Like many things, relationships in 2016 saw it’s fair share of ups and downs. For one thing, so many celebrity couples broke up this year (RIP Brangelina), causing many of us to wonder if love was dead. The election was arguably one of the most divisive ones in American history, leading to friend breakups, tension among inter-political couples, drops in sex drive, and breakups. But don't get me wrong — it wasn't all bad. There were definitely a lot of things we learned about relationships in 2016 that will keep hope live for the future. So no, despite whatever Hollywood wants you to believe, love really isn’t dead.
Throughout the year, researchers have discovered some really great things about relationships. For instance, if you consider yourself a workaholic, don’t worry —work won’t ruin your relationship if you don’t allow it to. Tinder, which in 2015, was accused of starting the “dating apocalypse”, was actually found to be pretty relationship-friendly. Meaning, more people use the app to find life-long partnerships than you probably think. If you feel like you’re in a relationship rut, a recent study even found one simple trick to help you fall back in love.
So now that 2016 is coming to an end, here are some important things we learned about love and relationships:
1. Working Too Much Doesn't Ruin Your Relationship
Too busy to maintain a happy, successful relationship? Science says, not really. A study published in the journal Human Relations found there’s really no negative association between the hours one works and relationship satisfaction.
Dana Unger of ETH Zurich, Switzerland and colleagues studied 285 couples to see what kind of effect working hours had on romantic relationships. It turns out, couples who tend to be career driven make the most out of their time spent together. They know their long hours at work may keep them apart, so their relationship expectations are much lower and achievable. Therefore, their relationship satisfaction is much higher.
2. Personal Relationships Are Just As Important To Your Health As Exercise
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that personal relationships are just as important to your overall physical health as typical go-tos like healthy eating and exercise.
Young adults who had lower numbers of social ties were at more risk of having inflammation as those who didn’t exercise, older adults who also had low numbers of social ties were more likely to sugar from hypertension and diabetes, and people with social relationships of poor quality were more likely to have a higher risk for having inflammation. Overall, quality personal relationships that give you love and support will not only make you happier but healthier.
3. Your Relationship Status Can Affect Who You're Attracted To
In a study led by Dr. Jitka Lindová of Charles University in the Czech Republic, university students were asked to rate a series of faces based on attractiveness. Singles rated photos that looked less like them as being more attractive and those in relationships rated photos that looked more like them were more attractive.
"A single person is often looking for someone exciting and sexually attractive,"Jean Fitzpatrick, a relationship therapist in Manhattan told Bustle, "A person who already has a partner might instead, when viewing photos in this study, be imagining a different kind of connection — a familial one. From our earliest days we feel most connected to our family members, who look like us."
Researchers believe this might happen because of a “relationship maintenance strategy to prevent us from finding alternatives to our own partner.”
4. The Biggest Deal-Breaker For An LTR Is...
Anger issues and/or abusive behavior. No one should have to deal with that. Everyone has relationship deal-breakers, a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found.
"People are far pickier now because of the apparent availability of new attractive partners with online dating and mobile apps," the study's author, Dr. Peter K. Jonason told Bustle. "These apps have created a rather superficial and checklist style of dating. We dismiss people prematurely that we would not have if we met them because they have something we think is a deal-breaker but if we developed feelings for that person we would accept it."
5. Tinder Isn't Bad For Relationships After All
Despite what you may believe, a study conducted by Dr. Mitchell Hobbs from the University of Sydney found that most people on Tinder actually value lifelong, long-term partnerships.
“The meaning and usage of the apps are determined by the users and can change over time," Hobbs told Bustle. "Some apps are seen as pathways to hookups and casual sex, while others are viewed as more of a matchmaking service for those seeking a relationship. Some apps, which achieve a critical mass of users, can be both.”
The study, which looked at 366 participants who use Tinder, found that there are people who use the app for just casual hookups and dating, but there are also a lot of people who long for romance and a life partner. “Both outcomes of the dating network mean more power and choice — greater agency for the individual,” Hobbs said.
