TIME Marriage

Here Are My Top 3 Relationship Tips

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There are so many permutations of "successful" relationships

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Sunday was my 7-year wedding anniversary.

This is awesome, and Ed and I have some little plans for celebrating. We usually go to the Maker Faire in Atlanta, but events have conspired to stick us a little closer to home this time around.

That’s okay — it’s not the trip that makes our anniversary a celebration, it’s the time we get to spend together.

Man, that was revolting, right? Every now and then, Ed and I are that couple, without even meaning to be.

Traditional and modern gifts are generally copper, wool, or desk sets — but, I ask you, since when is a desk set the height of romance? We’re framing this as our Lucky Number 7 anniversary instead and though we aren’t going to Vegas, maybe we’ll buy some lottery tickets.

What we won’t do is spend a lot of time reflecting about what makes our relationship work, because we pretty much already know that. The basic principles haven’t changed since we started dating 9 years ago — which seems like super forever when I think about it in those terms. And so now I will tell you the top three things that have worked for us when it comes to having a happy relationship, which we try to work on all the time.

I think these things are applicable to any kind of relationship.

1. Enjoying each other’s company is essential.

It’s not that we don’t like other people. We love hanging out with other people, both together and individually. But Ed and I have a really good time even if it’s just the two of us giving each other a hard time as we drive around town.

It’s not just the in-jokes and all the laughing. It’s not just that our interests often overlap. It’s that when he wants to talk about predecimalization British coins or show off the miniatures he just painted, I have reasons to care about those things just because he cares. It’s that when I am nerding out about Dr. Martens or color theory, he likes me enough to look at the 27th pair of boots I’ve pointed out and ask if they come in the right color.

2. Communication is hard but no one who says it is vital is joking.

Ed and I don’t really fight — we just have difficult conversations whenever anything comes up that needs discussing. Sometimes it is the least fun thing ever but it means nothing gets left to fester. It’s the unaddressed stuff that’ll make you the most miserable, I think, so addressing it all efficiently is relationship best practices.

There are limits, of course. We don’t have conversations about the hard stuff until we’re both fed. No reason to get divorced when eating an apple could have saved the day, right? Also, it’s important to give each other a little bit of space if something is extra hard to talk about.

I love to talk in the car as we drive around. That way we’re both there, having to be present. But also we can arrive somewhere and just be done with the talking for a little while.

3. Don’t judge your relationship against anyone else’s.

No matter what, playing keep-up with a bunch of “shoulds” just makes your life and relationship more difficult. Don’t look at the couples around you as some sort of scale for where you should be — every person is different so, of course, every relationship is different.

There are so many permutations of “successful” relationship — pick something that works for you and your partner regardless of whether or not it looks like other relationships around you.

And remember that your partner doesn’t have to be romantically involved with you. Long-term roommates benefit just as much from communicating with each other as other couples do, for example.

Tell me what you do to sustain your relationships, please.

Marianne Kirby is a Weekend Editor at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

5 Strange But Effective Ways to Get Over a Breakup

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This list of breakup rituals will entertain and inspire

This post originally appeared on Refinery 29.

Beware those weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s when breakups skyrocket. As we’re reaching the tail end of this precarious season, some of us undoubtedly are finding ourselves casualties of the trend. But, fear not. We bring you stories from women who worked through their breakups, well, just a little differently than most.

From upping your workout schedule to taking an exotic vacation, there are many ways to deal. That being said, some breakup rituals are a little more extreme and unique than others. Sometimes it hurts so bad that a run on the treadmill or that brand-new-you hairstyle just won’t cut it and you find yourself doing the strangest things to get your mind off of “he or she who shall not be named.” But, hey, whatever works.

For those of you going through a breakup right now, whether you need a good giggle, a little comfort knowing you aren’t the only one behaving a bit out of sorts, or new ideas to help you move on, this list of breakup rituals will entertain and inspire. We found five women with some unusual reactions to exiting their relationships and got the down-low on what it takes to really move on.

