Tag Archives: #relationship

How Can You Avoid Settling in Your Relationship?

Research shows why the solution to settling isn’t having higher expectations.

Make no mistake, expectations for today’s relationships are higher than ever.[1] Thanks to technology, you have hundreds of options for partners a swipe or click away. With so many possibilities, relationships are a choice. That freedom is a lot of responsibility. It also complicates decision-making and makes evaluating your relationship more difficult.  

No one wants to settle. A love life full of mediocrity isn’t an option. It’s relationship F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). Careful though, if you’re too concerned about being single, you’re more likely to accept a relationship that falls short of your expectations.[2] You don’t want just any romantic partner, you want the right person for you. The secret to avoiding settling seems simple: Have high standards and demand only the best. 

Only the Best

The perfect relationship. If you could build it, what would it look like? Perhaps more importantly, how does your current relationship stack up? Perfection is a lofty goal, but for something as important as your relationship, it can feel like the right goal. Researchers refer to people who always want the absolute best possible option as maximizers.[3] Maximizer personalities are picky and will exhaust all options and explore all possibilities to secure the flawless partner. Only the best will do.

If you’re thinking long-term in your relationship, the maximizer method seems like common sense. However, there are hidden side effects. Call it the myth of maximization, because the research reveals that maximizers report, on average, more regret, depression, and feeling threatened by others who are doing better than them.[4] Maximizers also seem to experience lower self-esteem, optimism, happiness, and life satisfaction. 

Here’s another problem: Maximizers prefer reversible decisions or outcomes that are not absolute or final.[5] That’s not how we typically approach love. In our long-term relationships, we tend to prefer more of a “til death do us part” approach. However, the maximizer mentality may encourage an “until I find something better” approach. Temporary contentment and happiness due to the possibility of something slightly better on the horizon. 

What You’re Missing

Not only does this feel shallow, it’s shortsighted. The constant search for upgrades and maximization opens you up to an even bigger mistake: failing to recognize the truly great relationship that’s right in front of you. 

There’s an old saying: “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” In other words, before you let go and lose something valuable, take matters into your own hands. Instead of wondering, “Is there something better out there?” the better question to ask yourself may be, “What am I taking for granted or failing to appreciate in my current relationship?” 

Rather than cast aside a great relationship because you’re worried about settling, find the “knots” that help you to hold on so you can avoid the mistake of letting it slip through your grasp.

References: [1] Finkel, E. J., Cheung, E. O., Emery, L. F., Carswell, K. L., & Larson, G. M. (2015). The suffocation model: Why marriage in America is becoming an all-or-nothing institution. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(3), 238–244. [2] Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Maxwell, J. A., Joel, S., Peragine, D., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2013). Settling for less out of fear of being single. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6), 1049–1073. [3] Parker, A. M., de Bruin, W. B., & Fischhoff, B. (2007). Maximizers versus satisficers: Decision-making styles, competence, and outcomes. Judgment and Decision Making, 2(6), 342–350. [4] Schwartz, B. Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1178– 1197. [5] Shiner, R. L. (2015). Maximizers, satisficers, and their satisfaction with and preferences for reversible versus irreversible decisions. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(8), 896–903.

Copyright of this article totally belongs to Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., who is a Professor and former Chair in the Department of Psychology at Monmouth University. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

Do You Often Feel Disappointed in Your Relationship? (Psychology)

There are bound to be times when your partner’s behavior falls short of expectations. Research on close relationships suggests what might be behind your constant disappointment.

You have high expectations for yourself and expectations that are as high, or higher, for your partner. In a close relationship, it’s natural to feel that you can count on your partner to be reliable, consistent, and responsive. You may also feel that your partner should agree with you, if not all, at least for some of the time. Whether it’s in your overall world view or in decisions about money, the children, or how to spend your time, you’ve come to believe that your partner will support you on most occasions.

It’s possible that you’ve also come to expect that your partner will see eye-to-eye with you regarding various social issues. Your partner may tend to be a little to the left or a little to the right of you, but there has always been a general acceptance of each other’s positions. Should you learn that your partner is taking the polar opposite side of your own position in the wake of the tumultuous first few weeks of 2021,  you could feel so dismayed that you wonder if you will ever again be able to come to any kind of mutual understanding and respect.

In general, that sense of disappointment in your partner can come from any source, not just current events. You could feel that your partner betrays you by not following the previously-agreed on set of household chores. Maybe your partner refuses to wear a facemask, spends too much on online shopping, no longer pays attention to healthy habits of eating or working out, or does nothing but play videogames, all behaviors you interpret as representing a rejection of your own values and priorities.

