Saturday 23 August 2014

15 Ways to Bulletproof Your Relationship

15 Ways to Bulletproof Your Relationship

Why do some relationships last while others struggle and fail? 

We’ve found the latest research on what really helps couples stick together, and clues can be seen in everything from old school photographs to the furniture in your living room.

© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - forgive

One of you is ready to kiss and make up

Are you always the first to apologise after an argument?

A study earlier this year found if one of you bounces back quickly after a row, moves on and avoids sulking, your marriage is likely to be stronger and happier.

Interestingly, you don't both have to behave like this to reap the benefit – so if your partner's the mature sensible one, a little sulking can't hurt!
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - virtual

You spend more time in the real world than the virtual one

According to lawyers, Facebook has a lot to answer for. 'We deal with 5,000 divorce petitions a year,' says Amanda McAlister from solicitors Russell Jones & Walker.

'Facebook and Friends Reunited are cited as grounds in one-third of cases.

Social networking sites can be addictive, and sometimes it's hard to resist a first love who gets in touch after 30 years.' Experience has taught her honesty is the best policy: 'Be upfront about who you're in touch with online' – many of my clients hit trouble when they start keeping secrets.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - brain

Both of you give your brains a workout

It's said only fools fall in love, but intelligent people are better at staying in love. A US study found those of below-average intelligence are 50 per cent more likely to divorce than those with a higher IQ.

So exercising your brain – whether it's Sudoku, evening classes or conversation – boosts more than just brainpower.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - rights

Stand up for your individual rights

There was much talk a few years ago about the Surrendered Wife movement, in which women just did exactly what their husbands said in order to make them happy.

But a recent survey found that women who see themselves as feminists are more likely to have stronger relationships and enjoy a better sex life.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - silly

You still laugh at his silly jokes

That's a good sign. 'Laughter lowers our levels of stress hormones, which impacts on how irritable we feel,' says Trudy Hill of introduction agency Seventy Thirty. 'Stress can turn off your sex drive and make you put up a barrier.

So rent a film that cracks you both up – you'll feel refreshed and happier.'
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - smoking

You've given up smoking

The more similar people are in values and habits, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage. If one half of the partnership is a smoker, you're 75-91% more likely to split up than couples of same-smoking status.

Quit, and you'll live longer – and spend more years together.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - say yes

The power of yes, yes, yes! (It's not what you think)

How often do you say yes – or another positive phrase – to your husband? Psychologist John Gottman says he can predict whether a marriage will end in divorce by listening to just a few conversations and counting how many positive things are said compared to negative ones.

If you say five nice things for every snippy or downbeat comment, the marriage is likely to stay strong.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - sofa

There's a nice, soft sofa in your living room

You may not think furniture could affect your marriage, but research from Harvard, MIT and Yale Universities say the hardness, weight, shape and texture of certain furniture may have an impact on your mood.

'If your surroundings are calm, you're likely to be calmer,' says behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.

The perfect excuse to redecorate…
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - work

You've got a good work/life balance

There are some careers, such as nursing and teaching, where divorce rates are very high. 'Those in the caring professions often find it hard to switch off at the end of the day, and may be psychologically exhausted,' says Hemmings.

'Rather than changing careers, aim for a balance between communicating with your partner and burdening him, so you both can switch off when you're at home.'
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - sentences

You finish each other's…sentences

Shared speech patterns show you're on the same wavelength. Psychologists found that compatible couples use similar phrases or synchronise their speech without even noticing.

You can analyse your own text message conversations at Utpsyc.
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - grin

You grinned in your old school photographs

We may cringe when we look back at those pictures from our student days, but a study in Indiana looked at the high school photos of 650 adults and discovered that those with the weakest smiles were three times more likely to divorce later in life.

Researchers believed those who are generally happier are more likely to work through difficulties in marriages and relationships – bad news for those of us who went through a moody phase in our teens!
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - sleep

You always get a good night's sleep…

A bad night's sleep can ruin your day, but more than a few of them can also ruin your relationships, according to psychologists.

'There seems to be a vicious cycle,' says Brant Hasler, who carried out the research. 'Sleep affects the next day's relationship functioning, and the relationship functioning in turn affects the next night's sleep.'
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - bedroom

…and remember that the bedroom isn't just for sleeping

We're not saying you should swing from the chandeliers five nights a week, but researchers at the University of Tennessee recently confirmed what we already suspected: regular sex counteracts the 'happiness deficit' that sometimes creeps into a marriage as the years go by, and makes couples more content. 'Keep it spontaneous,' says Hemmings.

