Wednesday
May152013

When Too Much Help from Parents Hurts

As a parent, how much should you help pay for your child's college education? How much should you help with their homework? The parent-child relationship is based on parent's helping their child. But sometimes parents can help too much. A recent article in the New York Times examines "helicopter parents" and how parents can help so much, that it actually hurts the child.

Tuesday
May142013

Relationships Are More Important Than Ambition

image source: carmenlaffon1.blogspot.comOf course, those of us here at ScienceOfRelationships.com don't need convincing, but a recent article over at The Atlantic details some of the evidence for the claim that relationships matter more than ambition (and all the good things that come with ambition).

Read our related articles on The Need to Belong here, and what types of regrets tend to hit us the hardest here.

Monday
May132013

I Dislike the Dog that Likes the Rabbit that I Dislike: Why Do We Like Some People but Dislike Others?

The notion that people prefer similar others is as empirically-validated a research finding as they come in our field (see here, for example). Similar people make us feel better about ourselves, and who doesn’t like somebody that makes us feel better about ourselves? In fact, the preference for similarity is so common that it is considered a general characteristic of the human condition, and it’s not hard to imagine how preferring to hang around similar people, and avoiding dissimilar people, might benefit survival.

Recently, researchers have begun to identify exactly how early this preference for similar others begins to develop.  One can’t help but wonder whether this “universal” preference for similar others is nature (i.e., we’re born with it) or nurture (i.e., others, such as our parents, teach us to like similar others and not like dissimilar others).

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May112013

Jetpack Solves Everything

Friday
May102013

Stubble Trouble: How (Men’s) Facial Hair Affects Attraction 

Should men go for the clean-shaven look, a full beard, or somewhere in between when trying to attract a woman? To answer this question, researchers showed heterosexual women and heterosexual men photographs of men with full beards, heavy stubble, light stubble, or cleanly shaven faces. Importantly, the pictures were the same men but with different facial hair styles. Women found heavy stubble more attractive than the other styles. Interestingly, men thought full beards and clean-shaven were more attractive than women did. A follow-up study focusing on fertility indicated that women’s preference for heavy stubble was the same regardless of  menstrual cycle phase.

For more facial hair science, check out this article.

Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003

Friday
May102013

Math Nerd Announcement: A Breakup Equation For Lovers

As someone who takes comfort in reducing highly complex human experiences into single-line mathematical equations, let me share my latest shiny new toy: a formula that predicts the breakup percentage of a given sample of dating folk over a particular period of time.

Isn’t that intriguing?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May092013

Is Sex Allowed to Be Important in a Romantic Relationship?

A recent article in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by Elizabeth Bernstein, How Often Should Married Couples Have Sex? What Happens When He Says 'More' and She Says 'No', created some controversy. The article focused on Chris and Afton Mower, a heterosexual couple who share the details of their previously sexless marriage. At one point in their relationship, the couple went one year without having sex. The husband, Chris, desired more sex, whereas his wife, Afton, had no interest in sex.

Over time, after communicating and reading a self-help book together, Chris and Afton revived their sexual relationship and now both report being satisfied with their sex life. In the article, Bernstein referenced our research on sexual communal strength (discussed here) to suggest that at times a person may prioritize their romantic partner’s sexual needs over their own preferences and that this focus on a partner’s needs can be beneficial (not only for the partner whose needs are being met, but also for the partner meeting the needs).1 Bernstein's article caused quite a stir in the media; a number of news outlets, including JezebelThe Week, and New York Magazine, published responses. Critics rebuked the article for what they perceived as its focus on the “man’s perspective” and questioned the depression, weight gain and emotional distress that Chris linked to his sexual rejection. Based on some of the responses, it was also controversial to suggest that a person has some responsibility in an ongoing romantic relationship to meet their partner’s sexual needs, perhaps especially when it is the male partner who desires more sex than his wife.

After reading these responses I began to wonder whether (and for whom) we allow sex to be important in a relationship.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May082013

Gotta Love Science: Why Men Dig Breasts

Tuesday
May072013

The Benefits and Risks of Growing Close: Relationship Matters Podcast #23

In the 23rd installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson (Carnegie Mellon University) discusses her recent research with Professor Art Aron (Stony Brook University) on the classic dilemma: how do we balance the benefits of growing emotionally close to a person with the risk of getting hurt that comes when we make ourselves vulnerable?

Click to read more ...

Monday
May062013

Sometimes a Cigar is More Than a Cigar

I have been having nightmares lately. Not the “being chased” kind of nightmare, or the nightmare where you’re falling and wake up before hitting the ground. Rather, there is a recurring theme in these dreams that involve The Consultant (a man I have been dating for many months now) and me. Each dream starts with us doing something mundane, such as going grocery shopping together. Then, suddenly, The Consultant turns into one of my ex-boyfriends and things fall apart like they did in my past relationships. For example, my dream last night involved The Consultant and I having lunch, during which he ordered the Italian wedding soup special and then proceeded to tell me that he was marrying someone else. I looked up from my menu only to see that The Consultant had turned into The Question Mark, a man I have struggled to “get over” for many years.

When I wake up from these dreams, I am relieved that they are not real. Oftentimes, The Consultant is sharing my bed, so I am comforted by snuggling closer to him. But I keep wondering, what do these dreams mean?

Click to read more ...

Sunday
May052013

The Elements of Attraction

Saturday
May042013

May the Fourth Be with You and Your Relationships

May the Fourth, if it isn't obvious, is a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. We're Star Wars geeks at heart, so it's probably not surprising that we've found ways to incorporate Star Wars themes into ScienceOfRelationships.com...

Friday
May032013

Don't Ask A Jedi. Ask Us.

Friday
May032013

"Do These Pants Make My Butt Look Big?" and Other Questions You May be Tempted to Ask Your Partner 

Over a decade ago, I promised myself I’d never ask my husband anything that resembles the loaded question, “do these pants make my butt look big?” Although I believe that women are subjected to impossible standards of beauty that could lead any reasonable woman to feel insecure about her appearance, I did not want to reveal myself as insecure about my weight. I knew I was not “fat,” and did not want to find myself behaving like a stereotypical weight-obsessed woman. However, most of all, I made a conscious choice – as a woman who studies body image and eating behaviors – to try my best to be confident about my weight. I believed then, and still believe today, that I don’t have the professional luxury of questioning my body or my weight if I am going to tell other people that they should eat healthy foods and not “worry” about their weight.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May022013

New Parents: We’re On the Same Team

image source: living.msn.comHaving a first child can be a stressful time for couples for many reasons. One factor that may contribute to new-parent stress is whether the new parents agree on how to parent. In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers examined whether new parents had similar parenting styles and felt like they were working together as team in raising their new infants; they also assessed whether this teamwork was related to parents’ mental health and relationship satisfaction. New mothers and fathers who felt like their parenting styles were similar had more positive moods and experienced less depression in the months following the birth of their first child. In addition, perceived agreement in parenting styles was related to mothers’ overall relationship satisfaction. 

Don, B. P., Biehle, S. N., Mickelson, K. D. (in press). Feeling like part of a team: Perceived parenting agreement among first-time parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Thursday
May022013

(Lack of) Partner Support and Criticism Predicts Depression

NPR recently reported on a new study by Dr. Alan Teo and colleagues on the link between relationship quality and depression. Those of you with critical, unsupportive partners should start looking for a therapist with a comfy couch soon!

Click here to check out NPR's coverage of this work.

Wednesday
May012013

The Scientist (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Replications)

When people ask me what I do, I talk about being a professor and a social psychologist, but first and foremost I am a scientist, though probably not the type with a white lab coat and microscopes you had in mind. My colleagues and I use scientific perspectives and methods to investigate topics like interpersonal relationships, dreams, and morality. Our fields depend on the integrity of the scientific process (generating hypotheses, testing them with sound methods and measures, and running analyses). This article is about a crucial element of relationship science that, until recently, our journal editors have somewhat neglected: replication.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr302013

Do the Daily Sacrifices We Make in Relationships Make Us Happier? Relationship Matters Podcast #22

In the 22nd installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Casey Totenhagen (University of Arizona) dicusses recent research on how the daily sacrifices we make in relationships (e.g., doing the dishes, picking up a partner from work) influence how happy and committed we are in our relationships. 

Totenhagen explained, “In a relationship the partners are interdependent, and what I’m feeling and getting out of the relationship really depends on how my partner is treating me. These sacrifices are opportunities that we have to show our partners that we care about them, that we’re invested in the relationship, and that we want and expect the relationship to continue.”

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr292013

Who's on Top? Power and Control In and Out of the Bedroom

Is control in the bedroom related to power in the relationship?

Power dynamics are a relatively common element of sexual fantasy.1 Some individuals enjoy being sexually dominant – they derive satisfaction from exerting power or control over their sexual partners. Others enjoy being sexually submissive – they are satisfied when their sexual partners exert power over them. But the reader poses an intriguing question: do a couple’s power dynamics within the bedroom mirror their power dynamics outside the bedroom?

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Apr282013

Capitalization on 'The Big Bang Theory'

In this clip from Season 5 of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Amy ("Shamy") go on their monthly date, as specified by the "relationship agreement." This scene illustrates the importance of being excited about your partner's good news, something relationship researchers refer to as "capitalization." Read more about this topic here, and more from The Big Bang Theory here, here, and here.