Texting and Relationship Satisfaction

How we communicate with one another has certainly changed over the last few decades.  Currently, 98% of young adults own a cell phone. In fact, texting has surpassed phone calls in preferred communication in general. It is now the preferred way young adults talk with each other and their romantic partners. Recent research illustrates how texting impacts relationship satisfaction.

Research into Texting and Relationships

As young people spend more time on cell phones, they are also spending more time communicating with their partners via text. In fact, it is estimated that 31% of teens break up with their partners by a text message! Research that appears in the Journal of Computer and Human Behaviors looked at texting and relationship satisfaction. Specifically, the research focused on relationship satisfaction as it pertained to similarities in:

  • How frequently people texted.
  • How often they initiated a text exchange.
  • If they text one another to simply say hello.

The study involved 205 participants between 18-29 years old who had a romantic partner.  

Controls were put in place for factors such as gender, the length of the relationship, as well as for issues such as attachment anxiety and also avoidance.  

Results for Texting and Relationships

The results of the research showed that the greater the similarities in texting behavior and texting style, the greater the overall relationship satisfaction. For example, if two partners both texted twice a day there was a higher probability of relationship satisfaction. However, when one person texted at a different rate than their partner, the results reflected a lower relationship satisfaction.

If we look deeper we discover that texting is what’s called asynchronous communication. This is because you can choose when you want to text, as opposed to when you are having a conversation with a person face-to-face. Couples that have similar texting styles can thus be perceived as having greater compatibility versus couples that have dissimilar styles.

How We Respond to Our Partners Matters

In addition to texting frequency and style is how we respond to our partner when texting.  This is especially true in a new relationship. If a new couple establishes norms early on, this can influence relationship satisfaction. For instance, if a person responds too slowly to the other’s text message it could imply that they have less interest. On the flip side, responding too quickly can be perceived as being overbearing. Thus, it can be helpful for couples to establish and follow a pace and frequency to texting at the beginning of their relationship.

Mismatched Texting Styles and Relationships

When there is a mismatch in texting styles it can sometimes reveal greater relationship problems. If one partner expects an immediate response and the other does not reply on time, that can cause conflict. Alternatively, if one partner gives frequent updates about their day and the other partner finds those same updates unimportant, that too can be problematic for the relationship.

Tips for Texting in Relationships

If text messaging is causing problems in your relationship, consider these tips:

  • Discuss in advance the preferred use of texting. Emergencies vs. up-to-the-minute updates vs. an established middle ground?
  • How frequent should you text each other? Twice a day vs. ten times a day?
  • Important relationship issues should involve face-to-face discussion.
  • If there is a mismatch in texting styles, speak up and communicate with one another.  Explain what the mismatch involves and if you can’t or don’t want to text as often as your partner desires.

There is no escaping that text messaging has become an integral part of how we communicate with other people, including our partners. However, if texting or other electronic communication is causing issues in the relationship consider seeking out professional counseling for help.

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Couples Who Have Great Sex Do These 13 Things

What’s the old joke about how marriage can get in the way of a great sex life?

While it’s not quite that straightforward, there is more truth to this statement than you may realize. Recent research published in BMJ Open looked at a 2-year period of people’s sex lives, and the results were very relevant for couples who want to have a fulfilling sex life.

The Research

In this study, researchers surveyed the sex lives of men and women between 16 and 74 years old. The results showed that about 15% of men and 34% of women reported that they were no longer interested in sex. For women, in particular, the overall rate was higher for those in a committed relationship for a year or longer.  

These results are not that surprising overall. After the initial excitement of the Honeymoon Phase of a relationship, sexual interest typically declines for most couples. The act of having sex can even feel robotic to some couples. However, there are things you can do to resurrect your sex life.

