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Tuesday
Feb242015

Vocal Cues of Fertility: Bachelor 19’s Whitney Bischoff May Be the Ultimate Prize

Full disclosure: Watching The Bachelor/ette is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fascinating not just for the entertaining drama, but also as a unique case study of relationship dynamics. If you’re unfamiliar, The Bachelor is a reality TV show in which 25-30 beautiful and presumably single women contend for the attention, love, and marriage proposal of one eligible gent over the course of about two months of filming. Every season is chock-a-block with romantic and often extravagant dates, profuse amounts of smooching, and (sometimes ridiculous) drama. (Disclaimer: Before I get to the meat of this article, I should make it clear that that while I find the show very amusing, I don’t find the format to be particularly realistic, nor do I feel like the format allows for a strong foundation that can foster a future long-term relationship to be built—though there seem to be a few happy exceptions.)

When I watch The Bachelor/ette, I love to shamelessly analyze the contestants and try to make connections to research (after all, I am a relationship science nerd). There are always a few contestants who stand out, for better or worse, and this season I’m a bit mesmerized with Whitney Bischoff in a good way. She seems very classy, but more than that, she has a very distinct voice. The pitch is quite high, and though some people might find it a bit intense, it may actually make her more appealing to our current Bachelor, Chris.

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Monday
Feb232015

Expressing Your Insecurities to Your Partner Can Actually Create More Insecurities. Here’s Why.

Insecurities: we’ve all got a few. They’re those intrusive thoughts people have about mistakes they might have made, flaws they might have, and negative opinions that others might have about them. Insecurities can be frustratingly persistent, and they can really interfere with close relationships1,2 (“You looked at that girl, I saw you looking!”). It’s not realistic to expect people to simply ignore these insecurities. So the question becomes: what is the healthiest way to deal with these nagging thoughts and feelings?

One seemingly obvious solution might be to reveal your insecurities to someone you’re close to—such as a friend or a romantic partner—so that this person could help you to feel better. However, recent research has revealed a way that this approach can sometimes fail to work, and can even backfire.

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Friday
Feb202015

Stronger Relationships Make For A Stronger You

One thing that relationship research has taught us is that good relationships are good for us. Many studies have demonstrated that solid relationships are associated with better health and longer life. In fact, having strong relationships is a better predictor of mortality than any other healthy lifestyle behavior.1 But why are relationships so beneficial? A new review of the research by Brooke Feeney and Nancy Collins2 unlocks the secrets of how good relationships help us flourish. 

According to Feeney and Collins, there are two ways for us to thrive in life: 1) successfully coping with adversity, and 2) pursuing personal goals and opportunities for growth. Strong relationships can help with both. 

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Thursday
Feb192015

Sharing A Room Before Sharing Vows? What You Should Know Before Cohabiting

Last August, exactly two years after my partner and I met, we got engaged. But unlike most soon-to-be newlyweds, we have not yet lived together. In fact, we will be engaged for almost a year before moving into our own place. 

A few of my friends were surprised that my fiancé and I could commit to a life together without first sharing an apartment. In their eyes, cohabitation is important for allowing dating couples to “test drive” being married and identify lifestyle incompatibilities before making a formal long-term commitment. My grandparents and parents, on the other hand, were unfazed that we hadn’t yet lived together, and they even encouraged us to wait until the timing was right.

These conflicting messages made me question whether living together as a dating couple makes for a more well-adjusted marriage if the relationship is headed that way. Most researchers agree that living together before getting engaged has potential advantages and drawbacks, but are certain approaches to cohabiting better than others? To answer this question – and to understand why my friends (but not the older generations) expected my partner and I to live together sooner – I examined the latest research on cohabitation and its consequences for relationships.

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Wednesday
Feb182015

An Amazing Race…Down the Aisle?

