Entries in friends (21)


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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The Aftermath of Break-Up: Can We Still Be Friends?

When your romance ends, it may not necessarily end your relationship. Although one or both partners may want a “clean break” where partners discontinue all contact, former partners often end up seeing each other in passing or at social events with group of friends they have in common. In other cases, a romantic relationship ends and one of the partners asks, “Can we still be friends?”

Recent research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships sought to address this age-old question by determining who was more (vs. less) likely to stay close after a break-up. 

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The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - Preventing Cheating with "Coalitional Mate Retention"

With a little help from my friends: Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments that examine how people use coalitional mate retention tactics to prevent their partners from cheating. Your friends can help to keep your partner faithful.

Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.


Catching Fertility

As a 40-something, married father of two, I’ve experienced a lot of transitions in my life, including some particularly big ones over the past decade or so. I started a new job, got married, had a kid, bought a house, and had another kid. Importantly, I’m not unique in this regard --- many of the people I know my age have gone through most, if not all, of these same transitions (albeit perhaps in a different order).

Although I didn’t really notice it at the time, my movement through these life transitions generally occurred in the ballpark of my friends doing the same things. How can I forget the ‘wedding years’, when I was finally forced to buy a suit. And then there was the breeding extravaganza that happened a few years later. Is it a coincidence that many of my friends also have kids within a few years age of my own? Perhaps not.  In fact, it’s very likely that the decisions my wife and I made about starting a family were influenced by what we saw going on around us.

Simply put, others influence our thoughts about fertility. For example, adolescents are more likely to become sexually active, and make choices about whether to do so and take appropriate precautions, if their friends are doing the same (You don’t use condoms? Then me neither! Let’s compare babies and rashes!). In a recent study, researchers wanted to see just how far a reach friends have on women’s sexual and fertility behaviors by testing whether female friends’ transitions to parenthood increase a given woman’s own transition to parenthood. Put another way: Is a woman’s fertility contagious?

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Want to Increase Your Happiness? Science says…

On Friday I went to a great talk by Dr. Matthew Killingsworth wherein he gave us some data-based pro tips on how to increase happiness. The secret? Interacting frequently and deeply with other people.

As part of his research project, Dr. Killingsworth developed a smartphone app called Track Your Happiness. At random moments during the day, the app will prompt a few simple questions about your activities (e.g., “How are you feeling?”; “What are you doing?”; “Who are you with?” etc.). Then the app gives you feedback on the factors that promote your personal happiness, and your responses to the questions go into a large, anonymous dataset that Dr. Killingsworth and his colleagues use to advance knowledge vis-à-vis the science of happiness.

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Parasocial Relationships: I Get by with a Little Help from My (TV) Friends

Lately it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is talking about a TV show reunion. From Seinfeld to Friends, Sex and the City to 90210, the rumors circulate, even in the face of stars vigorously denying the possibility.  What would make us miss our favorite TV characters so much that, despite the stars’ protests, we still hold out hope of celebrities reviving their beloved roles? The answer may lie in our need to belong.

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Your Partner’s Friends: A Threat to Your Relationship?

Others who could replace you in your relationship typically provoke jealousy. However, your partners’ same-sex friends can also illicit jealousy. Across two studies with over 200 participants, researchers found that partner-friend jealousy was greater for those who: (a) considered their romantic relationships more important to their lives, (b) were less close to their own friends, and (c) perceived their partner was less committed to the relationship. Perhaps for their own benefit, those experiencing greater partner-friend jealousy were more likely to put down or derogate their partner’s friends in an attempt to undermine the partner’s bonds with others. 

