By: Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. | March 19, 2022
"Do you and your partner ever spend time deliberately talking about the “good old days” when you first started seeing each other? How about the high points in your relationship’s history, such as a particularly romantic getaway or an action-packed vacation? If you’re not engaging in these conversations on a regular basis, new research suggests you might want to give it a try.
According to the University of Siegen’s Mohammad Reza Majzoobi and Simon Forstmeier (2022), “Memories couples have about their ongoing marital relationship appear to be one of the decisive interpersonal variables in their close relationship” (p. 8). Their study delved into the existing published literature to understand just how decisive these old memories could be in helping partners legally committed to each other become and stay close throughout the course of their time together.
How Can Couple Memories Help Improve a Long-Term Relationship?
When understanding the role of memory in your own mental health and well-being, it might strike you that aside from helping you function better in the world, your recall of your past life helps stitch together the various events and experiences that shape who you are today. As the HBO Max series “The Tourist” illustrates (with an amnesiac main character), people without long-term memory lose all sense of their identity. Whether accurate or not, your memory of who you were forms the basis for your awareness now of who you are.
Indeed, in the words of the German authors, “Just as memory serves as the knowledge database of the self, memories couples have about their close relationship are also expected to operate as their relational identity database” (p. 8). When you are your partner reminiscence about the early days of your relationship, you’re digging into that “database” in a way that can promote the intertwining of your identities as individuals but, more importantly, as a couple.
It's possible, of course, that relationship memories can become sources of tension and disagreement. What if your memories of a past shared experience differ not only in the details but also in their emotional associations?
That adventurous vacation may have been harrowing for you but exciting and deeply fulfilling for your partner. You might not even agree on when you took the vacation or where you went. Such divergence could either be a symptom of problems you and your partner have in your relationship now, or could start a snowballing process as each of you starts to question how well you understand each other.
Relationship Defining Memories and Their Impact on Couples
As the term implies, a “Relationship-Defining Memory (RDM)” has the quality of being highly specific, significant, and closely connected to emotions. That awful vacation (from your point of view) might not meet those standards, so it could remain a chronic sore spot unless, or until, it’s thrown into the back of your relational database.
The University of Siegen researchers used the technique of meta-analysis (looking at results of previously-published research) to identify, from a pool of 285 studies, a final set of 19 considered acceptable in terms of the study topic, the nature of the sample, and coverage of such topics as autobiographical memory or reminiscence in connection with either positive outcomes of satisfaction or distress. Because the authors chose married heterosexual couples only (for the sake of uniformity among studies), this is something to consider when you interpret the findings.
Measuring marital outcomes was a relatively straightforward process for the studies included in the meta-analysis but the qualities used to define an RDM required more imagination. Think about your own RDM’s. If they involve the first time you met, what words would you use to describe them? And what would those words have to be in order to count as a “match” to your partner’s recall of the same event (or perhaps even a different event altogether)?"
By: Roxy Zarrabi Psy.D. | March 9, 2022
"Have you ever looked back at a previous relationship and wondered, “What was I thinking?” It may feel surprising to look back and realize how unhealthy a relationship was and wonder how you endured it for as long as you did. That’s why hindsight is 20/20.Perhaps you haven’t been in an unhealthy relationship yourself, but you’ve wondered why a friend or family member stays in a relationship that is clearly making them unhappy. Similar to a smudged windshield, it can be tough to see what’s right in front of you until the gunk is wiped away.
Often, it’s not a lack of awareness that keeps people stuck in unhealthy relationships; deep down inside there is a voice calling for their attention urging them to face the truth but it’s being buried due to underlying fears. If you’re having difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship, consider whether any of the following reasons are playing a role:
1. You fear being alone and assume being with anyone is better than being alone.
For many, the fear of being alone, and low self-worth, are powerful motivators for remaining in relationships past their expiration date. However, when you’re in a relationship with someone with whom you’re not compatible, you will often feel alone because you’re not being loved and cared for in a way that is aligned with your needs.
2. The relationship is activating an attachment wound, so letting go feels like a significant threat to you and feels impossible (even though it isn’t).
Adults raised by an inconsistent caregiver or whose emotional needs were not met during a crucial stage of development are more likely to be drawn to a partner with similar qualities simply because it feels so familiar — as if they’ve known the person “forever.”
If you learned early on to associate love with high conflict, volatility, or inconsistency, there may be a part of you subconsciously holding onto hope that maybe this time, things will be different. As a result, letting go of this type of relationship can feel like a threat to your attachment system because it’s forcing you to let go of this fantasy which can bring up a lot of resistance and anxiety. People who have an anxious attachment style may be more susceptible to having a difficult time letting go of an unhealthy relationship.
