Sharon Rostosky and Ellen Riggle: How Same-Sex Couples Can Actively Manage Stress

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Susan Herman, Developmental Editor and consultant for APA Books, spoke with Sharon S. Rostosky and Ellen D. B. Riggle, professors at University of Kentucky. APA Books published Rostosky & Riggle’s book Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community in early 2015.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

Rostosky headshot

Sharon S. Rostosky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  She joined the counseling psychology program at the University of Kentucky in 1999, where she is currently a professor and director of training.  Her research, published in more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented in numerous workshops for professional and general audiences, focuses on minority stress and well-being in individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer and in same-sex couples.

Riggle

Ellen D. B. Riggle, PhD, is a professor in the departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Kentucky.  She is the coeditor of Sexual Identity on the Job and Gays and Lesbians in the Democratic Process.  She has published more than 60 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and books.

 

More information about the work of Dr. Riggle and Dr. Rostosky can be found on their website: www.prismresearch.org 

SH: Happy Together was released a few months shy of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) that all 50 states in the USA must license and recognize same-sex marriages. What other aspects of the legal landscape have changed since early 2015 regarding same-sex couples?

SR & ER: It’s true that same-sex marriages are legally recognized in all 50 states now. However, there has been an increase in the number of states introducing and passing so-called “religious freedom” laws.  The way that many of these laws are worded effectively gives businesses and institutions the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals and eliminates any legal recourse by the targets of discrimination.

Some states have also introduced legislation that would allow government officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to or perform marriages for same-sex couples.

Probably the most important aspect of the legal landscape are the things that haven’t changed.  For example, it is still legal in the majority of states to discriminate against LGBT people in jobs, services, and housing.  Marriage equality itself does not protect same-sex couples or LGBT individuals from discrimination.

Marriage equality also has not automatically led to equal parental rights for same-sex couples in all states.  Parental rights are still being questioned in many jurisdictions upon the birth or adoption of a child by same-sex couples.

SH: It’s common to hear about things that put stress on couples, like economic uncertainty, the high cost of child care, or addiction to smartphones and social media. Same-sex and different-sex couples, presumably, deal with all these same issues. What are some distinct concerns touching same-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Our research and that of other scholars shows that public debates surrounding anti-LGBT laws increase minority stress.  The current political environment has many uncertainties for same-sex couples and there is a real fear that the progress of LGBT rights will be halted and that the protections enacted in the past few years may be repealed.  This anxiety puts increased stress on couples that they need to constructively manage.

We wrote Happy Together specifically to help couples develop their strengths to deal with this type of environmental stress.

Because same-sex relationships are still stigmatized, same-sex couples are more likely to experience rejection from members of their family of origin. Imagine not having social support from your family, plus having to make the extra effort to set up appropriate boundaries with one or more especially prejudiced family members.

Same-sex couples may also have to expend more time and energy finding community support than different-sex couples.  For instance, same-sex couples may have to work harder to find an LGBTQ-affirmative religious or spiritual community, or an affirmative health service provider.

Same-sex couples also have to negotiate how “out” each partner will be in their respective workplaces, especially if one or both couple members 

lack basic workplace protections like inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Same-sex couples who are parents worry about how their children and family will be treated by neighbors and school personnel.  These couples tend to spend more time than other parents advocating at their children’s school.

When they’re also subjected to prejudice based on racial identities, immigration status, economic disadvantage, disability, etc., same-sex couples can face significant stress.  What we have learned in our research, however, is that despite these challenges, same-sex couples can and do create enduring and satisfying relationships.

SH: In your clinical work, do you see particular strengths emerging from same-sex couple relationships that you might not see as often with different-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Same-sex couples often attribute their relationship satisfaction and longevity to their ability to create meaning and purpose out of their negative experiences.  For instance, same-sex couples might draw on their experience to understand and empathize with other marginalized groups and engage in social activism. Same-sex couples often create “families of choice” and rely on these families for social support, as well as provide support for others.

In our many interviews with same-sex couples over the years, we have witnessed how they cope by using humor and expressing appreciation for their similarities and differences.

We’ve also found that same-sex couples are more likely than different-sex couples to equally share responsibility for maintaining their relationship, by actively talking through and negotiating differences. We think this is because, without strict gender roles, same-sex couples feel more free to write their own relationship scripts.