According to Ariel University’s Eliane Sommerfeld, writing in a 2019 article, “disappointment is one of the most frequent and intense emotions people experience in close relationships” (p. 1476). Yet, as common as it is to feel disappointed with a relationship partner, there’s surprisingly little research on the topic. Across a set of 4 studies, the Israeli researcher dug into the concept of close relationship disappointment, culminating in a 6-factor questionnaire which she then used to describe the personalities of the frequently let-down.

As Sommerfeld noted, there are two types of disappointments in close relationships. When you’re disappointed with an outcome, your reaction reflects your feeling that your expectation wasn’t met. For example, you might believe your sports team should have easily won a game for which they were heavily favored. When you’re disappointed in a relationship, your feeling of being let down falls into the category of what Sommerfeld calls “person-related disappointment.”

There are a host of unpleasant emotional reactions following person-related disappointment that don’t occur when it’s an outcome that fails to meet your expectations. When your partner lets you down, you open yourself up to feeling abandoned while also feeling that your partner is morally wrong. You’re also likely to feel disillusioned because it’s clear now that your partner isn’t living up to the standards you felt you both shared.  In the process, you might also try to distance yourself from your partner.

Although your feelings of being disappointed could have an objective basis (i.e. your partner really does violate your shared moral code), Sommerfeld notes that it’s also possible for you to be the kind of person who generally sees disappointment in many of your relationships. People high on the personality trait of neuroticism, according to this viewpoint, generally experience a range of negative emotions. Adding to this trait, the quality of insecure attachment can also come into play. You might be particularly sensitive to feelings of abandonment, and so are likely to define your partner’s deviation from your point of view to constitute a form of rejection of you as a person, not of your viewpoint.

Prior to developing the 6-factor disappointment measure, Sommerfeld first asked samples of undergraduate participants to describe events in which they were disappointed in their partner. This gave her a set of potential scenarios to use in the second study, in which she asked participants to respond based on the way they would feel if these events occurred to them. These responses allowed her to develop a set of items which she then subjected to statistical analysis. Finally, using the 6 scales, the Israeli researcher compared scores on the disappointment scales to measures of personality based on the Five Factor Model of neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, consciousness, and extraversion.

Turning now to the 6-factor scale, see how you would reply to these sample items regarding a recent disappointment with your own partner:

Overwhelming emotional distress: “I felt my world had collapsed.”

Distrust, hatred, and disgust toward the other: “I suddenly felt I didn’t care for that person.”

Astonishment with the other’s behavior: “I really could not understand how he/she could do that.”

Efforts toward forgiveness and reparation: “I tried to figure out how we could have good relations despite what happened.”

Concealment of emotions: “I tried not to show my feelings to others.”

Effort to generate positive thoughts and to overcome: “I tried to console myself and to accept what happened.“

The two “positive” factors, involving efforts to forgive and look on the bright side, stand out from the other 4 which reflect what you might regard as straight-up disappointment. The reason these positive factors were included was that, according to Sommerfeld, there can indeed be a push-pull aspect to disappointment when the other person involved is one to whom you’re generally positively attached. Of all the scales, astonishment received the highest average score, but respondents also scored relatively high on that last scale of trying to derive something positive from the experience.

With this general background in mind, you can now perhaps understand how personality might factor into the overall pattern of disappointment scores. People high on neuroticism, the tendency to experience negative emotions, were most likely to agree with the distress factor and least likely to be able to take something positive away from the experience. Those high in attachment anxiety and avoidance, additionally, were most likely to agree with items on the distress and distrust scales. Participants high in avoidance, furthermore, were most likely to try to conceal their emotion.

With those seemingly contradictory facets of disappointment as outrage and forgiveness, Sommerfeld notes that they may accurately reflect the very essence of disappointment with someone to whom you are close. As she states, “Undoubtedly, disappointment has the potential to be very emotionally confusing and challenging” (p. 1487). Yet, the fact that personality and attachment play into this response suggest that it’s not just one specific event that can trigger this internal confusion. You may, by virtue of your personality and typical feelings of relationship security, be particularly primed to be let down by your partner. At that point, you might ask whether it is indeed your partner letting you down, or whether this event has triggered your own anxieties and insecurities.

That disappointment-stimulating event, then, may have as much to do with your own representation of your relationship in your mind as with your partner’s actual behavior. To ease the process of overcoming the pain and moving on, the Israeli author suggests that you recognize the fact that disappointments are inevitable. Furthermore, you might also remind yourself that disappointment can indeed be a two-way street and it’s possible that you disappoint your partner more than you might care to admit.

To sum up, experiences within a close relationship can become ones that leave you feeling frustrated, annoyed, and abandoned. Learning to view disappointment as part of the cost of closeness can help you become a more understanding, if not forgiving, partner.

References: Sommerfeld, A. (2019). The experience of disappointment in the context of interpersonal relations: An exploration using a mixed method approach. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, Vol 38(6), 1476-1489. doi: 10.1007/s12144-017-9703-8 

This article is republished here psychology today under common creative licenses

The Power of Touch (Psychology)

New research shows the benefits of affectionate touch, even for those who think they don’t need it.

