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It's always fun when Science finally catches up to Theology

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So, I'm in the last three weeks of my final master's class in Developmental Psychology. The class is on adolescent psychology, and this week's topic is romantic relationships, so I expected to be galled and saddened by the morally desolate landscape of modern teenage romantic relationships. 


While I did find that, I have just stumbled upon some research that has me excited and I just had to share it with someone. 😁


This excerpt is from Lerner & Steinberg's Handbook of Adolescent Psychology.   (bold and underline added for emphasis)


"Conflict processes have also been linked to the achievement of romantic intimacy (Collins & Laursen, 1994; Shulman, 2003). Late adolescents, in particular, seem to recognize that some level of conflict is not only expectable in their relationships, but also valuable in terms of improving communication and understanding between the partners (Simon, Kobielski, & Martin, 2008). Such constructive beliefs about the utility of conflict have been associated with the self-reported level of emotional intimacy in the romantic relationship. Adolescent boys and girls who believe that conflict can be a healthy way of resolving differences report more positive conflict negotiation strategies and more intimacy in their romantic relationships than youth who believe that conflicts should be avoided because of the threats they pose to couple stability (Simon et al., 2008). Complementary findings about the intimacy functions of conflict have been found using video-recall methods of late adolescents’ couple interactions (Galliher, Welsh, Rostosky, & Kawaguchi, 2004). Adolescent girls who rated their boyfriends as less angry in their interactions also reported more closeness in the relationship. Boys, in contrast, were less affected by the presence of frustration as their satisfaction with the relationship was unlinked to conflict, even though they reported that it occurred at the same level as did their girl friends’. Rather than attending to the more negative aspects of the conflict, boys’ satisfaction with the relationship was linked to their beliefs about their own ability to incorporate their girl friends’ points of view into decisions about the relationship. These observational findings suggest intriguing gendered links between intimacy and conflict such that boys and girls may be sensitive to different aspects of the conflict dynamic in their close romantic partnerships."


It has always struck me that Ephesians 5:22-33 has always been rather controversial in our culture. Wives are to submit? Is that not putting them in a subservient position? Is that not demeaning? Chauvinistic? I love Emerson Eggerich's book Love and Respect because it takes the roles of the submissive wife and the loving husband who is the head of the house and phrases it in a interdependent and cooperative way - that women tend to desire love while men tend to desire respect, and if the woman feels love, she will tend to show respect, and if the man is shown respect, he will tend to show love - with the reverse being true (no love, no respect and no respect, no love). The balance I have always seen in it is although the wife is to submit to the husband as the head of the house, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, laying his life down for her and putting her needs and desires above his own. 

Psychology has finally certified the truth of this relational balance! Although this was a study on adolescence, I doubt different findings will be found among adults... 


Adolescent girls had higher relational satisfaction when they rated their boyfriends as less angry in their interactions. It is interesting to note that level and quality of conflict influenced the female's sense of relational satisfaction while the boy's satisfaction was not linked to conflict. And this seems to tie into the idea that females are called by God to submit, and they desire to be loved. 


On the other side, boys satisfaction was linked to their beliefs about their ability to incorporate their girlfriends point of view into decisions - in other words, the man's satisfaction was directly connected to how well he served and put her wants and desires above his own. 


Perhaps this is me pushing an interpretational bias to the text to say what I want it to say, but I think this is an interesting parallel that provides strong support for the viability and accuracy of Ephesians 5 and the specific roles God gave the husband and wife


Would love to hear your thoughts. 


Edited by Jared Williams
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God's rules for life and relationships is always better than our own design. He knows what will work and what doesn't. It is highly satisfying when independent science acknowledges (even back handed) that God's right. Of course He is. He made us! 

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