NPR recently reported on a new study by Dr. Alan Teo and colleagues on the link between relationship quality and depression. Those of you with critical, unsupportive partners should start looking for a therapist with a comfy couch soon!
Entries in support (22)
The country pop hit song “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes resonates with individuals in close relationships who strive to make their beloveds feel cherished and desired. Despite the heartfelt nature of the song, the motives for and consequences of this approach to relationships remain uncertain. What drives the desire to make one’s partner feel wanted? How does it affect our relationships? And is the longing to “hold your hand forever and never let you forget it” particularly characteristic of males, as “Wanted” implies?
Chances are that at some point, you wanted to become closer friends with someone you liked but didn’t know well. How should you go about building the relationship? For example, if you and your potential new friend were going to an event together, do you offer to pick him or her up or should you ask for a ride? What if instead you were going with someone who is already your best friend? How likely is it that your choice to offer versus ask for a ride would change? A study by Yale University researchers on how people provide support in friendships illuminates why the closeness of a friendship may influence people’s likelihood to offer versus request support in everyday situations.
Imagine you’re buying a new cell phone. Would you rather have a ton of different options or only 1-2 choices? Usually, people assume that having more choices is better. In fact, in experiments that mimic game shows (“what’s behind door #1?) people will pay more money to have more options to choose from. But ironically, having more choices can be a source of distress. People feel less satisfied with their decision after it’s made when they have a bunch of different options to choose from, and sometimes people experience paralysis-by-analysis (they give up and don’t choose anything at all.). Some scientists refer to this as the “paradox of choice”—a lot of choices feels like something we want, but it ends up being bad for us.1
New research suggests that how supported we feel in our relationships affects how appealing we find having a lot of options/choices.
We typically think of significant others as an important source of support when things go wrong in our lives; someone to catch us if we fall. If you were to lose your job, you’d turn to your partner for support to help you through that rough time. However, your partner’s support for positive life events is equally as important. When good things happen, like a new great job falls into your lap, is your partner supportive? “That’s a great opportunity! I’m so excited for you!” Or are they uninterested or negative about your good news? “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. Are you sure you’re up for it?”
Unlike Jerry and Elaine in the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld, or Ted and Robin in How I Met Your Mother, it isn’t easy for ex-romantic partners to remain friends. Think about it…how many of your exes are still friends of yours? Half of them? 25%? If you’re like me, the answer is more likely zero, nil, nada, zilch.
Even if your ex assured you that “it’s not you, it’s me,” breakups are still upsetting. Because of this, it may not surprise you that about 60% of ex-partners do not have contact with one another post-breakup. However, some exes do keep in touch and even become friends after the breakup. In fact, there are several situations in which post-dissolution friendships are more likely.
A newly released biography of Barack Obama by David Maraniss has drawn attention (see coverage here and here) to the president’s past. There’s nothing necessarily scandalous in the book, but it does focus on the relationships Obama had before he met Michelle. As a relationship scientist, this is a really cool (and rare) glimpse into Obama’s romantic life through the stories of young women who shared intimate moments with him.
My ex and I work in the same restaurant, and while we have different jobs there, we still have a lot of contact. We broke up three months ago after being together since last May. She was by my side while I battled testicular cancer and we became really close. Since then we have been hanging out pretty much the same amount as we did when we were together and would occasionally hook up. This is my first real relationship and my first real breakup so I’m not really sure how to handle myself, and working together just makes everything more complicated. I’ve recently come to the realization that I am better off without her and don’t want to get back together with her but thinking about her with other guys is extremely unnerving. I don’t want to become a crazy ex-boyfriend and I need some advice: please help!
First of all, I have to say that I really sympathize with what you’re going through. Breakups can be very hard, especially when you’ve developed a close bond. The upside is that you know for sure that you do not want the relationship to continue, and making that decision really is half the battle. The other half of the battle is moving on. I’m going to give you some tips on how to get over your ex based on what researchers know about attachment.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that the rate of interracial marriage has reached an all-time high in the United States,1 with 8.4% of all marriages being between members of different races. If we look only at new marriages (i.e., couples who were married in the three years before these data were collected), the proportion that is interracial nearly doubles to 15%. For comparison purposes, the number was just 3.2% in 1980! Thus, interracial marriage has seen marked growth in the past three decades. Despite these changes, a large number of Americans still seem to have a problem with interracial couples, and this bias has negative effects on the people who are in these relationships.
After the combo of Christmas and Valentine’s Day, you may be delighted that we’re between gift-giving holidays. But for me, even though the spending has lulled, my thoughts often wander towards the topic of the perfect gift.
In a previous post, a colleague suggested that instead of traditional, material gifts, partners may be better served to use their skills to provide a needed service. For example, “fixing an iPhone app or helping to solve a problem that you are having from work” would go a long way as a testament of esteem and affection. As it turns out, her suggestion of providing helpful behaviors to your partner may not only be an effective strategy for the holidays, but one that rings true all year long.
