Entries in expectations (14)


Hopelessly Romantic and Easily Disappointed?

America is a country of romantics: we love our reality dating shows, rom-coms, and Disney princess movies. Romantic beliefs, like the ideas of love at first sight, “love will overcome all obstacles,” and “happily ever after“ are pervasive in our culture. Have you ever wondered whether these idealized beliefs regarding romanticism hurt relationships? The argument that they are harmful goes like this: (1) high romanticism leads to high expectations for your relationships: that you should never fight with your partner, that they will never let you down, and that you will always have amazing sex together. Sounds great, right? The problem is that with such lofty ideal standards for your relationship, (2) you’ve set yourself up to fail because these unrealistic expectations are, well, unrealistic. With such high expectations, your partner and relationship will surely let you down, and (3) this disappointment should cause you to be dissatisfied. But is this 3-step plan to dissatisfaction supported by the data?

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Great Sexpectations? How Your Expectations About Maintaining Sexual Satisfaction Affect Your Relationship

“…find out if the sex is good right off the bat…”“Sex is the barometer for what’s going on in the relationship…” -- Samantha Jones, Sex and The City

“Practice makes perfect....we can work on it.” -- Charlotte York, Sex and The City 


Can we tell right away whether we will have great sex with a partner, or is great sex something we may need to work on? As the above quotes illustrate, people differ in their expectations about whether satisfying sex is something we can achieve by finding a compatible partner (Samantha), or whether it is something that might require effort (Charlotte). How might these different beliefs about sex shape how happy we are with our sex lives and our relationships?

To answer these questions, my colleagues and I first developed a measure of sexual expectations, or “sexpectations” if you will.1 We adapted to the sexual domain the broader relationship concepts of destiny beliefs—the belief in soulmates and natural compatibility, and the concept of growth—the belief that relationships take work.2,3,4,5 People high in sexual destiny beliefs more strongly agree with statements like “Struggles in a sexual relationship are a sure sign that the relationship will fail,” and “A couple is either destined to have a satisfying sex life or they are not.” People higher in sexual growth beliefs tend to agree with statements like “In order to maintain a good sexual relationship, a couple needs to exert time and energy.”

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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.

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Should You Go See the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie for Valentine’s Day?

Dubbed an “erotic fiction” and “mommy porn,” the Fifty Shades books are among the top selling novels of all time. In fact, worldwide sales are said to be over 100 million, and at its height one of these provocative page-turners was being sold every second.1 Given the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is no wonder that the geniuses in Hollywood are planning to cash in on the “feels so good to be bad” phenomenon this Valentine’s Day. Of course, the question remains, should you go see this movie?

If you are like my sister, then you have already answered with a resounding, “Yes!” Of course, it is likely prudent to consider how this deliciously salacious movie may impact your relationship, for better or worse.

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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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Does Watching TV Make You (or Your Partner) a Control Freak?

It’s no surprise that television shows have a lot of relationship conflict in them. Would you watch Grey’s Anatomy if every time someone had a problem with his or her partner they sat down and had a calm, serious discussion? Probably not. I don’t know about you, but I want to see some EMOTION! It is this need for drama that encourages writers and producers to give us shows full of relational conflict, but what does watching this high-conflict type of television do to our relationships?

Depending on the type of shows you watch and the types of conflicts under consideration (e.g., family conflict vs. romantic relationship conflict), there will be between 1.05 and 8.79 conflicts per hour of television.1,2 In addition, female characters are usually the ones who start the fights, place blame, and use mean tactics (e.g., patronizing comments, chastisement, and defensiveness) to try and get their way in conflicts. Right now, some of you may be thinking, so what? Conflict exists in all relationships, right?

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Relationship Beliefs Can Lead to Unrealistic Expectations of Romantic Partners

Even people in the happiest relationships tend to have some things that they wish they could change about their partners: habits they wish their partners would break, skills they wish their partners would hone, or personality traits they wish their partners would work on. But can a partner ever really change?

Well, yes, they can, with a great deal of hard work, and there will usually be some setbacks along the way.1 But what seems to be particularly important for people’s relationships is whether or not people think their partners can change.

