Loving for Health: New Studies Show New Ways to Improve Health and Relationship

Amy Taylor January 13, 2020

Love and relationship are two of the most talked about concepts in psychology but are among those that are least understood. Probably because there are no concrete quantitative measures that will help scientists come up with accurate findings. There’s a growing body of science however that seeks to understand people’s behaviour when in a relationship. That’s positive psychology. Although it’s relatively new, positive psychology has paved the way to a clearer understanding of love and relationship and how they affect people’s health.

When to Forgive, and When Not To

Intimate partners are often confronted with difficult situations that lead to one ‘forgiving’ the other and ‘forgetting’ about it. Although this usually works, it isn’t helpful in all circumstances. Sometimes, anger followed by honest and open conversation is necessary to resolve relationship conflicts, new study suggests.

There’s growing evidence that positive thinking or optimism, kindness and forgiveness are the key factors that strengthen a relationship.  But James McNulty from Florida State University sees a different trend. In his research, he found that some thoughts and behaviours that are believed to uplift wellbeing actually worsen one’s wellbeing in some cases. For instance, forgiveness is married couples somehow brings negative effects to their relationships. According to him, there are various factors that affect the effectiveness of forgiveness and these include the partner’s level of agreeableness and severity of the conflict. So when a partner becomes unfaithful, financially irresponsible, and so on, the significant half should decide whether to forgive or hold on to anger. Agreeable people who believe that their partners are forgiving are less likely to offend their partners while disagreeable people are more likely to offend their significant others, McNulty pointed out.

His study suggests that people should know when to forgive and forget, and when to be angry and hold on to it. In relationships, there’s no magic bullet, he said. One’s decision is based on the factors surrounding it.

In Sickness and in Health

Psychologists have always believed that people who are in a romantic relationship have higher level of wellbeing than those who are living solo. Why? That’s yet to be discovered. In a new study led by Paula Pietromonaco of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, supports the attachment theory, which states that there’s one primary person that people turn to in times of stressful situations, and in adulthood, that’s their intimate partners or spouses. In their ongoing study involving 225 newlywed couples, the researchers found that the way people feel attached with their partners affect their cortisol levels, which according to them, can predict anxiety or depression over time.

Pietromonaco suggests that studies on relationships must consider the beliefs, expectations and experiences of both the partners in predicting physical and emotional health. She and her co researchers noted that many studies on couple intervention only focused on the effects to the patient. How the caregiver (who’s the spouse or intimate partner) adjusts to the situation, must also be assessed to determine how patients cope with their health problems.