Entries in alternatives (30)

Friday
Feb122016

Should You Be My Valentine? Research Helps Identify Good and Bad Romantic Relationships

“Will you be my Valentine?”

People all across the country say those words in the run-up to February 14 and the Valentine’s Day holiday. Whether you’re asking a brand new paramour or a long-term partner, the question can evoke feelings both of romantic uncertainty and possibility.

But for the well-being of ourselves and our relationships, “Will you be my Valentine?” is the wrong question. Instead, the more important question to ask yourself is “Should you be my Valentine?”

Relationships can be one of the most important sources of happiness in your life, with social connections serving as a key provider of happiness and meaningfulness. Not surprisingly, human beings have a very powerful drive to form and maintain relationships. After all, the future of humankind depends on people coupling up to conceive and raise the next generation. Because forming relationships is such a powerful motivator, being in any relationship can seem better than being alone. A variety of factors can lull us into relationship complacency – compatibility, friendship, shared interests, inertia, fear of being single or low expectations. The drive to be paired off may lead you to settle for the relationship you have, instead of the relationship you deserve.

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Friday
Jul172015

The Blacklist: Seriously Lizzie, When is Enough, Enough?

Since getting married, I’ve had to add to my TV watching line-up. No longer can I subsist on Bravo and E! alone. In hopes of accommodating my husband’s preferences, there is now an endless parade of action heroes, zombies, and murderers (and that is just on the regular stations…don’t get me started on the movie channels).  One of the shows that I’ve actually grown to like is NBC’s The Blacklist. Although not designed to be a series about close relationships, I’d argue there are a number of interpersonal dynamics at play in each episode. For now, I will skip the obvious daddy-issues between Red Reddington and Lizzie (who I’ve long suspected to be his daughter). What I find even more baffling is the relationship between Tom and Lizzie.

For those who are unfamiliar with the storyline, Tom and Lizzie Keen are married. Lizzie is a FBI Profiler and, in an unexpected twist, her husband Tom is a covert operative (i.e., a spy and, when it suits him, killer). Needless to say, this couple has had a pretty tumultuous time since the revelation of Tom’s true identity. To my shock and discomfort, during this time they have repeatedly battled (both verbally and physically). What I find so perplexing is that, since separating, Tom and Lizzie have continued to gravitate back to each other. Yep, even after his repeated attempts to kill her, Lizzie keeps ending back up in the arms and bed of her estranged husband. (Just as an aside, their destructive behavior is a two-way street. Lizzie held Tom captive in the hull of an abandoned ship for over four months. Just your typical couple, clearly.) Every episode I find myself asking, “Why do they keep get back together?!?”

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Tuesday
Jun022015

See No Evil, Smell No Evil (possible alternative partners)

Individuals in committed romantic relationships tend to downplay the attractiveness of potential partners. This derogation of alternatives, as researchers refer to it, helps the relationship’s long-term future by decreasing the likelihood that partners will be tempted by others.1 To determine whether somebody derogates alternatives, researchers typically straight-up ask them (e.g., “I regularly find myself looking at attractive others”) or, more sneakily, record how long (heterosexual) individuals look at pictures of opposite-sex people when presented with a range of photos. What both of these measures have in common is they basically rely on what people look at. But what about the other senses? Do we derogate in other ways? Follow the nose….

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Monday
Sep292014

Keeping the Back Burner Warm with Technology

With the pervasiveness of social media and mobile devices comes the potential to communicate with hundreds or thousands of people with just a few taps or clicks. Of course, we are connected to lots of different types of people, including family, friends, coworkers, and random people you have a faint recollection of from high school who friended you on Facebook. We also have very different reasons for communicating with particular people in our social circles. New research1 suggests that one motivation for communicating on Facebook (and other social media sites) is to keep some of our connections on the “back burner” as potential future romantic partners. 

If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, it makes sense that you may think of some people in your social network as romantic possibilities. However, do people who are currently in exclusive romantic relationships also keep potential mates on the back burner?

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Saturday
Jul122014

Old (and Sexist) Advice About Paying Attention to Other Men

Interested in learning more about paying attention to alternative partners? Click here.

Wednesday
Mar262014

The Grass Is Greener on the Internet: Pornography, Alternatives, and Infidelity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for that last 20 years, you likely know that the internet is full of pornography. But does exposure to porn hurt your relationships? Although there are conflicting results and plenty of questionable science on this topic (see here for an example), a new study suggests that watching porn may indeed impact certain aspects of relationship quality.1 Specifically, the researchers examined whether exposure to pornographic videos (i.e., the kind of thing you’re most likely to come across on the internet) increases people’s perception of relationship alternatives (read more about alternatives here), which negatively affects relationship quality. 

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Friday
Feb212014

Increased Commitment: A Curious Side Effect of Your Partner’s Wandering Eye

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.

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Monday
Feb172014

They’re Just Like Me: How Jealousy Influences Self-Views

Imagine for a moment that you’re running late to meet your romantic partner for a movie date. As you approach the theater, you see your partner speaking to an attractive stranger. As you wait, you happen to overhear part of their conversation. The stranger asks your partner for directions, which your partner provides happily. The stranger then invites your partner to a local concert this Friday. Your partner politely expresses interest and they exchange phone numbers.

