it's beginning to look a lot like...

Christmas is right around the corner. And you know what that means! You get to spend some quality time with all of your friends and family. Many of you will be traveling in the next couple of days to far away places, while others may be hosting the entire family at their homes. Initially, this sounds like a great idea, but the truth of the matter is that the holidays can be an extremely stressful time. From sleeping on an uncomfortable pull-out couch, to your kids bouncing off the walls because it's too cold to go outside, to arguing over which family member's house you're going to for Christmas dinner, the holidays can cause serious conflict in your relationships with family, friends, and significant others. So, what can you do to make this year as stress-free as possible?

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I have a few suggestions. 

  • Relax. Try not to stress out over all of the decorating, cleaning, and cooking. I know it may sound cheesy, but Christmas is about love, togetherness, and family, not who's house is the cleanest. Spend quality time with the ones you love. Talk to them. Don't just sit around. Turn off the TV and have some meaningful conversations. Don't have anything to talk about? You could have everyone name their favorite movie of 2008 or have each person talk their favorite or most hated celebrity of 2008. Any of these topics could create some interesting discussions with your family members. If you want to avoid unnecessary conflict, try to stay away from topics like politics, religion, or money.
  • Make something. Make a gingerbread house, decorate cookies, bake a cake or a pie, build a snowman, or make ornaments for your tree. Doing something with your family is really enjoyable for everyone involved. 
  • Play a game. Again, you want to actually do something with your friends and family instead of just vegging-out on the couch. Get out a board game, make some snacks, and play a game all afternoon.

When it comes to those crazy family members who seem to always say the wrong thing, stay calm. I know it's difficult (believe me, I know), but arguing during the holidays is not fun for anyone. For those of you who are those crazy family members, remember:

  • Don't criticize. Criticism can be extremely hurtful. It's also a great way to create animosity and conflict in your relationship. And so you know, any message that has the words "always" or "never" in reference to something that someone is doing or has done is usually considered criticism. For example, "Your kitchen is never clean" or "You always speed on this road" are examples of criticism. Try to avoid these messages this holiday.
  • If you're going to compliment someone, actually compliment. Many times people give back-handed compliments instead of real, genuine praises. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're in your Aunt Mable's kitchen, which is immaculate, and your Aunt Greta says, "Wow dear, this kitchen is so fancy, you've done a great job decorating it. I never would have thought that you had the decorating gene in you. I mean, the rest of your house, well..." C'mon people! Just stick with complimenting; there's no need to go down that road of negativity.
  • Keep your opinions to yourself. Unless you're asked, there is absolutely no reason why you should ever insert your opinions about how a child should be cared for, how to cook a holiday dish, how to decorate the tree, or the like. Unwanted advice is another excellent way to create conflict this holiday season (or any season for that matter).

If all else fails, go see the movie Four Christmases with your (adult) family... it's hilarious!

i can't get no satisfaction

This is a Student Love Lesson

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

Written By: Destiny Gensemer; Edited By: Me

After watching your most recent ex-boyfriend pull out of your driveway for the last time and his taillights disappear, it’s hard not to wonder what went wrong. You began the relationship with the best of intentions and everything was great in the beginning. But as you’re watching his cloud of dust settle back onto the road, you recognize how bittersweet the moment is. You cared about him of course, but as the time went on, you began to realize you weren’t satisfied with the relationship. Now you have the opportunity to find happiness with someone else. But how do you prevent this from happening again? Where did it go wrong? Why weren’t you satisfied? A recent study says that one possibility is your sex life.

Often, when good romantic relationships go bad, women blame men collectively for being afraid or unable to commit or they blame their own appearances, thinking they just aren’t beautiful enough to hold a man’s interest. However, we often don’t see how we get in our own way when it comes to creating happy, healthy, romantic relationships. According to a recent study, how we use sex in relationships has a big impact on our sexual and relational satisfaction (Birnbaum, 2007).

In the study, 96 relationally attached women of varying ages were examined in order to determine how attachment orientations contribute to sexual functioning and how those effect women’s views of their own romantic relationships. They were asked to complete self-report scales regarding attachment orientations, relationship satisfaction, sex-related influences on the relationship, and sexual functioning. The study found that women who have adopted two of the four most common attachment styles use sex in ways that lead to relational and sexual dissatisfaction.