3. You’ve already invested a significant amount of time and energy in this relationship and fear starting over.
The sunk-cost fallacy refers to the phenomenon in which someone is hesitant to quit something they’ve started because they’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it, despite it being in their best interest to change course.
The sunk-cost fallacy may be playing a role in your difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship if you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it and a part of you is pushing to see it through due to the fear of starting all over again."
By: Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS | February 19, 2022
"Children who experience trauma and dysfunction in their household often struggle to learn the same boundaries and behaviors that so many others seem to take for granted.
As a child is growing and developing, they look to their caregivers as examples of how to interact with the world around them. If those caregivers behave in dysfunctional or unhealthy ways, chances are high that children will learn to mimic these same unhealthy behaviors, even if unintended. “For many, the effects of abuse manifest in dysfunctional interpersonal relationships as the result of attachment disruptions at pivotal points of childhood development.” (Kvarnstrom, 2018)
Going back to childhood and adolescence usually sheds some light on adult behavior. The ways in which our caregivers interact with us, as well as each other, shape our view of the world and those around us. This will, in turn, affect three fundamental structures: our sense of self, the way we communicate, and how we form relationships. Unless we do the work to develop more self-awareness of our behaviors, we will usually repeat these same patterns into adulthood.
Following are 10 of the ways that childhood trauma manifests in adult relationships:
1. Fears of abandonment. Children who were neglected or abandoned by a caregiver often struggle with fears of abandonment long into adulthood, even if they are unaware of these fears on the surface level. While the underlying fear is that the partner will eventually leave, these thoughts often reveal themselves in everyday situations such as getting scared when a partner goes out by themselves, or being unable to self soothe if a partner leaves the room during an argument. This fear is also often manifested as jealousy, or in extreme cases, possessiveness.
2. Getting irritable or easily annoyed with others. When we grow up in environments where we are frequently criticized, or witness others being criticized, we learn that this is a natural way to express our displeasure in relationships. We learn that our imperfections and quirks are intolerable, and project that intolerance onto our partners or others around us.
3. Needing a lot of space or time to yourself. Growing up in a chaotic or unpredictable environment creates a lot of stress, and often leaves children’s central nervous system in a constant state of hypervigilance. Then they become adults who need a lot of time to themselves in order to calm these symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, and fear. Staying home, where you can control your surroundings, feels safer and allows you to relax. In extreme cases, some adults even have traits of or meet criteria for social anxiety or even agoraphobia.
4. Unequal financial and household responsibilities. Sometimes this can look like a reluctance to rely on a partner at all due to fears of depending on another person. Other times it takes the form of taking complete financial and/or household responsibility in a partnership, or fully taking care of the other person to the point where you are taken advantage of. The opposite — relying too much on them to the point where they take care of you — is also a result of unmet childhood needs.
5. Settling and staying in a relationship much longer than its expiration date. When we grow up in unstable environments, with caregivers who struggle with drug addiction, mental illness, or even illness or death, children often develop a sense of guilt that comes from wanting to end a relationship before we have been able to "fix" the other person. Staying with someone who is not a good fit for us sometimes feels safer than being alone."
By: Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D. | July 14, 2021
"Decisions are a part of life. You may need to choose the best vacation spot, job candidate, babysitter, or place to live. However, your most important decision may be identifying your best romantic partner. Relationships matter – a lot. They have implications for your health, your reactions to stress and even how you look at the world. How can you determine if your current partner is the best of the best? It’s hard to know what factors truly matter and what to ignore.
Gut Reactions Add Nuance
There are two general ways to make assessments: data and your gut feeling. As Malcolm Gladwell famously observed in his book Blink, snap judgments can have surprising accuracy. As a psychology professor myself, one example that always amazes me is that student assessments of a professor based on a 30-second silent video clip matches students’ evaluations based on the entire semester.
Relying on gut feelings isn’t perfect. But intuition is an important component of decisions, especially social ones. Clearly, people rely on instincts in a variety of situations, such as deciding which job to take, which daycare is best, and who to date. Trusting your own feelings is sometimes necessary because expert information is hard to access – published research articles are often locked behind paywalls, for example, and not typically written in a way that aids comprehension. And of course, the very nature of science and statistics is to focus on what is most typical in a population, not what’s best for any one individual.
Experts also aren’t perfect and research shows that people have a sense of when to value nonexpert opinions over experts. In fact, some experts admit to using intuition themselves: A study revealed that marriage therapists acknowledge using their intuition and consider it a valuable tool in clinical settings.
Is Your Relationship Hall of Fame Worthy?
