Posts tagged with "Relationship"

Single-minded: Being unattached beats being in a bad relationship—or even in a ‘neutral’ one

October 22, 2019

Are people who have life partners happier than those who go it alone? Not necessarily, according to a study performed recently by psychologists Nathan Hudson of Southern Methodist University and Richard Lucas and M. Brent Donnellan of Michigan State University.

Indeed, the researchers found—out of a cohort of more than 300 respondents, ages 19 to 92 (average age: 53)—people in romantic relationships were “better off” than single people in only one way. On the other six measures, people in romantic relationships did better than single people only if they said their relationships were of the very highest quality.

In other words, single people were more satisfied with their lives than people in bad romantic relationships. But they also did better than people in romantic relationships that were not that bad at all.

What was the one way in which people in relationships were more fulfilled and contented with their lives? The people in committed romantic relationships did not experience more positive feelings than the single people did. They also did not experience fewer negative feelings or any more of a sense of meaning.

Indeed, according to a report by Psychology Today, they were only doing better in one way: They said they were more satisfied with their lives.

The researchers posited that It’s possible that they were proud of themselves for being in a romantic relationship, since those relationships are so valued in our society—and perhaps that’s why they were more satisfied with their lives. Compared to single people, though, they did not feel any better emotionally and they did not experience their lives as being more meaningful.

One subset of people in romantic relationships were doing better than single people in every way—the coupled people who agreed most strongly with every positive statement about their relationship. In every way, they described their relationship in the most positive terms possible—a seven on the seven-point scale.

As for the coupled people who gave middle-of-the-scale ratings of their relationships—for example, they neither agreed nor disagreed that their relationship made them happy—they were worse off in every way (either significantly or nearly so) than the people who were single. The truism was also true: being single was better than being in a bad relationship.

When it came to negative feelings (frustration, worry, sadness, and anger), the results were even more ominous. Even those who rated their romantic relationships as fairly high in quality (5.5 on the 1-to-7 scale) experienced significantly more negative feelings when they were with their partner than when their partner was not around. As the authors concluded:

The research findings have been published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.   

Research contact: @PsychToday

Mum’s the word: What mothers-in-law say about their daughters-in-law

December 11, 2018

It’s a fact of life that you don’t just marry a man or a woman; you marry their family–and their relationship with each member of that family—for better or for worse..

If a son is close to his mother, for example, many women would take that as a good sign–believing that, if he respects and loves the alpha female in his life, he also will be a good husband and provider.

Indeed, on a personal level, a woman might dream that she will be perceived by her partner’s mom as “the daughter she never had.” Meanwhile, his mom might have a fantasy of her own—assuming that, since her future daughter-in-law is ”crazy about her son,” this younger woman will appreciate every piece of advice about taking care of him and ensuring his happiness. After all, who knows him better than mom?

Wrong on both sides! In fact, fully 60% of women use words like “strained,” “Infuriating,” and “simply awful” to describe their mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, according to psychologist Terri Apter of the UK’s Cambridge University who attributes such rifts to “the clash of the fantasy lives,” in a 2009 Newsweek interview.

It’s the disappointment felt by both women that “gives these relationships their distinctive negative charge,” Apter says. Add to that a mother’s conflicted feelings of pride and loss as a son marries; a wife’s insecurity that she’s adequately balancing work and home responsibilities, and the tendency of most women to be more sensitive to slights and criticisms than men, and you have the formula for years of trouble.

In some respects, Apter says, the ensuing jockeying for position has a lot of similarities to the games “mean girls” play in middle-school hallways. “Each is the primary woman in her primary family. As each tries to establish or protect her status, each feels threatened by the other.”

However, for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, the benefits of working toward and maintaining a close relationship cannot be overstated, as Geoffrey Greif and Michael Woolley—both academicians at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore—found in a study published in November by the journal Social Work.

The study, also covered in the December 7 edition of Psychology Today surveyed 267 mothers-in-law  on the factors that they felt were key in establishing closeness with their daughters-in-law.

