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Partners’ company helps us stay connected during pandemic

Living with a partner – but not how many people or who else one lives with – appeared to confer benefit during these uncertain and unprecedented times.

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Living with a romantic partner helps people feel more socially connected during COVID-19. But no other pandemic-era social dynamic carries notable benefits not your kids, not kibitzing with your bestie on Facetime, and not your adorable-adoring pets.

This is according to new research – “Changes in social connection during COVID-19 social distancing: It’s not (household) size that matters; it’s who you’re with” by Karynna Okabe-Miyamoto, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Dunigan Folk and Elizabeth Dunn – that was published in Plos One.

“Research prior to the pandemic has long shown that partners are one of the strongest predictors of social connection and well-being,” said Okabe-Miyamoto, lead co-author of the study,. “And our research during the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the same. Living with a partner uniquely buffered declines in social connection during the early phases of the pandemic.”

By April 2020, many workplaces and stores had been shuttered, and social distancing measures had been implemented. The social existence of many people was relegated to the four walls of their homes, and their families became their only social connections.

The effectiveness of social distancing in reducing virus transmission had been established even before COVID-19. Researchers were curious about how to protect psychological health when such measures are in place.

The first study was conducted in Canada and included 548 undergraduate students. The second was conducted in the United State and United Kingdom and included 336 participants.

In the studies, participants reported their perceived social connection before and during the pandemic. They were asked to rate statements such as “I felt close and connected with other people who are important to me” and “People are around me, but not with me.” They were also asked to declare their social distancing adherence and whether they travel outside of the home for work.

Looking at participants before and during the pandemic, the authors wrote that people living with a romantic partner were most likely to improve in social connection after social distancing measures.

But the size of one’s household during the pandemic made little difference in feelings of social connectedness. Nor did being in the company of one’s children, or one’s pets. Working outside the home did nothing to help people feel socially connected, nor did video calls with friends and family.

“Living with a partner – but not how many people or who else one lives with – appeared to confer benefit during these uncertain and unprecedented times,” the authors wrote.

Researchers wrote the finding is consistent with past research that affirms romantic relationships lead to a greater sense of wellbeing and feeling connected. “In part,” the authors wrote, “because happier people are more likely to find partners.”

The researchers say policy makers should consider measures that place a priority on maintaining social connection, balanced against transmission risk.

Love Affairs

How accurate are first impressions on a first date?

The high stakes of first dates require would-be partners to make and interpret first impressions. But, can we rely on these first impressions to accurately assess someone’s personality?

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The high stakes of first dates require would-be partners to make and interpret first impressions. But, can we rely on these first impressions to accurately assess someone’s personality? According to researchers from McGill University, the answer is yes, although it may be more difficult than in more casual settings.

In a study – “Are some first dates easier to read than others? The role of target well-being in distinctively accurate first impressions” by Lauren Gazzard Kerr, James Borenstein-Laurie, and Lauren J. Human, published in the Journal of Research in Personality – it was noted that “forming an accurate impression of an individual on a first date is important because people often rely on these impressions in deciding whether to pursue a romantic relationship.”

However, while previous studies have shown that people can form accurate impressions of new acquaintances in platonic settings – like casual conversations with new classmates – it may still be worth finding out if the same was true for higher-stakes situations like first dates.

To find answers, the researchers invited 372 participants to partake in speed-dating events in Montreal in 2017 and 2018. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their personality and well-being. A close friend or family member also completed a questionnaire on the participant’s personality. Participants then had a series of brief, three-minute first dates; after each interaction, they rated their date’s personality.

On average, people did see their dates’ personalities accurately, but some dates were easier to read than others.

“Some people are open books whose distinctive personalities can be accurately perceived after a brief interaction, whereas others are harder to read,” says co-author Lauren Gazzard Kerr. “Strikingly, people who report higher well-being, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life tend to make the task easier.”

Why are some people easier to read?

The researchers note that one explanation could be that some individuals engage in more effective self-presentation.

“Perhaps people that have greater well-being behave in ways that are more in line with their personality – being more authentic or true to themselves,” says Assistant Professor Lauren Human.

In a previous study, the researchers also found evidence of this in platonic settings.

Alternatively, it may be that people who are perceived more accurately come to experience greater well-being – not necessarily that greater well-being leads to being perceived more accurately. Both are plausible, according to Human.

“Understanding why some people are able to be seen more accurately could help us determine strategies that other people could apply to enhance how accurately they are perceived,” ends Human.

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Love Affairs

Transgender, gender non-conforming teens face unique challenges when dating

Young people who are transgender and gender nonconforming face a different set of challenges than peers during these developmental milestones, a new study suggests.