The producers of the Amazing Race have decided to shake things up: For the upcoming season, six of the teams racing around the world are existing romantic couples, and the other five teams are unacquainted dating hopefuls whom producers matched up for the “most extreme blind date ever.”

Given the poor track record of reality shows designed to help contestants find love (the last Bachelorette contestant Andi Dorfman recently split from her fiancé Josh Murray, and in 28 seasons, the Bachelor & Bachelorette have produced only five intact couples), one can’t help but wonder...are these matched couples on the Amazing Race doomed to a similar fate?

But before we write these “blind date” couples off, let’s take a moment to consider the research evidence suggesting that these couples may be the exception – they may be some of the few couples who actually find lasting love on reality TV. Further, the existing romantic couples may experience relational benefits from competing on the show.

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Monday
Feb162015

Got a Cold? Think Hugs, Not Drugs

Getting sick isn’t fun. To see if social support helps combat illness, researchers interviewed 406 healthy adults each day for two weeks about whether they were hugged that day. Researchers then exposed participants to the common cold and assessed participants’ mucus secretions, congestion, and antibodies present in their blood over the next few weeks. Participants who received more hugs were less likely to become infected with the cold and experienced less nasal congestion. Hugs were especially important on particularly stressful or tense days. So the next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold…think hugs, not drugs.

Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R. B., & Doyle, W. J. (2015). Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. Psychological Science.

Friday
Feb132015

How Do Same-Sex Couples View Valentine’s Day?

As far as mainstream holidays go, Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most heteronormative of all. From greeting cards and gifts, to television shows and movies, society inundates us with messages that Valentine’s Day is an occasion to celebrate monogamous, heterosexual relationships. It’s a day when men buy flowers, chocolates, and (for the more adventuresome) frilly panties for their ladies before having a candlelight dinner punctuated by kisses and declarations of love and fidelity. So on a day when almost everything seems to be about “devoted husbands” and their “beloved wives,” what are gays and lesbians supposed to do?

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Friday
Feb132015

Feeling Cold? How About a Romance Movie?

Feeling cold increases people’s liking and willingness to pay for romance movies but not other movie genres (i.e., action, comedy, thriller). Researchers thought this was because physical coldness activates a need for psychological warmth, a feeling often associated with romance movies. Indeed, the more individuals associated romance movies in general with psychological warmth, the more they reported liking romance movies – but only when they felt cold. So if you’re going to watch a romance movie this Valentine’s Day, be sure to turn down the heat for a heartwarming experience. 

 

Hong, J., & Sun, Y. (2012). Warm it up with love: The effect of physical coldness on liking of romance movies. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), 293-306. doi:10.1086/662613

Thursday
Feb122015

Give the Gift of Simultaneous Orgasm This Valentine’s Day

from xkcd.comFor heterosexual couples, just making sure that both partners reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse can be difficult. Achieving orgasm at the exact same moment (i.e., “simultaneous orgasm”)? That’s even more of a challenge. Why? Because the typical motion of penile thrusting does not seem to provide adequate sexual stimulation for many women. In fact, only about half of women report being able to climax from penile movements alone during sex and, even among those women, many of them report that they do not experience orgasm reliably.1 As a result, many women find that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse (e.g., with the use of one’s hand or a vibrator) or attempting different sexual activities is necessary to help them climax. However, it turns out that you may not need to do these other things if you can better align your own and your partner’s genitals during sex.

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Thursday
Feb122015

Valentine’s Day Sex: Extra-Special or Not-to-Be Expected?

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, and you’d probably assume that couples end up expressing their love (or lust) for each other in ways other than giving gifts. In fact, the #1 gift that men want to receive for Valentine’s Day wasn’t really a traditional “gift” at all: it was sex (read more about the top-ranked gifts here). 