From a 114 item survey, the researchers used the statement, “My daughter-in-law and I have a close relationship” as a dependent variable. Among the factors they found that encouraged a close relationship were the following:

  • The mother-in-law perceives the daughter-in-law as being helpful;
  • The mother-in-law perceives her son is happy with the relationship she has with the daughter-in-law;
  • The mother-in-law perceives she and the daughter-in-law share similar interests;
  • The mother-in-law feels close with her son;
  • The mother-in-law does not feel left out by her daughter-in-law and son; and
  • The mother-in-law spends time with her daughter-in-law.

For those mothers-in-law struggling with their relationship with their daughter-in-law, a few takeaways emerged from the findings, the authors told Psychology Today—among them:

  • First, a mother-in-law should engage her daughter-in-law in ways and situations in which she can be helpful. Are there opportunities that are not being used where some level of mutuality can be built?
  • Second, similar to the first, a mother-in-law should try to find shared interests with a daughter-in-law because such joint activities can help to build a relationship
  • Third, look at the relationship the son/spouse plays in the relationship with the daughter-in-law. It goes without saying that most mothers want to be close with their son; when they are close, they are more likely to be close with their daughter-in-law also. To help build closeness with the son, the mother-in-law should recognize that building a relationship with her daughter-in-law may facilitate closeness with the son who is an extremely important person in this relationship.
  • Fourth, the mother-in-law should work to explore her own feelings of inclusion or exclusion. Feeling left out is not pleasant. If there are ways to try to understand what is leading to these feelings (remembering the demands that couples, especially those raising children, are experiencing), a path may be found to experiencing them less often

Finally, author Geoffrey Greif says, don’t get discouraged: Building a close relationship may require time, patience, and effort:

Research contact: ggreif@ssw.umarylandedu

Germany takes a step back from Trump’s USA

December 13, 2017

On December 5 at the Berlin Policy Forum, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told global foreign policy experts that his country’s relationship with the United States “will never be the same” under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump—whom he accused of leading Europe on the path toward nuclear war.

Indeed, according to a report by Newsweek magazine, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s second-in-command castigated Trump’s nationalistic vision of international relations; and announced that Germany would pursue its own agenda and no longer operate under the shadow of its ally in the White House.

Now, Pew Research, together with the German firm, Körber-Stiftung, has released the results of polls that find “the future of U.S.-German relations is unclear.”

People in the two countries differ in their views of the bilateral relationship, according to the parallel surveys. Among the five key findings of the surveys are the following:

  1. Americans and Germans have very different opinions about whether the current relationship between the two countries is good or bad. Almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) say relations between the U.S. and Germany are good, while only 22% say they are bad. Conversely, a majority of Germans (56%) say that relations with America are at least somewhat bad, with only 42% saying they are positive.
  2. Americans and Germans don’t agree when people in each country are asked which nations are their first and second most-important partners. Combining both first and second mentions, Americans name Great Britain more than any other country (31%), followed by China (24%), Germany (12%), Israel (12%) and Canada (10%). In Germany, France gathers the most votes as either first or second most-important partner (63%), followed by the USA (43%). Lagging far behind in the eyes of Germans are Russia (11%), China (7%) and Great Britain (6%).
  3. People in the two countries have alternative views about what the levels of national defense spending should be in Europe. A plurality of Americans (45%) say European allies should increase their defense spending, while only  32% of Germans say the same about their own defense budget. By comparison,, roughly half of Germans (51%) say their country should maintain its current military budget, and 13% want to spend less on their nation’s defense.
  4. Americans and Germans don’t hold the same opinions about most important aspect of the U.S.-German relationship. Roughly one- third of Americans say that the most important aspects of the relationship – from a list of three options – are security and defense ties (34%) and economic and trade ties (33%). Most one-third saying  that democratic values are the keystone of the c relationship (35%).
  5. Americans are more likely than their German counterparts to say other countries do too little in global affairs  Roughly two-thirds of Americans say China (66%) and Russia (65%) do too little to help solve global problems. About one-half say the same about the United Nations, and 45% of Americans hold this view about the European Union. However, Americans are split on whether Germany is doing too little (39%) or the right amount (40%). Germans, on the other hand, have more mixed views. While pluralities in Germany say the UN, Russia and China are doing too little, 46% say the EU is doing enough. Germans are divided on whether the U.S. is doing too little (39%) or too much (39%) to help solve global problems.

Research contact: