Why does humor sometimes defuse tension and bring you closer to your partner but other times leave you back-pedaling and saying, “I was just kidding!”? After observing couples engage in a conflict, researchers determined that the partners of individuals who used more affiliative humor (e.g., funny stories that emphasize the connection between partners) and less aggressive humor (e.g., sarcasm, criticism) felt closer after the discussion, thought the conflict was better resolved, and were more satisfied with their relationships overall.
Taking advantage of a large-scale study in which 14- to 17-year-old adolescent women completed 84 successive days of brief surveys (i.e., “daily diaries”), researchers identified 41 women who reported having sex for the first time during the diary period. The research team assessed how women felt on the day prior to, the day of, and the day after having sexual intercourse for the first time. The women reported greater sexual interest the day just prior to their first intercourse (and on the day of), relative to the day after having sex for the first time, and they reported similarly higher levels of sexual interest on subsequent days on which they had sex (as did their more sexually experienced counterparts in the larger sample).
Infidelity-- cheating, being unfaithful, or what researchers would describe as “couple members’ violations of relationship norms regarding exclusivity”-- clearly can cause negative emotions such as feelings of betrayal, hurt, and jealousy.1 With spring break (at American colleges and universities) just around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to discuss how relationship commitment affects the likelihood of infidelity when partners are geographically separated and tempted by the fruit of another.
One of the sad truths about dating is that sometimes you get dumped, and when you do, you’re probably going to be pretty pissed at your ex. If you want to get back at them for making the worst mistake of their lives, jumping into bed with someone else will surely teach them a lesson, right? Or if your breakup simply has you feeling blue, maybe you think that hooking up with someone else will help you feel better, at least for a little while.
When your partner behaves badly, your first instinct may be to retaliate. What could help you respond more healthily? In a series of studies, romantically-involved individuals responded to scenarios wherein their partner acted in a hurtful way (e.g., bringing them to a family reunion but then ignoring them). People who took their partner’s perspective (vs. their own) reacted with more love- and caring-related emotions, better understood their partner’s viewpoint, and tried to find positive solutions to the issue. Perspective-takers also responded with less anger, blamed their partner less, and avoided lashing out. Thus, perspective-taking can help you navigate relationship conflict.1
1Arriaga, X. B., & Rusbult, C. E. (1998). Standing in my partner’s shoes: Partner perspective taking and reactions to accommodative dilemmas. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 927-948.
We were recently given a few copies of A Million First Dates: Solving the Puzzle of Online Dating by Dan Slater to share with our readers. Here's how you can enter to win a free copy:
2) Fill out this form.
This giveaway is only open to readers with a mailing address in the United States. We'll choose 3 winners on March 28th and send your book shortly after that.
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.
How have you fared in Valentine Debriefing Open Season 2014? You know how it is—if you were lucky enough to have a valentine, then every friend, coworker, and inquisitive relative feels somehow entitled to all the details after your big day. Reliving Valentine’s Day can be fun and rewarding if things are going well with your partner. But maybe February 14th wasn’t quite what you expected this year. Maybe you two had a fight. Maybe your partner let you down in some way. Maybe after the last chocolate wrapper fluttered into the trashcan, you found yourself questioning things. How is this going? Will this relationship last?
Whether your Valentine’s Day was lovely or a letdown, go ahead and take today’s relationship quiz (if you’re in a relationship, that is). It’s short—just 7 questions—and will give you instant feedback about your short-term prognosis at the end. I recommend taking it now, before reading further, so you can give your natural responses.
My friend Monika recently shared a concern that her sex play with her boyfriend has been spilling over into other areas of her life. Several months ago, her boyfriend requested that she take on a sadistic, dominatrix-like role in their sexual relationship. Sadomasochism (S&M) involves using bondage, spanking, and other types of dominating sexual play, with the sadist being the dominant partner and the masochist being on the receiving end. At first, she was uncomfortable with the request because it was not something she had ever done before. However, after playing things out a little bit, she found the role quite exciting and empowering—her boyfriend also clearly enjoyed their sexual experiences. Now their sexual practices nearly always involve S&M, with her boyfriend getting off being the consenting recipient of (non-injurious) pain during their sexual experiences.1 Although Monika is more comfortable with assuming a dominating role than she used to be, she is not as sexually satisfied as she once was.
