A few years back, on the heels of Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated and short-lived marriage to Kris Humpries, I wrote a post about how their attraction and marriage may be the result of what psychologists refer to as implicit egotism. Essentially, this theory states that people have relatively positive feelings about themselves and that these unconscious preferences extend to things that are associated with the self, like our own name-letter initials. Think about it. Do you have a favorite letter? Is that letter one of your own initials? Well, if it is, you are not alone. Where it gets even more interesting is that this preference may impact a whole array of choices, including who you marry.1 In Kim Kardashian’s case, she may have gravitated towards Kris Humpries, because they both shared the initial K. On an implicit level, this may have activated positive and rewarding feelings. Well, that relationship has come and gone, but in true implicit egotism fashion, Kim has since moved on to marry Kanye, with whom she also shares the initial K!
Entries in marriage (81)
Dear Miley, you’re doing it wrong. No, I’m obviously not referring to the music world, as you seem to have that figured out. I’m not even referring to the physical act of writhing around on a metal wrecking ball, although that does bring up some hygienic concerns. Rather, as a relationship scientist, I’m referring to your love life. The lyrics of your song, Wrecking Ball, have been rolling around my head since you released it last year. And now, after almost a full year of marriage, I think I know where you went wrong. The trouble lies in your demolition-style approach.
Consuming alcohol can both benefit and harm romantic relationships. For example, drinking can be a way for couple members to connect—perhaps over a bottle of wine—and share their week. However, if someone believes their partner drinks too much, it can strain the relationship. Some recent research1 explored how perceiving one’s partner as having a drinking problem might be associated with relationship quality among college students. In addition, the researchers examined the use of drinking regulation strategies, or the behaviors that people use to try to change their partner’s drinking (such as yelling or withdrawing).
When your partner behaves badly, your first instinct may be to retaliate. What could help you respond more healthily? In a series of studies, romantically-involved individuals responded to scenarios wherein their partner acted in a hurtful way (e.g., bringing them to a family reunion but then ignoring them). People who took their partner’s perspective (vs. their own) reacted with more love- and caring-related emotions, better understood their partner’s viewpoint, and tried to find positive solutions to the issue. Perspective-takers also responded with less anger, blamed their partner less, and avoided lashing out. Thus, perspective-taking can help you navigate relationship conflict.1
1Arriaga, X. B., & Rusbult, C. E. (1998). Standing in my partner’s shoes: Partner perspective taking and reactions to accommodative dilemmas. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 927-948.
It seems like everywhere you turn, professionals are trying to make your life easier. Medical doctors discover breakthrough treatments for illnesses. Engineers design revolutionary new gadgets and devices. And psychologists devise simple and ingenious activities for couples to sustain their relationships.
For most married couples, satisfaction declines over time, meaning that couples typically become less and less happy with their relationships the longer they’ve been together. But a group of scientists developed an intervention that they have affectionately termed, “The Marriage Hack” (see the TED talk here), utilizing a technique they call emotional reappraisal. Emotional reappraisal occurs when couples re-evaluate their experiences by imagining how a neutral 3rd party (an unbiased person outside the couple) would view their behavior.
If I say that this post is about “unconscious feelings toward romantic partners,” you’d probably think that I’m about to serve up a big plate of Freud with a side of some repressed memories. Rest assured, I’m not going to get all “dreams and cigars” on you, but new research, published in the journal Science1 suggests that our unconscious feelings about our partners might be the Magic 8-Ball when it comes to future marriage satisfaction. The media has characterized this research as “knowing in your gut” whether you marriage will succeed (see here for an example), but we assure you that your stomach has nothing to do with it.
I study romantic relationships. I’m also engaged. So, of course, I’ve given a tremendous amount of thought as to what it really means for my partner and I to marry one another. Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don’t really know why they’re so meaningful. Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share for each other. But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. I suspect that it’s really these vows – the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family – that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.
A lot of things undermine physical health, like poor diet, lack of exercise, and not enough sleep. Did you know that dysfunctional relationships — those characterized by lots of conflict and poor communication — also contribute to poor health? For example, when couples are "hostile" toward one another, there’s a good chance that any recent wounds (even everyday cuts and abrasions) will take longer to heal than if partners maintain a more civil and responsive tone with one another during disagreements or other conversations.1 On the other hand, good relationships, and not just those we have with our romantic partners, generally benefit our overall health. But why?
In 1938 Harvard began studying a group of men and followed them as they grew old. A book by George Vaillant, entitled Triumphs of Experience, chronicles the results and provides several interesting insights about the role of alcholism, smoking, and intelligence on aging and life satisfaction.
Some of the most intersting findings, at least to us, involved "warm relationships." As this article explains, there was a "powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years." To learn more about the other benefits of warm relationships, click here.
One of the more surprising things about the scientific literature on dating and marriage is that there are very few studies of the events that signify the “beginning” of dating and marriage relationships. For example, we still know fairly little (on the scientific front) about how relationships form in the real world. We can look at processes in the lab, and even simulate events (e.g., speed dating studies) that should, presumably, lead to relationship formation. But, for all our efforts, capturing real relationships as they develop has proven a formidable challenge.
The motto “live and let live” sounds great in theory, but many people find it difficult to carry out in practice. Instead, people tend to think that their own lifestyle is totally awesome and that other people should make the same decisions that they have made.
Relationship decisions in particular can be an easy target for judgment. For example, you may know a single person who derides their friends for pairing up, questioning why anyone would choose to shackle themselves to one partner rather than “live it up” with the single life. Or you may know that smug married couple who pushes for other couples to also tie the knot, so they can similarly bask in wedded bliss.
