Going Deeper… How Each Aspect of Relationships Impact Your Well-Being
There are many aspects to romantic relationships that impact not just your level of satisfaction in the relationship, but also the overall happiness of both partners. They include passion vs. compassion, sexual satisfaction, conflict/hostility, attachment style, and the relationship stage.
Passion vs. Compassion in a Relationship and How It Impacts Well-Being
Both are valuable! Both passionate and companionate love are positively related to relationship satisfaction (Hendrick, 1988).
Passionate love more strongly predicts positive and negative affect, while companionate love more strongly predicts life satisfaction (Kim & Hatfield, 2004). In other words, passion improves the experiences you have in the moment with your partner, but when couples have compassion for each other, it creates a blanket overall satisfaction they have with their life.
Sexual Satisfaction and Well-Being
Sexual satisfaction is significantly related to relationship stability and quality (Sprecher and Cate, 2004). Being able to communicate with a partner about sexual needs and to receive what one desires are both important aspects of relationship satisfaction. Ask yourself how you can achieve this with your partner.
Harmful Relationships and Well-Being
Of course, harmful relationships are bad for our happiness. But it goes further than that.
Studies have found poor marital quality in particular is linked to poor immune and endocrine functioning, depression, anxiety, and problem behaviors (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001; Sampson, Laub, & Wimer, 2006; Umberson & Williams, 1999).
High conflict and hostile relationships in general have been linked to poor mental health, creating higher levels of depression, anxiety, aggression, and substance abuse (Hawkins & Booth, 2005; Horwitz, McLaughlin, & White, 1998; Umberson, Williams, Powers, Liu, & Needham, 2006; Whisman, 2007).
It's important to note that conflict is okay, natural even, but healthy conflict management is an important antidote.
Attachment Style and Well-Being
What’s important here is that you feel secure in your relationship. A secure attachment style is strongly linked to high quality romantic relationships (Banse, 2004; Simpson, 1990). Secure attachment has also been linked to higher levels of subjective well-being or overall happiness.
While insecure attachment styles (i.e., avoidant and anxious) are negatively related to well-being (La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci, 2000; Li & Fung, 2014; Schiffrin, 2014; Van Buren & Cooley, 2002).
Romantic Relationship Stages and Well-Being
With each increase in relationship commitment level, there is an increase in subjective well-being. In other words, the deeper and more committed you get, the happier you are. To punctuate that point, those who are married are happier than those who are cohabitating, casually dating, monogamously dating, or rarely date. Married adults report greater levels of happiness compared to those who are single, divorced, separated, or cohabitating (Dush, Taylor, & Kroeger, 2008; Glenn & Weaver, 1979; Gove et al., 1990; Mastekaasa, 1994; Myers, 2000; Proulx, Helms, & Buehler, 2007; Stack & Eshleman 1998).
Why might this be? The hypothesis is that there's a growing level of commitment and stability that accounts for the differences in well-being (Brown, 2000; Dush & Amato, 2005). That stability helps our sense of security and allows us to flourish in other areas of our life.
Wrapping it all up, recent studies have found that finding and maintaining a relationship that makes you happy requires (a) that you maintain both passion and compassion for each other, (b) that you feel sexually satisfied, and comfortable discussing it, (c) that you resolve conflict in a healthy way, (d) that you both feel secure in the relationship, and finally (e) that you're moving toward deeper levels of commitment.
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