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Do open relationships really work?

In a gist: Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating. And that can seriously undermine or jeopardize the relationship.

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Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond. Can these open relationships work? It depends, concludes a team from the University of Rochester that focuses on couples research. Not surprisingly, the success of such relationships hinges on solid communication between all parties involved.

“We know that communication is helpful to all couples,” says Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology and head of the Rogge Lab, where the research was conducted. “However, it is critical for couples in nonmonogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a nontraditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture. Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in nonmonogamous relationships.”

Past studies have attempted to gauge the success of nonmonogamous relationships. But the critical difference this time is that the Rochester team considered distinctions and nuances within various types of nonmonogamous relationships, and then assessed the success of each type independently. As a result, their findings draw no blanket conclusions about the prospects of nonmonogamous relationships; instead, the research, published in the Journal of Sex Research, suggests conditions under which nonmonogamous relationships tend to succeed, and those under which relationships become strained.

Rogge — together with his former undergraduate research assistant, Forrest Hangen ’19, now a graduate student at Northeastern University; and Dev Crasta ’18 (PhD), now a post-doctoral fellow at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry — analyzed responses from 1,658 online questionnaires. Among the respondents a majority (67.5 percent) was in their 20s and 30s, 78 percent of participants were white, nearly 70 percent identified as female, and most were in long-term relationships (on average nearly 4 ½ years). The team assessed three key dimensions for each relationship–applying what they call the “Triple-C Model” of mutual consent, communication, and comfort.

Significantly, they divided study participants into five distinct classes of relationships:

  • Two monogamous groups, representing earlier- and later-stage monogamous relationships
  • Consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships, marked by low interest in monogamy and high levels of mutual consent, comfort, and communication around commitment and sexual activity with a person other than the primary partner
  • Partially open relationships, with more mixed attitudes toward monogamy and lower consent, comfort, and communication
  • One-sided sexual relationships with a person besides the primary partner, in which one partner desires monogamy while the other partner engages in sex outside the existing relationship with low levels of mutual consent, comfort, and almost no communication between the couple about sex outside the relationship.

The team discovered that monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) groups demonstrated high levels of functioning in their relationships and as individuals, whereas the partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous groups exhibited lower functioning.

People in both monogamous groups reported relatively healthy relationships, as well as some of the lowest levels of loneliness and psychological distress. Both monogamous groups and the consensual nonmonogamous group (CNM) reported similarly low levels of loneliness and distress, and similarly high satisfaction levels in regards to need, relationship, and sex.

Moreover, both monogamous groups reported the lowest levels of sexual sensation seeking, indicating fairly restrained and mainstream attitudes towards casual sex.

Overall, people in the three nonmonogamous relationships reported high levels of sexual sensation seeking, were more likely to actively look for new sexual partners, and to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

Yet, each of the three nonmonogamous groups varied in significant ways.

People in the consensual nonmonogamous group (CNM) were in fairly long-term relationships (and had the highest proportion among all five groups of people living with their partner, followed closely by the monogamous group with minimal recent sex outside their relationship).

The consensual nonmonogamous group also had the highest number of heteroflexible (primarily heterosexual but open to sex with same-sex partners) and bisexual respondents, suggesting that individuals in the LGBT community might be more comfortable with non-traditional relationship structures.

By contrast, people in partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous relationships tended to be in younger relationships, reported lower levels of dedication to their relationships, and low levels of affection. Few reported high sexual satisfaction, and they had the highest rates of condomless sex with new partners.

The groups of partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous relationships also showed some of the highest levels of discomfort with emotional attachment (also called attachment avoidance), psychological distress, and loneliness.

Overall, the one-sided group fared worst of all, with the highest proportion of people significantly dissatisfied with their relationships: 60 percent–nearly three times as high as the monogamous or the consensual nonmonogamous group.

Rogge cautions that the authors looked at cross-sectional data only, which meant they were unable to directly track relationships failing over time.

