Friday
Sep222017

We Grow Older Together, But Lonely

Loneliness is a particularly negative psychological experience that is linked to poor physical health. Single people and those who live alone are susceptible to loneliness, as are those who have poor quality social relationships. In fact, even those who have long-term relationships, such as married people, can experience loneliness if their marriages are unfulfilling. What is it about a poor quality marriage that results in feelings of loneliness?

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Friday
Sep152017

"As Strong as its Weakest Link": How Your Partner's Chain of Events Affects Yours

If you’ve ever listened to Beyoncé you probably understand the importance of having independence in a relationship. On the other hand, relationships in which your partner completely dependent on you are never pretty. But even more important (and less talked about) than these two concepts is the amount of interdependence in your close relationships. As it turns out, interdependence is a major determinant of relational success.1

So what is interdependence? Well, it depends on what type of relationship you’re talking about. Your most intimate relationships are the most entangled, which means that these people have the most influence on your daily goals and activities.

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Friday
Sep082017

The Relationship is a Changin’: The Benefits Achieved When Partners Change Together

There is a well-worn saying, often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein, suggesting “women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not.”1 This statement may or may not be true, but highlights an interesting (and understudied) relationship dynamic: Change plays an important role in relationships. It is natural to wonder how long your relationship will last, whether you will fall out of love, whether you’ll have children and what they’ll be like, how your partner will be as a parent, whether you’ll get a divorce, etc. The common denominator in each of these inquiries is that you and your partner will experience your fair share of change along the way. But is this change good?

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Monday
Jul032017

Infographic: Why Do People Swipe Right (or Left) on Tinder

Thursday
Jun012017

Can Using Hormonal Birth Control Affect the Health of Future Children?

When choosing a partner to have children with, it is only natural to desire “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella,” who may pass on their beneficial genetic qualities to future kids. Given that better genes increase the offspring's survival and reproduction chances, mechanisms that detect “genetic quality” should have evolved to lead people to be sexually attracted to “knights in shining genes.”

One such cue for mate suitability is odor, which signals compatibility between potential mates' immune systems. Specifically, odor indicates the extent of overlapping between potential mates' immune systems, such that more attractive odor signals less overlap between mates' immune systems. The larger the dissimilarity between mates' immune systems, the more threats the immune system can combat.

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Tuesday
May162017

Can Random Numbers Affect Our Relationship Judgements? Yes...If We Like What They Imply

What are the odds, from 0 to 100%, that someone will break your heart within the next five years?

How did you answer this question? Maybe you thought about your past relationship experiences, or the person you’re dating right now. Maybe you thought about relevant statistics, like the divorce rate, or the average rate of infidelity. But imagine that just before you read this question, you happened to be checking the weather and saw that the chance of rain tomorrow is 10%. Would that information influence your estimate? What if the chance of rain was 90%?

Arbitrary numbers—referred to by researchers as numerical anchors—can have a surprisingly large impact on people's judgments.1 We often lack the information we need for the judgments we are asked to make. You might be asked to estimate the length of the Nile river, for example, and find that you can only guess at the answer. To make that judgment, research shows that you are likely to grasp at whatever information you happen to have on hand, even if it’s completely irrelevant. If you’ve recently been looking at the prices of new cars, you might guess that the Nile is shorter than if you’ve recently been looking at the prices of new houses. This phenomenon, known as the anchoring effect, has been demonstrated in hundreds of studies on everything from general knowledge to legal sentencing decisions.

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Wednesday
May102017

Post-Divorce Dating and Relationships

Unfortunately, every romantic relationship does not end happily ever after. For a myriad of reasons, after people get married the romantic love they feel towards their partners often decreases.1 As a result, those relationships could end in divorce.

To better understand how the experience of divorce affects how individuals’ think about relationships, researchers conducted a series of in-depth interviews with divorced men and women aged 21 to 63.2  The interviews focused on how divorcees interpreted their experiences and used them to redefine how they approached intimacy in their (new) post-divorce relationships. Analysis of the interviews indicated a primary theme of post-divorce relationships was the view of intimacy based on equal friendship, respect for individual differences, and each person having a sense of self-sufficiency.