The Japanese have a word that they believe they borrowed from English, but you won’t find it in any dictionary. When the Japanese use this word, they’re referring to the importance of touch in close relationships. They call this skinship, that is, a relationship built on and nurtured by skin-to-skin contact.

“Skinship” doesn’t just refer to the intimate touch of sexual partners. Rather, it also includes family members and even some friends as well. Babies and small children, in particular, need a lot of skinship time with their caregivers, but we all need some skin-to-skin contact with those who are close to us.

The Japanese understand intuitively what Western psychologists have only come to realize after extensive research—namely that affectionate touch is a powerful way to communicate intimacy in close relationships. The frequency of affectionate touch is associated with both physical and psychological well-being, and those who are deprived of it suffer from depression, anxiety, and a host of other maladies.

Nevertheless, there are persons who recoil from physical contact with others, even those close to them. These people also report more psychological problems than the general population. Perhaps this is because they unwittingly deprive themselves of the affectionate touch they need. But it could also be that physical contact has the opposite effect on them, increasing psychological discomfort rather than alleviating it. This is the issue that University of Lausanne (Switzerland) psychologist Anik Debrot and colleagues explored in a study they recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Debrot and colleagues first consider the role of attachment style in intimate relationships. Attachment style refers to your way of interacting with your romantic partner during times of stress, and it first develops in infancy through exchanges with your caregiver. Infants who learn that their mothers will reliably meet their needs develop a secure attachment style, and as adults, they are generally trusting of others, especially intimates.

In contrast, infants who learn that their caregivers don’t reliably meet their needs will develop one of two different types of insecure attachment styles. Some develop an anxious attachment style, in which they’re extremely fussy in order to capture their mother’s attention. As adults, they’re clingy and demanding, and they frequently worry that their lovers will abandon them.

Other infants develop an avoidant attachment style, whereby they learn to self-soothe. As adults, they prize their independence, and they feel uncomfortable getting too close in intimate relationships. These are the people who feel little desire for physical contact outside of sex, and they dread the affectionate touches and hugs that others try to inflict upon them.

Debrot and colleagues’ research question was straightforward: Do people with avoidant attachment style recoil from touch because it provides them no psychological good or even harms them? Or might they benefit from touch just as much as others do if only they could overcome their deep reluctance to engage in physical contact with intimates?

To explore these questions, the researchers conducted three separate studies. The first was a survey of more than 1,600 individuals who were in an intimate relationship. Questions asked about attachment style, well-being, and touch behaviors, including types (caressing, cuddling, kissing, and so on) and frequency (ranging from never to four or more times a day).

The results showed, as expected, that people who touched their partners more frequently also reported higher levels of well-being. Furthermore, as expected, those with an avoidant attachment style generally indicated less frequent physical contact with their partner, and they also exhibited lower levels of well-being. However, some avoidantly attached individuals claimed that they did touch their partner often, and these persons enjoyed levels of well-being similar to others who reported frequent physical contact.

This last finding suggests that persons with an avoidant attachment style can benefit from intimate touch just as others do, and at any rate, it certainly doesn’t harm them. However, we always need to be wary when interpreting the data from self-reports such as these. So, to further explore the connection between avoidant attachment and the benefits of touch, Debrot and colleagues invited 66 couples to visit their lab.

When they arrived at the lab, the couples individually responded to surveys about attachment style, well-being, and touch similar to those in the first study. They were then asked to engage in a series of conversations with each other about times they had made a sacrifice for their partner or felt strong love for their partner. These conversations were recorded, and afterward, observers counted the number of times they touched each other. The participants also indicated their level of positive feeling before and after each conversation.

The results of this second study were similar to those of the first. But one new finding was that a high frequency of touching during a difficult conversation didn’t necessarily boost positive feelings right away. Rather, the researchers speculate that it’s the general pattern of touching in the relationship that leads to higher levels of well-being overall.

The third study was a 28-day diary study consisting of 98 couples in which each partner reported attachment style on the first day and then noted positive mood and touch behaviors on a daily basis thereafter. The results confirmed the findings of the two previous studies, but in addition, it provided new information about the impact of attachment style on the partner. That is to say, not only did those individuals with an avoidant attachment style report lower levels of positive mood, so did their partners.

However, avoidantly attached individuals who were receptive to their partner’s touch advances generally reported higher levels of positive mood. This clearly indicates that physical contact is beneficial even for those who tend to pull back when significant others try to touch. Thus, Debrot and colleagues suggest that therapists develop techniques for helping those with an avoidant attachment style to overcome their aversion to non-sexual physical contact.

