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The importance of responsiveness

Week of Aug 22, 2016

New research indicates that there are ways that couples can sustain -- or relight -- their passion

Many couples find that their sexual desire has dwindled over time. It's not unusual for partners who could not keep their hands off each to gradually lose interest. But new research indicates that there are ways that couples can sustain -- or relight -- their passion. 

Gurit E. Birnbaum, Harry T. Reis, Moran Mizrahi, Yaniv Kanat-Maymon, Omri Sass, Chen Granovski-Milner. Intimately Connected: The Importance of Partner Responsiveness for Experiencing Sexual Desire.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2016; DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000069
Research summary available at Science Daily.

The secret to a long-lasting marriage

Week of Feb 11, 2016

Tips from the experts and people who've been wed for decades

The secret to a long-lasting marriage: Tips from the experts and people who've been wed for decades
By Christina Breda Antoniades February 11 at 8:45 AM  

What Happens to Kids When Parents Fight

Week of Jan 27, 2016

Blog post from the Greater Good Science Center

Conflict between parents is inevitable—but it doesn’t have to hurt kids. Here’s how to turn a disagreement into a positive lesson.
"Children are like emotional Geiger counters,” says E. Mark Cummings, psychologist at Notre Dame University, who, along with colleagues, has published hundreds of papers over twenty years on the subject. Kids pay close attention to their parents’ emotions for information about how safe they are in the family, Cummings says. When parents are destructive, the collateral damage to kids can last a lifetime. Read more.
The Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California, Berkeley, studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.


Is Living Together All It's Cracked Up to Be?

Week of Jan 14, 2016

How & why marriage & cohabitation differ

According to a recent headline in the Washington Post, “Living together is basically the same as marriage, study finds.” Is that true? I do not think so, but it is worth grappling with the study and related findings. Read more.

How your credit score could predict the success of your relationship, in 4 charts

Week of Oct 23, 2015

Blog post

Most people know that their credit score will affect their ability to take out a loan, rent or own a home, and may even be factored into hiring decisions. But recent research from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve from Geng Li, Jessica Hayes and Economic Studies Fellow Jane Dokko suggests that it could actually offer important insight into another aspect of your life: who’ll you end up with romantically—and how long you’ll stay together.

Read more from this Brookings Now post by Alison Burke.

Safety as the Hallmark of Successful Marriages

Week of Aug 10, 2015

Scott Stanley writes about the critical role that types of safety play in having a “healthy” marriage.

Scott Stanley
When you think of safety, what comes to mind? OSHA standards for workplace practices? Guidelines for preventing accidents at home? How about factors that contribute to or characterize success in marriage? That’s my focus here. Specifically, I focus on the critical role that types of safety play in having a “healthy” marriage.
Why the emphasis on healthy? The reason is historical. “Healthy marriage” became an important way to express one of the chief goals of efforts over the past 15 years to help people strengthen their relationships and families through community-level programs funded by the government. As various leaders in this movement expressed early on, marriage for the sake of marriage was not the goal as much as were healthy marriages (and relationships); those are the types of relationships that most contribute to adult, child, and family well-being. While there remain numerous ongoing discussions (and arguments) about programs and strategies, the emphasis on healthy was helpful, and it remains so to this day.
So, what are the characteristics of healthy marriages and family relationships that help adults and children to thrive? My colleague Howard Markman and I have long argued that one of the best ways to answer this question is by considering four types of safety:  physical safety, emotional safety, commitment safety, and community safety. These categories encompass the vast array of research and theory about success in relationships, marriage, and family—even where the literatures rarely use the term “safety.”

