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Valentine’s Day Reminder: Your Friendships Are Important Too
With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s easy to get caught up in the mass-marketed romance messages that are everywhere this time of the year.
Abigail Caselli is a social psychology doctoral candidate at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She answers a few questions about the impact of relationships on health, how V-Day is about more than love connections, and how the pandemic has shifted the way we meet and maintain romantic partnerships.
Q: Can you tell us briefly about your current research and what questions you’re working to answer or learn more about?
A: In my first line of research, I examine processes that buffer against the negative effects of discrimination among people in interracial relationships. For example, I found that people who engaged in perspective-taking (i.e., the ability to consider another person’s worldview) with their partner reported less discriminatory-related stress and better relationship quality. My second line of research explores ways in which a person’s relationship can impact their overall sense of self (i.e., a person’s conceptualization of who they are, including their characteristics, beliefs, values, and identities).
Q: Do you believe the Valentine’s Day holiday recognition is limited to romantic relationships, or is it broader than that?
A: Great question! In our current culture, it seems as if the holiday is targeted towards people in romantic relationships. However, researchers know that romantic relationships are not the only type of close relationships that people create. For example, friendships are another avenue for people to form social bonds and connections.
Q: How does a romantic relationship impact your mental and physical health in positive or negative ways?
A: Romantic relationships can have an impact on people’s mental and physical health. Generally, we see that people in healthy relationships tend to report better physical and mental health (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008; Braithwaite et al., 2010). This trend is for college students and married couples. For example, married couples who are satisfied in their relationships report lower blood pressure and less stress. In college students, people in committed relationships reported fewer mental health concerns compared to their peers in non-committed relationships.
Q: In your opinion, how has the pandemic changed the way we meet new people and seek out romantic partnerships?
A: I was talking to my students about this same question last week. I certainly think the pandemic has affected relationship initiation (i.e., how people meet a new partner) and relationship maintenance (i.e., how people stay in their relationship). Many researchers are tackling these questions currently.
Some research has found that stressful events like Covid-19 create difficulties within the relationship (Pietromonaco & Overall, 2021). Pietromonaco and Overall (2021) found that stress from the pandemic is associated with greater harmful relationship processes, such as hostility, withdrawal, and less responsive support.
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