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Wednesday
Jan292014

Building a Lasting Relationship: The Three Pillars of Commitment

When it comes to understanding the fate of any given relationship, I’d argue that knowing something about a couple’s commitment level, or their attachment to each other and long-term perspective on the relationship, is critical (see our previous article on predicting breakup here). Beyond predictions about staying together versus breaking up, commitment is also associated with all sorts of positive relationship outcomes (see our previous article on 5 Reasons Commitment is Good For Your Relationship). But how is commitment built in a relationship? More than 30 years of research on this topic has identified three pillars that form the foundation of commitment in relationships.

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Thursday
Jan162014

Conquering Contrast Effects: The Strong Survive and the Weak Shall Perish 

Ever catch your partner checking out an attractive stranger on the street? Ever notice all of the good-looking opposite-sex friends your partner has accumulated on Facebook? Such things might seem harmless, but these “beautiful” people may actually make us less appealing to our partners, due to what researchers refer to as contrast effects. Contrast effects occur when something looks better or worse depending on what we compare to it. In this case, you could look less attractive to your partner when compared to someone else that is more attractive, whether that person is a sexy passerby, a good-looking co-worker, or even someone featured in erotic material. (Read more about contrast effects here.) 

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Tuesday
Dec032013

Sticking Together: Executive Control Cements Strong Relationships

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. 

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Monday
Nov252013

Let Me Count The Ways: 5 Reasons Commitment is Good For Your Relationship

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...

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Monday
Jun032013

Following Other Women on Instagram: Innocent or Instant Trouble?

I am confused and find it hard to accept social media. I wanted to know [if it] is ok for my boyfriend to like photos of other girls and follow other women on Instagram. Is that pushing the limits in a relationship?

Thank you for your question. Research on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is relatively new. There are, however, some recent studies that can directly answer your question.

Our own Dr. Amy Muise published a study finding that social network use (e.g., Facebook) can promote jealousy in relationships, because you are exposed to ambiguous information about your partner’s behaviors.1 In your case, you don’t have a clear picture of your partner’s motives for following other women on Instagram. Therefore, this ambiguity leads to perceptions that his behaviors are a threat to the stability of your relationship.

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Monday
Apr222013

Is It Okay To Have A Crush On Someone Who Isn't Your Significant Other?

Is it okay for people to be attracted to others while in a committed relationship? Is it normal? Someone told me "if you're in a relationship and attracted to someone else, then there is something missing in your relationship and you shouldn't be committed in the first place." Is that true? I've always thought that attraction is normal and unavoidable, and crushes are harmless if not acted on. So, is it normal to have a crush on someone who isn't your significant other?

A: Your question raises several different issues worth considering, so let’s take them one at a time:

1) Is being “attracted to others while in a committed relationship… normal and unavoidable?”

Actually, yes, there is reason to think that being attracted to others is unavoidable. When we look at another person our brain very quickly processes the visual information our eyes see, and we nearly instantaneously make a judgment concerning the other person’s attractiveness.

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Monday
Oct222012

If You’re In A Relationship, Is It OK To Browse Hookup Sites For “Innocent Flirting” And “Harmless” Fun?

BC submitted the following question:

Have you written much on gay hookup apps (Grindr, Scruff, etc)? I just had a lengthy discussion with my cousin on Facebook after posting my criticism of Dan Savage's latest Savage Love. In it, Savage wrote that a gay man can have a hookup app on his phone while in an exclusive relationship and just use it for chatting with friends and innocent flirting. Why would someone be active on a hookup app and, if confronted with a hot guy to hookup with, not actually hook up with them?

Dear BC;

This is a great question! Although I am not aware of any studies specifically examining how use of hookup applications impacts people’s relationships, there is plenty of research to suggest that bringing these applications into a monogamous relationship could potentially lead to trouble down the road. Thus, I don’t fully agree with Savage’s take that engaging in such behavior is completely innocent.

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Wednesday
Sep262012

Geekosystem Failure: Does TV Cause Marital Strife?

Geekosystem.com…We love you, but you should probably stick to what you do best (sharing random, marginally humorous things you find on the internet) and leave relationship science to the experts.

A few days ago Geekosystem ran a story titled, Television Is Destroying Our Romantic Relationships, As If We Need The Help. The first two sentences of the article read as follows:

We can add television to the list of things that are destroying marriages across the world. According to a recent study from Albion University, watching television can be a significant cause of marital strife.

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Wednesday
Aug292012

Should I End My Relationship Before Going To College?

Now that the summer is coming to a close, young adults are fervidly preparing for their transition to college (though they may be more excited about leaving their parents’ house). College, of course, offers incoming students many social novelties: independence, new friends, all-nighters to cram for finals, and perhaps even new “temptations” around campus (you may very well find yourself checking out the facebook page of the person in the next dorm). But what if you are entering the ivy-covered walls while still involved in a relationship with your high school sweetheart? Should you break up with your romantic partner, or should you maintain the relationship?

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Saturday
Jul142012

Going Steady: How Do People Decide to Make Their Relationships Exclusive?

As someone who is fascinated by all things “decision making-y” in relationships, I was really excited to attend a symposium this morning on how people’s commitment to their relationships can change over time. One talk in particular, by Sara Blanch and colleagues, was about how people make that critical, early relationship choice to agree to be exclusive with their partners.

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Friday
Feb102012

Get Your Facebook Profile Ready for Valentine’s Day

What should you do to get ready for Valentine’s Day? According to YourTango, you should delete your ex-partner from your Facebook friends list. They have even designated a day for doing it; February 13th is Break Up With Your Ex Day, and this means deleting, blocking, untagging, and unfollowing your ex from Facebook and other social media.

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