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?
Entries in dating (100)
We’re all likely familiar with the idea that love is energizing; for example, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes encapsulated this notion in their 1982 single Up Where We Belong when they sang, “Love lifts us up where we belong....” But does love really physically energize us? It’s definitely possible. Love is associated with positive emotions and simply thinking about love can trigger stress responses (such as increases in cortisol) in the body, responses thought to result from arousal or passion. One intriguing thing that can happen when your body releases cortisol is that you get an accompanying rush of glucose (blood sugar) to give you extra energy. Since thinking about your romantic partner can increase stress hormones like cortisol, it may follow that you can also get a glucose boost from thinking about your partner.
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).
Bob is interested in dating Anne and thinks that they could really click, but he is unsure whether Anne feels the same way. As a result, Bob is afraid to make a move on Anne because he doesn’t want to be rejected. So Bob plays it cool, thinking that his interest is obvious to Anne, and waits to see if Anne will ask him out. Anne, who is interested in Bob, is also worried about being rejected, and so she also plays it cool and waits to see if Bob will ask her out. They are both holding back because they each fear rejection, but because neither of them make a move, they both assume each is disinterested in the other. They also both think their worries about rejection and interest in dating are obvious. Alas, Bob and Anne never end up dating, because they both waited for the other to make the first move and when the move didn’t happen, they assumed the other was disinterested. You may have experienced versions of this scenario in your own life, or seen it played out on TV or in movies. In this post, I describe research on how the fear of rejection affects how people think and behave when trying to start a new relationship (what researchers refer to as relationship initiation).
“Roses are red, violets are blue; when I’m around flowers I’m more attracted to you!”
Whether it's red roses for Valentine’s Day or a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers as a bride walks down the aisle, flowers are inextricably linked with relationships. But can the mere presence of flowers influence actual relationship behavior? To test this question, a French researcher randomly assigned female participants to watch a video of a male discussing food while participants were either (a) sitting in a room decorated with three vases full of flowers (roses, marigolds, and daisies), or (b) sitting in a room decorated with empty vases.1 Women who sat in the room with flowers rated the male in the video as sexier and more attractive, and they were more willing to date him.
Recently, an article featured on Psychology Today provided some very unscientific advice on “deciphering your date” (meaning, how to interpret signals in your date’s behavior and gauge his or her level of interest/enthusiasm). Giving misleading advice can be harmful in the dating world, so we thought we’d set the record straight.
Below is a list of points in the article (read the full article here), followed by the real science...
As a relationship researcher and college instructor I often have conversations with students who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships. More often than not, I direct or escort students to our local campus counseling and mental health center. But there are times when students’ levels of distress don’t require professional intervention; they just want to learn more about relationships so they can better understand their own. I typically take this opportunity to remind students that conflict and ‘downtimes’ in relationships are common; it’s very difficult for two people whose lives are intertwined to not occasionally be unhappy with their partners or relationships. Students, in turn, often take the opportunity to remind me that just because what they are going through is common doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck (I jest; I fully recognize this fact). This is an important point --- not getting along with somebody we care about is not fun, and can often be quite frustrating. But is relationship conflict more frustrating for some than others? And do some people try to cope with or otherwise deal with their relationship difficulties in an unhealthy manner? According to recently published research in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the answer to both questions is “yes”.
When it comes to heterosexual dating preferences, does partner height matter? Data from online personal ads and a survey indicated that more women than men think height matters (57% to 40%, respectively), and tall women and short men were especially concerned with partners’ heights. Both men and women noted height differences could make physical intimacy difficult, it “felt weird or awkward” being with someone much shorter or taller, and that they had specific ranges for height they found most attractive . Women also noted they felt safer, more secure, and more feminine (because they could wear heels) with taller partners.
Yancey, G., & Emerson, M. O. (in press). Does height Matter? An examination of height preferences in romantic coupling. Journal of Family Issues.
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.
My live-in mother recently started Internet dating, which has been quite an experience for both of us. Whereas many adult children are uncomfortable with their older parents dating and actively discourage finding a new partner to replace a deceased or divorced spouse,1 I actually encouraged her to get back out there again.
Imagine that a guy and a girl are at a party, and one approaches the other and strikes up a conversation. Chances are that when you envisioned this scenario, you assumed it was the guy who approached the girl. That’s because we have what psychologists call behavioral scripts, or a sequence of events that we typically expect to occur in social situations. In most cultures, expectations or norms about male and female dating behaviors (e.g., guy approaches girl) are so entrenched that there are special days or dances where the script is flipped. On Sadie Hawkins Day (traditionally observed in early November) or at a Sadie Hawkins Dance, women have the opportunity to break social conventions by asking men out on a date or to a dance. To study dating behaviors like this, researchers have used the somewhat unique experience of speed dating.
My friend Hope came over the other day seeking relationship advice. Hope’s mother set her up with a man from her work (so Hope was skeptical), but he called and they spoke on the phone for well over two hours. Not a bad start, so Hope agreed to meet him for drinks. When he walked into the bar, her jaw dropped. He was Gorgeous (yes, with a capital G). Not just the run of the mill, attractive-enough kind of man, but George Clooney caliber. Way to go, Mom!
They spoke for several hours and had a few too many cocktails. Both said that they had a great time and wanted to get together again. After giving the server his credit card, Hope used the restroom. When she returned, her date then left to do the same. She waited at the table for him to return. The server brought back his credit card for his signature. She continued to wait. And wait. And wait. After about 15 minutes, Hope called his cell phone to see if he was ok. No answer.
What happens when you treat your relationship like a game? And what do relationship researchers think about the "gamification" of relationships? Head on over to TheAtlantic.com to find out.
Recently, I wrote that dreaming about close people in your life can reveal aspects of your personality (specifically, attachment style). Highly insecure folks often have terrible dreams about their partners, because they expect their partners to behave badly and those expectations surface in dream content. But do people’s dreams predict their behavior after waking up? I’ll cut to the chase—the answer is yes.
I was recently talking to a (male) friend from college, reminiscing about how all the guys in the dorms wanted to learn how to play guitar because we thought that it would increase our odds of landing a lady. Is it really true that women find guitar players attractive? Two recent studies have attempted to answer this question.
The first study, conducted in France, enlisted a young male research assistant who was highly attractive.1 He was not aware of the study’s hypotheses. His task was to systematically approach 300 similarly-aged women who were walking alone across a particular walkway and passing him (that is, he was told not to select only women he was attracted to). When a woman walked by, he asked for her phone number, saying that he would like to call her later so that they could go out and get a drink together.
I've been in a relationship for over 5 years. We are both still young and plan to get married eventually in the future. I was wondering if there are any down sides in having long-term relationships. I feel very secure and confident in our relationship, but just as I've heard that short relationships (or courtships) can be a bad thing, I'm wondering if it works the same for long lasting relationships? -- V.N.
Ladies, would a guy’s car influence whether you give him your number? In a recent study, male confederates (guys in cahoots with the researchers) approached over 500 young women who were walking in a city. To test whether a males’ car affected women’s likelihood of sharing their digits, the male confederates waited in one of three cars (high, medium, or low value) before getting out and approaching the women. Men with a high status car were more likely to get a number (23.3%) than men with middle (12.8%) or low status cars (7.8%). Apparently women use the car that a guy drives as a clue to his income, his status, and to whether he is worth dating.
Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2012). Men’s social status and attractiveness: Women’s receptivity to men’s date requests. Swiss Journal of Psychology/Schweizerische Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Revue Suisse De Psychologie, 71(3), 157-160. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000083