The 13 Things to Do for Your Sex Life

Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D., an expert in relationship counseling, identified 13 behaviors from his research that all couples that have a great sex do. These include:

  1. Say “I love you” to each other each day.
  2. Kiss each other passionately.
  3. Exchange gifts that are romantic.
  4. Know each other’s turn-ons and turn-offs.
  5. Show physical affection to each other.
  6. Have fun!
  7. Cuddle
  8. Put sex at the top of the list, not last.
  9. Continue to be friends.
  10. Talk to each other about your sex lives.
  11. Go out on a date each week.
  12. Take a romantic vacation.
  13. Turn towards each other.

Note the last point, “Turning towards each other.” Gottman points out that all items above shared the same commonality:  that these couples “turn towards” one another fairly consistently with love and affection in an effort to connect. Seeking out our partner to meet those needs not only helps maintain feelings of connection to our partner but is also the foundation of a healthy and active sex life.

Sexual Accelerators and Brakes

Gottman also discusses Emily Nagoski’s research that talks about sexual accelerators and brakes. An accelerator is anything that helps you be in the mood for sex or something that actually turns you on, and a brake is something that makes you uninterested in being sexual or some actual turn-off. Stereotypically, men have an over-developed sexual accelerator and an underdeveloped sexual brake. However, the opposite is often the case for women, who stereotypically have an over-developed brake and an underdeveloped accelerator. (There are of course many couples that don’t share this gender stereotype.) The key is to identify each other’s accelerators and brakes, to become attuned to them, and better understand each other’s sexual interests.

Steps to Improving Your Sex Life.

If you are trying to improve your sex life consider these four ideas:

1. It is important to identify any built up resentment in your relationship and to take inventory of any problems preventing emotional closeness. These need to be worked on before any other progress can be made.

2. Implement some of the 13 steps outlined above.

3. Learn each other’s sexual accelerators and brakes. This is typically much easier said than done since most couples aren’t comfortable discussing their sexual preferences. Yet these can be invaluable conversations for improving your sex life.

4. If you get stuck implementing steps 2 or 3, don’t hesitate to seek out professional counseling.

The problem isn’t that most people don’t have the ability to implement the 13 points listed above – it’s just that many aren’t ready to engage in them. They frequently struggle to have the communication tools necessary in order to feel connected enough to truly want them in order for them have a meaningful impact on their relationships. Hence, it is necessary for many couples to attend couples counseling in order to significantly improve their sex life.

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When You Skimp on Sleep you’re Likely Harming Your Relationship

Most of us have had the experience of being irritable or cranky after a poor night’s sleep.  Research shows that poor sleep can lead to chronic health problems. It should come as no surprise then that sleep quality can affect relationships too. Researchers were interested in how poor sleep can lead to increased inflammation and thus impact relationship quality.

Less Sleep Means More Inflammation

What they found was that those who had a poor sleep experience did not wake up with increased inflammation levels in their blood. However, they did have an inflammatory reaction in their blood when exposed to stress and conflict during the day. Basically, if a partner got poor sleep that may not necessarily cause increased inflammation, but those (sleepy) people were more vulnerable to higher levels of inflammation after a conflict or a stressful moment.

If you get adequate sleep, levels of inflammation remain low. The researchers also found differences in how couples dealt with conflict. Those who used unhealthy tactics during disagreements had an even greater inflammatory response.  They found approximately a 10% increase in their inflammatory response for every hour of lost sleep.

What Does This Mean for Couples?

It’s important to note that even for couples who are skilled communicators, having poor sleep still causes an increased inflammatory response. Couples who deal with that stress unproductively make the inflammation worse. Dealing with conflict in unproductive ways can lead to greater relationship problems, as well as an increased inflammatory response.

If that’s not enough of a reason to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, other recent research suggests how important a good night’s sleep really is.  The research not only linked good sleep with having a satisfying sex life but also with life satisfaction and overall well being. So what can you do ensure a better night’s sleep?

