Creating Couple Safety

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Note: This is a guest post from Dr. Jonathan Sandberg, a professor in FHSS’s School of Family Life. Professor Sandberg is involved in the Marriage and Family Therapy Programs at BYU, a Certified Emotionally Focused Supervisor with the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute, and a licensed marriage and family therapist in Utah.


I once heard from a young person something very insightful, a comment like this: “I guess I am just in love with the feeling of being in love.” Yes, feeling deep love from and for another person is a sublime experience. But, it is about the deep, serene, and settled sense of safety and security that comes with mature romantic love I write about today. That type of safety within a couple relationship has a name; it is called “attachment security”. The concept of secure or insecure attachment actually has its roots in parent-child research. John Bowlby, and later others, proposed that when a child feels a parent is accessible (“I can find you”) and responsive (“you reach out to me and comfort me when I call”), a ... Read more »

Successful Texting in a Modern Age

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The way we date has drastically changed over the years. Our grandparents met friends at sock hops or dances, and went steady. Our parents stressed over calling each other, worried that they may have to ask a parent, “uh, oh, hi… is Stacy there?” These days we have Tinder, Snapchat, and texting to help us try to navigate the dating scene and hope we come out victorious.

One issue many single adults find in trying to lock down a date is how to do so successfully. Due to the dependence many of us have on our phones and laptops, we find face-to-face interactions daunting and at times almost impossible to arrange. Instead of calling for a date, many rely on text messaging, but that can lead to many issues. Maybe the person doesn’t respond in time for the date, maybe they accept, but think you’re just “hanging out” together, maybe they ignore you completely and claim they never received the text.  Clearly, texting is not an ideal form of communication.   

Actor Aziz Ansari researched what he calls our Modern ... Read more »

4 Ways to Let Go of “Me” and What They Mean for the “We”

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True or False: We can and should try to change our romantic partners.

Answer: False.  But that doesn’t mean our partner’s can’t or shouldn’t try to change themselves.  We can be a major influence for those changes we hope to see. Sometimes we even find ourselves changing because of our partner.  

When “me” becomes a “we,” there are many opportunities for change.  Sometimes those changes happen in the relationship as a whole, like making a single Facebook account for a couple.  But the most common changes happen at an individual level.  When two different individuals begin spending so much time together, it is only a matter of time before those two individuals become more like their partner.

In a recent study, Kevin McIntyre at Trinity University found that allowing ourselves to become more like our partner can play an important role in relationships. However, not all changes have a positive influence.  The study revealed four main types of what are called “self-changes,” or how one partner changes him or herself to become more like a partner, and only half of ... Read more »

The Paradox of Choice

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My husband and I make decisions in very different ways. For me, it’s most important that I find the best possible option out there for me. Take our careers. During the last year of my undergrad I was constantly researching possibilities for my future. I contacted schools, talked to my professors, and constantly researched different avenues to find what would make me the most happy. I was so worried that deciding on one career type would mean that I would later find something better for me that I was missing out on. Even now as I work on my masters I can’t stop thinking about what the best PhD program will be for me.

My husband, on the other hand, had an idea of what he wanted to do and he went with it. He decided on a future career that would make him happy and found the best possible programs for achieving that end goal. His goals for his future have changed only slightly in the five years I’ve known him.  

According to psychologist Herbert A. Simon, my ... Read more »

Dating Like a Bachelor

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Ever watch the Bachelor? (Don’t worry, this is a safe place; no one will ever know if you just responded “yes.”) My husband and I have found a new guilty pleasure in the show. We watch for the drama, the terrible life choices, and the truly hilarious quotes (“I’m literally speechless right now” and similar wise sentiments). Although it appears that there is no scientific substance to this reality TV dating show, there is an aspect of most episodes rooted in the science of attraction: The dates.

These dates are rarely ones us in the real world go on. Rather than watching a movie and making cookies, the contestants ride bulls bareback, or repel down a skyscraper. Terrifying activities that get blood pumping. There’s a reason for this.

Adrenaline and Dating.

Research has shown that initial attraction can occur more frequently when people feel strong emotions such as fear or anger. Some say this is due to the body’s nervous system responding very similarly when it feels attraction or fear: The pupils dilate, the stomach churns, and the bladder tries to ... Read more »

Give Me Some Sugar, Sweetie.

