True intimacy with others is one of the highest values of human existence; there may be nothing more important for the well-being and optimal functioning of human beings than intimate relationships” (p. 42).1
Why Relationships Are Important
Take a moment to think about the most meaningful events in your life– the experiences that have brought you the greatest joy and perhaps the greatest pain. Your close and intimate relationships are likely central to each of these experiences and help make you the person you are today. Put simply, forming lasting intimate relationships is a defining feature of the human experience.2 Years of research, and volumes of data, make it very clear that we each have a fundamental need to connect with others 3, and if we are unable to fulfill that need, there are serious negative consequences. Consider, for example, that those who are socially isolated experience more disease4 and that divorce is a risk factor for early death.5 On the positive side, high quality intimate relationships reduce risk for negative mental health (e.g., clinical depression),5 and frequency of sexual activity predicts overall life happiness even more so than making more money.6 If our relationships suffer, we lose a part of what it means to be a human. But when our relationships thrive, we are able to fulfill our true potential.
Why Science is Important for Relationships
We understand the importance of relationships and know that increasing knowledge is a key way to help people improve their relationships and their lives. But all information isn’t created equal. The important things in life deserve data, and nothing is more important than relationships. As scientists and educators, we believe that if you really want to know the truth about something, you need research. When we say “research” we simply mean that the best information comes from careful observations and measurements, systematic collection of information from lots of people, and carefully drawn conclusions based on the available evidence.
Our goal is to communicate scientific information in a way that can help readers make informed decisions about the most important parts of their life.
1Prager, K. J., & Roberts, L. J. (2004). Deep intimate connection: Self and intimacy in couple relationships. In D. J. Mashek & A. P. Aron (Eds.), Handbook of closeness and intimacy. (pp. 43-60). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
2Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
3Loving, T. J., & Slatcher, R. B. (2013). Romantic relationships and health. In J. A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Close Relationships, (pp. 617-637). New York: Oxford University Press.
4House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241(4865), 540-545.
5Loving, T. J., & Sbarra, D. A. (in press). Relationships and health. To appear in J. A. Simpson & J. Dovidio (Eds.), APA Handbook of Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
6Oswald, D. G., & Blanchflower, A. J. (2004). Money, sex and Happiness: An empirical study. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 106, 393-415.