IARR members Elizabeth Bernstein and Prof. Marianne Dainton discuss "white lies" in relationships.
Some Experts Call It 'Buffering'; If Not Excessive, It Can Make a Marriage Happier
IARR member and Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Berstein discusses research conducted by fellow members of the organization that was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
What kind of romantic partner do you prefer? Would you like them more or less if you switched seats? In a new study, researchers demonstrated that seemingly irrelevant physical experiences (like what kind of chair you’re sitting on) have significant social effects—specifically, they translate into differences in perceptions of relationship stability and mate preferences.1 This perspective that connects the mental and physical world is sometimes called “embodiment” or “embodied social cognition.”
Participants came into the laboratory for a study on mate preferences and perceptions of others’ relationships. They were randomly assigned to sit in one of two chairs; the control chair was sturdy and stable, while the other chair was intentionally designed to be wobbly (researchers shortened 2 non-adjacent legs of the chair by ¼"). Then participants were asked to indicate how likely they thought other well known people’s marriages would end in the next few years (e.g., Barack & Michelle Obama), while also indicating how much they would prefer personality traits that signify stability (e.g., reliable, trustworthy) in a potential romantic partner. The participants who sat in the wobbly chair rated others’ relationships as less stable (more likely to break up/divorce), while at the same time expressing a stronger preference for “stable” traits in potential partners for themselves.
The authors concluded this paper by noting that while people tend to assume their preferences for romantic partners are relatively constant across time and different situations, even something as subtle as the type of chair you sit in on a given day can alter what you believe to be true about others’ relationships and what you desire for your own relationships.
1Kille, D. R., Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V. (2013). Tall, Dark, and Stable: Embodiment Motivates Mate Selection Preferences. Psychological Science, 24(1) 112–114.
Recently, people in the mainstream media have been talking about how cohabitation (living with a partner out of wedlock) impacts marriage, beginning with a New York Times article, continuing on Slate.com (here and here) and The Daily Beast. The question at hand concerns the so-called “cohabitation effect,” or the idea that the mere act of living together causes less marriage satisfaction later on and increases the likelihood that those marriages will end in divorce.
Are couples who start having sex right away not as happy in the long run? A new study has found that heterosexual romantic partners who had sex within the first month of seeing each other reported lower levels of relationship satisfaction, communication, and commitment compared to partners who waited six months or longer to begin having sex.
A number of theories attempt to explain why married women tend to do more housework than their husbands (note: none of them are called the “Men Are Lazy Theory”). Among the explanations offered is the “power,” or “bargaining,” perspective. Here, so the argument goes, people who make more money outside the home can essentially get by with doing less inside the home because their extra income ‘allots’ them that luxury (i.e., I bring home the bacon. You cook it. Even-Steven). This theory holds up when the husband makes more money, but the theory falls on its face when you look at families where the wife brings in more than 50% of the household income. In these cases, the women actually domore housework than women in equally-paid marriages, whereas the men doless than their lower-paid counterparts. That’s no typo. The thinking is that because these wife$<husband$ marriages violate traditional gender norms, the women and men in these marriages try to ‘fit back in’ by acting more stereotypically in their homes, or what researchers refer to as doing gender through housework.
Scientists who want to study what people find sexually arousing usually face a few major challenges. For one thing, simply asking people how aroused they feel in response to a sexual image or video is problematic because not everyone is willing to admit what turns them on. To get around this difficulty, some researchers have turned to instruments that measure the amount of blood that flows to the genitals. However, these tools are rather invasive because they require participants to attach electronic recording devices to their nether regions, which not everyone is comfortable doing and consequently limits the types of people willing to participate in such research. Fortunately, a new study has found a deceptively simple way of dealing with all of these issues that may provide a more reliable gauge of sexual arousal and sexual orientation. And all you have to do is look into a subject’s eyes.
Sexual fantasies exist to serve many different functions, from enhancing sexual pleasure to expressing hidden desires. Having fantasies is considered to be a normal and healthy part of human sexuality. In fact, research has found that frequent sexual fantasizing is linked to having a more satisfying sex life. To date, most research on sexual fantasies has focused on describing common fantasy themes, while very little work has considered where sexual fantasies actually come from and why fantasy content varies so much from person to person. A new set of studies has found that at least part of our fantasy content may stem from attempts to deal with personal feelings of insecurity.
It is common to hear of people experiencing “cold feet” or doubts about getting married as their wedding day approaches. Family and friends may say that these feelings are natural and something that everyone experiences. However, a new study from UCLA suggests that “cold feet” may be a sign of more serious trouble. Researchers asked over 450 married couples about their premarital doubts and found that 47% of husbands and 38% of wives reported uncertainty about getting married. Women with more doubts during their engagement were more likely to get divorced within a 4 year period, even after accounting for a variety of other possible explanations such as neuroticism, conflict during the engagement, cohabitation, and current marital satisfaction. So, ladies, those prenuptial cold feet may be trying to tell you something after all.
Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2012, September 3). Do cold feet warn of trouble ahead? Premarital uncertainty and four-year marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029912Doubts about marriage/cold feet
The main reason marriages break up is not conflict, communication problems, or sexual incompatibility," says relationship researcher Terri L. Orbuch, Ph.D., who followed 373 couples for over 22 years as part of a marriage study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Five Predictors (and Five Not So Good Predictors) of Relationship Success
Last week we posted a quiz to see how much our readers knew regarding the predictors of relationship stability (or success). Overall, it looks like we've got some work to do; the average score on the quiz was 48% (remember, random guessing should average 50%). The questions in the quiz were inspired by some of my work on understanding what factors influence relationship outcomes. One of my main research areas is the role of commitment in predicting the “success” of dating relationships (using the term loosely; i.e., staying together vs. breaking-up). However, there are certainly other factors that predict relationship success, so we did a study to look at all of the factors that may be associated with breakup over time.
IARR is pleased to announce that IARR member Dr. Terri Orbuch, Professor of Sociology at Oakland University and Research Professor at the University of Michigan, will be appearing on the new Katie Couric talk show on ABC. You can watch this segment on MONDAY OCTOBER 22. RESCHEDULED! Check back later for details. Please check your local listings for the channel number and time. Dr. Orbuch is scheduled to appear in the second half of the program (e.g., 3:30 ET for Detroiters). Drawing on the work of close relationship scholars, Dr. Orbuch does radio and television shows out of Detroit as well as magazine columns. In media appearance she is also known as the Love Doctor.
Research from multiple countries around the world has found that men tend to place more emphasis on youth and beauty while women tend to emphasize status and resources in their search for sexual and romantic partners. The sheer number of studies conducted and the diversity of the samples utilized suggest that these gender differences in mating preferences are nearly universal. The explanation for why these differences ever emerged remains a hot topic of debate, with some theorists arguing that they reflect an evolved adaptation and others that they are a product of persistent societal inequalities that favor men. A new set of studies published in Psychological Science appears to provide some support for the latter perspective.
When looking for partners, we are attracted to others who are similar to us. Whether the similarity lies in personality, values, or political views, individuals tend to seek those with ideals comparable to their own. However, in a recent survey of college students, the majority indicated they’d be willing to date someone with a political affiliation different than their own. Yet this willingness may not result in stable relationships.
One study found that financial disagreements are often the most distressing for couples: They're more intense, last longer and are more likely to persist unresolved than other conflict topics.
Please note that the analysis and opinions offered in the links above are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily represent the perspective of other IARR members or the organization at large.