If you’ve ever tried to work out a problem with your partner, you know it can be a situation with tension, heightened negative emotion and perhaps a face-off of epic proportions until one of you “wins.” If one partner disengages by avoiding the issue or not treating it seriously, the other partner may feel that the discussion falls flat and nothing is truly resolved. The cooperation of both partners is essential when coping with disagreements; it plays a role in how emotions rise and fall during and after conflict.
I’ve noticed that, come speech time at weddings (my favorite part), there is a certain piece of advice that will almost certainly be uttered into the microphone. Whether it’s the father of the bride, a long-married matron of honor, or the groom’s batty Aunt Rose, someone always seems to advise the cheery newlyweds to “never go to bed angry.” Does this little nugget of wisdom truly deserve to surpass “be kind to each other” or “do the dishes without being asked”? Probably so; if you’re concerned about getting a good night’s sleep, “never go to bed angry” just might be the best advice out there.
We can learn a lot about what makes for happy, long-lasting romantic relationships by studying the various reasons why relationships fail. Though there isn’t a surefire algorithm that takes into account every possible factor that predicts how a relationship will evolve, research does give us insight into the characteristics and circumstances that help partners “stick” together – or not. One obvious reason why people break up is infidelity, or cheating. This “grim reaper” of relationships has attracted the attention of researchers who aim to identify tendencies that put partners at risk for getting into “sticky situations” outside of their current relationship.
A lot of things undermine physical health, like poor diet, lack of exercise, and not enough sleep. Did you know that dysfunctional relationships — those characterized by lots of conflict and poor communication — also contribute to poor health? For example, when couples are "hostile" toward one another, there’s a good chance that any recent wounds (even everyday cuts and abrasions) will take longer to heal than if partners maintain a more civil and responsive tone with one another during disagreements or other conversations.1 On the other hand, good relationships, and not just those we have with our romantic partners, generally benefit our overall health. But why?
Like many of you, we're spending the long holiday weekend eating turkey and pie, watching football, and relaxing with family and friends. In the spirit of the holiday, here are some of our favorite articles that apply to all-things related to Thanksgiving:
- Are you planning to strap on the feedbag this weekend? Worried about how those few extra pounds might affect your relationship?
- Will eating all that turkey make you more trusting?
- Did your significant other mention that s/he "wants to talk" while you're home for the holidays? No good can come of that...
- Who's planning on seeing Hunger Games: Catching Fire this weekend?
- Are you bringing your partner home to meet your friends and family for the first time? Does it matter what they think about your relationship?
- Don't forgot to set your Fantasy Football lineup, and make sure to razz your friends if they start Michael Vick at QB.
- Fellas, are you going to hit the Black Friday sales to get the perfect gift for your special friend? Planning on using your credit card?
- Who's cleaning the house before the guests arrive? And doing the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner?
- I really want a piece of pie, but I'm going to control myself...
- Are you getting out of town for the holidays?
Are you thankful that researchers are tackling questions related to relationships? If so, show your love by downloading a copy of The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, and Family, which is edited by the folks that bring you ScienceOfRelationships.com and features answers to 40 of the most common questions people have about relationships, written in an engaging and entertaining form by a team of scholars in the field. Learn more about the book here, and download your copy, available exclusively on Amazon.
If you find yourself a little drowsy after lunch, the culprit could be the tryptophan in your turkey sandwich. But the next time you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast (or a table laden with other foods high in tryptophan), you might wonder why you’re also filled with extra goodwill.
Experimenters investigated tryptophan’s influence on interpersonal trust by administering oral doses of tryptophan (or a placebo) to pairs of strangers in the laboratory.
Katherine submitted the following question:
I have always wondered about research behind the topic of being friends with benefits (with strict rules of no kissing, no hugging, just sex, and only sex), and if they have the same benefits as sex within a committed relationship based off of love and trust, instead of lust?
