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Friendship: the all-important glue
Support for couples has often been focused on managing disagreements rather than building positive aspects of the relationship, like friendship. However, it is increasingly recognised that in the long term, relationships falter through a lack of positivity rather than the presence of negativity [1]. When thinking about supporting relationships, working to strengthen the depth of friendship is ‘probably the treatment of choice’ [2]. Research suggests that friendship can be the foundation of a strong relationship with our partner. This foundation has three parts: Couples with strong friendships tend to be emotionally connected, knowing what is happening in their partner’s world and being interested in their life. They admire and show appreciation for each other. They respond positively to each other’s requests for attention, interest, or affection [3]. A strong foundation of friendship helps us to see the best in our partner. When we are feeling positive about our partner, it’s much easier to see any inevitable let-downs as being out of character or due to circumstance, making it easier to forgive and move on [4]. Research shows that married and cohabiting couples who see their partner as their ‘best friend’ are much more satisfied with their lives than those who name someone else as their closest friend [5]. Time to ourselves and a network of support from other friends and family are, of course, also vital to wellbeing. Friendship in the good times and the bad One study of couples interviewed separately over the first 15 years of their marriage [6] showed that people who described being great friends with their partner were in some of the most satisfying relationships. Many of the couples had been ‘friends first’ before becoming romantic partners [7]. As one man put it, “You need to have that basic friendship at the base of everything to build up from, and that always gives you something to go back to.” Couples’ experiences of the pandemic differed substantially depending on a number of factors. However, many couples commented that because they were such good friends, they had not found it difficult to be in lockdown together. Couples in thriving relationships ‘work hard’ to keep their relationship vibrant, but because they enjoy each other’s company, this is not ‘hard work’. In the good times and the bad, friendship is “The glue that sticks everything together.” Couples who are good friends look out and want the best for each other. They tackle issues as a team, which can strengthen their relationship further. This can even help when things go wrong – in the 15-year study of couples, one man said that he fell back on the “solid friendship” they had enjoyed to get him through the difficult months after finding out about his wife’s affair in the early years of their marriage. Without this basis of friendship, the relationship may not have survived. What happens if friendship isn’t strong? In the same study, concerns flagged by the researchers over the strength of the couple’s friendship at the first interview reliably predicted which couples would separate. Without a foundation of friendship, there seemed to be little to fight for when couples hit difficulties, and the relationships broke down [4]. When friendship is weak, the likely outcome is that people leave unhappy marriages [7]. That is why it’s essential to choose a partner we get on well with and then work hard to keep the relationship strong. How can you build your friendship as a couple? It is normal for relationships to go through peaks and troughs. It takes time and effort to keep things vibrant with a partner and there will be times when you feel closer than at others. Making time shows your partner they are your priority, especially when time is at a premium. Here are some things you can do to keep your relationship strong: Stay up to date and interested in what is happening in your partner’s life. Show appreciation for what your partner does for you or let them know the qualities you admire in them.  Respond positively and enthusiastically when your partner asks for your time, attention, or affection. Show that you care through small gestures. A cup of tea or a “How was your day?” can be more meaningful than occasional big gestures. Make time for your partner, and carve out time together.  Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader and a shoulder to cry on when things are tough. Tackle things as a team and be ‘in it together’. Make plans for small treats or time together to stay connected and have things to look forward to. Learn what makes your partner feel cherished. If it’s ‘being helpful’, then notice something that needs doing, like loading the dishwasher, and do it without being asked. Written by Dr Jan Ewing, University of Exeter References [1] Frank Fincham, Scott Stanley and Steven Beach, ‘Transformative Processes in Marriage: An Analysis of Emerging Trends’ (2007) 69 Journal of Marriage and Family 275[2] John Gottman and others, The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002)[3] John Gottman and Julie Gottman, ‘The Natural Principles of Love’ (2017) 9(3) Journal of Family Theory and Review 7[4] Anne Barlow and others The Shackleton Relationships Project: Report on Key Findings (University of Exeter, 2018)[5] Shawn Grover and John Helliwell, ‘How’s Life at Home? New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness’ (2017) 20(2) Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being 373[6] Anne Barlow and Jan Ewing, forthcoming[7] See: Danu Stinson,  Jessica Cameron and Lisa Hoplock, ‘The Friends-to-Lovers Pathway to Romance: Prevalent, Preferred, and Overlooked by Science’ (2022) 13(2)  Social Psychological and Personality Science 562[8] Denise Prevetti and Paul Amato ‘Why Stay Married? Rewards, Barriers and Marital Stability’ (2003) 65(3) Journal of Marriage and Family 561
Article | frienship
Interracial and cross-cultural relationships
Interracial relationships are still taboo in many families. This article offers some insight on how to manage difficult conversations with family and friends about being with the person who makes you happy, regardless of their race or ethnicity. These taboos may be connected to the long-standing effects of institutional racism or the lingering presence of white privilege, both of which can affect the way people view the world. Although years have passed since the Equality Act, many people from ethnic minorities still worry about being subject to racism and may choose partners from similar backgrounds as a result. If you are in a relationship with someone from a race or culture that is different from your own, you may already have experienced the negative impact of taboos, stereotypes, racism, and the negative attitudes of family members. We are here to remind you that you are not alone in your relationship, even though family and friends’ opinions can make you feel so. The following accounts are from real women who have been in interracial relationships and the emotions they went through when telling their parents or their partner’s parents. Sim (British Gujarati female, 25) talks about her relationship with Matt (white British male) “After telling my parents, I was overthinking whether it was the right decision to be together which may have indirectly affected our relationship at the time... His parents were unsure about our relationship at first as they played to the stereotypes of me being Indian and thought I was with him for fun, only to get an arranged marriage after” Zoe (White British female, 20) talks about her relationship with Elijah (black British male) “We had to keep our relationship secret from his dad for a while... when he found out he didn’t say much but made a comment about my partner saying, ‘he will learn from his mistakes’.” Selina (British Gujarati female, 21) talks about her relationship with Zayn (British Pakistani male) “They were disappointed and ashamed when they found out and my dad made the comment, ‘One thing we told you was no Pakistani boys’... I was frustrated that they only saw ethnicity rather than the person I was with [...] His parents reacted worse than mine, which bought up plans about the future... some cultural aspects didn’t align, and we realised that we had more differences than we thought” How to work through your issues Opinions of family