Love, factually: Gerontologist finds the formula to a happy marriage

Week of Jul 23, 2015

Cornell University Legacy Project

A gerontologist has uncovered common advice for couples walking down the aisle or decades into marriage. To capture the voice of lived experience, the study included a random national survey of nearly 400 Americans age 65 and older, asking how to find a compatible partner and other advice on love and relationships. In subsequent in-person interviews with more than 300 long-wedded individuals -- those in unions of 30, 40, 50, or more years -- the study captured more insights for overcoming common marriage troubles. The team of researchers interviewed divorced individuals, too, asking how others might avoid marital breakups.
The top five lessons from the elders:
  • Learn to communicate
  • Get to know your partner very well before marrying
  • Treat marriage as an unbreakable, lifelon commitment
  • Learn to work as a team
  • Choose a partner who is very similar to you
Read more: Cornell University. "Love, factually: Gerontologist finds the formula to a happy marriage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2015.
Find out more about the Legacy Project at:

Is partner responsiveness a key to good health?

Week of Jul 13, 2015

Study published in Psychological Science

Science of RelationshipsIn a study recently published in Psychological Science, Slatcher, Selcuk, and Ong tested a specific path through which relationships—in this case, romantic relationships—might influence health. They predicted that one aspect of romantic relationships that may be particularly important for health is partner responsiveness.
A responsive partner is someone who makes you feel understood (the feeling that this person “gets” you), validated (they respect your perspectives and feelings), and cared for (they’re concerned about your well-being, and they want the best for you). In a previous post, I talked about how having a responsive partner is like navigating a relationship in easy-mode: it’s much easier to work through issues with a partner who is understanding, validating, and caring, compared to when the partner lacks these characteristics. But there is also some research suggesting that people might in fact be physically healthier when they feel that their partner is responsive to their needs.

8 Ideas for Protecting Your Marriage from Divorce

Week of Mar 25, 2015

Scott Stanley, March 12, 2015 Family Studies Blog

What can couples do to avoid divorce? Hundreds of books, articles, workshops, and lectures have tackled that question. If there were a surefire way to “divorce-proof” a marriage, we would have found it by now. It doesn’t exist. But there are some things married couples can do to minimize their risk of divorce. In a recent piece, I gave advice to singles and dating couples about how to lower their future odds of marital breakdown. Now, I’m focusing on those already married. Read more.

8 facts on love, marriage, and childbearing in America

Week of Feb 14, 2015

Brookings Blog Post

Many Americans are getting married later in life, if at all, while still having children outside of marriage. Learn more from these 8 facts on love, marriage, and childbearing in America. Read more.

Commitment and lasting love

Week of Jan 09, 2015

Scott Stanley on why commitment is so important in lasting love

Dr. Stanley is a research professor who conducts studies on marriage and romantic relationships. Follow him at his blog: Sliding vs Deciding

How To Craft An Empirically-Supported Marriage

Week of Dec 09, 2014

Scientific America Blog post

Ceremony readings from the wedding of two social psychologists. Read more.

Are Gadget-Free Bedrooms the Secret to a Happy Relationship?

Week of Dec 05, 2014

Nick Bilton | NYTIMES

Are Gadget-Free Bedrooms the Secret to a Happy Relationship?
Nick Bilton | NYTIMES
"A study published last month in The International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy, for example, found that when one person in a relationship is using some forms of technology more than the other, it makes the second person feel ignored and insecure. Or as your therapist may say, it brings up a whole lot of abandonment issues"
Read more at the New York Times

Masters of Love

Week of Nov 11, 2014

The Atlantic - summary of John Gottman research on lasting relationships

Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.
The Masters and Disasters of Love and Marriage

In Relationships, Be Deliberate

Week of Aug 21, 2014

National Marriage Project Report

The data show that couples who slid through their relationship transitions ultimately had poorer marital quality than those who made intentional decisions about major milestones. How couples make choices matters.
Read more (link To The Atlantic article)

Silent treatment speaks volumes about a relationship

Week of Aug 04, 2014

Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Silent treatment speaks volumes about a relationship
Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Although researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict, an analysis of 74 studies, based on more than 14,000 participants, shows that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other, the harm is both emotional and physical. Read more.