We asked over 1,000 Americans (learn more about survey here) if couples should expect to have sex on Valentine’s Day, and if so, if that sex should be better than average (i.e., “extra special Valentine’s Day sex”) or if it would be the “typical” sex that the couple normally has. Overall, 36% of people expected to have better sex than usual, 27% thought they’d have typical sex (if you’re bad at math, this means that almost 2 out of every 3 respondents expected couples to have sex on Valentine’s Day), and 37% didn’t think that sex should be expected on Valentine’s Day.

Things get interesting, however, when we look at men and women separately. Almost half (47%) of men expect better sex than usual, whereas 30% of men don’t expect Valentine’s sex. The pattern is reversed for women; nearly half (47%) say that sex shouldn’t be expected, and only 23% expect extra-special sex on Valentine’s Day.

So, don’t just assume you’re on the same page as your partner when it comes to Valentine’s Day sex. Communication about sex is always a good idea, and when better to start discussing the importance of sex in your relationship than on Valentine’s Day?

Thursday
Feb122015

Self-Esteem and Relationship Initiation: Relationship Matters Podcast 43

Just in time for Valentines Day, SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College). In this installment, Dr. Danu Stinson (University of Victoria) discusses her research on why people with high vs. low self-esteem behave differently when initiating relationships.

The research team (also comprised of Jessica Cameron from the University of Manitoba and Kelley Robinson from the University of Winnipeg) conducted two experiments in which they primed individuals to focus on either (a) social rewards (i.e., the potential for feeling liked) or (b) costs (i.e., the potential for rejection). Afterwards, participants reported on their desire to initiate a relationship as well as the behaviors they’d engage in to do so. 

What did they find? When primed with the potential rewards of a new relationship, low self-esteem individuals were more interested in initiating a relationship compared to those with high self-esteem. In contrast, when the potential social costs of a new relationship were primed, high self-esteem individuals were more interested in relationship initiation compared to those with low self-esteem. 

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Wednesday
Feb112015

Lingerie Shopping with Men

Changes in sexual politics have left men mystified about how to behave when shopping for lingerie.1

One of the saddest sights in nature is that of the human male, forlornly trailing his girlfriend around a shopping mall. The shuffling gait, the slumped shoulders, and that glazed look in the eyes that seems to say “When can I go home and play Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?”

But how do men behave when they step into a lingerie store?

Scientists from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax wondered if the sexual imagery -- the lingerie, the advertisements depicting gorgeous models in a state of undress -- stimulate and interest male shoppers. Or, if being surrounded by intimate apparel causes men to feel anxious and embarrassed, and to behave like cornered wild beasts.

Eager to find out, Kimberly Moule and Maryanne Fisher went on safari to their local mall. They sat at a table in the food court, near the entrance to a lingerie store. From there they had a wide open view of the store’s interior. They kept their eyes peeled for male-female couples. When they spotted a pair, they made a note of all the man’s behaviors -- whether he interacted with the merchandise or talked to his partner, how he moved about the store, and where he directed his gaze. Later, the psychologists repeated their observations at a regular clothing store.

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Wednesday
Feb112015

To the Love of My Life: Motivations for Gift-Giving on Valentine’s Day

I’ve received a gift on Valentine’s Day once in the past ten years. I wouldn’t consider my lackluster gift count so remarkable if I were perpetually single, but I have been romantically involved with someone on every single Valentine’s Day in the last decade! In contrast to my former partners, I derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure from giving people presents. Although I hardly need a reason to buy someone a gift (“It’s Tuesday? Cool; here’s the box set of Top Gear you said you wanted”), Valentine’s Day offers the perfect excuse for me to indulge my gift-giving fancy.

Recently, marketers have taken interest in why people buy Valentine’s gifts for their partners. One particularly interesting study focused on young men’s reasons for buying Valentine’s Day presents and what these reasons suggest about their relationships’ balance of power.1 The researchers spoke with approximately 100 men through a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews, during which the participants were asked about a Valentine’s purchase they made for a romantic partner within the last two years. Men reported three primary reasons for buying into the Hallmark holiday...

