Face Of Disapproval:
Social Walls Make Complicated Relationships
Breaking Social Norms
Relationships that violate social norms face a tough road. It is not an exaggeration to say that the impact of social marginalization on non-traditional romantic connections is quite tremendous. Researchers have found that "individuals who perceived greater disapproval of their relationships had significantly lower levels of commitment, suggesting that perceptions of marginalization may indeed affect how people feel about their partners."1 In other words, people in relationships that are socially devalued tend to be less committed to each other. Let’s take that in for a moment. What this is saying is the way that other people think about your relationship can affect how you feel about your partner. Bias and social disapproval take a toll, and sometimes that toll is the failure of your relationship.
Drama And Family Tensions
Family and friends are often the most important social influence we have, which means their opinions often carry significant weight. When family tensions boil over, or when there is drama in a friend group, people's true colors come out. It’s unrealistic to expect to always get along with everyone. You're certainly not alone if your partner and your family don’t like each other or want to spend time together. However, the longer this situation persists, you will most likely begin to question your involvement with your partner. That’s assuming that you actually like your family.
Adults aren't the only ones that cause issues, sometimes children get in the way. Maybe they're upset that their dad left, and they want so badly for their parents to reunite that they refuse to accept your new boyfriend. You can't force your kids to like the person you're dating. The bottom line is that if there's tension in your family because of your relationship, it creates an additional stress that makes things more difficult. It's going to be an uphill battle to make it work.
⇲ action steps
• If your parents and/or close friends disapprove, there's a possibility that they could be right. Maybe your partner really does have some serious issues and you've been blinded by love. You may want to carefully consider your partner’s character flaws.
• Talk with the disapproving person and try to understand their concerns. It's possible that there's been some sort of misunderstanding.
• Find a mediator, preferably someone that's had professional training. A therapist may be able to help get you and your family on the same page.
In doing research for this article, I came across this phrase while I was looking for keywords. The meaning of enfermedad is "disease". What this means, is that there are people out there searching for information about homosexuality as a disease. I can’t imagine living in a culture that viewed my sexual preference this way. The amount of bias one would encounter would force them to sneak around and try to be as "normal" as possible. What would it be like to feel such intense pressure not to be who you are? Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people don’t have to use their imagination.
Homosexuality is illegal and carries a prison sentence in many countries, and is still punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.2 On April 3, 2019 Brunei joined them with a law that imposes a sentence of "death by stoning".3 Many other countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, impose harsh prison sentences for homosexuality, sometimes as much as life. In places where the threat of death or imprisonment is not legalized, many gay people still face intense bias and hatred. To me it seems like the only disease going on here is blatant prejudice.
⇲ action steps
• If you live in one of the countries mentioned above, immigration may be an option. If you’re unable to leave, do your best to endure. Many countries are legalizing gay marriage. Your situation may seem hopeless at the moment, but things can change quickly.
Biracial Couples And Families
In many places, interracial relationships don't carry the stigma they once did, and more people than ever are engaging in them. However, stigma still has an impact. According to the research, approximately 41% of mixed-race couples divorce within 10 years. For same-race couples, the rate is significantly lower at 31%. The added pressure of being in a mixed-race partnership leads to a statistically greater chance of divorce.
⇲ action steps
• Living in an urban area increases the frequency, and thus social acceptance, of interracial relationships.
• If you encounter direct discrimination, remember that racists are usually just trying to meet their needs for belonging and significance. Most likely, they’re also miserable.
Couples where one partner is significantly less attractive than the other are frequently judged. The most obvious example I could think of was the marriage between Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts. One guy described Lovett as "gargoyle-faced" and called their relationships an "unlikely pairing". He further slammed Roberts for marrying "as part of a misguided celebrity outreach to provide care and companionship to the spectacularly unattractive".4 Ouch.
It's cruel and unfair to judge someone only for their looks. But when people ridicule your relationship and continually question why you're with your partner, it's going to have an impact. You may be able to weather that impact if the connection is strong. However, if things start to go wrong in the relationship, the added stress of social marginalization can cause it to collapse. Julia and Lyle divorced less than two years later.
⇲ action steps
• Work on personal development and mindfulness to combat the effects of stigma.
• Be open with each other about the issue, and tackle the problem as a team.
Why Does God Break Up Relationships?
As history bears out, religion can be quite a divisive force, and, naturally, intimate relationships are not immune. Breaking up with someone you love because of religion happens all too frequently. If your partner won't accept you as you are and keeps trying to convert you to their religion, it's going to be hard to feel loved and accepted by them. This situation can work for those who have low self-esteem, and don’t think they deserve better. But healthy people won’t tolerate this behavior indefinitely.
Attempts at conversion may not be the problem. Maybe the issue is that you accidentally joined a destructive cult, and now your wife and kids are shunning you for doubting the "Truth". Of course, they are just expressing what they desire and value, which has been formed and reinforced by an ideology. If you're not interested in remaining in the group, you're also expressing your desires. Many people in these types of situations choose to do a slow fade so as not to draw attention, or even to pretend like they’re still interested and nothing has changed. #ShunningSucks
⇲ action steps
• Learn as much as you can, preferably from experts. In this case, that would be people who used to be in the same religion that left and experienced the same crap. They will totally get where you are, and have the skills to lead you on a constructive path.
• Don’t assume that you have to leave your family behind. There may be some techniques you can employ to help things work out.
• If you were in a cult, get some exit counseling.
Scientists have found statistical evidence that age gaps in relationships predict the likelihood of divorce.5 There are many factors that contribute to this, such as the intergenerational couple being in different places in life, valuing different things, having different friends, and the decline in sexual function of men as they age. It's also a fact that relationships with large gaps in age carry a hefty social stigma.
Regardless of the reason, the data is clear. According to one study, a 5 year gap predicts and 18% greater chance of divorce. At 10 years, the risk increases to 39%. A difference of 20 years pushes it to a 95% higher probability. And, maybe not surprisingly, a 30 year gap makes spouses 172% more likely to divorce. The lesson? If you want your relationship to succeed be careful about large gaps in age.
Inter-Caste Marriage Problem Solution
In the west, we have an informal class system that proscribes who we should date. Many people experience social stigma when they date someone from "the wrong side of the tracks", someone who is "blue collar", or someone who has parents that "just aren't rich enough". Primarly our classes break down along financial or educational lines.
The caste system in India takes things to another level, traditionally only allowing marriage within one's own social group. Young people may want to marry for love, but it is forbidden by their culture because the person they love happens to be a member of the wrong caste. This forces many people to either marry someone they don't like or to come up with an inter caste marriage scheme just to be with the person they love. Generations have tried in vain to figure out how to convince parents for love marriage without hurting them. Considering the sheer numbers of people living in India, one wonders how many have had their otherwise healthy relationships fail because of this practice.
Lehmiller, J. J., & Agnew, C. R. (2006). Marginalized relationships: The impact of social disapproval on romantic relationship commitment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin