A study out of University of Toronto revealed that thinking our romantic relationships are “meant to be” can be damaging to the way we feel about each other. Researchers Spike W. S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz released their findings in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, citing two experiments where they gauged how other people evaluated their romantic relationships, depending on whether they framed them as a journey or a perfect unity.
The study’s researcher concludes:
“Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” said Prof. Lee. “Apparently, different ways of talking and thinking about love relationship lead to different ways of evaluating it.”
In other words, thinking of a relationship as a perfect unity (researchers used terms such as “made for each other” or “my other half”) as opposed to a journey to be taken together can negatively impact the way we evaluate our romantic partnership. When we put pressure on a relationship to be positively perfect due to a divine or another unwavering force, we don’t prepare ourselves for inevitable challenges along the way. Researchers found we are more likely to be caught off-guard by disappointment.
In their first experiment, Lee and Schwarz asked long-term couples to evaluate their relationships after framing them as a journey or a unity. The couples who identified their partnership as a journey were more likely to recall complications and conflicts while remaining satisfied in relationship overall. However, when couples with a unity standpoint (#soulmates, #meanttobe) were asked to recall conflicts, they then reported being less satisfied with their relationships.
In their follow-up, they used “non-linguistic, merely pictorial cues” to frame the mindset of a subject in a unity or a journey and found the same results when quizzed about their relationships. Overall satisfaction in couples who were framed with associations of unity dropped when asked to recall relationship conflict — and vice versa for couples and journey.
Hayley Williams, you can play us out: