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Entries in personality (30)


Is This the Best Way to Deal with Your Partner’s Faults?

Committing your life to another person is a big step. How can you feel comfortable taking that risk, committing yourself to a partner you know is flawed? To overcome those insecurities, it's sometimes best to hold some “positive illusions” about your partner, even if they’re not accurate.

Past research has shown that couples are more satisfied when both members of the couple view each another in an overly positive manner.1 In a survey, they asked couples to evaluate themselves and their partners on a series of personality traits and found that the most satisfied people rated their partners more positively than the partners rated themselves. The researchers argued that these “positive illusions” allow us to deal with the inevitable doubts and conflicts that surface in a relationship, by building up a store of good will. 

That doesn’t mean that love is blind. These happy couples are not wearing blinders, but rather rose-colored glasses. They notice their partners’ flaws, but find ways to minimize the importance of those flaws and to accentuate their partners' assets.

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For Richer: How Your Spouse Influences Your Job Success

Picking a romantic partner with the “right” characteristics can be difficult, but it is also important. We all want a partner who is smart, funny, kind, and all around fantastic, because the assumption is that such a person makes us happy and will generally lead to a better life overall. But can your relationship partner influence your job success? Researchers Brittany Solomon and Joshua Jackson from Washington University in St. Louis speculated that there are at least three possible ways a partner’s personality could influence job success1:

  1. Outsourcing – Your spouse does things for you that free you up to focus on your job (e.g., your partner does household chores like making dinner or doing your laundry so you have more time for work).
  2. Emulating – You take on your spouse’s positive qualities for your benefit (e.g., your spouse is organized, so by spending time together you become more organized).
  3. Relationship Satisfaction – Your spouse’s charming personality leads to a better relationship that positively influences your work (e.g., your partner is kind, which makes for a better relationship and success work). 

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What Kind of Sexual Personality Do You Have?

Are you a sexual person? (This is not a trick question.) Let me ask it a different way: What kind of sexual person are you? Or, put another way, why do you enjoy sex?

A recently published paper1 including data from 18 different samples (from Israel and America) suggests that there is a lot of variability in how people experience sex based on something called the “sexual behavioral system.” Basically, this is the system that your mind constructs so that you can navigate sexual feelings, attitudes, and experiences. The overall result of the study was that 2 new personality variables emerged, which can help explain how the sexual behavioral system operates.

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Divide and Conquer: Having a Different Outlook from Your Partner Can Be a Good Thing

About a year ago, I made a very silly, and costly, mistake.

I forgot my backpack in a cab.

My partner James and I were on our way home from the airport. It was late, we were both tired, and I didn’t even realize what I had done until I went to check my email and didn’t have my laptop.

“Hmmm”, I said, to no one in particular. “My backpack isn’t here. I think I might have left it in the cab.”

James, who is characteristically calm and collected, proceeded to completely lose his cool. “Oh no! Oh NO!! This is awful. This is so bad! What can we do? Your passport was in there! Your laptop!! Can we call the cab company? This is terrible!”

“Yes,” I mused. “I probably should have checked for it before getting out of the cab. Perhaps there is a lost and found.”

After about an hour of searching, we had exhausted all avenues of trying to retrieve the bag. It slowly dawned on me that I was never getting my stuff back.

“I can’t believe this”, I groaned, slumped into the couch with my head in my hands. “It’s gone. My laptop. My passport. I think my lab keys were in there! This is awful.”

My partner, who was more or less over the crisis at this point, tried his best to be responsive to my sudden state of dejection and misery. But he couldn’t help but ask, “Uh, Sam - didn’t we know this an hour ago?”

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They’re Just Like Me: How Jealousy Influences Self-Views

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.

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Can a Toxic Relationship Make Me Toxic Too?

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. 

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Can Your Computer Play Cupid?

PlentyofFish. 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?

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Are You the Jealous Type?

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.

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Are You “Relationship-Smart” (Enough)?

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?

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The “Halo” of Hot Women

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.

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Your Facebook Profile Picture: A Window Into Your Relationship

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?

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You Are Who You Date 

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.

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Relationships and Personality Change - Live from Italy

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.

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Does “Romantic Compatibility” Actually Matter?

“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?

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Can What He Does Tell Me About Who He Is?

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?

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"Personality and Marriage": Relationship Matters Podcast #11

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.


The Top 20 Most Desired Personality Traits in a Future Spouse

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.

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Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

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...

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"Soul Meets Body" - How Music and Relationships are Connected

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?

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I Need to See Your iPod Before We Can Go Out

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., or your computer preferences (e.g.,, 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, 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.

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