Entries in conflict (60)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Relationship Work: When You Have Relationship Problems, Who Should You Talk To?  

Imagine your relationship isn’t going well and you need to talk about it with someone. You start the conversation by saying something along the lines of, “Things aren’t going well in our relationship. We seem to be in this rough patch where I don’t feel like we’re connecting the way we used to.”  The question is, who would you be most likely to say this to -- your relationship partner or your best friend?

The fact is that every relationship has problems (e.g., who is responsible for vacuuming, dealing with in-laws, the growing malaise consuming your relationship, etc.). When things hit a rough patch, talking it over may help. When you discuss your relationship problems or challenges with others (typically your own partner or your best friend), researchers call this “relationship work.”1 A recent study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships explored the nature of relationship work and how such work may help shape a relationship’s long-term quality and stability.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug092016

The Red-Blue Divide: Politics in Your Relationships

image source: washingtonpost.com

Throughout the United States, talk of current events and the upcoming Presidential election seems more rampant than Pokemon Go players moving about. The political climate can feel more heated than a scorching August afternoon. Many Americans are divided along political lines. In fact, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, more people embracing strongly polarized political beliefs report fear of or anger toward those with opposing views than ever before (since this question has first been scientifically polled in 1992).¹  Similarly, polarized political differences in opinion between members of a romantic relationship exist. If you are someone who feels strongly about your political viewpoints, imagine what it might be like to have a partner with opposite political opinions during this heated time. How much does this divide matter, and what are people’s ideal preferences for choosing a romantic partner when it comes to political ideology?

Does love trump the divide?

Perhaps there will soon be more scientific data on this topic in the future, particularly as it relates to the 2016 election. In the meantime, however, we can gain insight into the role of politics in relationships this question by looking at recent data looking at how strongly political attitudes and beliefs impact idealized partner selection. In 2014, Pew conducted a telephone survey about political polarization, calling over ten thousand randomly selected US adults and asking them to endorse statements that matched their political beliefs.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr142016

“Clear for Takeoff”: Turbulence in Romantic Relationships

It doesn’t take a social scientist to tell you that relationships are complicated. But it may not hurt to ask one why relationships are complicated. Take breakups, for example. People often question their breakups only in hindsight, looking back to wonder exactly what went wrong. They may ask things like, “Was it something I said, or did?” Well, according to one theoretical perspective, it may have less to do with specific behaviors, and more to do with the way that people approach relationships in general.

Imagine you’re on a plane. As you travel from point A to point B, it is possible that you may encounter turbulence. This is common during most plane rides, and after a short while it usually evens out eventually. Researchers have begun to think about romantic relationships in this way: smooth flights that occasionally encounter turbulence. Normally, things turn out fine, but enough turbulence can cause any flight to crash. It is during the transition from point A to point B that turbulence becomes dangerous.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb072016

“Give me a minute”...Before I Behave Badly

You’re having a stressful week at work. You’ve had projects fail, presentations go awry, and to top it off, you just ended your week with a performance review that you don’t think went very well. As you arrive home, tired and just relieved to finally be there, you walk through the door and your partner immediately begins asking you about whether you picked up lettuce from the grocery store, dropped that package off at the post office, and adds, “Why didn’t you take out the recycling this morning?” You can’t believe it. Doesn’t he know the week that you’ve had? How could he be so uncaring? So, you don’t hold back: “Well, I see you didn’t do the dishes like you said you would. And is this what we’re having for dinner? Yikes.” Uh oh… this isn't how you want to act in your relationship! But we’ve all been there. What happened?!

What you’ve experienced is a phenomenon known as stress spillover—stress that we experience in one life domain (e.g., work) ‘spills’ out of that domain and into others (e.g., home life).1 And we know that spillover can have a detrimental effect on our relationships; individuals reporting higher levels of stress are less forgiving of their partners, more likely to criticize and blame their partners, less satisfied in their relationships, show poorer communication skills, and are more likely to have their relationships end.1,2 (Find more about the effects of stress spillover here.) In other words, relationships unfold in broader contexts, and many of the stressors in these contexts (e.g., problems at work, juggling kids, transportation issues) make it more difficult for partners to maintain happy and healthy relationships, regardless of the generally deep desire or motivation to do so.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan122016

