In the period leading up to Valentine's Day, the Internet spits out list after list about the most romantic places across the country. But "Is Virginia for Lovers? Geographic Variation in Adult Attachment Orientation
" stands out from the pack. Published by the Journal of Research in Personality
, the study is a broad, deep and rigorous examination of relationships that's based on responses from more than 125,000 people, and its authors, Bill Chopik and Matt Motyl, are both notable academics; Chopik is an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, while Motyl is in the psychology department at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
These factors mean that the study should be taken more seriously than, for instance, listicals based on Facebook key words or the number of restaurants in certain neighborhoods. And unfortunately, the research showed that Colorado is one of the ten worst states in the country when it comes to romance.
"Surprisingly, you guys fall toward the bottom of the list," Chopik says.
According to Chopik, the study zeroed in on two major characteristics that can negatively impact relationships: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance.
"Anxious people can be low in emotional stability," he explains. "Think of a Woody Allen type who's always airing his insecurities about the latest person he's dating, but who's also anxious in respect to relationships." As for avoidance, he says such folks "often don't feel comfortable expressing emotion."
Over the years, these qualities have been associated with specific regions across the U.S.
"We think about California as a blissful paradise where love blossoms and grows, while New York is the center of anxiety and uncertainty and insecurity," Chopik notes. "We also think about the Midwest as a little more conventional. And there have been a bunch of studies showing people in the mountainous regions have historically been explorers and risk-takers, really independent and self-sufficient. We thought that if they were focused on exploration and achievement, they might be less focused on relationships."
To find out if these perceptions matched up with reality, Chopik and Motyl created questionnaires designed to tickle out evidence of anxiety and avoidance.
"If someone would respond to a question like, 'I worry that my partner doesn't really love me,' that tells you they have a sense of anxiety," Chopik says. "We found that people with super-anxious states had a slightly higher marriage rate" — presumably because they were afraid that if they left their current relationship, they would have trouble finding a new partner. "And people who displayed avoidance were more likely to have a discomfort with intimacy and closeness. They would respond to an item like, 'I don't feel comfortable opening up to people.' We found they were less likely to have children, more likely to live alone, less likely to volunteer their time."
The huge number of survey responses included individuals in all fifty states — enough of them that Chopik and Motyl were able to create scores for each state in their two main categories. Here they are, with the states ranked with the lowest combined levels of anxiety and avoidance to those at the top of that scale. And yes, Colorado's poor performance puts it on page two of this post.
6. North Carolina
25. New Hampshire
Continue for the rest of the list and more of our interview with study co-author Bill Chopik about the most romantic states and Colorado's poor finish.