Entries in journal of social and personal relationships (63)

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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Wednesday
Mar112015

Self-Expansion: A Key for Lasting Love?

Although passionate love typically decreases over time,1 are there things couples can do to keep the flame alive in their relationships? According to the self-expansion model2 (see our articles on self-expansion here), people grow as individuals by having experiences that are new, interesting, and challenging. Luckily for those in relationships, romantic partners are a great source of self-expansion, and relationships help to enhance individuals by providing a place for them to learn about themselves and others, creating opportunities for adventures and trying new things, and promoting active exploration of the world together. If relationships help people enhance themselves, the extent to which a partner facilitates self-expansion should be associated with positive feelings about that relationship, including more love for that partner.

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Thursday
Mar052015

How Superficial Disclosures May Hurt You: Relationship Matters Podcast 44

SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College). Dr. Stephen Rains (University of Arizona) was interviewed regarding his research on how too many superficial disclosures can hurt a friendship. In case you’re wondering, superficial disclosures refer to small, irrelevant details about what’s going on in one’s daily life.

The research team (including Steven Brunner and Kyle Oman, also of the University of Arizona) asked 199 adults to provide a record of all communications they had with specific friends over a 1-week period; the key is that each communication ‘episode’ had to involve some form of technology (e.g., text, e-mail, Facebook, twitter). Participants then reported how much they liked each friend with whom they interacted and also indicated how willing they would be to support each friend in times of need.

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Thursday
Feb122015

Self-Esteem and Relationship Initiation: Relationship Matters Podcast 43

Just in time for Valentines Day, SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College). In this installment, Dr. Danu Stinson (University of Victoria) discusses her research on why people with high vs. low self-esteem behave differently when initiating relationships.

The research team (also comprised of Jessica Cameron from the University of Manitoba and Kelley Robinson from the University of Winnipeg) conducted two experiments in which they primed individuals to focus on either (a) social rewards (i.e., the potential for feeling liked) or (b) costs (i.e., the potential for rejection). Afterwards, participants reported on their desire to initiate a relationship as well as the behaviors they’d engage in to do so. 

What did they find? When primed with the potential rewards of a new relationship, low self-esteem individuals were more interested in initiating a relationship compared to those with high self-esteem. In contrast, when the potential social costs of a new relationship were primed, high self-esteem individuals were more interested in relationship initiation compared to those with low self-esteem. 

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Thursday
Jan222015

Stress and Resolving Disagreements Immediately: Relationship Matters Podcast 42

In this first installment of the Winter/Spring 2015 season of SAGE's “Relationship Matters” podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College), Dr. Kira Birditt (University of Michigan) discusses how resolving disagreements (or not) affects individuals’ daily stress hormone production.

Briefly, cortisol -- popularly referred to as the “stress hormone” -- helps regulate our daily sleep-wake cycles and also helps us react appropriately to stressful situations. When the cortisol system is functioning optimally, the hormone peaks about thirty minutes after waking time (to help us become alert for the day) and then generally falls throughout the day, culminating at its lowest point before bedtime. Chronically elevated daily levels of cortisol are generally associated with negative health outcomes. 

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Thursday
Dec182014

Moral Boundaries in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 41

Consider the following (probably fictional) scenario, described in detail by pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman1 and paraphrased here: Jack and Jane are in a happy romantic relationship for 2 years. One day Jack receives an invitation from another woman living in his building to watch her masturbate in her apartment (with absolutely no physical contact and no emotional intimacy). Intrigued, he goes to her apartment to watch her masturbate, then returns to his room and goes to sleep. Jack believes this episode to be weird/strange, but not unethical. He innocently mentions it to Jane, who upon hearing this, becomes extremely upset and ends the relationship, cutting off all contact with Jack. 

What do you think about this situation? Did Jack do anything unethical? Is accepting an invitation to watch someone masturbate (while in a relationship with someone else) a moral violation?