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.1

The majority of research on this topic has surveyed young adults (e.g., children) who report having been alienated from one parent by another. Alienating strategies include bad-mouthing or denigrating the other parent in front of the child (or within earshot),2,3 limiting the child’s contact with the other parent,4 trying to erase the other parent from the child’s mind (e.g., withholding pictures of the child with the other parent),2 creating and perpetuating a belief the other parent is dangerous (when there is no evidence of actual danger),2 forcing the child to reject the other parent, and making the child feel guilty if he or she talks about enjoying time with the other parent.2 The impact of these behaviors on children is devastating, but it also often has the opposite intended effect; parents who denigrate the other parent are actually less close with their children than those who do not.3

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec152015

Romantic Relationship Aggression - It Looks Different Than You May Think

When many people think of relationship aggression they stereotypically think of men hitting women, like the much publicized videotape of ex-NFL player Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancée, Janay, in an elevator in 2014. Observable forms of aggression such as this have helped shape our society's view of relationship aggression as being limited to physical violence primarily performed by men against women.

Since the majority of research on conflict and aggression in relationships has focused on the overt and observable forms of aggression, we know very little about the less visible forms of relationship conflict.1 Although boys are typically more physically aggressive than girls, what researchers have been discovering is that girls perform more non-physical forms of relationship aggression, like spreading negative rumors about their partner or excluding them from social circles.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec032015

The Problem with (How we Treat) Highly Disciplined People

Self-control: it’s a skill that most of us wish we had a lot more of. Yet, every once and a while, you meet a person who has a seemingly mystical ability to make themselves do things they ought to do, and resist the urge to do things they ought not to do. It’s that person who walks their dog, eats their oatmeal, picks up coffee for everyone in the office, and still shows up to work by 9am. The person who gets their day’s work done by lunch and then works out during their lunch hour. The person who not only makes homemade cards for their friends and family’s birthdays, but actually gets them mailed on time.

It’s easy to envy such individuals. People who have high self-control are more likely to achieve their goals in a wide variety of domains. Research shows that people with high levels of self-control tend to get better grades in school, they are less likely to engage in problem behaviors such as binge eating and alcohol abuse, and they have better psychological adjustment compared to people with lower levels of self-control.1 High self-control also has important benefits for romantic relationships. For example, married couples with greater combined levels of self-control are more responsive, trusting, and forgiving of one another, they have smoother day-to-day interactions, they have less day-to-day conflict, and they are more satisfied with their relationships on the whole.2

Looking at the literature, it’s tempting to conclude that one simply can’t go wrong by having high levels of self-control, or by having close others with high levels of self-control. However, in a paper that just came out this year, Koval, vanDellen, Fitzsimons, and Ranby3 explored a potential downside to self-control: the high expectations that others might have of high self-control individuals. Below are the three ways we tend to treat high self-control individuals, according to Koval et al.’s research, that might be damaging for our relationships with such individuals.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul202015

Debunking 6 Myths About Men, Women, and Their Relationships

When it comes to the behavior of men and women in relationships, almost everyone has an opinion—and usually, it's about how the sexes are different. But what does the research tell us about how men and women really behave in romantic relationships? Often, that they're more alike than we think, and that our common assumptions are wrong. 

Let’s examine six common myths...

Click to read more ...

Friday
May012015

Nice Genes: Serotonin, Conflict, and Marital Satisfaction

Ever wonder what can cause one couple to stay together and another to divorce? One study found that high levels of negative emotion such as arguing or criticism and low levels of positive emotion such as indifference during marital interactions were associated with lower levels of martial satisfaction.1 In other words, if a couple fights a lot, and does so in a not-so-nice way, they’re not as happy in their marriage. This conclusion seems like a “no brainer.” Who wants to be in a hostile relationship?  

But we all know couples that seem to fight all the time yet remain relatively happy and stay together for years, whereas others seem to split at the first sign of a disagreement. Is there a way to tell if a relationship is at risk for being especially affected by negative interaction dynamics?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb192015

Sharing A Room Before Sharing Vows? What You Should Know Before Cohabiting

Last August, exactly two years after my partner and I met, we got engaged. But unlike most soon-to-be newlyweds, we have not yet lived together. In fact, we will be engaged for almost a year before moving into our own place. 

A few of my friends were surprised that my fiancé and I could commit to a life together without first sharing an apartment. In their eyes, cohabitation is important for allowing dating couples to “test drive” being married and identify lifestyle incompatibilities before making a formal long-term commitment. My grandparents and parents, on the other hand, were unfazed that we hadn’t yet lived together, and they even encouraged us to wait until the timing was right.

These conflicting messages made me question whether living together as a dating couple makes for a more well-adjusted marriage if the relationship is headed that way. Most researchers agree that living together before getting engaged has potential advantages and drawbacks, but are certain approaches to cohabiting better than others? To answer this question – and to understand why my friends (but not the older generations) expected my partner and I to live together sooner – I examined the latest research on cohabitation and its consequences for relationships.