Gomillion, S., Gabriel, S., & Murray, S. L. (2014).  A friend of yours is no friend of mine: Jealousy toward a romantic partner's friends. Social Psychological and Personality Science (Online) doi: 10.1177/1948550614524447


We Should Hang Out Sometime (If You Help Me Achieve My Goals)

Have you ever noticed that you prefer to spend time with certain people when you’re trying to achieve a goal? For instance, when you’re striving to be physically fit, are you more likely to seek out your friend who enjoys going to the gym (as opposed to your friend who enjoys eating cheese puffs and watching TV)? Close others have a unique capacity to help (or hinder) us as we work to achieve our goals (check out a related post here). Researchers call people who help us pursue our goals instrumental others and people who don’t really affect our pursuit of goals or people who impede our pursuit of goals non-instrumental others. Whether or not we feel someone is instrumental in achieving a goal tends to influence our behavior toward that person.

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Who Is the Best Judge of Your Relationship?

Your relationship has been going well for the past few weeks, but you probably catch yourself wondering, “Where is this relationship going? Will we still be together in a year?” Until someone invents a relationship crystal ball (Apple should really get on that), you either have to figure it out for yourself or ask your friends and family for their opinion. Of these options, who will have the best insight?

Click here to find out the answer to that question over on DatingAdvice.com.


“We Can Still Be Friends”: Six Ways You Can Stay Friends After a Breakup

Unlike Jerry and Elaine in the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld, or Ted and Robin in How I Met Your Mother, it isn’t easy for ex-romantic partners to remain friends. Think about it…how many of your exes are still friends of yours? Half of them? 25%? If you’re like me, the answer is more likely zero, nil, nada, zilch.

Even if your ex assured you that “it’s not you, it’s me,” breakups are still upsetting. Because of this, it may not surprise you that about 60% of ex-partners do not have contact with one another post-breakup. However, some exes do keep in touch and even become friends after the breakup. In fact, there are several situations in which post-dissolution friendships are more likely.

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Help! I Don't Want to Lose Her

A reader recently submitted the following question:

“I had a 9 month long-distance relationship (LDR) with a girl I met on an internship abroad. Toward the end of the LDR, I felt that she changed and became uninterested and less available. I admit that I made a mistake by having my life revolve around her, which little by little killed her attraction. I also jeopardized our relationship by being manipulative. She originally said she didn’t want to break up and assured me that she loved me, but a day later she told me she wanted to break up. I was shocked and devastated.

We stayed friends for 2-3 weeks, but I was still miserable and tried to get her to change her mind by hanging out with her day and night. A few weeks later, I told her I loved her to death, which only turned her off more. I then told her I would stop contacting her, hoping that this would be the way to get her back. She replied, saying she respected my decision and still wanted to be friends.

I haven’t replied yet. I still love her very much and still have hope that staying away from her for a while and then reconnecting will show her that I have changed and she will want to be with me again. I’m afraid that I’m not doing the right thing, though. What steps should I take? How should I approach her again? I don’t want to lose her.”

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When Friends and Family Disapprove: Is There a “Romeo and Juliet Effect?"

I saw a fantastic symposium on what happens to people in romantic relationships when their friends and family disapprove. As Colleen Sinclair and others explained, findings from one classic study conducted in the 1970s showed that disapproval from parents can make a relationship even stronger. This finding was dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet Effect,” after Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers whose families were hated enemies (and thus, would not approve of their relationship).

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Unrequited Love (Part 2 of 2): Stuck Between Friend and Friendlier

The article below is continued from Unrequited Love (Part 1): Crushin’ on or Crushed by You? Click here if you missed it.

In Part 1, my teenaged self confessed a long-time crush to a friend. Sometimes these situations can blossom into satisfying romantic relationships if both friends are harboring feelings for each other, but if the person who wants more (confessor) admits this to a desired friend who is uninterested (rejector), the two friends must deal with the resulting emotional fallout in their friendship.

The same researchers did a new follow-up study to uncover the specifics of how these friends behaved toward each other after the confessor had been rejected.1 It turns out that particular types of verbal and nonverbal behaviors in the friends’ interactions were indeed linked to whether or not the friendship ended.

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How to Make “Couple Friends” (and Why You Should)

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?

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How Do I Get Over My Ex?

