What makes strong and lasting romantic relationships?

  • Date

    Fri 7 Dec 18

Dr Veronica Lamarche

Ahead of her appearance at Colchester’s Café Scientifique on Wednesday 12 December, 7pm at The Minories; relationship scientist Dr Veronica Lamarche, Department of Psychology, tells India Lindsay-Wheeler five top tips on how couples maintain a long and healthy relationship.

Try to see and expect the best in your partner

“Being in love can motivate us to see our partners through rose coloured glasses and it’s worth keeping those love goggles on long after the initial butterflies have flown away, she explained. “Research has shown that trying to see the best in your partner not only helps you feel more positively about your relationship but also helps them rise to the occasion and become more responsive over time.”

Fight constructively, not destructively

Even the best partners can let us down but things can be made a lot worse when we fight with our shields up”, said Dr Lamarche. “Instead of focusing on your partner’s intent, give them the benefit of the doubt by focusing on how the issue makes you feel and what you need from them to restore trust (e.g., “I know that you don’t mean to upset me, but when you break a promise it makes me feel unimportant. Next time, I need you to keep your promise.”). This can help your partner feel less defensive, and give them a clear path to making amends.”

Work on yourself

“As the saying goes, if you can’t love yourself how are you going to love someone else? We were all someone before we started our relationships, and these personal histories can shape how we expect others to behave towards us. When we generally doubt how much others care about us, it can lead us to close up, distancing from our partners when the going gets tough. Routine, honest self-reflection can help us pinpoint our bad habits and acknowledge when our reactions are more about saving face than building a connection.

Keeping the spark alive

“Do something new and exciting, as long-term relationships can begin to feel repetitive after a while”. Veronica advised. “Trying out a new and exciting activity with your partner not only shakes things up, but research has also shown that the elevated excitement you feel during the activity can get transferred onto your feelings for your partner, bringing you both closer.”

You can hear Dr Veronica Lamarche discuss her findings at Café Scientifique at 7pm on Wednesday 12 December at The Batte-Lay Tea Room, The Minories, 74 High Street, Colchester. Spaces are limited so arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Find out more about Dr Lamarche's research

Q: You look at what makes some couples more resilient in the face of uncertainty compared to others, what are your key findings so far?

A: I’m interested in understanding why you see some relationships persist over time and some break up. Some of my findings have focused on the idea that there are individual differences in how people respond to risks or feelings of uncertainty about their partners. I found differences on how we respond to those instances which can influence whether or not the relationship is likely to persist or not. There are also factors about the world around us that shift how we feel in terms of our security more globally and I have looked at how we respond to this insecurity by using our relationship to feel safer.

Q: In your opinion, what was the most interesting aspect of your research?

A: Although a relationship typically involves two people, a couple exists in a much greater dynamic. It’s been interesting to see how that world around us can influence the way we feel about our partners in addition to our partners influencing how we feel about the world around us.

Q: As a relationship scientist, what would your general advice be to couples during turbulent times?

A: That it’s good to lean on your partners and draw closer to them when the world is becoming a little scarier than we anticipated. To feel comfortable but also to make sure you’re engaging in good relationship practices and maximising the benefits of those moments of closeness with your partner.

Q: Can you share how you are feeling about your talk and explain a little bit about what you’ll be doing there?

A: I’m really excited to have the opportunity go to Café Scientifique and talk to a broader audience about the work I do. Specifically, some of my newer research where I look at the turbulent world around us and the uncertainty that occurs when things don't go how we may have expected, such as Brexit or the election in the United States. Overall, I’ll be discussing how that turbulence in the world around us can shift how we feel and how we lean on our relationships at those times.

Q: And finally, can you tell me what you hope the impact of your findings will be?

A: I’m hoping that people will get a sense that their relationships are part of the larger ecosystem. To bring greater awareness that how uncertain and unsafe you may feel about the world around you can also be changing how you’re feeling about your partner. I’m hoping to encourage people to be aware of potential negative consequences or benefits for their relationships depending on the scenario.