Thanks for this great question! It sounds to me like what you’re really asking is whether sex between “friends with benefits” is as good as the sex that two people in a committed romantic relationship might have. I recently published a study in the Journal of Sex Research that addressed this exact question.1 We recruited nearly 400 men and women over the Internet who either had a current “friend with benefits” or a romantic partner. All participants completed a survey that asked how sexually satisfied they were in their relationship and how much they communicated with their partner about a variety of sexual topics.
Commitment, the big “C-word” in relationships, is defined as feeling connected to your partner, wanting your relationship to succeed, and thinking about your long-term future together. Although there are downsides to commitment (see here for an example), commitment is associated with lots of good outcomes...
Science is all about making careful obsevations, so we have to appreciate how this guy documented via Twitter a couple that was breaking up on his roof. Check out the rest of his series of tweets at buzzfeed.com, and read our articles about breakup (albeit not on a roof) here.
In the 27th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson of Colgate University discusses the pros and cons of idealizing our partners.
In collaboration with Art Aron (Stony Brook University), Cheryl Carmichael (Brooklyn College), Harry Reis (University of Rochester), and John Holmes (University of Waterloo), the research team set out to test the idea that although idealizing partners is good to some degree, over-idealizing partners could have negative consequences as well.
When it comes to casual, uncommitted, non-emotional sex, there is a strong gender stereotype: men are more interested in doing it (literally) than women. We have covered research examining this phenomenon—on the surface, it appears as though men are much more excited about having sex with a complete stranger, whereas women seem to be grossed out. Some researchers suggest that this is because of an innate biological difference between the sexes; men have a stronger desire for casual sex because they want to maximize reproductive success, while women are more interested in acquiring resources from a committed partner, and thus choosier about whom they mate with.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, "Americans see 25 as ideal age for women to have first child." The poll results have received a lot of attention in the popular media, so we thought we should chime in as well. As it turns out, we've previously summarized the scientific data regarding how mom's age affects child outcomes in our book. An excerpt from that chapter is below.
In 1938 Harvard began studying a group of men and followed them as they grew old. A book by George Vaillant, entitled Triumphs of Experience, chronicles the results and provides several interesting insights about the role of alcholism, smoking, and intelligence on aging and life satisfaction.
Some of the most intersting findings, at least to us, involved "warm relationships." As this article explains, there was a "powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years." To learn more about the other benefits of warm relationships, click here.
I have attended a lot of academic conferences over the years and I’ve almost always had the same thought after leaving each one: “What would make this conference even better? More sex on the program!” But it turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this. Several of my colleagues have also noticed that many of our major conferences have a serious lack of sexuality programming, so we got together and decided to take matters into our own hands. The fruit of our labor is the first ever Sexuality Pre-Conference to be held at the 2014 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).
Popular wisdom or results from a cursory Google search suggest that people with lower self-esteem have poor social skills. However, recent research finds that this is not true: In fact, people with lower self-esteem have the same social skills as people with higher self-esteem, but they often don’t feel safe enough to use them.1 This ‘safety’ concern comes into play in situations when one tries to start a relationship with another person, or what researchers call relationship initiation; such situations are risky because one often doesn’t know if the other person is going to be accepting or rejecting,1 and thus the outcome of the attempted initiation is often uncertain. So what do people do when they want to start a relationship but don’t know how the other person will respond?
Imagine that a guy and a girl are at a party, and one approaches the other and strikes up a conversation. Chances are that when you envisioned this scenario, you assumed it was the guy who approached the girl. That’s because we have what psychologists call behavioral scripts, or a sequence of events that we typically expect to occur in social situations. In most cultures, expectations or norms about male and female dating behaviors (e.g., guy approaches girl) are so entrenched that there are special days or dances where the script is flipped. On Sadie Hawkins Day (traditionally observed in early November) or at a Sadie Hawkins Dance, women have the opportunity to break social conventions by asking men out on a date or to a dance. To study dating behaviors like this, researchers have used the somewhat unique experience of speed dating.