Lately it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is talking about a TV show reunion. From Seinfeld to Friends, Sex and the City to 90210, the rumors circulate, even in the face of stars vigorously denying the possibility. What would make us miss our favorite TV characters so much that, despite the stars’ protests, we still hold out hope of celebrities reviving their beloved roles? The answer may lie in our need to belong.
Interested in learning more about the science of relationships? Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman is offering a free, on-line 8 week course! The Science of Relationships MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) at Colorado State University is a social-based program that provides educational access to the public at no cost. This class teaches students secrets to what makes their significant other tick, why they’re attracted to the people they are, how to best nurture a relationship, and more. Divided into eight modules, the class covers 24 different topics (e.g., friendships, divorce, parenting). You can listen to short and interesting lectures at your own pace, take surveys to learn more about yourself, participate in lively discussions with people from all over the world, and complete a wide variety of fun activities to apply the material you will learn about. Dr. Harman is also available for a weekly live chat/office hours once a week!
Men’s and women’s magazines provide different messages about sex to their respective readers. In a study of over 300 students, exposure to such magazines was related to students’ feelings about obtaining sexual consent. Those who read more men’s magazines reported a lower likelihood of requiring consent before having sex; those who read more women’s magazines reported a greater likelihood to refuse unwanted sex. We can’t infer that reading men’s magazines causes these troublesome opinions about sexual consent; however, it does warrant paying greater attention to the messages that men’s magazines send and about those who are inclined to read them.
Hust, S. T., Marett, E., Ren, C., Adams, P. M., Willoughby, J. F., Lei, M., & ... Norman, C. (2014). Establishing and adhering to sexual consent: The association between reading magazines and college students’ sexual consent negotiation. Journal of Sex Research, 51(3), 280-290.
You have likely seen some variation of this scene before: you’re out in public or watching TV, and you see someone bend down on one knee, pull out a ring, and ask the person they’re with, “Will you marry me?” Odds are you knew what was taking place the moment the person got down on one knee and pulled out the box. This is because proposing marriage is a ritual that has a fairly standard script that people often follow. Of course, there are some variations on the script, but generally people seem to include some or most of the elements. This post describes those script elements and what people sometimes think when that script is not followed.
Rituals involve intentional and often formal behaviors that communicate social information.1 For example, people in some cultures wear torn clothing to communicate their grieving.2 Rituals provide people with a sense of control because they provide a script.3 To give you an example of what I mean by a script, I’d like you to imagine that you are at a restaurant. When you enter the restaurant, the hostess brings you to a table, a waitress greets you and you order drinks and food, and when the meal is over you receive and pay the bill. There may be variations to this script depending on the type of restaurant, but generally you know what to expect because the experience is similar from restaurant to restaurant and there are a few elements of the script that are stable across restaurants (e.g., ordering and paying for food). If the restaurant script isn’t followed (e.g., if you are asked if you want the bill right when you enter the restaurant), then you’ll likely be thrown off. Thus, the restaurant script helps you to anticipate what is about to happen and facilitates smooth interactions. Rituals also communicate values, are a way to bond with others, and help perpetuate and encourage socially agreed upon ways of behaving.1 In other words, following a ritual tells others a bit about you and helps to perpetuate the ritual and its script.
Proposing marriage is one common ritual that involves a well-known script. How people go about proposing marriage can vary quite a bit, with some proposals being quite showy and others being more low-key, but there are a few elements of the proposal script that are relatively stable across proposals.
We know that the frequency of sexual activity, the quality of communication during sex, and partners’ reasons for having sex can all influence relationship satisfaction. So while it’s good to embrace the throes of passion and be vocal about it, does what you say after sex matter?
Intimate conversations that occur between romantic partners after sexual activity are commonly referred to as “pillow talk.” Pillow talk often involves disclosing positive sentiments such as validation and affection, but it can also be negative (e.g., arguing or bringing up complaints). Researcher Amanda Denes at the University of California, Santa Barbara aimed to address the broad question, “Is pillow talk merely obligatory chit-chat, or might it say something more about the relationships of those involved?”
Could something as simple as watching movies help your relationship? One-hundred-seventy-four engaged or newlywed couples were randomly assigned to one of two intense relationship workshops, or to watch and reflect on relationship movies (e.g., Love Story) featuring relationship behaviors such as stress, forgiveness, support, and conflict, or a no treatment ‘business as usual’ control condition. Couples in the movie condition watched and discussed one movie a week for a month. Three years later all three treatment groups (both workshops and the movie group) experienced less relationship dissolution (11%) compared to couples in the no treatment condition (24%). All three treatments had similar benefits, which suggests that simply watching and discussing movies can help protect your relationship.
Rogge, R. D., Cobb, R. J., Lawrence, E., Johnson, M. D., & Bradbury, T. N. (2013). Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(6), 949-961. doi:10.1037/a0034209
image source: gettyimages.com
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You probably have noticed some widespread media coverage about OKCupid’s “experiment” wherein, to look for patterns in dating behavior, they manipulated aspects of the site without informing users (see OKCupid’s announcement here as well as coverage here and here). This revelation comes in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment, which attracted similar attention and criticism. Commenters have questioned the ethics of these experiments primarily due to the fact that Facebook and OKCupid users did not know they were participating and did not consent to be in the study—nor were users directly notified about their participation after the experiment ended.
The idea that these large corporations would manipulate people’s emotions or behaviors without telling their users sounds very disturbing to some. But was this really such a big deal? Were these experiments really “unethical”? Let’s examine these issues further.
Being in a committed romantic relationship involves feelings of intimacy and attachment between partners and desiring that the relationship continues into the future. Those who are committed to their partners manage relationship conflict more constructively, are less likely to cheat, and are more likely to stay together for the long haul. Commitment is clearly important in ongoing romantic relationships; however, it may also influence the how former partners feel about each other after their relationships end. New research suggests that people who were more committed to a romantic relationship have healthier relationships with their exes after breaking up.
