(for the purposes of this article the word “relationship” will refer to a romantic, life partner, intimate etc., type of relationship, although of course there are many other important relationships in everyone’s life that affect us as well.)
Ideally, any type of interpersonal relationship, and specifically intimate ones, are designed to and have the result of positively impacting all parties involved. That’s the point of it, right? Why else be in it? If there were no advantages to the relationship, people would simply remain alone and that would be the norm. However, we are social creatures, and the “norm”, in fact, is to be in a relationship of some sort. Married, boyfriend/girlfriend, life partner, or any sort of committed relationship are common forms of this.
(parenthetically, I find it fascinating that something as simple as “being part of the norm” can cause someone to completely change their life by becoming involved in a relationship even if overall the relationship has net negative effects on the person. But that’s not the point of this article, perhaps a future one.)
The point of this article is that people enter into relationships for specific benefits assuming they are going to be receiving those benefits to an adequate degree hoping/assuming that overall, these benefits will outweigh any negative aspects that the relationship causes in the person’s life.
Essentially, the person enters the relationship hoping that the relationship will be and remain net positive – overall making the person happier and making every aspect of the person’s life more positive in some way – and in a healthy relationship this is indeed the case.
Conversely, there are pretty much no areas of life that do not have the potential to be affected negatively by the effects of an unhealthy relationship.
Firstly, a person’s overall temperament and worldview are affected by their relationship. This can simply be a product of the mood they are in based on the state of their relationship, or it can be more nuanced and detail-focused, for example if a person is in a relationship with someone who has very different worldviews, that person’s worldviews may be changed – they may be influenced in ways that are, regardless of positive or negative, significantly affecting of their personal lives the way they go about them, and the way they see themselves. For example, someone whose worldview has been changed by their relationship may feel like their jobs, which previously had seemed satisfactory, now seem inadequate and/or boring. Or on the positive side, they may now notice real meaning to their work, where they previously had not noticed any.
One of the most important topics of Clinical Psychology in particular is happiness. What makes someone happy, what makes them unhappy? What can be done to help a person who feels that they are less than at their ideal level of happiness, get closer to that ideal? So with this in mind, simply focusing on the level of joy and overall life satisfaction that a relationship may bring to or remove from a person can certainly have a large influence on how they perceive themselves and the world around them. This, of course, will make a huge difference in overall quality of life.
Another way that relationships can affect a person’s life is in a practical sense. A relationship may involve responsibilities, for example, that causes a person to not have the flexibility needed for certain activities that made them happy previously – or conversely if the relationship takes the person away from negative experiences and situations that have been negatively impacting his/her Mental Health, then the relationship has in effect positively affected the person’s mental health and as a result, quite possibly made them “happier”. These are very significant in terms of how a relationship can affect someone’s quality of life and overall ability to function in an effective manner (if the effect is great enough,) either positive or negative.
Put very simply, being in a relationship affect the way a person lives in very detailed and significant ways. It affects the person’s practical lifestyle to some degree, large or small, but almost always significantly, and changes the person’s life meaningfully from what it was prior to the relationship. So in essence, a relationship can change a person’s life and quality of life in a very strong way, either positively, negatively, or often both (in different ways of course.)
As I said in the beginning of this article, people are almost “expected” to be in a relationship at some point in life – it is the “norm.” However, if you asked random people in the street if they specifically thought about whether their relationship would cause them greater happiness or not prior to their getting into it, probably very few people would answer that yes, they thought about this in specific detail. I find it fascinating that when someone is looking into making a major purchase, that person will often do massive amounts of research, sometimes becoming experts, in particular items before deciding which item to purchase – a car for example. Now, does a car really make someone happy or significantly alter their level of Life Satisfaction? Perhaps, but certainly not to the degree that a relationship does.
So I would think that people would put at least an equal amount of diligence into thinking about and “researching” whether a specific relationship will make them happier, if there are any potential negative aspects to it, and recognize that these items are huge factors in the level of Life satisfaction they will feel going forward. No? But indeed, no, this is not the case. People just don’t think of relationships in those terms. At least that’s been my experience. What’s your experience on this topic been? Please add your insight below, I’d love to hear your opinions about how relationships affect overall life happiness and any experiences/anecdotes you might care to add/share.