It’s that time of year again. I’ve barely recovered from Christmas, and yet the stores have pulled out all the Valentine’s Day decorations and cards. When I spot the shades of red and pink at my local Target, I find myself silently groaning. Another gift to buy. Already. Again. Really?
Michelle Kaufman is a researcher that focuses on sexual behavior in the developing world. She globetrots regularly, engaging in ethnographic work along the way in order to inform the quantitative and qualitative research she conducts. Recently, Michelle visited Tanzania and investigated how people celebrate Valentine’s Day.
While in Tanzania last month, I asked everyone I met about Valentine’s Day. Do Tanzanians celebrate it, and how?
Who celebrates Valentine’s Day in Tanzania? First, Valentine’s Day is not commonly celebrated in Tanzania. Not surprisingly, it is viewed as a holiday for urban, wealthier people, and mostly for the youth. Those living in rural areas or those who are living day-to-day just trying to survive don’t give Valentine’s Day much thought (they are more focused on things like food, shelter, etc.). All my informants made it clear right away that this is a holiday for the well off with expendable income.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans spend upwards of $10 billion on for Valentine’s Day. And in true Valentine’s Day fashion, most of the adults surveyed were expecting to purchase candy, flowers, and/or a nice evening out for their partners. If you are one of those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, you might be thinking that these behaviors sound pretty familiar. The smell of roses and cologne will fill the air. Succulent wine and chocolate will dance on our tongues. We will go out dressed in our very best. Valentine’s Day truly is a day to indulge in some relational hedonism. But is the Valentine’s Day feel-goodery helpful for our relationships, or have we merely bought into a big consumer ploy? Although the answer to this question might be a matter of opinion, some research suggests that sensual pleasures – many of those that are heightened on Valentine’s Day – actually have a lot to do with feelings of attraction and relational health.
Do you enjoy giving Valentine’s Day gifts? Or is it an unpleasant obligation? Your feelings about giving presents depends on your attachment style. Across two studies, secure people reported that giving gifts to partners was more pleasurable and not done out of obligation. Conversely, people high in avoidance experienced less pleasure, whereas those high in anxiety felt more obligated to give gifts, possibly because they feared losing their partners when their relationships weren’t going well.
Nguyen, H. P., & Munch, J. M. (2011). Romantic gift giving as a chore or pleasure: The effects of attachment orientations on gift giving perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 64, 113-118.
Valentine’s Day typically serves as a time to show appreciation for that special someone in our lives or as an opportunity to take a relationship to the next level. It’s a time to celebrate love in all of its forms. But can it be a dangerous time for the health of your relationship?
Holidays can be stressful, but your relationship probably made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, and New Year’s in one piece. Congratulations! Valentine’s Day should be a piece of cake, right? Not so fast…
Now that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you may be worried about picking out the perfect gift for your partner. Is it something he will like? Will she be disappointed by your efforts? And how is a partner’s response to your Valentine's Day gift related to thoughts about the future of your relationship?
Editor's note: Relationship researchers Drs. Charlotte and Patrick Markey give us "his and her" takes on how to approach Valentine's Day gift giving.
I went to the mailbox this morning and found a turquoise blue catalogue amongst the undesirable bills and solicitations. On the cover, heart-shaped jewelry reminded me that Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching. I was tempted to strategically place this little blue reminder from Tiffany’s in my husband’s view -- on his dresser, in his briefcase, or perhaps on the kitchen island. But then, I found myself realizing I did not actually desire expensive jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I was ill? Wasn’t I supposed to want something fancy?
Often, we find ourselves doggedly pursuing a personal goal like career advancement or a fitness goal. Could these single-minded pursuits make us less interested in working to improve and maintain our relationships?
Normally when we are deciding if we should pursue a goal, we process information about that goal in a deliberative mindset. For example, if you’re deciding whether or not you should take a new job, you will carefully consider the pros and cons of that decision. However, once you’ve set yourself on a goal, you enter an implemental mindset, where rather than thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea to pursue the goal, you think about how you can achieve the goal.1 So, once you’ve committed to the decision to take the job, you’re no longer weighing the pros and cons, but instead figuring out how to break the news to your current boss and looking for apartments closer to the new office. You’re also no longer considering all of the evidence; rather, you’re just considering the evidence that supports your goal. In a nutshell, you’re being one-sided about the issue.
So what does all that have to do with your relationships? According to new research by Laura VanderDrift and Chris Agnew, quite a bit.2 Once you’re in the implemental mindset with respect to your goal, that mindset bleeds into your relationship.
In this first installment of the Winter/Spring 2015 season of SAGE's “Relationship Matters” podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College), Dr. Kira Birditt (University of Michigan) discusses how resolving disagreements (or not) affects individuals’ daily stress hormone production.
Briefly, cortisol -- popularly referred to as the “stress hormone” -- helps regulate our daily sleep-wake cycles and also helps us react appropriately to stressful situations. When the cortisol system is functioning optimally, the hormone peaks about thirty minutes after waking time (to help us become alert for the day) and then generally falls throughout the day, culminating at its lowest point before bedtime. Chronically elevated daily levels of cortisol are generally associated with negative health outcomes.