and friends can have negative effects on a relationship. In a situation where your partner does not understand why their family’s comments are hurtful, you may feel you cannot speak to your partner, causing a lack of communication and distance between the two of you. It is easy to feel discouraged if your families are not supportive, but these issues can be worked through. Listen to your partner’s needs Something that seems small to you may be big for your partner. Don’t ignore or dismiss their partner’s feelings as this could push them away, or lead to feelings of bitterness. Listening to your partner and sharing issues about your families can take some of the load off for them and help with the healthy progress of your relationship. Compromise equally The desire to keep in touch with your own culture and embrace your partner’s culture is natural. However, compromise is essential to make sure something that you are passionate about is not being disregarded. Set boundaries with your partner about what aspects of culture and religion are important to you, so that your roots are not being forgotten. Relationships are a two-way thing; in an interracial relationship, cultures and religions from both sides must be taken into consideration and appreciated. Reason with your parents The reality is that a lot of parents won’t understand your relationship but dealing with this doesn’t have to be confrontational. Explain how you feel in a calm manner, using soft start-ups like, ‘I feel...’ or ‘It upsets me when you say...’. This can help them see how their words affect you, which they may not have considered before. Hearing their point of view is important too as this can be part of a discussion that dissolves stereotypes around your partner’s race and brings more normality to interracial relationships. Reassure each other It is easy to overthink what the future may bring for you and your partner when the odds seem against you now. However, living in the present and taking everything one step at a time is more manageable. This allows you both to slowly normalise your relationships in your families and focus on what is going well in the moment rather than what could go wrong in the future. What happened next? Let’s meet those couples again and hear how they moved forward from their parents’ reactions. As you’ll see, things don’t always work out, but there is certainly hope. If you’ve been in a similar situation, we’d like to hear from you in the comments below. Sim and Matt “I managed to win [his parents] over and they were welcoming and looked after me whilst I was away from home, which had a positive impact on our relationship. But I never felt we were going to progress as he was never close to my parents […] maybe if my parents were more supportive, we could have still been together now.” Zoe and Elijah “His dad is a strict Christian and doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, so our relationship was never discussed with him... that being said, my partner never spoke about his relationship with his dad and how our relationship may have affected it” Selina and Zayn “We reassured each other that we’d take our relationship one step at a time and focus on now instead of the future. My parents met him and apologised for judging on stereotypes, and we’ve compromised on things we didn’t initially agree with.” By Sereena Vaja References Brooks, J. E., Ly, L. M., & Brady, S. E. (2021). Race talk: How racial worldview impacts discussions in interracial relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(7), 2249–2267.https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075211011530
Article | culture, race, dating
How to boost your self-esteem
Self-esteem is a sense of belief and confidence in your own values and abilities. This is something you develop over time as you respond to the big and small events in your life – anything from deciding what to eat for dinner to how well you cope with having a baby [1]. Having good self-esteem means you feel capable of tackling the challenges of everyday life and that you have measured up to your goals and values. When it comes to relationships, it’s also important to have a stable sense of self-esteem. This means that your self-esteem is realistic and reflects what others see in you. Self-esteem and relationships Having a good and stable sense of self-esteem can mean you feel more satisfied in your relationship, and any changes in self-esteem can also change how you feel about your relationship. Poor self-esteem is linked with high levels of stress and instability in relationships. One marker of a healthy relationship is that the individuals involved have time for their own activities and friends outside of the relationship. It is important that each person involved in the relationships has their own sense of self-worth [2] [3] [4]. How to build and maintain self-esteem Through humour If you want to work on building your self-esteem, one thing you can try is using self-enhancing humour rather than self-defeating humour. Self-defeating humour is putting yourself down and making a joke at your own expense, such as ‘I was an ugly baby,’ or ‘That was such a stupid thing to do.’ This type of self-talk can make you feel sad and anxious. Self-enhancing humour is finding humour in everyday situations or making yourself the target of a joke in a good-natured way, such as ‘I’m a bit of a klutz’, or ‘You’ll never believe what happened to me’. Self-enhancing behaviour can help you feel more capable and worthy [5]. By emulating a role model Another way to build self-esteem is to model your behaviour on someone you admire. This can help you find ideas about how to solve problems and deal with uncertainty and anxiety. When you are stuck for what to do in a certain situation, seeing how someone else has done it can help you develop the knowledge and skills to try something similar. Take some time to think about who you look up to and the values they embody that are important to you [1]. Through defining your goals and values Another way to improve your self-esteem is by acting in line with your values and working towards goals that are important to you. It is much easier to do this when you know what your goals and values are. You can find a values exercise in our article, ‘Are you having an emotional affair?’ When setting goals, it is important to think ‘SMART’ by making sure your goals embody the following five qualities: S – Make sure your goals are specific. For example, rather than the general goal of ‘being more loving to my partner’ try saying: ‘I will call my partner when I get off work and say “I love you”’. M – Having goals that are meaningful to you is also important. Make sure your goals are not geared towards avoiding pain or pleasing others. One of your values might be showing love and appreciation for your family. In this case your goal could be to make an effort to thank your partner when they do something nice for you. A – Adaptive goals are those that aim to improve your life. It may seem silly but it’s important to weigh this one up. Something that seems like a good idea may not be practicable in the context of your life. For example, you may consider joining a dog walking club to socialise, but if you are often stressed and rushing around trying to get everything done, then a more adaptive goal could be to cut something out of your busy schedule instead. R – Set realistic goals, taking into account your current health and financial circumstances. If you are struggling to make ends meet and your goal is to start exercising it may not be realistic for you to buy a gym membership. Instead you might decide to try something more affordable, like going for a run outside. T – Finally setting timebound goals can help increase specificity. Set yourself a date and time by which to achieve your goals, or an estimate that feels realistic. Instead of setting the general goal of ‘running regularly’, you could aim to go for a run every Thursday at five o’clock [6]. Goal setting exercise Write down a series of goals you want to achieve from the immediate to long term: An immediate goal (something simple and easy that you can achieve in the next 24 hours) A short-term goal (something you can achieve in the next few days or weeks) A medium-term goal (something you can achieve in the next few months) A long-term goal (something you can achieve in the next year or few years) How to approach building and maintaining self-esteem When building self-esteem remember it takes time and is not something that you can improve overnight. Pursuing this goal will take perseverance, patience, mindfulness, and wholeheartedness, but it is possible, and we are behind you all the way. Let us know how you get on!By Helen Molloy References [1] Mruk & Mruk, 2013[2] Erol & Orth, 2014[3] Santangelo et al., 2020[4] Maestripieri et al., 2013[5] Kuiper et al., 2004[6] Harris, 2008
