Hundreds of people were asked about the most positive and negative events in their lives.
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Hundreds of people were asked about the most positive and negative events in their lives.
Infidelity often has a highly corrosive effect on relationships.
Narcissism is one of the strongest predictors that someone will cheat in their relationship, research finds.
Narcissists are likely to be vain, egocentric and over-confident — they like to show off their bodies, talk about themselves and put other people down.
Two other personality factors that predict people’s infidelity are unstable emotions and psychopathy.
People who are unstable are unreliable, careless, badly organised and find it hard to resist temptation.
Psychopaths, meanwhile, are irresponsible, spontaneous and manipulative.
The authors write:
“One of the strongest predictors is Narcissism.
Women high on Narcissism predict that they will flirt with, kiss, and date other men, as well as have one night stands, brief affairs, and serious affairs with other men.”
The results come from a study of 107 married couples who reported on their relationships and any infidelity.
Naturally, people who were dissatisfied with their relationship were more likely to have affairs.
Similarly, couples who had many complaints about their partners were also more likely to have an affair.
Complaints that predicted adultery included alcohol abuse, eyeing up other people, jealousy, condescension and being too possessive.
After narcissism, the authors explain that…
“…two equally strong predictors of mild and serious infidelity are low Conscientiousness and high Psychoticism.
These variables are correlated, and share the common component of impulsivity and inability to delay gratification.
And like Narcissism, Conscientiousness and Psychoticism are stronger predictors of women’s anticipated infidelities than men’s anticipated infidelities.
These findings suggest that a personality style marked by impulsivity, low dependability, and low reliability in general carries over…”
Infidelity often has a highly corrosive effect on relationships, the authors write:
“Infidelity may be the most destructive source of conflict inflicted on a marriage.
Despite its destructive impact, infidelities are estimated conservatively to occur in about half of all marriages.”
The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Buss & Shackleford, 1997).
What do people use dating apps for if not to date?
Four things that kill a relationship stone dead.
When someone has contempt for their partner, this is the single greatest predictor of divorce.
The conclusion comes from psychologist Professor John Gottman, who has been analysing relationships, both good and bad for over 40 years.
He’s followed couples across decades in many psychological studies to see what kinds of behaviours predict whether they would stay together in the long-term or were soon destined for the divorce courts.
Amongst the factors he identified, four have stood out, time and time again.
When Gottman sees a couple’s communication overrun with these, the chances are they will divorce in an average of around six years from their marriage.
Contempt can involve sarcasm, name-calling, mimicking and eye-rolling.
Whatever form it takes, contempt makes the other person feel worthless.
Contempt is also bad for your health, as Gottman found that couples who were contemptuous of each other suffered from more infectious diseases like colds and flu.
Alternatively: build respect by appreciating the positive, e.g. “Love your taste in music!” (NOT “The sound of your laughter makes me want to vomit.”)
Of course we all complain to each other—married couples more than most—but it’s a particular type of corrosive criticism that Gottman identified as being so destructive.
This is when one criticises the other’s core being, their personality.
For example: “You’re late because you don’t care about me“.
We all make mistakes, but notice that here it’s all about how those mistakes are interpreted.
At their worst, criticisms have the implication that the other person is bad or wrong at some deeper level.
Repeated criticisms that strike at the heart of the other person’s being signal the end of the relationship will be sooner rather than later.
Alternatively: voice the concern and make a request, e.g. “I’m bored, let’s have a game of cards.” (NOT: “You’re ignoring me you selfish @#$%!”)
A person is too defensive when they are always trying to make excuses for their failures or slip-ups.
People do this automatically from time-to-time, but when it becomes a persistent theme in a relationship, this can signal the end.
It’s an even worse signal when partners are also trying to score points off the other on top of being defensive.
After all, people who live together are supposed to be in partnership, supporting each other.
Life is difficult enough without being attacked from within as well as from without.
Alternatively: take your share of the blame and suggest a solution, e.g. “I guess I should have put it on my list, OK let’s do it now.” (NOT: No, I didn’t pay the gas bill because you forgot to remind me.”)
Stonewalling is when a person metaphorically raises the drawbridge and cuts off communication.
There are no nods of encouragement to their partner when they speak, no attempt to empathise and no effort to respond or connect.
It’s like talking to a brick wall.
Stonewalling can often be a result of a prolonged period of criticism, contempt and defensiveness.
It may feel like the only response to a worsening situation, but lack of communication will not solve the problems at the heart of the relationship.
Alternatively: speak, move, respond, blink, move a muscle, anything! (NOT: here’s my impression of a brick wall.)
Be aware of the two most harmful relationship patterns.
