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In a recent study published in Psychological Science, researchers have confirmed what many couples already knew: different partners indeed remember relationship discussions differently. But the data gives couples new insight as to why those memories differ, which is due to the different partners' attachment styles.Attachment styles refer to how each person responds to intimate relationships. Some people are distant, and dubbed "avoidant" in a relationship. Others display "ambivalent" attachment; they are slow to trust a prospective partner, worry about how much a partner really loves them and display great distress when a relationship ends. A "secure" attachment style is marked by healthy self-esteem, willingness to reach out to friends and to discuss feelings with partners. Secure partners also have a preference for lasting relationships based on trust. Attachment styles are initially formed through parental relationships, but can change markedly by adulthood.In the study, researchers asked each partner to identify relationship issues. They then had the partners discuss issues picked from eachother's lists. The next step was to have each partner fill out a questionnaire about his or her own part in the discussion. Finally, each partner was asked to repeat the self-report again a week later. Independent observers also recorded their impressions of the partners' interaction.What researchers found was that after one week, each partner's memories of his or her own behavior had changed, compared with perceptions just after the relationship issue discussion. That much is not surprising; unless participants set out with the goal of giving identical answers and had perfect recall, some variation would be expected. What is surprising is that, in cases in which participants were distressed by the discussion, their memories of the event changed in such a way as to match their attachment styles. After a week had passed, those with more avoidant styles tended to remember themselves as being more distanced from their partners during the relationship discussion. Those with less avoidant styles tended to remember themselves as being more supportive of their partners. More anxious partners reported feeling closer to their partners during the discussion, compared with how they reported feeling just after the event. Partners with less anxious styles remembered themselves as more distant after the week had passed.Researchers emphasized that responses fell in this pattern only when participants were distressed at the time of the initial discussion. But given that condition, participants' memories of their level of supportiveness and distance tended to change after one week to better match their pre-existing attachment styles.While the researchers pointed out that their results would match the need of avoidant people to see themselves as more distanced, and of anxious people to see themselves as closer with their partners, the study raises the possibility of another interpretation. Distressed participants could initially report their own responses in such a way as to bring their own characteristics of supportiveness, distance or anxiety closer to an assumed "norm."
Drawing upon our more than 30-year history of granting degrees in professional psychology, Argosy University has developed a curriculum that focuses on interpersonal skills and practical experience alongside academic learning. Because getting a degree is one thing. Succeeding, quite another.
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