'There's no use doing it every Sunday at 10am on the dot – it'll get predictable. Find the level that's right for you.'
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - chores

Never having to say: 'Could you do the washing up?'

'I've taken the bin out' or 'I've done the dishes' could be the most romantic words ever said.

According to a recent survey, sharing household chores ranks third (behind fidelity and a good sex life) on a list of what makes a relationship work. 'If one person is doing the lion's share of housework, they end up feeling undervalued,' says Relate counsellor Paula Hall.

'But don't let this spill into rows – explain to your partner how you feel, rather than getting into a discussion over who does what.'
© Hearst Magazines UK - 15 ways to bulletproof your relationship - thanks

You're grateful

Happiness comes down to three little words: 'Thank you for'.

Couples do little things for each other all the time, and simply expressing gratitude produces a little happiness boost that can last for days. 'Couples often stop bothering to do this as the years go by,' says Hemmings.

'But if you get praise for something, you feel happy and want to do it again. It creates a kind of cycle of contentment.'

Friday 22 August 2014

This is Why Silent Treatment Never Works


This is Why Silent Treatment Never Works

If you're suffering in silence - or because of it - your relationship may be more endangered than you realise, according to new research that shows those whose interactions include the 'silent treatment' can spell ruin for the future.
Although researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict, an analysis of 74 studies, based on more than 14,000 participants, shows that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other, the harm is both emotional and physical.
"The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety or may use more aggressive forms of behaviour," says Paul Schrodt, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who led the study published this spring in the journal Communication Monographs.
"Each partner sees the other person's behaviour as the start of a fight," he says. "If you go to him and ask why he's so withdrawn from his wife, it's because 'she's constantly nagging me and constantly asking a million questions.' If you ask her why she's making demands of him, it's because 'he doesn't tell me anything. I don't get the sense he cares about our relationship.' Each partner fails to see how their own behaviour is contributing to the pattern."
In much of the research, Schrodt says, the man tends to be more silent; but psychologist Les Parrott of Seattle says he has seen less of a breakdown along gender lines.
"I see plenty of men get demanding," he says.
It's that pattern, Schrodt says, that is so damaging, because it signals a serious sign of distress in the relationship. The research, which spanned from 1987 to 2011, wasn't specifically about the silent treatment; however, the silent treatment is part of a broader pattern that extends not just to romantic relationships but to parenting styles as well, which also were part of the research, he says.
Parrott, co-author of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring you Closer, a book published in April, says the silent treatment is a very difficult pattern to break because it's such an ingrained behaviour.
"We learn this strategy very early on - just as little kids - to shut somebody out as a way to punish," Parrott says. "Many of us are prone to sulk or to pout, and that is an early form of giving somebody the silent treatment."
Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University, says nothing good comes from the silent treatment because it's "manipulative, disrespectful and not productive."
Schrodt's analysis found that couples who use such conflict behaviours experience lower relationship satisfaction, less intimacy and poorer communication, which is also associated with divorce. And, he says, some of the studies found the effects were not just emotional but physiological, such as urinary, bowel or erectile dysfunction.
"Partners get locked in this pattern, largely because they each see the other as the cause," Schrodt says. "Both partners see the other as the problem."
Parrott and Schrodt agree being aware of the destructive pattern can help resolve it.
"Conflict is inevitable, but how you manage it can make the difference," Parrott says.
How to break the pattern of the silent treatment...
- Become aware of what's really going on. The person making demands feels abandoned; the silent person is protecting himself. Each needs to ask: "Why am I behaving this way? How does my behaviour make my partner feel?"
- Avoid character assassination. It will do more damage to label your spouse as "selfish" or "rude."
- Use the word "I," because the more you use "you," the longer your squabble will last. You can say something like, "This is how I feel when you stop talking to me."
- Mutually agree to take a timeout. When the cycle emerges, both partners need to cool their heads and warm their hearts before engaging. And some people just need a bit of time to think before they speak.
- Genuinely apologise as soon as you are able.
Source: Les Parrott, psychologist at Seattle Pacific University; co-author of the 2014 book The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring you Closer.

Related article:

  • Dating and "The Silent Treatment": How Do You Deal?

