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How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

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How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

If you are in a long-term relationship, have you ever wondered about what really makes it work? Is there actual scientific evidence showing that honesty, commitment, and romantic feelings all contribute in a positive way to a relationship? The answer is that there is a lot of psychological research which backs all this up. Here are 9 scientific finding that can help improve your relationships. Science to the rescue again!

1. How committed are you?

How many times have you heard your friends say there was no commitment from the other partner? This is a very common explanation as to why relationships end.

What does commitment mean in real terms? It means that you and your partner will be able to weather any storm,  are in it for the long haul, and will support each other, come what may. It is the true mark of a great team where the health of the relationship is put first and the individual partner in second place.

There is a very interesting article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin which backs this up. The researchers, Arriaga and Agnew, found that the idea of being in it for the long term was an essential element to a stable and lasting relationship.

2. Is a kiss just a kiss?

Research on our nearest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, shows that kissing is a much more powerful bonding element than we may have thought. There are powerful physical changes which take place. For example, a passionate kiss can set off a whole chain of chemical reactions which involve hormones and neurotransmitters which start rushing through us. Dopamine is one of the most powerful neurotransmitters set off by a kiss and can put you on a very natural high. Adrenaline and serotonin are also triggered into action.

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Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between the frequency of kissing and the quality of the relationship. The more the merrier.

3. Viewing your partner as an attachment figure

The supreme example of an attachment figure for a child is a loving parent. That is the figure to whom s/he turns to seek validation and support. Siblings and friends can also be important attachment figures. A similar process happens when you form a romantic relationship with someone. It is made stronger by physical intimacy and bonding. These figures fill the spaces in our lives and they are the first we seek out to celebrate our successes and console us in our failures. The stronger the attachment, the better the chances are of the relationship being a stable and a happy one.

4. Do you have positive illusions about your partner?

 “Love is not blind-It sees more and not less, but because it sees more it is willing to see less.” – Will Moss

Most people would say that if you have any illusions about your partner this might prove to be negative in the long run. But science has shown that the opposite may be true. Romantic love is full of positive illusions which makes you see an idealized version of your partner. But is this healthy and wise?

A positive image is typical at the beginning of a relationship but time will reveal your partner’s defects, bad habits, and other negative features. Studies show that the more you know, the less you are likely to stay in love. Certainly, this is true for divorcees who shudder when they think how on earth they could have fallen head over heels in love with him or her.

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Research is now favoring the view that certain positive illusions can help the relationship to last the longest. Studies show that these couples argue less and are happier.

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” – Ingrid Bergman

5. How independent are you?

Most relationships seem to function better when there is a certain amount of autonomy in the relationship and the couple feel they do not have to act in tandem all the time. There is no feeling of coercion in making choices. You may want time and space to pursue a hobby or interest or even meet with friends.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want makes it very clear in her book how autonomy can lead to less stress and greater happiness.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”- Socrates

6. Have you told any lies today?

Normally, lying is considered toxic for any relationship, as it can erode any trust you may have built up. Psychologists, however, draw a distinction between two types of lying.

The first is anti-social lying and here you can lie to manipulate a situation in your favor or simply to deceive your partner. This is always regarded as a betrayal of trust and can destroy a relationship

The second type is called pro-social lying and this is where you lie to avoid breaking bad news at the wrong time or simply to avert a nasty situation or not to hurt your partner’s feelings. This is regarded with tolerance and is often known as a ‘white lie.’ Sometimes these lies can help to protect a relationship from breaking up. This was the conclusion reached by researchers led by Robin Dunbar at Oxford University.

7. Never underestimate the power of physical affection

Did you know that a calming hormone called oxytocin is released when we kiss, hold hands, or simply hug each other, and also when orgasm is reached during sex? The physical benefits can only enhance feelings of well-being and will be an important element in helping to build a happy and more stable relationship. It is also important in reinforcing a sense of trust which is crucial for any long-term liaison. Physical contact is a boon. Studies show that there is a very strong link between high-quality relationships and frequent physical contact.

8. A great investment for your health

Experts are now telling us that it is well worth your while to dedicate time and effort in building a stable and long-lasting relationship such as marriage or other type of civil partnership. Why? The physical and mental health benefits are so great that they will positively affect your quality of life and help you live longer

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Researchers at Cardiff University say that women benefit from better mental health while men seem to be physically healthier. They regard it as a sound investment and well worth the effort.

9. Learn how to grow the relationship

Probably the biggest threat to any stable relationship is the risk of getting into a rut. Following the same old routine in going out, in lovemaking, and in eating guarantees that boredom will set in. Boredom is like a virus and often takes a hold resulting in dissatisfaction and conflict.

The statistics do not lie on this one. Relationships are more relaxed and happier when new things are explored together. Simple things like having a regular date night may appeal to some couples or taking up a new hobby together can set the tone for discovering new and wonderful things in your life.

Let us know in the comments how you manage to improve your relationships.

Featured photo credit: couple in love in autumn via shutterstock.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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