Article | self-esteem, confidence
Building and maintaining trust
Trusting your partner isn’t always easy. Sometimes feelings of distrust can be a useful sign that something isn’t quite right in your relationship. However, if you’re not sure why you are feeling distrust, or notice it’s becoming a pattern in your relationships, it can help to learn why and what you can do about it. Importance of trust in relationships Trust is confidence that you will find what you desire from your partner rather than what you fear. It means feeling comfortable being close to your partner and having a low fear of rejection. It is one of the most important ingredients of a healthy and stable romantic relationship [1]. The impact of a lack of trust Negative emotions and interactions are a normal part of a romantic relationship – in fact it has been found to be essential in a healthy relationship, with the golden ratio being around five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. That said, too much negativity in a relationship can lead to emotional instability, conflict, and ultimately a decision to break up [2]. What can cause distrust in a relationship? There’s no simple answer to what causes distrust but many things can contribute to how we function in adult relationships. Let’s talk about one of them. In the 1980s, a famous psychologist called Bowlby came up with a theory that is still relevant today. This is called attachment theory. Bowlby said that we are born wanting to be close to other people. He said that interactions with people we are close to when we are little can shape our opinion of ourselves, and our adult relationships [3]. For example, if your mum was going through a hard time when you were a baby and wasn’t able to give you as much attention as you needed, you may feel more distrust towards your partner as an adult. This could be because you have learned to expect that you can’t rely on the people close to you to provide you with what you need. This natural instinct of self-protection may have been helpful when you were little but could be less helpful in your adult relationships. Learning this may be frustrating and it might seem unfair to be paying the price for something we had no control over. However, research shows that you can learn skills to help know how to address feelings of distrust. Using Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to tackle feelings of distrust Improving and maintaining trust takes persistence and practice. One way to tackle relational issues is through using Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) techniques. DBT is a well-researched and effective therapy, developed to help people improve their relational skills, and change deeply ingrained habits. Below are three DBT skills you can try today to help improve and maintain trust in your relationship [4]. Three DBT skills to help deal with feelings of distrust: Observe skill When there is a lack of trust in your relationship, it can be upsetting and confusing. Recognising and identifying individual thoughts can help bring some clarity, then we can address them specifically if needed, by using other skills. It can help to set a timer to help practice this skill. Something like 1-2 minutes. Take a moment to observe your thoughts and feelings. Breathe. When a thought comes up, notice it. Is it a judgement? What is the subject? After identifying the thought, bring your attention back to your breathing and allow your thoughts to keep moving through your mind. Many thoughts may come up in 1-2 minutes or maybe just one or two. Check the facts skill We have lots of thoughts throughout the day. Distrustful thoughts can be distressing, and they may stick around for longer or be more prominent in our minds. If you find yourself thinking a specific distrustful thought, it can be helpful to check out how valid it is. Following a procedure to check the facts can help you do just that. Sit down with a pen and paper or do this in your head – whichever is most helpful to you. Ask yourself: What is the emotion I am feeling right now? What is the event prompting my emotion? (Describe the facts of the situation and avoid making judgements or black and white thinking). What are my interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions about the event? Am I assuming a threat? (Think of the likelihood of the catastrophe occurring, imagine coping well with it) Does my emotion fit the facts? After doing this exercise, you may have a better idea of whether or not your emotion is because of something your partner has done, and act accordingly. GIVE skill If you want to build a more trusting and positive relationship dynamic, it can help to empathise with your partner by using the GIVE skill. GIVE is an acronym. G – be gentle and respectful in your communication. When you are angry use words to describe how you feel calmly, without raising your voice. Avoid doing things like rolling your eyes or exaggerating to make your point.I – Show interest in your partner and what they say, face your partner, listen to their point of view, be patient, and don’t interrupt them.V – Validate your partner’s feelings by offering support and understanding.E – Use an easy manner. A little humour and light heartedness can help. What does improving and maintaining trust look like? After practising these skills for a while, you may find yourself having a clearer idea of what is upsetting you. You may notice that you feel calmer and have fewer negative interactions with your partner. Give them a go and remember that seeing an improvement in your relationship takes persistence and practice. By Helen Molloy References [1] Kleinert et al., 2020[2] Gottman & Levenson, 1992[3] Bowlby 1982[4] Linehan, 2015
Article | trust, jealousy
Facing money issues as a couple
As we move in and out of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, many of us are facing an uncertain financial future. Some people have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Some businesses have closed or lost much of their revenue. Months after the lockdown was first announced, redundancy is now the top search term on the Citizens Advice website, and their benefits advice page views are at their highest ever levels. Even in ordinary times, money troubles are one of the biggest causes of stress in relationships. More than half of couples include money worries in their top three relationship strains [1]. 60% of people who contact debt charities say they also have problems with their relationships, but they don’t necessarily seek relationship support [2].  On top of that, we’re feeling the effects of a global event that affects us in ways we can’t avoid and that aren’t our fault, which can feel unfair and unsettling [3]. When you’re struggling with money, you and your partner might have less time together and argue more. Arguments about money can be different to other types of arguments – they can last longer, are more likely to get out of hand, and can have a bigger impact on your relationship [4]. But there are practical steps you can take if you’re worried about money, from getting advice on what to do if coronavirus has affected you financially, to managing the stress together with your partner. Get some help Charities like Citizens Advice, MoneyHelper, and the National Debtline can help you figure out what benefits you can get — including coronavirus-specific relief — what to do if you can’t pay your bills or rent, and dealing with debt.  