1. Study suggests correlation between competitiveness and passion in romantic relationships

    January 27, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Hokkaido University press release:

    Americans are more passionate toward their romantic partners than Japanese people are because Americans live in social environments in which people have greater freedom to choose and replace their partners, a team of Japanese researchers suggest.

    Previous research comparing passion in romantic relationships on an international scale found that people in North America are more passionate than East Asians, such as the Japanese and Chinese. But this phenomenon is apparently inconsistent with the conventional theory that East Asians are characterized by collectivism and interdependence and that North Americans are more individualistic and independent.

    Although monogamy is common in contemporary society, long-term romantic relationships are faced with a commitment problem — the conflict between maintaining a relationship with a certain partner and looking for an attractive alternative.

    The Japanese research team led by Ph.D. student Junko Yamada and Professor Masaki Yuki of Hokkaido University hypothesized that Americans living in a society with high relational mobility (in which people have greater freedom to choose and replace their partners) are constantly exposed to the risk and anxiety of being cheated on or losing their partner to a rival. It also assumed that passion will induce strategic behavior to lavish attention and affection on their partner, while proactively ignoring potential partners to reassure their current partner. On the other hand, in Japan, where relationships tend to be more stable and hard to change (low relational mobility), people have less risk and anxiety of being cheated on or being rejected, making passionate behavior less relevant, according to the hypothesis.

    The researchers surveyed 154 heterosexual Americans (78 men and 76 women) and 103 heterosexual Japanese people (65 men and 38 women) recruited through online crowdsourcing marketplaces. They responded to a questionnaire designed to measure their perceptions of the level of romantic relational mobility of people around them and the intensity of passion they felt toward their current partner. All participants were asked how likely they would be to adopt various commitment behaviors when forming a relationship with a specific mate.

    The results statistically showed Americans are more passionate toward their partners than the Japanese are, which can be explained by the relational mobility of the society they live in. The study also found that the more passionate a person was, the more likely they were to approach a partner and lavish affection on nobody but the partner while voluntarily abandoning relationships with other members of the opposite sex. Thus the study demonstrated the difference between the two groups from the viewpoint of adaptive behavior.

    The findings are highly relevant to research on the evolutionary science of interpersonal human emotions. “For humans, it is imperative to win and keep a good mating partner, which is a basic adaptive issue. Our study showed the importance of considering socio-ecological factors when studying human mating behavior. Also, it suggested you should be more passionate and give your partner special attention when they have more freedom to choose,” says Masaki Yuki. “However, further studies involving other nationalities and cultural backgrounds should be conducted before generalizing our results,” he added.

    This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI (JP15H03445).


  2. Study suggests use of mobile devices at home can carry conflict to workplace

    January 16, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Arlington press release:

    A University of Texas at Arlington researcher is part of a team of authors who have found that using a mobile device at home for work purposes has negative implications for the employee’s work life and also their spouse.

    Wayne Crawford, assistant professor of management in UTA’s College of Business, was one of five authors on “Your Job Is Messing With Mine! The Impact of Mobile Device Use for Work During Family Time on the Spouse’s Work Life,” recently published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

    Dawn Carson, Baylor University; Meredith Thompson, Utah State University; and Wendy Boswell and Dwayne Whitten, Texas A&M University; also contributed to the study.

    In all, 344 married couples were surveyed. All participants worked fulltime and used mobile devices or tablets at home for work purposes.

    “There is plenty of research on technology and how it affects employees,” Crawford said. “We wanted to see if this technology use carried over to affect the spouse negatively at work.”

    The couples’ survey results showed that use of a mobile device during family time resulted in lower job satisfaction and lower job performance.

    “It’s really no surprise that conflict was created when a spouse is using a mobile device at home,” Crawford said. “They’re sometimes engaging in work activities during family time. What that ultimately leads to, though, is trouble at work for both spouses. So, whether companies care or don’t care about employees being plugged in, those firms need to know that the relationship tension created by their interaction with their employees during non-work hours ultimately leads to work-life trouble.”

    Abdul Rasheed, chair of the Department of Management, said Crawford’s work is illuminating for businesses.

    “That extra time spent on mobile devices after hours might not be worth it if the grief it causes results in productivity losses once the conflict is carried back to work,” Rasheed said. “Businesses have to think about accomplishing tasks more efficiently while people are at work.”


