Monday
Feb202017

Too Macho for the Middle? Why Guys Don’t Compromise

Imagine you and your romantic partner are purchasing a new car together. You both prioritize safety and fuel efficiency, and you’ve identified 3 cars that you mutually like. The first car is extremely fuel-efficient. The second has superior safety ratings. And the third car is in the middle – it scores reasonably on both factors. Which are you most likely to buy – the car that dominates in one desirable category or the middle-of-the-road option?

A recent study1 indicates that your choice of car (and other things) likely depends on whether one of the decision makers in the couple is female.  

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Tuesday
Feb142017

Why You Should Date Your Best Friend

Being someone’s BFF is a big deal – you don’t hand over the other half of your “Best Friends” necklace to just anyone. Having a romantic partner who is also your best friend potentially sounds perfect. With your BFF as your romantic partner, you get the best of both worlds, someone with whom you can laugh, share your life and cuddle. When you look at seemingly happy celebrity couples like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, or Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow, not only do they appear to be in love, but they also seem to genuinely enjoy hanging out together.

 

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Friday
Feb102017

To Put Out or Not to Put Out? 23 Years of Reasons for Maintaining Virginity

A recent study examined 23 years of college students’ explanations for their virginity.1 [It’s worth noting from the outset that “virginity” is a loaded term, one that’s replete with religious and moral overtones, but there’s no great alternative. Scratch “abstainer” and “sexually inexperienced,” as these simply are inaccurate descriptors for most people who have not had an experience of sexual intercourse].

Over 7,000 students completed a questionnaire that asked for details about their sexual histories.

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Thursday
Feb092017

Flower Power: How Flowers Influence Relationship Choices

“Roses are red, violets are blue; when I’m around flowers I’m more attracted to you!” 


Whether it's red roses for Valentine’s Day or a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers as a bride walks down the aisle, flowers are inextricably linked with relationships. But can the mere presence of flowers influence actual relationship behavior? To test this question, a French researcher randomly assigned female participants to watch a video of a male discussing food while participants were either (a) sitting in a room decorated with three vases full of flowers (roses, marigolds, and daisies), or (b) sitting in a room decorated with empty vases.1 Women who sat in the room with flowers rated the male in the video as sexier and more attractive, and they were more willing to date him.

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Monday
Feb062017

A Kiss is More than Just a Kiss

Whereas kissing is commonly perceived as a display of affection in romantic relationships, research highlights a far more nuanced explanation regarding the “function” of kissing within relationships.1 Some research suggests that kissing enables individuals to assess the quality of potential partners by putting individuals in close proximity, making it easier to examine features that are associated with mate value, such as breath and skin texture.2 Other research suggests that kissing elevates levels of arousal, which may lead to sexual intercourse.3 A third body of research suggests that kissing can influence feelings of attachment, alleviate stress, and increase relationship satisfaction.4 Given these varied explanations, the question remains: is there a single purpose for kissing or do all these explanations hold truth?

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Wednesday
Feb012017

Problems with Sexual Functioning Cramping Your Style?

We usually associate sexual dysfunction with men and women as they age. Most studies of sexual dysfunctions examine older adults,1,2 but studies rarely ask young people, “Does everything work as you think it should?”  “Does it feel good when you have sex?” or “Is sex as good as you expected it to be?” This is the first study to examine sexual problems among young people. The data answer a lot of questions, including whether and to what extent young people experience problems in functioning. That alone is important, but this information also helps untangle the questions about whether our sex lives start out good but get progressively worse for some as they age.  It also helps us to understand whether, for some, our sexual lives start out as problematic and just never get better.

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Wednesday
Jan252017

Beating Relationship Boredom

Are you bored in your relationship? If so, there is no shortage of advice on the internet for how to combat it (from Boredom Busters to Spicy Sex Tips for Bored Couples). The overwhelming advice on the internet is to simply spice things up when bored – and such advice includes a broad definition of “spicy” (e.g., board game night—oy!; creating a date jar; cooking class; laser tag; and a whole new repertoire of bedroom moves). What do relationship scientists say?

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Monday
Jan232017

Sex Differences in Kissing: A Quick Review

Studies have shown that women place greater importance on kissing than do men. Females are more likely to use kissing “…as a means of initiating, maintaining, and monitoring the current status of their relationship with a long-term partner.”1 Women are also more likely to judge how committed a partner is based on the way he or she kisses.1 Whereas some studies show that females desire kissing more than men,2 others show that desire to engage in kissing behavior for men and women is the same.3

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Wednesday
Jan182017

“Netflix and Chill?”: Are Friends With Benefits Relationships the New Norm?

