« The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

BONUS: Keep Your Relationship Healthy

2020-04-02

The health of our romantic relationships is in peril thanks to the many stresses and strains of the pandemic lockdown. Couples might be facing huge emotional and financial challenges at the same time as being tightly confined to their homes. But psychologist Eli Finkel (author The All-or-Nothing Marriage) says there are ways to weather the crisis without destroying your partnership - and there might even be opportunities to hit the reset button and address problems that in normal times you just let slide.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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wherever you get your podcast, welcome to a special set of episodes of the Happy Islam, the now global right of corona virus is affecting all of us. This disease. Brought a host of medical, economic and political problems, but it's also given us. A ton of uncertainty and anxiety, which would be getting have an enormous negative impact on our collective wellbeing Never I'm confused or fearful. I remember
Looking for answers in evidence based science is always the best way to go, and that's what I'm hoping this podcast can help. One of those common questions. I've gotten from listeners about how to handle this awful covert. Nineteen crisis is how we can all protect our relationships during this crazy time. Lots of us are facing the completely novel situation of being forced to shelter in place with our partners, and while it's really good to be with the people, we love during a scary period, it can also be really really tough and waymore aggravating than I expected, which is kind of ironic. I mean I've dreamed about having some work related stuff get cancel just so I could stay home and have some quality time with my husband, but I was thinking. Fuzzy socks and a glass of wine. Some weakened, being forced to shelter in place for months was not part of the fancy. It's much harder to prioritize our marriages, while also running it babysitting service or a middle school or an elderly care facility.
What a science say we can do to make sure we get out of this mess with our marriages intact. Tell me figure out best practices for love in the time of covered. I put a call out to one of my favorite relationship experts. I am you life wrinkle, a professor at North western University, in this ecology department and the Color School of management, and I am the author of the all or nothing marriage. So he lied to day. I wanted to start with the following question: if absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does forced togetherness in a horrible pandemic due to relationships well, I suspect, on average makes them worse. What sort of good about it is that it words and new opportunities to try to make things even better, and so let's talk to you, it's really happening. What are the particular stressors were all facing in our relationships right now, yeah in relative to what life felt like the girl, I would say almost all of us have a higher level of stress at least one comes to things like worrying about the health of ourselves.
Loved one worrying about the state of the economy in general and our own personal livelihood in particular. Again maybe, not true for a hundred percent of us, but almost all of us are facing additional amounts of rather significant stress and I'm guessing when you put to individual people who are really stressed out together. That can't be good for a romantic relationship yeah, so it can be the case that I'm going to restructure and you're not going to restructure. In fact, I think this is commonly happens in relationships its and indeed one of the nice things about relationships is, do you know if you significant other that you're going through life with Uk Conservative, this sort of buffers for each other, and you haven't, you the deadline of work? I can step up the amount of responsibility on taken for the children, but yes, this particular blend of Strasser. This love in the time of the corona virus thing is hitting almost everybody at exactly the same time, and that has to do outside of adding a home.
Of stress at the exact same time when our partner might not have as much bandwidth as we wish here she had it has The upside of we often have a pretty good sense of what our partners going through, which isn't the case with all stress. Pursuing a psychologist must have seen this before. I write what actually happens to romantic relationships during these stressful times my favorite studies is the very famous study of Hurricane Hugo. This is a nineteen eighty, nine hurricane and what the researchers it is they compare and the countries that were hard ahead in the counties that weren't harder? and they found that there was a surge in the divorce rate, which may not be all that surprised. People were dealing with a huge amount of additional stress, often not only the hurricane itself, but the financial issues associated with it or what I found a specially enlightening is yes, a lot of the relationships that had to endure something like that ended in divorce. There was also a big boost in the marriage rate and in the future. Be right. That is the number of people who decided to have a baby to it, looks like these sort of stressors
have a major impact on people's lives and people's relation Europe's? But the news isn't all bad as I guess, the one thing we can do is to try to scientific. They figure out what makes for a good stress and bad stress and relationships and the kinds of things we can do to to boost things right now. Things are so stressful. So I want you to talk a little bit about what you work through in your book, which is the kinds of does that make for a happy and unhappy relationship, because, if my take on your book is of what a good marriage boils down to is having the right kind of expectations. This road and I'd like to contrast, I say in the book in what I believe is relevant here from the broader thing that that we often hear which is stop expecting so much your expectations are too high. That's pretty good advice, but not as a general principle right if that advice were fine the way is that you and your partner are really struggling right now and try to tempt back a little on those expectations than that advice is terrific, but what the advice when its appeal More generally tends to forget is that, in the absence of experts
patients, we usually aren't even trying an and so one The things that I find exciting about how many exist today like we're here in twenty twenty, and we can contrast what marriage was like: a nineteen, fifty or even eighteen hundred or whatever, and what we can see is that there are opportunities for a different sort of connection today that existed in the past, and The only way you can really try to achieve those those sort of connections is by bringing these expectations bringing certain understandings about what a marriage is supposed to be, and so, for example, in the in hundreds people really didn't even Mary for love even by run nineteen fifty when they married for love they weren't really looking to the marriage for personal growth or self expression, to the same degree as now, and what we see in twenty twenty. This is independent of the corona virus that the best marriages today are particularly good. Even while at the same time the average marriage is worse than it was say fifty years ago, and the reason why, because we're trying?