Perhaps with the value of instinctive evaluation in mind, famous baseball statistician Bill James created the “Keltner List.” The list is a way to assess a baseball player’s Hall of Fame viability, and it's named for a seven-time All-Star with borderline qualifications. To be truly Hall-worthy, numbers may not tell the whole story; the judgment should be almost visceral. A true Hall of Famer would be clear based on a few key questions. While James is a statistician, his Keltner List is intentionally nonscientific. It’s a collection of 15 questions anyone can quickly answer to help guide an overall assessment of a player’s worthiness for the Hall. (Example: “Was he the best player on his team?”) The answers are not meant to provide a definitive conclusion, but rather to force a careful consideration of the most important information.
Back to relationships. A similar process can help you determine whether your current romantic partner is Hall-worthy for you. Inspired by the Keltner List, I’ve put together a list of 15 questions to highlight what matters most. Like James's list, my assessment is intentionally not scientific and has not been tested empirically (though that isn’t a bad idea for future research). That said, I consulted the existing research to ground each question in the science of what contributes to a healthy relationship. Note that this list isn’t about helping you pick the best Tinder date, hookup, or short-term fling. The questions focus on what matters for serious, long-term, sustainable love. To benefit from this exercise, you need to be honest. If you lie to yourself, you won’t gain any insight — or as computer scientists say, “garbage in, garbage out.”
A Keltner List for Relationships
Consider each question and answer truthfully with a simple yes or no:
By: Rubin Khoddam Ph.D. | January 23, 2022
"Are you looking for some new techniques to strengthen your relationship? If you’re interested in integrative behavioral couples therapy (IBCT) but don’t seem to be able to fit it into your busy schedule, many couples are utilizing teletherapy as a simpler way to make time for their relationship. Scheduling a teletherapy session with an experienced therapist is convenient and can help you work through relationship issues, but why wait? Here are five tips to get started today.
1. Express Appreciation
Understanding what makes your partner feel the most appreciated is a step in the right direction. Over time, we may stop expressing appreciation in our relationships because what was once novel has become routine. Maybe resentments have built up over the years, or we assume our significant other already knows how we feel about them. But when we notice and appreciate the little things, people often go out of their way to be even more thoughtful. This doesn’t require big gestures, although it can. Often, simply acknowledging what other people do for us is enough to make any relationship warmer. In fact, I often encourage couples to end the day by listing at least three things they are grateful for from that day about their partner or even about the day itself. Knowing that you will have to express your appreciation for things at the end of the night will make you more mindful of things to appreciate during the day.
2. Practice Reflective Listening
Practice might not ever make perfect, but it sure helps. It’s common for people to mistakenly believe that if they withhold approval or affection, their partner will change in the ways they want them to. While this might cause your partner to change, it probably won’t be in ways you like. Practicing reflective listening is one of the best techniques to improve communication in your relationship. So what does it mean?
This is something that a skilled couples therapist can walk you through during your session, but essentially it means that you listen to what your partner says and then repeat it back to them in your own words. You can try a simple reflection where you basically repeat back what’s been said, perhaps paraphrasing a little or you can try a complex reflection where you might infer a feeling or an experience based on what was said. This accomplishes two things. It validates what they’ve said because they know they’ve really been heard and it also clarifies any confusion. Instead of waiting for our turn to speak, we’re actively listening to what is being said and trying to understand what they’re telling us.
3. Schedule Important Conversations
On a related topic, there are some conversations that are tough to have no matter how skilled we are at communicating. So, when it comes to sensitive issues, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss them. I call these “relationship business meetings.” For example, maybe your partner wants to have a baby but you’re not sure if it’s a good time for you to start a family, or if you even want children. This is a situation that could quickly escalate into an argument, particularly if the topic comes up in a moment when you already feel stressed out about work or money or any number of other things.
Instead, consider setting aside a weekly meeting for an hour to explore the idea or any other hot-topic relationship issues. Choose a time when you both have the mental and emotional bandwidth to be fully present, and keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to find an answer at this time. The intent is to simply get the conversation started when you’re both in a calm and receptive state of mind—maybe even over brunch. You can always schedule a follow-up for later on, which will give you time to consider things in more depth.
By setting aside a weekly time to meet, you consolidate arguments into a single episode rather than have them bleed into the relationship throughout the week. It also allows time and space for each partner to reflect on their experience and opinions, and to come to the conversation more thoughtful and respectful of their needs and their partner's.
If you’re still finding it difficult to find your way through an issue, bring it to your teletherapy session. Your couples therapist will be able to offer you a fresh perspective and some useful insights into your current dynamic."
"Even babies notice differences like skin color, eye shape and hair texture. Here's how to handle conversations about race, racism, diversity and inclusion, even with very young children.
