08 February 2013

How money, jealousy and humour affect couples

In time for Valentine's Day, a number of new studies look at different aspects of relationships – including the link between income in marriage and health.


In time for Valentine's Day, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is featuring several new studies all about relationships – including the link between income in marriage and health, the role of jealousy in becoming a parent, and how humour affects romantic couples in conflict.

Being the breadwinner has health costs

Men whose wives earn more income are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than those who outearn their wives, even when the inequality is small, according to a new study. Researchers looking at more than 200 000 married couples in Denmark from 1997 to 2006 also found that wives who outearned their husbands were more likely to suffer from insomnia and to use anti-anxiety medication.

They did not find these effects for unmarried couples or for men earning less than their wives prior to marriage. "In Sickness and in Wealth: Psychological and Sexual Costs of Income Comparison in Marriage," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Reducing violence in relationships through belief in growth

Some studies indicate that more than one-fifth of couples experience at least one episode of violence over the course of a year. But when people believe that their relationship can change and grow over time, they are less like likely to engage in violent behaviour toward one another, new research finds.

 In four studies that examine more than 2 500 people, researchers found that such so-called "growth beliefs" reduce violence in relationships by increasing the satisfaction that partners have with sacrificing their interests for their partners'.

 "Implicit Theories of Relationships and Close Relationship Violence: Does Believing Your Relationship Can Grow Relate to Lower Perpetration of Violence?”.

Jealousy drives down desire for children

Jealousy can play a powerful role in men's and women's desire to have children. A suite of three new studies found that when asked to remember a time that they experienced jealousy, chronically jealous men and women reported feeling less happy about the prospect of receiving news about being pregnant and exhibited less interest in babies.

 They also found that chronically jealous men – but not women – who were primed to think about jealousy showed less interest in investing in their children. "(Not) Bringing up Baby: The Effects of Jealousy on the Desire to Have and Invest in Children," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Humour in relationships: choose carefully

Humour can help diffuse tense conflicts in relationships – but the type of humour can make all the difference, found a new study. Studying 93 dating couples who were videotaped while trying to resolve a conflict, researchers found, for example, that highly anxious individuals tended to use more self-defeating humour, which elicited negative responses from highly distressed partners.

Humour that was "affiliative" – positive but not at one's own expense – however, resounded well with such distressed partners.

"It's in the Way that You Use it: Attachment and the Dyadic Nature of Humour during Conflict Negotiation in Romantic Couples," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Singles feeling singled out

"How come a wonderful person like you is still single?" How we frame such questions about differences between groups of people makes a big difference in how members of each group feel about their self-esteem.

 In two experiments, single participants felt worse about being single when they read or wrote about how singles differed from people in relationships than when they read or wrote about how couples differ from single people. "Singled Out as the Effect to be Explained: Implications for Collective Self-Esteem," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Susanne Bruckmüller.

(EurekAlert, February 2013)

Read more: 

Valentine’s day love foods

14 signs of a healthy relationship

Signs of the benefits of marriage




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