In decades past, “dating” was the primary way people developed relationships – people would get a feel for each other and, if things felt right, they would eventually engage in physical intimacy. Recent research, however, suggests the sequencing of sex in a new relationship has changed. Sex has begun to function as a screening device that people use to determine if a relationship is worth perusing. In fact, research shows that over the past 30 years, the amount of time between first date and first sexual encounter has decreased steadily1. Because sex is such an important element of relationships this leads researchers to reconsider what constitutes “normal” relational development.

Enter the friends with benefits relationship (FWBR). If you’re under the age of 25 and you’re reading this you may be thinking ‘nobody does FWBRs anymore, that’s what our parents did.’ Before you judge, consider the following study conducted by Mongeau and his colleagues2. They had a feeling that FWBRs were not as simple as people think they are. In fact, the researchers let their participants (in this case, college students) define what a FWBR is. The results revealed that FWBRs do not represent one type of relationship – they represent seven (see the Table below for types and descriptions).

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Monday
Jan162017

Attachment in the Virtual World

Did you have a Tamagotchi as a child, or have you played a similar game where you had to take care of a pet or person (e.g., Nintendogs)? Did you invest a lot of time taking care of it? I know I did. I also had pretty positive feelings towards my Tamagotchi and Nintendog (a cute corgi). Interestingly, it’s possible that how I felt towards my virtual pets related to how I felt towards others in the non-virtual world.1 While reading a recent, currently free to access, issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, I learned that there’s a computer program that you can play to try your hand at being a parent. The child is born and ages like a non-virtual child, but does so at a rapid rate. The choices that you make for it are irreversible. Researchers wanted to know if people’s feelings towards a “virtual child” were related to comfort with getting close to others in real life.

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Friday
Jan132017

Writing to Heal: The Impact of Expressive Writing on Individual and Relational Well-Being

Relationships have their ups and downs. In many cases, people in relationships experience periods of enduring happiness, and also find themselves going through times that leave them feeling like their personal or relationship health could be improved. But to where does one turn when in need of a personal or relational boost? Research suggests one might pull out a pen and paper to write about their relationship. 

Several published reports indicate that expressive writing is a useful tool for mental, physical, and relational health management.

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Monday
Jan092017

Does Being a “Good Kisser” Really Matter?

Obviously, whether or not someone is a good kisser is important. But how important is it? Researchers have hypothesized that subjects who were told that a potential partner was a “good kisser” would find the potential partner as more attractive and would be more likely to pursue future dates with said partner than someone who was described as a “bad kisser.”1 In addition, the researchers expected that subjects would be more interested in having casual sex with this person and would be more likely to consider a long-term relationship, especially for women. So they clearly thought kissing is very important.

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Thursday
Jan052017

Making Sense of a Breakup

The way people tell stories about their relationships says a lot about them and their relationships. For example, the pronouns that people use when telling their stories can reveal their relationship’s stability: People who are more committed tend to talk about “us,” whereas people who are less committed tend to talk about “me” (see here for more).1 People who write about important events in their relationships and end the story positively (e.g., “We went through a rough patch, but now we’re stronger than ever!”) have better mental health, less depression, greater relationship satisfaction, feel closer to their partners, and are less likely to experience a breakup within 1 year than people who end their story negatively (e.g., “We went through a rough patch and things are still a bit shaky”).

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Wednesday
Dec282016

Perhaps Zack and Kelly Should Not Have Gone Steady

Recently, a bombshell was dropped on 90s sitcom fans about one of their favorite TV couples: Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. Peter Engel, executive producer of Saved by the Bell, said of the classic couple, “Well, they’d be married — but not to each other.” Fans’ hearts collectively broke after this news hit. I mean, the couple survived Kelly’s romantic tryst with Jeff, her hunky college boyfriend who temporarily managed the Max, the distance put between them during the beginning of college before Kelly transferred to Cal U, and her relationship with their college professor, Jeremiah Lasky. Despite these challenges, Zack was persistent and eventually won Kelly’s heart and hand in marriage. So why would Peter Engel suggest that these two wouldn’t make it? After weathering all of those other storms, why wouldn’t they be able to make their marriage work? The answer may lie in how they got together in the first place.