In order to understand the findings of the study, you need to first understand the idea of attachment styles. Attachment styles are the ways in which we view ourselves and the people around us. These attachment styles subsequently influence our interactions and relationships with others. The two attachment styles which the study found to cause the greatest relational and sexual dissatisfaction were a fearful style, which results in attachment avoidance for fear of rejection, and a preoccupied style, which causes attachment anxiety and results in insecurity and neediness.

What does this have to do with your relational woes or sexual dissatisfaction? That depends on what your attachment style is. If you have an active sex life but don’t believe sex requires or strengthens an emotional bond with your partner, then you may be attachment avoidant and have a fearful attachment style. Women with this attachment style avoid pursuing intimate relationships for fear of rejection. Instead, they replace affectionate encounters with sexual ones. For these women, sexual satisfaction and relational aspects are disconnected.

If this sounds like your attachment style, satisfying relationships are probably eluding you because you keep partners an arm’s length away by not letting them get to know you on a more personal level. If you want to change your trend of casual, short-term relationships, you can start by waiting a couple months to have sex with a new relational partner. Another thing you should always remember about men is if you want a great catch, you’ve got to do some fishing. If you’re going to wait for him, you’ve got to make sure he is worth it, so don’t settle. As you get to know your partner, disclose information about yourself in small amounts at first, and then increase your disclosures over time as your partner earns your trust. Hopefully, your partner will do the same in return, and gradually, your fears of rejection will melt away, assuming of course this new man earns your devotion. These tactics will allow your relationship to develop on a more personal level and will prevent sex from interfering with the intimacy between you and your partner. Plus, sex is always better when you are emotionally attached to your partner.

Some women have the opposing attachment style to the one described above. If you are sexually and relationally dissatisfied and feel that your sexual satisfaction acts as sort of a barometer of the quality of your relationship (Davis, Shaver & Vernon, 2004), then you may feel attachment anxiety and have a preoccupied attachment style. Women with this attachment style may confuse sex with other relational aspects such as love and care-giving. That’s why attachment anxiety amplifies the effects of positive and negative sexual encounters on relational satisfaction.

If this sounds like it might be your attachment style, your relationships may be falling short of your hopes for them because it would be difficult for any partner to satisfy your definition of devotion. A fulfilling relationship is about more than reaching climax every time you have sex. Relationships are about two people who care about each other sharing trust, understanding, support, and mutual respect. If you rely solely on the quality of sex to judge your relationship status, you are going to be disappointed sometimes, no matter how much your partner loves you and you may miss out on chances to increase your emotional intimacy.

If you want to be more relationally satisfied, remember to pay attention to everything you and your partner do for each other even when you are not between the sheets. If ever you are feeling neglected by your partner or if you want a little more closeness and intimacy, you can ask him if he wants to spend a little quality time together. You could rent a movie and spend the evening cuddling under a blanket on the couch. You can still enjoy having sex with your partner; just make sure that you’re considering other aspects of your relationship when deciding whether or not you’re happy with your man.

Relationships don’t just happen, they take work and not just sex. Sex is a great way to strengthen a bond with someone you really care about, however it shouldn’t be the foundation of your relationship nor the barometer for measuring it. So, when a romantic relationship isn’t able to satisfy, don’t just sleep on it! Put your clothes on and figure out why you aren’t satisfied. The most important thing to decide is what you want from your relationship, why you’re not getting it, and what you need to do to make it more satisfying for you and your partner. If you need intimacy, don’t just settle for the physical kind. It will only last a short while, anyway. Communicate with your partner, tell them how you feel and what you need. Next time you feel like you can’t get no satisfaction, don’t head straight for the bedroom; instead, try talking to your partner about it.


  • Birnbaum, G. E. (2007). Attachment orientations, sexual function, and relationship satisfaction in a community sample of women. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 21-35.

To learn more about attachment styles and to find out your own style, click HERE.

is your attachment style freaking him out?

