Kimberly Lawson


Turns Out, Flings and Serious Relationships All Start the Same Way


Ten years ago, I went to the movies with a guy who lived next door to me in high school. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, so I wasn’t looking for anything serious. That certainly wasn’t going to be an issue with this guy, though. A stickler for punctuality, I arrived at his house at the time we agreed, only to find that he was still getting dressed. We made small talk while he ironed his shirt. This isn’t going anywhere, I thought, pushing away my slight annoyance.

Today, we share a kid, a house and two small dogs. Who could have possibly seen that coming?

While it’s pretty common for people who are head over heels to talk about how they just knew their partner was “the one” from the very beginning, don’t believe the hype. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, short-term and long-term relationships actually look pretty much the same in the very beginning.

Researchers executed a series of five studies to better understand the role of relationship length in the science of romantic relationships. In total, they surveyed more than 800 people. In one experiment, for example, they asked participants to reflect back on their short- and long-term relationships and indicate the timing of important events, such as their first one-on-one date or first sexual encounter. They also asked them to gauge their romantic interest at that point in time. Their goal was to figure out at what point those warm and fuzzy feelings generally start to plateau and decline in short-term relationships.

“At approximately the 15th event, romantic interest continued to rise in long-term relative to short-term relationships, and ultimately, long-term relationships reached a higher peak of romantic interest than did short-term relationships,” the study states. “These data are consistent with the possibility that short-term relationships are relationships that fail to progress beyond the early initiation stages, perhaps because one or both partners discovered things about each other that caused romantic interest to cease rising or to plummet.”

The study’s authors also found that “as the relationship becomes sexual, romantic interest in short-term relationships levels out and falls, presaging an end to the relationship that arrives sooner than in long-term relationships.”

As Paul Eastwick, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and lead author on the study, explained in a statement: “People would hook up with some partners for the first time and think ‘wow, this is pretty good.’ People tried to turn those experiences into long-term relationships. Others sparked more of a ‘meh’ reaction. Those were the short-term ones.”

Interestingly, the study also found people define “short-term relationship” a lot of different ways: from one-night stands with strangers to casual hookups with well-known friends that can last days, weeks, and even months. And in many cases, the nature of these relationships wasn’t clear until much later with hindsight.

See more: 19 Signs You Should Marry Your Partner

The takeaway from this is clear: It’s impossible to know from the jump if the cutie you’re eyeballing is marriage material or not. In fact, the study supports previous research that found the idea of “love at first sight” is actually an illusion. Some things really do become clearer with time.

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Who Are the Men Taking Their Wives' Last Names?


There are so many gendered questions women are sick of answering: Why are you still single? Are you really going out wearing that outfit? When are you going to have kids? How do you manage to balance work and family?

And my favorite: When you get married, are you going to take your husband’s last name?

It’s longstanding tradition for women to change their surnames to match their partner’s once they get married. A 2015 survey found that only 22 percent of women married in recent years have kept their maiden names.

However, a small segment of men do decide to change their names after they get married. (I personally know of, well, one.) Researchers out of Portland State University were curious about just who these husbands were. In other words, what kind of guy would take his wife’s last name? Their study, which focused on the likelihood a man would change his name based on his level of education, were published in the Journal of Family Issues in May.

To get some better understanding on what they consider “[o]ne of the most persistent gendered aspects of modern heterosexual marriage,” the study’s authors analyzed the national survey responses of 877 men who were married or previously married. They found that in their sample, only 27—or 3 percent—changed their name. Of those, 25 dropped their last name to take their wife’s, while the other two went with the classic but cumbersome hyphenation.

Interestingly, when researchers looked at the reported education levels of the men who decided to change their names, none of them had advanced degrees. In fact, as men’s education increased, the odds of taking on their wife’s name decreased.

“Among men with less than a high school degree, 10.3 percent reported making a nontraditional surname choice in marriage,” they wrote. “Among men with a high school degree but no college, this percentage is 3.6, and among men with any college, only 2 percent changed their name in marriage.”

