Kaitlyn chose Shawn because their chemistry was best

July 29th, 2015

This past season of the Bachelorette was entertaining to say the least. The credit should go mostly to Kaitlyn who is a straight-talking, down to earth, “fun girl,” who always kept it interesting. Of course, she was given a really great bunch of guys to choose from, and it appears that several had very genuine feelings for her. Lucky girl.

From the start, Kaitlyn was drawn to Shawn because of his looks/presence. She was wowed when he came out of the limo and he earned that all-important first impression rose. Actually, all past contestants who were awarded this distinction did not go on to be the one standing at the end, so in this case, it’s easy to say they had love at first sight. However, there was more and it was that more that speaks to having the kind of chemistry that goes the distance.

Kaitlyn wasn’t shy about discussing her need for a strong physical attraction to the man she would eventually end up with. This she said, was a must have. It was clear from the first time he showed up on the scene, four episodes in—that Nick was someone that had an almost irresistible pull for Kaitlyn. The physical aspect of their connection was intense and it was not only Kaitlyn’s focus when she talked about him, it also got her into trouble with the other guys when they were all in Ireland. Kaitlyn just couldn’t help but give in to the sexual pull on their date, and it almost cost her some great guys.

Because of this chemistry, it’s likely that many viewers saw Nick as the likely winner. Yes, Kaitlyn was very into a few of the men, Shawn included…but there was something about Nick. Even when she brought Shawn and Nick home to her family, she seemed to be leaning heavily towards Nick and lobbying her family to give him a chance and not judge him based on the Andi season. They remained open and supportive and came to like Nick and that was what Kaitlyn said she needed in order to choose either guy, her family’s approval. Then, it was up to her.

So what edge did Shawn have over Nick that led to her ultimately choosing him and feeling very sure about it? It was chemistry. Now if this seems confusing to you it is probably because you are looking at physical chemistry as THE chemistry a couple needs to have. If so, you are leaving out two important parts of chemistry that Shawn clearly had more of with Kaitlyn. These are friendship and their intellectual connection.

Their friendship bond must have been stronger, more in sync, contained more comfort and trust—and led Kaitlyn to feel as though Shawn was someone who really got and accepted her on a deep level, deeper and stronger than what she had with Nick. Their intellectual chemistry must also have been stronger. It’s likely they could talk for hours and finish each other’s sentences, that they laughed at the same things, that their worldview was similar—and that they challenged and excited each other through discussion and the sharing of ideas—not just when they were between the sheets.

Physical attraction might create those first sparks and keep our attention at least for a while, but without friendship and intellectual stimulation, passion is the fast-burning candle that starts as an intense flame and quickly dies out, leaving us wondering what went wrong. What we should be asking ourselves is what was missing in the first place. Kaitlyn made sure she explored her relationships to the fullest extent possible and it’s likely this relationship will go the distance.

Is it wise to rebound after your break-up?

July 20th, 2015

Break-ups are very painful, no way around it. The grieving process takes time, and in the meantime it’s hard not to seek consolation in the arms of someone new. After all, it’s the feelings of intimacy and the validation from someone else that we most value from our relationships. So why not find someone to help the healing?

Conventional wisdom, often spoken by therapists and relationship coaches like myself–warns of rebounding into something new when you have not gotten over your ex. Indeed, if you do get into a rebound relationship and find yourself just looking for revenge, making endless comparisons and/ or reacting to the new person as though they are the one who let you go–your rebound fling will fizzle quickly or you may find yourself repeating the same dysfunctional dynamics you had with your ex.

But is a rebound relationship ever useful or helpful, and is there a chance it could work? Yes and yes.
Research conducted over the past few years has concluded that people who rebound quickly after break-ups build their confidence back more quickly and get a boost to their self-esteem. If someone has extreme difficulty following a break-up due to issues with a need for attachment, being with someone new can help them truly say good bye to their ex. Of course, this could just mean they are displacing their need to be attached on to someone new, but if that relationship is better suited to them, it could work.

It also seems to matter how strong a person’s self-esteem was to begin with. If you start out with a healthy self-esteem, your rebound relationship is likely to be healthier and happier. This makes a lot of sense, which is why it Is important to do an honest self-assessment and decide if you have issues you need to deal with before dragging another person along for a dysfunctional ride.

One last interesting fact is that studies have found that marriages that occurred soon after the end of a previous relationship (separation/divorce), were just as successful as marriages that did not happen after a rebound. No significant difference in health or longevity was found. So if you are recently in splitsville and everyone is telling you that you need to take it slow, be alone, and not rush into a new relationship–let them know that the facts say otherwise, especially if you are someone with a healthy sense of self and who knows what you want and need in a relationship.

