Imagine for a moment that you’re running late to meet your romantic partner for a movie date. As you approach the theater, you see your partner speaking to an attractive stranger. As you wait, you happen to overhear part of their conversation. The stranger asks your partner for directions, which your partner provides happily. The stranger then invites your partner to a local concert this Friday. Your partner politely expresses interest and they exchange phone numbers.
Entries in personality (26)
My brother is married to a passive aggressive woman and he is very unhappy in his relationship. I have a friend who just got engaged to a passive-aggressive woman. Both my friend and my brother have developed quite a few negative personality traits that make me not want to be around or even talk to them. Do you think it's their true natures coming out (ages 35-40) or the result of relationships with passive aggressive women?
Great question! I am sorry that you are having a difficult time being around your friend and brother right now. Passive-aggressive behaviors, which are hostile and resistant actions that a person expresses in very subtle or indirect ways, are not fun to experience. For example, your sister-in-law might give your brother the “cold shoulder” to show she is angry and defiant rather than telling him about the real reason she is she upset about something.
PlentyofFish. Match.com. OkCupid. eHarmony. These are just a handful of dating websites that offer users the opportunity to seek out romantic partners and, if lucky, develop a fulfilling, committed relationship. Such dating sites promise access to a large selection of potential partners, the ability to communicate virtually with other users prior to meeting face-to-face, and (allegedly) rigorous matching with compatible potential partners. It is unclear, however, whether meeting partners online yields more positive romantic outcomes1 than do more traditional avenues (e.g., meeting a relationship partner through friends or by chance encounter). Should you leave it to your computer to play matchmaker, or are you better to stay offline and wait for Cupid’s arrow to strike?
Jealousy can be a very painful and destructive emotion. People typically feel jealous when they sense some threat to their relationship (perhaps some smooth operator is making moves on your significant other, and you worry this rival is more attractive/desirable than you are). These feelings of jealousy are sometimes justified; if you and your partner have made an agreement to be sexually exclusive (monogamous), but then s/he is sneaking off to have sexy time with someone else, this is normally a jealousy-provoking situation for most people (i.e., it freaking sucks!). Jealous emotions can be agonizing and often create intense conflicts/fights between partners, and furthermore, these jealousy-provoking situations may sometimes motivate you to exit the relationship.
However, some people are prone to be jealous more often and more consistently than others, even when there are no actual threats to the relationship.
Have you ever had to admit on a first date that, among your many compelling and marvelous qualities, you are also a relationship counselor? I have. While this announcement can provoke a range of interesting responses, one I have often remembered was:
“Really! How interesting. Does that make you any better at your own relationships?”
This particular guy wasn’t asking sarcastically; he was actually curious. I chuckled and stalled for time. On a gut level, I wanted to say yes…but was that true?
When you see a really attractive woman, you might be struck by her beauty, but does her beauty affect what you assume is going on in her head? Or what kind of character she has? Perhaps. People tend to assume that physically attractive people hold other positive qualities just by looking at them—this is one example of the “Halo Effect” or what is also known as the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype. For example, observers assume that good-looking people are more socially skilled, better at their jobs, and more emotionally healthy (e.g., less anxiety or loneliness). But is there any truth to this perception? Are hot people actually higher on these qualities? Researchers examined this question in a recent study published in Psychological Science.
The information people choose to share on Facebook can provide insight into their personalities and social lives. We can make fairly accurate judgments about individuals’ personalities from their Facebook profiles alone.1 In one study where people rated a stranger’s Facebook profile, judgments of certain personality traits, such as extroversion (e.g., sociability, outgoing nature) and openness to experience (e.g., curiosity, preference for variety) were consistent with the stranger’s ratings of himself or herself as well as how the stranger’s close friends rated him or her.1 So it seems that Facebook can help us learn about someone. But what do people’s Facebook profiles tell us about their romantic relationships?
It’s no secret that people like to see themselves positively. Decades of research indicates that people go to great lengths to accentuate their positive qualities and downplay their flaws. But what happens when an attractive potential partner has those flaws? In a recent pair of studies published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers Erica Slotter and Wendi Gardner hypothesized that when people are attracted to flawed potential partners, their romantic desires may motivate them to adopt those flaws themselves. The authors cited the example of Sandy Olsson from Grease, who (spoiler alert?) decides to give up her squeaky clean, goodie-two-shoes image in an effort to win over her “greaser” love interest, Danny Zuko.
While relationship researchers were at the IARR conference in Chicago, personality psychologists gathered in Trieste, Italy for the 16th annual European Conference on Personality. I was a part of a paper session entitled “Social Processes in Personality Change” along with Kathrin Jonkmann and Beatrice Rammstedt. All of our talks involved relationships with romantic partners, and the myriad of ways in which they contribute to changes in personality.
“Romantic compatibility theory”—it has a nice ring, doesn’t it? This theory suggests that relationship success is a function of the unique combination of two individuals’ qualities. He appreciates her art, they both love cycling, and her positivity keeps him motivated when he needs a boost. Obviously, such similarities and connections between partners impact romantic outcomes—right?
