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?
Entries in closeness (16)
Part 1 of this article described a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships investigating how Facebook has become an important part of the development of romantic relationships. In particular, although young adults don’t view Facebook as a dating site per se, it is used as a way to get to know potential partners better and gauge romantic interest. But beyond these initial interactions, Facebook is important as relationships progress.
Having just moved into a new house, one thing is clear to me (and the moving guys): Couples accumulate a lot of stuff. Whether it’s the crates full of grunge CDs from college or our new bedroom furniture, I have firsthand knowledge that as a couple’s relationship develops, so does their collection of objects and artifacts. Now I’m not talking about the folks on Hoarders here. Rather, as normal couples build a household together, undoubtedly that includes merging each individuals’ possessions along with the acquisition of new things (please see my credit card statement as evidence for the latter).
What do those household objects say about relationships? Can we tell anything about a couple by looking at their stuff?
The information people choose to share on Facebook can provide insight into their personalities and social lives. We can make fairly accurate judgments about individuals’ personalities from their Facebook profiles alone.1 In one study where people rated a stranger’s Facebook profile, judgments of certain personality traits, such as extroversion (e.g., sociability, outgoing nature) and openness to experience (e.g., curiosity, preference for variety) were consistent with the stranger’s ratings of himself or herself as well as how the stranger’s close friends rated him or her.1 So it seems that Facebook can help us learn about someone. But what do people’s Facebook profiles tell us about their romantic relationships?
“Stay Close to Me” – Attachment, Terror Management, and Symbolic Immortality in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I recently watched the last film in the Harry Potter series on DVD (after seeing it twice in theaters last year; yes I’m a huge fan), and I was reminded of a powerful moment near the end of the story that highlights the connection between close relationships and the metaphysical world (e.g., life/death, spirituality).
(Fair warning before reading further: there are plot spoilers below).
Towards the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry realized that he must die in order to conquer Voldemort once and for all (it was necessary for Harry to die because his body contained a piece of Voldemort’s soul, which must be destroyed). At that moment, Harry experienced an awareness of his own looming death, or what social psychologists refer to as “mortality salience.”
Many of us played the game “copycat” as a child. It was probably quite fun to annoy siblings or parents by imitating every word or action they had performed. Indeed, playing copycat seems to be very much engrained in us. Even in the first few hours that babies spend in this world, they readily (and automatically) imitate simple facial expressions (such as mouth openings) of those they observe.1 Although it may seem as if we grow out of playing copycat as we get older (and of course, wiser), recent research in social psychology shows that imitation, or mimicry, not only persists throughout our lives, but has some powerful effects on our interactions with others.2
An interesting idea that has recently emerged in psychology and cognitive science is the extended mind: the notion that your cognition is not merely “in your head,” but can extend to the world around you. Google presents a good example of this phenomenon. People are less likely to remember information when they know it is stored somewhere “outside” of their heads – particularly, a computer or the internet. Hence, we may not trouble ourselves in memorizing a recipe for a delicious dip simply because we know where we can find it online. Likewise, we probably don’t know many cell phone numbers because we know that they are readily available in our phone (although this may lead us to panic when our phone loses all that information).
The extended mind phenomenon also opens a door to another question: given that romantic relationships are characterized by relatively high degrees of self-other overlap, can your romantic partner serve as an extension of your own mind?
Social interactions of all flavors are important, and even your relationships need other relationships to keep things interesting. You might have a perfectly satisfying romantic relationship with your partner, but you might want to get some “couple friends” too (see this article at salon.com). How do friendships between couples develop, and are they important for your own romantic relationship?
My boyfriend and are have been dating for about 2 years and we are in our early 20's. Most of our relationship is absolutely amazing - we are great friends, our communication is wonderful, and our sex life is incredible. But lately, my boyfriend has been avoiding kissing me and being affectionate/loving in general. We still have great sex, but he seems distant and whenever I ask him about it he makes up an excuse like "oh, my breath is bad right now" or something. Am I approaching it correctly by being open? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your question! I can think of a few potential explanations for the situation you describe. One part of your question that stands out to me is the length of your relationship.
The science of relationships focuses primarily on romantic liaisons, but significant relationships come in all shapes and sizes (e.g., family, friendships, hookups, etc.). Recent research underscores this point, demonstrating that many of the basic concepts of relationship science characterize the relationships between certified nurse assistants (CNA) and their resident patients.1 Such work is important: according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 1.5 million nursing aides/attendants, and the number of new jobs in the profession over the next 10 years is expected to grow significantly.
“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts.” – Don Draper
In the spirit of the upcoming Mad Men Season Five premiere, I thought it might be fun to do a character sketch of Don Draper, the show’s most central and intriguing character. Don’s creative genius can’t be denied – he outperforms everyone in the 60’s advertising world with his sheer wit and charm. However, Don does not enjoy the same level of success in his personal life. In previous posts, we have discussed how examining a person’s attachment style can help us to better understand their patterns in relationships. Don is an excellent example of an avoidantly attached person: someone who relies on only himself, who pushes other people away, and who tries to avoid intimacy wherever possible.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Five Predictors (and Five Not So Good Predictors) of Relationship Success
Last week we posted a quiz to see how much our readers knew regarding the predictors of relationship stability (or success). Overall, it looks like we've got some work to do; the average score on the quiz was 48% (remember, random guessing should average 50%). The questions in the quiz were inspired by some of my work on understanding what factors influence relationship outcomes. One of my main research areas is the role of commitment in predicting the “success” of dating relationships (using the term loosely; i.e., staying together vs. breaking-up).
In this season of high school and college graduations, many dating partners are likely facing the prospects of being geographically separated. What should these dating partners know about long-distance relationships? Are long-distance relationships substantially different from ones that are geographically close?
A reader asked: How do you define intimacy?
This seems straightforward. I mean, we could just crack open the old Webster's Dictionary and look it up. For relationship researchers, the answer is a little more complex. In fact, it could (and has) fill an entire book. Of the many ways to define intimacy, I'll focus this post on “closeness” which is oftentimes considered synonymously with intimacy.
Aron Ralston is a man defined by his independence, both as described by others and as portrayed by a recent Oscar-nominated film. His passion is in exploring new and challenging terrain, and his pride is in accomplishing his feats completely solo. Yet when Aron finds himself in a situation that is unavoidably distressing (becoming trapped under a rock with little food and water), his permeating thoughts are not about his independent experiences or ambitions, but rather his relationships with the close people in his life.
In the past few months, research conducted by my friend and fellow ScienceOfRelationships.com contributor Dr. Gary Lewandowski and his colleagues has been featured across a number of media outlets, including the New York Times and CNN. He's much too modest to promote his own work, so I'll take the liberty of posting about it.
Click here for a link to the NYT piece about his work and here's a recent interview with Dr. Lewandowski on CNN, although he has to share time with a "non-relationship scientist" (trying to be nice here).
What I love about this work is that it is has much empirical support, and also that it is tied into the larger psychological literature on self-identity.