Personal Relationships

Our research cited in The Calgary Herald

Our recent research on everyday thoughts of revenge was cited in a recent article in a pre-Valentine’s Day issue of the Calgary Herald.

Love and Marriage: What's trending this Valentine's Day?
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SHELLEY BOETTCHER
More from Shelley Boettcher
Published on: February 13, 2015Last Updated: February 13, 2015 4:32 PM MST
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The book and film, Fifty Shades of Grey, has had an influence on what goes on in the bedroom, say experts.

JEWEL SAMAD / AFP/Getty Images


When it comes to love, people are complicated — even when we think we aren’t. We fall in love. We fall out. And we think about love and all the trappings that come along with the word. Romance. Lust. Dating and breaking up.
What better topic, then, to peruse on Valentine’s Day, than some of the top trends we’re seeing in love, sex and relationships? Here, a look at what we’re noticing, in Calgary, and, indeed, throughout North America.
 1. Revenge.
It’s been there since the dawn of time, folks, but it’s not going away. Without it, we’d lack some seriously good TV: Game of Thrones, Mad Men. Downton Abbey. Orange is the New Black.
And now it’s the stuff of university studies. For close to a decade, University of Calgary professor Susan Boon has been studying the idea of revenge — “everyday thoughts of getting even, with a romantic partner, a family member or a co-worker,” she says. Or, as she describes it outside her lab: “repaying harm with harm.”
She is one of only a handful of psychologists around the world who are looking at how people think about revenge. She has been working with Stephen Yoshimura, a researcher at the University of Montana in Missoula, to study when and why people think about revenge.
So far, Boon has quizzed about 500 people, mostly from the University of Calgary for her newest research. And she is finding that about 95 per cent of us have had revenge thoughts at some point in our lives.
“We don’t tend to use the word ‘revenge’ in our lab,” she says. People hear that word, and they immediately think of murder or “blowing up my boyfriend’s yacht. The stuff that’s in the news,” she says, chuckling.
“In the news, revenge is nasty, nasty behaviour. But in everyday life, it’s someone giving you the cold shoulder or being deliberately unreliable.”
2. The public acceptance of gay relationships.
More than 40,000 people showed up at Calgary’s annual Gay Pride Parade in 2014. The 2011 Statistics Canada census counted 64,575 same-sex couple families, an increase of 42.4 per cent from 2006. Of those 2011 figures, 21,015 couples were married and 43,560 lived common-law.
Just this week, the American state of Alabama started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in the state. It is now legal in most of the U.S. states.
It’s definitely easier to be in a gay relationship these days, says Kevin Allen, creator of the Calgary Gay History Project (calgary queerhistory.ca). “The reason: lots of gay people in the trenches fighting for our rights and creating visibility for us.”
3. The Fifty Shades effect.
The first of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, written by E.L. James, was published in 2011, and the movie is now in theatres.
Since the books were released, the bondage/discipline/submission section at Calgary’s three A Little More Interesting stores has tripled in size, says Danielle Carrington, manager of all three locations.
She says they’re seeing about the same kind of clientele as before. They’re just buying different things when they come into the stores. “People are more willing to play with each other. They’re more willing to introduce new items because it’s less taboo than it used to be,” she says. “It’s average everyday couples who are willing to experiment. Nothing too crazy.”
But, she adds, “It’s great that people are having conversations about what they want in their intimacy.”
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A couple kisses in front of the steel bar of the Pont des Arts in Paris. Statistics show that Canadians are staying together in marriage, with divorce rates declining across the country.

PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP/Getty Images

4. Declining divorce rates.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of divorce cases has decreased by about eight per cent from 2006 to 2011, and it continues to decline. (Nova Scotia saw the biggest declines, at 22 per cent.) Divorce isn’t going away, however. Yukon has the highest number of divorces, at 32.6 divorces per 10,000 people. Alberta follows, with 24.7 divorces per 10,000 people.
5. Online dating.
Single and looking to get lucky on Valentine’s Day? Turn on your computer first. About 438 eHarmony members get married every day, claims the online dating site eHarmony.com.
According to a survey released this month by the online dating site match.com, 31 per cent of American singles met their last first date online. About 25 per cent met through a friend. Only six per cent met their last first date in a bar or club.
Single Canucks aren’t much different. A recent article in Maclean’s magazine says one in four Canadians have tried online dating, and 16 per cent of us have had sex with someone we met online.
Yes, online flirtation often leads to real-life attraction.
“Technology is dramatically changing how we court,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, Match’s chief scientific advisor, in a news release.
“But it can’t change the brain systems for romance and attachment.”

White Noise Talks: Love vs. Hate

I was part of a panel at the White Noise Talks sessions on Thursday, February 12 at the Telus SPARK. Lovelab also collected data from couples at SPARK that night for a study investigating the use of physical affection as a reward/punishment in romantic relationships.


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