A Piece of Advice
What is stigma and how is it relevant to lovers?
A growing body of research reveals how stigma can have a detrimental impact on people’s health and well-being, and it’s relevant to both individuals and couples. According to a number of scholars, stigma involves treatment by people who are in a social position of advantage and power toward others who do not have this status. When someone faces stigma, they’re seen in an unfavourable light and set apart from others, and they experience prejudice and unfair treatment. As individuals, we can face stigma because of our race or ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, faith, gender, caste, or social class, to name a small number of examples (sadly, there are many others).
Now that we’ve got a clearer idea of what stigma is in general, let’s look at what relationship science can tell us about how it’s relevant to couples. Couples face stigma when they fall outside what society defines as a normal and therefore acceptable relationship, such as couples who are inter-class, inter-caste, inter-faith, inter-racial, same-sex, or who have an age-gap. In fact, stigma toward unconventional relationships can be so powerful and distressing that it either hinders people from allowing themselves to be in such a relationship or it leads them to try to hide it.
But as challenging as stigma is in a couple’s culture and society, it appears to be even more difficult to handle when it comes from friends and family. Even so, relationship science also tells us that many unconventional couples are resilient. In defiance of stigma, couples can find ways to cope and keep going, and where they can find validation and acceptance, these approving social relationships make a positive impact.
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