Entries in support (40)

Monday
Nov142016

A Sidekick for Self-Actualization: How Our Partners Make Us Great

Just as every superhero has a hardworking, lesser-known sidekick, behind our biggest successes is often someone who listened to us, encouraged us, and cared about us. In fact, our relationships with others can have a big but sometimes imperceptible impact on our ability to exercise our talents. In fact, “self-actualization” is what psychologists call the process of fulfilling one’s needs and eventually achieving one’s full potential. So for the heroes in all of us seeking to discover their calling and make the world a better place, what qualities are important in a lifelong sidekick to help us become self-actualized? 

One study of over 2000 married couples examined what makes a great sidekick by studying features of relationships that predict personal well-being.

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Monday
Jun062016

What Robots Can Teach Us About Intimacy: The Reassuring Effects Of Robot Responsiveness

In the future, robots may serve in a variety of support roles, such as home assistance, office support, nursing, childcare, education, and elder care. When we reach that point, people may share their personal lives with robots, which, in turn, may create long-term personal relationships in the mind of humans. Home robots, for example, could help humans with house chores; they could entertain them, teach them new skills, or encourage them to exercise. Robots may assist people with hobbies, such as carpentry or jewelry making, or help children with their homework and music lessons. In any of these roles, robots may be required to monitor the humans they interact with, and engage in supportive interactions.

For example, a robot serving in a care facility might provide support by listening to the experiences and memories of elderly people. The way a robot responds to the human's communication in such scenarios may have a profound effect on various personal and relationship outcomes, including the human's perception of the robot, the human's sense of support and security, the human's willingness to continue to interact with the robot, and the human’s overall well-being.

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Wednesday
Jun012016

We Are Family: Familism May Promote Relationship Quality in Latinos but Not Other Cultural Groups

Familism refers to the sense of connection individuals have with their family. In a nutshell, those with a high degree of familism prioritize their family relationships above other relationships (and the self) and view family members as the first providers of support during stressful situations. Although this family-first focus may sound great, early research suggested that familism may actually undermine individual outcomes by creating a sense of burden (to the family) and limiting individuals’ abilities to have a diverse support network (which is generally a good thing). Put another way, familism runs counter to the traditional “American” value of independence.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships the study authors argued that a more culturally-sensitive view of familism may highlight the value of this connection to family, perhaps particularly for Latinos, whose cultural norms prioritize “family relationships before the self with warmth, closeness, and support”. As a result, familism may promote individuals’ relationship quality, romantic or otherwise,  by increasing how comfortable people are with feeling close to others as well as how much support they perceive from others (two important markers of relationship quality). Moreover, the authors suggested that the effect of familism on support may occur because familism promotes the value of close connections with others (rather than independence), thus resulting in lower levels of attachment avoidance.

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Tuesday
Sep152015

Helping Me Grow Is Good For Us

For those of you who took Introductory Psychology (way) back in the day, you might remember learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the top of his needs pyramid, he proposed that people are motivated to strive for self-actualization, where people begin to fulfill their potential and approach ideal, complete selves. Although contemporary research on Maslow’s Theory of Motivation has been limited, many of the same ideas are captured by the self-expansion model, which has received a lot empirical attention over the past 25 years (click here see here for our other articles on self-expansion). Self-expansion motivation refers to individuals’ desires to have new experiences, engage in challenging activities, and learn new things. Within close relationships self-expansion has typically been thought of as those things that couple members do together that are new and exciting (e.g., go on a trip or try a new hobby together). And these new and interesting activities matter for relationships. For example, past research has shown that self-expansion is an important way for couples that have been together for a while to maintain a spark in their relationship.

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Thursday
May072015

7 Ways to Use Science to Help Your Partner Meet His or Her Goals

Most advice on pursuing goals focuses on what you can do to achieve your own aims. But how can you help those you love to achieve their goals? Relationship partners play an important role in helping or hindering our progress toward our goals.1

Here are seven science-backed tips for helping your partner:

1. Encourage your partner

Research shows that encouragement from romantic partners to pursue goals in areas such as career, school, friendship, and fitness makes people more likely to actually achieve those goals.2

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Friday
Mar202015

When Friends' "Help" Hurts

It has been well-documented that perceived support is associated with better health and well-being. Knowing that you’ll have someone there when you need them is a great comfort. However, the effects of actually getting help from others are mixed. When it works, support makes us feel good and can have tremendously positive effects on our lives. But other times it doesn’t help, and can even make us feel worse. So when is support from our loved ones well-received and when does it backfire?

There are several reasons why support may not be effective. Sometimes the people supporting us aren’t that good at providing the right kind of support. Another possibility is that receiving support makes the recipient feel indebted to the provider, leading to negative feelings. And finally receiving help could be a blow to self-esteem.

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Friday
Feb202015

Stronger Relationships Make For A Stronger You

One thing that relationship research has taught us is that good relationships are good for us. Many studies have demonstrated that solid relationships are associated with better health and longer life. In fact, having strong relationships is a better predictor of mortality than any other healthy lifestyle behavior.1 But why are relationships so beneficial? A new review of the research by Brooke Feeney and Nancy Collins2 unlocks the secrets of how good relationships help us flourish. 

According to Feeney and Collins, there are two ways for us to thrive in life: 1) successfully coping with adversity, and 2) pursuing personal goals and opportunities for growth. Strong relationships can help with both. 

