How we feel about ourselves and those we love depends in large part on the assumptions and expectations we hold about romantic relationships. It turns out that many of our beliefs about intimate relationships aren’t backed up by science. In his new book, Great Myths of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex, and Marriage, Binghamton University psychology professor Matthew D. Johnson debunks 25 of the biggest myths out there.
“People assume that they know how relationships work. It feels like love should be intuitive and not something that can be studied scientifically. Not so!” said Johnson. “Scientists have learned a lot about intimate relationships – much of it counterintuitive.”
In Great Myths of Intimate Relationships, Johnson challenges and demystifies many of the misperceptions and stereotypes surrounding attraction, sex, love, internet dating, marriage and heartbreak. For example, he debunked the following:
Having children brings couples closer
Men have a stronger libido than women
Having access to innumerable online profiles of potential partners increases the likelihood of finding Mr. or Ms. Right
Children raised by other-sex couples are better off than children raised by same-sex couples
Premarital counseling or relationship education programs prevent discord and divorce
Good communication is the key to a happy relationship
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus
Couples who are “matched” by online dating services are more likely to have satisfying relationships
Living together before marriage is a good way to determine whether you’re with the right person
Take the myth that living together before marriage is a good way to determine whether you’re with the right person. Johnson said that this finding often surprises people.
“People think that it makes sense to do a trial run. ‘Let’s see how well we get along when we’re living together.’ What could be more intuitive, right? But, it turns out that living together before engagement increases the chances of dissatisfaction and divorce down the road. Why?” Johnson asked rhetorically. “The current thinking is that couples who move in together for convenience may end up drifting into marriage instead of making a purposeful decision to get married. For example, maybe a couple is already spending several nights a week together and they don’t see the reason to write two separate rent checks every month, so they move in together. Then, they’re living together for a while and their family starts asking: ‘When are you two getting married?’ Pretty soon the inertia of their relationship pulls them into marriage as opposed to making a deliberate decision to marry.”
According to Johnson, science has much to say about intimate relationships. “For decades, researchers like me have been studying what makes relationships healthy and what makes them dysfunctional. I wrote the book to emphasize the empirical findings on romantic relationships.”