To better understand what makes kids popular, researchers measured 144 3rd through 8th grade students’ prosocial behaviors (i.e., doing good things for others) and physical/verbal aggression. As you’d expect, kids nominated as popular were more likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors. But, unexpectedly, the popular kids were also more aggressive. Even kids who displayed high levels of verbal and physical aggression (e.g., mean name-calling, pushing/shoving) were popular if they also engaged in prosocial behaviors. Finally, being nice to others was more beneficial for girls’ popularity than boys. As much as a parent doesn’t want their child to be aggressive, it apparently has some upside.
Kornbluh, M., & Neal, J. W. (2014). Examining the many dimensions of children’s popularity: Interactions between aggression, prosocial behaviors, and gender. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 0.1177/0265407514562562
On New Year's Day, couples across the globe vowed to “lose weight” and "get in shape." In the past, I’ve suggested that romantic partners work to achieve fitness and weight loss goals together, but doing so requires navigating some tricky terrain. Drawing on my own research examining romantic partners’ health and a recent interview with Sarah Varney, author of, XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America’s Love Life,1 here are 5 tips for working with your significant other to make 2015 the year that you actually achieve your goals.
Committing your life to another person is a big step. How can you feel comfortable taking that risk, committing yourself to a partner you know is flawed? To overcome those insecurities, it's sometimes best to hold some “positive illusions” about your partner, even if they’re not accurate.
Past research has shown that couples are more satisfied when both members of the couple view each another in an overly positive manner.1 In a survey, they asked couples to evaluate themselves and their partners on a series of personality traits and found that the most satisfied people rated their partners more positively than the partners rated themselves. The researchers argued that these “positive illusions” allow us to deal with the inevitable doubts and conflicts that surface in a relationship, by building up a store of good will.
That doesn’t mean that love is blind. These happy couples are not wearing blinders, but rather rose-colored glasses. They notice their partners’ flaws, but find ways to minimize the importance of those flaws and to accentuate their partners' assets.
Hello. My name is Sadie, and I am addicted to TV. If you read my articles, then you are already aware of this, but you may not know that one of my guilty pleasures is Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise. Although my relationship with the show has been on-again/off-again due to the (almost) unbearable level of cat-fighting, I have probably not missed an episode since the show’s inception in 2006. Over the years, I have followed the “real” lives of women across the nation from New York to Orange County as they publicly aired their dirty laundry. I’ve delighted in their triumphs and sometimes even in their misfortunes. However, enough is enough, and I finally have to speak out. Ladies, if you want your marriages to work then please, please, do not agree to be on The Real Housewives (at least not without reading this article first)!
We all know that divorce is prevalent in the United States. Currently, 40% of first marriages fail to reach “happily ever after” (and the rates are even higher for those who have been married more than once). What you may not know is that the divorce rate for The Real Housewives is double that of the general population.1 To be fair, this elevated rate is not limited to divorces that have occurred since joining the cast, but rather takes into account whether these women have ever been divorced (before or after participating in the show).
In order for the scientific discipline of psychology to exist, we need participants who are willing to take our studies, come to our labs, fill out our measures, or answer our questions online. If you took Intro Psychology in college, chances are that you have been in a psychology study. If you’re planning on taking Intro Psych in college, this is one more thing to look forward to.
When people sign up for a study they often have to meet certain criteria. So we can study what makes relationships work better, relationship scientists often look for potential study participants who have recently fallen in love or who have had a long-term relationship. We also look for single people when we want to better understand attraction or how people start relationships. Those studies are often fun for researchers and participants because of the subject matter.
But as someone who has done research on break-up, I can tell you that break-up research can be tough. Often I’m looking for participants who have broken up recently while the experience is still new and somewhat raw.
Mary is browsing through Cosmopolitan magazine reading article title after article title promising to provide useful dating advice. She then decides to create an online profile for a dating site, with the hope that online dating will help her meet someone new. What she doesn’t realize is that looking at those article titles, combined with the current state of her (i.e., how she feels about herself) may have just influenced what she put on her dating profile.
Maybe you spent months in a race against the clock to produce the most memorable Christmas gift your spouse has ever received. Maybe you scrimped and saved every spare dime to reward your children with the latest and greatest gizmos, gadgets or items of clothing. Maybe you simply procrastinated and completed your holiday shopping in a matter of hours before the “big” night with the family! Regardless of your preparation, or lack thereof…it’s over. Now that we have embraced and celebrated the holiday season, for many of us our thoughts turn to the “clean up” of the holiday fury. By clean up, I don’t mean the laborious task of taking down the tree, or uncovering the mantle from the holiday stockings that were hung quite meticulously only hours after carving the Thanksgiving turkey and ham. By clean up, I mean the often inevitable crash that comes after the anticipation and the climax of the holiday season.
Research suggests that men tend to surrender to sexual temptations, like cheating, more than women. Is this because men have stronger sexual urges, or because they can’t control themselves? Across two studies, participants indicated the strength of their sexual impulses and their ability to control themselves when encountering “forbidden” others (e.g., being attracted to someone already in a relationship). Men acted on inappropriate attraction more than women, and this occurred because men had stronger sexual impulses, rather than men being less able to exert self-control. Men’s higher sex drive, therefore, might lend insight into why they engage in certain behaviors.
Tidwell, N. D., & Eastwick, P. W. (2013). Sex differences in succumbing to sexual temptations: A function of impulse or control? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1620-1633. doi: 10.1177/0146167213499614