Entries in journal of social and personal relationships (73)

Friday
Nov102017

Some Things You Know You Have Before They’re Gone

A wise man (with amazing hair) once crooned “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. The statement’s intended interpretation is that we often take for granted the positive characteristics of our romantic partners up until the moment the relationship is lost.

But is it possible that there are some things we do know we have before we’ve lost them, and that we go out of our way to hang on tight? In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Joshua Oltmanns, Patrick Markey, and Juliana French hypothesized just that. Specifically, they argued that people in relationships are especially in tune how their own physical attractiveness stacks up relative to their partner.1 And when an individual perceives their partner is the relatively more attractive one, they will do things, subtly and not so subtly, to keep their hotter partner all to themselves.

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Friday
Nov032017

Dating Your Boss May Be Bad For Your Career

Getting romantically involved with a coworker is not uncommon; it’s estimated that nearly 10 million workplace romances start each year, and about half of all white-collar workers have been involved in a workplace romance at some point during their careers.1 Among these workplace romances, nearly a third involve relationships between an employee and a coworker with higher status in the organization.1 Although these status differences may result in problematic power dynamics within the relationship, it’s also reasonable to assume dating one’s boss leads to more career opportunities (e.g., benefits of favoritism). At the same time, however, people with knowledge of the workplace tryst might think less favorably of those who become romantically involved with their bosses, resenting them for appearing to use that relationship to advance their careers.

Across two studies1 published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Suzanne Chan-Serafin and her colleagues investigated the effects of subordinate-boss workplace relationships on individuals’ career development. The researchers hypothesized that those who are romantically-involved with a superior at work would receive fewer opportunities for training and promotion by third-party evaluators.

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Friday
Oct062017

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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Friday
Sep222017

We Grow Older Together, But Lonely

Loneliness is a particularly negative psychological experience that is linked to poor physical health. Single people and those who live alone are susceptible to loneliness, as are those who have poor quality social relationships. In fact, even those who have long-term relationships, such as married people, can experience loneliness if their marriages are unfulfilling. What is it about a poor quality marriage that results in feelings of loneliness?

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Friday
Sep082017

The Relationship is a Changin’: The Benefits Achieved When Partners Change Together

There is a well-worn saying, often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein, suggesting “women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not.”1 This statement may or may not be true, but highlights an interesting (and understudied) relationship dynamic: Change plays an important role in relationships. It is natural to wonder how long your relationship will last, whether you will fall out of love, whether you’ll have children and what they’ll be like, how your partner will be as a parent, whether you’ll get a divorce, etc. The common denominator in each of these inquiries is that you and your partner will experience your fair share of change along the way. But is this change good?

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Thursday
Jan052017

Making Sense of a Breakup

The way people tell stories about their relationships says a lot about them and their relationships. For example, the pronouns that people use when telling their stories can reveal their relationship’s stability: People who are more committed tend to talk about “us,” whereas people who are less committed tend to talk about “me” (see here for more).1 People who write about important events in their relationships and end the story positively (e.g., “We went through a rough patch, but now we’re stronger than ever!”) have better mental health, less depression, greater relationship satisfaction, feel closer to their partners, and are less likely to experience a breakup within 1 year than people who end their story negatively (e.g., “We went through a rough patch and things are still a bit shaky”).

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Thursday
Oct062016

Safe Sex, Lies, and Past Partners

There are a lot of safe-sex behaviors that reduce sexually transmitted infections (e.g., consistent condom use, getting tested for STIs). In addition, open communication with your partner(s) about your respective sexual histories can help you assess the risk of a new (or established) sexual partner. Unfortunately, however, a recent a study of 183 college students published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that the majority of young adults may be dishonest when disclosing their sexual histories to sexual partners. Specifically, over 60% of respondents admitted to previously lying at least once when talking to a current partner about their number of past sexual partners, and 20% reported that they always lie about their number of previous partners. Those students who had previously lied about their sexual history were generally uncomfortable with talking about safe sex. So while open and honest communication is important in sexual relationships, you can’t assume you partner is telling you the truth.

tl;dr: Your new partner probably may not be completely honest, so using a condom is always a good idea.

