Cover 2 Cover Magazine December 2011 : Page 23

RELATIONSHIPS A Match Made In … by Gary W. Lewandowski Jr & Cori Palermo As you gather for the holidays with family and friends, there are two topics that are notorious landmines: politics and religion. Despite the potential for intense discussion, research generally shows a positive as-sociation between religion and physical and mental health. 1 However, religion can also lead to negative experiences such as struggles with one’s beliefs, being judged for your own or your religion’s beliefs, and increased interpersonal conflict. 1 In spite of these ex-periences, religion may still play a strong positive role in the formation and maintenance of romantic relation-ships. Religion’s influence can occur in the very early stages of relationship formation. For example, a study of 1,000 women found that those with no religious af-filiation were more likely to have “hooked up” than those with a conservative Protestant background. 2 In contrast, women at a Catholic college were more like to have “hooked up” than their non-religious peers. More generally women at Catholic affiliated schools reported more “hooking up” than women at non-reli-giously affiliated schools. Religion may decrease rates of “hooking up” because the more religious college women were less interested in casual sexual relationships, and more inclined to pursue long term relationships. A different study of over 1,000 women supports this possibility with results showing that those who considered themselves religious viewed marriage as an important personal goal. 3 These results were even stronger for women who came from two-parent households. In addition, those who attended church more frequently and who reported greater religiosity were more likely to desire earlier marriage. In fact, greater church attendance also relates to a decreased likelihood of “hooking up.” 2 Religion can help in relationship formation, but even more research demonstrates its positive role in long-term relationships. For example, those who pray for their romantic partner are less likely to give into temptations that could be hurtful to the partner, such as infidelity. 4 Praying for one’s partner also increases feelings of commitment, while praying during times of conflict can help reduce hostility and negativity, enhance relationship and partner orientation, and encourage greater responsibility for reconciliation and problem solving. 4 Similarly, church attendance can predict a lower likelihood of having an affair, but faith, nearness to God, and other religious attributes cannot. 5, 6 It is important to point out, however, that these results are correlational. That is, simply attending church will not bring about the aforementioned positive outcomes. Rather, it is more likely that there are characteristics of those individuals who attend church more frequently that create the differences in relationship behaviors. As a result, for the benefit of your relationship it is ultimately most important to be a kind, considerate, respectful, and caring partner. 1 Exline, J. (2002). Stumbling blocks on the religious road: Fractured relationships, nagging vices, and the inner struggle to believe. Psychological Inquiry, 13(3), 182-189. doi:10.1207/S15327965PLI1303_03 2 Burdette, A. M., Ellison, C. G., Hill, T. D., & Glenn, N. D. (2009). “Hooking up” at college: Does religion make a difference?. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Reli -gion, 48(3), 535-551. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01464.x 3 Ellison, C. G., Burdette, A. M., & Glenn, N. D. (2011). Praying for Mr. Right? Religion, family background, and marital expectations among college women. Journal of Family Issues, 32(7), 906-931. doi:10.1177/0192513X10393143 4 Fincham, F. D., Lambert, N. M., & Beach, S. H. (2010). Faith and unfaithfulness: Can praying for your partner reduce infidelity?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0019628 5 Atkins, D. C., & Kessel, D. E. (2008). Religiousness and infidelity: Attendance, but not faith and prayer, predict marital fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 407-418. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00490.x 6 Burdette, A. M., Ellison, C. G., Sherkat, D. E., & Gore, K. A. (2007). Are there religious variations in marital infidelity?. Journal Of Family Issues, 28(12), 1553-1581. doi:10.1177/0192513X07304269 December 2011 | Cover 2 Cover Magazine 23

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