People who expect their partners to read their minds are harming their relationships, research finds.
It occurs when there are problems in the relationship and one person disengages and does not communicate their problems to the other.
It often happens when that person is anxious about the relationship and feels neglected.
Anger and negative communication often result from expecting the other person to be a mind-reader.
Dr Keith Sanford, who led the study, explained:
“You’re worried about how much your partner loves you, and that’s associated with neglect.
You feel sad, hurt and vulnerable.”
Expecting the other person to be telepathic is one of the most toxic ways that people disengage psychologically from a relationship.
The other is type is withdrawing.
Dr Sanford said:
“It’s a defensive tactic that people use when they feel they are being attacked, and there’s a direct association between withdrawal and lower satisfaction overall with the relationship.”
Withdrawing when attacked by your partner complains or criticises is extremely common.
Dr Sanford said it is…
“…more characteristic of unhappiness.
Just about everyone does that from time to time, but you see more of that in distressed relationships.”
Partners who psychologically withdraw from the relationship are more likely to be disinterested or bored with the other person.
Dr Sanford said:
“There’s a desire to maintain autonomy, control and distance.”
While one person makes demands on the relationship (often, but not always the woman), the other person disengages, Dr Sanford said:
“Often, you have one person who withdraws and the other demands.
The more the one demands and complains, the more the other withdraws, and so on.
It’s an issue both of being aware of when these behaviors are occurring and of finding an alternative — a more constructive, polite approach to resolve conflict.
And at times, that’s easier said than done.”
The results come from surveys of thousands of people in relationships.
They answered questions about relationship conflicts, how they responded and the emotions that resulted.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Assessment (Nichols et al., 2014).
Saying “I love you” is a risk — if it is not reciprocated it could irreparably damage the relationship.
How to predict if a relationship will end in marriage.
When looking back, couples destined to marry accurately remember the ups and downs of their relationship, research reveals.
Happy couples have no reason to try and hide any problems from themselves to make it feel like they are moving forwards.
On the other hand, people with poor relationships have distorted memories that bear little relation to the truth.
Misremembering the past may be a way of papering over the cracks in a failing relationship.
Professor Brian G. Ogolsky, the study’s first author, explained:
“People like to feel that they’re making progress as a couple.
If they’re not — if, in fact, the relationship is in trouble — they may have distorted recollections that help them feel like they’re moving forward because they need a psychological justification to stay in the relationship.”
The results come from a nine-month study involving 232 heterosexual couples who had dated for around two years.
All rated their chances of eventually getting married every month, for 8 months.
Three groups of couples emerged: those whose relationships were getting worse, those who were staying the same and those who were improving.
Professor Ogolsky said that those whose relationships were improving had remarkably accurate memories:
“Couples who had deepened their commitment remembered their relationship history almost perfectly.
The graphs for this group were really interesting because the plot of the end-of-study recollection could be placed right on top of the one we had graphed from the monthly check-ins.”
Those who had maintained their relationships without really moving forward, fooled themselves a little to get the feeling of progress, said Professor Ogolsky:
“They had given themselves some room to grow and remembered the recent past as better than they had reported it being.
If they saw maintenance as stagnation, that’s a way of addressing that cognitive gap.
It helps them feel that their relationship is developing in some way — that they’re making progress.”
Lastly, those whose relationships were on-off, or just off, were mostly in denial, Professor Ogolsky said:
“If we looked at their history as they reported it to us over the nine-month period, we could see that their chances of marriage were plummeting.
Yet their recollection was that things had been going okay.
Of course, they hadn’t seen the graph so they didn’t know their trajectory looks this dire, but it’s fair to say they were in denial about the state of their relationship.”
The study was published in the journal Personal Relationships (Ogolsky & Surra, 2014).
This attachment style can be damaging to relationships.
Anxiously attached people are more likely to be unfaithful to their partner, suggesting this is one of the worst attachment styles, research finds.
High levels of attachment anxiety are linked to a fear of abandonment.
People who are anxiously attached are extremely ‘needy’.
If an anxiously attached person does not get the reassurance they seek in their current relationship, they are likely to look elsewhere.
Around one in five people has an anxious attachment style.
A classic sign is having wildly varying feelings about the relationship from one day to the next.
People experiencing attachment anxiety spend a lot of time thinking about what the other person wants.
They can easily move from feeling strongly attached, to wanting independence.
The conclusions come from a study of over 200 newlywed couples who were followed for almost five years.
They were given tests of their personality, attachment style and relationship satisfaction.
The results showed that if either partner was anxiously attached, then they had a higher chance of being unfaithful.