SH: In addition to seeking out LGBTQ-affirming community resources and helping professionals, what can same-sex couples do to lower their stress levels and build themselves up? happy together

SR & ER: For people who like to read, we of course recommend our books. We have translated 15 years of basic research into two accessible books. Our first one, A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-being, is a resource for recognizing and using LGBTQ identity strengths. The second book, Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, focuses on helping same-sex couples deal with minority stress. Both books are full of conversation starters and exercises.

One exercise in A Positive View of LGBTQ presents a “starter list” of self-care activities for readers to consider and build upon.

One activity in Happy Together guides couples to reflect on times when they anticipate rejection at work and then discuss how that fear affects their couple relationship. We give examples about how to take anxious thoughts and construct more helpful messages that can help them cope.

When we talk to same-sex couples who have been together 25, 35, 45 years, they tell us that one ‘secret to their success’ as a couple was building on their shared values and engaging in experiences that kept them learning and growing together. Shared values may involve recreational activities, spiritual/religious/educational pursuits, and commitments to making the world a more compassionate and supportive place through artistic expression, volunteerism, or community organizing.

Making a commitment to social change and social action is another powerful way to counter stress. We’ve met couples who engage in social activism on behalf of other oppressed minorities, women, people with AIDS, homeless youth, animals, the environment, food security—and that type of engagement is part of what makes their relationship flourish.

A good piece of advice for same-sex couples (and for anyone) doing social justice activism is to balance it with self-care and couple-care.  Couples must keep their relationship healthy and strong because, as Dr. Glenda Russell reminds us, we must take the long view or a “movement perspective” when it comes to bringing about social change.

 

 

 

 

Online Dating: Blessing or Curse?

me4by Katie ten Hagen

Let’s talk about dating. And by dating, I mean: online dating.

Online dating is both loved and reviled. Sites like Tinder and OKCupid make meeting new people easier than ever. But sifting through thousands of matches, starting and abandoning conversations like half-written novels, and repeatedly ditching bad first dates, can be draining.  Many yearn for a return to “simpler” days, and want to meet someone the “old fashioned way,” no matter how nostalgia-based and romanticized this yearning may be.

But still, these sites are still thriving. Those who are exhausted from the search for love keep going back, time and time again. What makes us do this? Why do we put ourselves through the heartbreak and stress again and again?

heart-1990963_1920There’s no simple answer other than that this is how the world is evolving. We shop for everything on the internet, from food to clothes to things to do. So why not love as well?  There is undeniable appeal to being able to “preview” a person before really trying them out. Why waste a night on a bad date if you can establish from a profile or a few sentences of conversation that there’s no possibility? Even sites like Tinder, where a match is based simply on mutual physical appeal, allow for quick weeding-out based on preliminary conversation.

Some may claim online dating is just a game, or a cure for boredom. People may join simply to peruse, with no intention of starting a relationship or even meeting someone. I had a friend who joined Tinder solely to talk to people about their dogs. (This was a bit disingenuous; she was in a happy, committed relationship, and the people she was “matching” with were presumably looking for slightly more than for her to just ask “what kind of dog is that?” But to be fair, her profile did clearly (and only) state “I swipe for dogs.”)

But online dating sites aren’t just for millennials. In fact, the main characteristics that people are looking for on dating sites don’t seem to vary by age. One study, (Menkin, Robles, Wiley, & Gonzaga, 2015) of users ranging from 20-95 on eHarmony, “found that users consistently valued communication and characteristics such as personality or kindness more than sexual attraction.” The researchers also found that “there was little evidence that older users valued companionship more,” and that older users valued sexual appeal just as highly as younger users.  This finding is echoed in the work of Nancy Schlossberg, whose LifeTools books Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life, and Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose examine themes of “positive aging.”  Her forthcoming book, Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age (to be released in April, 2017), tackles the world of online dating for retirees head-on.

At the same time, Menkin et al. cautioned that their results were “similar to the finding that across the life span, people generally want to experience more low-arousal positive emotions (such as the warmth and comfort companionship provides) compared to high-arousal positive emotions (such as the excitement associated with sexual attraction).” This came as a surprise to me when I first read it, but makes sense upon reflection; plenty of people like to flirt with no intention of anything more.