This is a Student Love Lesson

Is Your Attachment Style Freaking Him Out?

How You Could Be Making or Breaking Your Relationship

Written By: Erin Daugherty & Edited By: Jennie

When’s the last time you took an in-depth look into you and your significant others’ sex life? You know the basics; maybe you have a routine…he gets home from work, you eat together, watch your favorite show, get ready for bed, and then make love. Maybe your sex sessions are few and far between or maybe you two partake in the horizontal tango every day. But what you don’t realize is that close romantic relationships, sex included, are enhanced greatly by each members’ attachment orientations. Your sex life also provides some telltale signs into whether or not your relationship will last, based on your attachment styles. So, whether you have been wondering why your man is avoiding the nightly nookie, or are both enjoying satisfying sex, keep in mind that individuals with different types of attachment to their significant other have different conceptualizations of sex, along with different goals for sex, that influence the nature and quality of their romantic relationship.

Many women assume that if their man has sex with them, it’s because he's committing to a loving and emotionally satisfying relationship. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A recent article entitled, “Attachment and Daily Sexual Goals: A Study of Dating in Couples,” published in Personal Relationships, explains that differences in sexual goals are abundant. The article discusses two types of attachment styles: avoidant and anxious. Think about your friend who is obsessive about where her man is at all times, calls him once an hour, and plans her life around what her man is doing so she can always be close to him. Got someone in mind? This friend would be the perfect example of someone with an anxious attachment style. Someone with attachment anxiety “engages in behaviors in order to secure the proximity and supportiveness of others,” (Impett, Gordon, & Strachman, 2008, p. 377). Now, imagine a friend that is slow to get in relationships, has a general distrust that her man will be available when she needs him, and keeps herself closed off to falling in love. This friend has attachment avoidance, and she “creates independence and emotional distance from attachment figures and employs deactivating strategies when their attachment system is activated, “ (Impett et al., 2008, p. 377). Couples that maintain low levels of anxiety and avoidance are viewed as securely attached. (You can find out what your attachment style is by clicking here.)

The researchers had 84 college couples complete a a survey to determine their attachment style, and then, for 14 consecutive days, one member of the couple wrote in a journal about his or her sexual goals each time they engaged in sexual intercourse with their partner. This person rated the importance of 10 reasons influencing their decision to engage in sex on a 7-point scale, 7 being extremely important and 1 being not at all important. Some examples of the “reasons” to engage in sex were “to pursue my own sexual pleasure”, “to feel good about myself”, and “to please my partner.” Impett et al. (2008) explains that the current study assessed both members of romantic couples in order to examine the participant and their partner’s effects of attachment dimensions on one member’s daily sexual goals.

The results of this study found that, no matter what type of attachment men had in their relationship, men still believe that sex serves more of a physical purpose than an emotional purpose, even when these men are in relationships. If men had an anxiety attachment style, meaning that they were more obsessive about being around their girlfriend, they most often engaged in sexual activities to enhance intimacy and to please their partner, but still also had sex to pursue their own pleasure and to feel good about themselves. These guys used sex as a way to cope with stress and negative emotions. Avoidantly attached men, those who kept themselves distantly uninvolved in their relationships, most often had sex to prevent their partner from becoming upset and to feel good about themselves. These guys reported having sex solely to reduce stress and feel better about themselves, especially since they desire to avoid intimacy and closeness, which sex often brings.

So how does this affect you? Well, consider your attachment style. Are you someone who has trouble doing things on their own and feel uncomfortable without a man in your life? Or do you consider yourself more independent and able to go without the sugary romantic stuff? You may be either anxious (the former) or avoidant (the latter). Now, don’t automatically assume that these are flaws; use them to your advantage instead! Get more pleasure (in bed and in life) out of your relationship and change the way your man thinks of you. After all, for most women, sex is an important emotional connection to a relationship. We’ve already learned that men think of sex as more of a physical aspect of the relationship… so try to change his mind by helping him connect with you in the bedroom on a more emotional level!

