Don’t Let Social Media Wreck Your Relationship

You might want to lay off of social media—for your relationship’s sake. People who use Facebook more than once a day are more likely to report relationship conflicts arising from social media, according to a new study in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. And even worse—those conflicts had a significant correlation with negative relationship outcomes, like cheating, breaking up, or getting divorced.

Researchers surveyed 205 Facebook users about how often they use the site, if they’ve had Facebook-related conflicts with a current or former partner, and if these conflicts ever led to cheating or breaking up.  On average, people were using Facebook daily, so the researchers looked at any users who logged on more often than that. The result: People who spent more time on the site had more Facebook-related conflicts and negative relationship outcomes. One noteworthy finding: these results only held for couples in relationships of three years or less—so it may be the case that Facebook use is most threatening for less-matured bonds.

“Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner’s Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy,” says lead study author Russell Clayton, doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri. “Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating.”

But you don’t need to deactivate your account to have a healthy relationship. Follow these rules to make sure social media habits aren’t sabotaging your bond:

Rule #1: Avoid the premature relationship-status change 
Relationship experts agree that the worst social media faux pas is becoming “Facebook official” before you’re actually official. “You need to have that conversation before you change it,” says Wendy Walsh, PhD, author of The 30-Day Love Detox. You should also hold off on posting about a date or sharing photos of you two together before you’ve become a couple. “When a relationship is in its fragile dating stage, it’s very important to have privacy. Intimacy needs privacy to grow,” says Walsh.

Rule: #2: Stop mindlessly browsing 
In this study, just logging more time on Facebook was linked with more conflict. So it’s smart to limit your daily posting and tweeting—especially if you’re often sneaking a peak at your newsfeed while you’re together. Even if you’re just mindlessly scrolling through your feed while watching TV with your partner, it can give off the impression that they’re not as important to you, says Christie Hartman, PhD, author of Find the Love of Your Life Online. “Be aware of what you’re paying attention to,” says Hartman. “If they start complaining or showing annoyance, it’s a sign that you’ve gone too far.”

Rule #3: Log off when you’re upset 
If you just had a fight or you’re going through a rough patch, step away from the computer (or your phone). Since your newsfeed can be filled with everything from humblebragging couples to photos of your (fitter than ever) ex, it can be filled with landmines that make you feel bad about your relationship—or worse. “It’s really easy to log on and imagine that there might be a bigger, better deal out there,” says Walsh. Plus, you may end up shooting off a passive-aggressive rant that you’ll later regret, says Hartman.

Rule #4: Friend exes with caution
One of the riskiest features of Facebook is that it makes it super easy to connect and communicate with an ex or old crush, which is why the common debate—can exes stay friends?—is only amplified online.

While you probably don’t want to make a point of friending an ex after you’ve started dating a new person, it’s important to tread carefully even if one or both of you are already friends with your exes. Stay cautious about your interactions with them, says Walsh. Her suggestion for staying on your toes: “Imagine that someone has the ability to cut and paste whatever you type and post it publicly.” The bottom line: Don’t be fooled by a false sense of privacy online.

Rule #5: Brag a little bit
Don’t worry: Not all social media habits are relationship kryptonite. In fact, couples who regularly post profile pictures with their partners and share things about their relationship online are also more likely to feel happier about their bonds, according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.  Hartman says that a little bragging online is totally healthy for your relationship: “It shows that you aren’t on Facebook ignoring your partner—you’re including them.” So feel free to tweet about your boyfriend’s awesome promotion or Instagram the flowers he surprised you with. Just don’t go overboard, warns Hartman, or it won’t seem sincere.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
10 Secrets of Super Happy Couples 
Social Networking: Don’t Overshare 
5 Social Media Mistakes That Mess With Your Career

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How to Work Out When You Totally Don’t Want To

As awesome as a great workout can feel, it’s hard to magic up the motivation to make it happen some days. But new research suggests you should power through, even if you’re not 100 percent feeling it.