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Friday
Jun132014

Does How Couples Meet Matter? Relationship Matters Podcast #34

In the 34th installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Sharon Sassler (Cornell University) discusses her recent research on how couples meet.

Sassler, and co-author Amanda Jayne Miller (University of Indianapolis) interviewed 62 cohabitating couples about how the couple members met and how much they think others support their relationships. The researchers were particularly interested in whether social class played a role in any link between how couples meet and their perceived relationship support.

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Monday
Jan062014

Stuck in the Middle: When Kids Feel Caught Between Parents

 

My wife and I don’t always agree on the best way to parent our two kids. We sometimes have different ideas about how to broaden their palates, limit screen time (here’s hoping one of those freakish talking animals turns on Diego very soon), and how to blend our respective family holiday traditions. When we’re grappling with these and other parenting issues, we engage in what researchers call co-parental communication, which generally refers to how she and I communicate with one another and our children when parenting.

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Tuesday
Oct292013

Sometimes it Really is About the Nail: Women, Men, and Communication

If you haven’t watched this video yet, I urge you to immediately stop everything that you are doing and click play. On second thought, even if you have already seen this video, you should probably do the same thing. I don’t want to oversell this, but you are about to witness true relationship genius. Your chance to see it, before I spoil it with this article, is going, going, gone!

For those who didn’t watch, I’ll do my best to summarize what you missed. We join a couple in the midst of a conversation about an issue that the female partner is having. She’s describing the painful symptoms and woeful emotions that she is experiencing (e.g., pressure, aching feeling in her head, snagged sweaters), when her partner makes the imprudent mistake of offering a rather practical suggestion for fixing the problem. The unexpected twist…she’s not describing the type of stressor you’ve imagined; she actually has a nail in her head! When her partner suggests removing the nail, she accuses him of never listening and of being emotionally unsupportive. A funny play on the belief that women would rather talk through an issue than solve it, even when it’s as straightforward as having a nail in the head!

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Wednesday
Oct162013

We Should Hang Out Sometime (If You Help Me Achieve My Goals)

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.

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Friday
Oct042013

“She’s Just Not Right For You!”: What To Do When Friends & Family Disapprove of Your Relationship

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?

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Thursday
Sep262013

Friend and Family Approval for Relationships: Crucial for Your Health?

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.

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Thursday
Sep192013

When Friends & Family Disapprove of Your Relationship: Is the "Romeo & Juliet Effect" Real?

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!).

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Wednesday
Sep042013

“Being There” vs. Being There: Social Support is More Than Just a Friendly Face

We often turn to those closest to us for support when confronted with difficult situations. When financial trouble strikes, we turn to family for financial help (i.e., tangible/material support). Or, when things at work drive us crazy we turn to our partners, sometimes for advice (i.e., informational support) or simply for a warm hug (i.e., emotional support). In romantic relationships, being able to turn to a partner for support during stressful times has long been considered a crucial part of what makes a relationship work.1 Knowing that you can turn to your partner for support conveys a number of important pieces of information about your relationship. A supportive partner can be trusted to act in your best interests, demonstrates that he or she really cares about you, empathizes with you, understands you well enough to know that support is needed, and is responsive to your distress signals.

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Saturday
Aug032013

It Seems That Humans Aren't the Only Species That Support Their Partners...

Wednesday
Jul312013

The Michelangelo Phenomenon: How Your Partner Sculpts a Better (or Worse) You

Take a moment to think about the kind of person you would ideally like to be. What skills or traits do you want to possess? Is it important to you that you develop greater patience, foster leadership skills, become physically fit, or learn to speak another language? Psychologists believe that each person has an “ideal self” they strive to become.1 This ideal self is essentially the person you would be if you fulfilled all your dreams and aspirations. Certainly, you might be able to work toward your ideal qualities on your own, but it seems that your romantic partner can be especially helpful (or unhelpful) in shaping you, a process researchers refer to as the Michelangelo phenomenon.2 

This phenomenon is named for the Renaissance artist Michelangelo (famous for the Pietà and David, among other masterpieces), who viewed sculpting as an opportunity for an artist to release an ideal figure from the block of stone in which it slumbers. The ideal figure exists within the stone, and the artist simply removes the stone covering it. In romantic relationships, partners adapt to each other, adjusting as needed to keep the relationship running smoothly, and over time these responses can become a relatively permanent part of who we are (read more about this idea here). Thus, our romantic partners can “sculpt” us (and we can “sculpt” our partners) just as Michelangelo sculpted marble figures.

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Monday
Jun102013

Juggling Under Pressure

I am one sandwiched woman. Between living with a retired mother with health concerns, trying to manage two preschool-aged boys, and balancing a full-time career, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the demands of life (hence the absence of my column the last few months!). Mix in my mother’s recent knee replacement surgery (bad) and an upcoming promotion at work (good), I have struggled the last few months to carve out quality time with The Consultant. Although an intimate relationship is very important to me (and everyone), my career and family take priority; I can juggle only so many proverbial balls at a time!

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Thursday
May022013

(Lack of) Partner Support and Criticism Predicts Depression

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!

Click here to check out NPR's coverage of this work.

Tuesday
Feb262013

Wanna Make You Feel Wanted: Husbands’ Sensitive Support Predicts Relationship Outcomes

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?

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