If you’re in a long-term relationship, you probably remember the early “honeymoon period”—those first few months when you couldn’t get enough of each other (and maybe couldn’t keep your hands off each other). But, if you’re like most couples, your sex life has changed between then and now.1 In fact, it’s likely that there are (more) times in your relationship when one of you wants to have sex, but the other is not in the mood.
In a new set of studies,2 my colleagues and I looked at how couples manage these situations when partners have different sexual interests in ways that are satisfying to both romantic partners. We were specifically interested in this topic because desire discrepancies between partners are common in relationships—in one of our studies, 80% of people had experienced a desire discrepancy with their partner in the past month; in other study, couples reported some degree of desire discrepancy on 5 out of 7 days a week. And we know from past research that disagreements related to sex can be very difficult to resolve successfully.
A lot of research, from all over the world, has asked people about what they prefer in a future romantic partner. There is a big assumption in almost all of this research: that these preferences matter when people choose a romantic partner from many possible alternatives. For example, if my friend Chris says he prefers a woman that is a few years younger than him, outgoing, ambitious, and wants to start a family (eventually), most would assume when deciding to enter a romantic relationship he should be more likely to select someone that closely matches, rather than defies, his preferences. If my friend Shelby says she is looking for a dark-haired man with sagacious eyebrows who can simultaneously walk and chew gum, then she should be more likely to enter a relationship with a man that is both intelligent and has eyebrows and that scores high on the sagaciousness scale (assuming he knows what sagaciousness means).
I have not counted the number of studies that focus on “interpersonal attraction”, the general term used to describe research that is concerned with partner preferences, but it is safe to say that there are hundreds upon hundreds of published research studies on this topic.1 So do individual’s preferences for a romantic partner when they are single reflect the traits and personalities of their actual future romantic partners?
Meet the parents! Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments show how choosing a partner can send shockwaves across the generations. Find out how parents meddle in their children’s love lives, and how sexy sons lead to handsome fathers.
Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.
Most young adults use some form of social network, and among those platforms, Facebook is one of the most popular with nearly 1.4 billion monthly users and approximately 890 million users who login each day.1 And while many aspects of people’s lives play out on Facebook, their relationships are a particularly central part of their profiles.2 And although Facebook can be used to display new or happy3 relationships, people have to manage the end of their relationships on Facebook as well.
In SAGE’s newest edition of the Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Stephania Balzarotti (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Italy) discusses the consequences associated with frequently holding back, or suppressing, communication of emotions within marriage.
The work, carried out with Patrizia Velotti (University Genoa, Italy), Semira Tagliabue (Catholic University), Giulio Zavattini (University of Rome, Italy), and Tammy English and James Gross (both of Stanford University), tracked 299 newlywed couples for two years, once in the first 6 months of their marriages and then again about 18 months later. The couple members independently provided information about how often they withhold expressing their emotions from their partners and indicated how satisfied they were in their marriage.
Break-ups are tough. Your world changes and you may be left feeling sad, confused, and lonely; When you lose a relationship, you not only lose your partner, you also lose part of your self.1 In fact, after breaking-up, people have fewer responses to provide to the question “Who am I?”, and they generally feel more unsure about who they are as a person. Given the potential damage to one’s self-concept, recovery from break-up should go more smoothly when individuals focus on restoring their sense of self.
We’ve written a lot about avoidant attachment (see here and here for more on attachment), but here’s a quick summary: Those who are high in avoidance tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy, want less closeness in their relationships, and distrust others more. And when it comes to electronic communication with partners, it turns out that avoidance also is related texting and sexting behaviors, but in different ways.
As we’ve reviewed previously, it’s hard for parents to fight the natural expectations kids develop regarding their right to privacy; as kids grow older and become more independent they naturally desire more privacy which causes them to disclose less and less to their parents. As a result, how much parents know about what their kids do on a daily basis (i.e., parental knowledge) declines during adolescence.