Friday 15 August 2014

14 Things Women Think Are Cute That Actually Turn Men Off

Photo: Shutterstock

14 Things Women Think Are Cute That Actually Turn Men Off

They say that opposites attract, but when it comes to the opposite sex each is attracted to different things. While there are many staples in a woman’s arsenal of looking good for the fellas (as much as for herself) not all of them end up hitting their intended mark. Sure other women might ooh and ah over your latest shopping spree find that is oh-so-cute, but the average man likely won’t even bat an eye let alone notice. Even worse, most men might even hate the item and actually find it unattractive. What’s a girl to do? Don’t worry we tapped the brain of our resident StyleBlazer Manto compile a list of 14 things women think are cute but most men actually hate. Be prepared to be surprised.

Floppy Sun Hats

Photo: Shutterstock
They may be the headgear of choice for your fun in the sun getaways during the summer or while on vacation, but most men just don’t get it. Are you having a bad hair day or was this the precursor to Pharrell’s Vivienne Westwood fetish? Either way, if you’re not a fan of his big brimmed hat, why would a man be into yours?

Excessive Bracelets

Photo: Shutterstock
While accessories are the cornerstones of any woman’s fashion game, there is such a thing as doing too much. One or two bracelets are cool but anything beyond that is a bit redundant, especially when a woman stacks her wrists with a never-ending pile of bangles that incessantly clang against each other creating a sound that drives every man crazy—and not in a good way.

Cheetah Print

Photo: Shutterstock
What woman doesn’t have this popular animal print adorning some item in her closet or drawer? Problem is while most ladies will swoon over their faux-fur couture pattern, the average man doesn’t really care that much.

Hello Kitty

Photo: Shutterstock
This cartoon cat that has gone on to adorn everything from clothing and jewelry to backpacks and phone cases—even some ladies’ skin in the form of a tattoo. Sorry, men will never understand a grown woman’s obsession with Hello Kitty. But I guess we’re even because women will never get men’s fascination with sports either.

Shoes… You Can’t Walk In

Photo: Shutterstock
Why so many women put footwear fashion before their own comfort is beyond a man’s comprehension. You might look good standing still, but if every step you take makes it look like you’re walking on a water bed no bueno. Just because Beyoncé says pretty hurts, doesn’t mean it has to.

Ugg Boots

Photo: Shutterstock
Sure, they me be comfortable but there’s no (straight) man alive who would say Uggs are cute—especially after they’ve been worn to the point of turning a disgusting multi-colored shade. Sorry, Uggs are just, well, ugly.

Gladiator Sandals

Photo: Shutterstock
Like Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same applies to women with big feet: you have a responsibility to not accentuate that by wearing a pair of these Air Xenas. Besides that, gladiator sandals just look like an impractical piece of footwear that takes hours to put on. No wonder so many women are late to get anywhere on time.

Palazzo Pants

Photo: Shutterstock
No clue who Palazzo is but he sure can make an ugly pair of pants. These exaggerated super-bellbottoms looks like hell to walk in as a heel can likely get caught in these overflowing slacks. The only possible functional reason for these would be to cover up a pair of the aforementioned gladiator sandals.

A Dark Lip

Photo: Shutterstock
While this has been accepted in Goth circles for some time now, dark lipstick hues have become all the rage in more mainstream circles. It might be just a personal preference but kissing a woman who reminds you of Beetlejuice is never a turn on.

High-Waisted Jeans

Photo: Shutterstock
This is just a look that is not for everyone. High-waisted jeans in the wrong hands (or waist rather) can be an unsightly vision that only works to highlight flat backsides and accentuate pooches. If you’re the owner of either, please opt for a better pair of pants. Thank me later.

Excessive Key Chain Trinkets

Photo: Shutterstock
Men have come up with two theories as to why some women have an overabundance of trinkets attached to their keys: 1) It’s some sort of way to easily find their keys in the sea of other unnecessary items they stuff into their purses that they probably won’t ever need but carry around with them just in case 2) Key chains just multiply like rabbits when left in a woman’s bag too long. While No. 1 is the more likely reason, No. 2 at least is more funny to think about.


Photo: Shutterstock
From Clueless to Mean Girls these miniature canines have been the go-to accessory pet of countless socialite types—both real and fictional. Despite the pooch’s popularity it’ll never be a breed that fits the model of being labeled man’s best friend.

