Happy couples don’t notice the attractiveness of others

June 15th, 2016

Scientists from Rutgers University and New York University recently concluded a set of experiments in which they found evidence that couples downgrade the attractiveness of individuals that they perceive as a threat to their relationships. The results were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Therefore if you find yourself minimizing the looks of someone you think you would have dated/been with if you were not with your partner—you may be unconsciously trying to boost your self-control so that you aren’t tempted to step over the line with them. This would be especially true if your present relationship is a happy one that meets many of your needs.

What is unique about this research is that they were able to test for unconscious visual bias—in the past it was always the conscious bias of participants that was measured. Participants who were shown pictures of attractive, popular, and single individuals downgraded them while the pictures they viewed of less attractive but coupled people were routinely upgraded to be more attractive than the single individuals. They were even offered $50.00 to get it right, and still the coupled people got higher marks for attractiveness, which demonstrated that this was how they were actually being perceived.

A second study was done in which participants were first asked how happy they were in their relationships. Then they were asked to grade the same pictures for attractiveness. Guess what? The ones who rated their relationships as happy, had similar picks as the first group. Those who were dissatisfied in their relationships gave the higher marks to the individuals in the single, attractive and available group. This clearly showed that if they were happy they did not want to risk temptation and if not—they were allowing themselves to notice others who were attractive.

Interesting stuff. Check it out

The Tinder date

June 13th, 2016

First dates usually conjure up two very opposing feelings and attitudes. Some people enjoy dating, meeting new people, experiencing the thrill of wondering if this person could end up being the person—but for others, dating is a necessary evil in their quest to find love.

And that was the way it used to be, when dating was a lot more simple and straightforward and people actually asked/got asked out, and planned a date which included a get to know one another activity that lasted more than 15 minutes.

Then along came online meeting and dating, which added the challenge of deciding to meet someone based on their profile, a series of emails, and/or phone calls. That first meeting was arranged with a virtual stranger and often resulted in a hit or miss for the two people involved.

Now we have dating apps. Feel in the mood to meet someone new? Sign on to the app, see who is nearby, check out their picture and VERY LIMITED information—and rush off to meet them. On any given night in Singles rich cities everywhere, Tinder couples are arranging quick meets in bars, coffee places and restaurants. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk in, see the other person (in person) and head out the door before they are seen. Then there are the 5 minute “interviews,” where two people sit and talk and after a few minutes, don’t feel the connection. For others, they might linger over a drink or coffee, liking what they are seeing and hearing, but not committing to a meal or another drink.

There are many singles who arrange several of these “dates” in one night. Must be hard to keep everyone’s information and names straight. Of course we do hear about couples who are engaged and married who met on Tinder—with these odds, it can’t be easy to achieve that.

With a dating culture like this one, it’s a wonder that anyone even bothers. It’s enough to leave you longing for a quiet corner at home and a good book, or out searching for meaningful experiences that would bring you into contact with real-life singles who you can get to know the old-fashioned way.

Which spouse desires more sex—the husband or the wife?

June 4th, 2016

The Journal of Personality and Social psychology recently published a study on married sex—how often and how much desire is shown by partners, broken down by sex. It also delves into a husband’s perceptions about his wife‘s desire VS her perceptions about how he is feeling.

What they found is that men in general have a higher sex drive, but in long-term relationships, this is not so. Men have some difficulty judging a woman’s interest in sex, whereas women usually read their guy’s interest correctly. This last one is not that surprising, women are better overall at reading nonverbal communication than men are. Researchers also found that on the days men thought their partners were not interested, these same partners reported more satisfaction from their relationships. This most likely has to do with the men trying harder on those days, rather than being complacent and not believing they have to put any extra effort into their relationship. Mmmm, maybe this kind of scenario is where the whole idea of playing hard to get was conceived.

Their sex by the numbers statistics found that almost 80% of married couples have sex a few times a month or more; 32% report engaging in sex two to three times a week; 47% report having sex a few times a month; and less than 10% say their last sexual encounter lasted an hour or more. I must confess that as a therapist who works mostly with couples, I was surprised that the couples in this study were having as much sex as they said they are.

The study also touches on couples having sex when only one person feels desire—and that this can be good for a marriage and help keep their sexual connection going. I agree with this, not as a regular event, but during those times one is tired, unmotivated, etc—but is willing to make that extra effort for their partner.

If you would like to read more on this, go to

Why are we so often wrong about our forever after?

June 1st, 2016

The NY Times had a very interesting piece running a couple of days ago titled “Why you will marry the wrong person.” Now that’s a title that would get the attention of anyone who is single, and especially anyone who is presently engaged to who they believe is their right person.

The Times piece offers one fairly simple reason for why folks marry the wrong person—they say that we are all crazy in some way, but don’t discuss, explore or really demonstrate our craziness with one another before we say “I do.” Then, after marriage, our real selves come out and suddenly our partner is asking who is this person and why didn’t I know this before? They make the point that the close proximity created by intimacy brings out our problems, and that many of us have an array of them. Wow, that is sobering.

