Trust not practicality factors heavily in decision making

August 29th, 2015

Dartmouth College has released the findings on a study they did that helps explain the motivation that leads a person to feel greater trust, especially when making everyday financial and other decisions. The study was conducted by brain researcher D. S. Fareri, and his collaborators L. J. Chang, and M. R. Delgado, and the findings appear in The Journal of Neuroscience.

According to the researchers, trust is a critical element of collaboration—and collaboration is essential to interpersonal relationships, and the need to belong and be accepted and valued. What they wanted to know is what motivates someone to be more trusting, after all risk is involved and this is something humans usually avoid.

Study participants were told they were playing an economic investment game with a close friend, a stranger or a slot machine. They were actually playing with an algorithm that reciprocated trust 50% of the time. The model they designed could predict each player’s decision for a new round based on their previous experience in the game.

Study participants found positive interactions that they believed were with friends to be more rewarding than with someone they didn’t know or with a machine. Apparently the social value that participants got from believing this was a friend was a stronger motivation than when the payoff was only financial. Neuroimaging was able to show specific brain signals that correlated with social value signals when participants made their decisions.

Simply stated, the players got a greater social reward when they were told their friend was the one who reciprocated and not one of the other two players. This reward signal led them to trust the friend more than the other players who didn’t give them this reward signal.

This research could be very helpful in understanding how people make every day financial decisions. This certainly leads us to believe it is not as cut and dried as we have always believed and could lead to new approaches to helping people make better decisions by understanding what really motivates them to make those decisions. Finding ways to use that motivation could be key if we factor in how relationships can alter our perceptions about the value of any decision we might make.

Ashley Madison users exposed

August 20th, 2015

Hackers who call themselves the “Impact Team” have hacked and then released information from Ashley Madison, the #1 website for cheating spouses. After the site was hacked, those of us who live in or very near the Nation’s Capital have been holding our breath as DC is listed as one of the top users of Ashley Madison’s services. Who would have thought a place like DC would need any assistance with this kind of thing—perhaps they believed it would be safer to hunt away from work and neighborhood connections, in a place where they could better shield their identity. How could they be so naïve you ask? Given all the hacks of top level government sites and large retail corporations, it was only a matter of time.

Those who have been cheated on have been positively gleeful at the potential for exposure, smiling as they mention how karma works. For those who have been doing the cheating, the tension and fear of exposure must be awful. We can only imagine all the profiles being deleted, and cell phones and personal devices being scrubbed of all data. Inattentive husbands and wives may suddenly have reverted to courting behavior, wooing their spouses with romantic notes, lighted candles in the bedrooms, flowers, and dinners out to a favorite and almost forgotten place. If their name pops up on a list they can say, “But darling, all my thoughts, gestures and time have been spent on you.”

To add injury to insult, credit cards numbers have been released along with customer names and other information. One has to wonder if these hackers were once cheated on spouses. Apparently the hackers warned this would happen if the site was not taken down, and when this was ignored, they went diving for data. Therefore, it’s believed their motive was not about money, but that they were driven by a moral motivation.

I think many folks will be speculating about who these hackers are, and where they might strike next. Lord knows, the internet is web with “sin” and could keep the moral police occupied for a long time. Note to those who are bored in their marriages and relationships. To those who seek some extra excitement and the fun that seems to have left their relationships with their partners—be careful of what you wish for. If your name is on that list, you will gets lots of excitement, it won’t be boring, and the adrenaline rush will be extreme if/when your participation becomes known.

I have no intention of offering tips on better ways to cheat. However, finding your thrills online is not safe and anonymous, and therefore, free of consequences as you may have told yourself. Please think about what you have to lose before you go looking for intimacy somewhere else. And consider investing more in what you already have. What you need might have been there all along, but somehow you both misplaced the connection to it.

Dating apps improving chances of successful matches

August 16th, 2015

Dating apps are implementing new features aimed at decreasing negative experiences and improving the user’s odds for finding love.

Tinder and hinge are the largest and most popular, and Tinder alone has an estimated user number of 50 million, making approximately 21 million matches a day. This leaves a lot of room for negative experiences and interaction—after all, without more substantiated facts about someone, how can anyone be sure what they are walking into?

A new app that launched in late 2014 named Bumble has begun to address this by giving women an edge by empowering them to make the first move. Both sexes can go through matches, but only females can message first. In other words, if she doesn’t like what she sees or has any concerns, she is able to cut off the other person’s access to her. After matches are suggested, they remain active for 24 hours, then disappear, though men can opt to extend it another 24 hours before it is gone. Women have to be checking regularly, but then if not interested, don’t have to think about it again.

Bumble appears to be gaining a good reputation so far and creators are fine tuning it all the time. A new feature rewards thoughtful and respectful users with a badge, which acts essentially as a sign of approval to other users. This also adds a level of security and comfort, especially for women. If someone has a badge, they can opt to only see potential matches that also hold that badge. Yes, it can limit their options, but if it adds to comfort it may be a better option for some.

