Friday, September 24, 2010

Relying on Chemistry - Part 1

Many people credit the indescribable, nebulous cause of “chemistry” with their initial attraction to their partner. But typically relationships built on nothing more than what amounts to intense physical attraction have a reputation for tapering off or ending abruptly. But a new study finds that people whose physical relationship progresses quickly prior to developing a deeper connection based on intimate knowledge of the other person may actually last just as long.

In an analysis of relationship surveys, University of Iowa sociologist Anthony Paik found that average relationship quality was higher for individuals who waited until things were serious to have sex compared to those who became sexually involved in "hookups," "friends with benefits," or casual dating relationships. However, having sex early on wasn't to blame for the disparity.

According to Science Daily, “When Paik factored out people who weren't interested in getting serious, he found no real difference in relationship quality. That is, 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. The study judged quality by asking participants the extent to which the person loved their partner, the relationship's future, level of satisfaction with intimacy, and how their lives would be different if the relationship ended. According to the answers, the study administrators were able to deduce that although sexual involvement wasn't to blame for the lower quality scores for relationships initiated as hookups.

Paik points to selection: Certain people are prone to finding relationships unrewarding, and those individuals are more likely to form hookups. The question is whether it's the type of relationship that causes lower quality or whether it's the people," he said. "The finding is that it's something about the people."

People who are involved in hookups are likely predisposed to engage in short-term relationships, therefore they'd be unqualified for the parameters of this study which looks at longer term relationships. Starting a sexual relationship prior to discussing important compatibility issues can spell disaster and pain in the long run – in part two of this article, I look at how to avoid overcommitting to a relationship sexually by taking time to ask important questions about each other's background.

- Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil

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