A growing body of research has found we’re better off alone than trapped in an unhealthy relationship.
This is the official line from Doctor Ashley Barr who led the study: “It’s better for health to be single than to be in a low-quality relationship.”
Listen for a second, can you hear all the single folk yell “here, here”? But, seriously, come on, we need a win.
It probably does not come as a big surprise, especially to those of us who have stayed in relationships longer than we should have. Most of us have been there. Things take a turn for the worse, you unintentionally treat each other badly out of frustration then eventually shift into a state of misery.
It rarely ends well and by the time it does you’re both ghosts of your former selves. It’s a sad story but it happens all too often. Do you remember how you felt after that first break up? Not well huh, and man does it take time to recover. You probably noticed your physical and mental health take a hit.
Hanging in there can be ‘detrimental’
The University of Buffalo in New York has the research to back the fact that bad relationships can have “detrimental effects” on our health.
Dr Barr, an associate professor with the Department of Sociology, and her research team have published two studies on the topic, examining small groups of young adults.
“We see detrimental effects from low-quality relationships – particularly, those low-quality relationships that last a long time,” she said in a statement.
“We took into account satisfaction, partner hostility, questions about criticism, support, kindness, affection and commitment.
“We also asked about how partners behaved outside of the relationship. Do they engage in deviant behaviors? Is there general anti-sociality?”
Dr Barr said the faster people got out of low-quality relationships the better their health would be.
“It’s rare today for young adults to enter a romantic relationship and stay in that relationship without ever changing partners or relationship characteristics,” she said.
“We now have two studies that found similar patterns and similar implications for those changes.”
Good relationships have the opposite effect
According to the research, being in a healthy relationship that makes us happy is good for our overall wellbeing.
“Health benefits begin to accrue relatively quickly with high-quality relationships and supportive contexts,” Dr Barr said.
“It’s not being in a relationship that matters; it’s being in a long-term, high-quality relationship that’s beneficial.”
A similar study conducted by Harvard researcher Doctor Robert Waldinger over 75 years found that warm, loving relationships gave us “a sense of happiness and fulfillment in life” and it was not limited to just romantic relationships.
“People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected,” Dr Waldinger said in a TED talk.
“It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health.
“High-conflict marriages … without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.
“The people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.”