Older women beware of dating site con men

July 18th, 2015

The NY Times ran a great piece on how older women are targeted by scammers when they post profiles on dating sites. These women are choice victims because they have accumulated wealth from years of savings, and are often recently widowed and lonely–which makes them especially vulnerable to that interested and attentive stranger who knows just what to say as he heaps attention on them and eases their loneliness.

According to the piece, this industry is thriving and it could be worse than anyone really knows. This is because so many of these women don’t report it, due to a sense of shame–imagine that heaped upon a loss of significant cash or even one’s life savings. Women who were interviewed for this story talked about how good it felt to have someone to talk to who seemed to care so much. They described their hurt, shock, and shame. Many hid it from family and friends. All said they were naive and that these guys were just too good at it. Amounts up to several hundred thousand have been reported as lost to these scams–and one wonders if these women are now unable to keep their homes and lifestyles because of it.

Everyone from the FBI to the dating sites themselves have been working to find ways to identify and prevent these predators from gaining access and finding and conning their targets. Warnings are posted all over the sites, but too often they go unread. These guys have a formula that involves connecting, gaining trust quickly, then asking the target to use private email and phone contact instead of going through the website where it could be detected.

The formula usually involves posing as a businessman headed to another country for work who gets in a jam and needs money transferred to carry him over. In some cases, he needs money for his new business or for a project that is being held up until his own funds are accessible. Another one is when he needs money for medical bills due a medical emergency far from home. Then there is the classic one of needing cash so he can come to her and they can have that first in-person meeting and then more to follow.

The bottom line is that somewhere along the way He asks for money–and this should be where the red flags start flying. Never, ever send money to Anyone you don’t know well, like a close family member. It may sound impossible that this could happen to you or that anyone could be this bad, but they are. They are very bad.

Look for men closer to home. Check them out online to see if they are who they say they are. Google the “script” they send you about being in desperate need of quick funds–how much do you want to bet you will find it word for word listed on a scam identifying site. No.one can take advantage of you without your permission, so say no. A guy who is the real deal will only be interested in you, not your bank account.

Been dumped? The feelings will set you free

July 15th, 2015

The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science conducted a study on how talking about and rehashing the loss of a relationship impacts recovery and moving on. Contrary to popular myth, it helps a person to heal faster if they wallow in the feelings and share them freely with others.

210 young adults who had recently experienced heartbreak were included in the study. For a period of 9 weeks, half were asked to come in and talk about their feelings of loss by answering questions about the break-up. The other half were only required to complete a survey at the beginning and the end of the study. The group who answered the questions were able to process their feelings and feel better about themselves and their newly single status. Research shows that regaining a clear sense of self and purpose is critical to being able to heal and move on. Researchers did note that dwelling too long on negative feelings is not the same as reflection that can lead to new insights. An important difference to be sure.

None of this means that you can make a break-zip easy. It will hurt, and it will take time. Fortunately people usually overestimate how long it takes. So, if you have recently had your heart broken, spend some time reflecting on the relationship and discussing it with a few trusted others. Life will go on and you will most likely be better off without your ex.

True love is helped along by the size of one’s bank account

July 9th, 2015

Market research firm, YouGuv conducted a study for the insurance company Haven Life. They surveyed more than 1,100 people who were asked “What amount of hidden debt in a relationship would lead you to break up with someone?” For 70% of respondents 5,000 would be a deal breaker. One in five of those surveyed admitted to having debt that their partner does not know about—yet some of these same people would dump a partner for the same thing. Very interesting.

“Financial infidelity” appears to be alive and well—as a couples therapist I see my fair share of it. According to various surveys about one in five people in a relationship admit to spending $500.00 or more without their partner’s knowledge; and others admit to hiding bank statements, bills and cash from their partners. It’s clear money is an issue and flash point for couples and they apparently fear coming clean about their spending habits and financial health and habits.

The good news is that if you are frugal, you will be more attractive to potential partners. This could actually be a focal point in an online dating profile. A study conducted in 2013 found that people were more attracted to a picture of someone once they knew they were a saver and not a spender—talk about foreplay.

When couples split, money is often a key issue—who gets what, who did what with joint money during the relationships, who paid for what, etc. The bottom line? Check out their financial status before jumping into commitment. Suggest you exchange credit scores with a “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” Money matters, no matter what you hear to the contrary.

Is sex really that important in a relationship?