Consider seeking emotional support as well. Research has shown that relationship counselling can help people cope better with financial problems [6]. Organisations like Relate can help with telephone or webcam counselling and live chat services. Talk about money Couples who talk openly about money tend to cope better in tough times. In one study, couples who consciously worked together at finding solutions were better at maintaining their relationship through difficult financial periods. These couples made the decision to see their money problems as separate from the relationship, focusing on the importance of communicating well and working together [5]. Aside from overspending, one of the biggest money problems relationships face is appointing one partner to manage all the household finances while the other takes a back seat [6]. While this might seem simpler, it can often increase stress in relationships, creating an extra burden for the person in control [7], and leaving the other person in the dark. The couples who have the most success at dealing with their issues are those who recognise the need for trust and communication around financial matters. When you can trust each other to pay bills on time, discuss big purchases, and avoid overspending, you’re likely to feel more confident in your finances and in your relationship [5]. Make a budget Get together and write down your income and your expenses, starting with unavoidable things like housing and energy bills. If you’re not sure how to get started with a budget, you can find a free planner and some online guides through the MoneyHelper. Go through your expenses and work out where you can make cuts and savings. Can you change your energy suppliers or switch to a cheaper phone plan? Can you cut your food bills by going to a cheaper supermarket or buying things in bulk? What can you live without while money is tighter than usual? Remember that these changes might only be temporary – it can be easier to adjust when you know what you’re working towards. Take time for each other  You may have to cut back your spending, but this doesn’t mean you should stop making time for each other. During periods of lockdown, you might not have much choice about what you do, but some of these suggestions from couples might be useful as you think about the future: Look for cheaper alternatives to your preferred activities. For example, a football fan might pay for a subscription radio service as a cheaper alternative to the TV package. You can still have special meals while spending less than usual. If you're ordering in, cut the starters and sundries. Set the table and put some music on. Light a candle. Make an evening of it without spending more than you can afford. When the weather is nice, take walks in the park. Explore the open spaces in your area. Go off the beaten track a little – you might be surprised at what's available locally if you let yourself wander. Learn how to support each other well by reading our tips on coping with stress together.  Don’t delay If you’re worried about money, watch this story to see why you should act as soon as possible to deal with the issues and talk to your partner. References [1] Undy, H.,  Bloomfield, B.,  Jopling, K., Marcus, L.,  Saddington, P., &  Sholl, P. (2015). The way we are now: The state of the UK’s relationships 2015. Relate, Relationships Scotland, Marriage Care.[2] Findings from OnePlusOne interviews with major UK debt charities, further supported by Olson, G. Olson, D. National Survey of Marital Strengths, April 2003.(66% of problems in marriage are associated with ‘major debt’)[3] Dew, J.P., & Xiao, J.J. (2013) Financial Declines, Financial Behaviors, and Relationship Satisfaction during the Recession. Journal of Financial Therapy, 4(1).[4] Papp, L. M., Cummings, E. M., & Goeke ‐ Morey, M. C. (2009) For richer, for poorer: Money as a topic of marital conflict in the home. Family Relations, 58(1), 91-103[5] Skogrand, L., Johnson, A.C., Horrocks, A.M., DeFrain, J. (2011). Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32: 27.[6] Doherty, H. F. (2006). Communication is vital to a couple's successful financial life. Dental Economics, 96(11), 92-93.[7] Rowlingston, K. & Joseph, R. (2009). Assets and Debts Within Couples: Ownership and Decision-Making. Friends Provident Foundation.
Article | finance, money, lockdown
They mess you up, your mum and dad
As that PG-rated version of the famous poem goes, our parents have a lot to answer for. We may not know it at the time, but our attitudes to relationships are formed when we are children, and we learn a lot from seeing adults interacting with each other while we are growing up. Because of this, people who grow up with divorced or separated parents are more likely to have a negative view of marriage and may be less interested in romantic relationships in general. When they do form relationships, they might be more likely to get into arguments with their partners and less keen on the idea of making a long-term commitment [1]. If your parents were separated or divorced, it can affect the way you view relationships from the start. As you get older, this can then affect the way you interact with the people you have relationships with. This doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat your parents’ patterns, but it can be a helpful way of understanding how you relate to others. When you understand the source of your attitude to relationships, it can make it easier for you to set a pace that suits you and to recognise problems when they come up. It’s OK if you don’t feel ready to make a commitment and, of course, some level of conflict is to be expected in most relationships (it’s the way you handle conflict that matters most). But, if you aren’t as happy with your relationship as you’d like to be, and you’re looking to make some changes, then recognising the source of your feelings can be a good place to start. Ask yourself what you might have learned about relationships when you were growing up. Who were your adult role models and what kinds of relationships did they have? Most of what we understand about how relationships work comes from seeing the way our parents interact. When we see them supporting each other, making compromises, and getting over arguments, we learn important skills about how to do this in our own relationships. If you grew up with separated parents, you might have missed out on a lot of that, especially if your parents didn’t handle their breakup very well or continued to argue in front of you. Even when separated parents do get on well, their children can still miss out on important lessons. You could be left trying to figure out relationship skills the hard way – through trial and error. As a result, you might find it harder to deal with relationship stress and arguments with your partner, all of which can make your relationship feel less satisfying [2]. These issues can also be linked to problems with sex and intimacy. You may find that you are less interested in sexual experiences. You might not always recognise it when your partner is trying to be intimate with you, or you might just not be into it. This is quite common for people who grew up in homes with a single parent, particularly if there wasn’t much adult affection on display [2]. Go easy on yourself, especially in your early relationships when you are still figuring out what you want. Ask your partner to be patient with you and try to be honest about anything you are finding difficult. If intimacy is an issue, ask your partner to slow things down. If you find it hard to commit, just be clear about where you’re at so that your partner can manage their expectations. Growing up with step-parents Of course, if you grew up with step-parents, it’s possible that a lot of this won’t apply to you. Unlike children who grow up with both parents, you may have had the benefit of seeing how a successful relationship begins. This can play a big part in how you go on to form your own relationships. If your parents separated when you were a child, but another parental figure entered your life, you might even be better at starting relationships than people whose parents stayed together [3]. References [1] Cui, M., & Fincham, F. (2010). The differential effects of parental divorce and marital conflict on young adult romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(3), 331-343. [2] Shulman, S., Zlotnik, A., Shachar-Shapira, L., Connolly, J., & Bohr, Y. (2012). Adolescent Daughters' Romantic Competence: The Role of Divorce, Quality of Parenting, and Maternal Romantic History. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 593-606. [3] Ivanova, K., Mills, M., & Veenstra, R. (2014). Parental Residential and Partnering Transitions and the Initiation of Adolescent Romantic Relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(3), 465-475.  