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Thursday
Dec112014

How Relationships Change Us Over Time: Relationship Matters Podcast 40

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out! In this edition, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Kevin McIntyre (Trinity University) discusses research regarding how being in a relationship changes who we are as a person.  

Together with Dr. Bent Mattingly (Ursinus College) and Dr. Gary Lewandowski (Monmouth University), McIntyre studied the different ways people change when in a relationship. Specifically, they looked at four different types of changes we experience: (a) Self-expansion refers to people gaining positive personal traits from being in a relationship (e.g., gaining a new hobby one is pleased about), (s) self-adulteration refers to gaining negative personal traits (e.g., gaining a new bad habit one doesnt want), (3) self-contraction refers to losing positive personal traits (e.g., discontinuing a favorite activity), and (4) self-pruning reflects losing negative personal traits (e.g., losing a bad habit one is pleased to be rid of). 

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Thursday
Dec042014

How Sweet Food Affects Our Romantic Interests: Relationship Matters Podcast 39

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out! In this installment, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dongning Ren (Purdue University) discusses her fascinating research on how the taste of food affects romantic perceptions.

People commonly refer to those with whom they are romantically involved as “sweetie”, “honey”, or “sugar.” It’s a nice sentiment, but could there be more underlying such labels  – i.e., are these words linked to our actual romantic perceptions? Ren, along with colleagues Kenneth Tan and Ximena Arriaga (both from Purdue University) and Kai Qin Chan (Raboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands), conducted three experiments to test the hypothesis that tasting something sweet increases the extent to which individuals judge relationships and potential partners positively.

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Thursday
Nov132014

Stress & Conflict in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 38

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out. The podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this edition, Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman (Albright College) discusses how the ways we view our partner affects how our partner reacts to conflict.

Seidman and her colleague, Dr. Christopher Burke (Lehigh University), tracked 264 couples over five weeks during which one member of the couple (i.e., the studier) was studying for the Bar Examination (a highly stressful test lawyers must pass to have the right to practice law in a given jurisdiction).

The research team was especially interested in how the studiers reacted to conflict given the high amount of stress they experienced while preparing for the Bar. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know whether the way partners viewed the studiers – i.e., did the partner see the studier more or less positively than the studier viewed him- or herself -- influenced how the studier felt and reacted when conflict occurred within the relationship.

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Thursday
Oct302014

Oxytocin – The Love Hormone: Relationship Matters Podcast 37

The new season of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast has begun! Hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, “Relationship Matters” brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this season’s premier, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad (Brigham Young University) discusses her research on the link between relationship quality and oxytocin.

Researchers have long been interested in the hormone oxytocin’s role in inducing labor in mothers and in promoting healthy bonding between mothers and newborn infants. Over the past decade, however, oxytocin’s role in adult romantic functioning has received increasing empirical attention. Some studies find that couples with higher relationship quality show higher oxytocin levels. Explanations for this association include (a) higher levels of oxytocin lead to lower levels of disagreement, (b) lower levels of disagreement lead to higher level of oxytocin, (c) both a and b, or (d) none of the above – some other variable is responsible. Interestingly, other studies find that those higher in distress have increased oxytocin – perhaps as a function of trying to promote or recapture relationship harmony. 

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Monday
Sep222014

Break Up Kindly With Compassionate Love

No matter how you slice it, breakups are not much fun -- someone usually ends up getting hurt. Wouldn’t it be great if ending a relationship with someone could be a little less painful? It turns out that a dose of compassionate love can help ease the pain. 

When you think about “love” in romantic relationships, you probably are imaging what researchers refer to as passionate love (read more about passionate love here and here), the intense, desire-filled, longing (and obsession) for the object of your affection. In addition to passion, however, another ‘type’ of love is also important in close relationships: compassionate love. Compassionate love refers to the concern and care people have for the well-being of others, especially when those others are suffering; compassion love promotes support, understanding, and tenderness.1 Clearly you can experience compassionate love for a romantic partner, but it can also be directed toward friends, family, and strangers. And when it comes to breakups, you can also direct compassionate love toward a soon-to-be ex-partner.

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