July 4th, 2015

The New York Times just featured an interesting piece titled First comes Sex Talk with These renegades of Couples Therapy. Essentially it deals with the issue of the importance of sex in happy marriages and relationships—and it challenges the notion that couples need to first focus on their underlying issues in couples therapy in order to heal and/or strengthen their relationships. Instead this piece is saying that sex is the 600 pound gorilla in the relationship that has been ignored for way too long.

Many new voices in the field of couple’s therapy (my field by the way) are emphasizing the importance of good sex in a relationship—and basically saying that without good sex, the relationship will be in trouble. They are therefore saying that sex should be talked about before any other issues the couple may be struggling with. Now that is new.

Now instead of focusing on infidelity, communication, and chore sharing, these “sex-forward” therapists are talking about sex, and kinky sex at that. One prominent member of this radical group of therapists says that Mystery and distance could benefit long-term monogamy.” This is new thinking all right. She also believe that talking about the trauma of affairs limits the couple’s ability to grow and strengthen their bond. She believes that betrayal is the opportunity for growth—and it’s hard to argue with this. I have worked with many couples who come out of an affair with a much closer and stronger relationship.

Another sex therapist in this movement tells couples to write their own monogamy rules, which can include weekend trysts or trysts that they participate in together. She sees monogamy as something that needs to be regularly renewed, like a license. This can be a slippery slope if you ask me. Once these boundaries get crossed, it can harm the relationship if one partner feels threatened or falls for someone they have been sexually involved with.

One New York psychotherapist meets with her couples individually, asking them to write sexual menus that they can share with their partner later on. Her focus is never to feel embarrassment about your desires or shame your partner for theirs. Everything is OK as long as both people agree. She believes in “GGG” which is based on the column of Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist. It stands for a belief that a “person should strive to be good in bed, giving to their partner and game for anything — within reason. She also emphasizes quality over frequency, which is very different than what most therapists advise. The piece also discusses pornography and internet use of it and how couples can come to some agreement on this issue.

Want to read it in its entirety? Click here

Looking for love? Try friendship first

July 2nd, 2015

The journal Psychological Science has released some new and very interesting findings on physical attraction in dating and relationships. According to lead researcher Lucy hunt of the University of Texas at Austin, when two individuals have more time to get acquainted before they begin a romantic relationship, factors like personality and compatibility weigh as heavily as physical attraction does when two people start dating right after meeting. Essentially this means that a person’s compatibility and personality can make them more attractive to someone who might not have been attracted to them in a typical meeting and dating situation.

This study was inspired by an interest that Hunt and colleagues Paul Eastwick (UT Austin) and Eli Finkel (Northwestern U) had in understanding why individuals are more likely to be with mates who have similar physical, behavioral, and psychological characteristics, otherwise known as “assortative mating.”

Obviously success in dating comes from one’s desirability, so those who are most physically attractive tend to get the most notice from others who are also considered highly desirable. This study challenged this by looking at how those who are less physically attractive could get an edge on the competition, and it appears they can when they can get to know someone over time and therefore, increase their attractiveness to that person. Looks then take a back seat to all those other qualities.

This is good news for anyone who feels left out in the typical dating scene—always left on the sidelines as your “beautiful” friends get chosen. It also gives more weight to what some relationship experts (myself included) have been saying for years—try to meet people through a passion, sport, activity, interest that you are involved in regularly. It will bring you into contact with like-minded people and give you a lot of face, body, mind, and soul time to connect, get to know one another, learn about what each has to offer, feel a connection and then maybe go for that first date.

Yes, friends can and do become lovers. According to this research, it might be the best way to find that right someone.

Want to read the study? Click here

Getting a “sleep divorce” may help your marriage

June 27th, 2015

Once again the topic of married couples sleeping apart is being discussed. This past week on NBC’s Nightly News there was a segment on it—which was probably prompted in part by the latest research on sleep deprivation and its impact on both our physical and emotional health. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to longevity, good health, fighting disease and good brain health which impacts our thinking and emotions—not to mention our relationships.

Apparently over 25% of couples are now sleeping in separate beds or rooms. This number is reported to have risen in recent years as the rate of sleep disorders has also risen. There is an epidemic of sleep disorders out there—and they can take the shape of difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, frequent nighttime wakening, apnea, staying up too late, and/or using electronic devices too close to bedtime or turning them on when awakened during the night. All of these will result in not getting enough hours of sleep—especially those quality hours of deep sleep in which we dream heavily and our brains get to work excreting toxins and doing important repairs.

So why are couples separating at night? Sharing a bed can lead to being awakened by a spouse who snores, gets up frequently to go to the bathroom, is sick, is a light sleeper who tosses and turns, who snores, and/or uses their device in bed, impacting their partner with the light it gives off. Some of these can be addressed through changing behavior, but others are more complicated and may require seeing a Doctor and/or sleep specialist to address the problem.