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Get New Sheets

Alexis, 24, strips after her breakups. No, we don’t mean she picks up pole-dancing classes (although that would be awesome). She strips her bed. “I can’t bear the thought that he had slept in these sheets, so out they go, and in I go to Bed Bath & Beyond for new ones.” When it’s a particularly bad breakup, she’ll go so far as to get a new mattress. So, in the last four years, she’s replaced two of them — and not because they had lost their bounce. Sounds expensive, but it works. And, it’s very sanitary.

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me)

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Scrub The Floors

For Callie, 32, breakups are really good for her apartment. “I put my focus in the floors. I get down on my hands and knees and scrub every last inch of floor until I’ve forgotten about him, or until the floor sparkles, whichever comes first.” She finds focusing on something really specific helps take her mind off of her ex. Also, setting a basic goal for herself that she knows she can achieve boosts her self-esteem when the task is done. Next time she’s looking to work out some relationship woes, our floors are available to clean…er…we mean…our shoulders are available to cry on.

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Read The News

Facebook sure knows how to rub a breakup in your face. During her recovery, Megan, 30, did the usual unfriending and blocking, but that wasn’t enough. Like many of us, Megan was a little bit addicted to scrolling through her Facebook News Feed, but post-breakup, this habit became truly painful. All she saw were happy couples and their posts felt like salt in her wounds. But, she couldn’t kick her scrolling addiction, so she turned to another media outlet: CNN. To keep her fingers happy, she would scroll through the news stories just as she would her News Feed and get her fill of information. The difference was this information was actually useful and important (no offense, all you newly engaged or expectant couples). “It was weird, but I found myself reading the news all the time, which I never did before. That time of my day was usually spent Facebook stalking. It was much easier for me to read about unromantic and often terrible things going on in the world than it was to see happy people in Facebook land. It was a welcome distraction.”

(MORE: The Ultimate Post-Breakup Hotness Manual)

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Get Lost

A vacation or adventure can mend a broken heart in no time. After a breakup, writer Ana, 29, goes anywhere new — whether it’s a foreign country or a new neighborhood around the block — and just gets lost. She doesn’t look at her phone, doesn’t ask for directions; she just wanders until she feels cleansed. It serves as a distraction from what is going on back at home and also reminds her that there is more out there, an entire world, in fact. “When dealing with a breakup, I want to be somewhere where no one knows who I am, who he is, and, especially, who ‘we’ were,” says Ana. This method sounds so foolproof that we have a feeling she might not only come home totally over her ex, but perhaps with a new paramour she picked up along her travels?

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Watch Scary Movies

What’s the perfect cure for a bad breakup? A night in with movies, ice cream, and wine, of course. But, Maria, 26, couldn’t watch just any old movie. While it is smart (for obvious, tear-inducing reasons) to avoid rom-coms after a breakup, Maria didn’t stop there. She couldn’t bear to watch any semblance of romance and happiness, so she turned to the polar opposite: guts and gore. “I didn’t care for them before but I became somewhat of a scary-movie fanatic.” When those weren’t available, she turned to Lifetime thrillers or Law and Order. Months later, she’s successfully over him and back on regular movies. However, horror flicks will always hold a special place in her heart. Next time you need a distraction from a breakup, Maria recommends The Village.

(MORE: The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex)

TIME Sex/Relationships

The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Our goal here is simple: to help you curate the perfect Rolodex of movies that will help you deal if or when things with your loved one fall apart. And, to help us in our quest for catharsis, we’ve consulted the very academic Kübler-Ross model of handling grief, which divides the process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (because, above all else, we here at Refinery29 are nothing if not academics, of course).