Additionally, the study’s authors found that the men who were most likely to take their wife’s name had about the same amount of education as she did. Also, if a husband had less schooling than his wife, he was less likely to take on any part of her name.

Overall, the results are a bit surprising because we generally think men who are more educated are also more likely to endorse and support gender equality. However, as the study’s authors write: “Lower class are more likely to endorse sexist beliefs, but their behavior is often more egalitarian compared with their more educated counterparts. Surname choice in marriage, it turns out, is an excellent example of this.”

It’s important to point out that this isn’t just about what name you or your partner sign on your checks; rather, it’s about the different, and sometimes unfair, expectations society places on men and women. After all, if changing one’s name was just that, wouldn’t more men be doing it?

See more: 7 Feminist Alternatives to Outdated (and Patriarchal) Wedding Traditions

Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer is a sociology professor at Portland State University and lead author on the study. In 2017, she authored another paper that looked into why so many Americans believe a married woman should change her name. The most common reason she found was the belief that women should prioritize their marriage and their family ahead of themselves.

“Sometimes people think that if women keep their own name and make men change their name, it’s women being selfish or bucking tradition when they should follow gender norms,” Shafer said in a statement. “We expect women to be the ones to caretake and give to their families in a way that we don’t expect of men.”

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New Study Shows Fighting With Your Spouse Can Make Chronic Conditions Worse

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There’s an old adage about how fighting can be good for your relationship. And for many people it can be: The makeup sex alone can be worth a passionate argument over the best way to fold socks. (Apparently there are multiple ways to fold socks—clearly, your way is wrong.)

But if you’re living with a chronic illness—as half of all Americans are—then you may want to check any unnecessary bickering. According to a recent study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the only thing worse than living with a chronic condition is fighting with your partner while living with a chronic condition.

Researchers were interested in getting a better understanding of how the day-to-day interactions in a marriage impact the health of a person living with a chronic disease. One older study found that when a wife reported more positive interactions during the day, her husband slept better that night; another study found that couples who were more physically intimate had lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).

In the current study, the authors focused on two groups of people: 145 patients who’d been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the knee and 129 patients with type 2 diabetes. Participants kept daily diaries for 22 and 24 days, reporting on how tense or enjoyable their interactions were with their spouses. They also rated their general mood (ranging from frustrated to joyful) and how severe their symptoms felt.

Through their analysis, researchers found that “negative marital interactions may play a role in symptom exacerbation.” In both groups, patients were in a worse mood on days when they reported more tension than usual with their partner. That, in turn, led to more severe symptoms or pain. Additionally, the participants with arthritis appeared to get stuck in a terrible cycle: When they fought with their partners and subsequently felt physically worse, their pain often carried over to the next day, which led to more tensions with their partner.

These results could have some serious implications for health: As the researchers point out, people with “severe knee osteoarthritic pain become disabled at a faster rate, and individuals with uncontrolled diabetes are at risk for multiple health complications including neuropathy, blindness, and kidney disease.”

Lynn Martire, one of the study’s authors and a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, pointed out how important it was that they were able to see this association in two different groups of participants with two different diseases. “The findings gave us insight into how marriage might affect health, which is important for people dealing with chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes,” she said in a statement.

Alternatively, it’s important to consider how health might affect marriage. In fact, a 2015 study suggested that the onset of a wife’s illness later in life is associated with an elevated risk of divorce (though the same wasn’t found when the husband became ill). An older report found that women who had a serious illness were seven times as likely to become separated or divorced as their male counterparts.

See more: How to Stay Healthy (and Sane) When Your Partner Is Sick

So, what do you do if your or your partner’s illness is stressing out your marriage? Talk it out. As Annmarie Cano, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, told SELF recently: “Couples must develop a habit of knowing how they’re feeling, learning how to express it to the partner, and really listening in a non-judgmental way when the partner discloses emotions that might heighten the other partner’s distress.”

Cano went on to explain in a recent TEDx talk that it’s not just the physical suffering that takes a toll on a person living with a chronic condition, but also the emotional burden. “How loved ones respond to them makes a big difference in their quality of life,” she said. “Specifically, our ability to pay attention and be with someone who is suffering has healing power.”

