You likely heard this song at some point in your childhood (though likely with different names, depending on who was being teased that day): “John and Jane sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage.” These types of songs reflect the social pressure couples experience as their relationships develop. Even if society doesn’t assume that babies naturally come after marriage, a couple’s family members may drop some not-so-subtle hints about their desire for a new baby in the family. For many, getting married, starting a family, and having children isn’t a choice, but rather the default option, or more simply put, “just what people do”1 But what about couples who make the conscious decision to not have children? Given the various pressures and expectations that conspire to encourage procreation, opting out of parenthood is a big decision for relationship partners to make.
Entries in journal of social and personal relationships (41)
In the 35th installment of Relationship Matters, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Eran Bar-Kalifa (Bar-Ilan University, Israel) talks about his research on how receiving emotional support from one’s partner comes with downsides.
Bar-Kalifa, together with Professor Eshkol Rafaeli (Bar-Ilan University & Columbia University), studied couples’ relationships intensively for about a month. The researchers predicted that receiving less support than expected on a given day would be associated with worsened moods on those days. And this was indeed the case. Interestingly, however, they also predicted (and found) that receiving emotional support beyond what was expected on a given day had no additional positive emotional benefit for that day.
How can it be that providing emotional support beyond what is expected has no positive benefit?
For the full story, listen to the podcast here.
In the 34th installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Sharon Sassler (Cornell University) discusses her recent research on how couples meet.
Sassler, and co-author Amanda Jayne Miller (University of Indianapolis) interviewed 62 cohabitating couples about how the couple members met and how much they think others support their relationships. The researchers were particularly interested in whether social class played a role in any link between how couples meet and their perceived relationship support.
Can a Romantic Partner Help Improve Attitudes Toward Members of a Different Race? Relationship Matters Podcast 33
In the 33rd installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Keith Welker (Wayne State University) discusses how romantic partners can help increase feelings of compassion and understanding toward those with different racial backgrounds.
The research extends on other studies using a fast friends procedure, a technique that leads people to disclose a lot of personal (but appropriate) information in a short period of time. The procedure is quite effective at increasing understanding between people and increasing opportunity for friendship after the brief encounter.
In the 32nd installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Amy Moors (University of Michigan) discusses her research on consensual non-monogamy (an umbrella term that refers to polyamory, swinging, and open-relationships) – or relationships where partners do not have an expectation of complete sexual exclusivity.
Dr. Moors points out that our society generally views monogamy as the ideal form of partnering within romantic relationships and stigmatizes consensual non-monogamous relationships. Despite such a stigma, however, a sizeable minority of people (3 to 5% in her samples) engage in non-monogamous relationships and report high levels of relationship satisfaction.
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”.
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.
Kicking off the new season, the 30th installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, produced and hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, brings you the latest science from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, translated into practical and applicable knowledge that you can apply to your own relationships. In this season’s premier, Dr. Virgil Sheets (Indiana State University) discusses his recent research on how to keep passionate love alive (and well) in long-term relationships.
Close your eyes and imagine your girlfriend is working late with an attractive coworker that you suspect she has a crush on. Or think about your husband hanging out at his high school reunion with an old flame that he has never gotten over. Such thoughts probably don’t make you feel good, and you may be anxious or upset knowing that your partner was tempted by the fruit of another (or what researchers refer to as “attending to an attractive alternative partner”). It may seem like common sense that such suspicions of a partner’s potential betrayal undermine the quality of a relationship. If you think your partner has his or her eye on someone else, that would hurt your relationship, right? Well, relationship science say otherwise — it may not be that simple. New research suggests that suspicions of partners’ temptations can actually increase commitment in relationships.
When it comes to making same-sex friends, we tend to like others who are similar to us. For example, we’re more likely to be friends with people who share our personalities, values, and interests. But what about sexual history? When evaluating potential friends, we could look for someone whose sexual experience matches our own values and past, or we could avoid those with lots of previous partners. And would you want your new friend hanging out with your romantic partner, or would that be a threat to your relationship? Of course, much of this may depend on whether you are man or a woman.
My wife and I don’t always agree on the best way to parent our two kids. We sometimes have different ideas about how to broaden their palates, limit screen time (here’s hoping one of those freakish talking animals turns on Diego very soon), and how to blend our respective family holiday traditions. When we’re grappling with these and other parenting issues, we engage in what researchers call co-parental communication, which generally refers to how she and I communicate with one another and our children when parenting.
In the 29th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Blake Riek (Calvin College) discusses the important distinction between guilt and shame and gives advice on how to transcend both feelings and move toward forgiveness.
