Relationships and well-being

Relationship satisfaction is a major determinant of overall well-being. However, it has a counterintuitive relationship with relationship ‘success’ - as defined by the endurance of a relationship in the long term. You see, the most authoritative research on relationship success indicates that the keys to success are commitment, positive illusions about one another, inclusion of one another as part of one's own identity, love, and having friends and family approve of and support the relationship. Counterintuitively, the same research indicates relationship satisfaction, conflict, personality, attachment styles and self-esteem poorly predict (are irrelevant to) relationship success. However, relationship satisfaction does matters for personal well-being.


The first principle of relationship satisfaction is that it is formulaic. Yet it is important to examine critically because some facts are counterintuitive. For instance, marriages with physically attractive wives but physically unattractive husbands are more likely to be happy.


The first major task in achieving relationship satisfaction is selecting a partner. There are three keys to initial partner selection: Select a partner who is emotionally healthy to stave off negative emotional contagion. Outrage is one example of a highly socially contagious emotion and it drives people to take action which may explain the tactical utility it has in newsmaking and political marketing today. Select best friend material for the well-being associated with having and being around a best friend. Select a partner with respectful associates, since the amount of respect one has from face-to-face peer group impacts well-being. And, select a partner with matching levels of sexual desire.


The second major task in achieving relationship satisfaction is initiating a relationship. Many tactics devised by the ‘seduction community’ are both grounded in evolutionary theory and evidence based. The contemporary seduction community has pivoted from a focus on behaviour: lower pitched voices (preferred by both men and women contrary to popular belief), steady eye contact (doesn’t everyone likes eye contact?, social proof, negs, openers/ conversation topics, adapting to the audience's expectations, knowledge, attitudes, size, demographics or egocentrism and using animals as prop. These actions (except the ‘neg’)  express desire, which in turns feeds desires.


Some schools of the ‘seduction community’, including the ‘pick up artist’/dating coaching company Real Social Dynamics and the misogynistic Reddit community ‘Red Pill’ also appear to focus on cognitive factors: self-assurance, frame control (which leads to ‘non-reaction seeking’), maca, critical thinking about social issues, including those related to seduction or feminism, shit-tests and authenticity, rather than people pleasing. People with these traits are typically desired by others. Then curiosity breeds intimacy [peer reviewed] [evidence summary] [text] (and less aggression [peer reviewed] [evidence summary] [text]).


One memorable piece of advice I heard in a RSD video was not to ‘value scan’ in social settings. In the context of ‘picking up’ it would refer to looking around for attractive folks to check out. For those with a broader focus on well-being, I think there is an interesting detour from this piece of advice for those interested in well-being rather than dating: I find myself enjoying the experience of walking through crowds better if I either focus on the happy faces or avoid looking at faces/people altogether, which probably dampens the cognitive load. Comparably, closing your eyes when you meditating probably reduces the cognitive load.


The third major relationship challenge for relationship satisfaction is relationship maintenance. There is no relationship satisfaction if there is no relationship. A major determinant of divorce is sexual dissatisfaction. According to Wikipedia: sexual dissatisfaction is caused by lack of sexual intercourse, sexual spontaneity, a woman's ugliness or a man’'s sexual health. Marital dissatisfaction more broadly is caused by wives who flirt, erotically kiss, or become sexually or romantically involved with other men (infidelity).


The determinants of unfaithfulness are broadly understood by a consensus among leading internet pick-up artists, feminists, academics and science communicators [1] [2] [3] [4]. However, some findings are counterintuitive. For instance, higher income wives but lower income husbands predicts less infidelity, contrary to conventional wisdom. Others, are intuitive: beware the hottie. More precisely, sexual satisfaction is determined by social support, family harmony, high socioeconomic status, good healthy, positive cognitions about sex (not thinking it's immoral, or that they are unattractive), abstinence from portnography, youngness, frequency of sexual thoughts, being in an intimate relationship, good communication with one's intimate partner, sexual assertiveness (clarifying boundaries and wants), similar personality partner's, education level, mutual trust with your partner, a secure attachment style, marriage (for women) and fewer partners. Otherwise, the non-obvious, modifiable determinants of relationship satisfaction are: fewer partners, abstinence from pornography and positive cognitions about sex and sexual assertiveness. Don't dare falsely accuse your partner of an attitude of unfaithfulness: 'by accusing them of being unfaithful, the experimenters had successfully gotten the participants to “trivialize” faithfulness'.