Horan, S. M. (2016). Further understanding sexual communication: Honesty, deception, safety, and risk. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 449-468.

Tuesday
Sep132016

Single and (Not?) Lonely: How Socially Connected are Married versus Single People?

When it comes to building communities of interconnected friends and family, how does marital status influence the links between people? Who interacts more with their neighbors, friends, and family-- married people or their single counterparts?

Singles are often stereotyped as lonely, sitting at home by themselves (or maybe with a few cats). In contrast, marriage is often thought of as the foundation of our communities, functioning as a sort of social glue. However, for married people, husbands or wives may have to balance giving time to their partners at the expense of spending time with other social connections. Singles, on the other hand, have time to socialize with their friends and families, and therefore may be more connected. So, which is it? 

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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.

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Thursday
Jun302016

Self-Disclosure to Parents in Emerging Adulthood...: Relationship Matters Podcast 58


In the latest episode of Relationship Matters, the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Dr. Crystal Jiang from City University of Hong Kong discusses self-disclosure of emerging adults to their parents and it relates to their process of separation and becoming an individual. You can listen to the podcast here, and read the associated article here.

Wednesday
Jun082016

On Our Podcast Playlist: New Episodes of Relationship Matters

It's been a while since we've checked in with Relationship Matters, the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. They've released a bunch of awesome new episodes over the last couple of months. Check them out!

  • Episode #56 - Physiology and pillow talk: Amanda Denes (University of Connecticut) talks about the association between individual differences in testosterone and communication after sexual activity. Read the associated article here.
Wednesday
Sep302015

Mixing it Up: The Upside of Interracial Relationships

In the summer of 2013, General Mills did something apparently unthinkable: they depicted an interracial (i.e., mixed-race) couple and their biracial daughter in a Cheerios ad. Despite being almost 50 years removed from the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling in Loving v Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage, the backlash observed in response to the Cheerios ad reminded all who were paying attention just how stigmatized and polarizing the topic of interracial relationships remains. In fact, when I typed the following into a google search window:

Why are int

The first search to populate the search was “Why are interracial relationships bad?” (Note: Results may vary by region, but I had never previously conducted this search).

Interestingly, although most people are aware that support from society, particularly family and friends, for one’s relationship is a key component (i.e., generally necessary, but not necessarily sufficient) of a healthy, satisfying romance, the prevalence of interracial relationships and marriages has increased dramatically over the past 40 years.

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Tuesday
Sep222015

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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Tuesday
Sep152015

Helping Me Grow Is Good For Us

For those of you who took Introductory Psychology (way) back in the day, you might remember learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the top of his needs pyramid, he proposed that people are motivated to strive for self-actualization, where people begin to fulfill their potential and approach ideal, complete selves. Although contemporary research on Maslow’s Theory of Motivation has been limited, many of the same ideas are captured by the self-expansion model, which has received a lot empirical attention over the past 25 years (click here see here for our other articles on self-expansion). Self-expansion motivation refers to individuals’ desires to have new experiences, engage in challenging activities, and learn new things. Within close relationships self-expansion has typically been thought of as those things that couple members do together that are new and exciting (e.g., go on a trip or try a new hobby together). And these new and interesting activities matter for relationships. For example, past research has shown that self-expansion is an important way for couples that have been together for a while to maintain a spark in their relationship.

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Tuesday
Sep012015

When and Why We iSnoop on Others

Even in the best relationships, individuals may find themselves lacking information about specific relationship partners (romantic or otherwise). For example, as we’ve discussed previously, anxiously attached partners are more likely to Facebook stalk their partners in an attempt to alleviate anxiety and (hopefully) confirm their partners’ undying devotion. Such findings suggest that individuals use the internet as a means to cope with their own desires to learn more about another.  