Most people are comforted by the “skinship” connections they have with intimate partners and close family members. Yet people with an avoidant attachment style tend to recoil from physical contact, even though it would do them good if only they were open to it.

Although attachment style is set in childhood, there’s plenty of evidence that it can change in adulthood. This is especially true when you can develop enough self-awareness to know your attachment style, and if you have a partner who is supportive of your personal growth.

References: Debrot, A., Stellar, J. E., MacDonald, G., Keltner, D., & Impett, E. A. (2020). Is touch in romantic relationships universally beneficial for psychological well-being? The role of attachment avoidance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0146167220977709

This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

Should You Worry When Your Partner “Needs Some Space?” (Psychology)

Wendy Patrick shed some light on personal and relational reasons for taking a break.

“I just need some space.” Hearing these words from a partner can create anxiety, fear, and a sense of dread. But according to research, it shouldn’t. Far from signaling doom and gloom, seeking solitude, at least in short periods of time, can actually help, not harm, your relationship.

The Sanctity of Solitude

Jerry M. Burger, in a piece entitled “Individual Differences in Preference for Solitude,” notes that for some people, being alone is a desirable, pleasant experience, which does not make them lonely, and may actually be beneficial through stimulating self-reflection.[i] Many of us can relate to this, either personally or with respect to others in our family or social circle, who genuinely enjoy their own company. Being alone, they do not experience solitary confinement, but comfort. They may, in fact, crave this special time to relax and recharge, after which time they are more receptive and responsive—to you.

Solitude can also be calming and helpful to regulate emotions. Thuy-vy T. Nguyen et al. (2018) examined ways in which solitude impacts affective self-regulation.[ii] The scientists began by acknowledging that some prior research demonstrates that solitude can produce positive experiences when people use it for relaxation, privacy, creative pursuits, self-reflection, and regulation of emotions.

In their own research, they found that solitude generally deactivates affective experiences, reducing the effects of both positive and negative high-arousal. They found these effects only occurred when people were alone, not with others, and found this effect was present whether or not someone was engaging in activity while alone, such as reading. Perhaps most relevant to relational dynamics, they discovered that solitude can produce relaxation and reduce stress when people actively chose to spend time alone—which could explain the request for “space.”

Home Alone: Accommodating Aloneliness

Another reason to accommodate (reasonable) requests for time alone is that researchers have determined that some people not only crave time alone, but feel anxious when they do not get enough.

Robert J. Coplan et al. in a piece entitled “Seeking More Solitude” (2019), introduced the concept of aloneliness, described as negative feelings associated with a perception that a person is not spending sufficient time alone.[iii] Exploring its role emotionally, Coplan et al. found that an affinity for aloneness (distinguished from shyness) was associated with well-being. Specifically, they found that aloneliness mediated the negative link between preferring solitude and well-being, and the positive link between time alone and depression.

Coplan et al. found preliminary support for their conceptualization of aloneliness as a “mirror image of loneliness” in that where loneliness can be viewed as social dissatisfaction, aloneliness can be viewed as asocial dissatisfaction. Accordingly, they found support for their assertion that aloneliness does not depend on the actual or ideal amount of alone time, but the “mismatch between these values.”

As a practical matter, Coplan et al. note that when someone feels particularly busy or stressed, this might interfere with the ability to achieve a desired amount of solitude. This would be especially true for people who enjoy and even prefer spending time alone. The inability to achieve time alone could in turn enhance feelings of aloneliness, which could lead to negative emotions and further stress—which we can imagine is not beneficial for relationship quality or satisfaction.

Temporarily Alone Means Better Together

Obviously, too much separation can cause couples to drift apart, as out-of-sight might begin to mean out-of-mind. In the short term, however, absence can make the heart grow fonder. And apparently, for many people, privacy promotes personal wellness. So especially when someone seems to be overwhelmed or under stress, remember that an expressed need for space may reflect a desire to rest and recharge. Quality time alone can produce quality time with you.

References: [i] Burger, Jerry M. 1995. “Individual Differences in Preference for Solitude.” Journal of Research in Personality 29 (1): 85–108. doi:10.1006/jrpe.1995.1005. [ii] Nguyen, Thuy-vy T., Richard M. Ryan, and Edward L. Deci. “Solitude as an Approach to Affective Self-Regulation.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 44, no. 1 (January 2018): 92–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217733073 [iii] Coplan, Robert J., Will E. Hipson, Kristen A. Archbell, Laura L. Ooi, Danielle Baldwin, and Julie C. Bowker. 2019. “Seeking More Solitude: Conceptualization, Assessment, and Implications of Aloneliness.” Personality and Individual Differences 148 (October): 17–26. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2019.05.020.

This article is originally written by Wendy L. Patrick and is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

When Your Partner Won’t Change (Psychology)

Have you said something like this about your partner? “He really wants to change; he just can’t seem to.”