How and Why to Ban the Silent Treatment from Your Relationship

Week of Jun 17, 2014

Elizabeth Bernstein | The Wall Street Journal

It's part of the demand-withdraw pattern, and both partners have to take responsibility to change it 
A meta-analysis of 74 studies encompassing more than 14,000 participants, published in the March 2014 Communication Monographs, found the demand-withdraw pattern to be one of the most damaging types of relationship conflict and one of the hardest patterns to break. It often is a predictor of divorce.

Letting yourself be a little crazy

Week of May 23, 2014

— crazy for your partner — pays off

How to live happily ever after, according to science
by Eric Barker The Week
"As Daniel Jones, author of Love Illuminated, explains: we spend our youth asking "How do I find love?" and midlife asking "How do I get it back?"
Anyone in a relationship or who plans on being in one needs to know how to keep love alive over the long term. But how do you learn the secret to this? Everyone is happy to explain "how they met" but few give the details on "how they stayed together."
So let's look at what science has to say." . . .


6 Common Habits for Happy Marriage

Week of Mar 14, 2014

International Survey

After interviewing 10,000 couples in 110 countries around the world, bestselling author of "Happy Wives Club" Fawn Weaver has identified six practices that happy partners have in common. Some you might not expect. 

6. Put Marriage Before Children
5. If the Bond is Solid, Sex will Follow
4. Spirituality Can Be a Stabilizer
3. Rituals Enhance Romance
2. Divorce is Not an Option
1. Aretha Had it Right

Couples, the Internet, and Social Media

Week of Feb 21, 2014

New Pew Research Center Survey

How American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics, and emotional intimacy within their relationships 
The Internet, cell phones, and social media have become key actors in the lives of many American couples. Technology is a source of support and communication as well as tension, and couples say it has both good and bad impacts on their relationships, a new Pew Research Center survey says. Read More

Watch a movie together and talk about it.

Week of Feb 04, 2014

Univ of Rochester Study

A University of Rochester study finds that watching and discussing movies about relationships is as effective in lowering divorce rates as other, more intensive early marriage counseling programs. Read More 

Want to Stop Arguing and Change Spouse's Behavior? Start With Mirror

Week of Jan 07, 2014

Article by Elizabeth Bernstein (Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2014)

Your best chance of transforming someone else—and the dynamic in your relationship—is to demonstrate your willingness to alter your own actions, experts say.

Why Rate Your Marriage? A Numerical Score Can Help Couples Talk About Problems

Week of Dec 18, 2013

Therapists Say They Learn a Lot When Couples Commit to Numbers in Areas Like Trust, Teamwork, Physical Intimacy

How would you rate your relationship?
Researchers often rely on rate-your-relationship questionnaires in studies of why some marriages last while others crumble. Therapists say couples can benefit from occasionally using these tools to step back and get a clinical view of behaviors, healthy and unhealthy, in their relationship. The rating process can help start a discussion, clarify strengths and weaknesses and, hopefully, lead to marital growth. Read the rest of this Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Bernstein

Five Predictors of Relationship Success

Week of Nov 14, 2013

(and Five Not So Good Predictors)

Based on the results of the meta-analysis, here are five good markers of relationship success:
  1. Commitment, or one’s long-term orientation and attachment to one’s partner is a very good predictor. It’s not surprising that those intending to stay in their relationships are less likely to break up. 
  2. Positive illusions – We’ve written about it before, but viewing your relationship as better than it really is can be beneficial for its success.
  3. IOS – The “Inclusion of Other in the Self” Scale, developed by Dr. Art Aron and colleagues,4 is a really ingenious way of assessing relationship closeness using a series of overlapping circles (i.e., Venn diagrams).
  4. Love is especially interesting because of the diversity in how love is defined across different studies. It’s conceptualized and measured in many different ways, but what the various definitions of love have in common is their utility in predicting relationship stability.
  5. Network support – Although this technically wasn’t in the Top 5, I want to highlight it because it was a surprisingly good predictor of break-up. Having friends and family approve of and support relationships is associated with their long-term success. As a social psychologist, I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that external influences are important in relationships, but I admittedly didn’t anticipate the strength of this finding. More
Dr. Benjamin Le - Science of Relationships 
Dr. Le's research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.