Article | separation, divorce, dating
Two approaches to online dating
With more relationships starting online than ever before, we looked at the factors that can make the difference between a false start and a long-term future.  Developing relationships In the early stages, online daters tend to spend longer deliberating over their choices. Online relationships can therefore take longer to develop than those starting offline [1].  One reason for this is that online dating can give us the impression that there is an endless supply of potential matches. If you’re not sure about a relationship, you have a couple of choices – you can either pursue it and see how it goes, or you can end it and start looking for the next one. If you’re confident you can find another match online fairly quickly, ending the current one might feel like the easiest option [1]. The marketplace approach if you’re not quite ready for a long-term commitment or if you don’t yet know what you’re looking for, you might approach online dating sites as a kind of marketplace. Online daters using this approach tend to make quickfire assessments of a person’s potential as a romantic partner, turning the dating process into an exchange where potential partners are seen as commodities to be selected from a choice of many. And, when there’s a choice, it feels easier to exchange one partner for another – so we go shopping again [2]. This approach might mean you get to meet a lot of people, but it won’t necessarily lead to a successful long-term relationship. Relationships usually work best when two people respond to each other’s needs, rather than weighing up the costs and benefits as they go [2]. The long-term approach On the other hand, if you are specifically looking for a long-term relationship, you may find one online faster than you would if you went looking offline. When looking for a long-term relationship online, you’re likely to put more consideration into the selection process, and you’ll find it easier to ask those big questions that are hard to ask in the early days of a traditional offline relationship [3]. So, if you go into the process looking for love, and you already know what you want, it becomes possible to skip through a lot of the getting-to-know-you stuff that usually has to happen at the beginning of a relationship [3]. References [1] Paul, A. (2014). Is online better than offline for meeting partners? depends: Are you looking to marry or to date? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(10).  [2] Finkel, E., Eastwick, P., Karney, B., Reis, H., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66. [3] Rosenfeld. Michael J. (2017). “Marriage, Choice, and Couplehood in the Age of the Internet.” Sociological Science 4:490-51.
Article | online dating
Choosing the perfect gift for your partner
The simple act of buying a gift for a loved one can make you happier and, for the recipient, it really is the thought that counts. Choosing a gift for someone who matters to you can be a stressful experience. Whether it’s for a birthday, Christmas, or an anniversary, you can find yourself worrying about how much to spend, and how to find the perfect gift for a loved one. Choosing the perfect gift can feel like an ideal way to show your partner how much you love them, so it makes sense that you’d put a lot of pressure on yourself to get it right – particularly if you find it difficult to express your love in other ways [1]. Getting it right can be a positive experience. One study even showed that spending money on other people can make you happier than spending money on yourself [2]. So how do you choose the perfect gift? While it might seem important to get your partner something they can keep forever, you might want to think about going for an experience instead. Depending on what your partner likes doing, consider buying them a few laps round the track in a sports car, or tickets to a new musical. A shared experience like this can help you both feel closer to each other, and give you fun memories to cherish. Opting for experiences over material goods can also take away some of the ‘who got what from who?’ social pressure that often pervades [3]. You could also try giving a gift that reminds your partner of an important moment you’ve shared, like a photo frame or album, or a souvenir from your first date. Or they might enjoy something they can use in an activity you share, like a travel guide for a place you’ve always wanted to visit together. Personal touches like this can give you both a boost of happiness [4]. Remember too that gifts don’t have to be big or expensive to have an impact. Something you’ve made, or something that shows you’ve really thought about what matters to your partner can be more moving than shelling out a ton of money on something big. As with many other aspects of being in a relationship, it’s often the little things that count. While it is important to make an effort for your partner, relationship science tells us that the most important thing is how much your partner appreciates what you do, and vice versa [5]. So, amidst all the pressure to get things right, a birthday, anniversary, or festive season could be a really good time to let your partner know just how much you appreciate them – even if that means doing a big fake smile when you unwrap the socks and bath salts. References [1] Compeau, L. D., Monroe, K. B., Grewal, D., & Reynolds, K. (2015). Expressing and defining self and relationships through everyday shopping experiences. Journal of Business Research. [2] Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 1687-1688.                                                                                                                        [3] Howell, R. T., & Hill, G. (2009). The mediators of experiential purchases: Determining the impact of psychological needs satisfaction and social comparison. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 511–522. [4] Aknin, L. (2012). On financial generosity and well-being: Where, when, and how spending money on others increases happiness (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations 2008+. (Accession Order No. T17:53:34Z). [5] Curran, M. A., Burke, T. J., Young, V., & Totenhagen, C. (2015). Relational Sacrifices about Intimate Behavior and Relationship Quality for Expectant Cohabitors. Marriage & Family Review, (j).
