the more frequently they have sex.

Could it be, then, that being nice to other people is the ultimate aphrodisiac?

Who would have thought it?

3. The weight change required to increase attractivity

The face can reveal whether our weight has changed, but how much is required for others to see it?

Dr Nicholas Rule, co-author of a new study on the subject, explains:

“Women and men of average height need to gain or lose about three and a half and four kilograms, or about eight and nine pounds, respectively, for anyone to see it in their face, but they need to lose about twice as much for anyone to find them more attractive.”

 

4. Men should NOT try to ‘sound sexy’

Women have no trouble changing their voice to make it sound more sexy, but men have no clue.

Women lower the pitch of their voice and make it sound more breathy — which men find more attractive.

Dr Hughes said men found it difficult to sound sexy:

“In fact, although not significantly, it got a bit worse when men tried to sound sexy.”

The reason for the differences could be down to practice, the researchers think.

Men do not really focus on making their voice sound sexier, but women do.

couple

5. Uncertainty is key to attraction

Women are more attracted to men when they are uncertain of his feelings.

So the old dating advice about ‘playing hard-to-get’ may have some scientific basis.

It all comes down to how much we are thinking about the other person.

The study’s authors write:

“When people first meet, it may be that popular dating advice is correct: Keeping people in the dark about how much we like them will increase how much they think about us and will pique their interest.”

 

6. Beards signal long-term relationships

Women judge fully bearded men to be a better bet for long-term relationships.

This might be because it makes men look more ‘formidable’.

Certainly, beards make men look older and more aggressive.

Beards are also often judged to make men look like they have higher social status.

However, for short-term relationships, women judge stubble to be most attractive, the new research found.

7. Left cheeks are more attractive

Believe it or not, our cheeks were not created equal in attractiveness or emotional expression.

People’s left cheeks are generally seen as more attractive than their right, a psychology study has found.

It may be because people tend to show more emotion with their left cheek than their right.

The reason could be down to how emotions are processed in the brain.

8. Mixed race faces are most attractive

Mixed-race faces are consistently seen as the most attractive when compared with black and white faces.

The finding is dramatic among the most attractive people, writes Dr Michael Lewis, the study’s author:

“…40% of the faces in the experiment were mixed race but among the top 10% most attractive faces this proportion increased to 65%.
Of the top 5% most attractive faces, 74% were mixed race…
…people whose genetic backgrounds are more diverse are, on average, perceived as more attractive than those whose backgrounds are less diverse.”

 

9. The group changes how attractive you look

How attractive you look depends on the attractiveness of the people around you, new research finds.

An average-looking person is rated as more attractive when surrounded by unappealing faces.

Dr Nicholas Furl, the study’s author, said:

“Last year’s film The Duff, – an acronym for the rather unfortunate and unfair term ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’ explored how the main character felt being physically compared to her friendship group.
As in life, this film showed that how we perceive beauty and attractiveness isn’t fixed.”

 

source: PsyBlog


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No Partner, No Worries: New Study of Psychological Health

Bella DePaulo Ph.D.         Nov 27, 2016

Older women are psychologically healthy with or without romantic partners

When adults get into their mid-fifties and beyond, how much does a romantic partner matter to their psychological well-being? Matthew Wright and Susan Brown of Bowling Green University, authors of a study recently published online at the Journal of Marriage and Family, expected to find a hierarchy of good outcomes. They predicted that married people would enjoy the greatest psychological well-being. Cohabiters, they thought, would do next best, and daters would follow in third place. They expected unpartnered single people to be worst off, psychologically. That is not what they found.

Instead they found that for women, partnership status made no difference. Whether the women were married, cohabiting, dating, or single and unpartnered, there were no statistically significant differences in their experiences of depression, stress, or loneliness. There were some nonsignificant trends in the data, but even those were not always consistent with the authors’ predictions. For example, the women who were dating tended to experience more stress than the single women without a romantic partner.

