Who among us hasn’t dreamed of true love, of finding that one special person to share their life with? Sometimes, however, we get bogged down in the Disney princess mentality and miss the opportunities that exist right under our noses. And sometimes, friends with benefits, casual dating with occasional (and non-monogamous sex), and the odd hookup are just easier.
But according to recent research out of the University of Iowa led by sociologist Anthony Paik, these informal relationships aren’t necessarily a bad thing … even in terms of finding your one true love (if you believe in such a thing, of course).
Couples who became sexually involved as friends or acquaintances and were open to a serious relationship ended up just as happy as those who dated and waited.
“We didn’t see much evidence that relationships were lower quality because they started off as hookups,” said Paik, an assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The study suggests that rewarding relationships are possible for those who delay sex. But it’s also possible for true love to emerge if things start off with a more ‘Sex and the City’ approach, when people spot each other across the room, become sexually involved and then build a relationship.”
You know, part of me is really pretty excited about this even while my brain is screaming, “That’s freaking rudimentary!”
What this research is basically saying, after all, is that those willing to invest the time and energy and desire into making a relationship successful are more likely to be successful at the great long-term relationship game. Therefore, it doesn’t matter as much if a couple start out as friends …
… with bennies or an eHarmony match or a date set up by friends or relatives.
It’s all in the mindset, attitude, and level of relationship ultimately desired by both parties. Oh, and don’t worry, researchers had definitive criteria for what makes a “good” relationship.
Relationship quality was measured by asking about the extent to which each person loved their partner, the relationship’s future, level of satisfaction with intimacy, and how their lives would be different if the relationship ended.
I am a hopeless romantic, probably from all the reading I do. The idea of finding somebody to fulfill every aspect of my life is a beautiful dream. It’s interesting to note that it’s taken a lot of failed relationships and a pretty nasty divorce to realize the necessary balance, the give-and-take required for a relationship to work.
I’ve just been very unlucky, I guess.
There are, however, those that find the entire concept of a serious relationship to be frightening, overwhelming, and style-crimping. For those, casual hookups are more conducive to their needs.
You need to be careful if that’s the way you roll, though. Even beyond the obvious increased risk of STIs and a lack of emotional attachment that could be considered pretty disturbing, the statistics for those who live in the casual hookup world aren’t promising.
People with higher numbers of past sexual partners were more likely to form hookups, and to report lower relationship quality. Through the acquisition of partners, Paik said, they begin to favor short-term relationships and find the long-term ones less rewarding.
It’s also likely that people who are predisposed to short-term relationships are screened out of serious ones because they don’t invest the time and energy to develop long-term ties, Paik said.
So, bottom line … if you’re committed to being in a long-term relationship that works on all levels, it’s more likely that you will be.
I do appreciate the results of the research, though, if only because it sheds some interesting light on the importance of attitude and goals … and the intentional outlook you have to maintain should you want to be in a successful relationship.
My own experiences are decidedly pathetic in that the man I chose to spend my life with (well, until it all went to hell in a handbasket) never fully understood the concept of “us” … but neither does the guy who knows everything about me, shares my warped sense of humor, and loves me in an intense friendship that has only become sexual when we were too drunk to think things through.
What are your thoughts on this? Can casual dating partners or FWBs eventually become a healthy couple … or is waiting until you find “the right person” a better approach?
I’m curious to know your experiences with this one!