Interpersonal relationships are an immense source of joy, but sometimes cause also great disappointment. Therefore, even though numerous studies have shown that counting with a solid social support network is important for recuperating from diseases and control problems such as depression, it isn’t less true that in some cases is valid the old saying: “better alone than in bad company.”
When a relationship brings more dissatisfactions than satisfactions, more sorrows than joys, the time has come to stop along the way and rethink everything. You will have to decide if that relationship can be repaired and have a future or if, on the contrary, you need to put a final point.
A toxic relationship can affect your health
Psychologists of New York State University have realized it noting that a relationship that makes us unhappy can have a very negative impact on our health, both physical and psychological. In fact, the quality of a relationship can affect us much more than we think.
In the study, these psychologists analyzed the relationships of 200 young couples, engaged and married, in order to determine how these influenced the health of the subjects.
In this way they discovered that about one third of the young people had experienced significant changes in their relationships during this period of time, as well as in their health status. When in the relationship were predominant love, affection, support, compromise and understanding, the health of both members of the relationship improved.
However, when the relationship was characterized by hostility and criticism, people felt unhappy and frustrated. If these relationships were maintained over time the health of the subjects began to suffer, appeared symptoms of depression, problems with alcohol and other physical ailments. It was also seen that the more quickly those persons left behind these bad relationships, the better they recovered, indicating that more the bad relationship lasts and more difficult it will be to recover, both emotionally and physically.
Hostility and lack of support, psychological feelings that have physical consequences
A bad relationship can cause us to fall into a state of stress where disappointment is mixed with pessimism and anger. Of course, remaining in this state for a long period of time will cause changes at the physiological level that affect our health.
In this regard, a number of studies carried out by specialists at Ohio State University are especially revealing, because they show with no doubt the enormous impact that a relationship can have on our health.
These researchers studied 76 women, half of who married and the other half divorced or in the process of separating. After analyzing their blood they found that those who maintained a complicated relationship or remained emotionally tied to a difficult one, showed a weaker immune system response.
They later involved in the study 42 couples in order to investigate what happens in the body during a couple’s argument. One day, the couple had to talk for half an hour about a subject in which both agreed, on the following day had to face a problem on what they did not agree and that created tension.
While they were talking, the researchers caused them small burns on their arms to analyze the effect of the support or the misunderstanding in the healing process. So they found that when couples argued, the wounds needed an extra day to heal. And in couples who showed the greatest hostility, the wounds took two days to heal.
These data suggest that the stress we experience in a relationship triggers changes in our body that, in the long term, can have negative effects on our health. Therefore, if you are “trapped” in a toxic relationship, which generates you more dissatisfaction that happiness, you should stop for a moment to rethink your situation, reflect and find the best solution for both.
Why is it better to be alone than in bad company?
There are people who exert a positive influence. People who contribute a lot and help us grow. There are other people who, due to the type of relationship we have established with them, limit us. When we are in the company of the last ones, we can feel alone because we don’t have points in common and feel misunderstood, which leads to an affective void. The Australian writer Germaine Greer summed it up perfectly: “Loneliness is never more cruel than when you feel close to someone who’s stopped communicating”.
In many cases, these relationships become a source of frustration or systematic oppression that takes away our emotional energy or even end up affecting our self-image and self-esteem. The supposed love degenerates into forms of coexistence that are frustrating, frankly catastrophic and very far from the authentic pleasure, happiness and satisfaction that should bring. In those cases, it’s better to be alone than in bad company.
The chosen solitude can be a balm for the soul. It gives us incredible freedom and, above all, allows us to be alone with ourselves, to rediscover ourselves. Loneliness also allows us to establish our own priorities, encourages us to put ourselves at the center of our lives and to take control of our destiny, fully assuming the responsibilities for our decisions.
It’s not an inconsequential change, especially if we take into account that many times, when we are surrounded by people, we end up subordinating our desires and needs to their own, relegating us to a second, third or fourth level.
Loneliness, in short, encourages us to complete ourselves as people and, paradoxically, prepares us for full love, which is not born of fear of being alone or of emotional dependence but of maturity and the authentic desire to share life contributing value to the other.
That is why sometimes there are times in life when we must rethink whether it’s better to be alone than with someone that limits or even harms us. Sometimes, making the decision to break with that relationship is simply a matter of psychological survival.
Barr, A. B. et. Al. (2016) Romantic relationship transitions and changes in health among rural, White young adults. J Fam Psychol; 30(7): 832-842.
Kielcot-Glaser, J. K. et. Al. (2005) Hostile marital interactions, proinflammatory cytokine production, and wound healing. Arch Gen Psychiatry; 62(12): 1377-1384.