For the men, having a romantic partner mattered more than it did for the women, but again, not exactly in the ways the authors predicted. The authors thought that the unpartnered single men would do worse than the single men who were dating on every measure, but that never happened. The men who were dating did not differ significantly from the unpartnered single men in their experiences of depression or stress or loneliness.

The cohabiting men were predicted to do less well than the married men, but that never happened, either. The married men were more likely to report frequent depressive symptoms. They were also slightly more likely to experience stress than the cohabiting men. Marriage was also no protection against loneliness, as married men were no less lonely than cohabiting men. Cohabiting men also did well in comparison to the dating or unpartnered men on two measures of well-being: They were less likely to report frequent depressive symptoms or loneliness.

The unacknowledged psychological strengths of older adults who are not married

The hierarchy that the authors predicted is consistent with the prevailing narrative about marriage and coupling in contemporary society. Married people are supposed to do better than everyone else. Cohabiters should do next best, then people who are dating. Single people with no partners should, in theory, do worse than everyone else. The theory is that these four groups form a continuum of social attachment (with married people enjoying more social ties, and more social and emotional support, and unpartnered singles the least) and also a continuum of commitment (again, with married people showing the most commitment and unpartnered singles the least).

For the older women, though, partnership status did not make a lick of a difference. Married women, cohabiting women, dating women, and unpartnered single women – they were all about the same in their experiences of depression, stress, and loneliness.

For the older men, there were some differences, but not exactly the ones the authors predicted. Married men never did significantly better than everyone else, on any of the measures. In fact, when there was a difference between the married men and the cohabiting men, it favored the cohabiting men. According to the theoretical perspectives that guided the authors’ work, the dating men should have done better than the unpartnered single men, because they supposedly had greater social attachment and greater commitment. But again, the men who were dating did not do significantly better than the unpartnered single men in any way.

For at least 10 reasons, the psychological well-being of the unmarried people in this study – particularly the unpartnered single people – is especially impressive.

  1. Married people are the recipients of more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections given only to them. They include tax breaks, Social Security benefits, special considerations under the Family and Medical Leave Act and much more. Unpartnered single people get none of this largesse, and neither do daters or cohabiters. Why is it that married people do not do better than everyone else psychologically when they have these extraordinary advantages?
  2. Married people also enjoy a vast array of social, cultural, economic, and political privileges simply because they are married. These, too, should have catapulted them far above everyone else in their psychological well-being. But they didn’t.
  3. Among the participants in Wright and Brown’s study, the unpartnered single people – both men and women – were far less well off financially than the married or dating people. The married women’s assets (household assets minus debts) were more than twice those of the unpartnered single people, and for the men, the difference was almost as great. (The cohabiters’ assets were similar to those of the unpartnered single people’s – yet they did as well or better than the married people on every measure of psychological well-being.)
  4. The unpartnered single people in the study were the least likely to be employed. For the men, the difference between the unpartnered and everyone else was especially large.
  5. Unpartnered women in the study were least likely to have some college education. Among the men, only the cohabiters were less likely than the unpartnered singles to have some college education.
  6. Unpartnered men and women in the study were least likely to have private health insurance. For the men, the difference between them and everyone else was especially large.
  7. People who are not white, who have the challenges of racism in addition to singlism, were disproportionately represented among those who were not married. Among the women in the study, the proportions followed the proposed hierarchy precisely, with the fewest people who were not white among the married, then the cohabiting, then the dating, and the greatest proportion among the unpartnered. For the men, the distribution was similar, except that the dating men included a greater percentage of people who were not white than the unpartnered men.
  8. The unpartnered single people in the study were also disadvantaged by the authors’ decision to lump together all unpartnered single people, regardless of whether they were divorced or widowed or had always been single. (They were constrained by the sample size, but other researchers do the same thing.) People who are divorced and widowed, especially if their marriages ended fairly recently, may feel especially depressed, stressed, and lonely. Lifelong single people often do quite well psychologically. By including the previously married in with the lifelong single people, the study likely underestimated the true psychological well-being of lifelong single people.
  9. The single people in the study were also disadvantaged methodologically in another way. The married group included only those people who were currently married. The previously married, who often do less well than the married people and the lifelong single people, got assigned to one of the other groups. The authors’ prediction was that the people who got married would do the best – but the people who got divorced and widowed did get married. They just didn’t stay that way. The authors – like just about everyone else who studies marital status – gave the married group an unfair advantage by excluding from that group everyone who got married, hated it, and got divorced. They compounded the unfairness by including the previously married with other groups, such as the lifelong single people, whose psychological well-being may have looked even better if they were studied on their own.
  10. Even if the authors had found exactly what they predicted, with married people doing the best and unpartnered singles the worst, the design of their study would not allow them to make the claim that the married or partnered people were doing better because they were married or partnered. The people in the four groups were all different people. Consider, for example, the unpartnered single people who chose to be single, who perhaps were single at heart. If they were to marry or cohabit, they might not experience any improvement in psychological well-being – and in fact could end up doing less well, psychologically – even if the people who chose to marry or cohabit did better. (In this study, especially among the women, they generally did not do better.)
  11. The authors are not alone in giving short shrift to the methodological issues that disadvantage single people, and they are not alone in citing uncritically claims about the benefits of marrying that have been extensively critiqued. The methodological issues are basic ones but rarely fully acknowledged in the research on marital status. (This is explained in more detail here, here, and here.)
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The authors offered one possible explanation for why partnership status didn’t matter for the women: Wives do more caregiving than husbands, so they may not get the same benefits from their partnerships that men do. That explanation, though, overlooks all the research showing that single people do more of the work of caring for their aging parents than married people do, and that single people are more likely to step in to help people who need help for three months or more, even when those people are not family members. So single women are in some ways doing more of the work of caregiving than married people, yet, in this study, they are doing just as well as partnered women in their psychological well-being.

