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Relationships and the psychology of the brain

Relationships and how people act in them have been a central focus of behavioral psychologists for a long while. What they have seen, especially in regards to troubled relationships, is that in order for people to get along – to “make it work” when it doesn’t naturally – small changes and compromises must often be made.

As the New Year gains momentum, couples may be resolving to “fix” troublesome behavior, or just generally be looking for ways to make the relationship machine run a bit more smoothly. But in order to make such changes permanent, psychologists suggest, small and quantifiable steps must first be made. 

According to behavioral psychologists, the whole “take it one step at a time” cliché takes a strong hold when trying to alter one’s behavior. Once a not-so-productive or positive behavior has been established in someone’s brain, it takes a good while to rewire the neural pathways that reinforce these behaviors. Though the brain is certainly malleable and protean, it still needs time.

Of course, if the behaviors-in-question are a large part of what makes a person who he or she is, asking someone to change is something most psychologists would say is simply wrong. As New Year’s resolutions come rolling along, it is important to scrutinize whether or not they are reinforced by realistic expectations, especially in regards to relationships. If not, it’s best to just leave them alone.

For some great advice on how to keep strong on resolutions and build healthier relationships, visit Psychology Today’s blog post