Sometimes we begin relationships with people we hope will change. If we go into it with our eyes open, it’s on us if change doesn’t happen. We knew what we were getting into.


But sometimes a partner’s troubling behavior doesn’t show up right away. And when it does, it can threaten the future of the relationship.

The most obvious example is aggression.

If your partner starts being physically or verbally aggressive toward you, that needs to change if you’re going to stay together. Nobody deserves to be abused by someone they’re in a relationship with.

With deal-breaking behavior like aggression, it’s reasonable to ask your partner to change. If she knows the relationship is on the line, it will give her an opportunity to address something that clearly needs her attention.

But once you’ve asked for change, that’s when the rubber either meets the road or keeps on spinning in the air.

Can’t vs. Won’t

The reasons why people don’t change are complex. But it’s safe to say that both ability and willingness to change are influenced by our mental and emotional health.

If your partner seems to really want to change but keeps falling back into the same old habits, that seems more like a matter of “can’t” than “won’t.”

He would if he could, right? He’s even said things like, “If I could snap my fingers and be different, I would do it.”

You don’t doubt his sincerity. But it raises a question. If your partner shares your desire for change but can’t deliver, what then?

For some people, just knowing your partner genuinely wants to change is enough. You’ll put up with unwanted behavior for an unspecified period of time, as long as he’s trying.

But that puts both of you in an unhappy position. You’ve got a partner who’s not behaving well, and he’s got a partner he’s regularly disappointing.

And because there’s no deadline for change, this can go on for years. It’s a bumpy ride, with bad times and better times, and occasionally even wonderful times.

But ultimately, you’ll still wish your partner would change.

The fact is, if your partner’s poor behavior isn’t changing, it doesn’t matter whether it’s because she won’t or she can’t. You’re not obligated to stay with someone who’s trying (and failing) to do the right thing.

Motivation itself will not fix the problem. Only better behavior can fix poor behavior.

Require Change

Sometimes the only way to get change is to require it. Again, we’re talking about deal-breaking behaviors here, so don’t assume you’re being demanding if the change you’re requesting isn’t optional.

If your partner’s behavior is hurting you, then change should be required.

You don’t have to make demands. All you need to do is be clear that change is required if the relationship is to continue. And hold that boundary.

Keep these three things in mind:

Set a deadline. If you don’t, your partner could be “working on changing” for years to come. For some behaviors, a deadline is a reasonable compromise.

But if the behavior is extremely harmful, you don’t have to stick around until an arbitrary date. Make it a one-strike-and-you’re-out deal instead. This is totally reasonable when it comes to abuse.

Be specific. Make it clear that a particular behavior (describe it so it’s clear to your partner) is unacceptable.

Create consequences. Tell your partner what you’ll do if the above behavior happens again. Then follow through if necessary.

If your partner won’t change, and you don’t require her to, it’s not your partner’s fault if you’re continually mistreated. Take charge of your experience by setting and holding healthy boundaries.

You can be compassionate with a partner who’s trying, unsuccessfully, to change. But allowing him to continue to hurt you every time he fails is not helpful for either of you.

Sometimes the only thing to do when your partner can’t or won’t make reasonable changes is to walk away.

This article is originally written by Tina Gilbertson, who, is the author of Reconnecting with Your Estranged Adult Child and Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them. She hosts the Reconnection Club Podcast for parents of estranged adult children and offers consultation by distance. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

The Biggest Reason Why Relationships Fail (Psychology)

Jeffery Bernstein shed light on biggest reason. He said, “The demise of relationships is obvious yet ironically lurks below the surface.”

Have ever gone to a high school reunion? Or, did you ever become reacquainted with a long-lost friend? If so, or if you have heard about these situations from others you trust, you probably can vouch that most of us have personalities that pretty much stay the same.

While we can usually accept that people, in general, are who they are, when it comes to our intimate partner’s less than desirable traits, we tend to want to change them. Yet, trying to change someone is detrimental to a loving relationship.

The following scenario sheds light on the partners wanting to push for change: “I’ve been frustrated and miserable for years,” complains Seth. “I keep asking Linda to give me space, but things don’t appear to be changing. It feels like all the life is getting sucked out of me.” Linda reflects, “Seth likes to have his softball team friends almost over to our house every weekend. He’s clueless about my needs and I feel so alone.”

When Time For Change–Meets Time For Reality

“Your partner is likely not going to change! Loving someone (even pleading with them) just isn’t enough to change a person’s basic personality. If, for example, your partner is emotionally reserved and you are more outgoing and need outwardly expressive of affection to feel secure, you’ll feel consistently dissatisfied.”, wrote Jeffery Bernstein.

That famous song, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, includes the lines:

“And now you’re starting to criticize little things I do. It makes me just feel like crying. Cause baby, something beautiful’s dyin.”

