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.
Entries in social networks (41)
What do divorce and the flu have in common? Obviously, both of them can be pretty unpleasant. But another thing they have in common is that both might be contagious. A new study indicates that being "exposed" to others' divorces can increase your likelihood of divorce by 33%. Click more to read about this study at TheAtlanticWire.com.
Have you ever noticed that you prefer to spend time with certain people when you’re trying to achieve a goal? For instance, when you’re striving to be physically fit, are you more likely to seek out your friend who enjoys going to the gym (as opposed to your friend who enjoys eating cheese puffs and watching TV)? Close others have a unique capacity to help (or hinder) us as we work to achieve our goals (check out a related post here). Researchers call people who help us pursue our goals instrumental others and people who don’t really affect our pursuit of goals or people who impede our pursuit of goals non-instrumental others. Whether or not we feel someone is instrumental in achieving a goal tends to influence our behavior toward that person.
Often when we meet someone new and fall madly and deeply in love, we cannot wait to introduce the person to our friends and family. Obviously if we think they are the best thing since sliced bread, everyone else is going to love them just as much – right? Not always. Sometimes, no matter how great we think a person is, our friends and family, for one reason or another, disagree. When this happens, the lack of support for our relationship can jeopardize not only our relationship, but also our health.
So what should you do if your friends and family are disapproving of your current relationship?
In my last post, I discussed the research showing that couples who receive social approval of their relationships from their friends and family are more likely to report greater relationship satisfaction and more enduring relationships. One of the key points researchers have made in this area is that it is the perception of support/approval that matters most. This means that, regardless of the actual level of support your relationship receives from your friends and family, it is your own perception of that support that most strongly influences your relationship and health outcomes.1 And yes, I did just say relationship AND health outcomes, because research has shown that not only do people in socially-supported relationships (same-sex AND mixed-sex) report greater relationship satisfaction, love, commitment and duration, they also experience fewer mental and physical health problems. That’s right; if everyone you know disapproves of your relationship and you’ve been suffering from depression, anxiety, increased stress or even more frequent physical ailments, it’s quite possible that these experiences are connected.
One of the things I love about being a relationships researcher is that I can sit down to watch a Hollywood flick and consider it productive time because it gives me so many great research ideas. Hollywood loves to investigate the inner workings of relationships and love, albeit not always with the most accurate or "empirically informed" lens. Take, for instance, the concept of support for romantic relationships. This is a widely studied topic in social psychology and has graced the screens of numerous Hollywood flicks. According to how love stories typically play out on the silver screen, love conquers all, opposites attract, and in-laws are terrifying creatures. For example, in The Notebook, Allie’s parents deceive Noah and Allie because sadly, Noah is from the "wrong side of the tracks" and is not good enough for the well-bred Miss Hamilton. Despite being kept apart by disapproving parents, love wins out in the end, so much so that by the end of the movie (spoiler alert) love even wins out over Alzheimer’s disease (who knew!).
Your relationship has been going well for the past few weeks, but you probably catch yourself wondering, “Where is this relationship going? Will we still be together in a year?” Until someone invents a relationship crystal ball (Apple should really get on that), you either have to figure it out for yourself or ask your friends and family for their opinion. Of these options, who will have the best insight?
I am confused and find it hard to accept social media. I wanted to know [if it] is ok for my boyfriend to like photos of other girls and follow other women on Instagram. Is that pushing the limits in a relationship?
Thank you for your question. Research on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is relatively new. There are, however, some recent studies that can directly answer your question.
Our own Dr. Amy Muise published a study finding that social network use (e.g., Facebook) can promote jealousy in relationships, because you are exposed to ambiguous information about your partner’s behaviors.1 In your case, you don’t have a clear picture of your partner’s motives for following other women on Instagram. Therefore, this ambiguity leads to perceptions that his behaviors are a threat to the stability of your relationship.
“Marriage is mostly just firewood, rice, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea.” -Chinese proverb
Although China’s rising ‘love culture’ has borrowed many foreign ideas, such as teen dating and Valentine’s Day (see my last article), China’s romantic relationships hardly mirror Western ones. Young Chinese are usually free to choose their spouses, but they are not free to linger long in singlehood. If a woman hits her late 20s without a husband, everyone calls her a shèngnǚ (剩女) or “leftover woman” — a label invented by the government in 2007. Faced with mounting social pressure from parents and colleagues, today’s Chinese singles commonly marry because it is “time,” not because they are in love.
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?
There has been a lot of talk in the American media recently about a perhaps more “evolved” form of love in which people have open or multiple relationships—polyamory. Tanzanians have a history of this practice through polygynous practices (having multiple wives), which is rooted in the Bantu tradition. In fact, polygyny is permitted for up to 4 wives in Tanzania, with the permission of the first wife.