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And For My Next Trick: The Magical Effects of Positive Illusions About Romantic Partners

Think about the last time you had a crush. What did it feel like? Chances are this experience involved overwhelming feelings of passion, confusion and excitement. Relationship researchers often refer to this experience as passionate love,1 or “Eros.”2 When someone is in this state of crush, thoughts about their partner (or desired partner) dominate their mind. Further, a person often thinks about their crush in highly idealized ways; their partner is the most beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate person in the world, and there is simply no way you can convince the crush-er otherwise.

Although common when someone is crushing, these idealizations—called positive illusions3—can occur at any relationship stage.

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We're From Different Cultures...Can It Work?

I have had a most thrilling and indecipherable relationship with a girl (I am 26 years old, she is 24): she is pretty, very stylish-looking, and has a divine figure, it seems. I have fancied that I love her with my whole soul. That is a strange thing. From the time that one likes a woman one truly believes that he could not get along without her for the remaining of his life. I know that in order to spend my existence side by side with another there must be not a brusque, physical passion that soon dies out, but a concordance of soul, temperament and temper. She is endowed with this elegant silliness. She chatters, babbles, says nonsense remarks that seem spiritual by how funny they are uttered. When she raises her arms, when she bents, when she gets into a car, when she shake hands, her gestures are perfect for correctness and appropriateness.

She wants to marry me, but I think such a relationship is doomed to failure. She is very poor , from a third-world country, quit school at age 17, often hysterical (unstable)  and is of doubtful reputation. The only thing that prevents me from stopping contact with her is that I know she loves me and wants to build a common project for the future. According to her standards, I am rich, overeducated, and from the aristocracy; we are exactly the opposite. Our families wouldn't get along with each other, our values & principles are different. Our conversations only consist of trivialities and are very limited. I can't discuss with her about politics, culture, travelling, history...She is somehow materialistic, though surprisingly sincere in her emotions towards myself. Despite all of this, I can't get her out of my mind (I wish I could), and vice-versa.

My question is: if 2 people are attracted by each other, love each other (or at least believe to) and have the sincere intention to build (or at least try to) a strong relationship that would last, can they achieve their objective even if they are extremely different (both intrinsically and in what life has offered to them since their encounter)?

If two people are attracted to each other and in love, can they build a lasting relationship in spite of very different cultural and economic situations?

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New Year’s Resolutions for Your Relationship

It seems as though there is a fairly standard list of New Year's resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, pay off credit card debt, and quit smoking/drinking. Perhaps you’ve gone beyond this list and added things like: spend less time on Facebook or watching TV, get organized, find a better job, fix up the house, stop procrastinating, etc.

Oddly (to us, anyways), although resolutions typically emphasize physical and mental health, they generally ignore relationship health. To address this oversight, here is list of 7 scientifically-validated ways you can improve your relationships culled from recent research.

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It's Back! New Season of The Bachelor Starts Tonight

The season premiere of The Bachelor, featuring the rejected Ben Flajnik from last season's The Bachelorette, airs tonight on ABC. Ben's getting a second chance, so we're doing the same for a post from our archives. Click the link below to read SofR's featured columnist Dr. Amy Muise's empirical analysis of how shows like The Bachelor could impact your own romanic pursuits. 

Is Watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette Bad For Your Relationship?


The Third Date Rule: Fact or Fiction?

“This is our third date, and we both know what that means.”

“We do?”


On a classic episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard learns about the third date rule – the idea that the third date is the “sex date,” the date when it is deemed appropriate for a new couple to have sex. Is this a dating rule that people take to heart (or to bed) or is it just another urban dating myth? 

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Love is Abstract, but Sex is Concrete: How Your Mindset Affects Romantic Expectations

What are you doing right now? Are you relaxing? Procrastinating? Gaining knowledge about relationships? Reading words on your computer screen?

You can construe any situation in a number of ways. In particular, you can frame most situations in either an abstract, long-term sort of way, or in a more concrete, immediate way.

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Is Watching The Bachelorette Bad for Your Relationship?

Here for the right reasons

Last chance at love

Sent home broken-hearted

If you recognize these phrases, you, like me, are guilty of watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Recently, one of our readers was curious about how pop culture influences relationships. The current season of The Bachelorette provides a great case study to answer this question. Is watching relationship “reality” TV like The Bachelorette bad for your real life relationships?

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