The hooked-up generation

April 19th, 2014

In the New York Times “well.blogs” on April 17th, there was a provocative piece on the high use of antidepressant drugs in young adults. According to the author, Doris Iarovici, M.D., more and more young people are taking these drugs and staying on them for much longer periods than they were intended for. These “emerging adults” face many changes and challenges during those crucial years- and now, they are expressing a need for chemical help to meet those challenges.

The author points to the very real downside that antidepressants mute feelings and emotions, which doesn’t allow for the normal highs and lows that we learn to take in stride and deal with through developing healthy coping mechanisms. In her experience with college students, they are reluctant to stop taking the medication for fear of having to confront uncomfortable issues and feelings, and if they do discontinue them for a time they often want to resume treatment at the first sign of a problem. According to Dr. Iarovici, “these drugs are seen as a panacea to which they turn at the first signs of unhappiness.” At the same time, many are drinking heavily, smoking pot and taking their roommates ADD medication. This is clearly addictive behavior and these are just various drugs of choice and opportunity. The doctor also emphasizes that “there is still no clear understanding of how psychiatric medicines might affect brain development.”

A big downside that is rarely if ever mentioned by medical experts, but that the author does speak to is that the use of these drugs negatively impacts intimacy and intimate relationships. When they mute emotions and lead their users to avoid and discount difficult but very important emotions and feelings- they block the experiences that lead to personal growth and the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. We could in fact be helping to create a “Stepford” generation of young adults who are only going through the motions as they move into dating, relationships and marriage without really being there.

In my experience as a psychotherapist and dating/relationship coach- this problem is very real and troubling. From the young daters I hear stories about the people they are meeting who look great on paper, have good jobs and are attractive and accomplished- but are on some kind of substance or another that impacts their ability to connect, relate and truly be present in the interaction and relationship. From the married couples I see, I hear about alcohol and other drug use and the emotional distance that results over time from it.

This is the hooked-up generation. They are hooked on prescription drugs for ADD from childhood, first using stimulants to deal with the challenges of doing well in school and getting into a good college, then taking antidepressants as they move into the challenging world of adult responsibilities and relationships.

The solutions here won’t be simple, but they need to start with doctors who are not quick to write prescriptions and parents who don’t look for a pill to fix their child’s problems. Maybe then, fewer young adults will be coming from a culture of dependency and avoidance of everything that is unpleasant and difficult.

For anyone out there who sees themselves here- remember that being truly present is a critical piece of any relationship foundation. Without this, you will never have real intimacy, not will you get to know your authentic self which allows you to make informed and healthy decisions about your life and relationships.

Lastly never forget that if you blunt your feelings and avoid your emotions you will not only lose the lows, you will also lose those wonderful highs that can only come with the joy we experience when we are truly present in the experience.

Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky are expecting

April 18th, 2014

Baby news is almost always good, exciting news- but when the expectant mother is the high profile daughter of a popular ex- President, it’s really NEWS.

For some time now her parents have been hinting at how much they would like to be grandparents- have to wonder why they didn’t have more than one to help ensure they would indeed get to be grandparents one day. Their daughter has only been married a few years- but at 34 there can be the additional pressure of the ticking biological clock. So apparently the time was just right and it looks like Chelsea is due in the fall.

This baby will have every advantage a child can and then some. Much will be expected from one so blessed. The baby watch may be almost as intense as the one in England, when the future king was expected. After all, the Clintons are one of the American dynasty families- and Chelsea along with her parents has a very visible career and presence on the New York social scene.

Given that this is a mixed marriage- he, Jewish and she, Christian- it will be interesting to see how they will handle the child’s religious upbringing. Will they celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah and Passover and Easter, will they choose one over another- or will they avoid the whole issue completely and join, say the Universal church?

When you take away all the glamor and window dressing- Chelsea and Marc will be parents. Like all those who have gone before them, they will have their sleepless nights, moments of joy and (yes) sorrow- and they will find that suddenly nothing else matters like this new life they are bringing into the world and into their lives.

Let’s all wish them a healthy and thriving baby as we wait for the joyous news.
Mazel Tov!

Narendra Modi- are bachelors more trustworthy?

April 11th, 2014

In the United States, it’s always been seen as a good thing if someone who is running for public office is married and has a family. Family men and women are portrayed as having certain values, are seen as more in touch with their constituents- and are perceived as somehow more reliable and trustworthy than their unmarried counterparts.

How curious that Narendra Modi, a candidate for the post of India’s prime minister is now using his “bachelor” status as an edge in his run for office. Apparently he was once in a brief arranged marriage that he left rather quickly due to his desire at the time to move towards a more spiritual calling. The marriage was never legally terminated, but they have lived apart and Mr. Modi claims he has lived a life of celibacy.

According to the aspiring prime minister, men practice corruption to benefit their wives and family and since he has none, he has no reason to do so. Hummm, interesting concept to consider. He emphasizes that he can give his all to his job with no conflicts or other priorities pulling him away and leading him to behave in ways that are good for him but not those who elected him.