Article | christmas, love
Dating someone from another culture
Keeping lines of communication open can help strengthen your relationship, particularly if you and your partner come from different cultural backgrounds. Historically, falling for someone from another culture might have been big trouble, but a lot has changed over the last few decades and people are generally much more accepting of young people’s choices of partner these days. Dating across different cultures – which includes different races, ethnicities, or different faiths – has become much more common among young people and carries less stigma than it used to [1]. Celebrating difference Some studies have shown that couples from different cultures might be more likely to experience conflict in their relationships.Talking about these difficulties, however, not only alleviates the conflict but can actually help your relationship to develop and grow stronger [1]. In other words, having differences can be a really positive thing, as long as you celebrate them. Making an effort to understand and appreciate each other’s backgrounds can be an enriching experience that also helps you maintain your relationship quality. Religious differences If you have a partner whose religious beliefs are different to your own, you may find your differences are particularly pronounced, which could lead to more disagreements that are harder to resolve [1]. This may be because we often develop our religious beliefs from a young age, but also because we feel them strongly and can struggle to articulate them [2]. On the other hand, you may also find it’s possible to ignore your religious differences for the most part. They may not affect your romantic relationships at all until you reach major life events like marriage – when you’re younger and still exploring relationships, religion doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge issue. Generally speaking, it’s really helpful to be open and communicative about any cultural or religious differences you have with your partner, as this can help you both feel more satisfied with your relationship. If you’re in a relationship with someone from a different culture or religion and you haven’t talked about it yet, have a think about how you might express an interest in your partner’s background and beliefs, and see where it takes you. Let us know how you get on in the comments below. References [1] Reiter, M. J., & Gee, C. B. (2008). Open communication and partner support in intercultural and interfaith romantic relationships: A relational maintenance approach. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25(4), 539-559. [2] Perel, E. (2000). A tourist’s view of marriage: Cross-cultural couples – challenges, choices, and implications for therapy. In P. Papp (Ed.), Couples on the fault line: New directions for therapists (pp. 178–204). New York: Guilford Press.
Article | culture, dating, religion
Community posts
Move on from friendship
I have this best friend and we have a bit of history, even though we have feelings for each other, we never officially dated as there’s no future! We continued to be best friends, where we do almost everything together. Whenever any guy shows interest in me, my best friend used to get upset even though I would not be 1% interested in any of them. On the other hand, there have been women casually flirting with him which I never minded because he would never reciprocate the same interest. Now moving on to current situation, I have this new friend of mine who needed some help so I got my best friend involved and all three started figuring things out for her issues! And both of us were so worried for her that we were always talking about her and how to solve her issue! Suddenly, this new girl has stopped telling me about her problems and directly started reaching out to my friend! First I thought it’s normal but then I felt weird vibe and saw many texts b/w them which seems to be little flirtatious, they were up texting till past midnight, which is very unusual for my best friend. I got upset and asked my friend about it he told it’s nothing! When I told him that even if there is something building it would be okay as it would be selfish of me to think that he would not be interested in anyone, I just wanted to him to be honest as he had not shown interest in anyone since I met him. Then he agreed that there’s an obvious interest from both the end since they are lot similar. And if anything would have to happen he would let me know!  I don’t know how to feel about the whole thing! The new girl has completely sidelined me from a lot of the conversations, even though my best friend tries to involve me, he still thinks that there’s is nothing going on between them and it won’t be anything also in future! I don’t know, I have this weird feeling that what I am thinking is correct! I am upset due to this whole equation but don’t want to show to either one of them.
User article | jealousy, friends, friendship
He thinks I want to leave
Me and my boyfriend have been together 8 months now. We met at work and had a rocky start. When we met, i was getting out of a toxic relationship and he had a girlfriend and didn’t know how to leave her as he was extremely unhappy. We met each other and i was his trainer at work and everything fell into place. it wasn’t the easiest of starts as his ex worked in the same place as us and there’s a 6 year gap between the two of us and kept it quiet for a while. He was homeless when we met and during the first 5/6 months i was with him every step of the way, staying in hotels and even stayed on the streets with him at times. My family didn’t like this and it caused a big divide between us all. My mum ended up kicking me out and me and my boyfriend has just got our new flat together and moved in. We all okay with my family now and my brothers love him! he has problems with alcohol and can black out sometimes and often says some horrible things during these moments but we talk about it the next day and he’s always apologetic and can’t remeber what he said. The beginning of the week we went on a pub crawl with my brother and his brother and had a really good night! that was up until a woman had come up to me and said that had seen him trying to talk to other girls, including herself. this evidently annoyed me and i asked him about it when we got home to which he sat there and laughed. i left the flat around 1am and met one of my new friends i had made recently as i’ve lost my friends since being with him. her boyfriend works at my boyfriends local pub and knows what he’s like so they came back to the flat with me and tried to talk to him as i was utterly heartbroken. Everything was fine and we found out there was a bit of miscommunication during the night and he hadn’t spoken to anyone else. after they left our flat everything seemed normal until he went through my phone and read the messages between me and my friend. he has somehow got into his head that i want to leave him for her and it kicked off massively. I went to sleep and he woke me up at 8am asking me to leave the flat and not come back. my brother picked me up and i went to his and spoke about everything. i came back to the flat later that day and we tried to talk but he had more to drink and was just going round in circles and ended the conversation with ‘i am falling out of love with you and cannot trust you’ it has been almost three days now and we haven’t really said a word to eachother. I wrote him a heart felt paragraph in my notes and asked him to read it as i can communicate better that way and he’s refused. i love this man to pieces and i cannot imagine my life without him. what do i do? .
