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Wednesday
Aug202014

Take Your Relationship to the Movies

Could something as simple as watching movies help your relationship? One-hundred-seventy-four engaged or newlywed couples were randomly assigned to one of two intense relationship workshops, or to watch and reflect on relationship movies (e.g., Love Story) featuring relationship behaviors such as stress, forgiveness, support, and conflict, or a no treatment ‘business as usual’ control condition. Couples in the movie condition watched and discussed one movie a week for a month. Three years later all three treatment groups (both workshops and the movie group) experienced less relationship dissolution (11%) compared to couples in the no treatment condition (24%). All three treatments had similar benefits, which suggests that simply watching and discussing movies can help protect your relationship.

Rogge, R. D., Cobb, R. J., Lawrence, E., Johnson, M. D., & Bradbury, T. N. (2013). Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(6), 949-961. doi:10.1037/a0034209

image source: gettyimages.com

Monday
Aug182014

The Ethics of OKCupid’s Dating Experiment

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You probably have noticed some widespread media coverage about OKCupid’s “experiment” wherein, to look for patterns in dating behavior, they manipulated aspects of the site without informing users (see OKCupid’s announcement here as well as coverage here and here). This revelation comes in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment, which attracted similar attention and criticism. Commenters have questioned the ethics of these experiments primarily due to the fact that Facebook and OKCupid users did not know they were participating and did not consent to be in the study—nor were users directly notified about their participation after the experiment ended.

The idea that these large corporations would manipulate people’s emotions or behaviors without telling their users sounds very disturbing to some. But was this really such a big deal? Were these experiments really “unethical”? Let’s examine these issues further.

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Saturday
Aug162014

Marriage vs. The Ph.D.

Friday
Aug152014

Staying Friends After a Breakup: Commitment Matters

Being in a committed romantic  relationship involves feelings of intimacy and attachment between partners and desiring that the relationship continues into the future. Those who are committed to their partners manage relationship conflict more constructively, are less likely to cheat, and are more likely to stay together for the long haul. Commitment is clearly important in ongoing romantic relationships; however, it may also influence the how former partners feel about each other after their relationships end. New research suggests that people who were more committed to a romantic relationship have healthier relationships with their exes after breaking up.

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Wednesday
Aug132014

Because I Said So…At Least Until You Say So: Parental Authority Over College-Aged Kids

Parents of college students regularly find themselves in quite a bind – they have to figure out that delicate balance between being an authority figure while simultaneously respecting their kids’ increasing independence. This is because typical college students, as well as other individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, are commonly referred to as emerging adults -- those in this age range do not entirely view themselves as adults nor do they view themselves as kids. As a result, parents of college students have to somehow be a parent to someone who may no longer live under the same roof, but is typically not living entirely independently and grappling with all of the complications that a full-fledged adult life entails either (not to take anything away from the huge responsibilities that many college students deal with every day). Simply put: When is it appropriate for parents of college students to put their foot (or feet) down and provide direction vs. hold back and let their kids make their own mistakes? Balance this conundrum with the knowledge that parents’ aging children actually like their parents more when they maintain appropriate boundaries, and you have a recipe for quite the pickle.

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Monday
Aug112014

An Attitude of Gratitude as a Relationship Rx

Need a boost in your romantic relationship? A dose of gratitude may do the trick, according to Dr. Sara Algoe of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gratitude is an emotion experienced in acknowledgement of an intentionally provided benefit, especially if the benefit is perceived as personally important and responsive to one’s needs and preferences. It is thought that gratitude enhances social relationships by broadening our attention to people who care about our welfare. In fact, early research on gratitude1 has shown that compared to happiness, gratitude made people recall more positive qualities of a benefactor, feel closer to the benefactor, and desire to spend more time with that person in the future. 

On the flip side of gratitude lurks indebtedness, the feeling of obligation to repay someone for a benefit that he or he has provided. While an individual may experience either gratitude or indebtedness after having received a benefit, only gratitude is associated with positive emotions; in fact, indebtedness is linked to negative emotions such as guilt. Indebtedness drives people to resolve a debt in order to feel better but unlike gratitude, does not facilitate communal relationships.

