Are your married friends urging you to settle down? Or maybe you’re the single person who knows her settled friends wish they had the same freedom. A new study from Psychology Journal found that this kind of “you don’t know what you’re missing” attitude is common, no matter what your relationship status. And it isn’t just common; it affects how you treat people.
Previous research found that people who feel they can’t change their social situation rationalize it. Meaning, if you’re single and have been single for a while, you tell yourself it’s better than the alternative in order to enjoy it. But this new study found people have the tendency to take it further. Rather than saying “I’m happy I’m single”, they think other people should be single, too, because it’s better. This new study found that both couples and singletons idealized their relationship status to deal with the unsatisfactory parts. For instance, a person in a couple might acknowledge how much socks on the floor were an issue, but imagine it being better than being all alone in bed at night.
Participants were asked to decide whether two hypothetical people, Nick and Nicole, would be happier spending Valentine’s Day alone or with a partner. As the study’s authors suspected, those who were happiest with their status thought the imaginary people would be happier doing what they themselves were doing. Happily coupled people thought Nick and Nicole should spend a romantic evening with someone else and the satisfied singles thought they would be better off alone.
But this bias extended to more than just relationship status. People unconsciously used that status when judging others’ fitness for an imaginary job and political position. Their main reason? The person with their own relationship status seemed more stable than the alternative.