Perhaps this explains people like my friend, who only swipe for dogs.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

References

Menkin, J. A., Robles, T. F., Wiley, J. F., & Gonzaga, G. C. (2015). Online dating across the life span: Users’ relationship goals. Psychology and Aging, 30(4), 987-993. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039722

 

February Releases from APA Books!

occupational healthOccupational Health Disparities 

Improving the Well-Being of Ethnic and Racial Minority Workers

Edited by Frederick T. L. Leong, Donald E. Eggerth, Chu-Hsiang (Daisy) Chang, Michael A. Flynn, J. Kevin Ford, and Rubén O. Martinez

Ethnic and racial minorities often face a disproportionately high number of workplace hazards and discriminatory practices that result in greater incidences of disease, injury, psychological distress, and death than non-minorities. The expert contributors to this volume thus present an evidence-based, multicultural framework derived from occupational health psychology research and practice to reduce occupational health disparities and improve conditions for minority workers, including Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans. They review important individual, cultural, and organizational factors that will inform much-needed advancements in policy, research, and intervention.

 

art science mindfulnessThe Art and Science of Mindfulness

Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions

SECOND EDITION

Shauna L. Shapiro and Linda E. Carlson

Intention is fundamental to any project, endeavor, or journey. Related to intention is the concept of mindfulness—the awareness that arises through intentionally attending to oneself and others in an open, caring, and nonjudgmental way. Authors Shapiro and Carlson draw from Eastern wisdom and practices as well as Western psychological science to explore why mindful awareness is integral to the therapeutic healing process. This new edition integrates the latest theory and research on mindfulness, with new sections describing the neuroscience of mindfulness and mechanisms of change.

 

men & masculinitiesThe Psychology of Men and Masculinities

Edited by Ronald F. Levant and Y. Joel Wong

The psychology of men and masculinities is a thriving, growing field dedicated to the study of how men’s lives shape—and are shaped by—sex and gender. This volume shows how far the field has advanced and what directions it is taking. It explains and evaluates major theories, research, and applications, with an emphasis on the gender role strain paradigm and related theories. In addition, it synthesizes research on men’s mental and physical health, as well as therapeutic interventions and prevention programs. Special attention is given to ethnic, racial, and sexual minority men. With such broad and inclusive coverage, this volume will be a standard reference for researchers and practitioners in this field and an essential part of university courses on men and masculinities.

Open Pages: Ethics in LGBTQ Psychology

APA Books Open Pages is an ongoing series in which we share interesting tidbits from current & upcoming books. Find the full list by browsing the Open Pages tag. APA Books recently published Teaching LGBTQ Psychology: Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice, edited by Theodore R. Burnes and Jeanne L. Stanley. The excerpt below comes from Chapter 4: Teaching Ethics in Relation to LGBTQ Issues in Psychology.

Conflict between students’ personal beliefs and actions or inactions in their training and client care within their educational institutions have escalated into legal disputes. Educators can use examples as teaching tools in class for discussing and working through such conundrums. Students may also learn about and discuss recent court cases in which students sued their educational institutions after they were dismissed from their programs for not meeting the program’s requirements for becoming multiculturally-competent providers where LGBTQ individuals are involved (Hancock, 2014). Three such cases, all involving MHPs [mental health professionals]-in-training, involve key areas of these debates: Ward v. Wilbanks, 2010; Ward v. Polite, 2012; and Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 2010. These court cases are relevant for teaching MHPs and should be included in coursework because they give a view of how legal and ethical concerns can collide in regard to the competency of MHPs when working with LGBTQ individuals.

In the two Ward cases, Ms. Ward was a graduate student in the counseling master’s program at Eastern Michigan State University. After being assigned a gay male client who had previously received counseling regarding his same-sex relationship, Ward asked her supervisor whether she could refer the client because she could not support his same-sex behavior. Ward argued that she followed the ethical guidelines by referring a client she felt she could not support. The program countered that Ward chose to follow her personal beliefs that were discriminatory in practice and, therefore, inconsistent with the requirements of the program and the profession (Haldeman & Rasbury, 2014). The program offered her the following choices: to take part in a remedial program, voluntarily leave the program, or request a formal hearing. Ward chose the formal hearing and was dismissed from the program. After suing the university and after two court cases, an out-of-court settlement agreement was reached between and the student and the university.

