Dating Under The Influence

Written by on May 30, 2013 in Relationships - 1 Comment | Print this page

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fun date

# 1 SURVEYS AND STUDIES

In March this year, a new “study” made headlines by claiming the seven-year-itch has been replaced by the three-year-glitch.

Based on a poll of 2000 adults, it apparently showed that today’s fast-paced lifestyle was not only driving couples apart, but it was doing so at a much quicker pace. It’s tempting to believe this kind of news – especially if you hear it right after a fight about whose turn it is to wash up.

Before you start counting down to your relationship’s demise, let’s look at how this “study” originated in the first place – it could save you a lot of heartache.

Commissioned by film company Warner Brothers, the study was actually created to promote its new movie Hall Pass – the Owen Wilson comedy about restlessness in marriage and long-term relationships.

And in charge of the study? Judi James, a media personality in the UK, former model and self-proclaimed expert in body language. So maybe not the most credible study then?

“These kinds of studies are done by marketers and they have their own agendas,” says Professor Julie Fitness, a social psychology lecturer at Macquarie University NSW. “The aim is to sell more products, so this sort of research is never carried out impartially.” Since we’re not informed about the exact research methods.

The participants weren’t already unhappy in their relationships and wanting to call it quits anyway.

But surely a dodgy relationship study is harmless? Maybe not. “There is a danger that these studies can become self-fulfilling prophecies”.

You might simply expect to feel restless after three years in a relationship. “If you’re experiencing a patch of irritation with your partner and you hear about this study, it can be easy to think ‘oh gawd it’s the three-year itch – it must be the end of the line for us.’

So how do you sort the fluff from the facts? The next time some sensationalist survey rears its head, try to suss out just where it came from. If it’s not a credible source, such as a major university study that clearly states who or what financed it, then – just like an email that insists you forward it on to 67 people or face a life of no sex and seven years’ bad luck – treat it with a truckload of salt.

Even better,sex experts  recommends using any study that raises insecurities about your own relationships as an opportunity for some honest communication with your partner.

“If a study comes out that says the average couple is having sex four times a week and you’re only doing it once, use this study to start an open discussion with your partner”. “Then you can begin to talk about what the two of you really want, and ways to work that out.”

# 2 YOUR FRIENDS’ RELATIONSHIPS

Nothing quite beats going through a particularly cruisy patch with your partner. But what happens when your comfortable-old-ugg boot of a relationship comes up against your friend’s new red-hot romance?

The intense passion and lust that a new couple experience is tough to top. Which is exactly why Sydney psychologist Jacqueline Saad says you need to quit playing the comparison game already.

“That’s a fundamental. You don’t know what really goes on in someone else’s relationship just by looking from the outside in.” Saad believes the “grass is greener” mentality can even lead to cheating.

“People might think: ‘Wow, that person’s relationship sounds really amazing, why aren’t I getting that?’ Therefore, they may seek to get those needs met elsewhere.”

Instead of using other couples as a measuring stick, establish personal standards of your own. “Throughout the whole cycle of your relationship, there needs to be a constant exchange of info based on things like needs, wants, desires, values and life goals,” says Saad.

She suggests spending regular time with your other half by having a date night or doing hobbies together once a week.

Another way to prevent grass is-greener syndrome? Build in regular solo time. Saad suggests you set aside one evening per week without phones, partners or Facebook.

It’s the perfect opportunity for you to finally join the netball team your friends have been bugging you about, or take up a short writing course.

By building up your own social support network, you can achieve your own independence. “That way you won’t be looking at your friend’s relationship saying, ‘Theirs looks better than mine,” says Saad. “You’ll have no desire to do that because you know that you have a relationship based on who you are and your specific needs.”

# 3 THE INFECTIOUS BREAK-UP

A 32-year study published last year showed that – just like weight gain, smoking and exercise – divorce can be contagious, too.

The research, from Brown University, the University of California, and Harvard University, US, found that if any of your family, friends or coworkers are getting a divorce, you’re much more likely to head down the same path.(In fact, the study found that if you have an immediate friend or colleague getting a divorce, the chance of you following suit is 75 per cent higher).

Why are we so keen to jump on the divorce bandwagon? “When people see others getting divorced around them, it makes it more socially acceptable”.  “It may encourage you to think that divorce is OK as a quick fix.”

While leaving an incompatible lover can sometimes be for the best, being fatalistic and expecting the worst out oflove because your mate’s six-year relationship didn’t work out definitely isn’t sound. Though divorce is prevalent.

To prevent your friend’s tales of love lost from dictating the way you approach relationships, Saad recommends greater self-reflection. “Take responsibility for achieving happiness in your own life, whether that’s in your relationship, or any other area,” she says.

Just like everything else in life, relationships take work. You’ll have an easier time of it though, if you understand what it is that you really want.

“Discover what real happiness is for you instead of letting someone suggest it to you.” Saad says. Sure the big house full of top-notch kitchen appliances might work for your friend, but is it really what will make you happy?

# 4 HOLLYWOOD STORYLINES

Just like comparisons, harboring unrealistic expectations is hard to avoid. Especially when McDreamy is so dreamy and Mr Rochester so broodingly intense.

In fact, we may have been inadvertently scuppering our future relationships by growing up with Dawson’s Creek and its touchy feely ilk. Research published in the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication suggested that 90 per cent of young people look to movies and 94 per cent to TV for info about love.

In comparison, only 33 said they turned to their mum (and even fewer ask Dad: just 17 per cent).

In his book Caught in Play, anthropologist Dr Peter Stromberg argues that when we get absorbed in a movie or book, we experience emotions that are associated with the fairy tale situation being depicted.

“The result is not so much that we want a relationship like the one in the story,” he says. “It is rather that the feelings we experienced in the story become the standard for what we should experience in the world.

We long for a relationship that will provide a similar sort of stimulation.” Ain’t that the truth? Sadly, your partner isn’t likely to fly you up trees on his back a la Edward Cullen. We presume, anyway.

Like problematic “relationship studies”, buying into fictional love affairs can plant unhealthy and false expectations into your relationships. “When the second Sex and the City movie came out, there was a part where Carrie goes and sleeps in her own apartment three nights a week,” says Saad. “Many women I know came away from that saying, ‘Oh, maybe that’s what I should be doing’.

But emulating the lives of fictional couples, whether consciously or not, is never going to give your relationship longevity. Plus, who has a spare NYC apartment on hand? “Don’t base your expectation on the Hollywood myth,”.

“Learn to live in the moment instead of in the future or with the notion that this romantic myth could one day happen to you.”

The simplest trick for finding satisfaction in the reality of your relationship: training yourself to look at what you already have.

“It’s easy to focus on what’s not happening in your relationship. “But remember that 90 per cent of the time, there are great things about your relationship that are already there.”

The next time you’re seething about your partner’s constant lateness or lack of romantic gestures, Saad suggests you head to the coffee shop with a journal and jot down a list of all the positive qualities that exist between you and your plus one. Like the fact he’s not Brian McFadden.

About the author: Sabina Loco is a Dating  expert who writes for www.citywebguide.com.au Magazine.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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