Who look to our marriage to do these much more difficult, much more emotionally complicated sorts of things and for those to get it right. The satisfaction is very, very strong, but the pressure can also be really high, which is maybe tough. The pressure is high and a lot of us are unhappy today with a marriage that would have been totally adequate for our grandparents its. I want to dig into this historical differences, one of the things I found most fascinating when I first read your book, so give me a sense in our last pandemic. So it's like scrawl back to the flu of nineteen eighteen. What was the typical marriage like back then, and what were those power, those expectations different than what we expect now the marriage was very, very different, so there existed by that time, vision of how marriage could be, which was that the man would go off and do his bread, winning and the woman would stay and do her homemaking in that That was the vision and that they would love each other and that was sort of the basis or foundation of marriage. That idea existed, circa, one thousand nine hundred and eighteen
most no couples in America could actually make that work. The only time I'm really that most Americans would be able to do that was you know me the thirty years following the Second World WAR, when I high school graduate boy, could go out and get a union card and actually kind of support a family of five. But that wasn't sure before, and it wasn't true now and so the idea that your spouse was supposed to help on a voyage of self discovery like you would have laughed at in nineteen eighteen, America, but not so today, Where is right now, some of the expectations, even in the midst of this crisis, are, like you know, you're, not completing me or you're, not making me a better person, look in fair es. We don't have the full information yet about how people are responding and it is difficult to be not only confronted with a major strasser, but to be confronted with a major Strasser with Sir what else? Who also is forced into close isolation with you
and so you you're, dealing with lots of things at once in some marriages, will actually really flourish under those circumstances that, like some of us, that's like the thing we ve always wanted, word sick of having to do others, travel or haven't worked so many hours or having to work three jobs. All we ve been wanting for the last three years is a little bit of quiet time together and lo and behold through the worst of circumcised. As we get it and now look how happy we are, but on average I don't think that's the story. We're gonna say on average, I think the story is going to be about how incredibly disrupted- our lives are and the amount of forced, alone time together, but not under the best one come stances, so, as you like, one of the changing expectations is just what we're doing when we say time together? In I know my husband and I are used to like going out to a nice rest, I have a meal, an hour's spending time together, where he's teaching in the next room, and I podcast zooming in one room, and it just feels different, so talk about what these changes to our daily routines and our daily activities together might be doing and how it might be stressful.
Most of us under appreciate the role that luck or circumstances ay and how happy Europe happy. We are in our relationship. It could be that the way that you have forced change your life and he has been forced to change. His life is a recipe for bliss and that really all is wanted, is to have some nice educational claw. Any time with his children and all wanted is to do some part of Africa ring and then walk outside into the familiar bliss that is taking place in your living room and those people lucky enough to have those or to preferences will obviously handled the stress and the current in better most of us have kind of build the life and gotten used to a life that has elements that we like in it. I mean you talked about enjoying dinner data I think most of us, at least with the means like to do that we like to go to the theater, and we like to talk about those things and
We have an enormous restriction on the opportunities that we have on. The range of different activities that we can do together ends Can we find a way to continue at the same level, possibly even more, even though now confined to our homes yeah, This raises a different questions, as I think that all of this is stressful for people who are incredibly privilege, but it's much worse for people who are facing like real economic challenges and real financial challenges during this time. The biggest concern by far is mass sickness and death. But the second to that. I think we're going to see a pretty significant exacerbation of what was ready significant inequality. People like me, and other people that I know furthering this thing. Ok and we have the internet access that our kids require to do.