Even “forced” exercise can help protect against anxiety and stress, according to a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder. So essentially, dragging yourself to the gym is just as beneficial to your Zen levels as going voluntarily. “Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and push yourself to work out, even if you’re feeling less than inspired,” says Wendy Larkin, master trainer at Crunch San Francisco.  “I have to force myself to go on a run every Sunday, but after I do, I feel better, my mood is better and I sleep better.”

Need a little help getting off the couch? These tactics can keep you strong the next time you get the urge to bail.

Schedule sessions with a trainer
If this seems like a duh, that’s because it is. Think about it: You commit a) weeks in advance to b) actual appointments where c) someone will be expecting you, so you basically have to show. Plus, you’ll still get charged if you back out. “Go in on a regular sessions with a few friends, and make it a regular thing,” suggests Larkin. “You’ll get the same workout, but you can divvy up the cost.” That, and sweating it out with your crew sounds way better than going at it solo.

Start a work-buddy system
Larkin says she sees it all the time: People plan to get their sweat on after work, but then talk themselves out of it by 5 p.m. With crazy deadlines, last-minute meetings and the like, your workplace is booby-trapped with gym-bailing temptations—so you need allies to stay strong. “Find a few people in the office with similar fitness goals, and make a pact to keep tabs on each other,” says Larkin . Tell them to make sure you leave at X time so you make your workout—and vice-versa. Then follow up to keep each other accountable.

Splurge on foxy workout gear
Like a good LBD on a night out, gym gear that plays up your assets can give your mojo a serious boost and make you want to put it to good use. “When you look and feel good, you have a little more pep in your step, and the reasons you didn’t feel like going to the gym earlier will fade,” says Larkin. Plus, paying top dollar for super flattering workout clothes definitely makes you want to get your money’s worth.

Establish a gym family
Introduce yourself to your fitness instructor before class, and take a few minutes to chat it up with people you recognize as regulars. As people get to know you, they’ll be more likely to learn your capabilities, push you if they see you slacking off, and call you out when you skip a week, Larkin says. You’ll also feel more compelled to show up at the gym if you know you’ll be expected.

Leave important things in your gym locker
If you accidentally-on-purpose forget to bring your hairdryer and make-up bag home after a gym sesh, you’ll be forced to go back the next day to get ready. “Half the challenge is getting in the door, so the more reasons you give yourself to stop by, the better,” Larkin says.

Get a vacation on the books ASAP
Beach season is so close, you can practically smell the sunscreen already. “Most people rev up their workout routines right before taking a big trip, so wherever you’re going this summer, get your reservations nailed down as soon as you can,” says Larkin. Not only will thinking of your trip give you that extra push you need to get through a tough workout, but it also gives you a deadline you can’t cheat. Nothing is more motivating than having to be in a bikini in, oh, 35 days.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
Gymspiration Techniques That WORK
Workout Motivation: You’re Too Legit to Quit
Workout Motivation: No More Excuses!

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Why Men Don’t Get Your Subtle Hints

If it seems like your guy needs a flashing neon sign to clue him in to what you’re thinking, you’re not too far off: Men have twice as much trouble deciphering emotions from women’s eyes than men’s eyes, according to a new study in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany recruited 22 men between the ages of 21 and 52. The men were presented with 36 photos of pairs of eyes (18 male and 18 female) and asked to determine if the emotional state of the person was either “distrustful” or “terrified.” While they were thinking, an fMRI recorded images of the brain processes at work. The men took longer and had more trouble recognizing emotions in female eyes. And the fMRI results told a similar story: The brain regions involved in emotions were more active when the participants were analyzing male eyes rather than female eyes.

So that explains why you can shoot your guy a look that says “I can’t believe you just did that,” and he somehow interprets it as, “We should definitely get pizza after this.” In many cases, your partner just can’t pick up subtle hints—but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get you. “The study is actually good news because when women are not understood, we tend to take it personally,” says Paula Bloom, PsyD, coauthor of Why Does He Do That? Why Does She Do That? “But it’s really because we’re wired differently.”

