According to research, for adolescent girls, such a situation would lead to negative implications for their mental health.
“I found that girls’ risk of severe depression, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempt increase the more their relationships diverge from what they imagined,” said Brian Soller, an assistant professor of sociology and a senior fellow at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in the US.
“Conversely, I found no evidence that bad romantic relationship contributes to poor mental health among boys,” Soller added.
To understand this, Soller measured relationship inauthenticity in 5,300 high school students, examining the mental health consequences of mismatches between adolescents’ ideal and actual relationships.
In the initial interview, researchers provided adolescents with a number of cards describing events that often occur within relationships, including everything from hand holding and kissing to sex.
Roughly a year later, the respondents repeated the exercise.
During both interviews, researchers asked participants about their mental health.
As for why relationship inauthenticity increased the risk of mental health problems for girls, but not for boys, Soller said, “Romantic relationships are particularly important components of girls’ identities and are, therefore, strongly related to how they feel about themselves – good or bad.”
As a result, relationships that diverge from what girls envision for themselves are especially damaging to their emotional well-being.
On the other hand, Soller said relationships are not as important to boys’ identities.
“Boys may be more likely to build their identities around sports or other extracurricular activities so this could be why they are not affected by relationship inauthenticity,” he noted.
Helping girls build their identities around things other than romantic relationships may mitigate the effects of relationship inauthenticity on their mental health, the researchers noted in a paper published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.