The Keeton case involved a graduate student in counseling from Augusta State University. In her courses, Ms. Keeton asserted that if she were to work with LGBTQ clients, she would express her views of the immoralities of their same-sex behavior and then either use SOCE or refer the client to a practitioner who practiced SOCE to rectify the clients’ behavior. The program faculty expressed their concern to the student and asked her to complete a remediation program because of the deficits in her multicultural competency in working with LGBTQ clients. She refused remediation and then sued, claiming that the remediation plan violated her First Amendment rights. The court rejected Keeton’s claim on the grounds that the program did not ask her to alter her personal religious beliefs but to not use her beliefs to discriminate against clients. Keeton’s proposed actions were in direct conflict with the ACA Ethics Code because she planned to not only impose her values on clients but also to discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.

. . .

The court in the Keeton case cited the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, finding in favor of the educational institution, citing “if there is a legitimate educational concern involved, free speech can be regulated by the educational institution” (Hancock, 2014, p. 6). Students’ personal values as counselors may not outweigh their ethical obligations to the client, and the program, therefore, has to intervene to prevent harm to the client (Hancock, 2014). Bieschke and Mintz (2012) aptly argued that the core issue in these cases is one of the competences of the trainee in following the ethical requirements of their profession. Although such cases have not yet specifically involved psychologists or psychologists-in-training, similar cases are likely to follow.

 

References cited in this passage

Bieschke, K. J., & Mintz, L. B. (2012). Counseling psychology model training values statement addressing diversity: History, current use, and future directions. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6, 196<en>203. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030810

Haldeman, D. C., & Rasbury, R. L. (2014). Multicultural training and student beliefs in cultural context. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 289<en>292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000076

Hancock, K. (2014). Student beliefs, multiculturalism, and client welfare. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 4<en>9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000021

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 733 F. Supp. 2d 1368 (S.D. Ga. 2010).

Ward v. Polite, 667 F.3d 727 (6th Cir. 2012).

Ward v. Wilbanks, No. 09-11237 (E.D. Mich. 2010).

 

Paul J. Silvia: On Writing

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Linda McCarter, Senior Acquisitions Editor at APA Books, spoke with Paul Silvia, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He is the author of many journal articles and books, including Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles (2015); Public Speaking for Psychologists: A Lighthearted Guide to Research Presentations, Job Talks, and Other Opportunities to Embarrass Yourself (2010, with David B. Feldman); and the bestseller How to Write A Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007).  In November, we published his most recent book, What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing, Second Edition: A Guide to Research Experience, Professional Skills, and Your Options After College, with Peter F. DeLaney and Stuart Marcovitch.   

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

paul silvia

Paul J. Silvia, PhD, is a social-personality psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He has served as the director of the department’s honors program, and he teaches undergraduate courses on creativity, personality, academic writing, and professional skills.  

LM: You’ve been writing about writing for a long time. Has your own writing process changed over time? If so, how?

PS: My “process” is basically obdurate stubbornness: write according to a schedule, typically a bit every weekday morning. If we write a little every week, things will work out. People spend so much less time writing than they think they do.

The scheduled times, though, have changed. Having kids shifted my writing to much earlier in the morning than before, but I still write every weekday. I probably spend less time writing than I did in 2007 (around 10-12 hours a week instead of 20), but I use my time better and choose my writing commitments more carefully.

LM: What writers, academic or otherwise, have influenced you?

PS: My own sense of style owes much to William Zinsser and Sheridan Baker. Baker’s book The Practical Stylist had an enormous effect on my writing. My writing seems warmed-over if you read his book.

Anyone looking to write a book ought to read Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing, which mixes practical advice and quirky hilarity in a way I admire.

Beyond the books about writing, I owe a lot to two psychology professors I worked with as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California: Denis Mitchell and Shelley Duval. Denis Mitchell was the first person to explain to me that writing is the crux of all scholarship. He used to say “Write the book!” meaning that the people who are known for an idea are the ones who wrote review articles and books about it, not necessarily the ones who had the best ideas and did the best studies. It’s hard to unpack all that I learned from Shelley. He invited me to co-author a book with him even though I was still in grad school.

In hindsight, I can see how lucky I was to get such good mentorship as an undergrad, so undergraduate professional development is one of my passions.

LM: What are you reading currently? 

