There's Scientific Proof that Smug Couples Really Are Trying to Make You Feel Bad

by Gena Kaufman

Kate PowersKate PowersNo matter how many times you try to tell yourself it's all in your head and that your couple friends don't pity you, you don't quite believe it. And that's because they really do. On the other hand, you can be kind of a jerk to them too, so get off your high horse, lady.

Obviously, saying that all couples pity single people is an overly simplistic statement, but there is scientific truth behind the general sentiment. It's called "normative idealization," and it means that people have a tendency to idealize their own lifestyle and believe it's better for other people too. According to research done at Stanford University and the University of Waterloo, the more people feel "stuck" in their current status, the more threatened they feel by the idea of people enjoying the opposite lifestyle.


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Thus, if a woman in a couple thinks it would be very hard to leave her relationship, she's more likely to think that people in long-term romantic relationships have more meaningful and fulfilling lives. That's right, your coupled-up friends all think your life is sad, sad, sad, you poor single thing.


But before my fellow single girls get all huffy, let's look at the other side of this whole "normative idealization" thing. The reverse is that a single woman who feels like it would be more difficult to enter a relationship is more likely to think that people would prefer to be independent but feel pressured to enter relationships. That's right, you think all your couple friends are just bowing to societal pressure and are secretly miserable.

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Rude, everybody! OK, we're not really so bad as that, I hope. But basically, the reality is that we all employ defense mechanisms to validate our own lifestyle, especially if we feel like our lifestyle wouldn't be easy to change. It's understandable to want to feel validated by your own choices, but it's a good idea for us all to keep in mind that we don't have to tear down others to feel good about our own lives. Let's all agree to want the best for one another but acknowledge that one particular way of life doesn't have to be the right one for all of us.


Have you ever felt yourself being defensive like this, whether coupled-up or single? Be honest! (I totally have.) Do you ever feel judged by couples (or single people, if you're in a couple)?

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