With the increase in dating apps and users who prefer the ease and speed they offer, more traditional dating sites may become obsolete. For those of us with concerns about dating apps, myself included, these new features that add a level of security, especially for women, are a big plus. If this works better and faster for those seeking love, with no less risk to security and privacy, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Bachelor In Paradise—Joe, the newest Bad Boy

August 13th, 2015

Once again, it’s summertime and a new group of (old cast members) of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have headed to an island in (Paradise). Viewers have some idea of what to expect as contestants vie for attention and compete for the ultimate goal of true love. Of course, on this show as on all the other spin-offs of this franchise, there is always the question of “Are they here for the right reason?” On this island, that could mean something a bit different, however it does boil down to who is sincere and can be trusted and who is not/cannot.

The first episode had the expected few who found instant attraction and coupled off quickly. Now that we are a few weeks in, they are beginning to look like the “old folks.” However looks can be deceiving, and is isn’t over until every new temptation has arrived and been considered and either accepted or rejected.

Every season must have at least one villain, and Joe Bailey has fit this role perfectly, right from the first few moments he arrived on the scene. Everyone expected this really outgoing, nice, FUNNY guy, but what they got was serious, quiet, brooding, nasty, and deceitful Joe. His behavior was so over the top in this last episode with Juelia that one might even wonder about his sociopathic tendencies.

Joe appeared lukewarm when presented with a date card and asked to choose a woman to go. Juelia mentioned that she would like to go horseback riding (the date) and Joe casually asked if she wanted to go. Juelia later wondered why he asked her, but it is obvious that she basically told him she was interested and so he asked. Up to that point, viewers were Ok with him because he clearly wasn’t into anyone there and said he was waiting for “Sam” from another Bachelor season and hoping she would join the cast in Paradise while he was also there.

Our discomfort begins when Joes acts very into Juelia on the date, says all the right things, and leads her to believe he wants to explore a possible relationship. Upon return to the group he makes references to her not being very smart, says the kisses they shared in the waterfall weren’t very good, etc. He candidly lets a producer know (on tape) that he isn’t into Juelia, but wants that rose so he will get to stay in case Sam comes on.

I think viewers could understand that he had his heart set on someone and was waiting for her, they could even understand him exploring other options to see where those might go. What no one is OK with is his calculated lying and manipulation and then adding insult to these injuries. There is no other way to say it—Joe is a JERK, a classic bad boy who is all in for himself and has no sense of shame or remorse for hurting someone as sweet and vulnerable as Juelia.

The take away here for all female viewers is to see how easily and effortlessly Joe pulls this off. It’s also important to note that others sense his insincerity and deceit and try to warn Juelia, but she wants to believe him, and he is so smooth as he puts on his wounded and innocent act. Bad boys do this to women all the time. They are very convincing, but usually someone sees it and tries to warn his victim, but to no avail. If this could be you ladies, remember that when several people are all saying the same thing, you should listen to what they have to say and weigh it carefully. Note to Joe—karma is a bitch, so fasten your seat belt.

When Mr. Good Enough is just right

August 2nd, 2015

Are you a single female who wants marriage and family, but you just can’t seem to find that “perfect” guy? If so, there’s some good news out there. In early 2015 evolutionary researchers at Michigan State University found that it is in our nature to go with a safe bet when our options may be limited regarding what we really want. In other words, if we want something badly enough, we will make it happen. According to Chris Adami from MSU, if people (from our earliest ancestors) “chose to wait, they risked never mating.” This was and apparently still is, a good reason for finding Mr. Good Enough.

The study used a model that traced risk-taking behavior, back through thousands of generations of evolution using digital organisms. These organisms were programmed to make bets with high stakes payoffs, and apparently, they were less willing to take risks on things that were life altering, like not choosing a mate and never having children. If they held out for perfect they risked being left empty handed, or in this case, with an empty cradle.

Depending on your age and circumstances, the word “settling” may be drifting through your thoughts, but if you think about it, this is very black and white thinking that we tend to move away from as we mature and become more realistic. “Perfect’, really? There is no such thing, ever. You may also be thinking that you can have a child without a partner and/or marriage. While this is true, it’s a much harder road, and most women want the partner for the sake of having that intimate connection and relationship, and for many a desire to create a family with him.

It is interesting to note that it has also been found that we are less risk adverse if we were raised in a smaller social group/community than if we come from a large group (family/community). It’s those who have many connections who are more willing to take risks like holding out for Mr. Perfect. So the environment plays a role as it does in virtually everything. There are people from similar backgrounds who range in willingness to take risks, but again, if we were to examine their individual experiences and how their unique interactions with the world around them impacted them, it’s a sure bet we would see differences that help explain why their response to risk varies.

Therefore, the good news is that it’s in our nature to let go of perfect and find good enough. This is great news because if we waited for perfect, the human race would likely die out. It also puts a new spin on that old “desperate” belief. People who go for good enough often end up with choices that make them happy and lead to satisfaction in their lives. Others who hold out for Mr. Right, can end up alone and looking back at all the good guys that they passed over while waiting for “the one.”

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.