  3. Study suggests discrimination harms not just victim but victim’s partner as well

    December 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Discrimination not only harms the health and well-being of the victim, but the victim’s romantic partner as well, indicates new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

    The work, which analyzed a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,000 couples, is the first study to consider how the discrimination experiences of both people in a relationship are associated with their health. The findings are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

    “We found that when an individual experiences discrimination, they report worse health and depression. However, that’s not the full story — this stress spills over and affects the health of their partner as well,” said William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology who conducted the study with current and former MSU students.

    The researchers studied the survey data of 1,949 couples ranging in age from 50 to 94. Survey participants reported on incidents of discrimination, as well as on their health, depression and relationship strain and closeness.

    Chopik said the study found that it didn’t matter where the discrimination came from (e.g., because of race, age, gender or other factors). “What matters is that they felt that they were unfairly treated. That’s what had the biggest impact on the person’s health.”

    And that discrimination had a spillover affect on the person’s spouse or partner. Because people are embedded in relationships, what happens in those relationships affects our health and well-being, Chopik said.

    “We found that a lot of the harmful effects of discrimination on health occurs because it’s so damaging to our relationships,” he said. “When one partner experiences discrimination, they bring that stress home with them and it strains the relationship. So this stress not only negatively affects their own health, but their partner’s as well.”


  4. Study suggests a fear of getting dumped kills romance and commitment

    December 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    Can the fear of a relationship ending actually lessen love and cause a break-up? If yes, how does it happen? These were the questions that Simona Sciara and Giuseppe Pantaleo of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Italy set out to answer in an article published in Springer’s journal Motivation and Emotion. Their research complements what is already known about how obstacles to a romantic relationship affect attraction and commitment towards a partner.

    Study participants provided basic information about themselves and the state and dynamics of their relationship. The researchers then manipulated the participants’ perception that their relationship could end. Manipulation techniques included providing statistics about the failure of relationships to one group, and giving false feedback to some participants about the chances of their romantic affiliations ending. Participants were then asked how committed they were to their relationship, and how they felt towards their partner.

    Sciara and Pantaleo found that participants’ romantic feelings and levels of commitment towards their partners were more intense when no mention was made about the possibility that their relationships could end. Romance and commitment diminished when they heard that there could be either a high or low risk of a break-up. When participants were told that there was only a moderate chance the relationship would end, commitment was stronger. The researchers also established that the influence of such manipulated risk on romantic commitment was fully mediated by feelings of romantic affect.

    “This shows that, when faced with a ‘too high’ risk of ending the relationship, participants clearly reduced the intensity of their positive feelings towards the romantic partner,” explains Sciara.

    Pantaleo believes it is important for psychologists, clinicians and counsellors to understand the causal role that perceived risk plays in the outcomes of their clients’ romantic relationships.

    “Reduced relationship commitment, for instance, leads to dissolution considerations and, thereby, to actual relationship breakup. Relationship breakup, in turn, plays a critical role in the onset of depression, psychological distress, and reduced life satisfaction,” he adds.


  5. Study suggests marriage may help stave off dementia

    by Ashley

    From the BMJ press release:

    Marriage may lower the risk of developing dementia, concludes a synthesis of the available evidence published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

    Lifelong singletons and widowers are at heightened risk of developing the disease, the findings indicate, although single status may no longer be quite the health hazard it once seemed to be, the researchers acknowledge.

    They base their findings on data from 15 relevant studies published up to the end of 2016. These looked at the potential role of marital status on dementia risk, and involved more than 800,000 participants from Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

    Married people accounted for between 28 and 80 per cent of people in the included studies; the widowed made up between around 8 and 48 per cent; the divorced between 0 and 16 per cent; and lifelong singletons between 0 and 32.5 per cent.

    Pooled analysis of the data showed that compared with those who were married, lifelong singletons were 42 per cent more likely to develop dementia, after taking account of age and sex.

    Part of this risk might be explained by poorer physical health among lifelong single people, suggest the researchers.

    However, the most recent studies, which included people born after 1927, indicated a risk of 24 per cent, which suggests that this may have lessened over time, although it is not clear why, say the researchers.

    The widowed were 20 per cent more likely to develop dementia than married people, although the strength of this association was somewhat weakened when educational attainment was factored in.

