Western U study explores health of relationships — and not just on Valentines Day


Relationships are on the mind with Valentine’s Day here once again, but a London, Ont., psychologist is asking how a seemingly healthy romantic relationship can become dissatisfying over time and what can be done to intervene.

David Dozois, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Western University, is heading a study which examines how partners interpret one another’s behaviour in order to explore what might lead a relationship to become a negative experience.

David Dozois is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Western University.
David Dozois is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Western University. Dozois Lab
Dozois said that the ongoing study is related to his work with depression, “realizing that a big part of it has to do with interpersonal beliefs [and] beliefs about who I am in relationships with others.”
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“We started to look at what are the belief systems we set up in terms of romantic relationships, and can we better understand those in terms of how that contributes to depression and to relationship distress,” he said.

Through the study, Dozois and his team have developed a series of questionnaires that “measure how individuals think about their partners.”

Currently, 150 couples are involved and are put through a conflict discussion task where they talk about something that’s “causing a bit of an issue in the relationship,” Dozois said. The discussion is filmed and played back for analysis, and participants are also 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,” Dozois said.

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Highlighting the effects of COVID-19 in terms of previous lockdowns, he said that “the pandemic has really shown us both the good and the bad in relationships.”

“For many, I think it was something that augmented whatever was there,” he said. “If there was some tension in the relationship, it made things worse. But if it was a healthy relationship, I think the pandemic actually helped us facilitate to make things better.

“It was really sort of something that built extremes within our relationships,” he added.

The research team is looking for a total of 300 adult couples of all gender identities, sexual orientations and age groups to join the study. Dozois said that a couple must have been in a relationship for three or more months to be accepted.

For more information and those wishing to join the study can email the research team at

Click to play video: 'Valentine’s Day 2023: Ex-couple remarries after spending 11 years apart'
Valentine’s Day 2023: Ex-couple remarries after spending 11 years apart

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