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The Benefits of Long-Term Intimate Connections

Seeking love, but getting other unexpected bonuses as well.

Pexels/Mateus Souza
Source: Pexels/Mateus Souza

Numerous studies have found that those in long-term committed relationships, like marriage, tend to be healthier and live longer. They are also happier and experience greater sexual satisfaction.

However, until recently there hasn’t been much, if any, research on what people specifically view as beneficial to being in an intimate relationship.

What motivates people to enter into a relationship and stay in one? Surely, they don’t think about the longevity connection and enter into a relationship because they want to increase their life expectancy.

In a recent study, researchers tackled these questions and asked over 200 individuals to “write down some benefits that you think those who are in a long-term relationship enjoy.” A list of 82 benefits were identified by the study participants. Benefits included things like “moments of tenderness,” “emotional fullness,” and “help in difficult times.”

In the second study of 545 individuals researchers gave the participants a list of the 82 possible benefits of being in an intimate relationship that was previously identified and asked them to rate how important the benefits were to them on a five-point scale ranging from not very important (1) to very important (5).

Next, the researchers classified the 82 possible benefits into 10 broader categories: support, social acceptance, sexual satisfaction, having someone to keep me company, positive emotions, giving and receiving care, safe sex, love and passion, sharing expenses, and stability.

Of all the benefits that were listed, “love and passion” topped the list with more than 95 percent of participants believing it was important followed by “positive emotions” (94 percent) and the “support” (93 percent) factors. The findings were generally consistent across age, sex, and relationship status.

When people are asked to think about the potential benefits of long-term relationships they tend to first consider intrinsic ones (such as love and passion) as opposed to extrinsic ones such as social pressure and stability. The researchers surmise that what people deem beneficial in a relationship would motivate them to enter into one.

Thus, the findings suggest that people would be motivated to enter intimate relationships most importantly to experience positive emotions like love.

Love doesn’t simply feel good. It’s also good for us. As social animals, we survived by forming intimate connections with other people. The positive emotion of love has helped us evolve since the beginning of time.

In sum, relationships are foundational to our well-being. More than just a feeling, love is a powerful emotion that literally helps the world go round.

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Apostolou, M., Christoforou, C., & Lajunen, T. J. (2023). What are Romantic Relationships Good for? An Explorative Analysis of the Perceived Benefits of Being in a Relationship. Evolutionary Psychology, 21(4), 14747049231210245.

Pileggi Pawelski, S., Pawelski, J.O. (2018). Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. NY: TarcherPerigee.

More from Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, MAPP and James Pawelski, Ph.D.
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