Duck Face Selfies

Photo: Shutterstock
Okay, technically this is not an item or accessory, but women still think this practice is cute. But the proof is in the pudding. You. Look. Stupid. What happened to the good ol’ days when people simply smiled in pictures instead of subconsciously trying to look like Daffy or Donald.


Photo: Shutterstock
These furry creatures are just creepy, man. They sneak around the house and always pop up when you least expect them to. The only thing worse to a man than a woman with a cat, is a woman with more than one. Think about it: Have you ever heard a guy use the word sexy to describe a “cat lady?” #CaseClosed

Love survey: Nation's top relationship secrets revealed as quarter of people admit to being dissatisfied with their sex life

91 per cent of people admitted to having a good relationship with their partner

THE Way We Are Now 2014 study - which questioned 5000 people across the UK - revealed some home truths about how we get on with our partners, family, friends and workmates.

A QUARTER of people are dissatisfied with their sex life and one in four couples has gone through an affair, says a survey which lifts the lid on relationships and family life.
More than 5000 people across the UK were ­questioned in one of the biggest surveys of its kind published today by Relate and ­Relationships ­Scotland.
The Way We Are Now 2014 study also reveals only 30 per cent of people think a relationship could survive an affair but over 90 per cent of ­counsellors say it can not only survive but thrive following a fling.
Relationships Scotland say the research shows that families of all shapes and sizes can get the help they need to invest more time and effort in their relationships.
They will be expanding their sex therapy service to include sex ­addiction help over the next few months.
The survey also revealed a fifth of people in relationships don’t feel loved and less than a quarter are having sex once a week or more.
Gay and lesbian couples are more likely than heterosexuals to describe their relationship as bad or average.
But 250 counsellors say the way to a happy sex life involves improving communication, making time to be together and learning how to talk about sex with your partner.
The report finds a strong connection between ­relationships and how we feel, and that we use relationships to help us cope when times are hard.
The study finds a clear link between good relationships and high levels of wellbeing but simply being in a ­relationship doesn’t guarantee people will feel good about themselves.
Single people feel better about themselves than those in average, bad or very bad relationships. But the survey also found one in 10 people in Scotland has no close friends.
Fortunately, nine out of 10 people say they have a good relationship with their partner but 18 per cent in a relationship never or rarely felt loved in the two weeks before the survey.
Divorce rates have risen significantly over the last 50 years, leaving generations of young people to deal with the aftermath.
Stuart Valentine, chief ­executive of Relationships ­Scotland, said: “This study examines the quality of our ­relationships, showing a clear link between our personal relationships and our wellbeing.
“While there is much to ­celebrate, the results around how close we feel to others are very concerning.
“There is a significant minority of people who claim to have no close friends, or who never or rarely feel loved – ­unimaginable to many of us.
“Relationships are the asset which can get us through good times and bad, and it is worrying to think there are people who feel they have no one they can turn to.
“Strong ­relationships are vital for both individuals and society, so investing in them is crucial.”

Lesley & John: I wish I had confronted my loveless husband

A LACK of intimacy with her partner led Lesley Murray to have an affair with another man.
She eventually ended both relationships and now she’s finally found love with fiancé John Carter, 37.
But she wishes she’d confronted the issues in her past relationship which led to the affair at the time.
Lesley, 32, from Fife, said: “I would say if you are in an affair because you are not happy, even if you risk hurting someone’s feelings, just talk to them.
“If you don’t it can just too easily lead to deceit. The guy I was with was steady and solid but there was little or no intimacy in our relationship. The relationship was going nowhere, we never talked about a long-term future together.
“I knew the other guy wasn’t right for me either. He was too volatile.
“I did end up falling for the other guy but I knew it wasn’t right. I should have told my partner about my frustrations or ended it earlier instead of living a lie. But I think at the time I was just afraid of being alone.”
Now Lesley says she’s finally met her match with John and communication is key. She said: “We are good friends, we socialise together and totally fancy each other. We have the same ideals about what a relationship should be like.
“Most importantly, we are fiercely honest with each other. It just works. And I now believe it’s true – when you know, you just know.
“We both have the same needs. It’s the little things – he is tactile, will make me a cup of tea, puts me first and thinks about me. I feel it every day. That’s a first for me.
“He makes me feel loved and needed. We make time for each other. And if we are not doing it, we talk about it. There is no second guessing. We have an active sex life. We are madly in love so it’s emotional.
“Intimacy reaffirms all the things we say and do for each other. If we don’t have time for sex due to circumstances outwith our control, we talk about it and make sure neither is unhappy.
“Cheesy as it sounds, you have to really make a conscious effort. Go to bed early or cut the TV or the plug off the PlayStation.”
* The names of both Lesley and John have been changed to preserve their anonymity.

