How Relationships Affect Our Decisions (Including My Own)

couple shopping at super market

When I was buying my own Apple laptop for the first time a few months ago, I was a bit nervous. I grew up in a household with PCs and have always considered myself a “PC person,” so I naturally felt more comfortable purchasing those — up until my last one stopped working after just two and a half years. Plus, I had been gradually turning into an “Apple person”: first with an iPod, then an iPad, finally the iPhone and voila! I was now constantly carrying some little device with a bitten apple on it at all times.

Nevertheless, while I was buying a laptop, I found myself anxious about which to get. There were multiple appealing models, but since I had never had one before, I didn’t know exactly what to look for. Since one of my exes — who’s now one of my best friends — is very Apple-savvy, I wound up asking him for help and advice. He gave me a bit of information and told me which he thought would best suit my needs, and when I arrived at the store to get it a few days later, I felt confident and informed — even though I actually knew quite little still. But I trusted him, as well as my instincts, so I wound up purchasing the one I thought made the most sense without even investigating other models in-store, which I likely would have had he not helped me with my decision.

So, why was it so quick and simple for me to choose once I had someone's support? Apparently, it’s because people are more likely to feel confident with less choices when they’re in a supportive relationship. Research via a new study suggests that people are able to make a more solid, decisive choice when someone else is helping to quell anxiety regarding the various options.

In the study, participants were given the choice between the following:

Option A: You do not have to make a decision on which phone to get. The company decides for you.
Option B: For a $5 fee, you can view and select from 3 of the 9 available models.
Option C: For a $10 fee, you can view and select from 6 of the 9 available models.
Option D: For a $15 fee, you can view and select from 9 of the 9 available models.

Oddly enough, the participants who were in relationships often chose options A, B or C, whereas those who were not in a relationship picked option D. Researchers believe that this is because the more supported a person feels, the more comfortable they are with less control over their choices.

Personally, I would choose the last one. I love having tons of options because I would be afraid of getting a terrible phone if I couldn’t choose it for myself. Did I mention I have control issues? Because I do. So it makes entirely too much sense that I would choose D. I'm definitely not a “leave it up to fate” kind of person. I much prefer to be able to exercise control over my situation.

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However, being that I’m presently single, I can’t help but wonder: if I were in a healthy, comforting relationship with someone, would I feel differently about having my phone chosen for me? For that matter, what else could I be comfortable not choosing?

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