Let’s talk about relationships: Can Couples Change Each Other’s Lives?

Florian Zsok of the University of Zurich has dedicated years to seeking out answers to the question of the relationships between couples and has published his studies to great acclaim. We have an opportunity to interview him and hear about his insights.

Discover the nature of your relationships with us!

Florian, which has a better chance of lasting? A relationship that develops on the basis of mutual friendship and empathy but relatively less passion or a relationship that begins with a grand passion?

People are diverse, and so are the relationships they have. For some, especially men and young adults, passion is very important for the perceived quality and the stability of the relationship. Other relationships may be more compassionate and pragmatic.

One should remember that passion tends to wane in long-term relationships and that other parts of the relationship (e.g. communicating well with a partner, dealing effectively with stress) become more important in the long run. Passion has been linked to relationship stability, but it is not the full story.

If there is no such thing as love at first sight, what does your research indicate eventually becomes of those couples who begin with a grand passion and it’s lust at first sight?

I never said that there is no love at first sight. I actually believe that it exists. With my research, I am just trying to show that it is not as people romantically think of it, a lightning strike with a revelation of your one true love. It is rather a strong first impression that people retrospectively construe as LAFS. 

What is the impact that individuals in a relationship can have on each other’s career prospects, positive and negative?

There is a lot.  Partners in intimate relationships tend to be highly independent and strongly influence each other. A good relationship can be a buffer against stress and help one achieve one’s goals. On the other hand, relationship distress can also negatively influence work performance. 

Based on your observations, what might be the percentage of couples out there who actually end up making each other feel better about themselves? 

This is difficult to tell. Most couples that participate in research are super happy, but this is probably because they are more likely to participate. On the other hand, divorce rates are around 50% in Western societies. We do know from research that people who are in a relationship are on average better off financially, psychologically, and phyiologically than those who are alone. 

Would it be fair to say that a couple that maintains mutual respect and empathy has a longer lasting sexual relationship? 

Communication definitely helps, and if respect and empathy aid that, it might lead to a better sex life too. But can‘t really tell.

What about speed dating, and does it work towards establishing lasting relationships? 

Most people still find partners from their vicinity, for example through school, uni, work, or common friends. Some people use matching services or dating agencies, and for some it works out, but the number is rather small.

Were women and men born to be monogamous or by nature are we mostly polygamous? 

We are not biologically determined to be anything except flexible and capable of learning. Monogamy is the most common form of relationships, although it sure has its caveats. 

Since ancient Rome, from age old tribal rituals to the modern society that we know today, polyamorous groups have existed  and continue to exist. Is there more peace among these ‘societies’ compared to the ‘traditional’ couples? 

Research shows that jealousy exists and has existed at all times and in all cultures. It is pretty much a human universal. There might be tales of happy non-monogamous tribes, and some cultures practice it more than others. 

Do quite a few of us suffer from double standards? 

The sexual double standard is quite persistent in Western cultures, even though it has decreased in the last decade. 

Florian, what led you to specialize in relationships between couples? What was your motivation? 

I have long been interested in psychological research more generally. This area is the one where I think I am most curious and passionate about, because we know little about it and mystify the topic. Relationships are also vital for our well-being, and therefore we should know more about them to help those in need. 

Could you tell us about your growing up and about those who inspired you. 

In about the 11th grade I grabbed an encyclopedia about psychology and got sucked in. I have been passionate about it ever since. 

What do you do when you’re not working? 

I do a lot of sports, martial arts or hiking in these beautiful Swiss mountains. I also play guitar and perform improvisational theater. 

Our readership consists mainly of young adults in different parts of the world who look up to high achieving individuals such as you for inspiration. A word of advice for them? 

If you want to be good at something you have to put in the hours. How technology affects relationships, can be discovered here.

Photo: From Archive of Florian Zsok

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