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Sunday
Aug102014

Getting Serious About Cuddling

Saturday
Aug092014

The Best Way to Pick Someone Up If You're a Barista

Friday
Aug082014

"Married At First Sight": I Do…Not Even Know You

I hate television. Unless I’m learning how to make a soufflé or watching Starks get slaughtered on Game of Thrones (whoops…spoiler alert), I’m generally pretty content to keep my eyes off the screen and my nose in a book. But when I stumbled across Married at First Sight, my curiosity got the best of me, and I had to check it out. 

Married at First Sight is a new reality show (or “social experiment,” as marketers like to describe it, despite it not actually being an experiment) on the FYI network. Four experts—a sexologist, a sociologist, a spiritualist, and a clinical psychologist—worked together to select a small group of individuals whom they could pair up to create what the experts believe would be successful relationships. Out of the initial pool of 50 people, the expert panel identified three “matches,” based largely on the partners’ demographic characteristics, beliefs about relationships, desire for children, religious preferences, and family histories. Here’s the kicker: These individuals agreed to enter into a legally binding marriage with one another for a minimum of one month—knowing they would meet their partner for the first time at the altar. After 30 days of living as husband and wife, the couples will decide whether or not they want to remain married. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “trial marriage,” huh?

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Thursday
Aug072014

The Breakup: Are You Over It? Take the Quiz!  

How quickly are you supposed to "get over" a breakup, anyway? Sex in the City fans should remember Charlotte's Golden Breakup Rule, "It takes half the total time you went out with someone to get over them." But in real-world breakups, that rule doesn't always apply. A lot depends on whether you were the dumpee or the dumper and how things went down. So, how over it are you? A little? A lot? Find out with today's relationship quiz!

Editors' note: This quiz is part of a project on great relationships conducted by contributor 
Melissa Schneider, LMSW, and is not supervised or conducted by ScienceOfRelationships.com, other contributors, or the academic institutions affliliated with contributors to the site.

Wednesday
Aug062014

The Secret Ingredient to a Great Summer Tan: Carotenoids

The summer is heating up, and for many of us that means it’s time to hit the beach and soak up the rays. Bikini fashions may change year on year, but one look that’s as popular as ever is bronzed, tanned skin.

But why? By this point, we all know that tanning is bad for us, yet many refuse to slop on the sunscreen and seek shade.

Every summer, doctors trot out the same warnings. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes skin cancer, tanned skin is damaged skin, and tanning at a young age is extra dangerous. Research suggests that indoor tanning isn’t any safer. One third of White American women under 35 visit the tanning salon at least once a year, increasing their risk of melanoma by as much as 75%.1

These warnings are serious but barely make a dent on behaviour. We want a ‘healthy’ tan. We think it looks attractive.2 And many of us have decided it’s worth the risk.

So if you’re packing your bag for the beach (or the tanning booth), how can I hope to stop you in your tracks? What if I said that there’s a way you can tan that is (a) cheaper than a trip to the tanning salon (much less a holiday at the beach!), (b) is not only free of health risks, but will actually improve your well-being, and (c) results in more attractive and healthier-looking skin than UV exposure could ever achieve? And here’s the kicker: there’s scientific research to back all these claims up.

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Monday
Aug042014

3 Lesson Learned from My Unplugged Vacation

My blended family (ages 5, 6, 7, 11, and 13) just returned from a weeklong road trip through Yellowstone National Park. During the trip, we conducted our own mini-experiment: Each of us eliminated electronic use for anything other than music. No iPhone apps, no social media, no electronic games, no texting or phone calls unless there was an emergency. There was almost no cell phone reception across the park, which made enforcement easy, but the results of our self-inflicted ‘mandatory’ unplugging still surprised me in three fundamental ways:

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Saturday
Aug022014

The Secret to True Love

Friday
Aug012014

Need An Energy Boost? Try Thinking about Your Partner

We’re all likely familiar with the idea that love is energizing; for example, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes encapsulated this notion in their 1982 single Up Where We Belong when they sang, “Love lifts us up where we belong....” But does love really physically energize us? It’s definitely possible. Love is associated with positive emotions and simply thinking about love can trigger stress responses (such as increases in cortisol) in the body, responses thought to result from arousal or passion. One intriguing thing that can happen when your body releases cortisol is that you get an accompanying rush of glucose (blood sugar) to give you extra energy. Since thinking about your romantic partner can increase stress hormones like cortisol, it may follow that you can also get a glucose boost from thinking about your partner. 