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Study Suggests Dads Who Do THIS Will Have Healthier Babies

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When it comes to pregnancy, there’s a lot of focus on the health of the mother-to-be, and rightfully so. After all, she is nurturing an entire human being into existence—she deserves that peanut butter and banana sandwich she’s craving at 3 in the morning, dammit.

But growing a healthy baby starts long before sperm meets egg—and it’s not just about how fit or healthy the woman is either. In a recent study published in the journal Cell Reports involving mice, researchers in Germany found that the physical and mental benefits male mice gleaned from exercise can be passed down to their tiny mice offspring too.

Yes, this research focused on animals, but hear me out. We already know that exercise is good for us—both for our bodies and our brains—whether we’ve got two legs or four. This study, however, focused on whether a future dad’s exercise habits could help produce smarter babies, especially considering researchers already know that genes from the father are pretty important in development. (A 2013 study, for example, found that, at least in animals, a father’s genes are predominate in the placenta, the organ that helps nourish the baby and connects it to mom.)

The fact that the subjects were tiny and furry is almost moot when you’re considering all the ways you can get your partner involved in the (healthy) baby-making process.

In an experiment involving genetically identical mice, the study’s authors found that the group that lived an active life—that is, their cages were filled with running wheels and toys to stimulate their brains—had developed stronger connections between neurons, compared to the mice that laid around all day, and performed better on cognitive tests. They found similar results in their offspring as well, despite the fact that none of the young ran, and confirmed through tests that because the fathers’ lifestyle had changed, so had their sperm.

Although it’s yet to be determined whether these results translate to humans, André Fischer, a professor at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and senior author of the study, told the New York Times that he personally believed that “exercise is probably much more important” than being mentally engaged, at least when it comes to altering gene expression and potentially impacting one’s children.

Either way, an important takeaway from this research is that the role males play in helping to create a healthy little one is much more complex than simply supplying the little swimmer that fertilizes the egg. In fact, researchers are beginning to pay more attention to the way human dad’s health affects his child prior to conception. For example, a recent paper in the medical journal The Lancet touched on how a father’s diet can affect his kid’s genetic makeup.

See more: Do You Really Need To Lose Weight For IVF?

Though this field of research is still pretty limited, at least now you have the perfect excuse to get your guy off the couch to go to the gym with you. Not only is working out good for his health, but it’s also important for the physical and mental well-being of future Junior as well—even if making babies is a long ways down the road.

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If You’ve Ever Wondered Why You Were Cheated On, Read This

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It took me more than a year to shake the dark cloud that hovered over me after my ex-fiancé cheated. I was 21 at the time and devastated that my first love had left me for another woman. And, like so many others who’ve been in a similar state of utter despair, I wondered: What had I done wrong?

After several months of wallowing and drinking my pain away—do all broken-hearted people turn to Long Island Iced Teas, or was that just me?—I realized something very important: It actually wasn’t my fault that my longtime boyfriend decided to have sex with another woman before ending our relationship.

A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research tackled this very topic: Why do people cheat? Spoiler alert: There are tons of reasons, including many that have absolutely nothing to do with their primary relationship at all.

One of the main goals of this study was to update what researchers have found in the past: Older studies had focused on what might be wrong with a person’s current relationship that might make them want to cheat, such as losing interest in your partner or feeling neglected by them. This study, however, recognized that maybe a person’s infidelity really has nothing to do with their partner or how things are going at home.

The authors asked 485 young adults (the average age was 20) to participate in an online questionnaire and share how much they agreed with 77 statements describing different motivations for infidelity. Those statements were broken up into eight categories: anger, sexual desire, lack of love, low commitment, esteem, situation, neglect, and variety. Some of those statements included:

I was conflicted, confused, or curious about my sexual orientation and wanted a different kind of romantic/sexual experience.

It seemed a possibility that my primary partner might cheat, so I wanted to reduce that feeling of vulnerability and avoid being hurt first.

