Entries in Romeo & Juliet (4)


Romeo and Juliet Would Have Broken up…Quickly

We all have that one friend who is in a terrible relationship with a person whom you simply cannot stand. You know what I mean, the on-again off-again relationship…the one where your friend/family member is WAY too good for the person that they’re dating. The kind of relationship where the couple constantly argues, makes up, then starts another argument as they’re in the middle of making up. As a friend or family member it’s exhausting to watch someone go through that cycle. But even more exhausting is the fact that you have to deal with a person (your friend’s partner) you don’t like! And no matter how many “talks” you have with your friend it feels like they just won’t listen to your advice. Well it might feel that way, but according to the research your disapproval is actually making the relationship worse…which is great if you’re rooting for a breakup.

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Questioning The Romeo And Juliet Effect: Is Parental Interference Good Or Bad For A Relationship?

(Reposted from The Psychology of Human Sexuality)

 In 1972, a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology announced scientific support for the so-called “Romeo and Juliet effect." The basic idea was that the more parents try to interfere in a couple’s relationship, the stronger that relationship becomes--just like in Shakespeare's classic story. Given both the sexy name and intuitive appeal of this idea, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that this effect has been cited hundreds of times in academic journals and textbooks. In recent years, however, several scientists (myself included) have grown skeptical of this idea because it just doesn’t seem to fit with what the broader literature on social approval and relationships has reported.

For instance, I published a series of three studies over the last decade showing that when one’s family and friends do not accept or approve of one’s relationship, the health of the partners and the quality of the relationship tends to suffer. Specifically, when people perceive that their romantic relationship is marginalized, not only do they report worse physical and psychological health [1] and less commitment to their relationship [2], but they also have an increased likelihood of breaking up in the next year [3] (see here for a more detailed summary of some of this research). In light of these results, one might reasonably predict the opposite of the Romeo and Juliet effect: when parents don’t approve of a relationship and try to interfere, that relationship is more likely to deteriorate rather than flourish.

But if this is the case, how do we explain the findings of the 1972 study?

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When Friends & Family Disapprove of Your Relationship: Is the "Romeo & Juliet Effect" Real?

One of the things I love about being a relationships researcher is that I can sit down to watch a Hollywood flick and consider it productive time because it gives me so many great research ideas. Hollywood loves to investigate the inner workings of relationships and love, albeit not always with the most accurate or "empirically informed" lens. Take, for instance, the concept of support for romantic relationships. This is a widely studied topic in social psychology and has graced the screens of numerous Hollywood flicks. According to how love stories typically play out on the silver screen, love conquers all, opposites attract, and in-laws are terrifying creatures. For example, in The Notebook, Allie’s parents deceive Noah and Allie because sadly, Noah is from the "wrong side of the tracks" and is not good enough for the well-bred Miss Hamilton. Despite being kept apart by disapproving parents, love wins out in the end, so much so that by the end of the movie (spoiler alert) love even wins out over Alzheimer’s disease (who knew!).

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When Friends and Family Disapprove: Is There a “Romeo and Juliet Effect?"

I saw a fantastic symposium on what happens to people in romantic relationships when their friends and family disapprove. As Colleen Sinclair and others explained, findings from one classic study conducted in the 1970s showed that disapproval from parents can make a relationship even stronger. This finding was dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet Effect,” after Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers whose families were hated enemies (and thus, would not approve of their relationship).

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