While the data clearly show that not all nonmonogamous relationships are equal–one rule applies to all:

“Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating,” says Hangen. “And that, understandably, can seriously undermine or jeopardize the relationship.”

Love Affairs

What makes a happy couple, a happy family?

Being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.

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“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy wrote famously in 1878 in the opening lines of Anna Karenina. Turns out the Russian author was onto something.

Cohesive families, indeed, seem to share a few critical traits – psychologists agree. Being emotionally flexible may be one of the most important factors when it comes to longevity and overall health of your romantic and familial relationships.

That’s the finding of a new University of Rochester meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, which statistically combined the results of 174 separate studies that had looked at acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.

The researchers’ aim was to clarify how mindful flexibility – on one hand – and inattentive, mindless, and rigid inflexibility on the other – were linked to the dynamics within families and romantic relationships.

“Put simply,” says coauthor Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, “this meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.”

Psychological flexibility versus inflexibility

Psychological flexibility is defined as a set of skills that people use when they’re presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences. Such skills encompass:

  • Being open to experiences–both good and bad–and accepting them no matter how challenging or difficult they might be
  • Having a mindful attentive awareness of the present moment throughout day-to-day life
  • Experiencing thoughts and feelings without obsessively clinging to them
  • Maintaining a broader perspective even in the midst of difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Learning to actively maintain contact with our deeper values, no matter how stressful or chaotic each day is
  • Continuing to take steps toward a goal, even in the face of difficult experiences and setbacks

The opposite – psychological inflexibility – describes six specific behaviors, including:

  • Actively avoiding difficult thoughts, feelings, and experiences
  • Going through daily life in a distracted and inattentive manner
  • Getting stuck in difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Seeing difficult thoughts and feelings as a personal reflection and feeling judged or shameful for having them
  • Losing track of deeper priorities within the stress and chaos of day-to-day life
  • Getting derailed easily by setbacks or difficult experiences, resulting in being unable to take steps toward deeper goals.

Psychologists consider the rigid and inflexible responses to difficult or challenging experiences dysfunctional, ultimately contributing to and exacerbating a person’s psychopathology.

Photo by @suzylee from Unsplash.com

How flexibility shapes interactions

Through their analysis, coauthor Jennifer Daks, a PhD candidate in the Rochester Department of Psychology, and Rogge discovered that within families, higher levels of various forms of parental psychological flexibility were linked to:

  • Greater use of adaptive parenting strategies
  • Fewer incidents of lax, harsh, and negative parenting strategies
  • Lower perceived parenting stress or burden
  • Greater family cohesion <
  • Lower child distress

Within romantic relationships, higher levels of various forms of psychological inflexibility were linked to:

  • Lower relationship satisfaction for themselves and their partners
  • Lower sexual satisfaction
  • Lower emotional supportiveness
  • Greater negative conflict, physical aggression, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance

The results suggest that psychological flexibility and inflexibility may play key roles in both couples and families in shaping how individuals interact with the people closest to them, the researchers write.

The meta-analysis, also commonly referred to as a “study of studies,” cements and adds to the findings of Rogge’s earlier work in which he and a team tested the effects of couples’ watching movies together and talking about the films afterward. In that work, Rogge and his colleagues demonstrated that couples could bring mindful awareness, compassion, and flexibility back into their relationships by using movies to spark meaningful relationship discussions, leading to both immediate and long-term benefits.

That study, conducted in 2013, found that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple watch-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods–more than halving the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after the first three years of marriage.

Being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.

“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships,” Rogge said about the earlier study. “You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”

Watching and discussing movies with your partner that feature onscreen couples can have a positive effect on your relationship, Rogge recently told People magazine. It’s an easy exercise that “could be a lifesaver during quarantine,” he says.

Which movies work? As Good as It GetsFunny GirlGone with the WindLove StoryIndecent ProposalThe Devil Wears Prada, and Father of the Bride are a few of the films Rogge and his fellow researchers used in their 2013 study of couples.

