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.
Entries in journal of social and personal relationships (33)
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.
The notion that women cope with relationship problems or breakups by eating is widespread. Films like Bridget Jones’s Diary perpetuate the stereotype that attacking a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey or devouring a bag of potato chips soothes a broken heart, or at least helps women deal with relationship troubles. But is there evidence that relationship problems actually lead women to eat more? Or is this a myth that Hollywood perpetuates?
People often think that successful people are attractive. But what about their less successful counterparts? Are they destined to be seen as less attractive? In a study involving hypothetical job applicants, those candidates described as being “underdogs” -- i.e., they were unlikely to get a particular job due to unfair circumstances beyond their control (e.g., their application had been misplaced by a secretary) -- were rated as especially physically attractive and desirable to date compared to candidates who were (a) unfairly advantaged (i.e., had a friend pressuring the employer to hire them) or (b) were unlikely to get the job due to their own incompetence (i.e., they failed to follow directions on the job application). That’s right…being an underdog can be hot if your failures are not your own fault.
In the 23rd installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson (Carnegie Mellon University) discusses her recent research with Professor Art Aron (Stony Brook University) on the classic dilemma: how do we balance the benefits of growing emotionally close to a person with the risk of getting hurt that comes when we make ourselves vulnerable?
Having a first child can be a stressful time for couples for many reasons. One factor that may contribute to new-parent stress is whether the new parents agree on how to parent. In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers examined whether new parents had similar parenting styles and felt like they were working together as team in raising their new infants; they also assessed whether this teamwork was related to parents’ mental health and relationship satisfaction. New mothers and fathers who felt like their parenting styles were similar had more positive moods and experienced less depression in the months following the birth of their first child. In addition, perceived agreement in parenting styles was related to mothers’ overall relationship satisfaction.
In the 21st installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Bonnie Le (a graduate student in Dr. Emily Impett's lab at the Univ. of Toronto) talks about the personal and interpersonal effects of having a communal orientation.
Communally oriented people care for the welfare and needs of others, and want others to care for them in return. Ms. Le explained, “In a communal orientation… we give because of need, we give because we care about the well being of other people. And so you don’t necessarily expect something in return when you’re giving help or care in a communal relationship or when you have a communal orientation, but you do expect that people will behave the same in return [eventually].”
In the 20th installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Sue Sprecher (Illinois State University) and Stanislov Treger (DePaul University) talk about their work on self-disclosure during first encounters with strangers. Specifically, the researchers designed a series of experiments to determine whether people enjoy interacting with, and like, a stranger more when those people talk about themselves versus listen to the stranger do all the talking.
To test this question, Sprecher and Treger randomly assigned people to either talk to a stranger or listen to a stranger talk for 12 minutes. What did they find? Listeners, compared to talkers, were happier with the interaction, liked the stranger better, and felt closer to the stranger.
Insecure Attachment and Real vs. Perceived Threat in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast #19
Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, launches the Spring 2013 season with the 19th installment, discussing Dr. Geoff MacDonald’s (University of Toronto) recent work published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this episode, he tells us about how insecurely attached individuals, compared to the securely attached, perceive potential close relationships as socially threatening vs. rewarding. Although we all evaluate what we will get out of our interactions with others, anxiously attached people are more likely to perceive social interactions as threatening. “Anxious attachment seems to revolve around concerns for negative evaluation and rejection,” MacDonald notes during the podcast.
So should anxiously attached individuals fear rejection when initiating a new relationship?
We’ve all been known to pack on a few extra pounds over the holidays. Not surprisingly, our weight, as well as our partners’ weights, can influence our romantic relationships. For example, when relationship partners’ weight levels start to diverge and become different from one another, leading to what researchers refer to as mixed-weight couples (think Peter and Lois Griffin from Family Guy or Oprah & Stedman), there can be problems. In fact, recent research1 and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal ("Put a Stop to ‘Do I Look Fat?'") investigate what happens in relationships where one partner, particularly the female, is less fit than the other. According to research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, relationships that pair an overweight female and a healthy weight male experience more conflict.