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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Forgive a Cheater? Could You?

Everyone seems to agree that infidelity is just about the worst thing that can happen in a romantic relationship. In many societies across the world, adultery is more likely to end a relationship than infertility, personality conflicts, inadequate money, and conflicts with in-laws. 1 Perhaps that’s also the reason why infidelity is a common reason for taking revenge against romantic partners.2

But not everyone’s experience with infidelity is the same. Some cheaters are forgiven, and some relationships actually survive. Research tells us that there are two possible reasons why adulterated relationships persist and cheaters are forgiven. One reason has to do with how the infidelity is discovered. To be sure, there are no “good” ways to find out that your partner has been cheating on you. But some ways might be less destructive than others. Given a choice, which of the following would you rather experience?:

(a) have your partner tell you that he/she had been cheating before you suspected or asked about it

(b) find out about it by investigating your suspicions

(c) catch your partner in the act

(d) find out about it from a third party

If you are like the participants in Walid Afifi, Wendy Falato (Nichols), and Judith Weiner’s study,3 your relationship would get worse regardless. However, people whose partner told them about it without first being asked showed the smallest decline in relationship quality. The biggest declines in relationship quality came from catching the partner in the act, and from finding out from someone else. Interestingly, people who first heard about it from their partner were also more likely to forgive him or her.

A second reason that relationships survive and cheaters are forgiven involves how the victim thinks about it. Julie Hall and Frank Fincham asked victims to explain the event, indicate how much they forgave their partners afterward, and whether their relationships ultimately survived or ended.4 Their study showed that people were more likely to forgive their partners – and stay in the relationship – when they made more benign explanations for their partners’ behaviors. That is, they believed that their partners cheated on them just that one time, only because of a difficult situation, and that it would not happen again. In contrast, people were less likely to find forgiveness and stay together if they explained it in more negative and durable ways. For example, those people believed that their partner cheated because he or she is untrustworthy in many different circumstances, and was unlikely to ever change.4

In the end, cheating will inevitably harm even the most solid of relationships. But the ways in which it gets managed and perceived might change what happens afterward. Relationships appear to be more likely to survive and cheaters more likely to be forgiven when the infidelity was disclosed first by the person who cheated, and when the conversation about it gives the victim a reason to believe that this was an unusual, one-time event that happened for some reason other than the cheater’s malicious intent.

1Betzig, L. (1989). Causes of conjugal dissolution: A cross-cultural study. Current Anthropology, 30, 654-676.

2Tafoya, M., & Spitzberg, B. H. (2007). The dark side of infidelity: Its nature, prevalence, and communicative functions. The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication (2nd Ed., pp. 201-242). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

3Afifi, W. A., Falato (Nichols), W. L., & Weiner, J. L. (2001). Identity concerns following a severe relational transgression: The role of discovery method for the relational outcomes of infidelity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 18, 291-308.

4Hall, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (2006). Relationship dissolution following infidelity: The roles of attributions and forgiveness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 508-522.

About Ideal Partners

You may call it your fantasy date, your model, or, in case you’re the commonsense sort, you may call it your rundown of absolute necessities. Despite the encircling, in case you’re single-and-looking then you presumably have a thought of the kind of sentimental accomplice a great many. What’s more, albeit a portion of the qualities you’re searching for are most likely alluring to everybody (e.g., reliability), you may likewise be after other identity attributes that are appealing to a few yet not to others (e.g., complexity). At last, however, does it truly make a difference? What exactly degree do we really pick accomplices who look like our “optimal accomplice” pictures?

In a recent series of studies, Eastwick and colleagues1 found that it depends on the context. Partner preferences (the list of must-haves and must-have-nots) were found to predict people’s dating choices when they read about potential dates (i.e., dating profiles), but not when they had real-life interactions with these potential dates. In other words, although ideal partner preferences mattered a lot when people were evaluating their potential dates on paper, those preferences were thrown out the window once people met their potential dates in person.

But it’s not that ideal partner preferences don’t make a difference down the road. Indeed, in Eastwick and colleagues’ third study, they found that people are happier with partners who live up to their romantic standards. So why do our decision making capabilities fail us so when it comes to making that crucial initial choice? The researchers believe that it is because of the emotional reaction that comes from first meeting a potential partner. On those first few dates when we’re getting to know someone, our rationality seems to get a bit overpowered by factors such as chemistry and attraction. As a result, instead of coldly evaluating the new love interest against our standards, we tend to see the person in the most favorable way possible. Indeed, Eastwick and colleagues found that when participants actually met someone they liked, they would view their potential partner’s traits in a more positive light. For example, after having a positive encounter with a potential date who claimed to be proud, participants were more likely to associate the word “proud” with the word “confident”, rather than with the word “conceited”. In this way, the participants convinced themselves that their new, attractive date was close to their ideals…maybe even closer than the date actually was.