There are many different types of breakup movies: the ones that are actually about breakups in the literal sense and the ones that deal with the different stages of breakups metaphorically. For instance: (500) Days of Summer. That’s about breakups. The Hours, on the other hand, is about handling grief, an emotion that occurs after any loss — especially the loss of a relationship. Because a list of breakup movies exists around every corner of the Internet, we’re digging deeper into the films that will help you cope with those separations in a far less overt but no less helpful way.

Movies, above all else, are therapeutic. The best ones allow us to relieve, relive, or re-evaluate our most tender experiences in a way that no other art form can. Click through to see our picks for the films that will aid you in getting through every one of those five stages — and straight on to renewal.

DENIAL: Silver Linings Playbook

There’s nothing sadder than watching someone refuse to accept the end of a relationship, but that’s what makes the burgeoning romance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s manic lovebirds so darn powerful. It’s only once Cooper’s character learns to let go of the woman who abandoned him that he can see the woman who’s standing right in front of him.

DENIAL: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Have you ever wished you’d never met the person who broke your heart? In Charlie Kaufman’s oddball romance, Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) has that wish granted via a mysterious procedure in which the memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) are erased. It’s only then that he realizes the love they shared was worth the loss, but simultaneously, we are destined to repeat our same mistakes — no matter how good our intentions may be. Sometimes, love is just not enough.

DENIAL: (500) Days of Summer

Who else but Zooey Deschanel’s crush-worthy manic pixie dream girl could take a man’s heart and totally pulverize it? In Marc Webb’s refreshing take on the rom-com, that man is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hopeless romantic who must suffer the pains of a disintegrating relationship, before he emerges clear-eyed on the other side.

(MORE: 5 Strange But Effective Ways To Breeze Through Your Breakup)

ANGER: She-Devil

Imagine the premise of The Other Woman, except, instead of the pretty and palatable Cameron/Leslie/Kate trio, you have a maniacal Roseanne Barr with an angry mole. After being treated horribly by her husband, Barr’s Ruth goes after her husband’s four assets — home, family, job, and freedom — taking down the campy, WASP-y Meryl Streep (who is in true comedic form), who stole her husband. Brutal, evil, and demonstrative that hell hath no fury.

ANGER: Desperate Living

Within the first half-hour of this grating, disgusting, absolutely filthy John Waters film, Mink Stole curses out children, kills her husband, and goes on the lam with her lesbian lover. This pic teems with an urgent sense of discomfort and proves that bad guys get what’s coming to them, often up their own butts. Literally.

ANGER: Heathers

“I just killed my best friend.”
“And, worst enemy…”
“Same difference.”

Of course, we aren’t advocating any sort of accidental-murder crime spree here, butHeathers is the perfect reminder that sometimes the people stuck in your life are the ones who are the most poisonous. And, nothing feels better than Winona Ryder telling the psychopathic Christian Slater that all she wants is “Cool dudes like you out of my life.”

ANGER: Legally Blonde

There is one major takeaway from Legally Blonde: The best revenge is busting your ass to challenge yourself, meeting your goals, exploring new ventures, and not changing who you are in the process. So, you know, do that.

ANGER: War of the Roses

No, this isn’t about pre-Tudor England, but about a couple with a seemingly perfect marriage that begins to fall apart. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner bitterly turn on one another and harness their possessions, pets, and, um, chandeliers to destroy the other. Spoiler alert: It works, and it is darkly, morbidly hilarious.

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me)

BARGAINING: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Watching Julia Roberts play a woman who wants what she can’t have is like watching a cow go swimming. It’s not supposed to happen. But, as a lifelong careerist pining for her best friend as he plans his, duh, wedding, Roberts convinces us that falling in love with the wrong person is just as hard as it sounds.

BARGAINING: Chasing Amy

Ben Affleck’s Holden ends the movie by actually bargaining with his best friend and his girlfriend, offering a pretty stupid solution for all of the tension between them. And, the thing is, you can’t persuade anyone — especially yourself — to accept the one you love.

