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How to Improve Your Relationship Using Science

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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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 January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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