Corinne Reczek of the University of Cincinnati reports three distinct findings into how unhealthy habits were promoted through long-term, intimate relationships -- through direct bad influence of one partner, through health habit synchronicity and through the notion of personal responsibility.
"The finding that one partner is a 'direct bad influence' suggests that individuals converge in health habits across the course of their relationship, because one individual's unhealthy habits directly promotes the others unhealthy habits," Reczek says in a statement.
For example, both partners eat the unhealthy foods that one partner purchases.
"Gay and lesbian couples nearly exclusively described how the habits of both partners were simultaneously promoted due to unhealthy habit synchronicity," Reczek says in a statement. "One partner may not engage in what they consider an unhealthy habit on their own, but when their desire for such a habit is matched by their partners, they partake in unhealthy habits."
Respondents utilized a discourse of personal responsibility to describe how even when they observe their partner partaking in an unhealthy habit, they do not attempt to change the habit, indicating that they were complicit in sustaining their partner's unhealthy habits, Reczek says.
"Previous research focuses nearly exclusively on how marriage is health-promoting, but these findings say intimate partners are cognizant of the ways in which they promote the unhealthy habits of one another," Reczek says.
The findings are scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.