Cool, the way that the teachers are trying to get them to do school, and we have. The money is particularly relevant in the context of relationships, because it's true that that day rates have been skyrocketing, but really only among people with less education? I m talking about him can data here so too in the Sixtys and Seventys divorce rate skyrocketed for people with a college degree without a college degree without a high school degree, but starting around nineteen. Eighty, you see this huge shift, people who lack a high school degree, but a boy rates are still skyrocketing and that's the case, even though fewer and fewer of them are marrying in the first place. But if you look at people with a college degree in you, compare today versus the people like us and nineteen eighty art of Auschwitz we're down like waiting, to be building up a on average, a pretty effective system that working for us in terms of marriage and
One of the major reasons why it's working for us and not working for people who don't have the same amount of resources, is how easy as it to build a marriage, especially a sort of self expressive. Marriage, when you are working three different jobs at three, when Starbucks and you're trying to wake up at four in the morning to do some tutoring for your kid before you go up to catch the buses like it's, not a system that works well, now how's that gonna change as a result of the corona virus and the job loss in the economic calamity. It's gonna hit the worst off people the hardest. It's all this is pretty bad, but when we get there from the break, I'm going to demand that you I'll get us out of this mess I may have, I walk us through some of the ways we can set the right expectations and make sure were pretend our love interests in this time of crony virus, the happiness lab will be right back sheltering
place during a deadly pandemic can put a huge strain on our romantic relationships, but there are active strategies that all of us can take right now to protect our partnerships and that's what I wanted. Social psychologists and relationships, expert, Eliza to share with us next, even when we're stuck in an incredibly full time Bay equally in something that loosely approximate to home prison is not quite the same, but but were enforced, quarantine or forced isolation. There are things that, if we assume that there is a general decency to our partner in all decency, some foundation somewhere in the relationship? There should be things that we are able to do to cultivate a sense of strength in the relationship, not Just mitigating are battling away downsides, but really playing up to the upsides, and it may be the sorts of things boy when we were dating, we used to play games and we used to have a black split, a bottle of wine and then it came and we sort of just forgot that that was fun. Let's go back to that,
better and remember what are the things that we have enjoyed together that because of the pace of regular life, we forgot how to do and it might- hard, given the amount of stress, to sort of kick back with wine and try to relax, but it is only worth an attempt. And so we can use this really incredibly unfortunate situation to find ways to connect or reconnect with our partner that at least make it possible that, for some of us we will and this corona chaos with a deeper and stronger connection with partner than when we started he's. That's, I think, really great news right, which is if we can figure out the things in our relationship that are really good and reform. Habits. Now, ideally, those have its won't go away when we're through this mess, thus to grant Ideally they won't go away, but at the very least it be nice to sort of reboot, ever a life, I presume, will eventually reboot everyday life and doing it from a place of strength with our spouse. There are significant other
is going to be a massive difference and and if it turns out that been a year, hence things are chaotic, and we forget that some of these things were important to us. We can least look back and say. Well, why do we need it? global pandemic to figure. Out or to remember that that sharing a glass of wine and playing cards The other is a recipe for laughter and good sex. As you mentioned that kind of wine in the cards and in the good sex, but I mean other couples of my friends have said that this this time of priests going their kids together can also be a form of bond, great, like they fill it in their relationship. The thing that drives them together, the kids- and this is a time that they can focus on the kids in a way that we will never be able to perform as we ve all been at work and they ve been at school. Yes, that's true. The challenge of parenting in the time of corona virus is that played age.