Nick & Phil: I married twice but it took years to find peace with a man

RETIRED teacher Nick Mitchell struggled with the knowledge he was gay for years and even underwent aversion therapy in a bid to supress his feelings.
Desperate to conform to a lifestyle he thought he ought to be leading, he even got married twice.
“I did care for both my wives. I told them I was gay before we got married and they were prepared to accept me as I was,” he explained.
Nick Mitchell and his partner Phil Duffy

Nick Mitchell and his partner Phil Duffy
Nick Mitchell and his partner Phil Duffy 
“It was an attempt to conform to what society and the church seemed to be saying I ought to be doing. Back then, homosexuality was illegal.”
Then, 15 years ago, he met partner Phil Duffy, 61, an education consultant, and the pair happily share a home in Erskine, Renfrewshire.
Nick, 68, is now a volunteer for Crisis Counselling in Erskine and encourages others to seek proper help if they’re experiencing relationship problems – rather than the drastic route he took of aversion therapy, which left him emotionally scarred.
Nick was sexually assaulted when he was 17 and felt there was nowhere to turn for help. He knew he was gay but in desperation he tried therapy in his late teens – a psychological treatment that attempted to change his sexuality.
“I hated every minute of it,” he explained.
“Looking back, in a way I think I have kind of blocked out the terror of the experience. It didn’t really change anything about my sexuality.
“The therapy did lead to changing my attitude to the physical side of my sexuality and my sex life.
“The treatment must have stuck with me in a way but it took many years and a deeply trusting relationship before I found happiness and peace with a man.”
He told his mum he was gay in his early 20s and although she was initially upset, he says she’s since mellowed and adores his partner.
Nick said: “Phil and I are close and committed. We have had our tougher moments but we have learned to talk to each other, with loads of listening. We meet each other half-way then forgive each other when it is needed.
“I have noticed it’s common for people to assume that a gay relationship is all about the sex. That’s a misconception. Any committed relationship is much more than any physical act.”
He says he’s not surprised by the survey results saying LGB couples are more likely than straight couples to describe their relationship as bad or average, explaining he thinks that’s because of external pressures.
When he was a teacher at a Catholic school, he felt he couldn’t reveal his sexuality for fear of losing his job.
He worried about the lack of support available in the schools he taught at for young people to talk about their sexuality.
He said: “We need to offer real support to gay couples and it needs to start from a young age.
“When I came into the relationship at first I had low self-esteem. I was under pressure at work and felt like I was failing.
“Phil supported me right through it and held me up.”

Revitalising your sex life

* Talk first, touch later. If sex has become stale, get out of the bedroom and talk about what you like, what you don’t, and what you’d like to try. That way, you know what to do back in the bedroom.
* Don’t always go all the way. Sometimes people resist kissing and touching because they are worried it will lead to sex. Enjoy a passionate kiss before you go to work, or a sensual massage on a Friday night – it’s all about reducing the pressure.
* Initiate differently. One of the trickiest things about sex can be how to get in the mood. Start with a massage, some fizz and chocolates in the bath, or a sexy film.
* Change the scenery. If you’ve been having sex in the same place for ages, a change of scene can make you feel more playful.
* Anticipation, enjoyment, recollection. Build up to sex by talking about your plans, or sending sexy messages. Once you’re done, talk about what you liked with your partner.

How we get on in the world

* One in six have experienced the breakdown of their parents’ relationship (18 per cent)
* Money worries are one of the biggest strains on a relationship for 
63 per cent
* Older people are more worried about money, with 69 per cent of those 65 and over saying it is a major strain, compared with only 37 per cent of 16-24 year olds
* 64 per cent of people have a good relationship with their boss
* 43 per cent have no friends at work
* Nine in 10 people have at least one close friend (92 per cent)
* 87 per cent of women describe their friendships as good/very good compared with 79 per cent of men
* 89 per cent of those who described their relationship as very good said they felt good about themselves
* 65 per cent of those who described their relationship as good, average, bad or very bad felt good about themselves
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