Author: Rachel Vanderbilt, PhD

Dr. Rachel Vanderbilt is the host of the Relationship Doctor podcast. She is a relationship scientist whose research examines how we communicate in our romantic relationships. Specifically, she studies how we communicate in our romantic relationships as we age and our relationships mature, particularly during conflicts that are difficult to resolve. She believes that we can all benefit from evidence-based recommendations about how to have healthy and happy relationships. Do you have a question for the Relationship Doctor podcast? You can leave a voice message for the show by calling (813) 397-8165 or send an email to relationshipdoctor@quickanddirtytips.com. You might hear your question on a future episode.

Hello listeners! I’m on maternity leave, but this week I wanted to share with you an episode from another great Quick and Dirty Tips podcast: the Savvy Psychologist. Savvy Psychologist is your weekly window into the world of psychology and how it can help you meet life’s challenges. Host Dr. Monica Johnson is a licensed psychologist ready to tackle any subject, from how to cope when we’re feeling to deciding if being a parent is right for you. This week, I’m sharing an episode from last fall about ethical non-monogamy. It’s a fascinating episode that explores whether monogamy makes sense…

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Perhaps the most ambiguous or uncertain part of being in a romantic relationship is understanding signals of attraction. One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “how do I know if someone likes me?” Nonverbal clues that a person is romantically or sexually interested in you can be difficult to parse out from just general friendly behaviors. With that, we can misinterpret those cues as being something more than friendly when the other person didn’t mean for it to be. A behavior that signals that someone is attracted to you or is interested in you in a sexual way…

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Many of us carry around irrational or unfounded beliefs about how our relationships ought to be. We impart these beliefs onto our partners and just expect them to intuitively know what we are thinking and feeling. “If my partner truly loved me, they would know why I am upset right now.” Similarly, we assume that we are able to accurately gauge how our partner is thinking and feeling. “My partner is only behaving this way because he is a man, and this is just what men do.”  Marital therapists have found there are several common and particularly damaging irrational beliefs…

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I met my husband when I was a freshman in college. We sat across from each other in our computer science lab during the first week of class. We started dating officially a few months later and spent the rest of the school year practically inseparable. Like a lot of freshmen, I struggled greatly to effectively acclimate to college, and perhaps not like a lot of freshmen, wound up being dismissed for poor academic performance over the next summer. I was faced with a decision about my relationship at that moment—moving home to attend community college would mean I would…

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Last weekend, two married friends and I took our kids to a local theme park for a day out together. We were talking about how I was planning to write an episode for Relationship Doctor about a common myth about relationships: love languages. While she was aware that love languages were not scientific, her husband looked really sad to hear that. “Love languages aren’t real?” he asked, and his wife responded, “Well, no, but I needed a way to get you to open up and talk to me about stuff.”  In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote the book The Five Love Languages:…

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Using apps and online dating sites can be both an exciting and daunting experience. The next swipe or profile you look at might be just the person for you! But looking through so many profiles can also be overwhelming. It seems counterintuitive, but too many choices may leave us less satisfied with the choices we make. We may feel that having more options means that we are eventually bound to find the “perfect” person. Ultimately, we should be feeling more confident about the decisions we make and the person we end up with since we will have seen and interacted…

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Have you ever felt like your help went unnoticed or was unappreciated by your partner? Likewise, are there times you have felt your partner didn’t do much to help support you during a difficult time? Feeling supported is a hallmark quality of a good relationship. We want to feel like we’re helping our partner through mundane or everyday tasks as well as difficult times, but we also want to feel that our partner is reciprocating. Sometimes we do things for our partners that help make their day-to-day lives easier but aren’t super obvious. This is called invisible support. For instance,…

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A friend, Jim, recently asked me for advice about his relationship. He said his girlfriend broke up with him because she perceived him as too controlling. After putting in some work to try and better himself, he and his girlfriend have decided to try and make it work again. She agreed that he has clearly demonstrated growth and has made an effort to improve, and has decided to give him that second chance. Jim asked me a question that a lot of have faced in the past: “What’s the likelihood that this relationship will last?” This kind of relationship is…

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In the early stages of a relationship, there usually comes a natural point when both partners feel a desire to have the “what are we?” discussion. Picture this: you’ve been talking for a while, and you feel like you’re compatible. There’s chemistry! But maybe you’re worried that they’re seeing other people, and you want to make sure they know that you want to be exclusive. You feel compelled to “DTR”—define the relationship. But what happens if the “what are we?” conversation doesn’t happen? Instead of dealing with your feelings, you ignore them and pretend like everything’s fine with this undefined…

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We all have that one friend who constantly complains about their partner, but won’t actually leave the relationship. A perfect example of a relationship that seems obviously flawed to others, but not to the couple themselves comes from The Office. Pam was engaged to Roy for several years, despite not seeming particularly happy in the relationship. Why did she stay with him for so long? What might she have been considering when choosing to stay? The Investment Model of relationships can help us answer these questions. The Investment Model of Relationships In the Investment Model, an individual’s commitment to a…

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