A few things to remember:
By Meredith Goldstein
"I've been the relationship advice columnist at The Boston Globe for more than a decade. That means I've answered thousands of letters from the lovelorn.
But when friends and family ask for advice, it's more complicated. It can be fraught-sometimes I know too much and it can be difficult to remain objective.
Also, if I don't get it right, I could hurt someone I love.
I think it works that way for a lot of us. Helping a stranger can be easier than advising someone we've known forever.
That's why I teamed up with Life Kit to figure out some best practices. Turns out, good advice is often about loosening the body, opening the mind and, more often than not, keeping your mouth shut."
By Guy Winch
"At some point in our lives, almost every one of us will have our heart broken. Imagine how different things would be if we paid more attention to this unique emotional pain. Psychologist Guy Winch reveals how recovering from heartbreak starts with a determination to fight our instincts to idealize and search for answers that aren't there -- and offers a toolkit on how to, eventually, move on. Our hearts might sometimes be broken, but we don't have to break with them."
Photo: Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License
According to a study conducted by University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, you can forget about fast friends. The path to becoming BFF’s requires time-and not just any hours will do. “For working adults, more time at work was associated with less closeness in friendship,” Hall says. “Instead, time spent in leisure, at home, or at play really mattered.” In all, you’ll have to dedicate 50 hours to graduate from acquaintance to “casual friend,” 90 hours to jump to “friend,” and 200-plus hours to claim “close friend” status. The good news? That gives you plenty of time to finish making those friendship bracelets.
By: Dr. Emily Esfahani Smith, TED talks
"I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift. And I wasn't alone; my friends -- they struggled with this, too.
Eventually, I decided to go to graduate school for positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. But what I discovered there changed my life. The data showed that chasing happiness can make people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate has been rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There's an emptiness gnawing away at people, and you don't have to be clinically depressed to feel it. Sooner or later, I think we all wonder: Is this all there is? And according to the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It's a lack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path. And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they're more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer."
Watch video below to hear more about the pillars to building a more meaningful life.
By: Azriel ReShel
"We seem to do it naturally for others, but what does it mean to do it for ourselves? For me, holding space means becoming the container to experience myself; to grow, to feel, to express, to test out, to live. It is being present, treating yourself with care, consideration, kindness, compassion and love. Hearing the needs of your body and mind, feeling your emotions, and listening to the yearning of your soul. It’s a way of being, a lifestyle, a profound choice and a stand you take. It’s not a belief system, but is rather a way of being with yourself and meeting your own needs. This can be lifesaving in intimate relationships, where we can ruin a good thing by trying to make the other meet all our needs. We spend every minute of the day with ourselves. How much of it is good, supportive, and kind?"
Click on the link below to read a more in-depth description on 9 examples of how you can shape your life for the purpose of 'being there' for yourself.
9 steps to holding space for yourself:
1. Embracing your imperfection
2. Saying no
3. Developing boundaries.
4. Communing with yourself
6. Reaching for support
7. Being authentic
8. Being a good parent to yourself
9. Developing supportive rituals
By Brene Brown
"Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity."
In her talk she says, "vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging and love."
By Dr. Roni Beth Tower, ABPP
"A romantic relationship can be easily recognized by its intense and sometimes irrational driving force of emotion. Passion fuels our behavior, guides or distorts thoughts, changes physical and chemical functioning, and alters lives.
The romance might begin with a “coup de foudre," or the lightning bolt that we think of as love at first sight. The attraction can seem to have no earthly reason or explanation, and may appear to emanate from another planet, lifetime, or dimension. It could be the sort of experience that compels someone to abruptly stand up in the middle of a meeting and follow an invisible beam pointing to a person standing across a room.
Romantic love can also arise more slowly, building on a firm foundation of friendship. A base of shared history allows reason to remain in control for at least an initial critical period. It doesn't matter how you found your perfect partner; you typically know when he or she has arrived—and the rest is in the details.
But you must tend to these details to make your relationship flourish. These 10 strategies will help you nourish and sustain a close, romantic relationship."
by Dr. Robert Waldinger
"What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life."
Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.
by Amit Chowdhry
Do you find yourself spending a lot of time on social media? Have you ever noticed that it can negatively impact your mood? Research is consistently showing that there is a direct relationship between social media usage and depression. More specifically, research is showing that the more time spent on social media or frequency of visits may increase a person's likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Continue reading to learn how social media can lead to depressive symptoms...
by Brene Brown and The RSA Animations
by Robin Shreeves
"Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."
by Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D.
Romantic relationship breakups are difficult to deal with and usually involve grieving the loss of your loved one. Here are 7 stages of breakup grief that a person can experience in the process of letting go...