Considering the profoundly important ways that the unpartnered single people are disadvantaged – both in the society at large, in this particular study, and in the specific methodology of this study and so many others – perhaps the most significant question raised by the present study (and the research on marital and relationship status more broadly) is, how is this possible? How is it possible that the unpartnered single people in this study were disadvantaged economically, educationally, in their employment status, in their access to private health insurance, and faced more racial stigma and discrimination as well, yet they held their own on every measure of psychological well-being? (In some of their analyses, the authors tried to control for these differences and a few others, but it made little difference.) With so much going against them, why didn’t the unpartnered single people do worse than everyone else, as the authors predicted they would? How is it possible that single people are stereotyped, stigmatized, marginalized, and discriminated against, and still live happily ever after? That’s a question hardly anyone addresses.

What mattered more than having a romantic partner

The focus of the article was on romantic partnerships and their purported benefits. But for the women especially, the predicted benefits of having a spouse or cohabiting partner or dating partner simply were not there.

Those romantic partnerships were supposed to provide the social attachments and commitments that enhanced people’s psychological well-being. For the most part, they didn’t. The data the authors reported actually did show the importance of social ties, just not the narrow romantic ones that were at the center of their interest.

All participants answered questions about social support, assessing the extent to which they could open up to their friends and family, and rely and friends and family when they have a problem. Social support did matter, for both women and men, in almost every way.

Although romantic partnership never mattered for women, social support from friends and family always did. Women with more social support were less likely to report frequent depressive symptoms, they were less likely to experience stress, and they were less likely to be lonely. Social support from friends and family mattered to men, too, though not quite as much as it did for the women. Men who had more social support were less likely to report frequent depressive symptoms and they were slightly less likely to experience stress.

In the section of the article in which the authors discussed the meaning and implications of their findings, they never mentioned what they found about social support. They never suggested, for example, that perhaps social support from friends and family, and the reciprocal support participants likely provided in return, constituted the very social attachments and commitments theorized to be so special to romantic partners. They never urged their colleagues to consider the possibility that support from friends and family is more important than romantic partnerships. Instead, they said their findings “demonstrate the need to consider the benefits of non-marital unions for older adults.”