BARGAINING: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Yes, this is the one where Jason Segel gets naked. But, he bares a lot more than his private parts as a lovelorn sound mixer forced to get over his famous girlfriend (Kristen Bell). He kicks and screams and begs and pleads for her back, before finally realizing they were never meant to be. How does he get there? Two words: Mila Kunis.

(MORE: The Ultimate Post-Breakup Hotness Manual)

DEPRESSION: Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance’s autopsy of a relationship-gone-bad is a staunch reminder that all things fall apart. Please forgive us for our doom-and-gloom perspective, but after watching Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams trade gut-punch after gut-punch as a couple caught in a downward spiral, we’re sure you’ll agree. Relationships. Are. Hard.

DEPRESSION: Chinatown

Watching Jack Nicholson’s bandaged gumshoe roam through Roman Polanski’s bleak depiction of postwar Los Angeles is just as depressing as it sounds. This classic neo-noir — in which the rich get richer, the disenfranchised drown, and corruption is rampant — is a staunch reminder that the world we live in is a scary, scary place.

DEPRESSION: The Hours

One of the things this Oscar-nominated film does so well is depict the complex, isolating nature of depression. And, not just depression, but, particularly, feminine depression. Three different women, three different time periods, and one emotion connecting them all. The film is a deft reminder that, despite any perceived evidence to the contrary, no one is really alone.

ACCEPTANCE: The First Wives Club

Yes, this movie does work on the premise that, after a certain age, your husband will probably leave you for a younger woman, which kind of sucks. But, it also affirms the power of a womanly bond and what happens when determined, strong women focus on something other than men.

ACCEPTANCE: An Unmarried Woman

Another man-leaving-for-a-younger-woman tale, this snapshot of New York in the ’70s doesn’t just address the end of a relationship but the sexual liberation of women as well. Jill Clayburgh, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, goes through the same five stages of Kübler-Ross outlined here, but she emerges from the other side empowered — and sexually fulfilled.

ACCEPTANCE: Postcards from the Edge

Adapted from Carrie Fisher’s true life story about getting clean and heading back to acting, Suzanne (Meryl Streep) has to sober up in order to continue with her film career, which means confronting sleazy producers, coming to terms with her overbearing mother, and dealing with addiction. Messy Meryl is both earnest and darkly dry. The film has a wise assumption: Many of us have dysfunctional relationships with our mothers, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can start laughing.

ACCEPTANCE: How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Terry McMillan’s life-affirming tale of a middle-aged divorcée (Angela Bassett) who (what else?) gets her groove back is the kind of movie that will convince you that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. Especially when the other side is made up of a wise-cracking Whoopi Goldberg, the sun-drenched island of Jamaica, and Taye Diggs with his shirt off.

ACCEPTANCE: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

While this movie has no real romance (Chi-Chi’s fling hardly counts), the lesson is powerful: You are who you are, and grace, class, and a sense of goodness are the best ways to be fabulous. That, and a “Say Anything Hat Day.”

RENEWAL: Breaking the Waves

We don’t normally turn to chronic pessimist Lars von Trier for tales of redemption, but in this mesmerizing tearjerker, he puts Emily Watson’s fragile, young Bess through an emotional firestorm before bringing her back via a spiritual epiphany that will stay with you for days, months, and years.

RENEWAL: Up

The opening montage of Pixar’s modern classic is admittedly one of the most devastating sequences ever put on film. But, after our curmudgeonly widower develops an unlikely friendship with a pudgy Boy Scout, our faith in humanity is restored.

RENEWAL: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Thematically, this is a story about beginnings. Just think about what a magical journey Harry (and film fans) have ahead of them. Let’s all take the opportunity to start again.

RENEWAL: Waitress

This poignant tale of redemption features Keri Russell as a stuck-in-neutral baker who finds new life in the form of a handsome doctor (Nathan Fillion) and a bun in the oven. No, not the kind that’s cream-filled, but the kind that takes nine months to be done.

