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(PHOTO: MMX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Contemplating Crushes: A Scholarly Look at Love

• February 13, 2013 • 11:13 PM

(PHOTO: MMX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

For Valentine’s Day, a roundup of recent research on romance and relationships.

You’re The One That I Want

The idea that opposites attract is a long-time movie standby: Just think of Danny and Sandy from Grease (well, at least before she bought leather pants and got a perm). Sadly, this may be misleading to romantic hopefuls. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences reveals that similarities in personality may help predict longevity in relationships. Close to 5,000 couples were tracked over a five-year period, their personalities assessed at the beginning and end of this time. The results revealed that initial evidence of personality congruence was a predictor for partnership longevity. In other words, the like-minded were more likely to stay together. Side note:  There was no indication that couples’ personalities become more similar over time, so those Taming of the Shrew fantasies may have to be put to rest.

Let’s Stay Together

University of Missouri study reports happily married couples are more likely than perpetually bickering ones to stay healthier as they age. Assistant professor Christine Proulx analyzed data from 707 continuously married adults who participated in a 20-year long nationwide research project and found that health is affected by positive or negative relationships throughout marriage. Proulx states, “We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage might also benefit your health as you age.”

Stand By Me

Feeling extremely close to your romantic partner may not be what matters most. A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health states that was does matter is if you’re at the intimacy level you desire. After studying a sample of 732 men and women, lead author David M. Frost found that people who crave a more intimate partnership and those who desire more distance are at equal risk for having relationship problems. It was the degree of difference between a person’s actual and ideal closeness that correlated with a poor relationship quality, regardless of the couple’s actual closeness. Stating what you want appears to be the key, so, a la Girls’ Hannah, you may just need to set your priorities straight.

Lovers And Friends

Harry and Sally, Ross and Rachel, Jim and Pam: Some of pop culture’s beloved couples united by the tension of friendship vs. romance.  To settle our own debate over risking a friendship for love, we can turn to the social sciences, including some interesting research from Purdue University. That study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found a link between valuing friendship within a romance and a variety of positive relationship qualities, including love, sexual gratification, and romantic commitment. The results also revealed that valuing the friendship with a partner is positively associated with the romance lasting. So your long-time pal may be a better pick than that blind date.

All the Single Ladies

If you’re single, you may feel like Beyoncé one moment and Bridget Jones the next. Why’s that? It may depend on how your singlehood is presented to you. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that singles felt worse about their love life when they read or wrote about how singles differ from people in romantic relationships, compared to when the question was turned around (i.e., when they were asked “how coupled people differ from singles”). Being pegged as different, and having to explain how, apparently leads to negative feelings. So if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, it may be best to stay away from anything Nicholas Sparks-related.

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

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