URBANA – Shakespeare had it right, of course: the course of true love never has run smooth. But with this week's publication of The Developmental Course of Romantic Relationships, people who are baffled by love and its mysteries have a new source of wisdom.
"If you want to know why you can't resist a new romance even though you're still recovering from your last bad breakup; need some tips on keeping your relationship healthy; could use some insight into jealousy or abuse; wonder if you should move in together; or would like to understand how and why love sometimes ends, this book covers it all," said Brian Ogolsky, a University of Illinois professor of human and community development.
It is also the first book to give generous attention to same-sex couples, exploring the similarities and differences between the experiences of gay and straight partners.
Ogolsky wrote the book with Sally A. Lloyd of Miami University and Rodney M. Cate of the University of Arizona. The U of I researcher's focus is relationship maintenance and commitment; Lloyd is an expert on violence against women by their partners; and Cate studies the development of premarital relationships and sexual behavior in romantic relationships.
Ogolsky hopes the book will be used in family studies, social work, psychology, and counseling classes, but "almost anyone who's interested in the subject can pick the book up and get something out of it," he said.
For instance, why, after a devastating breakup, do so many of us go right out and start again? Two reasons, said Ogolsky. "One, we're extremely social animals, and we're definitely motivated by the excitement that comes with a new relationship. Two, we're fundamentally irrational creatures. We have a hard time closing doors and leaving them shut."
The expert said that whenever there's a barrier to leaving a relationship—a legal commitment, children, or financial constraints—people are more likely to stick with their partner. For that reason, increased legalization of same-sex marriage makes it more likely that married gay and lesbian couples will stay together.
"That doesn't mean people will continue to stay when there are serious problems. But they will take these 'barriers' into consideration before splitting up," he added.
And no up-to-date book on romantic relationships would be complete without sections on online dating sites and cohabitation, he said.
"The Internet has greatly expanded our pool of eligible partners. It allows us to be connected in a way that's really unprecedented," he said.
Online dating has led to a broadening of the kinds of relationships that are acceptable, he added. "Serial monogamy, or moving from one person to another with little time in between, is one new phenomenon because we have the ability to meet people very quickly and to customize our relationships. It's not a better way of dating, it's just a different way."
Finally, will living together lead to a successful long-term relationship? "Depends on whether you're sliding or deciding," he said. "Research shows that people who slide into cohabitation—those who just start spending more nights together or slowly move more personal items in—fare worse than couples who actually think it through and decide to live together as part of a serious commitment."
The Developmental Course of Romantic Relationships is available through Routledge Academic at http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781848729308 or Amazon.
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