TIME psychology

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Friendships

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Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified friends as one of the biggest sources of joy in our lives. Seeing friends and family regularly is worth an extra $97,265 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Good relationships are more important to a long life than exercise.

Not spending more time with friends and family is one of the things people regret the most.

So what does the research tell us about how to strengthen and improve our friendships?

The Basics

Want to improve any relationship? The first step is try. Yeah, so easy you forgot to do it.

Simple things can have the most profound impact, like actively showing interest in the other person. Listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

Enthusiastically respond when they share good news with you. The best responses are active and constructive. What’s that mean?

It is engaged, enthusiastic, curious and has supportive nonverbal action. Ask questions. Be excited. Ask for details. Smile. Touch. Laugh.

Share your own good news when you have some:

…sharing good news with others increases the perceived value of those events, especially when others respond enthusiastically, and that enthusiastic responses to shared good news promote the development of trust and a prosocial orientation toward the other. These studies found consistent support for these effects across both interactions with strangers and in everyday close relationships.

Show gratitude. Gratitude is a miracle drug:

Stay in touch. Communicating every two weeks keeps friendships alive:

…“the leading cause of persistent relationships is reciprocity — returning a friend’s call.” Further, they said friends ’til the end tend to touch base at least once every 15 days.

Leverage technology to improve your relationships, don’t let it replace them.

Technology can increase happiness and improve relationships if you leverage it to connect with other people:

The results were unequivocal. “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” he says. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.” Surely, I suggest to Cacioppo, this means that Facebook and the like inevitably make people lonelier. He disagrees. Facebook is merely a tool, he says, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user. “If you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact,” he says, “it increases social capital.” So if social media let you organize a game of football among your friends, that’s healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that’s unhealthy.

The typical reaction to all of the above statements is: That’s obvious. I know that. And then guess what?

People don’t do them for six months and wonder what happened. Knowing and doing are two different things.

Work On Yourself

Improve your self control. People more in control of themselves have better relationships.

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

How do you strengthen those self-control muscles? Go here.

Trust beats out not trusting. Expecting others to be selfish can be a self-fulfliing prophecy:

The expectations people have about how others will behave play a large role in determining whether people cooperate with each other or not… One’s own expectation thereby becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: those who expect people to act selfishly, actually experience uncooperative behaviour from others more often.

Don’t be a conversational narcissist. What’s that? “Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.

Here‘s how to be a better listener.

Scientific Insights

Keep the 5 to 1 ratio in mind. Five good experiences for every bad one.

Via The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

And:

What’s even scarier is that Losada’s five-to-one ratio also appears to be essential when you get home and try to muster the energy for a successful marriage. John Gottmann at the University of Washington has found that couples with a ratio of fewer than five positive interactions for every negative one are destined for divorce.

Also:

Curiously, the magic number also seems to have a close parallel in the ratio of positive behaviors…and negative behaviors…among monkeys and apes.Thus the five-to-one ratio begins to look suspiciously like a basic primate need.

Don’t take that to mean you always have to be positive: Sharing negative feelings about a third party can increase closeness between two people.

We all value warmth over competence in friends but we often forget this:

  1. When assessing someone else, warmth plays a more important role than competence.
  2. When assessing ourselves, we believe that competence (the capability of someone to carry out intentions) is more important.

So stop trying to be useful and just be kind.

What’s the best way to give a friend advice? You need to provide a suggestion without it feeling like you’re telling them what to do:

Say “When I’ve had that problem in the past what I’ve done is…” instead of “You should do this…

And you’re gonna screw up. We all screw up. Know the keys to a good apology.

Turning Enemies Into Friends

Similarity is very powerful. Always always always always always be thinking about things you have in common.

How can you win over someone who already doesn’t like you? Compliment them or ask their advice.

Even fierce enemies can be turned into friends by working together to achieve a common goal. Robert Cialdini’s must-read book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion references this study:

…superordinate goals (goals so large that it requires more than one group to achieve the goal) reduced conflict significantly more effectively than other strategies (e.g., communication, contact).