Gone. There are now virtual played age, but in general, if you're being responsible, your played age are probably done even with the next door, neighbours or good friends, and that leaves children and their parents feeling cooped up in wondering how to fill the timing and fighting over how much screen time people get, and so yes, it is immensely stress oh and frustrating, and there will be times when we want to pull our hair out, and we can excused for feeling that way, but at the same time, if we never take a moment to say yes, I dont like these circumstances, I wish they were different, but how What is it that it's the five of us here and that there is no distraction and we're gonna watch a movie together and we're gonna work on arithmetic together It really is an exciting opportunity and when our lives get busy again, we might miss it and so one piece of advice as to leverage the upsides, both in our circumstances, but also
relationships. But you have also given the advice that we need to do the opposite to which has taken a make sure were paying attention to the not so great parts of our relationships. Yes, help too identify for yourself and, together with your partner. What is it that We are good at in these circumstances, like we didn't. For these we didn't want these, but here we are. What are we good at? How can we make the most? those and then you're? Absolutely right what we back out and how can we hold it together because we're gonna be locked in like this at least, for weeks and possibly for months, and if we don't feel you're out a way to mitigate or reduce the amount of frustration. It's gonna get bad here, and here I mean to be cavalier when I say it could get physically. Bat, like I am really concerned that, alongside various other consequences of the virus in the quarantine that one of them will be a spike in domestic violence, there is a my distress, stress and a huge amount of conflict and very few,
to escape, and I am concerned that not fifty percent couples or anything like that, but that will see some type of problem like that: and so we need to attend not only to the places We can really connect with our partner. Maybe it's the wine and the game of cards, but also to those specific handful of things, that our real danger spot you. So how do we handle those dangerous basque? As I'm sure there are lots of folks in couples listening who are like yeah communications, nigh, really grey area like yeah? I know you know doubling down on my husband when I know I'm kind of nagging came not so great like like that. How do you actually addressed us whether three options, one is. We can have the sort of conversation that solves the problem. Oh, I didn't lies that was frustrating to thank you for sharing with me. Now. It's better, and that does happen, I'm not claiming that that's gonna be the solution to everything. There's another point: ability. A second option is to expect less to say you know what there's a virus
spreading the world and killing people, and we are stuck here in close proximity with some recalcitrant little people. Of course, we're gonna feel frustrated its normal to feel frustrated, I'm not going to catastrophe eyes, bees experience is to say how did we ever end up together, and maybe we can't be together any longer. There is a third possibility this sort of related to the second one- and it builds on this observation that I love from Marcel Proust, who says that mystery is not about travelling to new place, but about looking with new eyes while right now the planes are grounded. The trains run we're not traveling anywhere, so we can test his idea like? Can we look with new eyes when we think about our partner and the, Search in psychology is really promising here. That is yes, your PA You said that thing and yes, maybe it was a little snoopy, but we have a lot of power and how We interpret what she sat or he sat we get to determine did here.
She do that because he's disrespectful and doesn't we showed me. That's gonna have consequences for your relationship. If you draw that conclusion, or is it that really overwhelmed and trying to do the best you can in difficult situations. That too will have consequences for the relationship and much better ones. I love this idea and looking with new eyes, it seems like as part and parcel of something else Eve argue for it that this is the time for love hacks in our relationship, so tough tell me about these love. Hacks. Look like so love access to properties. They are that you can do by yourself, so they don't have to be Dayton. Age or conversations or during all trying to have more sex or anything like that, the things that you can just due to reorient how you think about things and they don't take much work, The question is: can we look with new eyes at these things, and so one of the things that I think is, if we can do at a very, very effective thing to do, is try to develop more generous explanations for why our partner with snappy with us, but there's a range of these things in it.
One of the studies from our lab looked at this idea of trying to think about conflict from the prospect a neutral third party who wants the best for everybody and what we did it recruited. A hundred and twenty couples from the Chicago area and we every form for two years asked them to report on the biggest fight they have over the previous four months and in the second, here we randomly assigned half the couples to do. An additional task they for seven minutes about that conflict. But from this neutral there, party perspective and then we tracked their relation to quality over time, and what we saw is that relative to people who were just in the control The russian people who were trying to think not only about the complex that there were having, but also trying to think about them, This generous third party perspective their relationships, We were better off afterward, not just in terms of satisfaction, but also in terms of things like trust, intimacy and even passion. So if you use this,