Meet Nate and Angelica. Nate and Angelica are getting married. They’ve planned every detail of the ceremony, and checked all their reservations twice. The vows are written; the honeymoon getaway is booked. Maybe Nate daydreams about surprising Angelica on special occasions; maybe Angelica has her eye on a good preschool for their future children. Their future is set — or is it? What about the more mundane details of married life that are often overlooked?
Will Angelica be the one on kitchen duty, cleaning up after dinner? Will Nate be the one who picks up the kids when Angelica is working late? Will the person who earns less income contribute to the household in other ways, even if they both work 40 hours a week? Often, couples decide these matters based on convenience or preference, not according to a marital master-plan of equal give-and-take. But precisely because the average couple doesn’t analyze the costs and benefits of every chore undertaken, an unfair division of labor may create resentment over time. For example, Angelica may realize Nate only takes their cats for shots once a year, whereas she has to change their kitty litter every day.
What happens when you treat your relationship like a game? And what do relationship researchers think about the "gamification" of relationships? Head on over to TheAtlantic.com to find out.
When is the right time to get married? My boyfriend and I are currently in college and have been dating for 3 years. He talks about getting married and starting a life, but when is it too soon? Don't get me wrong, I love him and it's not that I don't want to be with him, but our career paths couldn't be more different, and in order for us to be together we would have to move, meaning one of us would have to give up everything (most likely me). He wants to become a physicist and has to attend many more years of schooling, while I'm going to graduate with a B.A in AD/PR. Either we get married and he'll be in school studying, or we wait until he gets his Ph.D. and is settled down.
Making a big life decision like this is not easy, and I am happy to see that you are looking at this practically rather than just romantically. When trying to decide when the “right” time is to get married, it might be useful to first consider what risk factors there are for divorce. Researchers have identified a number of socio-demographic factors associated with divorce that have remained stable over time, such as marrying too young, co-habitation before marriage, not having a religious affiliation, living in an urban area, and growing up in a household where there were not two continuously married parents.1 Other marital stressors also play an important role in predicting divorce, such as financial strains and career demands.
As my wedding draws closer, I find myself immersed in a number of nuptial planning activities. There have been photo shoots, cake tastings, dance lessons, and more uncomfortable fiscal negotiations than I care to recall. If I had a dollar for every time I asked a potential vendor, “How much does that cost?” I’d be wealthy enough to no longer need to ask. When I am able to surface from the sea of never-ending wedding details, decisions, and deadlines, I often wonder how important these matters really are. In 20 years, will I care what stamps I chose for the invitations or who sat at what table during the reception (probably not)? With that in mind, I decided to dedicate some of my preciously scarce time and rapidly diminishing budget to what I felt really would matter, a premarital preparation course. Think of this as Marriage 101, and yes, even “relationship experts” can benefit from a little help.
Does internet dating really work?
The answer to your question really lies in how you define “work.” If your goal is to meet new dating partners, then on-line dating services can help put you in touch with a large number of other eligible singles. Services like Plentyoffish.com and Match.com have a large pool of individuals looking to date, hook-up, and marry. The problem is that there are oftentimes so many profiles to sort through that the choices are overwhelming, which causes you to miss out on people who actually might be good matches.
Other dating services, such as eHarmony, propose that matching dating partners based on similarity will lead to better pairings. They accomplish this (allegedly) by analyzing responses to a lengthy survey using a proprietary algorithm, or in less fancy terms, a formula they use make money (consider it the KFC secret recipe of matching partners). In another SoR story, Paul Eastwick wrote a summary of a paper he co-authored,1 essentially showing that the algorithms used to match people don’t work the way that they are supposed to, and you are no better off relying on the matches made for you than if you were just meeting someone cold in the library or at a sporting event. He and his co-authors recommend that dating sites change the algorithms to match on factors demonstrated by research to be more effective at predicting long-term compatibility.
Several years ago I received a Facebook message from a stranger. After exchanging a few innocuous messages with him, he invited me to lunch and—partly because I was recently single, partly because I had never gone on a formal date with someone I met online, and partly because I enjoy the excitement of a potential kidnapping—I agreed. Over the course of the meal he peppered me with a series of questions that I thought were somewhat atypical for a first date (“How many children do you want?” “How soon can I meet your family?”). Eventually, I set my fork down and said, “Not to be rude or anything, but it feels like you’re auditioning me to be your wife.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Kind of, yeah.”
Despite my adventurous spirit, I had enough sense to not marry the guy. But a growing number of individuals are meeting their future spouses online. In fact, results of a recent nationally representative study suggest that over one-third of individuals who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met their partners on the Internet.1 What is particularly compelling about this study, however, is that it tackled a previously overlooked question that many dating websites (e.g., eHarmony) claim to know the answer to: Do individuals who meet their partners online or offline have more successful marriages?
What do you know about polyamory? Can polyamory or open relationships really work?
This is a timely question, as there has been a surge of interest lately on this topic. In fact, according to a recent study, between 4-5% of Americans report being in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship—this is when both partners agree that they and/or their intimate partner(s) can have other sexual or romantic partners as well.1 Consensual non-monogamy describes many types of relationships, such as swinging (recreational sex with others) and polyamorous relationships, where the partners consent to each other having intimate, loving relationships with others (more intimate than just an “open” relationship). Researchers (including me) are starting to explore how theories we have about intimate relationships extend to our understanding of relationships that include more than two people. There is not a lot of work yet on non-monogamy, but we can look to a paper that Dr. Terri Conley and colleagues recently wrote challenging assumptions about the benefits of monogamy.2
I've been in a relationship for over 5 years. We are both still young and plan to get married eventually in the future. I was wondering if there are any down sides in having long-term relationships. I feel very secure and confident in our relationship, but just as I've heard that short relationships (or courtships) can be a bad thing, I'm wondering if it works the same for long lasting relationships? -- V.N.