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January 2011



Recent Posts


Why More Intelligent Men (But Not Women) Value Sexual Exclusivity

Intelligence affects men’s (but not women’s) value on sexual exclusivity

A marriage made in hormones:

The New York Times has a fantastic article on how the way married couples relate to each other can have a major impact on health, although there are many intriguing interpersonal subtleties that go beyond simply being in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ relationship.

The piece reviews the extensive evidence on how stress impacts on the immune system and discusses how, in general, marriage has a host of health benefits. However, relationship conflict can have some dramatic negative effects on well-being. In one eye-opening study just getting couples to discuss a marital disagreement slowed minor wound healing down by up to a day.

One of the most interesting bits of the article tackles the link between risk for heart disease and arguing style, noting that even in happy couples, specific ways of resolving disputes had an impact on health – although interestingly different styles had a different effect on men and women.

The women in his study who were at highest risk for signs of heart disease were those whose marital battles lacked any signs of warmth, not even a stray term of endearment during a hostile discussion (“Honey, you’re driving me crazy!”) or a minor pat on the back or squeeze of the hand, all of which can signal affection in the midst of anger. “Most of the literature assumes that it’s how bad the arguments get that drives the effect, but it’s actually the lack of affection that does it,” Smith told me. “It wasn’t how much nasty talk there was. It was the lack of warmth that predicted risk.”

For men, on the other hand, hostile and negative marital battles seemed to have no effect on heart risk. Men were at risk for a higher coronary calcium score, however, when their marital spats turned into battles for control. It didn’t matter whether it was the husband or wife who was trying to gain control of the matter; it was merely any appearance of controlling language that put men on the path of heart disease.

In both cases, the emotional tone of a marital fight turned out to be just as predictive of poor heart health as whether the individual smoked or had high cholesterol. It is worth noting that the couples in Smith’s study were all relatively happy. These were husbands and wives who loved each other. Yet many of them had developed styles of conflict that took a physical toll on each other. The solution, Smith noted, isn’t to stop fighting. It’s to fight more thoughtfully.

A thoroughly fascinating article.

Link to NYT piece ‘Is Marriage Good for Your Health?’.


Source:  http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/04/a_marriage_made_in_h.html

A Declining Relationship? Recharge It Through “Indifference”

You can revitalize your relationship by learning to become “indifferent”

For Alcohol-Dependent Women With Supportive Spouses, Couples Therapy Can Be The Best Choice

Article Date: 22 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

Barbara McCrady and Elizabeth Epstein wanted to know whether cognitive behavior therapy worked better for alcohol-dependent women when delivered as couples therapy than when delivered as individual therapy. They reported recently that both treatment methods worked well, but women treated in couples therapy maintained their gains a bit better than those in individual therapy. Also, women suffering from depression in addition to alcohol-dependence did better in couples therapy. Their paper appeared recently in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Epstein is an associate research professor at the Center of Alcohol Studies. McCrady, formerly a professor of psychology at Rutgers, now directs the University of New Mexico’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions.

Alcohol use disorders hit women particularly hard, physically and psychologically. Epstein and McCrady cite earlier studies’ findings that between 4 and 8 percent of women under age 44 are alcohol-dependent, that as many as 65 percent of alcohol-dependent women have some additional psychiatric disorder, and that women are less likely to seek treatment for alcoholism than men. Alcohol-dependent women have high rates of distressed marriages and not much support from members of their social networks when they try to break that dependence. Until recently, there has not been much research on unique treatments for alcohol use disorders in women.

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186204.php

By William L. White, M.A. and Robert J. Lindsey, M.Ed., CEAP

On April 25th, Hallmark Hall of Fame will broadcast the movie “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” starring Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper (CBS, 9:00 pm ET). The movie, which portrays the life of Lois Wilson, co-founder of Al-Anon Family Groups and wife of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, is based on William G. Borchert’s 2005 book, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough.

Borchert’s earlier screenplay was the basis of the acclaimed movie My Name is Bill W. which starred James Woods, James Garner, and JoBeth Williams. The premiere of the movie also falls during the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.’s (NCADD) 24th Annual Alcohol Awareness Month with its theme, “When Love Is Not Enough: Helping Families Coping With Alcoholism.”