Even though your guy may not be great at guessing your emotions based on your gaze, there are simple ways to boost your communication so you’re both on the same page. Make these tweaks to better understand each other:

Set it up right
As tempting as it is to start ranting when your guy shows up an hour late, take a breath first and wait until you can rationally say why you’re upset, says Bloom. “I’m not suggesting you edit your feelings, but that intensity and tendency to attack when you feel vulnerable can shut someone else down,” says Bloom. Set up the conversation by saying something like “Can we talk about something that’s been bugging me?” Not only will this help your guy get prepared for what you’re about to say, but it also helps you to calm down a little so you don’t launch right into an argument.

Stay away from certain words
If you’re trying to tell your partner you’re upset, avoid words like “never” and “always” while describing their behavior. “It puts someone on the defensive and then they miss what you’re really saying,” says Bloom. So unless you want them to tune out after your first sentence, focus instead on explaining why a very specific event or action set you off—rather than accusing them of always doing something.

Be prepared to repeat yourself
In the beginning of a relationship, there are tons of opportunities for miscommunications—you may not know each other very well or understand the other person’s pet peeves. So don’t be surprised if you have to explain something—like that you dread going to clubs or get annoyed when someone is late—more than once. “Saying something once doesn’t mean you’ve covered it for all time,” says Susan Campbell, PhD, author of Truth in Dating: Finding Love By Getting Real. “Sometimes we need to hear over and over what a person needs—not because they don’t care about us, but because people don’t learn a new behavior that quickly.”

Figure out why you misunderstood each other
If your guy totally misread a situation—like thinking you were cool with him blowing off your date for guy’s night—it can be helpful to backtrack to figure out what went wrong. The best way to do this is actually talking about what went down, even if it’s awkward, says Campbell. First, ask what he saw or heard that made him think you felt a certain way. Maybe you said “Sure, fine” in a sarcastic tone, but he took it as your approval. When you rehash how each of you interpreted something, you’ll figure out where the communication breakdown happened so you can avoid a similar misinterpretation in the future.

Call each other out when you’re confused
Not sure if his silence means he’s upset or just zoned out? Ask! It’s usually the only way to be totally sure of what the other person’s subtle cues mean, says Campbell. “Let’s say you just asked him a personal question and he looks at the floor. Sometimes you can just comment on that,” says Campbell. You can say something non-confrontational, like “I hope that didn’t make you uncomfortable, because you seemed to shut down a little then.” “It helps you to check your assumptions, rather than believing all the stories you’re making up in your head,” says Campbell. Encourage your guy to do the same when he’s not sure what you’re thinking. Over time, you’ll both get way better at reading each other’s emotions.

photo: Comstock/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Talk To Your Boyfriend So He’ll Listen
Fight Less, Love More
The Relationship Lies You’re Probably Telling

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Crazy But True: One In Four Melanoma Survivors Don’t Use Sunscreen

You’d think that skin cancer survivors would be hyper-vigilant about wearing sunscreen and staying out of the sun, but not always: More than 27 percent of people who’ve had melanomas removed say they don’t use sunscreen—and 2.1 percent have actually gone to a tanning salon recently, according to new findings presented earlier this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Researchers analyzed data from the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 National Health Interview Survey, an annual, nationally representative survey of people in the U.S. that asks questions on a wide range of health topics. What they were looking for in particular: participants’ self-reported history of melanoma, as well as how that corresponded to their sun protection and indoor tanning habits.

Of the adults in the survey, 171 had a prior history of melanoma and 26,949 didn’t. “Using this very robust data source, we were able to determine that melanoma survivors in general do a better job on staying out of the sun, using sunscreen, and so on—but we still could be doing much better,” says study author Anees B. Chagpar, MD, an associate professor in the department of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine. Of the non-melanoma survivors, 35.4 percent of people said that they never use sunscreen. When you look at the flip side of that—how many people say they always use sunscreen—melanoma survivors also do better than people who haven’t had any of the serious skin cancers removed (32 percent versus 17 percent). But here’s the scariest part: When you control for other demographic factors like race and age, people who’d had melanoma were no less likely to say they’d visited a tanning salon in the last year than people who hadn’t had the disease.