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We’ve all seen this commercial: someone sees an attractive person coming their way, they smell their breath, realize it is horrible, and pop in a nice stick of Spearmint gum in the nick of time.  The attractive person approaches and our “personal space” is free for the kiss.  Spearmint has saved the day once again.

So can gum really improve your chances of meeting someone?  While having good breath certainly can’t harm your chances, perhaps taste has more power than we realize.

According to a recent study by Dongning Ren and a team of scholars at Purdue University, combining taste with romantic interest may be the secret to unlocking our “personal space” problem.

Sweet Tasting Love

Ren and her team wanted to know just what happened when people had something sweet to taste when thinking about love.  Does chewing gum really help us resize our personal space?  

Wanting love

When drinking or eating something sweet, it appears that we tend to think favorably about being in love.  Those in the study who had something sweet were more likely to express interest in starting a ... Read more »

Test Driving Sex

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I recently saw a BuzzFeed video exploring what driver’s ed would be like if we taught people how to drive like we teach them about sex.  While hilarious, the video also shows just how ridiculous it is to compare driving a car to sexuality. Yet, there may be something to such a comparison.  Can we learn something about sex by comparing it to cars?

A recent study by Dean Busby and colleagues at Brigham Young University found two different models for how people think about when to have sex in relationships.  So which model works best, and why?  Let’s find out.

Compatibility: Test-Drive Model

“You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first, so why would you get married without testing the sex?”  This model depends on the belief that it is important to know if the sex is good or not before committing yourself to a relationship. In the study, couples who used the compatibility model were less stable and satisfied in their relationship, while those couples who waited until after marriage to have sex had the best relationship outcomes. ... Read more »

How to Master the First Date

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Dating can be stressful. First there is the initial search for someone who you think you may be compatible with, then you panic, hope, and pray that they might be interested in going out with you. You take time getting the courage to approach them to ask, stocking up on sad movies and ice-cream at home in case they say no. But what about when they say yes? How do you make the most out of your first date?  

While you can find the perfect location, pick out the most flattering outfit, even make the best background music mix, you cannot plan what your date will do or how it will go. Luckily, there is research that can help you maximize how to make your best first impression and increase your likelihood of getting that sought after second date.  Below are the four ways to make sure your first dates are successful.

Smile. Researchers have found time and again that smiling is the best way to improve your face value. When individuals have been asked to choose between unsmiling faces and smiling ... Read more »

Say No to Consumer Weddings

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Most of us dream of that one day of bliss and absolute joy when we say “I do.”  We plan for it almost from the day we are born, or so it seems, and fantasize about how beautiful it will be.  And when that day comes, we find ourselves in a flurry of action to make it all happen.

But do we ever get so focused on making everything match our fairytale, that we go too far?

Statistics show that the average wedding in the United States costs a staggering $30,000.  And chances are few people are able to actually pay that full amount in cash.  Instead, many of us are willing to go into debt for the perfect day.  And yet, a recent study from Linda Skogrand and a team of researchers at Utah State University showed that starting marriage with large amounts of debt puts couples at major risk for divorce.

So how do we cut down costs without losing the beauty of the day?  Here are three tips to having a successful wedding:

Stay Focused on the Reason

The reason most ... Read more »

How parents “splitting” can be a good thing

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Exactly who should be taking care of the kids? Some say mom needs to stay at home, and that having a stay at home mom will instill children with good morals and keep them grounded. Others may think dad needs to be the main leader of childcare, assuring that children are well disciplined and respectful. If you ask researchers Carlson, Hanson, and Fitzroy, they would tell you parents should split childcare responsibilities equally, at least if they want to improve their sex lives.

The study conducted at Georgia State University decided it was time to settle this mom vs. dad debate once and for all. Researchers utilized data to investigate how the division of childcare responsibilities affects the relationship quality and sexual intimacy of heterosexual American couples.

The survey divided responses from 487 parental couples into three main categories:

Couples with moms having most or all childcare duties. Couples with dads having most or all of the work. Couples with an equal distribution.

Each of these family dynamics were then measured on how happy couples were, how much conflict they had, ... Read more »