This criticism of those “little things” usually follows on the heels of partners’ frustrations that neither one will significantly change. This is what really break down and erodes those loving feelings in your relationship.

The Fix: Stop Trying To Fix Your Partner

If you want your partner to change, start by accepting them for who they are. Noted psychologist, John Gottman says, “People can change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted the way they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.”

Many people stay in dysfunctional relationships with the unconscious desire to change their partner. So, stop being a change pusher. Instead of trying to change your partner, focus on improving your own life. Focusing on fixing your partner can prevent you from focusing on the issues at hand.

As Jeffery explained in his relationship book, Why Can’t You Read My Mind? , it is crucial to avoid toxic labeling and name-calling and don’t attack your partner personally. Remember anger is usually a symptom of underlying frustrations, hurt, and fear. Avoid defensiveness and criticizing or, even worse, showing contempt for your partner (rolling your eyes, ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm, etc..)

Changing Your Perspective Can Improve Your Relationship

When you change your view of things, your situation will change. This doesn’t mean you should acquiesce and tolerate abuse or disrespect. It means, though, that your thoughts, feelings, and consequent communication impact how you feel about your partner and their behaviors. In general, you will be satisfied or disappointed with your romantic relationship depending on how well your views of what is happening match your expectations.

Focusing On Change Can Cause Forgetting to Forgive

Trying to change your partner interferes with your ability to forgive them. Forgiveness isn’t the same as forgetting or ignoring the hurt done to you. But forgiveness does give the gift of allowing you to move on.

Give your partner the benefit of the doubt where possible. Accept that people do the best they can and try to be more understanding, at least within reason. If your relationship is basically healthy, develop a growth mindset of acceptance and forgiveness about daily disappointments. After all, none of us is perfect. The only perfect people, after all, are in the cemetery.

Take responsibility for your part in the conflicts and you will spread good will. Bottom line: Don’t let your partner’s limitations leave you overly focusing on the small irritants. For a relationship to be balanced, partners must be able to depend on one another and feel that they are needed and appreciated. Trying to change your partner can prevent you from connecting and staying connected and achieving true intimacy.

For more about Dr. Jeff, click here.

This article is originally written by Jeffrey Bernstein, who, is a psychologist and the author of seven books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses.

Loving a Loner: How to Approach the Unapproachable (Psychology)

How to Bond While Respecting Boundaries.

If you have ever been interested in someone who is more reserved than gregarious, who does not radiate the warmth of approachability, you might have wondered how to best break the ice. If you identify signs of introversion, consider that you might be dealing with a loner, and should proceed with reservation and respect.

What is a loner? Sometimes, simply someone who likes to be alone. Research has long established the potential benefits of privacy, and that some people not only enjoy solitude but actively seek it out.[i] Many people genuinely enjoy their own company and relish time alone to rest, relax, and recharge.

With respect to romantic intentions, consider that someone who prefers flying solo might not be looking to climb onto a bicycle built for two. Yet if you know that is not the case, and barring other relational exclusions (make sure you are setting your sights on someone who is single), the next question is whether dating a loner is right for you. If your idea of a great date is a crowded party or networking mixer, a loner might not be a good match. If you are comfortable one-on-one, read on.

Romancing a Recluse

Many loners are homebodies, not hermits. Viewing their residence as a cave or castle (or both), they experience time at home as a staycation, not house arrest. And regarding the motivation to mingle, some reclusive individuals simply prefer the sanctity of solitude over social activity.

If you are interested in building a relationship with someone who enjoys spending time at home, you might start with electronic communication. And if you want to talk, try an old-fashioned phone line instead of a Zoom link, because people comfortable at home don’t live camera-ready.

Inviting a loner out to dinner or to a social event is often not an invitation well-received unless he or she knows you very well first. Conversely, if after a period of remote relationship building, a loner asks you out for coffee or lunch, consider that to be a bright green light. But what will it be like to be in a relationship with a reclusive romantic partner?

Private Individuals and Public Displays of Affection

Do people who prefer privacy publicly display affection? It might depend on why someone prefers to spend time alone. Xia Jiang and Bi-hua Zhao (2017) found a negative correlation between preference for solitude and positive affection, moderated by the ability to be alone.[ii] They concluded that having the ability to be alone decreases the negative impact of solitude preference on positive affection.

Other research notes that some people not only have the ability but the desire to spend time alone, and feel anxious when they do not get enough privacy. Robert J. Coplan et al. in a piece entitled “Seeking More Solitude” (2019), introduced the concept of “aloneliness,” described as “the negative feelings that arise from the perception that one is not spending enough time alone.”[iii] Coplan et al. found that an affinity for aloneness (not the same thing as shyness) was associated with wellbeing.

