Entries in transition (5)


“Clear for Takeoff”: Turbulence in Romantic Relationships

It doesn’t take a social scientist to tell you that relationships are complicated. But it may not hurt to ask one why relationships are complicated. Take breakups, for example. People often question their breakups only in hindsight, looking back to wonder exactly what went wrong. They may ask things like, “Was it something I said, or did?” Well, according to one theoretical perspective, it may have less to do with specific behaviors, and more to do with the way that people approach relationships in general.

Imagine you’re on a plane. As you travel from point A to point B, it is possible that you may encounter turbulence. This is common during most plane rides, and after a short while it usually evens out eventually. Researchers have begun to think about romantic relationships in this way: smooth flights that occasionally encounter turbulence. Normally, things turn out fine, but enough turbulence can cause any flight to crash. It is during the transition from point A to point B that turbulence becomes dangerous.

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Sharing A Room Before Sharing Vows? What You Should Know Before Cohabiting

Last August, exactly two years after my partner and I met, we got engaged. But unlike most soon-to-be newlyweds, we have not yet lived together. In fact, we will be engaged for almost a year before moving into our own place. 

A few of my friends were surprised that my fiancé and I could commit to a life together without first sharing an apartment. In their eyes, cohabitation is important for allowing dating couples to “test drive” being married and identify lifestyle incompatibilities before making a formal long-term commitment. My grandparents and parents, on the other hand, were unfazed that we hadn’t yet lived together, and they even encouraged us to wait until the timing was right.

These conflicting messages made me question whether living together as a dating couple makes for a more well-adjusted marriage if the relationship is headed that way. Most researchers agree that living together before getting engaged has potential advantages and drawbacks, but are certain approaches to cohabiting better than others? To answer this question – and to understand why my friends (but not the older generations) expected my partner and I to live together sooner – I examined the latest research on cohabitation and its consequences for relationships.

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Weddings: Size Matters…For Some More Than Others

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.

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New Parents: We’re On the Same Team

image source: living.msn.comHaving a first child can be a stressful time for couples for many reasons. One factor that may contribute to new-parent stress is whether the new parents agree on how to parent. In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers examined whether new parents had similar parenting styles and felt like they were working together as team in raising their new infants; they also assessed whether this teamwork was related to parents’ mental health and relationship satisfaction. New mothers and fathers who felt like their parenting styles were similar had more positive moods and experienced less depression in the months following the birth of their first child. In addition, perceived agreement in parenting styles was related to mothers’ overall relationship satisfaction. 

Don, B. P., Biehle, S. N., Mickelson, K. D. (in press). Feeling like part of a team: Perceived parenting agreement among first-time parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.


Relationships 101: Having Healthy Relationships in Your First Year of College 

For a .PDF version of this article, please click here. This article is free to any college/university for dissemination to students (e.g., as part of college orientation, first-year seminar, or college course).

College is all about new experiences: the start of a new life, new friends, new freedom, and new relationship experiences. Not surprisingly, romantic relationships are responsible for life’s happiest moments.1 For that reason, it is important to avoid problematic relationships that could jeopardize your college education. To help, we’ll identify qualities of healthy relationships in the context of common relationship experiences that students encounter during their first year in college.

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