But much of the past work on the topic of parental knowledge focuses on mean, or average, levels of parental knowledge rather than considering the possibility that different types of families might show different patterns of change, or trajectories, in such knowledge over time. Such heterogeneity in parental knowledge would have important implications and applications as it would help researchers identify those families (and their potentially resilient characteristics) that are able to ward off declines in parental knowledge versus those that demonstrate more typical patterns (and, as a parent, I can imagine that information being very useful).
With a little help from my friends: Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments that examine how people use coalitional mate retention tactics to prevent their partners from cheating. Your friends can help to keep your partner faithful.
Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.
Your self-esteem depends in part on your internal “sociometer,” or how socially accepted you feel. To test the importance of social acceptance within romantic relationships (i.e., a “mating sociometer”), researchers measured participants’ self-esteem, self-perceived attractiveness, and romantic self-confidence (“I have no difficulty maintaining a satisfying romantic relationship”). Greater self-perceived attractiveness increased romantic self-confidence, which produced higher self-esteem. It seems looking good makes you more confident about your ability to attract and maintain relationships, which bodes well for your self-esteem.
Bale, C., & Archer, J. (2013). Self-perceived attractiveness, romantic desirability and self-esteem: A mating sociometer perspective. Evolutionary Psychology, 11(1), 68-84.
Love Lab LIVE! is the first-of-its-kind interactive show that puts science to the test on everyone's favorite subjects: love and sex. Want to know how a six becomes a ten on the mating market? Can your nose choose a better partner than your eyes? Find out if your marriage passes the divorce predictor test! Whether you are single, married, or in between, don't miss this live social experiment hosted by America's Relationship Expert, Dr. Wendy Walsh (CNN’s Human Behavior Expert and former co-host of The Doctors.) Lucky audience volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in fun experiments that reveal the science -- and humor -- behind seduction, and even win a free DNA compatibility test provided by InstantChemistry.com. Dr. Wendy is joined by a powerhouse professional panel, including Sexologist, Dr. Patti Britton, Couple’s Therapist, Dr. Adam Sheck, and Dating Coach, Evan Marc Katz. Some talented comedians will keep the night lively.
Love Lab LIVE! is for singles, couples, long-term marrieds, and even threesomes!
This event will sell out. Get your tickets early.
April 18, 2015. Doors open at 6:30. Show starts at 7pm. Tix: $45.
THE EDYE THEATER
AT THE SANTA MONICA COLLEGE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
1310 11TH STREET, SANTA MONICA, CA 90401
Get your ticket here and use the code SOR35 for $10 off the ticket price.
We’ve all heard how “opposites attract." But we're also told that “birds of a feather flock together."
The fact that both of these adages have been passed down for so long suggests that the role of similarity in relationships is not a simple matter.
Most research indicates that we do prefer to affiliate with others who are similar to us—who share our values and interests.1,2,3 But some claim that when it comes to personality traits, we may be most interested in complementarity. This means that for some traits, similarity is most desirable, but for others, we prefer someone who is our opposite.
The type of complementarity that has received the most attention from researchers examines two traits: affiliation (warm and friendly vs. cold and hostile) and control (dominant vs. submissive). According to this theory, we will prefer someone who is similar to us on affiliation (warm people like other warm people, and cold people like other cold people) and opposite on dominance (dominant people pair off with submissive people).4 On the other hand, we might expect that everyone, regardless of their own personality, would prefer positive traits in others. For example, even cold people should still prefer to be with someone who is warm.
Women should know that…
- …men fall in love faster than they do (link).
- …their sense of humor doesn’t typically matter to men (link).
- …contrary to stereotypes men associate romantic images with pleasant more than sexual images (link).
- …if they’re looking for a man who prefers romance to sex, they should look for a male who is low in extroversion (link).
- …men who are more in love act more affectionately (e.g., sharing their feelings, making each other laugh, giving hugs and kisses, etc.) toward them (link).
- …men like cuddling more than they may think (link).
- …healthier men are likely to have happier relationships and more satisfying sex life (link).
- …contrary to popular belief, men are more likely to say “I love you” first in a relationships (link).
- …married women drink more alcohol than single women (link).
- …there is a good chance their male friends find them physically attractive, even if those male friends are in a romantic relationship (link).