Online Dating & Relationships

Week of Oct 24, 2013

Pew Internet & Life Project report

One in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app; 66% of these online daters have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app, and 23% have met a spouse or long term partner through these sites. Public attitudes toward online dating have become more positive in recent years, but many users also report negative experiences.
Pew Internet & Life Project 

Researcher finds correlation between financial arguments, decreased relationship satisfaction

Week of Oct 16, 2013

Study published in Family Relations, Vol 61, Issue 4

"Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce," said Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning. "It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money -- for both men and women." Read more.

This study using longitudinal data from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families and Households is published in Family Relations Volumne 61, Issue 4.


The Key to Happy Relationships? It’s Not All About Communication

Week of Sep 23, 2013

An Internet-based study involving 2,201 participants

In an Internet-based study involving 2,201 participants referred by couples counsellors, scientists decided to test, head to head, seven “relationship competencies” . In addition to communication and conflict resolution, the researchers tested for sex or romance, stress management, life skills, knowledge of partners and self-management to see which ones were the best predictors of relationship satisfaction. More

Sleepless nights can worsen lovers' fights

Week of Jul 15, 2013

UC Berkeley Study

Relationship problems can keep us awake at night. But new research from UC Berkeley suggests that sleepless nights also can worsen lovers’ fights.
UC Berkeley psychologists Amie Gordon and Serena Chen have found that people are much more likely to lash out at their romantic partners over relationship conflicts after a bad night’s sleep. “Couples who fight more are less happy and less healthy,” said Gordon, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study published online in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Happily married means a healthier ever after

Week of Jul 08, 2013

Research out of Brigham Young Univeristy suggests happy marriages live less “in sickness” but enjoy more of life “in health.”

New Brigham Young University research finds that people in happy marriages live less “in sickness” but enjoy more of life “in health.” In a 20-year longitudinal study tracking health and marriage quality, BYU family life researcher Rick Miller found that as the quality of marriage holds up over the years, physical health holds up too. “There’s evidence from previous research that marital conflict leads to poor health,” Miller said. “But this study also shows happy marriages have a preventative component that keeps you in good health over the years.” Read more.

Age and Conflict

Week of Jul 02, 2013

Does age affect how married couples handle conflict?

Researchers at the Relationships, Emotion and Health Lab at San Fransico State University followed 127 middle-aged and older long-term married couples across 13 years, checking in to see how they communicated about conflicts from housework to finances.

The researchers found that while most aspects of demand-withdraw communication remained steady over time, both husbands and wives "increased their tendency to demonstrate avoidance during conflict," reports Sarah Holley director of the Lab. That is, when faced with an area of disagreement, both spouses were more likely to do things such as change the subject or divert attention from the conflict. Avoidance is generally thought to be damaging to relationships as it gets in the way of conflict resolution. For younger couples, who may be grappling with newer issues, this may be particularly true. But for older couples, who have had decades to voice their disagreements, avoidance may be a way to move the conversation away from "toxic" areas and toward more neutral or pleasant topics, the researchers suggest.

Read more at Science Daily or a prepublished version of the study at the Relationships, Emotion, and Health Lab at San Francisco State University.

The Perils of Giving Advice

Week of Jun 25, 2013

Elizabeth Bernstein article on advice giving in marital relationships

Bernstein describes the results of a series of six studies that followed 100 couples for the first seven years of marriage. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that both husbands and wives feel lower marital satisfaction when they are given too much advice from a spouse, as opposed to too little. And—surprise!—unsolicited advice is the most damaging kind. Read more.

Follow this link for the abstract of the study published in the Journal of Family Psychology: Validity and utility of a multidimensional model of received support in intimate relationships.Barry, Robin A.; Bunde, Mali; Brock, Rebecca L.; Lawrence, Erika Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 23(1), Feb 2009, 48-57.