If you are anxiously attached, consider that your man may not want to have sex as often due to the frustration in having to “deal” with having a clingy anxious partner. Try doing more things on your own and to communicate with your man (whether it be through cell, e-mail, or txt) only once or twice a day. Your man will find your new individual outlook refreshing, and he’ll be begging to see you (and sex you!) more often. More of the avoidant type? Try to incorporate your man into your plans more often. If you have an errand to run, invite him along and treat him to dinner. Bring him barhopping with your friends (they’re probably dying to meet him anyway!), or ask him to spend the night at your place. He’ll love that you’re showing him you care about him more, and I'm sure you’ll be rewarded for it in the sack!

Just remember, in the end, romantic relationships are one of the most important sources of life satisfaction and emotional well-being across the life span. Women who are securely attached to their partners experience high relationship satisfaction and stability, whereas women who are less securely attached (more avoidant or anxious) experience lower levels of happiness and are less likely to stay together with their man over time. So avoid the unnecessary break up, and start cluing yourself into your type of attachment, and challenging yourself to adjust your behaviors… it could mean a world of difference, inside and outside of the bedroom, for you and your partner!


  • Impett, E.A., Gordon, A.M., & Strachman, A. (2008). Attachment and daily sexual goals: A study of dating couples. Personal Relationships, 15, 375-390.

For more information about attachment styles, click here.

the next few posts

As I've said before, a few days a week, I teach an undergraduate Interpersonal Communication course. At the end of each semester, my students are required to find an academic journal article that they find interesting and write a magazine-style article based on the article's findings. This year, I had some exceptionally excellent papers and I thought I'd showcase a few of them (with each author's permission of course). I've decided to take the cream-of-the-crop papers, edit them a little, and post them on my blog. So, look out for the next few student-authored posts (each student's name will be displayed at the beginning of the post).

quick love tip: make your gift

Having trouble finding the perfect gift for your significant other this holiday season? Look no further! This year, you can try something new by making your partner a gift. While most homemade gifts don't cost a lot of money, they can become more valuable to your partner than any Xbox, iPod, or pair of expensive earrings. Some of my most treasured gifts from Hus (my husband) were made by him.

Check out these easy gift ideas that you can make this holiday season for someone you love.

A Photo Memory Book
  • There are many different ways that you can go about doing this. First, you can go to a photo book website like Shutterfly, Snapfish, or even Walmart, upload your photos, choose a book, and then organize your photos in the book. Think of a cute title for your book and you can even include captions with the photos. Second, you could create your own photo scrapbook (you know, with paper and tape). Choose a theme for your book and include photos and captions through out. A great theme for either of these books is a "reasons for love" theme. Here, you could provide 20 (give or take a few) reasons that you love your partner. When your partner receives this gift, he or she will treasure it forever.

Paint a Painting
  • Artistic? Get a canvas from the arts & crafts store, choose some paint colors, and create a meaningful painting for the one you love. From a modern geometrical design that matches your partner's home decor to the scene of your first date to an interpretation of what love means to you, painting something for your mate is an intimate way to express yourself and show your partner your true feelings.

Make Some Jewelry
  • Stay away from Kay's, Shaw's, and Jared's this year. Instead, head off to a bead store or arts & crafts store to make your own jewelry. You can read and watch tutorials here, here, or here to learn how to make gorgeous jewelry for your mate. You could even make a custom tag with your name on it to show who the jewelry is made by. Something like, "Custom Jewelry by Jennie" on a tag attached to the jewelry would be the perfect finishing touch to this creative gift. Not only will this save you some serious moolah, but your partner will delight in all of the thought and hard work you put into making him or her custom jewelry this holiday.

Create a Set of Candles
  • Instead of spending tons of money on expensive designer candles, make your own. Go to the arts & crafts store and pick out some unscented candle wax and something to put the wax in (either a glass vase or a mold to make stand-alone candles). Then, you can choose your partner's favorite scent and color to mix in the wax (By the way, if you don't find a color that you like, you can use crayons! Just drop the whole crayon in the wax and the color will spread through out.). Make sure that you strictly follow candle making instructions (You can find some instructions here & here) because you don't want to ruin your pots and pans or get your candle stuck in a mold. Once your candles have hardened, there are many different ways that you can decorate them including, glueing a ribbon around the bottom or glueing small items to the bottom half of the candle. These candles work great for people who need to take a break, sit back, and relax. You could even include some massage oils and a "one free massage" coupon in this gift to be used with the candles. A very romantic and thoughtful gift.