The research, conducted with Lindsey Root Luna (Hope College) and Chelsea Schnabelrauch (Kansas State University) is unique in that the research team studied forgiveness from the perspective of the person who engages in wrongdoing (i.e., the transgressor). In other words, the researchers wanted to know what happens when one individual wrongs another, but rather than focus on the ‘victim,’ the researchers focused on the transgressor. To do so, the researchers followed 166 individuals over time, collecting feelings of guilt and shame, and forgiveness-seeking behaviors. As a result, the researchers were able to test whether guilt and/or shame affected the likelihood of transgressors to seek forgiveness from their victims.
In the 28th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Professor Harry Reis (University of Rochester) discusses how and why everyday acts of compassionate love benefit our relationships.
In collaboration with Michael Maniaci and Ronald Rogge (also of the Univ. of Rochester), the researchers asked 175 newlywed couples to complete daily diaries for a period of two weeks. In each daily diary participants reported on their own compassionate acts as well as their perception of their partners’ compassionate acts.
If you’ve ever tried to work out a problem with your partner, you know it can be a situation with tension, heightened negative emotion and perhaps a face-off of epic proportions until one of you “wins.” If one partner disengages by avoiding the issue or not treating it seriously, the other partner may feel that the discussion falls flat and nothing is truly resolved. The cooperation of both partners is essential when coping with disagreements; it plays a role in how emotions rise and fall during and after conflict.
In the 27th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson of Colgate University discusses the pros and cons of idealizing our partners.
In collaboration with Art Aron (Stony Brook University), Cheryl Carmichael (Brooklyn College), Harry Reis (University of Rochester), and John Holmes (University of Waterloo), the research team set out to test the idea that although idealizing partners is good to some degree, over-idealizing partners could have negative consequences as well.
Relationship Rules: Honesty, Deception, and Relationship Satisfaction - Relationship Matters Podcast 26
In the 26th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Katlyn Gangi (formerly Roggensack) talks about her research on honesty in relationships.
Gangi, now a PhD student in the Department of Communication at the University of California in Santa Barbara, conducted the research with Dr. Alan Sillars while at the University of Montana.
The researchers were interested in the assumptions people have regarding what honesty and deception means to romantic partners. Gangi explains on the podcast,
We don’t go into relationships blindly without any expectations of how others will act...we have rules for all sorts of things...and these rules help create structure and predictability in our relationships...Rules about honesty and deception though are kind of in a class of their own…Often people only start talking about these things once a rule is perceived to be broken...Somebody does something that doesn’t meet up to your expectations or surprises you or upsets you and then you say, ‘Hey, why did you do that? I thought that these were the expectations in our relationship and it seems like you think something different’.”
Classic research on jealousy in heterosexual couples tells us that women are more concerned about men’s emotional infidelity, because if a man is emotionally attached to a rival woman, this undermines the closeness in the original relationship. Evolutionary theorists believe this is upsetting because the man may spend his time, money, or other resources on the rival, instead of on the original woman and her children. However, men tend to be slightly more concerned about women’s sexual infidelity, possibly to rule out paternity uncertainty if the couple has a child.1 But does jealousy occur the same way in bisexual individuals?
If you were sexually permissive, would you approve of your friends’ sexual permissiveness, too? After all, who are we to judge when we act the same way ourselves? Well, let’s say something you value is at stake. The attitudes of an overly sexy friend could threaten your own romantic relationships (“Hey BFF, let’s share everything, including your partner!”). Would you be likely to “mate-guard” your partner from a sexy friend? Or, do you believe in sharing?
In the 25th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Maryhope Howland (a former PhD student at the University of Minnesota; now at Kent State University) talks about her research on how people with different attachment styles use humor in relationships.
Individuals high in attachment security are comfortable getting close to others and with having others get close to them; they also find relationships enjoyable and easy-going. In contrast, those with insecure attachments doubt whether their partners will be there for them in times of need. There are at least two strategies for dealing with this attachment insecurity: (a) become preoccupied with relational partners by being overly sensitive to partner’s emotional moves and developing a sustained expectation that partner’s will eventually betray or abandon them (i.e., attachment anxiety), and/or (b) avoid developing relationships of any significant emotional depth to avoid getting hurt in the first place, which often leads insecurely attached individuals to become emotionally aloof, overly fixated with self-reliance, and emotionally unavailable to others in times of need (i.e., attachment avoidance).
How Partners Affect Each Other’s Moods During Important Life Discussions: Relationship Matters Podcast #24
In the 24th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, produced and hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Ashley Randall (Arizona State University) talks about her research on how men and women experience cooperation within a relationship differently and how romantic partners influence each other’s daily moods (for better and for worse). The research, coauthored with Jesse Post, Rebecca Reid, and Emily Butler (all of Univ. of Arizona), focuses on the premise that our romantic relationships influence our overall health and well-being. Relationships have the capacity to either serve as a buffer against stress’s negative effects in our lives or, in contrast, add to the daily stress we experience.