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Monday
Jan262015

Bad Valentine’s Day Gifts: Do They Hurt Your Relationship?

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?

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Monday
Jan262015

She Said/He Said: What to Get Your Partner for Valentine’s Day

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.

She said...

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?

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Friday
Jan232015

When What’s Good for Me, Isn’t Good for Us

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.

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Thursday
Jan222015

Stress and Resolving Disagreements Immediately: Relationship Matters Podcast 42

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. 

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Wednesday
Jan212015

An Unexpected Key To Kids’ Popularity

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

Tuesday
Jan202015

New Year, New Us: 5 Tips to Help You and Your Romantic Partner Lose Weight in 2015

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.

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Monday
Jan192015

Watch Parents Talk To Their Kids About Sex For The First Time (video)

Friday
Jan162015

Is This the Best Way to Deal with Your Partner’s Faults?

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.

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Wednesday
Jan142015

Want to Stay Married? Then Don’t Become a Reality TV Housewife

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.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). 

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Monday
Jan122015

Sign Me Up: How Participating in Break-Up Research Helps Coping

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.

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Sunday
Jan112015

The Elements of Successful Relationships

Click here to see our articles on chemistry.

Saturday
Jan102015

The Agony of Public Transportation

Click here to see our articles on uncertainty in relationships.

Friday
Jan092015

Self-Esteem Affects When People Flirt

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 self-esteem (i.e., how she feels about herself) may have just influenced what she put on her dating profile.

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Wednesday
Jan072015

Cleaning Up from the Holiday Season

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. 

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Monday
Jan052015

Stronger Impulses or Less Control? Why Men Succumb to Sexual Temptations

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

Sunday
Jan042015

Does Penis Size Matter? (video)

Read our articles about penis size here and here.

Saturday
Jan032015

The Power of a Text in Long-Distance Relationships

Click here for articles about long distance relationships.

Wednesday
Dec312014

2014 Editors' Choice Awards: #1 - Making Difficult Dating Decisions

Relationships frequently fall apart due to irreconcilable incompatibilities. Sometimes these incompatibilities are so large that they seem like they should have been obvious from the start (e.g., one person wants children, the other partner doesn’t; one person is deeply religious, the other isn't). Why don’t such dealbreakers prevent relationships from getting off the ground in the first place? Why do people so frequently wind up with incompatible romantic partners?

Some time ago, I wrote a post about how single people can readily call to mind all of the traits and features that they are looking for in a mate, yet these preferences seem to go right out the window when people make real-life dating decisions. Research consistently shows that what people say they want in a partner has virtually no bearing on who they actually choose to date in a laboratory setting.1,2

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Wednesday
Dec312014

2014 Editors' Choice Awards: #2 - How I Met Your Mother's Cheerleader Effect

You gotta love when pop culture inspires scientific research. Motivated by one of my favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother, the authors of a recent paper published in Psychological Science1 investigated Barney Stinson’s claim that people appear more attractive when surrounded by others in a group relative to when they are viewed by themselves. He calls this the “Cheerleader Effect,” inspired by the stereotype that cheerleader groups seem very attractive because of how they appear in groups/teams, even though individual cheerleaders are not more attractive than average.

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Tuesday
Dec302014

2014 Editors' Choice Awards: #3 - Feeling Like a Doormat

Forgiveness can be really good for our relationships. To name just a few benefits, forgiving a transgression reduces blood pressure for both victims and their wrongdoing partners,1 and increases the victim’s life satisfaction and positive mood.2 Researchers are also beginning to understand what it takes to forgive; for example, we are more likely to forgive our partners when they apologize (i.e., make amends) for bad behavior. But what happens when we forgive someone who hasn’t attempted to make up for their transgression? In a series of four studies, Laura Luchies and her colleagues found that forgiving a partner who does not make amends after wrongdoing erodes the victim’s self-respect and self-concept clarity (the extent to which we have a clear sense of ourselves).3

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