- A new research study by Thriveworks reveals the extent to which romantic relationships affect mental health in the United States.
- Over a third of Americans identify their past and present romantic relationships as the primary cause for their mental health concerns.
- A large percentage of Americans still suffer psychological fallout from negative experiences with previous partners who love bombed, cheated on, or gaslit them.
- Relationship anxiety is widespread, but Thriveworks offers numerous resources to help partners achieve emotional safety in their intimate bonds.
According to new research* from Thriveworks, over a third (34%) of Americans believe that their romantic relationships (current or previous) are the leading cause of their mental health concerns.
Love, attachment, and intimacy can all trigger buried fears, past traumas, and self-esteem issues. And yet we still seek connection with each other, wanting our mutual affection to outweigh our collective baggage. We root for love to triumph despite our past heartbreaks. But it’s precisely those heartbreaks that we want to look at today. Let’s dive into the numbers.
A Nation of Cautious Lovers
The vast majority of people (77%) say that their negative experiences with past partners have influenced the way they show up for present-day and future relationships. For example, 35% of respondents no longer trust people, and 30% of respondents suffered damage to their self-esteem due to previous romantic experiences. Even more people (36%) reported heightened vigilance toward relationship “red flags”. And 18% of respondents claim to have stopped dating altogether because of prior experiences.
According to Thriveworks survey data, peoples’ mental health concerns seem to be due to poor behavior from past and present romantic partners. A whopping 82% of Americans have been treated in ways that have proved damaging to their mental health. The number of distressing behaviors that people report experiencing with their significant others include:
- Cheating: 42%
- Gaslighting: 28%
- Misrepresentation: 28%
- Ghosting: 27%
- Love bombing: 20%
- Receiving false information on dating apps: 19%
- Entitlement: 19%
- Misogyny: 7%
- Misandry: 3%
Granted, some relationship deal-breakers aren’t necessarily a partner’s fault. For example, 16% of respondents blamed mismatched attachment styles for their mental health issues, and 36% blamed differing values (which are notoriously hard to change).
A Breakdown of What Gives Americans Relationship Anxiety
People report different causes of anxiety depending on what stage of a romantic relationship they’re in. For example, early on in a relationship, people report feeling anxious about the following:
- Asking someone out (55%)
- Talking about the future (49%)
- Waiting for a text back from someone you’re dating (49%)
- Waiting for a match (27%)
People who consider their relationships to be more established worry most about the following:
- The relationship ending (66%)
- Meeting a partner’s family and friends (58%)
- Getting married (52%)
- Moving in with a partner (48%)
- Waiting to get engaged (44%)
- Deciding whether or not to have children (38%)
Men Report More Relationship-Based Mental Health Concerns
One surprising result of the Thriveworks research is that more men than women attribute their mental health concerns to romantic relationships. Data shows that 37% of men versus only 31% of women attribute their psychological distress to relationships.
Also, men are more likely than women (32% vs 15%) to believe that you can’t be happy if you’re single. Overall, while 23% of Americans think that happiness requires a romantic partner, a larger percentage (32%) feel pressured to find that partner. And this is even more true for men (34%) than women (29%).
Overcoming Relationship Anxiety
The first step to overcoming relationship anxiety may be to recognize how common it is, as Thriveworks research indicates. Most of us have been damaged by past romantic relationships, but there are actions we can take to discontinue the cycle of distrust and maltreatment of our partners. Thriveworks has curated some resources that we think can help:
- America’s widespread relationship anxiety: A guide for anxious and nonanxious partners
- Thriveworks guides to couples therapy and marriage counseling
- Retroactive jealousy in relationships: What to do when your partner obsesses over your past
- Do meat, sex, and money count as irreconcilable differences? Workarounds for 3 heated lifestyle clashes in couples
- Solo life and singlism: How much does relationship status matter?
- Relationship self-care: 6 tips for prioritizing yourself when you’re in a relationship
- Psychological coercion, dark traits, and emotional safety in relationships
- Relationships on social media can’t be trusted—here’s how they can negatively affect you
- 6 pieces of advice that will help you master the world of dating
- 3 important lessons you learn in couples counseling
- When divorce is a mistake: Is reconciliation possible? Does our relationship deserve another shot?
*A study of 1005 Americans commissioned by Thriveworks and conducted by Censuswide in January 2022.