I have been dating The Consultant for over a year now, and we have been discussing moving in together. Although over half of Americans cohabit before marriage for financial and convenience reasons,1 our consideration of “shacking up” without getting married is driven by our mutual negative past experiences with marriage. Because we never anticipate our living together to result in marriage, “husband and wife” labels will never accurately describe our relationship roles. As a result, we have been struggling with what to call each other. When we introduce each other to friends and colleagues, we use the “boyfriend/girlfriend” label, but these do not seem quite sufficient. In the past, “boyfriend” always ended up meaning someone who was transient, temporary, or not serious for me, and that is not how The Consultant and I are to each other at all.
In the acclaimed TV drama Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White has a big secret—he doesn’t tell his wife Skyler that he and his former student Jesse Pinkman have begun “cooking” and selling meth. Lots and lots of meth.
As is the case with many couples, Walt and Skyler may differ on what they consider to be deception. Walt isn’t hiding his criminal activity to hurt Skyler or damage their marriage; in fact, he started his meth lab as a way to ensure his family’s financial security, in the event that he dies from lung cancer. However, Skyler actually considers Walt’s deception quite problematic (his life of crime places him in great legal and mortal danger, after all!) and later pursues a divorce when he reveals the truth. Walt and Skyler’s different perspectives on Walt’s deception beg the question: how might beliefs about deceit differ between men and women in real life?
We attempt to estimate “time” on a routine basis. How long will it take to get to work in today’s traffic? How long will I need to complete this project? How much time should I give to reading this article? But just because we regularly estimate time doesn’t mean we are very accurate at our predictions. Certainly there are factors like stress and fatigue that make us better or worse at making predictions about time, but it is also possible that our relationships with others influence us as well. For example, you may have heard the expression “getting lost in someone’s eyes,” but can that mean losing track of time too?
What happens when you cross classic literature, economics, and psychology? You get an interesting analysis, like the one offered by UCLA professor Michael Chwe in his book Jane Austen, Game Theorist.
What do women look for when selecting a sperm donor, and how does it differ from what they desire in a relationship partner? In two studies of women, aged 18-25 and 30-40, respectively, researchers assessed the characteristics women value when selecting males as long-term relationship partners versus selecting males as sperm donors.
A recent article in The Atlantic reports on data indicating that men and women may not be on the same page when it comes to commitment and expectations related to living together (read the article here). What do you think?
Check out our past articles on cohabitation here:
- Fact Checking Cohabitation and Marriage
- Should We Live Together? A Question Worth Asking
- Two’s Company. But Is It Necessarily Bad Company?
How did you sleep last night? Did you wake up this morning feeling refreshed and energized, or were you fatigued and sluggish? Your answers to these questions may provide insight into how you will interact with your romantic partner today.
As a relationships researcher, a question that I get a lot from my single friends is, “What should I look for in a partner?” Of course, a complete answer to this question can take a while and is largely dependent on who is asking the question. Are you the kind of person who loves to party? Your relationship will go more smoothly if you find someone who is similarly outgoing. Are you an animal rights activist? You should probably find a partner who doesn’t wear a fur coat. But regardless of who is asking me this question, there is one particular trait that always comes to mind – something that I think absolutely everyone should look for in a partner: responsiveness.
Sometimes people’s eyes get wide when I tell them that I’m a psychologist who studies dreams, and they immediately start confiding in me about their “weird/crazy/strange/vivid” dreams that often include similar themes (like their teeth falling out). Then they ask me what it means, and to their disappointment, I tell them that based on the limited scientific data on dreams, we just don’t know. Despite what some artists, philosophers, or “psychics” might tell you, there’s no universal codebook that helps you translate content from a dream into direct meaning. Instead, the human mind constructs dreams based on unique experiences (some psychologists have said that dreams are like mental fingerprints). Perhaps someone had their teeth painfully pulled at the dentist or wore braces at a young age, and perhaps another person got a tooth chipped (or knocked out) while playing sports. Those two people with different “teeth experiences” could form dreams with very different meanings, even if they both contain teeth as a central image. The dreams you have likely represents your unique conception rather than some universal symbolic meaning.
But what about relationship dreams?
I was recently talking to a (male) friend from college, reminiscing about how all the guys in the dorms wanted to learn how to play guitar because we thought that it would increase our odds of landing a lady. Is it really true that women find guitar players attractive? Two recent studies have attempted to answer this question.
The first study, conducted in France, enlisted a young male research assistant who was highly attractive.1 He was not aware of the study’s hypotheses. His task was to systematically approach 300 similarly-aged women who were walking alone across a particular walkway and passing him (that is, he was told not to select only women he was attracted to). When a woman walked by, he asked for her phone number, saying that he would like to call her later so that they could go out and get a drink together.