In mixed-sexuality relationships (e.g. a bisexual man in a heterosexual marriage, viewing the discordant sexual activity) as compulsive facilitates commitment and monogamy. Let’s discuss same-sex relations for a moment: HIV can now be reliably prevented after it has been contracted and LGBTI relationships are increasingly accepted. However, literature on relationship success is overwhelming biased towards heterosexual relationships. Queer individuals tend to have higher rates of suicide, and internalised homophobia can cause depression. The effectiveness of 'gay affirmative psychotherapy' and sexual orientation change efforts, including 'conversion therapy are unclear' for resolving ego-dystonic sexual attraction. There appears to be a censure of research on sexual orientation change research and practice which could obstruct the development of best practice in this area.


The Wikipedia page for Relationship Counselling states that couples’ conflict resolution skills predict divorce rates. Counterintuitively, the page also explains that active listening is more harmful than helpful since it encourages excess criticism. Healthy couples don't listen to each others feelings. How can that be? Experts have identified 4 major predictors of divorce - criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (withdrawal from interactions). With any hint of the second, the first could precipitate the third and the fourth in partners, and possible a reciprocated first - thus exaggerating the cycle). When the criticism targets the past, that would approximate co rumination - revisiting problems together, which has harmful effects. Unsurprisingly, the content in a conflict discussion best predicts divorce of the four.


One separate, common suggestion from couples is to simply deal with issues later than they arise, taking time out to separate the emotion from the problem solving, which should be root cause.


Factors protecting against divorce include quick reconciliation after the fight, and a 5:1 ratio of positive comments to negative ones during the actual conflict. Other protective factors are expressing gratitude to your partner, and feeling your partner's gratitude, doing new and different activities with your partner, and seeing the good in your partner's flaws - seeing them as virtues, for instance: patience instead of slowness. All this being said, experts concede the predictive validity of these models is questionable. Fittingly, the most effective couples therapy technique is simply encouraging couples to have more positive than negative interactions.


That is a goal that takes skill. Effective relationships can facilitate various goals and skills that are useful outside of the relationship. These goals include the opportunity to:


Various relationship skills facilitate greater well-being outside your relationship or they can enhance the quality of your relationship:

  1. Lower expectations for the relationship

  2. Social influence [Wikipedia]

  3. Marriage performance reviews? (alt)

  4. Hearing ‘I love you’ for the first time

  5. Posting about your relationship on facebook (for a stronger relationship) [news]

  6. Cultivating alternatives to relationship contingent self-esteem.

  7. Forgive

  8. Hugs (8 of them a day!)


The 9th relationship skills is ‘sexual therapy’ which requires further explanation. There are DIY components: Actively fine-tune the frequency and quality of your sex (for heterosexual women), and respect the period. Reconsider the role of pornography [text] [summary of evidence] [Wikipedia] in your lives because watching pornography if you are a woman, but not watching pornography if you are a man appears to the be the recipe of choice for a healthy thing (unless you watch it together - that’s also good). And, there are professional components. Try sex therapy interventions for boredom, anorgasmia, better relationship communication and performance anxiety (evidence summary) (industry).


The fourth major task for a relationship is family planning. Should you have kids? Yes, it is expensive. However, having children or not has no impact on well-being, unless you’re a single parent or a father who both works and raises children equally. Then, you’re going to be unhappier after the birth of your child. Finally, there is no clear social case for or against having a child. Getting married or not getting married doesn’t change the equation.


Considering adoption? Know that adoptees and the adopters tend to be happy with their decision. And there are challenges with raising a child with abnormalities, by birth or otherwise on top of the trials of pregnancy and raising a child. You will rarely hear the fact that becoming a father at 20-24 years old is biologically optimal. Anticipatory fathers, keep laptops and mobile phones away from your groin for long. Becoming a mother at 20 compared to ages 21 and up is biologically optimal. For legitimate reasons, this is typically, atypical in Australia.