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Wednesday
May032017

More Sex and Happy Relationships: It’s Automatic

When relationship partners have more sex, their relationship satisfaction is higher. Seems obvious, right? Maybe not. Previous research on sexual frequency and relationship quality has not been able to conclusively link these variables. There may be a few reasons for this. For example, quantity of sex may not consistently align with quality. You could have lots of really bad sex or have really amazing sex, but less often. It is also hard to tell what frequency really means, because those numbers may hold different meaning to different people based on expectations. That is, if a couple has sex twice a week, one partner may see that as more than they hoped for, while the other considers it inadequate.

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Monday
Apr172017

Romeo and Juliet Would Have Broken up…Quickly

We all have that one friend who is in a terrible relationship with a person whom you simply cannot stand. You know what I mean, the on-again off-again relationship…the one where your friend/family member is WAY too good for the person that they’re dating. The kind of relationship where the couple constantly argues, makes up, then starts another argument as they’re in the middle of making up. As a friend or family member it’s exhausting to watch someone go through that cycle. But even more exhausting is the fact that you have to deal with a person (your friend’s partner) you don’t like! And no matter how many “talks” you have with your friend it feels like they just won’t listen to your advice. Well it might feel that way, but according to the research your disapproval is actually making the relationship worse…which is great if you’re rooting for a breakup.

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Tuesday
Mar282017

Unleash the Tongue: The Effect of Sex on Self-Disclosure

The sexual behavioral system evolved to motivate reproductive acts. The primary strategy for achieving this goal is to approach a potentially fertile partner, convince him or her to have sex, and engage in genital intercourse. However, human offspring are vulnerable throughout an exceptionally prolonged development period. Hence, in ancestral environments, sexual partners needed to stay together long enough to jointly care for their offspring during the period of maximum vulnerability, thereby increasing the offspring’s chances of survival and future reproductive success.

Over the course of human evolution, selection pressures have produced mechanisms that keep sexual partners attached to each other for an extended period, motivate them to remain in a committed relationship and engage in co-parenting behaviors following an offspring’s birth.1 Several characteristics of human sexuality suggest that the sexual system has been “exploited” by evolutionary processes to serve such a function.2 Humans, for example, tend to have sex in private and to sleep together afterwards. Humans also frequently have sex in the “missionary position”, which, by contrast to the typical sex positions of most mammals (e.g., canines), allows partners to maintain face-to-face contact during sexual intercourse. These and other similar behavioral tendencies foster extended close contact between sexual partners and make them feel more intimate with each other, thereby promoting enduring attachment bonds between them.

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Monday
Mar062017

The Silver Lining to Sacrificing for Your Partner

It is probably easy for most people who have been in a long-term relationship to think of a time (probably many times!) when they gave up something they wanted for their partner. These relationship sacrifices can be quite costly, since they’re often time consuming and undesirable activities, like spending a Saturday night with your partner’s friends instead of your own. In this article, I want to talk about the silver lining of making sacrifices—the benefits that we don’t always think about when we’re stuck in traffic to pick up a partner’s dry cleaning or watching Love Actually for the 12th time.

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Monday
Feb272017

Your Ideal Marriage Partner: Intelligence Edition

One of the great things about being a relationship scientist is that you get to ask interesting questions and find out the answers to those questions. One question that has always intrigued me is whether people want a smart partner, and if so, how smart? I have also wondered if men and women will differ (i.e., will men be less likely to want a smarter partner?)

On the one hand, an intelligent partner would be more desirable because you may benefit from more insightful conversation, a better sense of humor, and more successful career outcomes. On the other hand, if your partner is smarter than you they may have more power and influence, and thus make more of the decisions and it could make you feel bad about yourself due to social comparison. 

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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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