I recommend to couples struggling with this that they begin with an open discussion, sharing ideas on what they can do to resolve it. Everything from having an agreement that the bedroom will be a no electronic zone, to having separate top sheets and blankets, to changing which side of the bed they sleep on, to changing their mattress to something larger or one that accommodates their different sleep needs. If one has apnea and/or is a heavy snorer, seeing a doctor is a must. There are many new treatments that can help sufferers get a better night’s sleep. The key is that the couple can work together on the problem and both be willing to make adjustments. If they decide it just isn’t workable, sleeping apart may be a necessity for them as going without sleep will lead to increased tension, anger and fighting, and could lead to serious marital discord.

If sleeping in separate beds, they can spend some time together in one before falling asleep. If separate rooms, they can spend time together in one in order to spend intimate time together. If weekends allow them to sleep in, they could do overnights if they desire. The key here is not to assume if you or someone you know is sleeping apart that it is the end of the relationship. Intimacy—both emotional and physical is shared throughout the day and there is plenty of time for couples to have it together. The bed is primarily for sleep—and since it’s a critical part of a healthy life, it’s important to ensure your partner is getting theirs. Sweet dreams.

The wisdom of those with age and experience can help prevent divorce

June 19th, 2015

A gerontologist from Cornell University conducted a project that studied nearly 400 Americans who were 65+ years old and had been married for 30+ years . Extensive interviews were designed to capture the wisdom and insights of these people who had managed to overcome the common marital challenges and problems of their shared life and keep their unions intact. Divorced individuals were also interviewed for their experience with breaking-up and how others might avoid the problems they encountered.

The Cornell Marriage Advice Project’s conclusions are detailed in the book by Karl Pillemer, the project’s author. In 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and marriage; Pillemer presents a list of the most frequently selected lessons for successful, long-term relationships.

Here are his top five lessons:

• Learn to communicate. Couples who talk things through openly and candidly usually work them out.

• Get to know a person well before making the commitment. This came even from those who married young and after a short courtship. Their bottom line, you can’t change anyone, ever.

• See marriage as a lifetime commitment, not just a limited contract that you can break when it’s no longer fun and/or easy like it was. It’s important to hang in there and work through your problems, not walk away.

• Be a team. If you treat marriage as two individuals, it will be every man for himself when the going gets rough. You are in it together and this attitude leads to mutual support and happiness.

• Choose someone who is similar to you or compliments you. It’s important that your interests, values, and world view are compatible—especially when it comes to handling money and raising children.

This study is important not just for those who have already walked down the aisle—but for those who are out there dating and in relationships moving towards commitment. It starts with who you choose and why—then it’s using both your head and heart when you make that important choice and once made—staying true to that commitment through thick and thin.

Healthy self-Esteem is at the root of good relationships

June 18th, 2015

It has often been said that we “should work on ourselves first” before making a lifelong commitment to someone else. There is a lot of wisdom in this as we need to be really OK with ourselves first, on the inside, not just the outside, and have a basic readiness that is essential to relationship success.

Researchers Nyla Branscombe from the University of Kansas and Catherine Haslam from the University of Queensland collaborated with lead author Jolanda Jetten on experiments that explored the importance of group membership to a person’s self-esteem.

Their subject group included school children, the elderly, and formerly homeless people from several countries. They found that people who belonged to several groups, regardless of what these groups were–had higher self-esteem. The only caveat was that these people needed to see the groups they were a part of to contribute to their sense of who they are—in other words, these groups offer a sense of identity along with belonging. Most interesting was the finding that having many friends did not correlate with higher self-esteem like being a part of several groups did. Apparently being a part of a group does more for our sense of self than just our interpersonal relationships do. So much for the old belief that having many friends makes us well-adjusted and raises our self-esteem.

According to the researchers, group membership offers people meaning, connection, support and a sense of control over their lives. Certainly helps to explain how important group identity is to a developing adolescent and why kids will gravitate to ANY group, even one that is seen negatively, rather than risking having no association or identity.

This also defines an old belief that somehow self-esteem is something we just possess or not. The good news is that anyone can raise theirs by seeking out groups that offer them something valuable and actively participating in them. It has been shown in previous studies that people who feel a part of something larger live happier, healthier lives than those who are isolated. Makes a lot of sense.

All this points to the importance for anyone in any relationship stage to stay connected to others outside of your primary relationship and family. Peer networks that grow from work relationships, shared passions, places of worship, community causes, or anything that brings people together and helps unite them is good for us. It appears that old adage has real wisdom—“No man is an island.”