« When a Flash of Skin Makes a Man Flash His Cash | Main | Wanna Make You Feel Wanted: Husbands’ Sensitive Support Predicts Relationship Outcomes »

What if You Never Met Your Partner?

Occasionally, I imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have my partner. I’ll even imagine that he has died and wonder what I would do. Sounds dark, right? Perhaps even more morbid is that his imaginary death always makes me feel happier with my relationship.

Now, before you start thinking that I am some sort of psychopath, social psychological research supports my morbid relationship musings.1 In a study on mentally subtracting positive events (imagining that a positive aspect of your life never happened), people in exclusive romantic relationships of at least 5 years either wrote about (a) how they met their partner, started dating, and ended up together (the presence condition), or (b) how they might have never met their partner, started dating, or ended up together (the absence condition). Another group of participants completed a series of control exercises such as writing about their typical day to offer a comparison.

Although outside observers who read these descriptions predicted that the people in the absence condition would feel worse compared to people in the presence or control conditions, because they were presumably thinking about something negative (not having their partner), people who imagined never meeting their partners actually felt the most satisfied in their relationships. Imagining our lives without our partners, which seems like something that would make us feel bad, actually provides a boost in relationship happiness.1

One explanation for this finding is that thinking about what our life would be like without our partner makes us feel more grateful for our partners. We reflect on how much we appreciate all the ways he or she adds to our life; as a result, we feel more satisfied. Recent research on appreciation in relationships suggests that cultivating gratitude for our partners can contribute to happier, longer lasting intimate bonds.2 If you are in a relationship, as an exercise, imagine that you never met your partner (but there’s no need to mentally kill them off!) – it just make might you feel more grateful and happier in your relationship.

Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.

1Koo, M., Algoe, S., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2008). It’s a wonderful life: Mentally subtracting positive event improve people’s affective states, contrary to their affective forecasts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1217-1224.

2Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 257-274. doi: 10.1037/a002872 

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV

Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

image source: inspirationaldaily.wordpress.com Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Editor Permission Required
Sorry, due to the amount of spam we receive, commenting has been disabled for visitors of this site. Please see our Facebook page for comments on recent articles posted.