Now that the summer is coming to a close, young adults are fervidly preparing for their transition to college (though they may be more excited about leaving their parents’ house). College, of course, offers incoming students many social novelties: independence, new friends, all-nighters to cram for finals, and perhaps even new “temptations” around campus (you may very well find yourself checking out the facebook page of the person in the next dorm). But what if you are entering the ivy-covered walls while still involved in a relationship with your high school sweetheart? Should you break up with your romantic partner, or should you maintain the relationship?
Having been divorced more than once, I have noticed a sad, but unfortunate by-product: Losing friends. My ex-husband and I had many mutual friends that we met through some parent networking groups; we hosted play dates and attended children’s birthday parties together. Our shared participation was essential for my adjustment to motherhood. The collateral damage I did not anticipate after the divorce was losing some of these friends.
Social networking has fundamentally changed how we interact with one another. For example, researchers find, time and again,1,2 that interactive networking sites are helpful in maintaining relationships with our close friends and family as well as with our acquaintances. But these sites have also changed how we end our relationships. The best example of this is the ability to “unfriend” someone on Facebook. With the click of a button, you are able to terminate your Facebook relationship with anyone you had previously friended. However, when a friend decides to cut you off, you receive no notification that you have been unfriended. In fact, you’re likely to only notice the change in friendship status when your total number of Facebook friends goes down or if you search for the person who unfriended you and notice they are no longer listed as one of your friends.
Social interactions of all flavors are important, and even your relationships need other relationships to keep things interesting. You might have a perfectly satisfying romantic relationship with your partner, but you might want to get some “couple friends” too (see this article at salon.com). How do friendships between couples develop, and are they important for your own romantic relationship?
You might assume that relationship science doesn’t have much to say about vampire romances, but you would be wrong. Previously, we wrote about the Sookie/Bill/Eric love triangle, but relationship research explains some of the other complex relationships on True Blood as well.
One of the reoccurring storylines in Bon Temps is that Sookie’s best friend, Tara, doesn’t understand why Sookie continues to be attracted to her undead suitors (first Bill, then Eric), especially given all the trouble they’ve caused. Every time Bill makes a mess of things, Sookie forgives him. Why doesn’t Tara forgive Bill?
Emotions prompt people to engage in adaptive behaviors that help them act appropriately in their current situations. When you feel fear you run away from the source of the threat; guilt motivates us to mend things following a transgression (e.g., “I’m sorry”); jealousy causes you to be on guard because your relationship partner might be poached away by a rival.
Does sadness have a social function, too? We’ve all heard that misery loves company; it’s possible that sadness prompts us to seek out social bonds. When you’re sad you might need social and emotional support. Maybe the purpose of sadness is to motivate social connections -- that “misery seeks company.”
We’re Tired Of Drinking And Partying All The Time: Can We Settle Down Without Committing Social Suicide?
Ray asked the following:
Hi, my boyfriend and I have been dating for a little more than 4 years. We live together. For the past few months, I've been pretty unhappy with our social life. I'm sick of partying, going to gay bars and getting shit-faced almost every weekend. I want to transition out of this life to something more mature, or in the words of others, boring. Perhaps most of my friends are single. I just want to hang out with more couples and do something more than just clubbing. A perfect weekend is cooking with friends, having dinner and having a few drinks. That is all I want. However, I have this trepidation. Am I committing social suicide? How do I make sure that I go through this transition successfully? My partner seems to be onboard, after talking to him about this, but he is way more social than I am. I'm afraid he will not be happy. What should I do?
First, let me say that you’ve already started off on the right foot by talking to your partner about your concerns. Open and honest communication is one of the most important contributors to relationship success, and you appear to be ahead of the game in this regard. Another thing you have going your way is that your partner actually agrees that it’s time for a change, which means that you have a good shot at making the kind of transition you’re talking about. The big question here is how to do this without socially isolating yourselves, and that can be tricky.
Is there any research that shows how or when to express your feelings (positive or negative) about a friend’s relationship?
Let’s back up and start with a more basic question: Does your opinion matter? Absolutely. Knowing what others think about our romances is a critical piece of information if those relationships are going to survive.
Hopefully you still remember George Costanza, the eccentric best friend of Jerry Seinfeld. In thinking back over the nine years we spent getting to know him, perhaps the most intriguing thing about him was his uncanny success in the dating department. Described by his own friends as “a short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man,” George clearly lacked the typical characteristics of heartthrob. So what was his secret when it came to landing a lady?