Trying To Make New Friends?

Here are 4 things to keep in mind:

Want to improve your relationships right now? Share this post with a friend. :)

 

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

5 Things That Make Love Last

I’ve posted before about John Gottman. He can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. He was featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

What system do they use in his lab for quickly telling who will stay together?

Via What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal:

We’ve settled on five basic dimensions that I believe express the richness of the subjects’ stories. Called the Buehlman Scoring, this assessment is extraordinarily accurate in predicting the death of a relationship. When applied to couples in another of my studies, which looked at 120 couples with preschool-aged children, the scoring predicted with 94 percent accuracy whether a couple would break up within the next four years

In the book, Gottman explains the five points that allow his lab to make such spectacular predictions.

#1: Fondness and Admiration

Happy couples tell their tales with warmth, affection, and respect for each other… Spontaneous compliments are common… couples with a weak fondness and admiration system tend to recall unfavorable first impressions of their partner.

#2: Me-ness vs. We-ness

Happy couples tend to relate stories where they worked well as a unit. The sense that they are “in this together” is palpable… The clue to the dead romance… is not that they aren’t able to resolve an argument. It’s why they are stuck in it: They are both focusing on me, not we.

#3: Knowing your partner

…Detailed descriptions indicate that they continue to understand and respect what makes the other tick: what their partner cares about, what makes him or her sad, or happy. We also note whether there is positive energy or a lack of it in their descriptions…Couples who lose this connection…remain impersonal and guarded when recounting their history, mentioning nothing specific about each other. Their view of their past is “generic” rather than individualized.

#4: Glorifying Your Struggles

Couples who describe their relationship history as chaotic are usually unhappy in the present. They don’t tell stories of pulling together or learning from their negative experiences. There’s no sense in their descriptions that their past troubles and conflicts strengthened their mutual trust... happy couples express pride over having survived difficult times. They glorify the struggle by emphasizing how it strengthened their commitment. They believe they steered their own course together, based on their common goals, aspirations, and values. They have built a system of shared meaning and purpose. Whether couples display this positive energy when recalling past hardships is not at all dependent on the depth of the difficulties they faced. How they interpret the negative and positive events is the key.

#5: Disappointment vs. Satisfaction

When couples are at risk for splitting, at least one of them will express disappointment that the relationship isn’t what it promised to be. Often, when reviewing the choices they made in the past, they express cynicism about long-term commitment… satisfied partners believe that their relationship has met their expectations.

And there is a point where the rift cannot be undone:

…once the Negative “Story of Us” switch is thrown, it is very hard to reverse. Any intervention is almost certainly too little, too late. Even if there’s a positive change in one partner’s behavior, the other remains suspicious, thinking something like, Well, the demon finally did something nice, but this relationship is still hell.

What’s the core takeaway you should keep in mind?

Either they emphasize their good times and make light of the rough spots, or they accentuate their failures and not their successes. Likewise, they either underscore their partner’s positive traits in favor of their more annoying characteristics (cherishing), or they do the opposite (trashing).

 

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More From Barking Up the Wrong Tree:

The Science Of “Happily Ever After”: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive

What are the four things that kill relationships?

What should you look for in a marriage partner?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

10 Things That Can Predict Whether Your Spouse Will Cheat on You

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 90,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Marriage

See The Couple Who Gave New Meaning to ‘Till Death Do Us Part’

Don and Maxine Simpson, a couple from Bakersfield, Calif., married a mere few months after meeting in 1952, and their love story carried on for 62 years. The husband and wife duo rarely spent time apart. The end of both spouses’ lives was no exception.

In a scene out of the movie The Notebook, the couple both passed away within four hours of one another and at each others side.

Maxine had been battling cancer all this year, and Don had broken his hip two weeks prior to his passing. The Simpsons leave behind two children and multiple grandchildren.