According to the author; “marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.” As a therapist who works with many couples in trouble, I can’t really disagree with this theory. Couples don’t do enough talking and asking beforehand—as though they fear it will be too unromantic or demonstrate a lack of faith in one another. The piece points out that we now have marriages based on feelings, instead of practicality and convenience. This is because most people believe that chemistry is about how we feel and don’t consider the other important pieces needed for marital success–like stability, maturity, and reliability. You are probably thinking, oh, how boring. Believe me, these qualities grow on you.

When we marry we look for someone who is familiar and resonates with our childhood perceptions and experience of love—which may or may not have been functional or healthy. If our role models shaped us to seek out needy, angry, or uncommunicative people to love and make whole—then this is who we would believe our right person to be. If someone seeking a relationship with dysfunctional traits encounters a healthy, stable and mature person—they usually don’t feel any attraction. This then leads them to reject someone who could have been right for them and with whom they could have found happiness.

In my experience there is great truth to what this author lays out as the reason people end up in unhappy marriages. Therefore what you have always heard is true—get yourself straight before making one of the most important decisions and biggest commitments of your life. Otherwise, you may end up marrying the wrong person for all the wrong reasons.

Trump Haters can turn to Maple Match

May 21st, 2016

Once again an enterprising person sees a need and provides the solution. This time it’s a new dating site—yeah we know another dating site, so what. However, this one has a great hook. It’s called Maple Match and it is the brain-child of a 25 year old American, Joe Goldman, from Texas who paid attention when so many peers were saying that they would move to Canada in the event that we end up with President Trump in the White House.

According to Maple Match, it is designed to “make it easy for Americans to find their ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.” Goldman promises to “make dating great again.” He admits that he has always been fascinated by Canada, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring the two countries closer together.

Only one week after the site launched, 13,000 people had already signed up—one-fourth of them Canadians. People from Seattle and New York City represent the highest demographic for Americans so far—looks like those states will be going for whoever runs on the Democratic ticket. Goldman has also signed up—maybe his personal reasons were a major driver here.

It’s ready, popular and free—so what are you waiting for? if you hate the cold weather, you can always move back to the states with your Canadian sweetheart when a different president is elected 4 or 8 years down the road. After all you will have to apply for citizenship and will have time to change your mind while it is in process. What the heck, maybe Mr. or Ms. Right are just across our Northern border and lucky fate is steering you’re their way.

An app that answers the question; “Should I stay or go?”

May 14th, 2016

There’s an app for everything it seems. Now a team of folks from Hollywood along with Gary Lewandowski, PhD, have developed and recently released an app called StayGo. Catchy, isn’t it? It’s name describes that age-old dilemma that so many folks find themselves in with their relationships—“Should I stay or should I go?”

StayGo is an evaluation tool that is comprised of a set of 20 dimensions that are associated with relationship quality and longevity across hundreds of research studies involving both dating and marriage.

Users answer a series of short questions that assess 20 aspects of their partners and their relationships. They receive a score and feedback for each one, and then their overall relationship quality is calculated. The answers are very personalized to the users ages, length of relationship, and other factors—so every score is very unique, regardless of the similarity of answers that folks may provide.

The app doesn’t answer the question about staying or going—but once the data is offered, users have something concrete and objective to use in order to make their decision.

SayGo has a second tool that is a daily relationship tracker. It gives the user 3 questions to answer each day, and over time it offers a picture of how the relationship is doing over time. This is very useful because memory is flawed and we tend to forget, mix up timelines—and lose track of whether things are improving or not, staying the same, fluctuating up and down, etc. Hard to argue with data that is right in front of you.

Then there is a peeps feature, which is really a great idea. This allows friends/family to give anonymous feedback on whether they like your partner, approve of your relationship, etc. Really, how many folks would be honest about their feelings if asked directly? This way they can be honest—and this information can be very useful to anyone trying to decide whether they should stay or go.

This innovative and useful tool is available for both IOS and Android.

Your risk for divorce may be lower than you feared

May 9th, 2016

We have all heard the statistic many times—that approximately half of all marriages eventually end up in divorce. However, this is only part of the story, therefore the correct statistic is that it depends. Your socio-economic class, educational level, race, and employment status all contribute to your risk for divorce.

Divorce rates peaked in the 1970’s and early 80’s, but have been on an overall decline since then. At the present time we are closer to a one-third failure rate—which isn’t great, but definitely moving in the right direction. However, you could actually have a higher or lower risk than the average, due to a number of factors.

Those who went as far as a high school diploma have a higher divorce rate that those who have completed college or have an advanced degree.

If you are white, your risk of divorce is lower than it is for African-Americans. Hispanics have a lower risk than White non-Hispanics, and Asians have the lowest rate of all groups. Native Americans have the highest divorce rate of all races.