6. Opposites Don't Actually Attract
A study conducted by relationship researchers from Wellesley and the University of Kansas found that opposites don’t actually attract. One important finding was that relationships don’t change individuals over time. Instead, future friends or partners tend to have similar views on life before they even meet for the first time.
"Picture two strangers striking up a conversation on a plane, or a couple on a blind date," Bahns said in a press release. "From the very first moments of awkward banter, how similar the two people are is immediately and powerfully playing a role in future interactions. Will they connect? Or walk away? Those early recognitions of similarity are really consequential in that decision … We're arguing that selecting similar others as relationship partners is extremely common—so common and so widespread on so many dimensions that it could be described as a psychological default.”
In other words, you're just naturally going to form relationships with people who are similar to you.
7. People In Relationships See Others As Less Attractive
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people in relationships tend to view others (especially those of the opposite sex) as less attractive. According to the study’s author, Dr. Shana Cole, it’s evolution’s way of preventing people from cheating.
"Misperceiving attractive people who represent threats to the relationship as less attractive may help people resist the inclination to pursue them,” Cole told ZME Science. “This is especially important since finding someone physically attractive is a primary reason why people choose to date or romantically pursue someone."
8. Sleep Patterns Can Have An Affect On Your Relationship
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that getting better sleep will make you like and appreciate your relationship more. Researchers from Florida State University found that men who got more sleep were happier overall, even when they had negative things to say about their relationship on topics such as conflict resolution, dependability, sex, chores. etc.
Overall, when people get a good night’s rest, there was a strong association with feeling much more satisfied about their relationship when they woke up.
9. Your Childhood Can Affect How Successful Your Relationships Will Be
A study published in Psychological Science found that your childhood can impact your adult relationships in a way that you’re probably unaware of. It’s all about security and attachment styles. According to the study, people who had “warmer” childhoods and families were much more equipped at handling adult relationships successfully. They also had more secure attachment to their partners.
"We had made an educated guess based on theory and previous research that there would be continuity between childhood experiences and the quality of late-life relationships," Marc Schulz, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr College and co-author of the study tells Bustle. "To our knowledge, no previous study has been able to look at this question because of the challenges related to systematically following individuals over this long a period. Given all that transpires in six or seven decades, we still find it remarkable that there are lawful connections across this long a period."
10. You Can Fall Back In Love With Your Partner
A study published in the journal PLOS One found that you can actually use the power of positive thinking to increase your feelings of love for your partner, and possibly help you fall back in love. Psychologists from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and Erasmus University Rotterdam conducted a study of 40 participants found that people who thought positively were able to increase their feelings of love for their partner.
“Positive thinking can increase how much love you have for your partner for several reasons,” Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D, a Los Angeles-based psychologist told Bustle. “First of all, if you are already thinking positively in general, you are much more likely to notice and appreciate those qualities in your partner that you love rather than take these characteristics for granted or or overlook them. Also, if you typically tend to engage in positive thinking, you are likely to be a more open-hearted person in general, as well as towards your partner than someone who tends to be more of a negative or even neutral kind of thinker.”
11. Relationships Can Make You Happier
A study of 200,000 conducted by The London School of Economics found that being in a relationship caused the biggest increase to a person's overall happiness. "Human beings are definitely social creatures. We are meant to have company and spend time with one another," relationship Aimee Hartstein told Bustle. "We have an innate drive to pair up, settle down, and procreate. We are also very much socialized to do the same. So I think individuals who have settled into a nice relationship are generally happier than when they were single.”
However, if you’re in an unsatisfying relationship, chances are you’re better of single. “A bad relationship is definitely worse than being alone, but being happily settled with someone probably makes for more happiness,” Hartstein said.
From finding out that Tinder isn’t a romance killer to learning how to fall back in love, 2016 sure brought us some interesting new info on relationships that we can carry on to the next year.