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Wednesday
Dec212016

Why Having a Dominant Partner is Linked to Being Unhappy in a Relationship

The issue: People have a need to feel autonomous (i.e., they need to feel like they are doing something because they want to and not because someone forced them to).1 When people are dominant, they try to take control of the situation, which may make others feel less autonomous.2 Feeling controlled can be disheartening and is linked to poor well-being.3 And people who have dominant partners tend to be unhappy in the relationship (i.e., have lower relationship satisfaction).4 Researchers wanted to understand why having a dominant partner is linked to lower relationship satisfaction.2 

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Wednesday
Dec142016

The Importance of Physical Affection for Relationship Satisfaction

Physical affection (e.g., hugging and kissing) is an important aspect of romantic relationships. Displays of physical affection are associated with relationship satisfaction,1 and in turn greater relationship satisfaction is associated with greater sexual satisfaction.2 Therefore, physical affection plays a large role in the emotional and sexual benefits derived from a romantic pairing. In addition, research has shown than a person’s satisfaction with the physical affection in their relationship is a strong predictor of love, liking, and overall satisfaction.3 Despite this connection, the ways in which we can express physical affection vary, and as such, more research is needed.

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Friday
Dec092016

More Than “Just” Sex: Affection Is One Reason Sex Is Linked To Greater Well-Being

In romantic relationships sex tends to be a source of pleasure and connection. But, even beyond the positive sensations and feelings associated with sex during the deed, research has shown that sexual activity also has numerous benefits not only for overall feelings of relationship satisfaction, but also for the personal well-being.  People who have more frequent sex are generally happier in their lives, and this association is comparable in strength to the association observed between making more money and feeling happier.1

Why does sex have these benefits for people’s happiness? The media often depict the physical or technical aspects of sex,2 such as experiencing physical pleasure or a release during orgasm, as central. This means that many of the suggestions in the popular media for improving couples’ sex lives focuses on incorporating sex toys or lingerie to increase arousal and pleasure. However, as relationship researchers, my colleagues and I suspected that the relational aspects of sex, such as affection, might play an important role in understanding why sex matters so much for your overall happiness.

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Monday
Nov142016

A Sidekick for Self-Actualization: How Our Partners Make Us Great

Just as every superhero has a hardworking, lesser-known sidekick, behind our biggest successes is often someone who listened to us, encouraged us, and cared about us. In fact, our relationships with others can have a big but sometimes imperceptible impact on our ability to exercise our talents. In fact, “self-actualization” is what psychologists call the process of fulfilling one’s needs and eventually achieving one’s full potential. So for the heroes in all of us seeking to discover their calling and make the world a better place, what qualities are important in a lifelong sidekick to help us become self-actualized? 

One study of over 2000 married couples examined what makes a great sidekick by studying features of relationships that predict personal well-being.

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Tuesday
Oct252016

Two Key Factors that Influence Adolescent Girls’ Relationships

Romantic relationships are important for everyone, and that may especially be the case for adolescent girls. Compared to boys, adolescent girls indicate that their relationships affect them more and they focus more on their relationships.1 Understanding what contributes to healthy relationships for adolescent girls may help lessen potential negative relationship experiences. In this vein, a recent study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers from Stony Brook University explored adolescent girls’ relational security, or how comfortable girls are with being close to others and how much they worry about being left or abandoned.

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Monday
Oct172016

Great Sexpectations? How Your Expectations About Maintaining Sexual Satisfaction Affect Your Relationship

“…find out if the sex is good right off the bat…”“Sex is the barometer for what’s going on in the relationship…” -- Samantha Jones, Sex and The City

“Practice makes perfect....we can work on it.” -- Charlotte York, Sex and The City 

 

Can we tell right away whether we will have great sex with a partner, or is great sex something we may need to work on? As the above quotes illustrate, people differ in their expectations about whether satisfying sex is something we can achieve by finding a compatible partner (Samantha), or whether it is something that might require effort (Charlotte). How might these different beliefs about sex shape how happy we are with our sex lives and our relationships?

To answer these questions, my colleagues and I first developed a measure of sexual expectations, or “sexpectations” if you will.1 We adapted to the sexual domain the broader relationship concepts of destiny beliefs—the belief in soulmates and natural compatibility, and the concept of growth—the belief that relationships take work.2,3,4,5 People high in sexual destiny beliefs more strongly agree with statements like “Struggles in a sexual relationship are a sure sign that the relationship will fail,” and “A couple is either destined to have a satisfying sex life or they are not.” People higher in sexual growth beliefs tend to agree with statements like “In order to maintain a good sexual relationship, a couple needs to exert time and energy.”

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