It isn’t difficult to take a step back from this breakdown and see two common themes—financial well-being and religious affiliation. After all, if you are well-educated, you are more likely to have secure and more lucrative employment. If you are from a religion (such as Catholicism) where divorce is heavily frowned upon, you are less likely to consider divorce to be an option that is open to you. If you are in a minority group that has statistically lower rates of education and employment, money will be a big concern and impact on your life and relationships.

Let’s face it, financial security or lack of it have a huge impact on our emotional and physical well-being, overall stability, and on our relationships. This is why it is so important to focus on your own goals and to work towards a job or career that offers stability and opportunity for continued growth and financial security. It is also important to take a potential partner’s finances into account before making a commitment to marriage/children. It may seem very unromantic, but it’s important to choose not just with your heart, but with your head.

Want to be heard? Speak with your body

April 27th, 2016

I have been talking about the importance of nonverbal communication in relationships for a long time. Now there is more proof of how important this is if you want to hear and be heard correctly.

In a study that was recently published in Frontiers in Psychology; robot avatars who were programmed to talk with their hands were as easy to understand as humans delivering the same messages. Researchers Paul Bremner and Ulte Leonards combined classic hand gestures with speech (multi-modal) to see how well the robots could be understood. Then they compared the robot’s communication with that voiced by human subjects to see if there was any significant difference between the two, and found that there was not.

First the actors were recorded as they gestured and spoke their lines. Then the avatars used these recordings and mimicked the exact gestures and a comparison was made. Even though avatars don’t have the same exact shape or flexibility in their hands and arms, their gestures were still as effective.

What these researchers found is that when movement is combined with voice, communication is more effective, even if the speaker is a robot. Think about how this translates to dating and relationship communication. By learning to use gestures, pauses, eye and facial movements, and body posture to convey our messages; we can greatly increase our chances of being heard and delivering the intended message.

For anyone who struggles with feeling misunderstood, who has difficulty connecting with others, and/or who experiences a lot of frustration during first meetings and too often leaves the wrong impression—try turning your attention to everything you don’t say with words, but say with your body. This is what others are paying attention to—whether they or you are aware of it or not.

The problem with adult friendship

April 20th, 2016

Elizabeth Bernstein, Bonds columnist for the Wall Street Journal, just came out with a great piece on why making friends is harder for adults. Many readers will be able to relate as we have all lost some childhood friends, college friends, and single friends to time, graduation, moving, and/or marriage and children. Essentially, the shared life experiences that brought us together change, and too often, friendships fade away.

There are also the friendships that die when one person goes through a life crisis that a friend can’t or won’t deal with. There are the friends who become the toxic friends, due to many different circumstances—these are the ones you can agonize over saying good-bye to, but feel it is for the best. Then there are just those you lose touch with, slowly, over time.

The problem is that making new friends becomes harder as we age, due to the demands of work and family and less time and energy to connect to others and invest in growing relationships with them. Most “friendships” in our adult years happen because of proximity and shared needs and interests—think Mom cliques, co-workers, neighbors, spouse’s friends and their significant others, etc. We might not choose them in quite the same way as we chose friends in childhood, but proximity and repeated exposure were important factors even then.

Therefore for anyone who is having trouble meeting new friends (which is just about everyone) think proximity and convenience. Who lives/works/recreates where you do? What about your neighbors? Are there people who attend your place of worship that you find interesting and would like to get to know better? How often do you get to spend time with the parents of your kids’ friends? There must be some you would choose to spend time with sans kids.

If you are single, what about your passions and leisure pursuits? Where do you go for fun? Do you belong to any organizations or volunteer anywhere? What about co-workers and acquaintances who may also be single and looking for a friend to do things with?

The point that Elizabeth makes is that this is a challenge for everyone—not just you. Therefore there must be people you encounter regularly who would be open to having a new friend. Be open, approachable—and willing to approach someone else. A good friend is a wonderful thing to have.

Aisha Tyler on her divorce from Jeff Tietjens

April 19th, 2016

Aisha Tyler became tearful last week as she discussed (on-screen) the break-up of her 20 year marriage (25 year relationship). Sigh—is no Hollywood marriage immune to this? It seems that celebrity, the fast life, constant separations due to work, and all those temptations are just too much.

Aisha wasn’t specific about WHY the marriage is ending, however she did seem to be looking forward and saying all the right things about how much he had meant to her and how she only wants his happiness. Her remarks sounded like those of the “lever” not the “levee”.

Apparently they were very young when they got together and have been married almost half her life—yet, it seems they have discovered they don’t want the same things going forward. We will probably never know the whole story, and really, it is none of our business. But it would be nice to get more understanding of WHY celebrity seems to be the worst thing for a relationship. I also find myself wondering if it is a chicken and egg thing. Does it have more to do with having a large ego and a need for attention and a constant rush that leads someone into the showbiz life—or does celebrity change people so that a committed relationship and predictability turns them into folks who need constant attention and have a craving for new thrills. Either way, the end result is another divorce Hollywood style.