A reader recently sent in a comment about the men she was meeting online. She noted that, compared to other occupations, a majority of men who reported having MBAs misrepresented their custody arrangements with their kids (i.e., they claimed to have custody for less time than they actually did), and that lawyers were more likely to report being separated (versus divorced). I’m not sure whether these lawyers were more honest about their marital status than other guys or whether they were more likely to be separated in general, but she does pose an interesting question:
Do our career choices reflect our personalities, and if so, can our careers say something about how we operate and present ourselves in our intimate relationships? In other words, if I meet an MBA, can I draw conclusions about what he is like as a person and how he will act in a future relationship with me?
A new Relationship Matters (the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships) has just been released. Dr. Norm O'Rourke (of Simon Fraser University) discusses personality and marriage in heterosexual couples. Check it out here.
What do you want in a husband or wife? Though not exactly Weird Science, in a classic survey researchers asked 200 newlyweds and over 100 undergraduates in heterosexual dating relationships what traits they prefer in a spouse.1 These ratings were obtained by presenting study participants with a series of 40 trait pairs such as “timid-bold,” “emotional-unemotional,” and “stupid-intelligent.” Participants then indicated which of the two adjectives they preferred in a spouse. In addition, researchers also asked participants about their own personality traits.
A reader recently submitted the following question:
I have been in the best relationship of my life for the past 6 months with a woman who caused me to believe in love at first sight. Everything has been perfect and she is exactly what I had always dreamed to find in someone, but deep inside I thought I would never meet a person like her. With everything being so great, I was shocked when she had told me that she cheated on a boyfriend whom she was with for two years. I would have never guessed she would be the person to do something like that. However, there are factors involved which I believe could have caused her to commit this act. First off, her boyfriend at the time told her he liked her best friend, secondly she was entering college where she would be introduced to a completely new world since she had lived in the same small town her entire life, another factor is that her boyfriend did not pay attention to her or show any sign of affection, and lastly she cheated on a night when she was at a party with a friend who ended up dating her after she ended the relationship. With all of this information, I want to know if I can trust her to not cheat on me. I have never loved anyone as much as her and I know she feels the exact same way, but at the same time I wouldn't have thought she would cheat. She is a very sweet caring person who is always smiling and laughing. Also she had never told anyone else about the scenario before, and was crying the whole time she told me. Should I worry about this, or listen to her and trust that she was less confident and took the wrong route in ending her relationship?
Thanks for your question. Overall, it sounds like your relationship is going really well, especially if she was comfortable enough to tell you about her past indiscretion. There are a lot of possible explanations for your girlfriend’s past cheating...
As noted by my colleagues in previous articles, similarity between potential romantic partners predicts feelings of attraction and love. “Similarity” can include things like similar backgrounds (e.g., nationality), physical features, personality, hobbies, attitudes, and beliefs.
What about music preferences?
What really matters is what you like, not what you are like...Books, records, films — these things matter.
- Rob, from the book/movie High Fidelity
There are a number of dating sites founded on the principle that, when it comes to attraction, similarity matters. Whether it’s based in your religion (e.g., jdate.com) or your computer preferences (e.g., cupidtino.com), online dating sites seem tuned in to the fact that sharing similar interests with a partner is a necessary component of a successful match. I recently stumbled upon a site called tastebuds.fm, which states “we've always been interested in the idea that music taste can say a lot about a person and that for some people it is an important factor when choosing a potential partner.” With the Grammy's just around the corner, I figured it was time to think about the importance of music in relationship initiation.
It’s not too profound to suggest that people are biological creatures—without genes, bodies, and brains, no part of our social lives would be possible. But how our biology relates to our minds and behavior has been a black box for centuries. Scientists simply didn’t have the tools or level of biological knowledge necessary to connect what happens in our bodies to how we experience the world. In the last 30 years, however, advances in genetics, physiological recording, and brain imaging have made it possible to begin to unpack some of the links between biology and psychology.
Recently, a female friend asked me: “Can you write an article on how to not get played?” When I asked for further clarification on the word “played,” she defined it as something to the effect of “used, lied to, and/or cheated on.” I’ll try my best.
In a previous post, I discussed the health benefits of sex, and now, new research suggests that combating the negative consequences of neuroticism can be added to the list.
As far as partner’s personalities go, neuroticism, or the tendency to experience negative emotional states such as anxiety and depressed mood, has the strongest impact on romantic relationship quality. People who are higher in neuroticism tend to be less satisfied in their relationships, and as you’d expect, so are their partners.
Thinking about the recent meta-analysis on breakups in dating couples, one of the interesting findings of that study was that someone’s attachment “style” (whether someone is secure or insecure) doesn’t predict whether that person’s relationship will last or end. It would seem that people who are secure would have longer lasting relationships, and insecure people would be more vulnerable to breakups. But the picture is a little bit more complicated (and interesting) than that.