Parents of college students regularly find themselves in quite a bind – they have to figure out that delicate balance between being an authority figure while simultaneously respecting their kids’ increasing independence. This is because typical college students, as well as other individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, are commonly referred to as emerging adults -- those in this age range do not entirely view themselves as adults nor do they view themselves as kids. As a result, parents of college students have to somehow be a parent to someone who may no longer live under the same roof, but is typically not living entirely independently and grappling with all of the complications that a full-fledged adult life entails either (not to take anything away from the huge responsibilities that many college students deal with every day). Simply put: When is it appropriate for parents of college students to put their foot (or feet) down and provide direction vs. hold back and let their kids make their own mistakes? Balance this conundrum with the knowledge that parents’ aging children actually like their parents more when they maintain appropriate boundaries, and you have a recipe for quite the pickle.
Need a boost in your romantic relationship? A dose of gratitude may do the trick, according to Dr. Sara Algoe of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gratitude is an emotion experienced in acknowledgement of an intentionally provided benefit, especially if the benefit is perceived as personally important and responsive to one’s needs and preferences. It is thought that gratitude enhances social relationships by broadening our attention to people who care about our welfare. In fact, early research on gratitude1 has shown that compared to happiness, gratitude made people recall more positive qualities of a benefactor, feel closer to the benefactor, and desire to spend more time with that person in the future.
On the flip side of gratitude lurks indebtedness, the feeling of obligation to repay someone for a benefit that he or he has provided. While an individual may experience either gratitude or indebtedness after having received a benefit, only gratitude is associated with positive emotions; in fact, indebtedness is linked to negative emotions such as guilt. Indebtedness drives people to resolve a debt in order to feel better but unlike gratitude, does not facilitate communal relationships.
I hate television. Unless I’m learning how to make a soufflé or watching Starks get slaughtered on Game of Thrones (whoops…spoiler alert), I’m generally pretty content to keep my eyes off the screen and my nose in a book. But when I stumbled across Married at First Sight, my curiosity got the best of me, and I had to check it out.
Married at First Sight is a new reality show (or “social experiment,” as marketers like to describe it, despite it not actually being an experiment) on the FYI network. Four experts—a sexologist, a sociologist, a spiritualist, and a clinical psychologist—worked together to select a small group of individuals whom they could pair up to create what the experts believe would be successful relationships. Out of the initial pool of 50 people, the expert panel identified three “matches,” based largely on the partners’ demographic characteristics, beliefs about relationships, desire for children, religious preferences, and family histories. Here’s the kicker: These individuals agreed to enter into a legally binding marriage with one another for a minimum of one month—knowing they would meet their partner for the first time at the altar. After 30 days of living as husband and wife, the couples will decide whether or not they want to remain married. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “trial marriage,” huh?
How quickly are you supposed to "get over" a breakup, anyway? Sex in the City fans should remember Charlotte's Golden Breakup Rule, "It takes half the total time you went out with someone to get over them." But in real-world breakups, that rule doesn't always apply. A lot depends on whether you were the dumpee or the dumper and how things went down. So, how over it are you? A little? A lot? Find out with today's relationship quiz!
Editors' note: This quiz is part of a project on great relationships conducted by contributor
Melissa Schneider, LMSW, and is not supervised or conducted by ScienceOfRelationships.com, other contributors, or the academic institutions affliliated with contributors to the site.
The summer is heating up, and for many of us that means it’s time to hit the beach and soak up the rays. Bikini fashions may change year on year, but one look that’s as popular as ever is bronzed, tanned skin.
But why? By this point, we all know that tanning is bad for us, yet many refuse to slop on the sunscreen and seek shade.
Every summer, doctors trot out the same warnings. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes skin cancer, tanned skin is damaged skin, and tanning at a young age is extra dangerous. Research suggests that indoor tanning isn’t any safer. One third of White American women under 35 visit the tanning salon at least once a year, increasing their risk of melanoma by as much as 75%.1
These warnings are serious but barely make a dent on behaviour. We want a ‘healthy’ tan. We think it looks attractive.2 And many of us have decided it’s worth the risk.
So if you’re packing your bag for the beach (or the tanning booth), how can I hope to stop you in your tracks? What if I said that there’s a way you can tan that is (a) cheaper than a trip to the tanning salon (much less a holiday at the beach!), (b) is not only free of health risks, but will actually improve your well-being, and (c) results in more attractive and healthier-looking skin than UV exposure could ever achieve? And here’s the kicker: there’s scientific research to back all these claims up.
My blended family (ages 5, 6, 7, 11, and 13) just returned from a weeklong road trip through Yellowstone National Park. During the trip, we conducted our own mini-experiment: Each of us eliminated electronic use for anything other than music. No iPhone apps, no social media, no electronic games, no texting or phone calls unless there was an emergency. There was almost no cell phone reception across the park, which made enforcement easy, but the results of our self-inflicted ‘mandatory’ unplugging still surprised me in three fundamental ways:
We’re all likely familiar with the idea that love is energizing; for example, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes encapsulated this notion in their 1982 single Up Where We Belong when they sang, “Love lifts us up where we belong....” But does love really physically energize us? It’s definitely possible. Love is associated with positive emotions and simply thinking about love can trigger stress responses (such as increases in cortisol) in the body, responses thought to result from arousal or passion. One intriguing thing that can happen when your body releases cortisol is that you get an accompanying rush of glucose (blood sugar) to give you extra energy. Since thinking about your romantic partner can increase stress hormones like cortisol, it may follow that you can also get a glucose boost from thinking about your partner.