My ex and I work in the same restaurant, and while we have different jobs there, we still have a lot of contact. We broke up three months ago after being together since last May. She was by my side while I battled testicular cancer and we became really close. Since then we have been hanging out pretty much the same amount as we did when we were together and would occasionally hook up. This is my first real relationship and my first real breakup so I’m not really sure how to handle myself, and working together just makes everything more complicated. I’ve recently come to the realization that I am better off without her and don’t want to get back together with her but thinking about her with other guys is extremely unnerving. I don’t want to become a crazy ex-boyfriend and I need some advice: please help!

First of all, I have to say that I really sympathize with what you’re going through. Breakups can be very hard, especially when you’ve developed a close bond. The upside is that you know for sure that you do not want the relationship to continue, and making that decision really is half the battle. The other half of the battle is moving on. I’m going to give you some tips on how to get over your ex based on what researchers know about attachment.

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We’re Tired Of Drinking And Partying All The Time: Can We Settle Down Without Committing Social Suicide?

Ray asked the following:

Hi, my boyfriend and I have been dating for a little more than 4 years. We live together. For the past few months, I've been pretty unhappy with our social life. I'm sick of partying, going to gay bars and getting shit-faced almost every weekend. I want to transition out of this life to something more mature, or in the words of others, boring. Perhaps most of my friends are single. I just want to hang out with more couples and do something more than just clubbing. A perfect weekend is cooking with friends, having dinner and having a few drinks. That is all I want. However, I have this trepidation. Am I committing social suicide? How do I make sure that I go through this transition successfully? My partner seems to be onboard, after talking to him about this, but he is way more social than I am. I'm afraid he will not be happy. What should I do?

Dear Ray,

First, let me say that you’ve already started off on the right foot by talking to your partner about your concerns. Open and honest communication is one of the most important contributors to relationship success, and you appear to be ahead of the game in this regard. Another thing you have going your way is that your partner actually agrees that it’s time for a change, which means that you have a good shot at making the kind of transition you’re talking about. The big question here is how to do this without socially isolating yourselves, and that can be tricky.

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Ask Dr. Loving: When Should I Tell My Friends What I Think About Their Relationships?

Is there any research that shows how or when to express your feelings (positive or negative) about a friend’s relationship?

Let’s back up and start with a more basic question: Does your opinion matter? Absolutely. Knowing what others think about our romances is a critical piece of information if those relationships are going to survive.

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Sex in Friendships, Friendship After Sex

I'm currently involved in what you term a 'cross-sex' relationship. I've found all of your articles very insightful into the way we interact, and the benefits we receive from our close friendship. I also have found knowing that sexual encounters occur in these sort of relationships, which is what happened between my friend and I (yes we fit the college student statistic) interesting. I've read about cross-sex 'life-cycles', different phases in the friendship etc. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on this? Or give some suggestions on how to continue the friendship after sex (Cosmo just doesn't compare with your articles, obviously!). 

The blending of friendship with sex seems to be popping up everywhere these days. What you call “cross-sex relationships,” others call “friends with benefits” (FWBs), “booty calls,” and any number of other names. Regardless of what they’re called, these relationships have one important feature in common: they’re complicated!

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Dating Tips from George Costanza's Playbook – Lesson 1: Reactance

Hopefully you still remember George Costanza, the eccentric best friend of Jerry Seinfeld. In thinking back over the nine years we spent getting to know him, perhaps the most intriguing thing about him was his uncanny success in the dating department. Described by his own friends as “a short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man,” George clearly lacked the typical characteristics of heartthrob. So what was his secret when it came to landing a lady?

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Whose Opinion Matters More: Parents' or Friends'?

When my wife and I first started dating, she would joke that because I valued my best friend’s opinion so much, we would only be able to stay together if he approved of her…at least I think she was joking.  Fortunately, he gave me his blessing, and now my wife and I are happily married. But why wasn’t my wife worried about what my parents would think of her? Did she believe that I don’t trust my parents’ advice? (Mom and Dad, I do listen to your advice…most of the time). Or did my wife simply believe that my best friend’s advice would carry more weight than my parents’?

Researchers have examined just this – whose opinion, friends' or parents', has more influence on individuals’ dating choices.

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