    But bereavement is likely to boost stress levels, which have been associated with impaired nerve signalling and cognitive abilities, the researchers note.

    No such associations were found for those who had divorced their partners, although this may partly be down to the smaller numbers of people of this status included in the studies, the researchers point out.

    But the lower risk among married people persisted even after further more detailed analysis, which, the researchers suggest, reflects “the robustness of the findings.”

    These findings are based on observational studies so no firm conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn, and the researchers point to several caveats, including the design of some of the included studies, and the lack of information on the duration of widowhood or divorce.

    Nevertheless, they proffer several explanations for the associations they found. Marriage may help both partners to have healthier lifestyles, including exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and smoking and drinking less, all of which have been associated with lower risk of dementia.

    Couples may also have more opportunities for social engagement than single people — a factor that has been linked to better health and lower dementia risk, they suggest.

    In a linked editorial, Christopher Chen and Vincent Mok, of, respectively, the National University of Singapore and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, suggest that should marital status be added to the list of modifiable risk factors for dementia, “the challenge remains as to how these observations can be translated into effective means of dementia prevention.”

    The discovery of potentially modifiable risk factors doesn’t mean that dementia can easily be prevented, they emphasise.

    “Therefore, ways of destigmatising dementia and producing dementia-friendly communities more accepting and embracing of the kinds of disruptions that dementia can produce should progress alongside biomedical and public health programmes,” they conclude.


  6. Prairie vole study examines effects of alcohol on relationships

    November 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    A study of the effect of alcohol on long-term relationships finds that when a male prairie vole has access to alcohol, but his female partner doesn’t, the relationship suffers — similar to what has been observed in human couples. The study, published today in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, also identifies changes in a specific brain region in the male voles. The findings could help researchers find strategies to overcome the negative effects of alcohol on human relationships.

    “We know that in humans, heavy drinking is associated with increased separation rates in couples in which one of the partners is a heavy drinker and the other is not, while separation rates don’t seem to increase when both partners drink in a similar manner, or don’t drink at all,” says Andrey Ryabinin, of Oregon Health & Science University and one of the study’s authors.

    Researchers don’t know whether problematic drinking directly contributes to relationships breaking down, or if the unhappiness people experience in a failing relationship drives them to drink. Understanding whether alcohol’s effects on the brain directly contribute to relationship breakdown could help researchers to understand and treat problematic human behaviour.

    The prairie vole, a small monogamous rodent found in North America, provides a model to study this complex phenomenon. “Not many rodents form long-term social attachments and not many rodents like to drink alcohol,” says Ryabnin. “However, prairie voles are unusual as they are socially monogamous and like drinking alcohol, so they are perfect to investigate the role of alcohol in relationships.”

    Andre Walcott, a graduate student in Ryabinin’s laboratory, allowed male and female prairie voles to form social bonds over one week. The researchers then gave the males access to a 10% alcohol solution, while their female partners were allowed only water (discordant drinking) or also had access to alcohol (concordant drinking). In a control group, both males and females had access to water only.

    The researchers then gave each male a choice between huddling up beside his female partner or a new female. By timing how long the male spent beside each female, the researchers could determine the bond strength between the male and the original female.

    The researchers found that the prairie vole couples behaved like human couples in terms of how alcohol affected their relationships. During the social connection test, males who had drunk alone spent less time with their original female partner, whereas those who had never drunk or those who had drunk alongside their partner huddled with them for longer.

    These results indicate that discordant drinking can directly affect prairie voles’ relationships. The researchers next investigated whether there were any changes in the brains of the male prairie voles. Sure enough, males who had drunk alone showed changes in a brain region called the periaqueductal grey that might be responsible for these effects.

    What does this mean for human couples? “Our results in prairie voles have identified a biological mechanism that could explain the link between discordant drinking and relationship breakdown, but we will need to do further work to confirm this for humans,” says Ryabinin. “In future studies, we might be able to find strategies to overcome the negative effects of alcohol, to improve relationships that are disrupted by problematic drinking.”


  7. Study examines reactions to infidelity

    October 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release:

    Infidelity is very common. At least 20 per cent of couples – and perhaps many more, depending on where you set the limit – are unfaithful to their spouse.

