Exploring partner belief systems and the health of relationships

How does a seemingly healthy romantic relationship become dissatisfying over time and what can be done to intervene?

“We all have a belief system about ourselves, but we also develop belief systems with our partners that act as a filter and guide the way we interpret the day-to-day behaviour of our partners,” said psychologist David Dozois, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Western University.

“If we have a well-organized negative belief system about our partner, then we tend to not cut the person any slack, and anything they do gets interpreted though this negative lens.”

David Dozois is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Western University. (Dozois Lab)

Dozois is the director of the clinical psychology graduate program at Western and is available to the media for comment in the lead up to Valentine’s Day.

He is currently running a study examining how partners interpret one another’s behaviour to explore what might lead a relationship to become a negative experience.

To better understand how partner belief systems might go awry, Dozois and his team have developed a series of questionnaires that measure how individuals think about their partners.

Couples involved in the study are also put through a conflict discussion task that is filmed and played back for analysis and are asked to keep a daily diary for a few weeks.

“With all that information we hope to come up with better interventions to help couples learn to communicate differently, problem solve, and better accept the other partner, which can go a long way in improving relationship satisfaction,” said Dozois.

The study is currently underway with more than 150 couples already involved. The team is looking for adult couples of all gender identities, sexual orientations and age groups. A couple must have been in a relationship for three or more months to be accepted into the study.

Anyone wishing to join the study can email the research team at moodlab@uwo.ca

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zadorsky, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 226.377.1673 (mobile), jzadorsk@uwo.ca.