For those planning to delay childbirth, I recommend birth control implants and intrauterine device, compared to other types of birth control. (also most effective emergency method of birth control). For prevention: first year failure rate ranges 0.1 to 2.2%. They have the lowest failure rate of any birth control method for typical use (including condoms). Periodic abstinence for natural family planning is just as effectively as the pill. You could also calibrate to the moon or merely gamble with childbirth in return for the mood-enhancing impact of unprotected sex. Prenatal care is complex yet important for the health of your baby and you. Use this guide and this checklist so that you don't miss anything from conception to birth.


If you parent, understand parental influence. There are as many parenting tips and tricks as there are tips and tricks for adults, plus those specifically for young-lings. I recommend consulting an comprehensive source on prenatal and postnatal care, from dietary habits to disciplinary tactics. But, here are a couple of parenting tips that amuse me:


Should you be worried about pedophiles? 'The typical consequence of childhood sexual abuse is not psychopathology but resilience. Studies have found no correlation with adult mental disorders, even when abuse is frequent or extreme. Less than 10% of victims experienced the abuse as traumatic or shocking at the time it occurred.' Could the primary determinant of the negative impact of child sexual abuse be related to stigma and socialisation rather than physiological? Irrelevant, sexual abuse is horrendous, be careful.

One last tip for vegan parents: exposing your child to egg and milk at appropriate ages is important for their health, despite popular recommendations by biased sources online like Vegan Health. Consumer safety experts and allergists recognise risks associated with vegan parenting. One objection to my vegan parenting allergy argument is that a child's allergy to animal products is desirable because their welfare is then tied to the welfare of an animal.  Aside the logic of the larder, and that rearing domesticated animals displaces an ever larger amount of wild animals, children can be accidentally exposed to allergens in the playground by other kids which could cause needless suffering or death.

Further reading:


Comments (7)

Comment author: RyanCarey 22 May 2017 07:30:42PM 5 points [-]

Just personally for me, I would find this easier to read if you linked just a word or a couple of words at a time, rather than a whole paragraph.

Comment author: arunbharatula 24 May 2017 04:24:04AM *  0 points [-]

I try to hyperlink those parts of my writing that are evidenced by a particular source. This avoids the issue that arises in academic writing where it can be unclear what claims a citation relates to. There is a trade-off with the visual appeal of the writing, particularly since my fix for the aforementioned issue is unconventional. However, I believe gain in precision outweighs the stylistic considerations.

Edit: In light of the downvotes and various comments on my pieces recommending I rework my contributions and suggests they may be misleading I am taking down my work till I time I can edit it. Hope this improves things. Thanks for the tips.

Comment author: RyanCarey 24 May 2017 08:04:38AM 1 point [-]

The greater ambiguity, I think, is in which part of the linked document you're citing. If you want to resolve ambiguity, then use footnotes and quote the relevant parts of the sources.

Comment author: AnneWissemann 23 May 2017 03:57:43PM 2 points [-]

FWIW, I found the article somewhat cringy, partly because of the references to pick-up artist culture that don't include the disclaimers I'd expect for practices such as negging: it ends up sounding like the OP endorses the practice.

The other part is that the tone of the article sounds wildly overconfident to me given the evidence presented. A strongly counterintuitive finding needs more justification than a link to an outside source IMO. I'd have taken away more with more in-text explanations and less overall points made.

Comment author: ChristianKleineidam 23 May 2017 08:24:58PM 1 point [-]

As far as the pickup-up theme goes, it's worth noting that the whole article doesn't say anything about vulnerability and the value of opening up to the person with whom you want to start or keep a relationship.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 22 May 2017 01:27:38PM 1 point [-]

Would be cool to see more of a summary of "Various relationship skills facilitate greater well-being outside your relationship or they can enhance the quality of your relationship" in this article.

Comment author: Julia_Wise 22 September 2017 07:45:19PM 0 points [-]

The author of this piece requested that it be removed.

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Comment author: EScott 11 October 2017 06:50:38AM *  -3 points [-]

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