Lois Wilson fell in love with a man whose alcoholism brought his life and their relationship to the brink before he began his personal recovery and helped found Alcoholics Anonymous. Lois and many of the other wives of early AA members also began to band together for mutual support, formalizing these meetings into Al-Anon Family Groups in 1951.

When Love is Not Enough is the story of Lois Wilson and her life with Bill Wilson. The reach of her and their stories is unfathomable and inseparable from the larger stories of AA and Al-Anon and the influence their lives would exert on the larger story of the professional treatment and recovery of individuals and families affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As William Borchert suggests:

“In the end, Bill Wilson’s alcoholism proved not to be the tragic undoing of this brilliant and loving couple, but rather the beginning of two of the twentieth century’s most important social and spiritual movements- Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups.”

There are presently more than 114,500 Alcoholics Anonymous groups (with a combined membership of more than 2 million) and more than 25,000 Al-Anon/Alateen groups (with a combined membership estimated at more than 340,000) hosting local meetings worldwide.

When Love is Not Enough is clearly more than a love story, though it is surely that. Readers of Psych Central and the people they serve will discover in this movie six profound lessons about the impact of alcoholism and alcoholism recovery on intimate relationships and the family.

1. Prolonged cultural misunderstandings about the nature of alcoholism have left a legacy of family shame and secrecy. Centuries of debates between those advocating religious, moral, criminal, psychiatric, psychological, medical and sociological theories of alcoholism failed to offer clear guidance to individuals and families affected by alcoholism. When Love is Not Enough is in part a poignant history of the hidden desperation many families experienced before the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and modern alcoholism treatment. Lois Wilson and Anne Bingham helped change that history in 1951 when they organized 87 groups of wives of AA members into the Al-Anon Family Groups.

2. Alcoholism is a family disease in the sense that it also wounds those closest to the alcohol dependent person; transforms family relationships, roles, rules, and rituals; and isolates the family from potential sources of extended family, social, and community support. And, it has far reaching, long-lasting effects on the physical and emotional health of the family and children. When Love is Not Enough conveys the physical and emotional distress of those struggling to understand a loved one who has lost control of drinking and its consequences.

It vividly portrays the disappointment, confusion, frustration, anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, guilt, shame, anxiety and depression family members experience in the face of alcoholism. The recognition that significant others and their children become as sick as the person addicted and are in need of a parallel pathway of recovery were the seeds from which Al-Anon and Alateen grew.

3. The family experience of alcoholism is often one of extreme duality. When Love is Not Enough poignantly conveys this duality: brief hope-inspiring interludes of abstinence or moderated drinking, periods of peacefulness, moments of love and shared dreams for the future — all relentlessly violated by explosive bouts of drinking and their devastating aftereffects. Memories of that lost person and those moments and dreams co-exist even in the face of the worst effects of alcoholism on the family.

It is only in recognizing this duality of experience and the character duality of the alcoholic that one can answer the enigmatic question that is so often posed about Lois Wilson’s contemporary counterparts, “Why does she/he stay with him/her?” As clinicians, we can too often forget that these family stories contain much more than the pathology of alcohol or drug dependence (White, 2006).

4. Family recovery from alcoholism is a turbulent, threatening and life-changing experience. The hope of all families and children wounded by alcoholism is that the drinking will stop and with it, the arrival of an idyllic family life. Lois Wilson’s story confirms what research on family recovery from addiction is revealing: recovery from alcoholism can destabilize intimate and family relationships. Stephanie Brown and Virginia Lewis (1999), in their studies of the impact of alcoholism recovery on the family, speak of this as the “trauma of recovery.”

People recovering from alcoholism, their families, and their children can and often do achieve optimum levels of health and functioning, but this achievement is best measured in years rather than days, weeks, or months. That recognition in the life of Lois Wilson underscored the need for sustained support for families as they went through this process.

5. We cannot change another person, only ourselves. If there is a central, singular message from Lois Wilson’s life and from the Al-Anon Family Groups program, this may well be it. Al-Anon’s defining moments came when family members stopped focusing on how they could change and control their addicted family member and focused instead on their own need for regeneration and spiritual growth, the overall health of their families and the comfort and help they could offer each other and other families similarly affected.

