There may be a hidden pitfall to getting into relationships… ending up sharing the bad habits of your spouse! (What do they call that? Sexually transmitted slacking? Or something to that effect?) A new study finds that people in long-term relationships, gay or straight, end up duping each others’ habits, and the effect isn’t always pretty.
As any single person with married friends can testify, their constant patter about how great marriage is for just about everything (Your heart! Your mood! Your life expectancy !) can be a little annoying. Research supports those pitying glances they shoot in your direction when you defend your singleness; long-term committed relationships like marriage really are good for your health. But, still.
That’s all the more reason to embrace University of Cincinnati sociologist Corinne Reczek, who believes that research “has failed to look at the dark side” of coupledom.
In research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas, Reczek provides a little balance.
Reczek interviewed 122 heterosexual, lesbian, and gay couples with an average age of older than 40 and an average relationship duration of between 14 and 25 years. Then she teased out subtle and direct clues as to how the couple interacted in health-related behaviors. What did she find? Three ways that partners can erode each other’s health habits: “influence,” “synchronicity” and “personal responsibility.”
The examples of each will sound familiar to any long-married person. “Yeah, I drink a Dr. Pepper every morning,” Jason, a man in the study, is quoted as saying. “It’s like a ritual.” Maria, who never drank sodas before marrying Jason, now indulges. She has also picked up his junk food habit. “I can definitely bring her health down, if she ever let herself get on the bandwagon, so to speak,” he told Reczek.
What do you think—is there truth to the idea that people copy each other’s bad habits?