TIME

6 Weird Scientific Facts About Love

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Sure, you know the basics about the birds and the bees, but how much do you really know about what goes on in your body—and your mind—while you’re falling head over heels or doing the deed? Here are some fascinating facts about love and sex that may surprise you.

Health.com: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Spouses may have similar DNA

Scientists already knew that people tend to choose romantic partners with similar characteristics, such as age, race, religion, income, and upbringings. But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that people also tend to marry others with similar DNA. When researchers studied the genetic material of 825 white American couples, they found fewer differences in the DNA between married people than between two randomly selected individuals within the same race. In fact, they calculated that the tendency to pair up with a genetically similar spouse is about one-third as strong as the tendency to do so with someone with a similar education.

Health.com: Best and Worst Foods for Your Sex Life

Watching rom-coms may help strengthen marriage

Watching movies may be one key to marital bliss, says Matthew Johnson, PhD, director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at Binghamton University. In his study, couples attended counseling or watched relationship-themed movies and completed discussion guides together. Both strategies cut the groups’ divorce rate in half after three years—but the movie-watching activity took 50% less time and took place almost entirely at home. “The key is to talk with your partner about your relationship in the context of a movie,” says Johnson.

Women can make their voice “sexier,” but men can’t

In a 2014 study, Albright University researchers found that women were able to deliberately manipulate their voices—while counting from one to 10—to sound more attractive. But, sorry guys: When men tried to be sexier, they were actually rated as sounding worse! When a woman intentionally drops her voice to make it sound low and breathy, she’s often perceived as more attractive—but not exactly for the reasons you might think. Men tend to prefer women with higher, more feminine voices, says co-author Susan Hughes, PhD, associate professor of psychology. But when a woman lowers her voice to “sound sexy,” she’s signaling her interest in a potential mate—a clue that men are able to pick up on.

Health.com: 8 Reasons Why Sex is Better After 50

You’re less likely to get grossed out when aroused

Sex can be a messy activity with lots of fluids and smells, but in the heat of the moment, none of that (usually) seems to matter. According to a study from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, that’s because sexual arousal overrides the body’s natural “disgust response.” When researchers asked women to watch either an erotic film, a sports video, or a “neutral” video of a train, and then perform a series of unpleasant acts (like drinking out of a cup with a bug in it), they found that those who’d watched the sexual acts rated the tasks as less disgusting—and were also able to complete more of them. Previous research has suggested that sexual arousal has a similar impact on men, as well.

Love is good for your bones

Marriage appears to strengthen men’s skeletons, according to a University of California Los Angeles study, especially if they wait until after age 25 to tie the knot. Researchers aren’t sure why, but they point out that it’s not the first time marriage has been linked to health. Other studies, for example, have suggested that married people live longer, are more likely to survive cancer, and have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Health.com: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Old people do it, too

Sexual interest and sexual function do both decline with age—especially as adults begin to take more medications—but that doesn’t mean that senior citizens aren’t still getting it on. “Many people do continue to have sex into their old age, often until death,” Garcia says. And they’re not always careful: “Besides teenagers and young adults, the elderly is the biggest population for sexually-transmitted disease spikes,” he adds. “They’re not worried about getting pregnant, so they’re not using condoms.”

READ MORE: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love on Health.com

TIME

Like Gwyneth and Chris, My Husband and I Consciously Recoupled

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, and Chris Martin
Gwyneth Paltrow, left, and Chris Martin Colin Young-Wolff—Invision/AP

After I heard "I don't love you anymore," my marriage headed into a gray area—and it wasn't all bad

The concept of “conscious living” is a popular one—synonymous with “mindfulness,” we like to apply it to eating, building, working, whatever we are doing. Time even put it on the cover a few months ago. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin brought the revolution to more tabloid headlines when they announced their “conscious uncoupling.” More recent reports, however, note that the uncoupled pair has been publicly love-birding, so it’s natural to wonder if a “recoupling” is in the offing.

