Don’t Stand on One Leg and Think About Your Significant Other

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Photo: Steve Prezant/Corbis

If you choose to believe them, these old wives' tales ensure the longevity of your relationship: Don’t get married on a Thursday or Saturday; sew a swan’s feather into your spouse's pillow; make sure you avoid seeing a lizard in the road on the way to your wedding but do try and see a chimney sweep. And here’s a new one, which, unlike the others, is backed up by psychology: Do not think about your relationship while standing on one leg.

According to a paper from Psychological Science studying how our physiology is connected to our emotions, people who were asked to assess their relationship while feeling physically unstable — say, while trying to balance on one leg or sitting at a wobbly desk — were more likely to perceive their romantic relationship as rocky or unstable.

Researchers took a group of students who reported being in committed relationships for at least one year and asked them to fill out a relationship questionnaire. Some students were seated at normal, sturdy desks, while others were seated at wobbly desks. No surprise: The wobbly-desk groups were more likely to describe their relationships as wobbly. In the second part of the study, researchers asked another group to assess their relationship while standing on one leg, and to then compose letters to their partners. Those who had to write the letters while struggling to keep their balance ended up writing critical notes instead of loving odes.

This paper offers a new bit of folksy advice to pass down: If you want your relationship to last, only write love notes with both feet on the ground. And make sure you always fix the wobbly dinner chair, or else your relationship is screwed.