Of course, we know that in established relationships, seeing one’s partner with rose-colored glasses can beextremely beneficial. But is this sort of motivated reasoning adaptive in that very early, “trial-phase” of the relationship? Or, when trying to assess a brand new romantic partner, is it better to be as accurate and discerning as possible, in an attempt to end up with someone who actually lives up to our ideals? We really don’t know at this point. Future research is needed to explore exactly how much rationality, versus how much intuition, leads to better mate-selection choices in the long-run.

Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.

1Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., & Eagly, A. H. (2011). When and why do ideal partner preferences affect the process of initiating and maintaining romantic relationships? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Equalize Power in Relationships, Here Its Tips

To summarize Bertrand Russell, force is central in the sociologies, much like vitality is for material science. In spite of its significance, therapists still ponder what control truly is and how precisely it capacities in cozy connections. Impression of force imbalance seeing someone have been connected to various negative feelings, including depression.1  A portion of the enormous hypotheses that have attempted to clarify force, for example, value theory,2 which suggests that both accomplices in a relationship are inspired to have results that are equivalent. While this is decent in principle, the information really demonstrate that reactions to imbalance contrast contingent upon whether you are over-or under-profited. Albeit negative influence is ordinarily experienced by both accomplices, the under-profited accomplice encounters a greater amount of them all the more seriously, especially in the event that they are male. 3 at the end of the day, on the off chance that you sense that your accomplice has more power and gets significantly more out of the relationship than you do, you will encounter more negative emotions and have diminished fulfillment with your relationship, especially in the event that you are a man.

So, let’s say your partner has a lot more power and control in your relationship, and you are not satisfied. What can you do about it? Much depends on the source of the power inequity, how much leverage you have to make change, as well as your partner’s motivation. The more powerful partner is typically not as motivated to change as the less powerful partner. This probably does not surprise, but how does someone get more power?

Does one partner have greater control over financial assets? The resource theory of power4 would propose that whoever has control over the money has more control in the relationship. Other economists build on this idea, stating that the partner who has greater education (earning potential is highly correlated with education) has more leverage.5 Also, if one partner brings with them expertise on something (e.g., she works for a life insurance company), that partner will be perceived as having greater decision-making authority in that domain (e.g., she decides what kind of insurance policies to buy). If you are perceived as being the one who knows about how the money in your relationship is best spent, then you would typically be given control in that domain. If you are perceived as knowing a lot more about child care, then that domain would be where your control/leverage/influence would likely lie. If both partners are motivated to alter the inequity that exists in the relationship, and there is not much that can be done about financial contributions, the domains of decision-making authority might be one avenue to explore with each other. In which domain(s) do you feel the greatest inequity? What would make the balance of outcomes feel more equitable to you?

Power is not something that one person has over another. It is simply the ability or potential to influence the behavior or outcomes of another person. Therefore, power cannot exist within one person independent of a relationship; power is granted. Being the more dependent partner is not easy; you need the more powerful partner to accomplish your goals to a greater extent than they need you. The way you can influence him or her will depend on what has worked in the past.6 For example, if you want to take a vacation, but your partner has control over the money and the way you spend your time together, asking directly about taking a vacation together may not be effective. Rather, discussing how a vacation together would be relaxing and  relationship enhancing can activate the “us” social identity that you share, and make him or her more receptive to working jointly to achieve a desirable outcome that benefits both of you.

1Glass, J., & Tetsushi, F. (1994). Housework, paid work, and depression among husbands and wives. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35, 179–91.

2Hatfield, E. (1983). Equity theory and research: An overview. In H. H. Blumberg, A. P. Hare, V. Kent, & M. Davies (Eds.), Small groups and social interaction (Vol. 2., pp. 401-412). Chichester, England: Wiley.

3Lively, K. J., Steelman, L. C., & Powell, B. (2010). Equity, emotion, and household labor. Social Psychology Quarterly, 73, 358-379.

4Blood, R. O., & Wolfe, D. M. (1960). Husbands and wives: The dynamics of married living. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

5Costa, D. L., & Kahn, M. E. (2000). Power couples: Changes in the locational choice of the college educated, 1940-1990. Recent Developments in Urban and Regional Economics, 182, 263-291.

6Raven, B. (2008). The bases of power and the power/interaction model of interpersonal influence. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP), 8(1), 1-22.