One answer to the issues that anxiously attached people face may be therapy:
“…interventions such as attachment based family therapy and attachment-focused group intervention have been effective at reducing attachment anxiety and thus may help prevent infidelity among anxiously attached intimates.”
Another is for a partner of an anxiously attached person to work on being more responsive:
“…intimates report reduced attachment insecurity when they are with responsive partners than when they are with unresponsive partners.”
In contrast to anxiously attached people, those who were avoidantly attached were less likely to be unfaithful.
People who are avoidant want to avoid getting too attached to the other person.
Around one in four people has an avoidant attachment style.
Both avoidant and anxious attachment are both insecure types of attachment.
Just over 50% of people are securely attached to their partner.
The securely attached are the least likely to be unfaithful as they do not worry about their partner straying or the strength of the relationship.
The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology (Russell et al., 2013).
Up to 50% of people admit cheating on their partner.
People who are low on conscientiousness are more likely to cheat on their partner, research finds.
People who are not conscientious are careless, badly organised and find it hard to resist temptation.
People who are more extraverted are also more likely to cheat on their partner, the researchers found.
It is probably because extraverted people have a wider social circle and so more opportunities to cheat.
Also, extraverts are impulsive, sensation-seekers who can easily succumb to their desires.
The conclusions come from a survey of 208 people, who were asked about their relationships and whether they had cheated.
Up to 50% of people admit cheating on their partner, the authors write:
“Early studies reported that by the age of 40, 50% of all married men and more than 25% of all married women have engaged in extramarital sexual behavior.
Three decades later, an estimated 50% of men continued to engage in sexual and/or emotional extramarital relations while 40% of women engaged in similar relationships.”
The results of the study revealed that cheaters tend to be low in conscientiousness, extraverted and open to experience.
Extraverts tend to seek out stimulation, the authors write:
“Extroverts may be inclined to cheat to obtain stimulation and prevent boredom.
Extroversion may also facilitate less investment in the relationship when those with this trait seek out others for stimulation, thereby decreasing commitment and resulting in cheating behaviours.”
The third personality trait associated with infidelity is openness to experience.
Openness to experience is linked to intellect and creativity.
The authors explain:
“…cheaters may perceive themselves as having stronger intellect and stronger creativity compared to that of their partners, leading them to seek out partners that may be a better, that is, similar, match.”
The study was published in the journal Current Psychology (Orzeck & Lung, 2005).
Empathy for certain emotions helps couples have difficult discussions about change, research finds.
Direct communication is the best way to get your partner to change, research finds.
Whether it is getting them to lose weight, spend less money or change life goals, being more direct is the best approach.
Naturally, these sorts of discussions are fraught with difficulty.
The emotional tone of the communication is vital.
One key to having difficult discussions is empathy.
Research shows that people with stronger relationships tend to be better at reading the emotions of embarrassment, shame and sadness in their partner.
Couples who perceived these softer negative emotions more clearly tended to be more satisfied with their relationships.
In contrast, those who were better at spotting stronger negative emotions, like anger and contempt, had weaker relationships.
Dr Bonnie Le, the study’s first author, explained the reason:
“If you are appeasing with your partner — or feel embarrassed or bashful — and your partner accurately picks up on this, it can signal to your partner that you care about their feelings and recognize a change request might be hurtful.
Or if your partner is angry or contemptuous — what we call dominance emotions — that signals very different, negative information that may hurt a partner if they accurately perceive it.”
The study included 11 couples who had dated for an average of three years.
They were asked to discuss what aspects of their partner they wanted to change.
Naturally, this raised some strong emotions which the researchers asked the couples about after the discussion.
This procedure simulates a common way of dealing with relationship conflict: by asking your partner to change.
The results showed that couples able to read emotions like sadness, embarrassment and shame had stronger relationships.
This is probably because being able to read these emotions helps difficult discussions — like those requesting change — to go more smoothly.
However, reacting more strongly to anger and contempt likely derails difficult discussions early on.
Professor Stéphane Côté, study co-author, said:
“We think reading emotions allows partners to coordinate what they do and say to each other, and perhaps that is helpful when appeasement emotions are read, but not when anger emotions are read.
Anger seems to overpower any effect of reading emotions, which is consistent with lots of research findings on how anger harms relationships.”
Direct communication is the best way to get a partner to change.
It must be done sensitively, though, said Dr Le:
“It’s not bad to feel a little bashful or embarrassed when raising these issues because it signals to the partner that you care and it’s valuable for your partner to see that.
You acknowledge that what you raise may hurt their feelings.
It shows that you are invested, that you are committed to having this conversation, and committed to not hurting them.
And the extent to which this is noted by your partner may foster a more positive relationship.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Le et al., 2020).