How Stigma Affects Our Relationship Choices


How Stigma Affects Romantic Relationships

Source: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The origins of the word stigma, which can be roughly translated as “spot” or “mark”, are deeply rooted in ancient Greek culture. Stigma referred to a tattoo, cut, stain, or burn that was marked on the skin of traitors, criminals, or slaves in a publicly visible place so that they could be easily identified as morally inferior or polluted individuals. that should be shunned, shunned, or stigmatized in public.

The meaning of the word has evolved since it was first employed in Greek civilizations, with stigma today existing in many different forms, affecting individuals for reasons ranging from mental and physical disability to race and ethnicity, health, educational background or, in the case of this article, relationship status. Stigma can occur in almost any setting: the workplace, school or educational setting, in health care, criminal justice, legal systems and even in the family context.1

Among the first formal investigators of stigma in modern social contexts was Erving Goffman, who in his book described three types of stigma.2

  • The first type refers to overt or external deformities that include scars, physical disabilities, or other factors that make an individual distinctly different from others.
  • The second type of social stigma is called tribal stigma, or when traits (imaginary or not) are applied to a nationality, ethnic group or religion that deviate from accepted and prevailing norms within society.
  • The third type of stigma refers to deviations in personality traits such as criminal behavior, addictions, economic status, academic and career achievements, and relationship or family status. The stigma of single people falls into this category.

Before exploring the specific ways in which certain relationship styles are harmed by stigma, it is important to consider that in addition to the specific consequences of single person stigma, there are many negative effects of stigma on the individual as a whole. general.

Once a stigma is placed on an individual, people identify and label their differences until the stigmatized difference is no longer detectable. Up to this point, stigma has a negative impact on the emotions and beliefs of those affected. In particular, the negative psychological impacts of stigma lead to mental illness,3 low self-esteem,4 the Depression,5 not to mention the direct educational, economic and legal consequences of stigma, which can lead to a further reduction in socio-economic status.

In addition, stigma can shape the behavior of stigmatized people. For example, stereotypes associated with stigma can lead to negative emotions and beliefs about the self, resulting in a more negative self-identity, especially in threatening situations.1

How Stigma Affects Romantic Relationships

While most research on the effects of stigma has involved groups of individuals widely recognized as stigmatized (e.g., women, HIV-positive adults, and racial minorities), the past decade has seen a growing body of work dealing with the stigma of single people and those who want relationship styles that do not conform to mainstream society. Some want to choose to be single, in polyamorous relationships, or some other form of close bonding, but are afraid to do so due to social pressure and conformity.

We just don’t see how this irregular choice of ours will fit together. In particular, the stigma of relationships is still marginal, and many people don’t think about the fact that sweet old Valentine’s Day, for example, is more of an exclusive holiday. day that leaves aside the celebration of many other relationship stories.

Also, we usually don’t know that we are influenced by stigma. One researcher studied the effects of stigma awareness on the self-esteem of single people and found a distinct lack of singleness awareness, even among single people themselves.6 Specifically, only 4% of singles spontaneously listed singles as a stigmatized group, and when asked explicitly whether singles were stigmatized, only 30% of singles and 23% of people in a relationship agreed. In comparison, 100% of gay men, 90% of obese people, 86% of African Americans (the study was conducted in the United States) and 72% of women agreed that their group was discriminated against.

This raises an important question as to whether we enter into a traditional romantic relationship because we are unaware of stigmatizing those who act otherwise. Even if we want to enter into a relationship, we must always identify the style of relationship that interests us, whether it is close and intimate relationships under one roof, or more free relationships that give each of the partners the space staff he needs.


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