“Leave your troubles at the door.”
It’s a standard rule of thumb to leave your emotional baggage behind when you clock in at your job. You can’t concentrate on your daily tasks if you’re worried about whether Little Danny will remember his lines in his school play audition. You can’t smile and talk up your proposal to a highly coveted client if last night’s argument with your significant other is still replaying itself, every hurtful word, over and over in your mind. Unless you’re a Method actor or perhaps some incarnation of a brooding songwriter-comedian-artist, your personal life has no place at your job.
The reverse is also true. Imagine you bring your work troubles home...
Spouses of cancer patients experience significant declines in their own physical health. To better understand why, researchers studied husbands of “in remission” breast cancer patients as well as the husbands of breast cancer patients facing cancer recurrence. Surprisingly, wives’ breast cancer recurrence status (remission vs. recurrence) was unrelated to husbands’ physical health. Rather, husbands’ physical health and immune function deteriorated when they worried about their wives’ cancer, regardless of whether the cancer was in remission.
Gregorio, S. W.-D., Carpenter, K. M., Dorfman, C. S., Yang, H.-C., Simonelli, L. E., & Carson, W. E. (in press). Impact of breast cancer recurrence and cancer-specific stress on spouse health and immune function. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.237
image source: fotoloia
Researchers had teenagers and their parents read about situations in which the parents asked their kids for help, requiring the kids to give up their own plans with friends. Parents and teenagers agreed that the teenagers should help their parents, particularly when the parents really needed the help. In situations where the parental request for help was not particularly urgent, however, the teenagers reported feeling more responsibility to help than the parents thought they should.
Smetana, J. G., Tasopoulos-Chan, M., Gettman, D. C., Villalobos, M., Compione-Barr, N., & Metzger, A. (2009). Adolescents’ and parents’ evaluations of helping versus fulfilling personal desires in family situations. Child Development, 80, 280-294.
image source: blog.bluemountainlodges.ca
Couples who report larger amounts of stress outside their marriages also tend to report less satisfaction within their marriages. You have probably heard the classic “joke” about a person being mad at the boss, but she can’t yell at her boss, so she goes home and yells at her husband, who, in turn, yells at their son, who then kicks the dog, who wonders what it did wrong. Perhaps not a very funny joke (or not funny at all), but it does illustrate a phenomenon that researchers call stress spillover: when stress from outside the marriage causes problems inside the marriage.
On the surface, Friday Night Lights is ostensibly about the culture of high school football in Dillon, TX. Yet, the central characters of the show aren’t football players at all. In many ways, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor, and the relationship between them, will likely be the show’s legacy. What may very well be television’s best depiction of a quality relationship will end when the series comes to a close after 5 seasons. Or, as a much more accomplished television critic said,
“Friday Night Lights has always been the story of a football team and its coach, but it’s also been the story of a marriage - one of the most well-rounded, admirable, memorable marriages ever portrayed on television.” – Alan Sepinwall
Researchers recently made 17 women hot…by applying intense heat to their forearms. Women felt less pain when looking at pictures of romantic partners versus when looking at strangers or other objects. Brain scans taken during the heat exposure indicated that parts of the brain associated with safety were more active in the partner condition, whereas areas associated with pain were less active, especially when women were in longer relationships or with particularly supportive partners.
What follows is a rough transcript of a conversation I had with a woman a few weeks ago while at my neighbor’s barbeque. (Background: She heard that I had two kids and my son had recently turned 5 months old).
Her: So, what does your wife do?
Me: She’s a paralegal.
Her: Does she work full-time?
Her: That must be really hard for her -- having to put her son in childcare all day. [note: she may not have emphasized the ‘her’, but I certainly heard it so]
Me: Yes, it is hard for us; we don’t like spending any more time away from our kids than we have to.
Admittedly, I may have stressed the plural pronouns in my response overly enthusiastically, but as someone who fancies himself an involved father, I couldn’t help but make it clear that childrearing or life decisions that affect our children are made by, and impact, both me and my wife.
Science of Relationship's very own Maryhope Howland talks about the future of the royal couple. You can read more about her thoughts on their relationship here, and learn more about her research here.
I was watching the interview with the newly engaged Prince William and Kate Middleton on Youtube, when I noticed Prince William engaging in the very behavior I study-- invisible support.1 It’s like he knew I’d be watching! The basic idea behind invisible support is that it’s support that is very subtle and flies under the radar-- so much so, that the person receiving it may not even realize that they’re being supported. It doesn’t look or feel like one person providing support to another person.
A recent article indicates teenagers who were most happy were also more likely to divorce as adults. But remember: correlation doesn't equal causation! It's probably the case that teenage happiness is associated with the self-confidence, support, and enpowerment to leave bad relationships as an adult; not that happiness itself causes divorce.