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Experiencing transphobia and abuse, and struggling with the decision to divulge their gender identity throughout their transition. These are what transgender and gender non-conforming (TNGC) adolescents face when dating, according to a study – “Romantic Relationships in Transgender Adolescents: a Qualitative Study” by Adrian C. Araya, Rebecca Warwick, Daniel Shumer and Ellen Selkie – that appeared in Pediatrics.

According to the study, adolescence is a period of identity formation, a time of questioning one’s belonging and one’s role in society, and a shift from family relationship dependence to preference for friendship. It is also recognized as a time of exploration of love and intimacy, which is considered to be critical to development and adjustment.

But young people who are transgender and gender nonconforming face a different set of challenges than peers during these developmental milestones, the study suggests.

For this study, 30 adolescents (18 transmasculine and 12 transfeminine) between the ages of 15 and 20 years were interviewed. Themes included (1) engagement in romantic relationships, (2) disclosure of gender identity and romantic relationships, (3) experience with abusive relationships, and (4) perceived impact of gender-affirming hormone care on romantic experiences.

The study found that:

  • TGNC adolescents are engaged in romantic experiences before and during social and/or medical transitioning and are cultivating relationships through both proximal peers and online connections.
  • There is perceived benefit of gender-affirming hormone care on romantic experiences.
  • Risk of transphobia in romantic relationships impacts the approach that transgender adolescents take toward romance and influences decisions of identity disclosure.
  • TGNC adolescents have experience with relationship abuse in different forms.

The study also noted that romantic pursuit was hampered by transphobia perpetuated by both cisgender and transgender individuals. This transphobia may stem from adhering to gender binary and correlating sex assigned at birth to gender identity.

To deal with this situation, the researchers suggested that providers should incorporate changes in their approach to counseling and screening when caring for TGNC youth.

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Love Affairs

Use of pronouns may show signs of an impending breakup

Whether someone was getting dumped or was doing the dumping, language markers of the imminent breakup were notable up to three months before the event. Their language became more personal and informal, indicating a drop in analytic thinking. They used the words “I” and “we” more and showed signs of increased cognitive processing.

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Evidence of an impending breakup may exist in the small words used in everyday conversations months before either partner realizes where their relationship is heading, according to new psychology research.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin analyzed more than one million posts by 6,800 Reddit users one year before and one year after they shared news about their breakups in the r/BreakUps subreddit. The researchers found that three months before the breakup, their language began to change and did not return to normal until about six months after.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to examine breakups and how long they last using natural language data.

“It seems that even before people are aware that a breakup is going to happen, it starts to affect their lives,” said lead author Sarah Seraj, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UT Austin. “We don’t really notice how many times we are using prepositions, articles or pronouns, but these function words get altered in a way when you’re going through a personal upheaval that can tell us a lot about our emotional and psychological state.”

Whether someone was getting dumped or was doing the dumping, language markers of the imminent breakup were notable up to three months before the event. Their language became more personal and informal, indicating a drop in analytic thinking. They used the words “I” and “we” more and showed signs of increased cognitive processing.

“These are signs that someone is carrying a heavy cognitive load. They’re thinking or working through something and are becoming more self-focused,” Seraj said. “Sometimes the use of the word ‘I’ is correlated with depression and sadness. When people are depressed, they tend to focus on themselves and are not able to relate to others as much.”

These pronounced patterns peaked on the day of the breakup and remained up to six months later, even when people were discussing other topics in different subreddit communities.

However, the researchers found that some users’ language did not return to normal a year after the breakup. These users had a tendency to linger in the r/BreakUps subreddit for months, rehashing their breakup story, over and over, making it harder for them to heal, the researchers suggested.

The researchers also compared their findings with users going through divorce and other emotional upheavals, finding similar language patterns though they were more muted for non-relationship upheavals.

Implications for this research are far reaching, said the study’s co-author, Kate Blackburn, a research fellow in psychology at UT Austin. “At the most basic level, it gives you, me, and everyday people insight into how loved ones may respond over time to the end of a romantic relationship.”

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Entering the new year alone? What single life will look like in 2021

Dating is definitely going to be different for a while to come, and even if things do go back to how they were before 2020, the shift towards online methods of socializing will probably have some lasting impact. With some adjustment though, you should still have no problem finding what you are looking for in the new year, whether it is a partner or just some fun.

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2020 has certainly been an unusual year and one that has been challenging for just about everybody. With the effects of things like lockdowns, social distancing, and quarantines as a result of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, it has been especially difficult for people who were looking for love this year, making it harder than usual to meet new people or to spend time with people you are dating. 

If you are getting ready to enter 2021 as a single person, then you may be wondering how the dating landscape is going to be, and what kind of things to expect from dating online and in the real world in 2021.