Looking for some LGBTQ recommendations? Rogge suggests The Kids Are AlrightThe Wedding BanquetThe Birdcage, and episodes of Grace and Frankie.

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Love Affairs

Problems in your relationship? What can you do about them?

Understanding how to tackle a problem is just as important as the problem itself, so if you don’t know how to approach this issue, keep reading.

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Relationships aren’t always rainbows and butterflies. At some point, something is going to go wrong. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, meaning that there will be a problem at some point that you’re just going to have to deal with. But do you know how to do this?

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Understanding how to tackle a problem is just as important as the problem itself, so if you don’t know how to approach this issue, keep reading down below. Here, you are going to find some of our advice as to what you can do when there’s problems in your relationship. 

Talk About Them

The first thing that you’re going to need to do is talk about them. When there is an issue, encouraging open and honest communication is the very best thing that you can do to tackle whatever it is. If you think about it, how is the other person supposed to know that there is an issue if you’re not willing to talk about it? You know that if your partner has a problem, you want them to discuss it with you so that you can work on it. Without this communication, you’re never going to get very far in a relationship.

You need to trust that you can have an honest conversation about your feelings. If you think that you can’t, then you’re not in the right relationship.

Seek Help

If you feel as though talking isn’t solving the issue and you’re unable to fix the problem yourself, then you can always seek help. There are professionals out there that deal with this kind of thing for a reason, and it’s because it isn’t always easy to see certain things when you’re the one in the situation. So, you might want to think about something such as sex therapy counselling if you think that this is where the issue is. Or, if you’re married and having multiple problems, general marriage counselling might work out better for you. Just remember that there are professionals to help should you need them.

Find A Solution

The final thing that you need to do is find a solution. We know that it isn’t always this simple, but it becomes far easier when you change your outlook on a situation. You need to remember that it is you and your partner vs. the problem, not you vs. your partner. Once you realize this, it becomes far easier to come up with a solution that suits everyone because you view the problem from both sides. A relationship will only work for as long as you are both trying, so keep this in mind and give it everything that you’ve got.

We hope that you have found this article helpful and now have a better understanding as to some of the things that you can do when there is a problem in your relationship. Do at least one of these things, and we’re sure that you will find a way to get past whatever the problem is right now. We wish you all the best.

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Love Affairs

Countries with most, least cheaters identified

Wanna know which countries have the most – and least – cheaters, and who they cheat with? Here’s a rundown.

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From sports legends to royal members and the average Joes, many people have been caught cheating in relationships. But instead of packing your bags and going to live with your parents, why not hop on a plane and move to the county with the least amount of infidelities? 

With that in mind, the experts at the online marketplace OnBuy.com sought to find out which countries had the most and least cheaters. To find out, they surveyed 30,000 people from 30 different countries around the globe to see how many respondents admitted to cheating on their partners. 

OnBuy.com was also curious to see who the person a cheater is most likely to cheat with in each country. 

Countries with most cheaters?

The US came on to among the countries with the most cheater with 71% of all respondents saying they have cheated at least once in their relationships. But who do Americans cheat with the most? The study revealed that the partner in crime of choice for most people in the US, when it comes to cheating, is the ex-partner.

In second place among the countries with the most cheaters is Germany, where 68% of people admitted to cheating on their partners at least once. When it comes to the person most Germans cheat with, friends topped the list.

The third country with the most cheaters is the UK, where 66% of British respondents admitted to cheating… also mostly with a friend.

Some people prefer one-night stands with strangers. In fact, most respondents from Thailand, France, Russia and Australia said they’ve slept with a stranger behind their partners’ backs. 

Countries with least cheaters? 

Not all apples are bad, but sometimes you need to travel far to find a good one.

Iceland topped the list of countries with least cheaters, with only 9% of the Icelandic respondents admitted to cheating; most did so with an ex-partner. 