“Coupling” brings me back to the railroad yards of my youth, where my father, a train–parts salesman, would explain how the cars come apart and together using something called a coupler. With only a modicum of bashing and bravado, the trains would line up and be on their way. And with that in mind, “uncoupling” seems a much better word to use for the end of a relationship than the fraught, shameful “divorce.” I know, because in the last seven years, I have uncoupled, recoupled, and uncoupled for good from the person I coupled with in 1988. The Great Northern railroad runs through my small Montana town and I went to the train yard a lot in the last seven years.

Back in 2008, I was met with the words, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.” And an encore in 2011: “It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that I’m not in love with you anymore.” The first time, I believed that the relationship was salvageable. The second time, I knew the marriage had to end. My reaction both times: to choose not to suffer by focusing on what I could own and what I could control, and letting go of the rest. Sounds hard. It was. But I did it as consciously as possible and I am better for having lived that way, even though the marriage is over. My strategy was never about staying together.

I wrote my way through both crises, in an essay for the New York Times and in my memoir, This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Consequently, I heard from people all over the globe and I can tell you: they want to know that there is some freedom in not knowing what’s around the corner.

Because—usually—it’s not black and white. There’s so much at stake—families, children’s stability, loss of property, future dreams, self-identity, community orientation. They want to know that there is hope. That in the grey area they will they learn something profound about themselves, and even find themselves back in the relationship—only with new perspective and heightened respect. They want to believe in that poster we had on our college dorm-room wall: “If you love something set it free. If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

When I was consciously uncoupling for the first time I was new at employing this practice of non-suffering. I had small kids, which meant that I couldn’t journey for great lengths of time to the Kripalu-Omega-Esalan institutes of the world, or to the top of Everest, or to an ashram. I had to practice mindfulness right there at my kitchen sink. And it worked.

Gwyneth and Chris and I are living proof that we can step outside the story that society spins during times of relationship re-invention—we don’t have to fight and throw plates to be powerful. In the first uncoupling, and even in our mediation sessions, there were times when I reached out and held my was-band’s hand (I can barely use the word “ex”) because we were used to navigating troubled times together. Uncoupling, and recoupling, and uncoupling, if you do that again, doesn’t need to be like the movies or TV dramas, or the war stories you hear from friends. You can find grace in the grey.

In those years of vacillation, I learned to live in the moment, responsible for my own happiness. Perhaps in so-doing, we found our way back to each other for a time. And why our mediator congratulated us in our last session, with the ink still drying on the divorce decree. “Good job, you guys. When you’re ready, I think you two would be excellent candidates for a divorce ceremony. They really help people deliberately and intentionally close this chapter of their lives.”

We’re not ready for that yet. There’s still a lot of grief. But for now we are able to co-parent and communicate with respect, and the kids are thriving. Did we all suffer less because of our conscious variations on coupling? I’d like to think so.

Laura Munson is the best-selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, and founder of Haven Retreats.

TIME Dating

Geniuses in Love: Mensa and Match.com Partner For a New Dating Site

Heart in a petrie dish
Getty Images

Mensa, the society for people with high IQ, and Match.com are teaming up to create a new dating site for highly intelligent people, reports Match.com.

According to Match, smart is attractive: More than 80% of singles claim a partner’s equal or higher intelligence is a “must have” or “very important.”

“Why do we want a smart partner? Because intelligence is correlated with many benefits, including: higher income; sense of humor; creativity; social skills; coordination; and problem solving. These are sexy,” said Match’s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. Helen Fisher in an online statement.

The new site only allows users that match Mensa’s requirement of an IQ in above the 98% of the general population. According to Mensa, there are plenty of brainy fish in the sea: an estimated 6 million Americans are eligible to become a part of the organization which now has 57,000 members.

Super smart singles are encouraged to put their best mind forward; through July 6th, Match is inviting them to take the Mensa Home Test for $1 to see if they qualify for this genius opportunity.

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