When people make decisions such as whether to go on a first date, whether to commit to a new partner, or whether to end a struggling relationship, they are determining who they ultimately wind up with, if anyone, as a long-term romantic partner. What are the processes through which people make these important decisions? How similar are these decisions to those made in other life domains, such as finance or career decisions? And, might some decision strategies lead to better relationship, well-being, and health outcomes than others?
In the Relationship Decisions Lab, we seek to answer these questions using a modern, multi-method research approach. Studies are informed by multiple theoretical perspectives, analyzed with advanced statistics, and shared using open science practices. The lab is based in the Psychology Department at Western University in London Ontario, and is directed by Samantha Joel.
Considerable past work has examined both initial romantic attraction and established romantic connection. However, the crucial fledgling relationship stage that bridges them is not well-understood. One of the major projects being conducted in the lab right now is the Pair Project, which involves recruiting people who have started dating someone new and studying them over a two-year period. This study will advance our basic understanding of how initial romantic attraction progresses (or does not progress) into a long-term partnership.
The other projects in the lab center around how people in long-term relationships navigate major relationship transitions, such as moving in together, getting married, merging finances, and breaking up. How do people make these decisions, and which decision strategies ultimately predict better well-being and health outcomes? We have found that people tend to take their partner’s feelings and perspectives into consideration when making relationship decisions, sometimes even to their own detriment. We are also analyzing data exploring the consequences of experiencing ambivalence over relationship decisions.