The Sex Lives of College Students, by Sandra L. Caron, Ph.D., presents the results of a human sexuality survey administered over the past two decades to thousands of college students ages 18-80. Responses by 4,683 college students between the ages of 18-22 are compiled in the book. The more than 100-question survey has been administered during the first week of every human sexuality class at the University of Maine since 1990. The undergraduate class has a capacity enrollment of 350 students and regular waiting lists. In 2010, several new questions were added and refined to address the latest issues and trends, including the use of social media to facilitate relationships and use of morning-after pills.
The book is not the be-all and end-all survey on the sex lives of college students. It is not representative of a cross-section of all college students across the country, but it does give us a glimpse of a student sample from a mid-size public research university. Indeed, it is a unique perspective informed by a 20-year data set. The data facilitate the tracking of trends and comparison of changes in attitudes and behaviors. Because of its longevity, the survey includes not only the views of today’s college students, but also those of their parents, including some who may have sat in the same lecture hall taking the course in human sexuality.
The goal is to survey college students’ attitudes and behaviors at the start of the course. And while many of the students enrolled in the course are majoring in the social sciences, the students represent every college and major at the university. This book presents results over the past two decades from 1990 to today. It highlights findings on college students’ sexual behaviors, sexual attitudes, parental influence, safer sex/HIV, the difficult side of sex, and newer data. Below are 10 things that have changed sexually over the last two decade for college students:
Imagine that in a recent discussion your partner said to you, “I get really frustrated when you interrupt me sometimes. I know you don’t do it on purpose, but it makes me feel like you’re not listening or that my feelings aren’t important. Maybe in the future you could wait to see if I’ve had my say before you share your thoughts?” How would this make you feel? Perhaps you might appreciate that your partner put his/her concerns fairly nicely (s/he could have, for example, said, “For crying out loud, stop interrupting me! Don’t you ever listen to me or care about my feelings? It makes me wonder why I even bother with you!”), but chances are it would still feel bad in the short-term to find out that your partner is upset about something you’re doing. But now imagine that you pay attention to what your partner said, and over time you make sure that you listen to and acknowledge your partner’s thoughts without interrupting. It’s likely that down the road, the two of you will be much more satisfied with your relationship, in part because of the direct way your partner communicated with you when s/he asked you to change your behavior.
Recently, many of us here at Science of Relationships attended the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Austin, Texas. Research on close relationships was well represented at the conference, with symposia covering a range of topics, including social support in relationships, social networks, evolution and sexual behavior, attachment, and more. For my part, I had a chance to attend some fascinating talks from researchers who have been tackling some interesting questions across two of my favorite, closely-related research areas - social support (i.e., how people in relationships help each other) and responsiveness (i.e., how a close other’s behavior make us feel understood, cared for, and validated).
It seems like everywhere you turn, professionals are trying to make your life easier. Medical doctors discover breakthrough treatments for illnesses. Engineers design revolutionary new gadgets and devices. And psychologists devise simple and ingenious activities for couples to sustain their relationships.
For most married couples, satisfaction declines over time, meaning that couples typically become less and less happy with their relationships the longer they’ve been together. But a group of scientists developed an intervention that they have affectionately termed, “The Marriage Hack” (see the TED talk here), utilizing a technique they call emotional reappraisal. Emotional reappraisal occurs when couples re-evaluate their experiences by imagining how a neutral 3rd party (an unbiased person outside the couple) would view their behavior.
Close your eyes and imagine your girlfriend is working late with an attractive coworker that you suspect she has a crush on. Or think about your husband hanging out at his high school reunion with an old flame that he has never gotten over. Such thoughts probably don’t make you feel good, and you may be anxious or upset knowing that your partner was tempted by the fruit of another (or what researchers refer to as “attending to an attractive alternative partner”). It may seem like common sense that such suspicions of a partner’s potential betrayal undermine the quality of a relationship. If you think your partner has his or her eye on someone else, that would hurt your relationship, right? Well, relationship science say otherwise — it may not be that simple. New research suggests that suspicions of partners’ temptations can actually increase commitment in relationships.