Entries in support (32)

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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Tuesday
Jan292013

Support in Developing Friendships: Why We Give More Than We Receive

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.

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Thursday
Jan032013

I Get BUY With A Little Help From My Friends.

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.

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Wednesday
Nov072012

Be There For Me When Things Are Going Well

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?” 

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Thursday
Sep272012

“We Can Still Be Friends”: Six Ways You Can Stay Friends After a Breakup

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.

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Wednesday
Jun202012

Was Barack Obama “Avoidant” in His Youth?

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.

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Monday
Jun112012

How Do I Get Over My Ex?

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.

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Friday
Apr132012

Interracial Marriage Has Reached An All-Time High, But Attitudes Toward It Are Still Evolving

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.

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Thursday
Apr052012

Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving: Relationship Insurance

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.

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