An opportunity, incentive, or advancement in the workplace was offered to me if I provided something sexual/romantic in exchange.

I was overwhelmed at the time due to external stressors (e.g., school, work, family issues) and was not thinking clearly.

I was drunk/intoxicated and I was not thinking clearly.

See more: What Really Happens In Relationships Today?

Overall, the study’s authors found that there’s “a great variety and diversity in motivations associated with infidelity.” For example, 70 percent of participants at least somewhat agreed that they had cheated because of a situational issue, such as being on vacation or having one too many tequila shots, while 74 percent said they may have strayed because they were interested in mixing things up and having a variety of partners.

As the authors point out, “it would be a mistake to conclude that all affairs (and infidelity-related behaviors) similarly result from deficits in the primary relationship.” And, incidentally, when they broke down the results by gender, men were more likely to endorse statements that fell in the category of sexual desire (they thought there was a lack of chemistry with their main squeeze), while women were more likely to agree with the items that pertained to neglect (they may have been feeling ignored).

Dylan Selterman is a social psychologist at the University of Maryland and lead author on the study. “One of the biggest myths in relationships is that people think, ‘Oh, my partner cheated therefore there is something wrong,” he told TODAY. “There’s an underlying problem either with me or the relationship.’ That’s not necessarily the case.”

“‘Doing everything right’—that can mean many different things,” Selterman continued. “It could be the case that you think things are going very, very well, but in your partner’s mind maybe not so much.”

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What Living Together Before Marriage Really Means For Your Relationship


Once upon a time, living with your significant other before getting married was extremely taboo. Nowadays, however, if a friend tells me she’s not planning to move in with her guy or gal until after they walk down the aisle, I find myself laughing nervously and asking, as tactfully as possible, what the hell she’s thinking.

According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the number of women between the ages of 19-44 who lived with a partner before their first marriage increased by 82 percent between 1987 and 2010. For many people, shacking up is one way to find out if you and your partner can co-exist in a shared space in order to make your relationship last a lifetime.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone who chooses to co-sign on an apartment lease before they co-sign on a marriage license actually make it. The question is, why? Patrick Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Population Center, explored the topic through an economic lens in a study published earlier this year.

When you consider all the benefits associated with marriage, it’s not unreasonable to think cohabitation might have similar perks—after all, the biggest tangible difference between marriage and cohabitation is a sheet of paper. But, Ishizuka writes, according to past research, the relationships of couples who live together before marriage are generally characterized by “relatively short durations and high levels of instability.” Studies have shown that the average timeframe of these unions is less than two years, with only 40 percent ending in marriage.

To understand how cohabitation is unique in the way it influences the connections between the relationship, money, and work, Ishizuka looked at data gathered from thousands of households between the years 1996-2013. Among his sample, slightly more than half of couples who lived together and experienced some kind of relationship transition ended up breaking it off: 1,121 couples dissolved, while 1,104 went on to get married. In fact, the odds of moving on to marriage declined by 28 percent between 1996 to 2008.

Interestingly, Ishizuka’s study went on to show that marriage is increasingly becoming a numbers game: His analysis showed “that wealth independently predicts marriage, with couples that own a home and receive interest from financial assets being more likely to marry,” he writes. In other words, the more money you make, the more likely you are to get married, especially if you and your partner make about the same. Alternatively, couples who aren’t as well off are more likely to separate.

See more: How Should You Really Be Splitting the Bills With Your Partner?

As someone who shares a home with her longtime boyfriend and writes for a living—i.e., I’m definitely not doing this to make a ton of money—the study’s results are a bit depressing. But Ishizuka’s findings do offer one glimmer of hope for those of us who are a little economically disadvantaged but still want to marry our equally disadvantaged partners: Cohabiters tend to have more egalitarian views about economic gender roles than married couples. He puts to rest that tired theory that couples in which the woman earns more than her male partner—also known as the “male breadwinner perspective”—are more likely to break up before marriage because of the man’s fragile ego.

“Equality appears to promote stability,” Ishizuka said in a statement. In fact, he continued, it’s what may actually “hold these couples together.”

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