Here, we make some predictions about how dating and single life are likely to be in the new year:

More Social Activity Taking Place Online Than Ever

As the pandemic took hold, online activities began to replace the things we would normally do in person for just about everything, from work and studying to exercise and socializing. Online dating had already become the way that most single people looked to find new potential partners, and during 2020, it was for many people just about the only way available to introduce yourself to new people. 

Whether things begin to return to normal in 2021 once the vaccine for the virus begins to be administered, or whether there are more potential problems waiting for us in the new year, it is likely that the shift towards online activity and away from going out as much will continue for a while until people begin to feel more secure about being in places with lots of other people. Because of this, it will almost certainly be the case that if you want to look for a new partner in 2021 and haven’t already experienced the online dating scene, you will need to be biting the bullet and creating a profile! 

That said, if you prefer to meet people more organically, there are still ways to meet new potential dates online without using dating sites. For instance, by joining groups for things you are interested in and meeting like-minded people that way, or doing online activities like gaming or fitness classes where you get to interact with other participants.

One thing many people may decide is that it isn’t a very good time to try to start a new relationship anyway, given how difficult it can be to meet and spend time with people, and of course, there are always single people who are single by choice and aren’t looking for romance anyway.

Expect A Longer Wait to Bring Things into the ‘Real World’ When Online Dating

If you are trying out online dating for the first time in 2021, or if this was already something you were using to meet people, then you may find that people are more prepared to take their time and get to know each other through chatting online before arranging to meet in person. Whereas before the pandemic it was very easy to just set up a casual date for drinks or coffee with someone who piqued your interest, now that people are generally avoiding going out and a lot of places you might usually consider going to are closed, the first in-person meeting is a lot more effort, and so many people are chilling out and talking online with no rush to meet until they are feeling fairly confident about compatibility. Online and phone chatting has also been the only way for a lot of people to stay in contact with people they had already begun seeing during the lockdown periods, and so it is something many people are just generally more used to than they were in the past.

Things May Be Easier for Those Happy to Stay Single

One thing many people may decide is that it isn’t a very good time to try to start a new relationship anyway, given how difficult it can be to meet and spend time with people, and of course, there are always single people who are single by choice and aren’t looking for romance anyway. It could well be that life gets a little bit easier in 2021 for people who are happy to be single, with fewer annoying engagements like weddings and family parties where people will bother you about your relationship status! 

Equally, there are more entertainment options than ever before, and so if you do find yourself feeling bored or sexually frustrated on your own, you have plenty of resources to cheer you up without leaving home, such as using cam girl sites. You can check out Babestation, which has a great choice of different cam girls of all different styles who can keep you company and help you find some relief! 

Dating is definitely going to be different for a while to come, and even if things do go back to how they were before 2020, the shift towards online methods of socializing will probably have some lasting impact. With some adjustment though, you should still have no problem finding what you are looking for in the new year, whether it is a partner or just some fun.

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Love Affairs

Can colors influence relationships? Check the colors supposedly good for love

Couples with green bedrooms are the happiest in their marriage (89%), followed by beige (84%) and red (77%). Alternatively, couples with purple (31%), brown (33%) and white (38%) colored bedroom walls are the unhappiest in their marriages.

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When it comes to decorating our homes, little thought often goes into how our choices will impact our wellbeing versus how it will look (and cost). But studies have found that the color of your bedroom walls can affect how well you work from home, as well as your sexual activities. 

Exactly because it was interested in looking at the latter (i.e. how color choices affect sex life), PriceYourJob.co.uk devised a study to see if a bedroom wall color impacts a marriage. For this, 4,390 couples were surveyed. They were asked: about the current wall color of their bedrooms; and then their answers were analyzed to ascertain how happy they are in their marriages. 

CHOOSING WELL

As a side note: The bedroom is where most arguments stem from for couples (51%), followed by the kitchen (22%), bathroom (16%), living room (8%) and garden (3%).

To help those who find the bedroom to be the hub of their issues, if a happy marriage is what you are after, paint your bedroom green. According to the findings of PriceYourJob.co.uk, 89% of people with a green bedroom are happy in their marriage. The color green is said to create a sense of comfort as we’re constantly surrounded by it. It can represent growth, fertility, safety and endurance which could contribute to why so many couples with green rooms are happiest. 

Those with beige-colored bedrooms were found to be the second happiest in their marriage (84%). Beige is often associated with being dependable, calming and warm, so it’s no wonder this is reflected in people’s marriages. 

Sultry, romantic and considered the color of love in many cultures, red takes third place. 77% of couples with this color bedroom are content in their marriage. 

Blue, grey and yellow follow next on the list as 70%, 64% and 62% of couples with these paint colors in their bedroom report being happy in their marriage. 