“Truthfully, that blew my mind,” says Chagpar. “All of this really does raise the question of: Are there some behaviors like tanning that just may be habits that are very difficult to break?”

Whether or not indoor tanning is addictive, it is certainly dangerous—particularly for melanoma survivors, who are nine times more likely to get a subsequent melanoma, says Chagpar. While this group needs to be particularly proactive, people who haven’t had skin cancer in the past certainly aren’t off the hook when it comes to staying safe.

“The fact that over a third of people in general never wear sunscreen is problematic,” says Chagpar. “This study really sends a message to both groups that we really could be doing a much better job in terms of protecting ourselves from the harmful rays of the sun and certainly the harmful rays of indoor tanning salons.”

In addition to never, ever indoor tanning, you should apply SPF—the higher, the better—whenever you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time, says Chagpar. You’ll also need to reapply it every few hours, and it’s a good idea to wear hats, long sleeves, and a long skirt or pants (if you can bear it).

“These are common sense public health messages that wev’e been sending for a long time,” says Chagpar. “I think this is simply a wakeup call that we know these answers, we just could be doing a better job of actually following them.”

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
Tanning Beds: Skin Cancer Kills
What’s Your Skin Cancer Risk?
The New Skin Cancer Fighter

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Good News: You Don’t Need to Find a Husband in College

Within hours of when her letter to the editor went live on the website of The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University’s student newspaper, Susan A. Patton knew she had hit a nerve.


“TKquote,” says Patton, who spoke with Women’s Health yesterday. Soon afterward, the site crashed altogether, presumably from the influx of traffic generated by Patton’s letter.

For what it’s worth, Patton stands by the message expressed in her letter—in spite of the intense public ire it’s received.

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Caution: Birth Control and Migraines Don’t Mix

Dealing with migraines is enough of a headache. But if you’re on birth control, it gets even more complicated. Women who get migraines and use newer forms of combination birth control, which involve two or more hormones, are at greater risk of blood clots and stroke, finds new research out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The risk is higher if you have migraines with aura—those delightful visual hallucinations that accompany your headache.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of 145,304 women who were using combination birth control between 2001 and 2012. They found that women with migraines had an increased risk of blood clots or stroke compared to women without migraines. A smaller subset, women with migraines with aura, were at even greater risk. The highest-risk group of all? Women who had migraines with aura who were also taking newer forms of combination birth control, such as YAZ, the patch, and the NuvaRing. According to the research, 7.6 percent of women with migraines with aura who used drospirenone-ethinyl estradiol (aka YAZ) were diagnosed with blood clots, compared with 6.3 percent of women with aura-free migraines who were also on the birth control (stats about women who fell into other groups who were diagnosed with blood clots haven’t yet been released).

The researchers stress that the data is just preliminary. But the study builds on decades of research linking migraines with aura to increased cardiovascular risk, particularly for women on birth control. Having migraines already puts you at risk of having heart problems, says Tobias Kurth, MD, adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved with the study. And it’s well-known that blood clots are a potential side effect of using birth control. Together, migraines and birth control may increase your risk levels, says Kurth. That said, it’s important to note that the research may have some confounding variables. For instance, it’s possible that more people with migraines are prescribed the newer forms of birth control because so much research links the older forms with cardiovascular risk. When those people get a stroke or blood clot, it’s not clear if it’s caused by the new birth control or their pre-existing condition.

Kurth says that if you’re on birth control and susceptible to migraines, it’s best to discuss your options with your doctor. One thing to keep in mind: Lighting up puts you in even greater danger. If you suffer from migraines with aura and are on birth control, you absolutely have to stop smoking—or give up the oral contraceptives, says Kurth.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
5 Ways to Prevent and Treat Migraines
Sneaky Headache Triggers to Avoid
Side Effects of Birth Control

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