    Being forgiven for infidelity is simply not easy. But many people whose spouse forgives them mistrust the signals and do not really believe that they are forgiven, according to a new study from NTNU.

    “We have a strong tendency not to believe our partner when they tell us we are forgiven,” says Mons Bendixen, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.

    Overcompensate

    Free of charge infidelity is not, because possible forgiveness comes at a considerable cost. A large part of this cost we bring upon ourselves.

    When you do not really believe you are forgiven, even if your partner asserts that you are, you will overcompensate.

    You may become more attentive, buy gifts or do other things that you expect your partner will appreciate. Underestimating the degree of forgiveness is probably an evolutionary mechanism, because the relationship may be in danger.

    “The cost could be high if you think you are forgiven, but really are not. You might not work hard enough to mend the relationship,” says Bendixen.

    Better safe than sorry, it is better to make a little extra effort rather than do too little. Regardless, the consequences are usually uncomfortable for the unfaithful party. Your partner takes it for granted that you believe what he or she says to be true.

    Advantageous to be wrong

    In this case, it may be to your advantage to be wrong. The Error Management Theory (EMT), a theory of evolved perceptual errors, can help explain why. (See fact box.)

    When interpreting signals, we can make one of two false assumptions: we can believe that something exists even if it doesn’t, and we can believe that something doesn’t exist even if it does.

    From an evolutionary perspective, it’s a question of which errors are more adaptable.

    “An example is men who think women are interested in sex, even though the women’s intention is just to be nice. The most important thing for men in situations like this is not to miss a sexual opportunity,” says Bendixen.

    Similarities between the sexes

    Most partners aren’t particularly intent on getting revenge or seeing their partner suffer. That doesn’t mean that it never happens, but the probability is the same for both sexes.

    They are more likely to pull away and want to keep some distance.

    “Partners want the infidelity to have a cost, but will rarely respond by being unfaithful themselves,” says evolutionary psychologist Trond Viggo Grøntvedt in NTNU’s Department of Public Health and Nursing.

    There is also no difference between the sexes when it comes to whether they would break up with the unfaithful partner or not. This is as likely for women as for men.

    The sexes agree on a lot when it comes to infidelity. But one exception exists.

    Did I do something wrong?

    “Men often do not understand how hard emotional infidelity is on women,” says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair in the Department of Psychology.

    Sexual infidelity strongly affects both men and women. Neither men nor women usually find it acceptable for their partner to have sex outside the marriage.

    But say you meet someone at a party and dance and flirt with the person there. Later you meet that person multiple times without telling your partner, but you don’t have sex. A friend of your partner finds out, and even reports that you look like you are in love. Is this wrong?

    Women find this scenario much worse than men do.

    “Many men do not see this as infidelity at all, since they did not have sex with the other woman,” said Kennair.

    Is this a problem? Well yes, maybe.

    Men forgive more often

    Men who are confronted with emotional infidelity do not necessarily think that they have done anything wrong. As a result, they do not attempt to make up for anything, at least not as much as if they had been sexually unfaithful. This certainly does not benefit the relationship.

    “It can also be a seed for conflict in the relationship,” says Kennair.

    At the same time, men are more likely to forgive this form of infidelity in their spouse. Men have less need to distance themselves from their partner than women do, and they look at emotional infidelity as less threatening to the relationship than women do.

    The same with jealousy

    This matches up with the psychologists’ predictions. Previously, they investigated jealousy reactions in women and men around the suspicion of imminent infidelity. Many of the same patterns were found in that study.

    Women become most jealous at the thought of their partner being emotionally unfaithful, whereas men become most jealous in the case of sexual infidelity.

    This is again entirely in line with the evolutionary theory of parental investment. For most women, it has historically and evolutionarily been worse for them if their partner breaks up than it has been for most men.

    Becoming emotionally attached to someone other than themselves has therefore been more threatening to women than to men.

    Clear gender differences

    Researchers conducted the survey with 92 heterosexual couples. These were young students who answered questions about imagined sexual or emotional infidelity by their partner and themselves.

    Whether these responses would apply to all heterosexual relationships is of course a question. Those asked were young, perhaps inexperienced and idealistic, starting their adult lives, so they could more easily find a new partner than others, and we can assume they knew they would talk to each other about the answers afterwards.