User article | communication, alcohol
I love both my girlfriend and our best friend
Hi all, I have never been a great writer so I apologise if it is a bit scattered. There is a few things I would like to lay out first. I love my girlfriend, she is one of the most amazing and beautiful people I know and we are pretty much a perfect match in terms of our interests, values and love for each other, but this came with time and learning as we grew up together as young adults. This post is more so a means to work through my emotions than an ask for help. So Id like to begin with a bit of context to our relationship before I begin my explaining my predicament. Back story: My girlfriend and I have been together, on and off, for 6 years, we started dating when I was 17 and she was 18. Our relationship took an unusual trajectory, we had a fairly rocky start to our relationship, she was dealing with depression and anxiety, and I was overwhelmed with learning to deal with another persons problems. We were both heavy pot smokers back then which did not help one bit (No hate on cannabis but it wasn't for us). For me this drastically affected my ability to empathize with her situation and for her, it reduced her ability to work through her problems on her own, which meant she put a lot of pressure on me to help her. It was a pretty vicious cycle, I couldn't be 'bothered' to help and she couldnt accept that I cant fix her. This escalated and ended up with me making a huge mistake and sleeping with another woman. I broke up with her the next day, and she found out a week later. Pretty shitty choices from my end I know. After she found out, things got very messy, as expected, however through more so a sense of guilt I tried my hardest to get her back. she still loved me and at that point I thought I loved her back, it was more a decision to 'love' here rather than coming from the feeling it self. I had never loved a woman before so I didn't know what it truly felt like, only infatuation. We ended up getting back together after some time, it was tough for about a year, she expected a lot from me and constantly held it over my head, and I didn't blame her, I had fucked up and I was working to make up for my mistake. However it got to a point where it was far too much, I couldnt talk too or be around any other girl without their being an argument about me being interested in them, with no real reason to be suspicious other than personal hurt mixed with low self-esteem and bad body image problems. We were both very unskilled in the ways of communication and reconciliation. At that point in my life all I wanted was to have fun with her and my friends. So that summer I broke up with her, I explained my reasons and she was receptive, but heart broken. We both live in a small town, which meant that eventually most of our friends went to university, I went into a trade and she went into online study. As we were the only two in the area at the time, it made it very hard to keep our distance and after 2 months of being apart and on our own, we ended re-uniting, and I have never been more happy about a decision in my life. Once we were back together, all problems of before were gone, we both drastically matured, we had both quit smoking pot, we were honest and receptive of each others feelings and willing to adjust to make it work for each other. So I am proud say we were both happy and that I had finally realised what it felt like to truly love someone. We have now have had 4 solid years in a strong and loving relationship. Now to the problem at hand. My girlfriends best friend moved back into town for a year during our 4th year of being together, so roughly 2 years ago. This friend is coincidentally one one of my exes from way back, prior too my girlfriend and her meeting. it was silly highschool dating and nothing serious, but I have always been her friend since then. Anyway, at first it was just fun to have a friend that's a girl who both my girlfriend and I really got along with, we spent a lot of time together as a plutonic threesome, and it was great! However, I have always been a very sexually interested person, with both genders and different situations. my girlfriend isnt on the same level as I am although she has always been open minded and willing to listen without blaming, well at least since we got back together the last time. So at some point prior to our friend coming back into our lives, I told her I had always been interested in trying a threesome, and that it doesn't matter what gender or who with, just that it was an interest of mine. She said that she would be keen but is not ready yet and not sure who it could be with or how the situation would arise. So after a while I proposed the idea to my girlfriend of the three of us having some fun together, stating that I had no feelings for our friend but since we had become so comfortable around each other, and it seemed like it might be a and good option for it to be fun and functional. She wasnt very keen, which internally I admit I was gutted but I respected her position and pushed it no further. Our friend is pretty much a copy of my girlfriend, but more active, sporty and a bit more sound minded if I'm honest, so more similar to me in that sense. About 9 months later we went to a festival together and over that week it was like a switch flipped. I found I would get jealous and almost protective of our friend, and it really plauged on my mind, I still loved my girlfriend just as much but I would find my self thinking about what it would be like with her, which brought on a mixture of excitement over the fantasy, guilt that I was feeling like this for another woman and sadness because I knew there would be pretty much no chance of it ever happening. It also seemed like our friend felt the same way towards me but on later speculation, I think she was more jealous of what my girlfriend and I had. I ended up telling my girlfriend how I felt about our friend and she was super understanding, which if I'm honest, was really supprising. She understood why I could feel that way towards our friend, and that she would feel the same way if she was a guy, and valued that fact that I was honest to her more than being concerned that I felt that way. This only fueled the love for each other and it made if far easier to deal with. Our friend moved out of town that year and started dating someone. The feelings for her never really left but once I wasn't around her as much and I knew that she was with a really good guy who I actually ended up becoming friends with as well, I found I could focus on loving the girlfriend who I had been through so much with and loved being with already. So It was great once again for a year and a half. Now our friend has split up with her boyfriend and we are going to the same festival with her, and all those feelings have come back strong, and from hanging our with her, I can definitely feel that she has some feelings towards me. But she is a super strong on loyal person and I know that she would never betray my girlfriend in that way, and please don't get me wrong I would never want to betray my girlfriend in that way either and the last thing I want is to hurt her again. It is more a feeling that in another life we would be such a good match, which is a damn hard feeling to work through. I love the both of them, except one has been experienced and there other is in the unknown, and I have always been drawn the unknown. So this time, it has brought on a new feeling that I might need some time being single. Its has been a tough thought because we have built such an amazing life and group of friends together and the feeling of throwing all that away for.. well nothing, I guess, is super scary. But the thought of being together for longer or even the rest of our lives and never experiencing what it's like to be single as an adult is just as scary. I know I will have regrets either way, It's just a whole lot to process. One thing that I yearn to do it's to tell our friend what Im feeling towards her but I really don't want to jeopardize our friendship as it is, as well as make it awkward for all three of us to be around each other. It's also really hard to let my girlfriend know this time, I really don't want to have her worry whilst we are away together, because as much as she is accepting I know it play on her mind and it will be easier for everyone if I just hold it in, even though it weighs heavy on my mind. So I can't have both, I can't have the other, I can't be truly happy the current whilst wanting the other. so I'm a bit stuck.. I can either continue trying to work past these feeling and continue the relationship that I have loved and cherished, with the risk of it all turning to into a big mess. Or I can end the relationship and try my luck with our friend and definitely make whole massive mess of things. Or I can do what know is 'right', and end it with my girlfriend before things might get messy, work towards becoming friends and try my best to work past the feelings towards our friend and keep that friendship alive as well. But it's going to be tough, it will mean losing the chance for intimate connection with the two most beautiful and amazing women in my life. It will suck but persuing either way will end in hurt and anger just because I was being selfish. Im hoping it will work out and that I will find the right one again after being able to experience and explore. It's damn frightening but it will be for the best, I hope.. If you made it this far through, I really appreciate the commitment, this is my way to clear my mind and If you have any comments, recommendations or personal experiences I would highly appreciate. Thanks
User article | girlfriend
My untold love
Hii I'm currently a 18 year old girl. This story starts in my 11th standard. I had shifted to this new school so everything was new for me except that my very old friend was with me. It was fun for many months getting to know others and making friends. As I was in 11th standard I went to maths tuition. There I met this guy who was gonna be my first love. I didn't feel anything at first. We started to talk little by little and get to know each other. He always used to test me to ask if I would go to tuition or not. And used to inform me when he would not come. Our friendship grew we got to know each other more and that's how I fell for him. I used to think maybe he felt the same but until when he told me one day that he proposed to a girl who used to like him years back. My heart shattered hearing those words. I was happy for him as he would get someone better than me. Someone who has known him for years and me who met him for just months. I showed him as if it didn't affect me. He left the tuition. At school, although he was in different sections he used to be absent very much and rarely came to school. I thought this was the time to get over and start seeing someone but later I knew that I still felt for him. Now I'm writing this as I met him again my all these years of memory came back. I'm still in love with him. I don't know why. Sometimes I feel I should confess to him but I feel like it would make things more complicated. I just hope my first love will remember me sometimes. I hope you will always be happy.