Greenland is the second least cheating country with only 12% of people saying they’ve ever cheated. Friends topped the list of cheating partners.

The third country with the least number of cheaters is Ireland, where 15% of Celts said they did the dirty on their partners. Those who cheated did so with their ex-partners.

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Love Affairs

How to have an intimate wedding

If you are having to rethink your wedding this year, or have always been attracted to the idea of a small and intimate wedding, here are some tips to help you pull it off.

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Unfortunately 2020 has meant that many couples have had to rearrange their original nuptial plans or cancel them altogether. For those that had been dreaming of their big days for months or even years, this was a devastating blow. While this kind of disappointment can be heart-breaking, changing big wedding plans to something more intimate does have its perks, and some couples would prefer this kind of celebration altogether. 

If you are having to rethink your wedding this year, or have always been attracted to the idea of a small and intimate wedding, here are some tips to help you pull it off.

Limit the Guest List

Deciding who to invite to your wedding can be one of the harder parts of the planning process. Of course, every bride and groom want their immediate family members present, as well as their closest friends, but then you need to think about aunties, uncles, cousins, colleagues, etc. Although you might be worried about offending people if you want an intimate wedding you need to cut the extended family members and colleagues from the list. Only those you have a close relationship with should be present at your wedding.

Choose a Personal Venue

Grand manor houses and fancy hotel ballrooms are all great options for wedding venues, but they don’t exactly scream ‘intimate’. If you want your wedding to feel truly personal to you and your partner, choose somewhere that means something to you both. Where did you go on your first date? Is there a cute B&B where you spent your first weekend away together? You could even get married at a family home in the gardens if you wanted to, and you could hire bartenders from a company such as eventbartenders.com and caterers, too.

Handmade Décor

For further personal touches to your intimate wedding (and to help you save some pennies!) consider handmaking some decorations for the special day. Simple candles and flowers always make gorgeous centerpieces for the tables, and you could spruce up a plain notebook or photo album to transform it into a pretty guestbook, or fill mason jars with twinkly lights and petals for some elegant, rustic lighting. It might take a little more effort on your part, but with the help of some friends and family, you can create pretty, unique decorations that will add to the romantic atmosphere.

Menu

A menu of simple yet delicious dishes is perfect for keeping things low-key on your big day. Italian cuisine is always popular and a great crowd-pleaser if you are opting for a sit-down meal rather than a buffet. If you want more of a festival vibe for your wedding, which seems to be a growing trend, hire a few different food trucks for your wedding instead, and give your guests a choice. 

Consider a Registry Office

If you want to save money and keep things small, marry at a registry office and head to a bar or restaurant for your reception. It might not sound very grand, but this is perfect for intimate weddings and allows couples to relax a little more on their big day. 

For the perfect intimate wedding, think about the points above and whether they could work for you.

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Love Affairs

Safety precautions to take on your first date

So, how do you stay safe when going out with someone for the first time? Here are some tips.

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We all have a perfect sequence of events lined up in our minds when going on a date. You definitely want to be sure you have made the right choice, but you also want your first date to be a memorable one for the right reasons. Unfortunately, dates can be a nightmare. Apart from dealing with an obnoxious or rude date, reports of date rape have risen by 450% since 2016. This means that without taking the right safety precautions, you may end up being assaulted or worse.

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So, how do you stay safe when going out with someone for the first time? Here are some tips.

1. Keep your friends and family informed

No matter how much you trust your date companion, it is best to keep your friends, family, and loved ones in the loop about where you’re planning to go and when. Ensure that they have necessary details like the location, contact number, name of your date, and the day and time of your date. If you make any sudden changes concerning your planned date location, let your loved ones know immediately. Also, ensure that your smartphone’s location services are always on.