Completing the list of top 10 bedroom colors that lead to happier marriages are:

7. Indigo – 57% of couples are happy in their marriage 
8. Black – 51% of couples are happy in their marriage
9. Maroon – 48% of couples are happy in their marriage
10. Silver – 45% of couples are happy in their marriage

AVOID…

On the other end of the spectrum, PriceYourJob.co.uk discovered that certain bedroom colors can be found more commonly among couples that aren’t happy in their marriages. 

Couples with a purple bedroom were found to be the least happy in their relationship with only 31% claiming so. Purple often creates a mood of mystery and can call to mind feelings of indifference or sadness. 

Brown was the second most common color among unhappy marriages (33%), and white third (38%). Brown is said to be a heavy color that can suppress your emotions and therefore be a significant factor to a couple’s unhappiness without them realizing it, as communication is key to marriage. White can also be attached to the feeling of isolation, coldness and starkness which couples are inviting into their environment.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

According to environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers: “We don’t often consider how different colors can impact our emotions when looking for a shade for our bedroom. Research has shown that spending time surrounded by certain colors can affect our emotions, mood and behaviors Especially in the home, this can have an effect on how we feel on a daily basis.”

For Chambers, bedrooms should be a place of relaxation, serenity and peace, where we rest and recuperate, and occasionally show our passions. “Warm, bold colors, like red are great for getting us alert and stimulated in the morning and are certain to bring out our feisty side. Cooler pastel shades such as blues and greens convey a sense of peace and nature, and they tend to calm us down and make us feel safer and assured, promoting a restful state. White is clean and clinical, but without a significant splash of color can feel cold and uninviting, while too much black can induce a feeling of sadness.”

Chambers recommends introducing a color that has both warmer and cooler elements, “and don’t forget to be mindful of each other’s color preferences, as we also attach our own meaning to colors and your bedroom color should feel like an expression of anyone who relaxes there and be a place of safety

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Love Affairs

Dating apps don’t destroy love

Contrary to earlier concerns, a UNIGE study has shown that people who met their partners on dating applications have often stronger long-term relationship goals, and that these new ways of meeting people encourage socio-educational and geographical mixing.

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As dating apps escalated in popularity, so has criticism about them encouraging casual dating only, threatening the existence of long-term commitment, and possibly damaging the quality of intimacy. There is no scientific evidence, however, to validate these claims.

Now a study by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland – and which was published in the journal PLOS ONE – indicates that app-formed couples have stronger cohabitation intentions than couples who meet in a non-digital environment.

What is more, women who found their partner through a dating app have stronger desires and intentions to have children than those who found their partner offline. Despite fears concerning a deterioration in the quality of relationships, partners who met on dating apps express the same level of satisfaction about their relationship as others.

Last but not least, the study shows that these apps play an important role in modifying the composition of couples by allowing for more educationally diverse and geographically distant couples.

“The Internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” confirms Gina Potarca, a researcher at the Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics in UNIGE’s Faculty of Social Sciences. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.”

These new dating technologies include the smartphone apps like Tinder or Grindr, where users select partners by browsing and swiping on pictures. These apps, however, have raised fears: “Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case,” continues Dr. Potarca.

Facilitated encounters

The Geneva-based researcher decided to investigate couples’ intentions to start a family, their relationship satisfaction and individual well-being, as well as to assess couple composition. Dr. Potarca used a 2018 family survey by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The analysis presented in this study looks at a sub-sample of 3,235 people over the age of 18 who were in a relationship and who had met their partner in the last decade.

Dr. Potarca found that dating websites – the digital tools for meeting partners that preceded apps – mainly attracted people over the age of 40 and / or divorcees who are looking for romance.

“By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use. This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population.”

Searching for a lasting relationship

Dr. Potarca sought to find out whether couples who met on dating apps had different intentions to form a family. The results show that couples that formed after meeting on an app were more motivated by the idea of cohabiting than others.

“The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term, but given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage. It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40%.”

In addition, women in couples that formed through dating apps mentioned wanting and planning to have a child in the near future, more so than with any other way of meeting.

But what do couples who met in this way think about the quality of their relationship? The study shows that, regardless of meeting context, couples are equally satisfied with their lives and the quality of their relationship.

Couples with a diverse socio-educational profile

The study highlights a final aspect. Dating apps encourage a mixing of different levels of education, especially between high-educated women and lower educated men. Partners having more diversified socio-educational profiles “may have to do with selection methods that focus mainly on the visual,” says the researcher. Since users can easily connect with partners in their immediate region (but also in other spaces as they move around), the apps make it easier to meet people more than 30 minutes away – leading to an increase in long-distance relationships.

“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” concludes Dr. Potarca.

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