User article | love
Need to vent and need advice
I recently found out about my boyfriend cheating on me. He was speaking to two people behind my back through out our entire relationship. It started before me, when he learned that he might be dying, and then continued afterwards. I was cheated on before, and so unfortunately for him and myself I was more aware of certain signs. So I snooped, which was something I never wanted to have to do ever again in my life. He had already began to purge his phone of evidence but I found it anyways. He cut contact and I do believe him.  Now we are dealing with the aftermath. We are healing and working on us now. Obviously there are issues. The biggest one is the possibility of them reaching out and him giving in or not letting me know. I know for a fact that one did. Whether or not he lied to me about it, and the fact that she lives close enough to be able to try to meet him is still up in the air. I am debating on whether or not to bring this up. I didn’t open his phone again or go looking. I saw a notification on his tablet from his email and saw she emailed him a number of times trying to contact him but I know he did not reach out to her or meet her at that time. We have been attached at the hip since/was at the time it was sent. Plus he turned off his devices for a week to focus on us and to not have any temptations. Also to give me piece of mind that he wouldn't be messaging anyone. I do believe in that fact that he doesn't want to contact them anymore, and wants to move on from that situation and focus on us. So I am debating on whether its my paranoia or its my gut telling me that he lied about this attempt to contact after we agreed to keep me in the loop of any attempts .
User article | cheating, trust
My boyfriend isn't interested anymore in me
I have been with my boyfriend almost 2 years. Everything is perfect, he loves me, cares about me, shows me affection, does everything without me having to ask him. Our sex life was amazing at the beginning. We used to have sex almost 3-4 times in a day. But recently he hasn't been interested anymore. I know he's not cheating on me. Whenever I try to approach him for sex, he mostly denies it, I've tried everything. He tells me he's tired and doesn't have the energy but he watches porn and masturbates right beside me, after masturbating he comes to me to cuddle, gives me kisses and tells me that he loves me, but whenever he masturbates, I feel like shit, I just end up crying feeling bad feeling like shit about myself, like I'm not enough. I watch porn too, but I don't know why I feel bad when he does it. Ik he loves me, he loves me a lot. It's not like he's got a low libido. I have tried to talk to him about it, he always gets mad when I bring it up, he says that it makes him feel like he's not man enough, it makes him insecure but it also makes me insecure. It's ruining my mental health, sometimes I don't even wanna meet him, cause at night, he'll just masturbate. I can't get over this. Sometimes I wish he just couldn't get it hard, than at least I'd feel better about our sex life. He gets excited when I tell him I will try anal sex, he's ready and tries to do it, but when it's just normal sex, he's not into it. I miss how he was so into me, and sometimes when we do have sex, it's mostly me trying to seduce him, give him a blowjob, cowgirl and him fucking me from side. I don't wanna break up with him, I love him a lot, I just want to accept the changes in our relationship. I just want to stop approaching him for sex or feeling bad about it, he knows how I feel. I just want to be other this part of our relationship and just be happy with our relationship.
User article | sex, pornography, masturbation, relationships
My love story
Hi, I'm 18 years old, I live and grew up in the countryside. My parents were friends with neighbors from the same village. They had children my age and my sister's age. She is seven years older than me. My friend, the neighbor's daughter, is two years younger than me, her older brother is three years older than me, and the oldest, who left home quickly, is a few years older than my sister. We all met together very often when we were children, we went to school and kindergarten together. Our parents spent time together and we often played together. Mainly me and my younger friend, my sister was watching over us, and sometimes with her brother, with whom I understood more, probably because of his age. I remember those years wonderfully, although there were also some worse moments. Later I changed school to a music school, her older brother had his own company, but I still hang out with my younger friend. In the meantime, their parents had a nasty divorce and from then on everything started to go wrong. Slowly, without even noticing, I began to lose contact with my older friend. At some point, when I was 13-14, I started to like him. I dreamed about it every day and everything. We met at events, for example birthdays or village bonfires. However, we didn't talk to each other. I was having a difficult time in my life at the time, I was afraid to approach him. I was ashamed, it was my first love and I have always been shy. I told my younger friend about this infatuation and she laughed at me, although I don't know if she was happy. Later we didn't talk about it anymore, I told her that I had fallen out of love. I thought so for some time, but every time I saw him, the feeling came back. He had a girlfriend for a while, but he broke up with her because he started studying abroad. I was honestly happy then because I thought we would lose contact and I would fall out of love with him. Although I missed him, I slowly forgot. The problem was that he returned to his family every now and then for the holidays. In the meantime, my young friend had been drinking alcohol and smoking e-cigarettes for several years, and we had completely different lives and friends, which made us distance ourselves more and more. We haven't had anything to talk about lately, I miss her a lot and she seems to miss me too, but when I meet her I don't see any commitment on her part. About her brother: the last time I met him, I thought I didn't feel anything for him, but it turned out that it wasn't true. This feeling hasn't gone away and it scares me. In addition, he has a girlfriend in college. I recently got over it and talked to him. It was wonderful. I felt very natural talking to him. we even sang one song together at the party. I invited him to my birthday party on the 18th, but he couldn't come because he had classes at college. My mother and sister advise me to invite him to the class prom, which is supposed to be in January, but again I'm afraid he won't be able to. I don't have anyone to invite. I don't know whether to try or give up? 
User article | friends, love