Their further discovery that AA’s twelve step program of recovery could also guide the healing of family members marks the birth of the modern conceptualization of family recovery. The 2009 Al-Anon Membership Survey confirms the wide and enduring benefits members report experiencing as a result of their sustained involvement in Al-Anon—irrespective of the drinking status of their family members.

6. The wonder of family recovery. As a direct result of Lois’s groundbreaking work in co-founding Al-Anon and the impact it has had on the field of alcohol and drug treatment, family recovery from alcoholism is a reality for millions of Americans today, and the hope, help, and healing of family recovery has become the most powerful way to break the intergenerational cycle of alcoholism and addiction in the family.

The growing interest in the lives of Bill and Lois Wilson — as indicated by a stream of memoirs, biographies, plays, and films — is testimony to the contributions that Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups have made to personal and family recovery from alcoholism and to the ever-widening adaptation of the Twelve Steps to other problems of living (Wilson, 1994).

Psych Central readers will find much of value in “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” including the power of Al-Anon as a tool of support for clients living with someone else’s alcoholism. A DVD of the movie and a Viewer’s Guide, for use as a tool in family and community education, will be available at www.hallmarkhalloffame.com on April 25th, the day of the movie’s premiere.


Al-Anon membership survey. (Fall, 2009). Virginia Beach, VA: Al-Anon Family Headquarters, Inc.

Borchert, W.G. (2005). The Lois Wilson story: When love is not enough. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Brown, S., & Lewis, V. (1999). The alcoholic family in recovery: A developmental model. New York & London: Guilford Press.

White, W. (2006). [Review of the book The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is Not Enough, by W. G. Borchert]. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 24(4), 159-162.

Wilson, L. (1979). Lois remembers: Memoir of the co-founder of Al-Anon and wife of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Additional Resources

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 800-4AL-ANON (888-425-2666), Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET.

Alcoholics Anonymous

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

Source:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/04/22/alcoholism-family-and-the-limits-of-love/

Therapy Can Help Even Very Distressed Married Couples, Largest Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2010) — The largest, most comprehensive clinical trial of couple therapy ever conducted has found that therapy can help even very distressed married couples if both partners want to improve their marriage. The study also involved the longest and most comprehensive follow-up assessment of couple therapy ever conducted.

“It takes only one person to end a marriage but two people to make it work,” said Andrew Christensen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study, which appears in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

The study included 134 married couples, 71 in Los Angeles and 63 in Seattle. Most were in their 30s and 40s, and slightly more than half had children. The couples were “chronically, seriously distressed” and fought frequently, but they were hoping to improve their marriages.

“We didn’t want couples who would get better on their own,” Christensen said. “We wanted couples who were consistently unhappy. We excluded almost 100 couples who wanted couple therapy but who did not meet our criteria of consistent and serious distress.”

The couples received up to 26 therapy sessions within a year. Psychologists conducted follow-up sessions approximately every six months for five years after therapy ended.

Read More:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419151119.htm

Serial Adultery: Is It Chance or Character?

When does repeated adultery become an issue of character?

Looking For Smiles: How Stories Shape Relationships

Pat LaDouceur, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 19th 2010

When my daughter was younger, we had a ritual. It happened when something went wrong, and she felt disappointed or frustrated. Sometimes it was easy to comfort her – I’d give her a hug or read her a story. But other times it felt impossible. Her frustration would trigger my frustration, which would trigger hers – a spiraling “cycle of frustration”. Distracting her didn’t work. Ignoring her made it worse. So sometimes we would step out of the frustration cycle and do something different. We would head into our back yard, hand in hand, and look for smiles.

Smiles can be elusive, especially when you’re frustrated, so sometimes our search took awhile. We’d look behind bushes and under rocks. We’d walk up a hill to the very top of our yard and look along the fence behind the vines of bougainvillea. Sometimes we’d pick an orange and eat it while we thought about where to look next. And the amazing thing was, we always found one eventually. There was always a smile hiding somewhere in the yard.

As I think back on this ritual of ours, I focus on three things. First, it’s something we did together. Second, we kept at it. And third, we found a new way to see the problem. What started out as frustration ended up as a journey. Together we were looking for smiles.