2. Meet in a public place

First of all, pick your preferred location and ensure that it is in a public place. Also, make sure that your preferred location is as close to your home as possible. You may want to choose a romantic restaurant that meets your fancy, but it might not be the best option if it is too far away from home. Instead, you can go to a local restaurant, a cafe, or a park close to home. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, please avoid following them to their homes immediately. It would help if you also took time to research social distance date ideas to protect yourself during this pandemic. 

3. Provide your transportation 

It feels romantic to have someone pick you up right from home, open the doors for you, and hand you a rose. But that can wait for now, as your safety is the most important thing at the moment. If you’re planning on meeting someone you don’t know very well, go with your own transportation. There have been several instances of people being picked up by strange vehicles and not making it back home. If you own a car, drive yourself to the location. Alternatively, you can use an Uber. 

4. Leave when you’re uncomfortable

If your date makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, then it is time to leave without hesitation. There are times when you need to trust your intuition and instincts, and when it comes to your safety, one red flag is more than enough. Pay attention to signs like your date’s body language, demeanor, and the kind of things they say. For example, if they’re being too physical or trying to invade your personal space, then that’s a no-no. 

Finally, before setting off from home, put your investigative hat on and conduct a thorough background check.

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Same-gender couples interact better than heterosexual couples

In terms of the quality of interactions with their partners, the study found same-gendered relationships had better-quality interactions than found in different-gendered relationships.

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Same-gender couples have higher-quality interactions with one another than heterosexual couples.

This is according to a new UC Riverside study that also holds that couples with two men have the smallest social networks.

Researcher Megan Robbins says the recent study is the first to compare same- and different-sex couples’ social networks and daily interactions with one another.

Past research shows that same-gender couples enjoy strengths including appreciation of individual differences, positive emotions, and effective communication. But research hasn’t compared the quality of their daily interactions – inside and outside the couple dynamic – to those of heterosexual couples. 

“The comparison is important because there is so much research linking the quality of romantic relationships and other social ties to health and well-being, yet it is unclear if this applies similarly or differently to people in same-gender romantic relationships because they have been historically excluded from past research,” said Robbins, who is an associate professor of psychology at UCR. Reasons for potential differences include the stigma sexual minorities face, and also their resilience.

For the study, Robbins and her team recruited same-gender and different-gender couples throughout Southern California. The couples had to be in a married or “married-like” committed relationship; living together for at least a year; and have no physical or mental health conditions that impeded their daily functioning.

Among those who applied to be in the study, 78 couples were found to be eligible, 77 of which provided enough data to be used. Twenty-four of the couples were woman-woman; 20 were man-man, and 33 were man-woman.

Participants met with the researchers on two separate Fridays, a month apart, completing surveys. They received text or email prompts several times in the days following the in-person meetings. In the text/email prompts, participants were asked whether they had an interaction with their partner, a family member, or a friend in the past 10 minutes, then asked to rate the quality of the social interaction using a five-point scale – one being unpleasant; three, neutral; five, pleasant.

In terms of social networks, the study found couples in man-man relationships had smaller social networks than woman-woman and man-woman couples. On the other end of the results spectrum, women in relationships with men were most likely to have the largest social networks.

Robbins said the finding is consistent with previous research showing men with men experience the least acceptance among family members.

“We hypothesized that one model for how the social life of people in same-gender couples might differ from those in different-gender couples was a honing model, where people in same-gender couples reduce their social networks down to only those people who are supportive. We found some support for this by learning that the men with men had the smallest social networks in our sample.,” Robbins said.

The quality of interactions with families was reported to be greatest by same-gender couples. There was no difference for interaction quality with friends.

In terms of the quality of interactions with their partners, the study found same-gendered relationships had better-quality interactions than found in different-gendered relationships.

Robbins said that may be due to greater similarity between partners when they share a gender identity, and greater equality within the couple, compared to people in different-sex couples.

“When male and female partners interact, they may do so from a culturally imposed frame wherein men and women are considered ‘opposites,’ which creates more potential for tension in interactions,” Robbins wrote in the paper, titled Social Compensation and Honing Frameworks, and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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