In psychology, your relationship status is part of who you are. This includes the way you act and interact. For instance, people in a relationship might not post evidence of their relationship on social media such as Facebook. And people in a relationship may not post pictures of themselves together.
Identity is a psychological concept that describes how people define themselves and distinguish themselves from others. The way that we define ourselves and relate to others determines our behavior. When we activate our identities in social settings, we act in ways that align with our identities. For instance, someone who defines themselves as a student is likely to visit a professor’s office hours and ask to meet with them. As a result, our behavior and identity are tightly linked.
Social identity theory
Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a condition where individual boundaries become blurred. This psychological distress prevents a person from forming a stable sense of self. As a result, individuals tend to feel disconnected from others.
Internalized stigma results from people’s belief that negative stereotypes about themselves apply to them. For example, a person with a mental illness may believe they should not be trusted or valued by others. Many people with CSIs had internalized these stereotypes long before they acquired their identities. Many people learn about these negative stereotypes from their parents, peers, and media.
While social identity theory suggests that these identities are not shared, there is evidence that individual commitment to place is based on shared values. According to Brunsting and Postmes, “individual commitment to a place is a strong social bond, which many people share,” the two facets of identity are linked. Likewise, people who feel strongly about a place will engage in pro-environmental behavior to protect it.
Researchers have begun to recognize that stigmatized identities are highly influential in a person’s psychological and physical health. While stigma research has traditionally focused on racial and gender identities, recent work has begun to consider the implications of hidden identities. For example, people with hidden identities are more likely to suffer psychological distress than those out in the open about their identity.
The idea that your relationship status is part of your identity is not new. Psychologists have long posited that the self is crucial to our social relationships. Psychologists such as William James have studied the range of emotions and relatedness rooted in the self. Other researchers such as Taylor and Brown have developed positive illusions about ourselves that protect us from mental illness. And Higgins has developed the concept of self-discrepancy.