Stories Couples Tell

When couples first come to my office, both people are frustrated, and there is often a lot that isn’t working. Each person has a story about his or her partner, which goes something like this: “He doesn’t care.” “I don’t matter.” “She doesn’t need me.” “Nothing I do is right.”

They also have stories about their relationship: “We’re too different from each other.” “All we do is argue.” “We can’t agree on anything.”

Read More:  http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36612&cn=289

Does Marriage Help Your Health and Happiness?

By John M Grohol PsyD

The answer to this question of the ages is found within an insightful, detailed 3,800 word article by Tara Parker-Pope over at The New York Times. Although lengthy, it explores the research into this issue and focuses on the work by Ronald Glaser and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser from Ohio State University who’ve been studying the intersection of psychology on the biology of humans since the 1980s:

The two scientists were fascinated by each other’s work, which they often discussed over meals or while jogging together. Glaser suggested that they collaborate professionally, but finding common ground was a challenge: he studied virology and immunology; she was a clinical psychologist who focused on assertiveness and other behavior. In the early 1980s, however, Kiecolt-Glaser came across a book on the emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology, which concerns the interplay between behavior, the immune and endocrine systems and the brain and nervous system. The couple were intrigued by a science that lay at the intersection of their disciplines. […]

In their first research collaboration, they sought to measure the effect of psychological stress on the immune system. Although earlier studies had established that trauma and other major stress — like the death of a loved one or prolonged sleep deprivation — weakened the immune system, the Glasers wanted to know if lesser forms of stress, like those associated with the workplace or graduate school, had a similar effect.

Who would’ve thought that two scientists in unrelated fields would find a way to work together like that? It’s exactly those kinds of pairings that can result in startling new insights into a field where the common wisdom may be entrenched. Borrowing from other fields can allow us to look at old problems with new eyes.

Getting back to the question — does marriage help your health and happiness? Sure, as long as it’s a good marriage. Unhealthy marriages don’t help an individual’s health, and in fact may hurt it. Research has shown that people in unhealthy marriages might as well not be married at all — they are more susceptible to illness than happier couples, for instance.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/04/17/does-marriage-help-your-health-and-happiness/

When Choosing Romantic Partners, Quantity May Determine Quality

The context in which humans meet potential mates has a hidden influence on who they decide to pursue. In particular, when people have a large number of potential dating partners to select among, they respond by paying attention to different types of characteristics – discarding attributes such as education, smoking status, and occupation in favor of physical characteristics such as height and weight.

A number of studies in recent years have looked at what happens to humans when faced with extensive choice – too many kinds of chocolate, or too many detergents to choose from at the grocery store. Under such circumstances, consumer psychologists believe that the brain may become “overwhelmed,” potentially leading to poorer quality choice or choice deferral. Psychological scientist Alison Lenton, of the University of Edinburgh, and economist Marco Francesconi, of the University of Essex, wanted to know if the same was true of mate choice, given that humans have been practicing this particular choice for millennia. “Is having too many mate options really like having too many jams?” they ask. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

To find out how people respond to relatively limited versus extensive mate choice, Lenton and Francesconi analyzed data from 84 speed dating events, which is where people meet with a series of potential dates for three minutes each. Afterward, the men and women report their choices (a “yes” or “no” for each person). It should surprise no one that choosers generally preferred people who were taller, younger, and well-educated. Women also preferred partners who weren’t too skinny, and men preferred women who weren’t overweight. Beyond that, though, the attributes that speed daters paid attention to depended on how many opposite-sex speed daters attended the event.

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/185725.php

More Dating Choices = More Shallow Decisions

By John M Grohol PsyD

In our fast-paced, consumer-driven society, we often believe — wrongly — that more choices are always better. But as we’ve shown time and time again, too many choices is just as bad as too few choices.

Nowhere is this more true than in the world of dating, where previous research has demonstrated the downsides of too many online dating choices. That’s why online dating websites like Match.com work hard to try and limit your choices (although they don’t always do a good job at it). And that’s why eHarmony makes a big deal about using personality characteristics to match you at a “deeper level” (there’s no research to back eHarmony’s claims — it’s just marketing).

Today, we add yet another study to the pile of research demonstrating the downfalls of too much choice.

Read More:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/04/16/more-dating-choices-more-shallow-decisions/

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