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Wednesday
Feb112015

"Survey Says": The Valentine's Day Proposal?

Tuesday
Feb102015

Should You Go See the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie for Valentine’s Day?

Dubbed an “erotic fiction” and “mommy porn,” the Fifty Shades books are among the top selling novels of all time. In fact, worldwide sales are said to be over 100 million, and at its height one of these provocative page-turners was being sold every second.1 Given the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is no wonder that the geniuses in Hollywood are planning to cash in on the “feels so good to be bad” phenomenon this Valentine’s Day. Of course, the question remains, should you go see this movie?

If you are like my sister, then you have already answered with a resounding, “Yes!” Of course, it is likely prudent to consider how this deliciously salacious movie may impact your relationship, for better or worse.

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Tuesday
Feb102015

Survey Says: What Do Men Want for Valentine's Day?

In a prior post we told you what gifts were identifed as the perfect gifts for women on Valentine's Day. Now it's the guys' turn....

Again, we asked our survey respondents:

What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a man to receive?

The #1 most preferred gift men want for Valentine’s Day

S-E-X. A whopping 46% of our male respondents indicated that the perfect gift for them on Valentine’s Day is sex.

And we won’t go into all the gory details, but some guys were quite specific regarding exactly what type of sex they have in mind. My eyes still burn. Think what you want, but at least it’s free, right

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Tuesday
Feb102015

"Survey Says": Valentine's Day First Date?

Monday
Feb092015

Buying a Ring for Valentine’s Day?

Proposing this Valentine’s Day? Read about the ritual here and things people consider before getting married here. To recap, the main elements of the traditional ritual are:

  • the proposer asking the father or parents of the proposee for his/their permission or blessing to marry the proposee
  • the proposal is a surprise
  • the proposer getting down on one knee
  • the proposer presenting a ring
  • the proposer asking, “Will you marry me?” 1,2

If any of the elements are missing, especially if there is no ring, then outsiders might think the engagement is not legitimate or the relationship itself is weak.1,3 Although people who are less traditional are fine with not having a ring, many think that the lack of a ring indicates a lack of sincerity on the part of the proposer. 1 Where did the notion that there needs to be a diamond ring start?

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Monday
Feb092015

Survey Says: What Do Women Want for Valentine's Day?

Okay, so you've figured out that you're going to give your partner a thoughtful, romantic gift during an intimate dinner (vs. as part of a flash mob), but now you have to figure out just what you should get your partner. Fortunately, you're in luck, because we asked men and women what they thought were the perfect gifts for Valentine's Day. Let's begin with women......

We asked survey respondents to respond to the following question:

What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a woman to receive? (please fill in anything you think a woman would most like)

Here are the top gifts listed for women (I wish we could say the results are shocking. We can't.)

The #1 most preferred gift women want for Valentine’s Day

That’s right. Jewelry. Turns out all those ads on TV may be on to something. 30% of the women in our sample listed some sort of jewelry as the best gift for a woman to receive on Valentine’s Day (and 37% of men agreed – looks like the message is coming in loud and clear).

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Monday
Feb092015

Valentine’s Day: A Chance to Make You and Your Relationship Better 

It is customary to do something special with your partner on Valentine’s Day to celebrate your relationship. Have you planned what you are going to do? You can go with the standard commercialized gifts like chocolates, lingerie, or overpriced roses. Or, perhaps you plan on simply spending some time with each other. If you go that route, rather than the trite dinner and a movie, you may want to consider doing something together that will actually make you and your relationship better. 

Good relationships are built on mutual feelings of closeness, trust, intimacy, friendship, and affection. These qualities form a stable foundation for relationships, but why not take your relationship up a notch and go from being merely “good” to becoming great? One way to create a great relationship is for partners to help each other grow as individuals. Ultimately, this growth fosters your and your partner’s self-improvement, which will help you enjoy an even more sustainable and satisfying relationship together.

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