did you have going all in your own relationship? Yes, for sure, there's no specific way that you have to do it The idea is: is there something that we could do together is theirs? something that would be nice. Has it been kind, longer than I probably should be since we last had sex. Has it been kind of longer than it probably should be. Since we talked about anything other than the kids, has it been kind of longer than probably should be since we last played a game or played anything together for most of us the answer to at least one of those questions is yes and so going online says? Ok, I don't have the bandwidth for this all the time I don't have time for this all the time, but I'm owing to make sure it's a priority, at least some of the time, because I don't want a marriage that always fits in to the little left over time slots that I give it and that's ambiguity. Useless
you right now in part, because you know we need to work on a relationships now during covered more than ever, but also a lot of us are experiencing I'm windfalls that we ve never had before. You know those of us who aren't, we I have lots of time. Those of us who are working still don't aren't spending time on, come you and often the work is like less than it was before I like this. Is it a way to use our time windfall in a super positive way for our relationships for many, That's, not the people who are shopping for eleven dollars an hour for everybody else, but for many as this is an incredible opportunity and I think you're right windfall that if you'd do us a couple months ago, you're gonna have a few weeks. It's gonna be inconvenient, and it's gonna be scary. You are going to have a sweet Hours open for you your spouse, you and your spouse in your children are your significant other can use that to do anything that kind of doesnt drive you crazy, and how do you want to spend their time? We would have been thrilled with that deal. Figure
like that or whatever. So the circumstances are terrible, but some of the details are amazing and boy it would be, it would be. Gretel to miss this opportunity, and I think it's a nice way to sum up, one of the last things you said in your twitter feed, which is that, if you had to sum up your advice, it would just be to tell everyone to be kind to the people that are talk with them in this crisis. Our sympathy and kindness generally against energy and life again, not necessarily the one that will always protect you from exploitation, but the one. Will generally make your life better. It's more important now mutual at a time when we're all going through something pretty intense, there's no rule book and all of us will make some false steps thus will say something that didn't come out like we meant it, and all of us will feel frustration and, being I and the other members of our family and frankly, being kind to ourselves is a pretty good. Of making sure that the difficult stuff doesn't spiral into something seriously back. Are you hopeful that if people know these tapes, they come from sight
Then we'll do better than we have seen and past crises like people can really apply them in ways that push you more towards the puzzle, now comes in this crisis and less towards the yucky one. Oh yeah. I got here amount of what happens. Who relationships a huge amount of the destruction or or the corrosion erosion. Maybe that happens. To relationships is in attention is like not necessarily inattention to each other but inattention to slow erosion and failure to think I'm, not ok, with us being thrilled on our on our wedding night and like one or two percent less happy every year after that that eventually, even if we don't notice it in any given year in the same way that most of us eventually gain weight, even though we didn't notice that we gained a given pound, and so I hope the people listening we'll take a few extra minutes. A few extra neurons firing to say I do care about.
Relationship, I do care about my family and theirs. Something in there like. I don't know which one strategy is no like the seven tricks to make every relationship great, but there are ways of thinking about these things that absolutely can help the the majority of us have a better relationship. So there you have it some best practices for love in the time of cover I for one plenty, you some of you I strategies with my own husband mark, I'm gonna, try double down even more during this challenging time, and I hope you will do, and I also hope that you'll come back for the next special covert nineteen episode of the happiness lab with me, doctor lorry centres the happiness laugh is pushing Pontiac its co, written in use by Ryan, Jelly and mastered by Evan, Vila original music is written by Zachary Silver specialities. To bend Davis Heather fan
highly migratory Julia by Neil about Jacob icebergs and the rest of the Pushkin crib. A strange thing happened to me in the library, while back I needed to pick up a few books This was before the quarantine, a question was nagging me. It had been nagging me for a long time who killed truth, This truth problem. It isn't just bad its deadly, It's also way older than it might seem. This mystery its historical Jennifer and I'm a historian at Harvard and staff failure at the new Yorker has been a lot. Time trying to solve mysteries like this one. So anyway, I was at the library at first everything seem normal hum swiped, my card. The elevator down to the basement. It puts volumes of the shelves and then I saw it.
Something I never seen before down here at the end of the road hidden in the shadows. Green door was a sign on the door tarnished breastplate, we barely make out the words it read. The last archive everybody, tv and radio, confuse hello, right right. Hello. How are you no one's there, the voice from the past voices, yeah
We waited period prior, woe heralded the discovery which assured and who want to ban time was granted in here. He's lying before Corona virus, a congressional debate about the government's role in developing a vaccine. Is there any other term forward firm, socialized, medicine, old horror, movies therein, here too punch cards from the forgotten history of the National Data Center network, referred to as being that work is now and operate in wreckers records of bird songs considered America's foremost songbird hermits rush, all these voices from the past sound nobody is heard for decades. Maybe somewhere in this vast last archive this corridor the mind I can find what looking for that question
killed truth? I decided to start a podcast. It's called the last archived hotel, stories from hundred years, a history of America arguments about truth and evidence if you wanted I found Mimi back here. I leave the door unlocked the last archived coming soon brought to you, Pushkin industries,
Transcript generated on 2020-05-26.