Any of these gifts will wow your partner and express your love for him or her. For more ideas about making a great gift for your partner or someone else you love, see the following resources:

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Click HERE to read all of my "quick love tips"

wise love words: put some thought into your gifts

Many of you will be buying (or making) gifts for your significant other this holiday season. Gift-giving can be an important part of many close relationships. No pressure, but the right gift can show someone how much you love them, while the wrong gift can make someone wonder if you understand them at all.

Check out this interesting article about how poor gifts can affect your relationship.

And stay tuned for a post about making your partner a thoughtful gift this holiday...

stay positive... but not all of the time

At times, we can get irritated with our partners, have disagreements, or misunderstand each other. What do you do in these situations? Do you mark these experiences up as yet another negative interaction in your relationship or do you look for the positive aspects of these experiences? How do you deal with the negative experiences you have with your mate?

Researchers have identified many strategies that people use to keep the peace such as, focusing your attention on your mate's positive characteristics (Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996), voicing concern, or simply remaining loyal and hoping for the best (Rusbult, Verette, Whitney, Slovik, & Lipkus, 1991). One effective way for partners to cope with such negative events is through the use of benevolent cognitions, that is, interpreting negative events in ways that allow each partner to maintain positive views of the relationship and of each other (Neff & Karney, 2005). Couples who use this strategy, and don't blame each other for negative events, tend to experience high levels of relationship satisfaction and stability over time (Brandbury & Fincham, 1990). 

This research, however, has only focused on minor, more everyday negative experiences, as opposed to serious relationship problems. So, what happens when couples are facing severe problems in their relationship?

A recent study by McNulty, O'Mara, and Karney (2008) examined whether the strategy of benevolent cognitions is also effective with couples facing intense marital problems. To do this, the researchers followed 251 newly married couples over a four year period.

What did they find?
  • The impact of benevolent cognitions on relationship satisfaction and stability depends on the amount of initial negativity in the relationship.
  • Individuals who make positive attributions of negative experiences in the long-run, are only more likely to have higher marital satisfaction in their relationships if they are in overall positive marriages with minimal marital problems.
  • Couples, with serious marital problems, who use the benevolent cognition strategy tend to experience decreases in overall marital satisfaction and stability over time.

What's the take-away message?
  • Coping with negativity in your relationship by focusing on the positive is a great strategy to maintain or improve marital satisfaction for couples who have mild marital problems.
  • Coping with negativity in your relationship by focusing on the positive is NOT a good strategy to maintain or improve marital satisfaction for couples who have serious marital problems because it lowers their motivation to address problems directly.

So, it's great to look on the bright side... but not all of the time! Make sure that you talk to your mate about serious issues in your relationship.

  • Brandbury, T. N., & Fincham, F. D. (1990). A contextual model for advancing the study of marital interaction. In G. J. O. Fletcher & F. D. Fincham (Eds.), Cognition in close relationships (pp. 127- 147). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • McNulty, J., O'Mara, E., & Karney, B. (2008). Benevolent cognitions as a strategy of relationship maintenance: "Don't sweat the small stuff"... But it is not all small stuff. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 631- 646.
  • Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). The benefits of positive illusions: Idealizations and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 79-98.
  • Neff, L. A.,  & Karney, B. R. (2005). To know you is to love you: The implications of global adoration and specific accuracy for marital relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 480-497.

book i love: how to make your relationship sweeter, deeper, and more passionate

"Witty, poetic, and exuberant, this book helps readers enhance their skills and develop the capacity to get what they want out of love. Each entry stands alone to be read again and again. Kingma celebrates the importance of love and teaches how to enrich any relationship in a beautifully down-to-earth style" (Product Description).

You can buy this great book by Daphne Rose Kingma on amazon for about $10!

Click HERE to read about other "books i love"
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