How to Feel Solid About Your Relationship | Health Blog

Feeling Unsteady Can Raise Romantic Doubt

How to Feel Solid About Your Relationship | Health Blog

If you are happy with the relationship you are in and you want to keep it that way, you might want to avoid cruise ships, amusement park rides, and anything else that can make you feel a little unsteady. In one of the quirkier aspects of our mind-body connection, new research suggests that when we are in a wobbly position physically, we tend to perceive of our love lives as considerably more wobbly as well.

The study, which was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, found that when people are sitting or standing in an unbalanced way, they are less likely to report positive emotions toward their significant other.1 “Love life in the balance? Why feeling wobbly can affect your relationship.” Today. 8 July 2015. Accessed 15 July 2015. The scientists devised a series of experiments in which the subjects were groups of university students who were in long-term romantic involvements.

In the first trial, the participants answered a survey with questions about how they see their relationship. They were instructed to fill it out while sitting on a chair at a desk, but half of the volunteers were randomly selected to use furniture that was made to be wobbly. The remainder sat at a stable workspace. Interestingly, those who were placed in an unsteady seat more often reported feeling uncertain that their romance would last than did those seated steadily.

A second test used a different cohort of students who were also in committed relationships. This group had a survey to answer while standing. Half of them were permitted to stand comfortably while the rest were made to stand on one foot. Their questionnaires not only asked about their love life but also requested that they write a heartfelt note to their partners explaining their feelings toward them. The subjects who had to balance on one leg said that they saw their relationships as not so stable and not as likely to last compared to their peers on two legs. And the messages written by the group on one leg were noticeably less affectionate to their significant others than were those drafted by the group with both feet firmly planted on the floor.

The third portion of the experiment involved yet another sampling of students with commitments to a partner. This group was split in half, with one segment using a firm seat cushion and the other using an inflatable cushion. Once again, they were asked to answer relationship quality questions and write a note to their beloved. And once again the group on the unstable cushions reported relationship doubt and expressed less affection than did those on supportive cushions.

The scientists conducted this research within the framework of a field known as embodied cognition. This is a concept that explores how physical experiences affect the way we think. In this case, because the body is wobbly or shaking, it impacts the perception of an important relationship, making that feel equally shaky. Proponents of this theory suggest that this connection is formed during earliest childhood as a result of our total dependence on others when we were babies. Therefore, the experience of being held close and cuddled made us emotionally happy and any incidents involving rough or unsteady handling would be associated with unpleasant feelings.

Whether you believe that the reason for the findings is that we become hardwired to link certain physical elements with emotional responses as an infant or not, the current research did reach the same conclusions in three separate investigations. Who knows why it is that our romantic partners bear the brunt of our physical insecurities, but perhaps it’s simply tied to the inherent insecurities that most people in their late teens or early 20s experience. It would be interesting to see whether older, long-time married couples experience the same results.

At any rate, while we can’t always maintain control of the stability of our surroundings, we can remember not to rush to hasty decisions. If a relationship isn’t looking so good to you at the moment, let yourself sleep on how to handle it. Take the time to think things through at your own pace, because it may just be that your perception is skewed by your environment. And be sure to sit on a rock-solid, stable chair when doing your thinking–just in case the study results are actually correct. Then again, if nagging doubts about your partner persist, there may be a reason to listen to your inner voice and end the romance. It’s just not healthy to stick with someone towards whom you have ambivalent feelings. As the old saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.


1 “Love life in the balance? Why feeling wobbly can affect your relationship.” Today. 8 July 2015. Accessed 15 July 2015.

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