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How Can Your Relationship Flourish According To Research? A Social Psychology Podcast Episode.


How Can A Relationship Flourish According To Research? A Social Psychology and Relationship Psychology Podcast Episode.

Since it’s the beginning of February and Valentine’s Day is coming up in a few weeks, I thought it would be fun to investigate social psychology a little for a change. Due to over the years there has been a lot of good, high-quality social psychology research into romantic relationships and we can apply these lessons to our own lives. Therefore, in this social psychology podcast episode, you’ll get to see six powerful lessons that can help a relationship to flourish according to a 2023 study. If you enjoy learning about social psychology, human relationships and research then you’ll love today’s episode.


This podcast episode has been sponsored by Psychology Of Relationships: The Social Psychology Of Friendships, Romantic Relationships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.


Note: nothing on this podcast is ever relationship, medical or any other form of official advice.


Why Is It Important To Learn About Relationship Flourishing?

I’ll fully admit that whilst I have never been in a relationship or dated, I want to look at this topic because I’m writing the blog post for this episode during the day, and then tonight I’m going to a fun social event where I might make some new friends or even meet someone. And this is always fun to look at anyway.


Therefore, it’s important that we all understand the reasons how and why relationships can flourish so we can bring new life into our romantic relationships, if they’re starting to feel like a bit of a grind. As well as if we start to feel that our relationships aren’t exciting anymore and we’re continuing the same sense of sameness without anything new or exciting.


In addition, learning about relationships gives us a chance for self-growth and connecting with our partners at a deeper level.


Halford et al. (2023)’s Addressing The Problem Of Relationship Flourishing

The study we’ll be focusing on in this podcast episode is Halford et al. (2023) because the researchers pointed out that over time there have been large changes in what’s considered a good, happy long-term relationship. Due to in the past, couples have been happy to simply be loved by the other and meeting each other’s psychological needs. Whereas in these modern times with social media and globalisation happening, couples are starting to realise that self-actualisation is important too in relationships.


Here's a quote from the study that highlights this point even more:


“Increasing aspirations for relationship quality are evident in changing reasons for divorce,” this comes from page 156 and what makes this quote increasing is that it is the feeling of growing apart that is the main cause of divorce. Instead of severe marital problems.


Personally, I think this finding is rather interesting because it is both what you would and wouldn’t expect to be the main cause of divorce. Since whenever I think about relationship breakdown, I always think about severe problems in a relationship but I don’t always think about growing apart as a reason. Therefore, this does remind us how important it is to make sure we don’t grow apart from our partners.


As a result, the researchers wanted to tackle these feelings of growing part in couples by allowing a couple to flourish by targeting feelings of personal happiness and growth enhancement. This would allow the couple to experience growth, resilience as well as intimacy.


In addition, Halford et al. (2023) wanted to validate the method that they’ve developed over the years to revive these flatlining relationships.


What Are The 6 Elements Of Relationship Education?

Interestingly, Halford et al. propose that couples don’t need to spend years in therapy to develop a high-quality relationship. Instead they need to follow a very specific curriculum for about 12 to 18 hours in the comfort of their own home. Thankfully, this means couples can do this regardless of their location even if they are no local couples therapists.


The six components of their relationship education programme are as follows:

·       Relationship self-change. This is where the couple learn about the value of goal-setting, why self-change is important to relationship growth and their commitment to relationship enhancement.


·       Communication. Here the couple learns about how to effectively communicate in relationships and they evaluate their own communication skills.


·       Caring and intimacy. In the third component, they learn about the importance of expressing social support, affection and positive shared activities. Then they review their current affection, their engagement in shared activities and their support for their partner.

·       Managing differences. Next the couple reviews the positive effect of differences on the relationship and effective conflict management.


·       Sexuality. Penultimately, they learn about common myths about sexual expression as well as assess their current sexual behaviour in the relationship.


·       Management Of Life Changes. Finally, the couple learn about the impact of life events on the relationship, and they assess what likely life changes they’ll experience and their effects before reviewing how to maintain focus on the relationship in a busy life.


Overall, I think on paper they sound a little dry but in reality, they are very important areas. For example, we know that communication is beyond critical in relationships because I know from personal experience that effectively communicating in any relationship is important. And if good communication isn’t developed then bad things can and will happen including the breakup of friendships and whatnot.


In addition, I think as great as learning concepts and about relationships are, it is critical that couples actually focus on their own relationship through the reviewing and self-assessment. This is important because it allows couples to apply what they’ve learnt and how to improve their relationship in the future. Of course, this is probably really hard and not ideal but it is important. And there will probably be some uncomfortable situations from time to time but again, that is why good communication is critical.


Furthermore, the paper talks a lot about how the authors used statistical models to support their conclusions, the sample was good and I don’t see any glaringly bad problems and because that is proper methodology content I am actually going to skip over that stuff. I will mention (because this is a small soap box of mine) that I think 26 couples might have been a slightly small sample size and I would have preferred over 30 and the mean age was 34. Meaning we can’t really say with empirical evidence that this method works for younger couples or couples over 50.


But that isn’t really the point of this particular study and the method does work for these couples.


How Can We Use Relationship Education in Our Own Lives?

If we take a step back from the paper and focus on the lessons it can teach us then there is a lot the study can teach us for our own relationships. Firstly, I have mentioned there are six areas of relationship education and I think even the brief summary of each section can give you a lot of useful prompts to give about in your relationship. For example, maybe tonight, you and your partner should think about your current levels of affection towards each other, engagement in shared activities and the like. Could you do more together?


Secondly, Halford et al. (2023) focused a lot on the importance of self-change and how you are responsible for your relationship flourishing. You can’t leave it to your partner to do all the work and vice versa, it is only by you wanting a change that something good will happen.

Finally, the study mentioned that couples benefit from the focusing on the relationship itself and not doing anything else. Therefore, if you and your partner think about the relationship for the 12 hours and try to improve it then there will be benefits. Which I think is really interesting, and you could try to half that time to see some benefits. Like spending 6 hours total working on each of the 6 areas mentioned earlier.


Social psychology Conclusion:

At the end of this social psychology podcast episode, I think we can all admit that a relationship can flourish for a lot of different reasons. And I know a good chunk of this episode has been common sense, like we know good communication is important, but just because we know something this doesn’t mean we always follow it. Therefore, whenever you get into a relationship and after a while you get concerned that it is filled with a sense of sameness and dullness. Then use these six areas to kickstart your relationship again and make it exciting.

Or better yet actively think about these six areas before your relationship even gets to that stage.


Personally, I always find relationship content fun to think about because even though I have no experience whatsoever to draw on here. It gives me knowledge I can use in the future and I always like how this area of social psychology we can apply to our own lives, to improve our relationships so we can be happy, healthy and experience more joy in the future.

 

If you want to learn more, please check out:


Psychology Of Relationships: The Social Psychology Of Friendships, Romantic Relationships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.


Have a great day.


Social Psychology References

Ayub, N., Iqbal, S., Halford, W. K., & van de Vijver, F. (2023). Couples relationship standards and satisfaction in Pakistani couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 49(1), 111-128.


Halford, W. K., & Snyder, D. K. (2012). Universal processes and common factors in couple therapy and relationship education: Guest editors: W. Kim Halford and Douglas K. Snyder. Behavior Therapy, 43(1), 1-12.


Halford, W. K., Young, K., & Sanri, C. (2023). Effects of relationship education on couple flourishing. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 12(3), 155–167. https://doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000203


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