    But the conditions were the same for both sexes, and gender differences are nevertheless clear.

    Infidelity is named as the most common cause of divorces in Norway, although other reasons often other underlie it. Women initiate divorce much more often than men do.


  8. Study suggests possible genetic component to divorce running in families

    October 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Virginia Commonwealth University press release:

    Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced when compared to those who grew up in two-parent families — and genetic factors are the primary explanation, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

    “Genetics, the Rearing Environment, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce: A Swedish National Adoption Study,” which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, analyzed Swedish population registries and found that people who were adopted resembled their biological — but not adoptive — parents and siblings in their histories of divorce.

    “We were trying to answer the basic question: Why does divorce run in families?” said the study’s first author, Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. “Across a series of designs using Swedish national registry data, we found consistent evidence that genetic factors primarily explained the intergenerational transmission of divorce.”

    In addition to Salvatore, the study was conducted with Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics in the Department of Psychiatry at VCU’s School of Medicine, along with Swedish colleagues Sara Larsson Lönn, Ph.D.; Jan Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D.; and Kristina Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., of the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University.

    The study’s findings are notable because they diverge from the predominant narrative in divorce literature, which suggests that the offspring of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves because they see their parents struggling to manage conflict or lacking the necessary commitment, and they grow up to internalize that behavior and replicate it in their own relationships.

    “I see this as a quite significant finding. Nearly all the prior literature emphasized that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically,” Kendler said. “Our results contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important.”

    By recognizing the role that genetics plays in the intergenerational transmission of divorce, therapists may be able to better identify more appropriate targets when helping distressed couples, Salvatore said.

    “At present, the bulk of evidence on why divorce runs in families points to the idea that growing up with divorced parents weakens your commitment to and the interpersonal skills needed for marriage,” she said. “So, if a distressed couple shows up in a therapist’s office and finds, as part of learning about the partners’ family histories, that one partner comes from a divorced family, then the therapist may make boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills a focus of their clinical efforts.”

    “However, these previous studies haven’t adequately controlled for or examined something else in addition to the environment that divorcing parents transmit to their children: genes,” she said. “And our study is, at present, the largest to do this. And what we find is strong, consistent evidence that genetic factors account for the intergenerational transmission of divorce. For this reason, focusing on increasing commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills may not be a particularly good use of time for a therapist working with a distressed couple.”

    The study’s findings suggest that it might be useful for therapists to target some of the more basic personality traits that previous research has suggested are genetically linked to divorce, such as high levels of negative emotionality and low levels of constraint, to mitigate their negative impact on close relationships.

    “For example, other research shows that people who are highly neurotic tend to perceive their partners as behaving more negatively than they objectively are [as rated by independent observers],” Salvatore said. “So, addressing these underlying, personality-driven cognitive distortions through cognitive-behavioral approaches may be a better strategy than trying to foster commitment.”


  9. Study suggests couples weather bickering with a little help from their friends

    September 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Austin press release:

    Every couple has conflict, and new research finds that having good friends and family members to turn to alleviates the stress of everyday conflict between partners. In fact, according to the study led by The University of Texas at Austin’s Lisa Neff, social networks may help provide protection against health problems brought about by ordinary tension between spouses.

    In a paper published this week in the online edition of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Neff and other researchers in UT Austin’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences found that “spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family, whom they knew they could connect with during times of marital conflict, experienced conflict as less physiologically stressful.”

    The paper is the first to look at the link between spouses’ cortisol levels, which are an indicator of physiological stress, and marital conflicts occurring in the home. At a time when more couples in the U.S. are living in communities separate from where their families and friends reside, the research suggests there is a strong correlation between relationships like these outside of a marriage and people within the marriage experiencing lower risk factors for health problems such as weight gain, insomnia, depression and even heart disease.

    “We found that having a satisfying social network buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts,” said Neff, an associate professor. “Maintaining a few good friends is important to weathering the storms of your marriage.”

    The research looked at 105 newlywed couples who kept daily records of marital conflict in their home environment and completed questionnaires about the number, quality and characteristics of their connections with friends and family. In addition, the couples participating in the study collected morning and evening saliva samples for cortisol testing every day for six days. Cortisol levels over the course of the day are a measure of the stress response.