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Thursday
Jun112015

Brides’ and Fiancés’ Weight Leading Up to the Wedding

How do brides’ physiques measure up to their fiancés? To answer this question, over 600 brides-to-be recorded their and their fiancés’ weight, height, and weight change over the 6 months leading up to their wedding. Partners’ weights and heights were associated such that lighter brides had lighter fiancés; Heavier brides had heavier fiancés. In the 6 months leading up to the wedding, equal numbers of brides lost, gained, and stayed the same weight, while most men stayed the same weight. Women who were more similar in weight to their fiancés were more likely to lose weight. Overall, women seem to feel a need to be thinner than their male partners, especially leading up to the wedding.

Prichard, I., Polivy, J., Provencher, V., Herman, C. P., Tiggemann, M., & Cloutier, K. (2015). Brides and young couples: Partner’s weight, weight change, and perceptions of attractiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32, 263-278. doi: 10.1177/0265407514529068

image source:bridalbodyclub.com

Tuesday
May122015

Parental Emotional Coaching and Children's Peer Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 47

In the season finale of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Kelly Buckholdt (University of Memphis) discusses the role of parental emotion coaching on their kid’s relationships with peers.

The research team (also consisting of Katherine Kitzmann and Robert Cohen, both of the Univ. of Memphis), studied 129 fourth through sixth graders. The students were asked about how their parents respond when the kids were sad or angry. Students were also asked about their peer-relationships, feelings of respect from peers, and feelings of loneliness and optimism.

So what did they find? If kids reported that their parents were low in emotion coaching (i.e., not very good at helping the kid process and understand feelings), then the kids were more likely to feel lonely when they weren’t happy about their peer-relationships. But when parents were seen as good at emotion coaching, then kids still felt socially competent and had a positive self-perception, even when they had problematic peer relationships. Thus, it seems that parent emotion coaching may buffer kids from potential negative effects associated with poor peer relationships.

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Monday
Apr202015

What Do People Do on Facebook When They Are Breaking Up?

Most young adults use some form of social network, and among those platforms, Facebook is one of the most popular with nearly 1.4 billion monthly users and approximately 890 million users who login each day.1 And while many aspects of people’s lives play out on Facebook, their relationships are a particularly central part of their profiles.2 And although Facebook can be used to display new or happy3 relationships, people have to manage the end of their relationships on Facebook as well.

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Thursday
Mar262015

Relational Savoring in Long Distance Relationships: Relationship Matters 45

Anyone that’s been in a long distance relationship knows how hard it can be to be geographically separated from somebody they care about. SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College) in which Dr. Jessica Borelli (Pomona College) was interviewed regarding her research on strategies for successfully manage long distance relationships (the research team also included Hanna Rasmussen also of Pomona College, Margaret Burkhart of Claremont Graduate University, and David Sbarra of the University of Arizona).

The researchers randomly assigned 533 people in long-distance relationships (i.e., separated by at least 100 miles) to either a relational savoring condition or one of two control conditions. All participants, regardless of condition, first engaged in a laboratory task that is capable of putting stress on long distance relationships. In the relational savoring condition, participants were asked to recall and concentrate on a specific past moment during which they felt very positive about the relationship or particularly safe and loved.

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Monday
Mar162015

“Please Forgive Me”: The Upside of Guilt

Along with all the great things that result from close relationships, the bond between two people also makes partners vulnerable to each other. Even in the closest of relationships, people may accidentally or intentionally do things that hurt each other’s feelings, whether it’s forgetting a birthday, making a snide remark, or committing a more serious transgression like infidelity.

If a relationship is going to persist following a hurtful act, it’s important that the victim forgive the transgressor. One way of repairing relationships is for transgressors to seek forgiveness by saying they are sorry, admitting their wrongdoings, or giving an explanation for their transgressions. But what prompts someone to seek out forgiveness in the first place? It turns out that guilt is an effective motivator.

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