Taken together, these studies appear to indicate that understanding why someone spends time alone might be key to maximizing quality time together.

Loving a Loner: Bonding Within Boundaries

Apparently, it is possible to have a healthy, wholesome, happy relationship with a loner—who values spending (some of their) time alone. Respecting boundaries, perceiving social preferences, and expressing nonjudgmental acceptance will facilitate your ability to cultivate a satisfying relationship of trust and mutual respect.

References: [i] Burger, Jerry M. 1995. “Individual Differences in Preference for Solitude.” Journal of Research in Personality 29 (1): 85–108. doi:10.1006/jrpe.1995.1005. [ii] Jiang, Xia, and Bi-hua Zhao. 2017. “Relations between Preference for Solitude and Positive Affection: Moderating Effect of the Ability to Be Alone.” Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology 25 (3): 527–30. https://search-ebscohost-com.libproxy.sdsu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2017-37197-029&site=ehost-live&scope=site. [iii] Coplan, Robert J., Will E. Hipson, Kristen A. Archbell, Laura L. Ooi, Danielle Baldwin, and Julie C. Bowker. 2019. “Seeking More Solitude: Conceptualization, Assessment, and Implications of Aloneliness.” Personality and Individual Differences 148 (October): 17–26. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2019.05.020.

This article is originally written by Wendy L. Patrick, who is a career trial attorney, behavioral analyst, author of Red Flags, and co-author of Reading People. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

How Can Fathers Shape Their Daughters’ Body Image? (Psychology)

Study analyzes fathers’ communication with young daughters about their body image.

The holidays are coming up, and when tables become overflowed with plates and bowls of delicious foods, be thoughtful with the way you talk about the food with your children. It can be common for children to feel pressure and insecurities about their bodies, and it turns out, parents can play a large role in children’s perception of their bodies.

Though she is the Director of the Center for Body Image Research at the University of Missouri, even Virginia Ramseyer Winter still often worries if her family is doing everything they can to make sure her daughter has a positive relationship with her body.

“I have a daughter that falls in this age range, between 5 and 10, so certainly it’s something that I’m always navigating at home, and my spouse— her dad— is also navigating,” Ramseyer Winter said. “You know, I work in this field and its still really tricky. How do you talk about food in a way that helps kids develop a healthy relationship with it and prevent eating disorders, and focus on their character as opposed to the way they look?”

While much of the previous research around the role parents take in their children’s body image focuses on the mother, there is little research about fathers’ role. So, in a recent study, Ramseyer Winter, in collaboration with Jaclyn Siegel at Western University and Mackenzie Cook at the University of Missouri, analyzed fathers’ strengths and barriers when it comes to communicating with their young daughters about their body image.

The researchers found through interviews that fathers tend to understand the importance of a healthy self-body image among their children. However, they often felt uncomfortable discussing body image and health with their daughters.

“Unsurprisingly, all of the dads we talked to really are interested in addressing this with their daughters. They know it’s important and they place a lot of value on it,” Ramseyer Winter said. “However, we found that there are some common barriers. They are struggling to have these conversations, and many of them are conflating health with body size.”

The 30 fathers interviewed identified several common barriers when attempting to discuss bodily health with their daughters, including a lack of confidence in uncomfortable conversations, gender differences with their daughters, and a recognition of their daughter’s discomfort with discussing their bodies. The study also found that the fathers noticed that their daughters can take negative statements about their own bodies and positive statements about other people’s body to heart.

There has been little prior research stating that fathers can have a positive impact on their daughter’s self-body image. In this study, researchers found the fathers attempted to have positive impacts by praising their daughters’ skills, strengths and talents instead of their body and accepting the way their daughters choose to present themselves. Ramseyer Winter said that understanding these conversations can help fathers learn what resources may be necessary to prevent some of the issues that can cause negative perceptions of body image at a young age.

“Dads obviously influence their children, so we need to understand what fathers are doing, and what is and isn’t working. There wasn’t much discussion on that topic before this study,” Ramseyer Winter said. “My hope is that this research can help to ultimately develop interventions that are easily accessible for fathers and their children to positively impact body image development. If we can prevent negative body image perceptions early on in children’s life, we can impact health and mental health outcomes long-term.”

Ramseyer Winter also said that if parents are looking for advice on how to help their children grow with a healthy perception of their body, there are currently a few resources they can utilize, including books on intuitive eating and Health at Every Size.

References: Jaclyn A. Siegel, Virginia Ramseyer Winter, Mackenzie Cook, “It really presents a struggle for females, especially my little girl”: Exploring father’s experiences discussing body image with their young daughters”, Body Image, Volume 36, 2021, Pages 84-94, ISSN 1740-1445, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.11.001.

Provided by University of Missouri

Deciding Whether to Stay or Leave (Psychology)

Why partners become more or less committed to their relationship.