How to Get Better Sleep

Here are some useful sleep hygiene tips:

  • Focus on developing a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Do not deviate from your schedule for more than 15 minutes each night. If you need to wake up earlier one day, take at least a few days to adjust.
  • Put away all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Associate your bed with sleeping. Don’t watch TV, eat/drink, or other leisure activities in your bed (with the exception of your sex life).  
  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed longer than 30-45 minutes. You want to associate your bed with sleep, remember? Get up for 15 minutes and engage in some kind of light activity, non-stimulating activity such as reading before returning to bed to try again. Avoid watching TV or using your phone.
  • Eliminate all caffeine after 12 PM. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, but it is still important to avoid this stimulant when you are working on improving sleep quality.
  • Exercise regularly but make sure to finish your workout 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Develop a sleep routine for at least a half hour before bedtime; try a relaxing activity.  Take a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, whatever it is that helps you to calm down and relax before sleeping.
  • Don’t rely on alcohol as a crutch for falling asleep. Alcohol actually does get in the way of a good night’s sleep because you are less likely to sleep soundly and more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. It also reduces the amount of REM sleep (or deep sleep).

If you try these tips but are still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, consider meeting with a therapist or alternatively talking to your medical professional. Remember, getting enough sleep isn’t just good for your physical health; it also has a big impact on your mental well- being and your relationship.

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5 Reasons why Simply Learning Communication Skills Won’t Help

When couples want to set up an appointment for relationship counseling, communication struggles are almost always included as one of their (sometimes numerous) problems. They typically point to an area of conflict around finances, parenting, or sex life. But they inevitably share how their communication needs dramatic improvement. They also often mention the need to learn better communication tools. Many clients, unfortunately, believe that if they simply acquire some additional skills then, presto, their relationship is fixed!  

I wish this was the case. Unfortunately, they usually need more than just improving their communication skills. Don’t get me wrong, being able to communicate with your partner is a necessary part of any relationship, yet much more is needed. There are several reasons why learning communication skills alone are not enough.

Reason #1:  Lack of Respect and Trust

When teaching couples the basics of communication, it is necessary to first start with showing respect and curiosity for your partner. Remember, respecting your partner is crucial to the success of any relationship. Curiosity comes into play because being curious means being truly interested in your partner’s perception.  This means that you sincerely care and truly want to understand their thoughts, ideas, and their perspective. Even when you disagree with them. By simply holding a respectful and curious stance towards your partner you have established a healthy foundation necessary to communicate effectively and resolve a conflict. Still, other obstacles can arise that impede healthy communication.

Reason #2:  Anger

One obvious stumbling block to maintaining a relationship based on respect is anger.   Unfortunately, most of the couples I have worked with include at least one partner who struggles to manage their anger. Not surprisingly, when this happens, respect goes out the window. It is important to note that anger is a universal human emotion. However, it becomes problematic when we are not able to manage it effectively and it takes on a life of its own. This unmanaged anger can cause significant damage to a relationship.

Reason #3:  Impulsivity and Lack of Mindfulness

Lashing out in anger is damaging to relationships. When it happens, respect flies out the window and we don’t care about our partner in that moment. Instead, we only care about getting our point across in order to “win” the argument. However, when we do get angry we have the ability to recognize our emotional state. We can choose not to engage with our partner at that time.  This awareness is enormously helpful and allows us to avoid interacting and causing an argument. Many of us are not born with this essential skill of awareness or mindfulness. The good news is that it can be improved with effort and focus.

Reason #4:  Can’t Calm Down

Just because we know in the moment that we are getting upset doesn’t mean we know how to calm down. When we get angry, our heart rate increases and we are not able to process information effectively. After getting so worked up, it becomes much harder to calm ourselves down. Thus, we are much more easily get more drawn into issues or arguments. f we take a break for an hour, if we can’t cool down we will only get worked back up again later.  Hence, it’s important to learn how to self-soothe. This is an essential skill that most of us need to learn.  It allows us to communicate much more effectively.

Reason #5:  Alcohol

For those who have a tendency to get angry and lash out, the problem is 1000 times worse when drinking is involved. Alcohol prevents us from being able to think ahead and make good decisions. Many couples in my practice that either struggle with alcohol or who are even just social drinkers more easily get hooked into heated arguments after just a few a drinks.

As you might suspect, no real relationship progress can be made if one partner can’t control their drinking and are verbally lashing out during conflict. They first need to get help for their alcohol issue before any meaningful progress can be made in their relationship.

While learning communication skills is necessary in order to have a healthy relationship, they are not enough by themselves. Are you and your partner are struggling with any of the above obstacles? It is best to get help from a trained and skilled therapist. Not only can these issues impact your relationship, but they can also negatively impact other areas of your life.

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Why Moving In with Your Partner Sometimes Leads to a Less than Satisfying Marriage

Cohabitating, or living with your partner before marriage, is sometimes regarded as a bad idea. There is even research that shows couples who live together and then marry actually have higher rates of divorce. However, how people decide to move in together can make a huge difference in the success or failure of their future marriage.

The Rising Trend of Living Together Before Marriage

The data shows that the number of unwed couples who live together has risen greatly. There were about 450,000 couples who were not married but living together in 1960. Today that number has grown by a whopping 1,500 percent to about 7.5 million couples. There are several reasons why this is occurring (other than increased total population), including:

  • The availability of contraception.
  • Ease of sharing expenses.
  • The belief that living together first helps determine whether you and your partner will be a good fit in marriage.

Research shows that two-thirds of young people believe that living together first helps couples avoid facing divorce later on. However, the opposite is sometimes true, and for a very specific reason.

Sliding vs. Deciding

Often, at the start of a relationship, the couple begins sleeping over at each other’s apartment or home. At some point, they then decide it is more practical to just move in together. This situation is called sliding, which is the opposite of deciding.

When a couple “slides” into living together, there is no formal discussion made by the couple and no mention that living together has any particular meaning for them. Additionally, sliding couples don’t reaffirm their love for each other nor do they talk about the significance of this decision. In fact, the decision to live together often happens without any consideration for the future of the relationship at all.

Differences Between Men and Women

The choice to move in together tends to be different for men and women. Women tend to view moving it as a step towards marriage. Men usually view it less seriously than women do. They often even consider it a testing ground to see if they like living with their partner. This can create a relationship mismatch for heterosexual couples, which can lead to negative consequences for the future of their relationship.

As a result, the couple’s commitment level to one another is very low.  Even if they eventually do get married, this mismatch regarding individual perception of the relationship will continue in the marriage.

It’s Harder to Get Out than Get In

Once in a sliding relationship, it is often harder to get out of it than it was to get in. Why?

  • It’s often cheaper to live together and split the bills.
  • Couples buy house items together, such as furniture or a television.
  • They become part of a common group of friends and social networks.

So how do you decide whether or not to move in together before marriage? While it’s not an easy decision, it’s clear that having thoughtful discussions with your partner before moving in and making an intentional choice (or “deciding”) about the direction of your relationship will positively impact both of your lives and your relationship.

How Should We Have “The Talk?”

If you and your partner are planning to move in together, consider these tips:

1. Each of you should discuss your motivations for moving in. Is it because it’s convenient or because both of you are ready to take the next step in the relationship?

2. What is your level of commitment to one another? If there is a mismatch, you need to know and proceed cautiously.

3. If there is any uncertainty, don’t hesitate to seek therapy to help.

Moving in together is a big step and signals that both of you are willing to make a deeper commitment to each other both in terms of the relationship and also financially. Make sure that this is the right decision for both of you, and avoid doing so out of convenience (unless you both clearly feel the same way after a thorough discussion).

Be sure not to avoid this important dialogue with your partner, and if there are any lingering questions be sure to consult with a therapist for help.

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