In case you missed it, see our list of 10 Essential Relationship Lessons that Men Should Learn about Women here.
The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - New Episode on Facial Contrast and Kim Kardashian's Lower Back
Why do women wear make up? Robert Burriss interviews Alex Jones of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania about his new research into cosmetics and 'facial contrast'. Also, how did Kim Kardashian break the Internet? Was it her massive bum, or the pronounced curvature of her lower back?
Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.
Why do we make sacrifices for our loved ones? Research tells us that our commitment is what motivates our willingness to sacrifice. Sacrifice, after all, is really about navigating a conflict of interest. We encounter these conflicts of interest when our own personal needs and goals are incompatible with those of our partner or our relationship overall (e.g., continuing to watch our favorite Netflix show vs. helping a partner prepare for a job interview). In order to sacrifice, we have to resist the gut-level urge to act selfishly and instead focus on the long-term benefits to our relationship.
Men should know that…
- …being around an attractive woman can impair his cognitive ability (link).
- …women find humor attractive perhaps because it shows his cognitive sophistication and intelligence (link).
- …if they ask a woman for casual sex, she may perceive him as dangerous (link).
- …women were more in love actually initiated sex less often, perhaps as an invitation for seduction (link).
- …women are typically more picky about who they date than men, but that this may have more to do with dating norms (i.e., men are expected to approach women and ask them out rather than vice versa) than with innate differences between men and women (link).
- … on average women are more sexually satisfied than men (link).
- …they benefit from marriage more than women because it leads them to drink less and eat healthier (link).
- … when women fake orgasm, it is likely done to preserve their male partner’s feelings (link).
- …they are likely much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa (link).
- …they are more likely to find women with higher pitched voices more attractive and that a higher voice may indicate higher fertility (link).
Also see our post on the 10 Essential Relationship Lessons that Women Should Learn about Men here.
Anyone that’s been in a long distance relationship knows how hard it can be to be geographically separated from somebody they care about. SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College) in which Dr. Jessica Borelli (Pomona College) was interviewed regarding her research on strategies for successfully manage long distance relationships (the research team also included Hanna Rasmussen also of Pomona College, Margaret Burkhart of Claremont Graduate University, and David Sbarra of the University of Arizona).
The researchers randomly assigned 533 people in long-distance relationships (i.e., separated by at least 100 miles) to either a relational savoring condition or one of two control conditions. All participants, regardless of condition, first engaged in a laboratory task that is capable of putting stress on long distance relationships. In the relational savoring condition, participants were asked to recall and concentrate on a specific past moment during which they felt very positive about the relationship or particularly safe and loved.
We know that being friends with other couples increases closeness in your own relationship (read more about this here). To see if these friendships also boost feelings of love, researchers had couples engage in a “fast friends” self-disclosure task during which they answered questions such as “What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?”. Couples answered questions either alone or with another couple, and then reported feelings of passionate love (e.g., “I will love my partner forever”). Though there were no changes in passionate love when couples disclosed by themselves, those who answered questions with another couple reported greater passionate love in their own relationships.
Welker, K. M., Baker, L., Padilla, A., Holmes, H., Aron, A., & Slatcher, R. B. (2014). Effects of self‐disclosure and responsiveness between couples on passionate love within couples. Personal Relationships, 21(4), 692-708. doi:10.1111/pere.12058
image source: thesaltcollective.org
In a recent episode of Big Bang Theory called “The Intimacy Acceleration”, the gang came across a technique that “makes people fall in love”. Sheldon, the perpetual skeptic, agreed to test the technique out with his best friend’s fiancé, Penny. Though this doesn’t sound like something a friend would typically do, given Sheldon’s “unique” people skills, no one-- including Penny and Sheldon’s respective romantic partners-- were concerned about this arrangement. So, what was the technique? It involved Sheldon and Penny asking each other a set of increasingly in-depth and personal questions capped off with four minutes of staring directly into each other’s eyes.
Spoiler alert...Penny and Sheldon don’t fall in love (good thing for their partners Amy and Leonard); however, they did feel closer to each other. Does relationship science help explain why they felt closer to each other?