    The overall number of friends and family members that study participants reported having didn’t appear to affect couples’ ability to handle conflicts nearly as much as the quality of those outside relationships. Neff and her colleagues found that people who reported having even a few close friends or family members to talk to outside of their marriage experienced lower levels of stress when marital conflicts arose.

    “Even everyday conflict takes a toll on people physiologically,” Neff said. “But we found that the association between marital conflict and cortisol responses completely disappears when people are happy and satisfied with their available social network.”

    The other authors on the paper are Liz Keneski, a former graduate student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at UT Austin; and Tim Loving, an adjunct faculty member in the department. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.


  10. Study looks at how couples maintain relationships

    September 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences press release:

    For some couples in romantic relationships, just staying together is good enough. But others want to see their relationship move forward — to get better and better — and are willing to put in the effort to get there.

    Family studies researchers at the University of Illinois who study the science behind maintaining romantic relationships focus their work on the central organizing unit — the relationship — rather than on the individual. Through their work, they hope to find out what works and, maybe, what doesn’t in keeping a relationship moving forward.

    “We know relationships are key,” says Brian Ogolsky, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I. “We spend all of our time in these relationships. Whether we are at home, with our siblings, our parents, or our colleagues, these are all extremely important. And consequently we spend very little time alone with our thoughts. So it’s critical that we carefully and methodically understand what’s going on in relationships and what is unique that two individuals bring that you can’t get from studying person ‘x’ and person ‘y’ separately.”

    In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Theory and Review, Ogolsky and his research team discuss romantic relationship maintenance and the two primary motives behind a couple’s attempts at staying together: threat mitigation and relationship enhancement.

    Ogolsky calls these “macro-motives,” or the main reasons people maintain their relationships. In their study, the researchers provide a visual framework of how relationships may be maintained by staving off threats or moved forward by relationship enhancement strategies, which involve putting effort into the relationship for the pleasure of it. For the most part, relationships include a combination of both.

    “Threats to the relationship come from all kinds of different places,” he explains. “Generally, there are many threats early in relationships that can cause problems, but that is not to say that these disappear later. We know couples cheat in the long-term, people end up in new work places and in new situations where possible alternative partners show up, conflicts arise, or a lack of willingness to sacrifice time for your partner emerges.”

    Some threat mitigation tactics can actually become enhancement strategies over time, Ogolsky says, but adds that the reverse is not usually true. “We get to a place where we are pouring energy into the relationship simply because we want to keep the relationship moving forward rather than just mitigating threats.”

    In their integrative model of relationship maintenance, the researchers also illustrate individual versus interactive components of maintenance. “This question of ‘is this an individual thing or is this a couple-level thing’ often goes unanswered. But as we were doing this review, we started noticing that there are ways to maintain the relationship that we can characterize as ‘more or less in our own heads.’ We are doing something to convince ourselves that this is a good relationship and therefore it’s good for our relationship,” Ogolsky explains. “Things like positive illusions, the idea that we can believe our relationship is better than it is or that our partner is better than he or she is. We can do that without our partner.”

    Mitigating conflict, however, is something that partners must do together. “Good conflict management or forgiving our partner for doing something wrong is an interactive process. When a threat comes in, we can do one of two things: we can ditch our partner or forgive them over time.”

    The same is true of enhancement strategies: partners can do things individually or interactively. “Individually, even the act of thinking about our relationship can be enhancing. Whereas engaging in leisure activities together, talking about the state of our relationship, these are all interactive,” Ogolsky says.

    But why study relationship maintenance as a science?

    While Ogolsky rarely offers direct interventions to couples, he explains that he tends to study the positive side of relationships because of what can be learned from people who are going through what, he says, is inherently a very turbulent thing.

    “Relationships have ups and downs. I never go into my work saying people should stay together or they should break up. Relationships are individualized, a unique pairing of people that comes with a unique history. What we are talking about here are processes that exist across different kinds of couples, some of which work very well for some people, some of which may not work for some people. I am interested in understanding processes that keep relationships moving.”

    For the review, Ogolsky and his team searched for previous research, regardless of discipline, dealing with relationship maintenance. They eventually discussed about 250 studies in the paper (reviewing more than 1,100) that deal with romantic relationships and that met their criteria. Ogolsky hopes the review will bring together relationship scholars from across many disciplines.