Click to read more ...

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.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov132014

Stress & Conflict in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 38

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out. The podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this edition, Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman (Albright College) discusses how the ways we view our partner affects how our partner reacts to conflict.

Seidman and her colleague, Dr. Christopher Burke (Lehigh University), tracked 264 couples over five weeks during which one member of the couple (i.e., the studier) was studying for the Bar Examination (a highly stressful test lawyers must pass to have the right to practice law in a given jurisdiction).

The research team was especially interested in how the studiers reacted to conflict given the high amount of stress they experienced while preparing for the Bar. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know whether the way partners viewed the studiers – i.e., did the partner see the studier more or less positively than the studier viewed him- or herself -- influenced how the studier felt and reacted when conflict occurred within the relationship.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct012014

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep262014

Outside Looking In: Taking A Different View of Your Relationship

image source: startribune.comIt can be hard for partners to view their disagreements impartially. In a recent study, 120 married couples were tracked for over a year, during which their marital quality generally decreased.  After that year, half of the couples learned how to reappraise conflict by writing about their relationships from the viewpoint of an uninvolved, neutral third party, while the other half continued in their relationships without receiving any intervention. At the end of Year 2, the perspective-taking group did not experience additional declines in marital quality compared to the ‘normal’ group. These findings suggest that a bit of perspective-taking may go a long way.  

Finkel, E. J., Slotter, E. B., Luchies, L. B., Walton, G. M., & Gross, J. J. (2013). A brief intervention to promote conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1595-1601.

Monday
Jul072014

Is Your Partner Drinking Your Relationship to Death? Drinking Problems and Relationship Problems

Consuming alcohol can both benefit and harm romantic relationships. For example, drinking can be a way for couple members to connect—perhaps over a bottle of wine—and share their week. However, if someone believes their partner drinks too much, it can strain the relationship. Some recent research1 explored how perceiving one’s partner as having a drinking problem might be associated with relationship quality among college students. In addition, the researchers examined the use of drinking regulation strategies, or the behaviors that people use to try to change their partner’s drinking (such as yelling or withdrawing).

Click to read more ...

Friday
May232014

Getting the Sex You Want is Good for Your Relationship

Researchers asked more than 1000 U.S. married couples about their desired and actual sexual frequency. Spouses who weren’t getting as much sex as they desired were less satisfied and thought about ending their marriages more often, had less positive communication with their partners, and reported more conflict. Similarly, the spouses of sexually unfulfilled individuals reported these same negative outcomes (i.e., if you aren’t getting the sex you desire, your partner is less satisfied etc.). While these effects are likely reciprocal, getting the sex you want is associated with better relationship quality for both you and your partner.

 

Willoughby, B. J., Farero, A. M., & Busby, D. M. (2014). Exploring the effects of sexual desire discrepancy among married couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 551-562.

Friday
Apr042014

Which Couples Can Fight Intensely and Still Reach Satisfying Resolutions? Relationship Matters Podcast #31

In the 31st installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, produced and hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Keith Sanford (Baylor University) discusses his recent research on how relationship conflict intensity affects whether or not the couple resolves the topic of that conflict.

The researchers asked 734 couples to focus on a recent conflict and answer questions regarding the types of negative behaviors they engaged in, the intensity of the fight, as well as any type of caring or “soft” emotions they might have used during the disagreement. Couples were also asked about how they currently felt about their relationship, including their current level of ongoing discord, when that discord peaked, and whether they had engaged in any attempts to repair the relationship.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar312014

What’s a Parent To Do?: Raising Teens to Having Healthy Relationships

One of the more alarming trends in the adolescent and young adult dating world over the past few decades is the increase in reports of dating violence. Specifically, more than 50% of adolescents with dating experience report some past dating violence, whether as perpetrator or victim.1 Moreover, today’s adolescent dating violence, which often results from conflicts that get out of hand, generally shows no gender bias: both young women and young men are equally likely to perpetrate (and be victims). When it comes to public health issues, the prevalence of teen dating violence is a pretty big deal, which is why the Centers for Disease Control has an entire section of their website dedicated to educating people about healthy teen relationships, and researchers are giving considerable attention to the issue.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar142014

“I Was Just Kidding!”: How You Should Use Humor During an Argument

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.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar072014

Put Yourself in Your Partner’s Shoes Before Reacting to Bad Behavior

image source: http://peter-fong.com/98-put-yourself-in-my-shoes/

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.