The notion of being "made for one another" may seem romantic, but research says it's not a solid long-term line of thinking when it comes to actually making a relationship work.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers Norbert Schwarz and Spike W.S. Lee put some of our most common romantic metaphors to the test. They wanted to know: Is it better to say things like your partner is your "other half" and your "soulmate?" Or would you be better off thinking about love as a "journey" and being proud of "how far you've come?"
These outlooks were divided into two categories -- unity ("my other half") and journey ("how far we've come") -- to test couples' relationship satisfaction. After getting couples to conjure these metaphor types in three ways -- through words, through pictures and through nonverbal tasks, like puzzles -- the researchers found that participants in the "unity" frame of mind were much less able to handle relationship conflict.
"When people think about their relationship in terms of unity -- that they were 'made for one another' and so on -- it makes them vulnerable when a conflict comes up," Schwarz told The Huffington Post. "Because a conflict indicates that maybe you were not 'made for one another' -- you're fighting after all."
On the other hand, folks who were in the journey frame of mind were just as satisfied with their relationship whether they were in conflict or not. This type of thinking is echoed in traditional wedding vows ("for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer...").
"Now, thinking about a conflict from that perspective actually changes the impact of the conflict," Schwarz said. "It's actually a good thing: You were fighting and you're still together. So you overcame these past difficulties and you have a good chance of probably overcoming future difficulties as well."
Romantic metaphors are everywhere, from books like The Great Gatsby ("unity" if you agree that Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan were "made for each other") to movies like "The Notebook" ("journey" if you consider how much conflict Noah and Allie endured), and there doesn't seem to be a cultural tilt towards one or the other.
When Schwarz did a media analysis, he found that both theories are equally as prevalent in culture. He also noted that internalizing these concepts as either "unity" or "journey" truly depends on the context -- many couples can vacillate between the two lines of thinking. This is why it can be beneficial to understand how these metaphors can influence reasoning, especially if you value your relationship.
As hard as it may be, try not to let conflict-free, sappy narratives make you less satisfied with your partner, the study's conclusion suggests.
"The rose-colored view that you were 'made for one another' and everything will be wonderful from here on out is probably setting you up for a serious disappointment," Schwarz said. "You will not always agree and it will not always be wonderful, but it would probably be worth sticking through it."