PS: In 2016 I combined two self-betterment goals: (1) waste less time reading online and spend more time with actual books, and (2) read the books I own before buying new ones. I’m going to roll this goal over in 2017 because I’ve been tearing through my shelves.

I tend to impulsively grab non-fiction books that seem interesting, so the topics are eccentric.

I just finished reading The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art, by Anjan Chatterjee. It’s an elegant and provocative book. Before that, I read Felix Martin’s Money: An Unauthorized Biography, a quirky history of the development of money over the centuries, and Alexis McCrossen’s Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life, a fascinating look at the concepts of time and modernity in American history.

Next up is probably Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy. (I’m trying to read the entire Oxford History of the United States).

LM: In November, we released the second edition of What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing: An Informal Guide to Research Experience and Professional Skills, which you wrote with Peter Delaney and Stuart Marcovich. What do you think has changed since the first edition came out in 2009?  What should psychology majors be doing differently today, and what does the new book do differently?

PS: The post-college landscape is so different for psychology majors now. We wrote the first edition at the tail end of the boom years, when psychology majors easily found jobs right after college. Because of the bright economy, students handled career uncertainty more easily.

These days, the competition for graduate school spots and jobs is much more intense. I think students are thinking about their post-college life with a colder, more pragmatic eye. They want to know that something will be lined up after graduation.

The new edition resembles an all-new book. It is 50% longer and 40% less zany (let’s just say that not all jokes age well). We have much more to say about the world of work, writing CVs and personal statements, and about the nuts and bolts of preparing for jobs and for grad school.

write it upLM: What prompted you to write Write It Up, and how does it differ from How to Write A Lot?

PS: How to Write A Lot focused on motivational problems in writing, and I think most of its audience is outside of psychology. Write It Up is a “street level” look at writing empirical articles for fields that follow the APA Style Intro-Method-Results-Discussion format.

Like anything else, article writing is easier when you have some tricks, tips, and strategies. I try to distill what I learned the hard way and what others graciously taught me. It starts with picking projects worth writing up and choosing journals, shifts to writing the sections of the article, and ends with dealing with journals.

how to write a lotOddly, a theme of Write It Up is that we should probably write less. I think people should “write for impact” instead of for “mere publication.” People will accomplish more if they focus on their best ideas and craft their papers to be as compelling as possible.

I had wanted to write a book about how to write good journal articles for a long time. But most of these strategies are tacit, and I couldn’t work out my ideas on paper. It took me much, much longer to plan and write Write It Up than most of my other books.

For what it’s worth, I’m proudest of the writing in Write It Up. It was hard to pull off.

 

LM: On your research page, I noticed that one of your interests is interest. What first got you interested in interest? And how do you study interest?

PS: A person who studies interest and curiosity ought to have an answer to that, but I don’t. I suspect that I got into this field because my curiosity is easily tickled, and I take on new hobbies more often than is prudent for a grown man.

Most of my research on interest is done in the context of aesthetics and the arts. It’s a small but valiant area with some incredible researchers. It’s easier to study interest in a context like art than in other areas, like academic ideas, essays, or people.

LM: On a personal note, I know you like to buy and restore old watches. Are you working on any now? What is it about restoring watches that you find appealing?

PS: I do catch-and-release watchmaking as a hobby: find them, fix them, and let them back into the stream for someone else to use and enjoy.

A recent patient belongs to a friend of mine. It’s a big Elgin pocket watch from 1890 (a 15J “G.M. Wheeler” Grade 75, for the fans out there). It was the watch his grandfather used while working in a sawmill, and the case has some scary nicks in it. After that, I have a big pile of Illinois pocket watches waiting in intensive care. I blog about the watches I work on in what might be the world’s least necessary blog: AdjustingVintageWatches.com.

The inner workings of watches are so complex and elegant that it is amazing that people made them so long ago. Watches have dozens of absurdly tiny parts, some measured in the hundredths of millimeters. Placing a .08 mm staff into a .085 mm hole requires a patience and inner calm that doesn’t come naturally to me.

LM: Are you writing anything now?  

PS: The academic life has grant-writing seasons and book-writing seasons. I think the long, bitter winter of grant-writing is nearly over, and the book ideas are coming out of their houses and starting to shovel the sidewalks.

I write down all my ideas for books and articles, and I have around 30 book ideas. Around 18 of them are inane and 2 are good, but I don’t know which 2 yet.