Leaving a long-term intimate relationship is never an easy thing to do. When things are not going well in our relationships, our minds often stray towards thoughts of how much better our lives would be without our current partner.

© Jasmine Carter from Pexels

But acting on a desire to leave requires great effort—packing our things, setting up a new life for ourselves, and making the final announcement that the relationship is over, not just to our partner but also to our family and friends. It also demands a high degree of confidence that leaving is better in the long run than staying.

In contrast, staying in a relationship isn’t so much a decision we have to act on rather than simply accepting the status quo. As long as we get up each morning and muddle through our daily routine, we are staying in the relationship, whether we’ve made an intentional decision to do so or not.

Plenty of research confirms what we already intuitively know, namely that when people are satisfied with their relationships they stay in them. However, people who are dissatisfied with their relationships don’t necessarily leave. In fact, many unhappy couples endure a life sentence together, sometimes out of perceived social pressure to do so, and other times because they’ve resigned themselves to the idea that this is the best they can do.

What then predicts whether a couple in a committed relationship will eventually break up? This is the question that Syracuse University Laura Machia and her colleague Brian Ogolsky explored in an article they recently published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Machia and Ogolsky pursue their research question within a framework known as Interdependence Theory. In brief, Interdependence Theory proposes that we enter into relationships to get our needs met. Of course, that also requires that we endeavor to meet the needs of our partner. Hence, the two members of the relationship are interdependent on one another.

According to Interdependence Theory, we evaluate the outcome of every interaction we have with our partner, mentally tallying each as positive or negative. If the outcomes are mostly positive, we’ll feel satisfied with the relationship. And if the negatives outweigh the positives, we’ll feel dissatisfied.

At the same time, we also compare the actual outcomes of the relationship with the imagined outcomes of being in an alternative situation instead. Even if the “balance sheet” is more positive than negative, we may still feel dissatisfied if we believe we could do even better elsewhere.

Thus, Interdependence Theory predicts that the reasons that drive us to leave a relationship aren’t just the mirror opposite of those that motivate us to stay. For example, compatible personalities, shared interests, and trust are all characteristics that people often name when they explain why they’re satisfied with their relationship. However, incompatible personalities, lack of shared interests, and broken trust are generally not sufficient, in and of themselves, to motivate people to act on their desire to leave the relationship.

The idea that people stay for different reasons than they leave is a tenet of Interdependence Theory that is generally accepted even though it hasn’t been formally tested until now. This then was the goal of Machia and Ogolsky’s study.

To examine the dynamics of staying together and parting ways in committed relationships, the researchers recruited 232 dating couples to take part in a longitudinal study. Once a month for nine months, each partner was individually interviewed about the state of their relationship.

The key question in each interview was how committed the person was to eventually marrying their partner, and this was plotted on a graph ranging from 0 percent (absolutely certain they would not marry) to 100 percent (absolutely certain they would get married). If the current level of commitment had changed, either positive or negative, from the previous month’s level, they were asked to explain what had happened in the interim that had altered their feelings.

Participants typically explained upward movements in level of commitment to positive characteristics of their partner or the relationship as a whole, such as shared interests or common friends. In contrast, they generally attributed downward movements to unfavorable circumstances that made the relationship difficult to maintain, or else they explained it in terms of conflict. This patterning of reports lends support to the prediction of Interdependence Theory that people stay for different reasons than they leave.

Afterward, the researchers used these reports to search for patterns among those who were still in the relationship at the end of nine months versus those who had left their partners. By the end of the study, almost 20 percent of the couples had broken up. Not surprisingly, virtually all of these participants reported low levels of satisfaction and commitment to the relationship at the very first interview.

Thus, it’s clear that partners who left were unhappy with the relationship. However, many participants who reported low levels of satisfaction nevertheless stayed with their partner for the duration of the study. In fact, some participants even described current difficulties in with their partner as positive events, in that they provided opportunities for growth in the relationship. Clearly, dissatisfaction with the relationship is not a sufficient reason for leaving it.

In the final analysis, only one thing predicted whether the relationship would fail, and that was the availability of alternative partners. That is to say, the couples who broke up during the timeframe of the study did so because they had left their current partner for somebody new. This finding provides strong support for Interdependence Theory, particularly the tenet that people only leave relationships when the available alternatives are perceived as better than the current situation.

We all know couples who stay together even though they’re unhappy with their relationship, and we wonder why. The results of this study by Machia and Ogolsky suggest an answer. Namely, unhappy couples stay together because they cannot imagine an alternative situation that is any better than what they currently have.

References: Machia, L. V. & Ogolsky, B. G. (2020). The reasons people think about staying and leaving their romantic relationships: A mixed-method analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0146167220966903

This article is originally written by David Ludden, who is a professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses