Happy marriage= a happier life

January 12th, 2015

Two Canadian economists have come out with a paper that shows that people are generally happier in middle age if they are married. Accumulated research has already demonstrated that happiness follows a U curve—happiness is high when we are young, it dips throughout middle age, and it rises as we enter our later years. This is probably due to the heavy load we carry throughout our middle years and the stress that accompanies it.

Now there is data to show that we can increase our happiness if we marry. Interesting in that marriage and family life bring a lot of stress and additional responsibility along with them. However, we have a partner to (theoretically anyway) share it with—someone to lean on, help shoulder the burden and have our back when we most need it. Makes sense. Of course, the caveat is that it has to be a GOOD marriage. We all know the downsides when it isn’t, divorce being the final step when things can’t be fixed between two people. Talk about stress and misery.

This is important because many young people are putting off and even avoiding marriage altogether—and even those who say they want to marry can prolong it to the point that the pool of good candidates has shrunk considerably. We have more choice when we are younger—and choosing wisely is key to ending up in a happy marriage. So, keep your mind open to marriage, don’t put it off with someone who feels really right because of career, education or other goals that you can continue to pursue as easily when married as you can as a single person. If you want children, there will be time later—as long as you don’t wait too many years until you feel “just right’ and “ready.” If you find the right mate, the rest will eventually take care of itself.

Are the Millennials a “Generation Unbound?”

January 11th, 2015

Isabel Sawhill is a Democrat and a former Clinton administration official—she has also been a staunch supporter of the institution of marriage throughout her career. Her stance has always been based on solid data—children raised in two-parent, married households do far better than their peers who are raised in other family arrangements.

However, Ms. Sawhill is also a pragmatist, and as such she recently wrote a book titled Generation Unbound, that comes to the conclusion that marriage may be dead—at least for the majority of people. A cultural revolution of sorts has impacted this institution and Ms. Sawhill’s point is that we need to be realistic and look at what else society can do to reduce poverty, instability, absent fathers, poor physical and mental health—and all the problems that affect children more who are from unmarried families.

Marriage has been on the decline for over 50 years, and with it, the rate of childhood poverty and at-risk children has risen significantly. Sawhill advocates for targeting the ways that people (especially women and children) enter into poverty. The primary one being women who drift into unplanned pregnancies and motherhood. In order to address this, women will need goals, help with planning, and an education that allows them to live an independent life. She advocates for subsidized contraception, to include long-term options that are often controversial but effective. Once women have set goals, gotten a good education and found a decent career, then they could turn their attention and resources to finding a mate and starting a family. Sawhill’s ideas make what’s old into new again, but there is wisdom in what she says.

Another way to frame this is to see it as teaching young people about the benefits to delaying gratification VS acting impulsively and then paying for it, possibly for many years. Some women may take offense at Ms. Sawhill’s ideas and her focus on women—but it is women who will ultimately need to make the decisions that will determine their futures. The role of men will also continue to be very important as they would be required to step up, take responsibility for their children and be an important part of a shared life and family.

Maybe the Village is gone, but more traditional families do not have to be. If society gives its support to the well-being of children, it will begin with helping the young women and men who will be the parents of these children. Encouraging and supporting them in setting goals, getting a decent education and finding viable careers are all things that society can encourage and help foster. Maybe the village isn’t gone after all.

How to turn a single man into a married-to-you man

January 10th, 2015

If you consider yourself a feminist or support what feminism stands for, you may need to brace yourself right now. A new dating guide, Single Man, Married Man, written by eight African-American men, is an in-your-face read about how a woman can win a man and get him to the altar. It’s filled with “old-fashioned” advice on how to cater to and stroke a guy’s ego—because according to the authors, this is a sure way to his heart and eventual commitment.

Single Man, Married Man made its New Year’s debut on Fox and Friends—where the hosts instructed women to “listen up” and recommended the guide’s wisdom for the basis of their New Year’s resolutions. They discussed how loving acts can make a man love a woman more, which leads to his desire for greater commitment. They emphasized that women should perform loving acts and sprinkle him with compliments, without expecting a quid pro quo—instead, it should just be because she cares about him and his happiness.

I agree that they have this half right. Each partner benefits when the other is loving, supportive, freely bestows loving gestures, and positive affirmations. However, happy marriage requires two people participating in both the giving and receiving. Yes, this is good advice—for men and women alike.

So ladies if your goal is to find one good man for marriage and more, don’t discount what these men are saying. Just make sure you find a man who can give as well as he gets. Now that is a marriage made in heaven.

The dynamics of Bruce and Kris Jenner’s relationship

December 28th, 2014

He says that she was the one who dominated the relationship. He went along with her agendas for family, kids, reality TV—and the relationship itself. She feels betrayed by his deeply held secret that all along what he has wanted has been to live as a woman. With their divorce finally happening, both should get what they want.

If we look at these two well-known people as individuals as opposed to as a famous couple—it is easier to break down their dynamics in order to see who was doing what, why and how it met their needs–at least for a number of years. Bruce is an Olympian who won the gold for the decathalon in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. As a strapping male athlete, his image of strength, virility and masculinity was important to his bottom line. His win led to many endorsements and other lucrative deals that have made him a wealthy man. Being a husband (married 3 times) and father of several children just reinforced his heterosexual image.

For Kris, this was a man who could take care of her and her kids while also being the right partner to help her social advancement. He took on the role of stepdad to her three girls and then they had two more of their own. Their twenty-two year marriage led to greater fame and fortune—and both seemed to get what they were looking for from the other—until it just wasn’t enough anymore. It was probably this realization that once they achieved what they felt they wanted, there was still an emptiness and a need that the marriage would never fill.

How often this happens to couples. They have this image of the ideal life, complete with their short and long-term goals. They too often believe that they know just what they will want and need, even way down the road of life–and when they find someone who fits the bill, they make the commitment. Then, when what they thought would make them happy doesn’t–the marriage becomes strained, often the individuals make poor choices to deal with their unhappiness, and the fall-out can be not only divorce, but much harm to the children who are caught in the middle.

When looking for that right person—consider finding someone who completes you, not someone who will make you happy and give you the life you are sure you want. Never forget that old saying, “There are two great tragedies in life; one is not to get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it.”

The New York Times best ever love columns

December 21st, 2014

A decade ago, the New York Times began running a modern love column feature in its Sunday Style section. To date there are more than 500—and the Times decided to look back and see which ones were the most popular with readers. The authors whose columns were selected were as different as their stories. They included a wife and mother, a marketing engineer an actress and a college student—ranging in age from 18-80. Yet readers were moved to tears, laughter, and everything in-between.

They wrote about what it takes to have a happy marriage, about couples who have fallen out of love, about how to rekindle love, how to find love in the first place, about how age doesn’t have to hold you back, about the new modern family (whatever that is), about being loved just for who you are—and a few others that are sure to please.

If I’ve provoked your curiosity, you can read this delightful piece that includes all of these columns. It just might help you to shift your perspective a bit as we enter the end of one year and contemplate what we would like to have in the one ahead. Go here to have a wonderful read and enjoy!

Does parenthood hurt a woman’s career?

December 6th, 2014

Harvard Business School released surprising findings from the first installment of survey data it collected on the careers of alumni. They found that women graduates leave school with high career expectations, but end up compromising their professional goals due to taking primary responsibility for child-rearing. Gee, what a surprise… There is much discussion and debate about women not being equally represented in high corporate positions and it may come down to a simple truth—women take on more at home than men do.

The Harvard study theorized that women have the aspirations, but can’t get the appropriate child-care that would allow them to pursue a challenging career. Men on the other hand have the expectation that their career will be the primary one and are less apt to make professional sacrifices for more involvement at home. Therefore, women’s expectations often don’t come close to the reality and men often exceed their expectations. This could be discouraging for any women who are very career oriented. If this is true of Harvard graduates, imagine what it is for women who may not have been as career driven in the first place?

According to those who worked on the study, they could not find a good explanation for the gender gap at the top in business. Therefore, they are skeptical about the belief that women prioritize family over work. While I understand the importance of hard data—I’m skeptical of their skepticism. I believe that many women do put their families and especially the well-being of the children, first. This does not mean they are not passionate about their work or that it isn’t hard for them to give up what they must in order to be more involved parents. However, it’s not possible to be a hands-on parent and a top executive all at the same time. Something has to give and most moms don’t want it to be the well-being of the children.

Feminists will probably seize upon this and start talking more about how men need to step up and how the unfairness needs to be addressed. Good luck with that. There will always be men who are more involved at home, who back up their wives on a regular basis and who are natural born nurturers—however, they are in the minority. Regardless, this comes down to choice, which is what women have fought for. Women choose to marry a certain man and some choose to have a child or children. Even though they may have a rewarding career they want something else too. There is nothing wrong with this and in fact, women who do both suffer depression less than women who stay at home full time. The rub is that it’s the women who work part time and have families that are the least depressed and most satisfied with their lives. This is most likely due to the fact that they are challenged, but not being asked to choose their work over their kids on a daily basis. They have the best of both worlds with less stress and enough time to do a reasonably good job on both fronts.

Unfortunately, part time doesn’t cut it in the corporate world. So all you ladies out there who want to do both full-time—you may want to seek a career change, different work environment or come to grips with years where you are “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The “trailing spouse”

November 29th, 2014

Newly published research in the journal Demography reinforces the belief that women move more often for their spouse’s career than vice versa—but the reasons they cite are new to the debate. What they found is that women enter professions that allow them to be more flexible geographically in order to move or accommodate other needs in their life—especially those of the family. In other words, their careers are more portable, whereas their spouses tend to choose jobs that are tied to a specific location and often have to move in order to get that promotion. It’s interesting to note that even single women tend to move less frequently than single men do—because the careers they choose are more flexible.

None of this means it is easy on the spouse. Her career is impacted and since she has to be the one to make more sacrifices, it puts more strain on their marriage. However, women do choose to do this due most likely to the expectations and norms they were raised with and a woman’s natural tendency to think in terms of the “we” not the “I”. That it continues to occur when women are better educated (more women are earning bachelor’s degrees than men) and more successful in their careers is especially interesting. Maybe it’s not just society influencing it, but something deeper in women themselves. After all, women fought for choice and this is what they are choosing.

What seems doubly unfair is that women who choose more male dominated professions that require moving have a higher divorce rate than women in more flexible careers. So if women move for their spouse, their career can suffer. If they need to move, their marriage could suffer. What is that well-worn line recited over and over again by feminists about “having it all?” if you could fall for that I have this awesome bridge for sale that I would like to show you.

Should this mean women are doomed either way and should give up their career goals and aspirations? No it doesn’t. We just need to remember that there is NO SUCH THING as having it all all at the same time. We will have to give up something to get something, but in the end what we have could bring us great satisfaction. Isn’t that what it is really about for women—finding a balance that allows us to fulfill our deep needs for connection and (often) children, while not giving up on the challenges and triumphs that come with a career we love and have a real talent for?

Want to read the study? You can find it here

Planning for motherhood—eventually

November 21st, 2014

There is a growing trend of women in their thirties freezing their eggs in order to help ensure they will be able to have children in the future. It’s not cheap and can run from approximately $13,000 to $18,000. Many of these would-be Moms are single, others who are married want more time in their career or are just not quite ready to have children yet.

According to the doctors who perform this service, many women are having a hard time finding the right partner—and with the average age of first marriages going up, women are concerned that their fertility may not wait until he comes along. There are also all the often reported concerns about “older” eggs that are pushing women to help their motherhood years stand still or at least increase the viable and safe choice window.

Facebook and apple are now covering this treatment/option, which is probably very good for their bottom line as it will help them to both attract and keep female talent. It seems that guys are OK with the whole idea—after all, it could actually take some pressure off of them if the loud ticking of biological clocks could be quieted.

It all sounds like a great solution to a problem many women today are facing. However no one seems to be really talking about the inconvenient truth that we can’t stop or slow down the clock on our lifespan, and these future moms will be older and maybe much older than anyone had planned. Of course this doesn’t mean they can’t be great Moms, and theoretically they will have more resources, maturity and time to give their children. But they will have more age related issues and will not have as many years with their kids/grandkids as their peers who had children at a younger age. There are never guarantees and many younger parents live shorter lives and leave young children—it’s just that this has the potential to increase. Grandparents may not be as available or even still alive and the parents’ peer group may have moved on to a whole different lifestyle phase which can leave the parents in a kind of social limbo with much younger adults as the parents of their kids’ friends.

Again, none of these has to be a deal breaker. However anyone contemplating having kids in their late 40’s and 50’s may want to give it careful thought beforehand. There’s no such thing as having it all, all at the same time—we give up something to get something else. It’s a long road and we can’t quit just because we are tired. Science has allowed us many more choices and opened up new avenues for our futures. But the one thing we seem to never stop looking for is the fountain of youth. It’s never been found and this is because it (most certainly) doesn’t exist. Kids are an incredible joy and blessing and they change our lives in ways we can’t imagine before we meet ours. Just make sure you are willing and able to go the long and often challenging road raising a child takes you down—n o matter your age when you take the first step.

Marriage is down–remarriage is on the rise

November 16th, 2014

Once again the Pew research Center has come out with something that holds a few eye opening statistics. Four out of every ten newlyweds have been married before-that’s 40% folks. Many are divorced, some are widowed and some have been married multiple times before. This report sheds light on how marriage patterns have been shifting for decades—for instance, only 70% of adults today have been married compared with 85% in 1960. That’s a 15% drop over 50 years. The divorce rate is also much higher and this has contributed to the remarriage increase—apparently baby boomers have a higher divorce rate than any other generation before them.

According to Pew, it’s not that folks are necessarily flocking to the altar to remarry, it’s that there is a much larger pool of once married singles and from this group, we are seeing an uptick in remarriages. What is also interesting is that men are more likely and more motivated to remarry than women are. Apparently men enjoyed having a woman care for them in their first marriage and women who are divorced or widowed aren’t necessarily eager to take on another role as caregiver to a new man. What is not entirely surprising is that remarried men are likely to marry a woman who is at least 10 years younger, while remarried women end up with partners who are older or closer to their own age. 42 million adults remarried in 2013, which is 22 million more than in 1980. In addition 8% of these folks had been married three times or more. What’s also interesting is that older Americans are more likely to be in this remarriage group than younger adults. Those who are 25-34 have a 43% remarriage rate, while those who are older have a 50% rate of remarriage.

If you are an older, single adult who wishes to remarry, this is good news—especially if you are a man. If you are in the younger category with the same marital aspirations, you might be experiencing difficulty either finding potential partners for first time marriage or someone who wants to have a second or third try at getting it right. However, no one has to settle for becoming a statistic. How much success you have in finding and creating a healthy relationship continues to be related to your relationship readiness, how well you handle your own single life, your general attitude and what it tells others about you—and how much effort you are willing to put into it. Just remember that disappointment will come with dating and hopefully you will learn from it and develop the resources and tools that maximize your efforts and increases your chances of finding that right someone if this is what you desire.

Want to read the study? Click here

Marriage is good for your bottom line

November 2nd, 2014

For a number of reasons, it is just not politically correct today to talk about how important marriage is. We might offend women who are older and not yet married, or be accused of being “old-fashioned” and setting young people back in their educational/career aspirations. And to say that marriage actually leads to greater financial security/wealth—well, you know. Only gold-diggers think that way…

Well, it’s not just more conservative folks with an agenda saying these things anymore. There is a new study out that will hopefully open a dialogue about the positive aspects of marriage—getting married and staying married for the sake of all the individuals in the family. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise institute; and Robert L. Lerman, the Urban Institute’s fellow in labor and social policy and a professor of economics at American University—collaborated on a study whose findings revealed that stable, two-parent families decrease the probability that people will end up living in poverty and/or in financially unstable circumstances.

In this study, titled; For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America—the research is broken down into five areas. However, I am only going to focus on the economics here. Their shocking economic conclusion is that the medium income of families that include children would have been 44% greater two years ago (2012) if the marriage rate had remained the same as it was in the 1980’s. So in the last twenty years the divorced and unmarried number of parents has risen significantly, and with it, incomes have dropped by 44%, which has a very negative impact on the parents and especially the children in those families. Essentially, many families now in the lower class could have risen to the middle-class had they had the structure, support and resources that marriage offers. It’s hard to argue with statistics and hard research, folks.

The researchers also found that the gap is worsening due to adults with less education and fewer assets choosing not to marry at all—while better educated and higher earning folks, are the ones getting married and planning carefully for children. Perhaps this is a major contributor to the frequent lament we hear today about how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Our individual choices DO matter—and that is good news because that is something we have control over.

I am not in any way implying that you should marry just for financial security. It is so important to choose wisely, with both your heart and your head. What I am saying is that staying in a relationship because you are “in love” with someone who doesn’t seem to have any interest in marriage could end up being a dead end for you—and lead to a future of greater financial struggle and insecurity. Finding that right person is first, finding someone who wants what you want is a close second. Compatibility and similar goals and Values do matter. Yes, this is practical—and ask any happily married person how they chose their partner. My guess is they would say it was a conscious and thought out decision, not just one based on intensity and biology.

The reality is that it is easier for some people to get an education, find a good job and enjoy the good life—but this is possible for everyone. It may take more work and determination for some, but not letting that get in the way means you too can have a piece of that promised American Dream.

Want to read more about this study and its findings? Click here