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Wednesday
Jul302014

Now it’s Kim and Kanye Sitting in a Tree: Implicit Egotism Strikes Again

A few years back, on the heels of Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated and short-lived marriage to Kris Humpries, I wrote a post about how their attraction and marriage may be the result of what psychologists refer to as implicit egotism. Essentially, this theory states that people have relatively positive feelings about themselves and that these unconscious preferences extend to things that are associated with the self, like our own name-letter initials.  Think about it. Do you have a favorite letter? Is that letter one of your own initials? Well, if it is, you are not alone.  Where it gets even more interesting is that this preference may impact a whole array of choices, including who you marry.1 In Kim Kardashian’s case, she may have gravitated towards Kris Humpries, because they both shared the initial K. On an implicit level, this may have activated positive and rewarding feelings. Well, that relationship has come and gone, but in true implicit egotism fashion, Kim has since moved on to marry Kanye, with whom she also shares the initial K!    

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Monday
Jul282014

What Does It Matter? Why Depression Is So Important In Troubled Relationships 

Few people would be surprised to hear that couples in troubled relationships can also be depressed -- certainly not those of us who've been in such relationships and know how depressing they can be.

Frequently, the conflict in these relationships and distress that results can become so overwhelming that any other problems, like depression, are typically hidden from view. A couple I'm presently treating, Jim and Stacey (not they’re real names), are engrained in an attack-withdrawal routine (i.e., she criticizes him and then he avoids her and doesn't talk to her for days). This pattern is common in troubled relationships, but their hostility deftly masks, to all but the trained eye, depression’s underlying influence.

But does it really matter if one partner is depressed -- especially when couples like this are constantly at each other's throats? Yes, it does. To understand why, let's look at some research on the effects of depression on partners within troubled relationships.

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Sunday
Jul272014

4 Ways Chemistry Transformed Sex

Friday
Jul252014

What Kind of Sexual Personality Do You Have?

Are you a sexual person? (This is not a trick question.) Let me ask it a different way: What kind of sexual person are you? Or, put another way, why do you enjoy sex?

A recently published paper1 including data from 18 different samples (from Israel and America) suggests that there is a lot of variability in how people experience sex based on something called the “sexual behavioral system.” Basically, this is the system that your mind constructs so that you can navigate sexual feelings, attitudes, and experiences. The overall result of the study was that 2 new personality variables emerged, which can help explain how the sexual behavioral system operates.

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Wednesday
Jul232014

Dear Miley, You’re Doing it Wrong

Dear Miley, you’re doing it wrong. No, I’m obviously not referring to the music world, as you seem to have that figured out. I’m not even referring to the physical act of writhing around on a metal wrecking ball, although that does bring up some hygienic concerns. Rather, as a relationship scientist, I’m referring to your love life. The lyrics of your song, Wrecking Ball, have been rolling around my head since you released it last year. And now, after almost a full year of marriage, I think I know where you went wrong. The trouble lies in your demolition-style approach. 

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Monday
Jul212014

When I Lose You, I Lose Part of Me, Too

There’s no question that romantic breakups can be really hard. Losing a partner we’ve become very close to means losing someone who was previously part of our daily lives. As a result, breakups can undermine our ability to sleep and eat well (among other things). Research has revealed that experiencing a breakup has several unique effects on our sense of self or self-concept (i.e., everything that makes us who we are) as well. For example, research has demonstrated that, after a breakup, people feel that their self-concept is smaller than it was before the breakup; in other words, they feel like their self-concept has diminished somewhat.1 This makes sense, since over time people tend to incorporate their romantic partner into their self-concept, meaning that their individual identities begin to merge (that is, “me” and “you” becomes “we” and “us”). In the wake of a breakup, then, the self-concept may feel reduced or contracted because there used to be another person involved in it (e.g., part of “me” used to include being a loving partner to a specific person, and now that part is gone).

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