Other research has already shown the significance of ties beyond romantic ones to people of different marital statuses. It is single people, more than married people, who maintain ties with friends, neighbors, siblings, and parents. When people marry, they become more insular. They lean on one particular social attachment and commitment, the one to their spouse. The hierarchy perspective considers one kind of relationship, a romantic relationship, to be paramount, and marginalizes all the other significant people and relationships in our lives. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the authors did not find what they thought they would.

Details of the study

Participants were about 1,000 people, ages 57 through 85, from a representative national sample from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. The project was a longitudinal study but the authors of the present study analyzed the three dependent measures (depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and loneliness) from only one point in time, Wave II of the data. The other variables in the study, including partnership status, demographic characteristics, socioeconomic resources, and social support, were measured at Wave I.

Depression was assessed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. It includes items such as “felt depressed,” “felt everything was an effort,” and “did not feel like eating.” The authors created a measure that separated people into those who experienced depressive symptoms frequently and those who did not experience symptoms as frequently.

Perceived stress was measured by participants’ answers to questions such as “I felt difficulties were piling up so high I could not overcome them” and “I was unable to control important things in my life.” The authors created a measure that separated people into those who rarely or never experienced those stressors in the past week, and those who experienced them more often.

Loneliness was assessed by participants’ answers to three questions: How often do you feel that you lack companionship? How often do you feel isolated from others?  How often do you feel left out? (When single answer that last question, they may be describing more than a feeling, as, for example, when coupled people exclude their single friends because they are single.)

Summary

There actually is a hierarchy of value and respect, and it is just the one the authors described: married people are valued and respected the most, and given the most benefits and protections; cohabiters are in second place, followed by single people who are dating. Single people without romantic partners are the most stereotyped and stigmatized. The authors thought that psychological well-being would follow the same hierarchy, with married people enjoying the most and unpartnered single people the least. There are many reasons why it would be reasonable to expect that, including all the ways in which married people are advantaged and single people are not – both in society in general and in the specific way this study, and many other studies of marital status, are designed and analyzed. But that’s not what they found. Partnership status made no difference whatsoever for the women: the married, cohabiting, dating and unpartnered single women were all about the same in their experiences of depression, stress, and loneliness. Partnership made some difference to the men, but not always in the way the authors expected. For example, married men never did significantly better than the cohabiting men in any way. The dating men also did no better than the unpartnered men on any of the measures of their psychological well-being. The key question left unanswered by this study is: How is it that single people do so well psychologically, when they have so much stacked against them?

The fact that partnership status did not matter to women (and did not always matter to men, either) doesn’t mean that social ties and interpersonal commitments don’t matter. They do matter, when ties beyond the narrow romantic ones are considered. The men and women with more social support from friends and family experienced less depression and less stress, and the women less often felt lonely.

 
References
Wright, M., & Brown, S. L. (2016). Psychological well-being among older adults:
 The role of partnership status. Journal of Marriage and Family.
Currently available online; will appear in print later.
Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard, 1979) is a social psychologist and the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After (link is external) (St. Martin’s Press) and How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century (link is external) (Atria), and other books (link is external). Atlantic magazine described Dr. DePaulo as “America’s foremost thinker and writer on the single experience.” In Singled Out and in her other work on people who are single, DePaulo has drawn from social science data to challenge the stereotypes of people who are single. DePaulo has also offered seminars and workshops on the science of singlehood. She is the recipient of a number of honors and awards, such as the James McKeen Cattell Award and the Research Scientist Development Award. DePaulo has published more than 100 scientific papers and has served in various leadership positions in professional organizations. She has written op-ed essays for publications such as the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she is also a contributor to the Huffington Post. Bella DePaulo has discussed the place of singles in society on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers (such as the New York Times and the Washington Post) and magazines (such as Time, Business Week, and Psychology Today). She is a Project Scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Visit her website at BellaDePaulo.com (link is external).

 sources: www.psychologytoday.com