This sounds a bit like the Catholic Church claiming that married priests would not be able to do their job as effectively or be completely available to their flocks. Yes, there is truth to this- anyone who is married and has a family gets it. All that energy, time, focus and yes, money that is needed to have and maintain a family is a major distraction to say the least. But does that necessarily lead to corruption and other bad behavior or is it true that it’s not possible to “serve two masters?”

I do see one glaring flaw in Mr. Modi’s logic. He IS married, yet left his wife who has remained alone and in limbo all these years. Essentially her life and future were put on hold by him so he could pursue a life he wanted. Maybe it’s just me, but I see this as a complete betrayal at worst- and a selfish and dishonorable act as best. Why did he go through with the marriage in the first place? Why didn’t he opt for a quiet divorce years ago? Trustworthy may be in the eye of the beholder here- I wonder what his wife would say?

Gwyneth Paltrow adds fuel to mommy wars

April 7th, 2014

Here we go again- competing over who has it worse or better. There is a unique spin on this one, however. It’s “office jobs” moms in one corner and “other working moms” in the other (in particular actresses and those who travel a lot).

Gwyneth Paltrow dished to E! News on how much harder it is for an actress and mom who is frequently away from home then it is for a mom who goes into an office job and can come home at night to do her second job. Yikes…

One might think that these different lives are easily compared- after they are all moms who work. However, the comparison can be apples and oranges which in this case is likely to be Mercedes and econo cars, manicured estates and split levels, and/or household help and nannies and 16+ hour days with no time or money left over for getting away.

Let’s face it- comparisons are odious because someone always comes out the winner and someone else the loser. How much better to say that moms in general have a very demanding, yet rewarding and satisfying job- regardless of whether they work full time at home or work outside and get outside help at home. Those who have both jobs and NO outside help are called saints and they are in a category all their own.

In all seriousness, Gwyneth sounds a little like a certain princess who long ago said something that has been taken out of context for years- “Let them eat cake.” Not to digress here, but Marie Antoinette lived during a time when if the palace ran out of bread, they opened up their stores of cake and ate this until they could restock. Her comment was naïve- and it’s possible Gwyneth’s was too, Isn’t it within reason to think that maybe she is so out of touch in her Hollywood life that she really thinks the average Mom has a full complement of help to handle all those mommy and household things that must be done when mommy is away- or at work? If she assumes this, her comment is more acceptable. She seems like a nice person so maybe we could give her the benefit of the doubt.

Either way, do the rest of us working moms in all stages and work environments really have to get all lathered up about this? Each of us knows what is on our plate and none of us ever really knows what is on the plate of another mommy. Lives that look porcelin smooth can be something else entirely. I say this as a therapist and mom who has had more than my share of challenges and long hours that seem to never end.

So why don’t we agree to agree that our lives and circumstances are different and comparisons are not only useless- they keep the mommy wars going and going.

The problem with “I love you but”…

April 6th, 2014

In her Motherlode blog for The New York Times, Cara Paiuk talks about the one word you should never say after I love you. Yes you guessed it, it’s the “but” word. The valid point that Ms. Paiuk makes is that when someone says I love you followed by “but”, they are essentially negating, dismissing, minimizing or even insincerely expressing their feelings of love.

Think about it, if your partner said this to you, what would you hear- the part about loving you or the negating part that comes after? Apparently Ms. Paiuk’s spouse asked her to substitute “and” for “but” and this made all the difference. Who knew one little word change could make so much difference? Well, it can.

Whenever a couple comes in to see me for the first time, their chief complaint is “a problem with communication.” This is illustrated here. What we say and how we say it can covey many different things, regardless of our intent. Every good therapist works with this and helps a couple to make little shifts like this because they can make all the difference.

Remember to watch your “but” use when asking your significant for something, bringing up a difficult issue that needs to be discussed or even registering a request or complaint. Make sure that what they hear is an unconditional “I love you”- even if their behavior is driving you nuts or they did something thoughtless or stupid. If they know you are coming from a place of love they will HEAR what you need to tell them and be open to accepting it.

Matchmaking for the older dater

April 3rd, 2014

Are you a divorced, widowed or single senior who has begun dating again after many years or contemplating doing so? If so, you are probably like many 60+ adults who haven’t had much dating experience for say, 40 or so years. You might be wondering where you should even start to look for other compatible and available folks- and what you need to know in case you actually find one.

According to AARP, 45% of adults 65 and over are separated, divorced or widowed. That’s a pretty big number, so you do have a large field to choose or be chosen from. But where do you go to meet these people? The internet is one place. AARP has recently teamed with HowAboutWe, a dating website- and together they suggest offline dates to members who want to “meet people in the real world.” Apparently they have attracted almost 60,000 users- so the interest is certainly there.

But what if you don’t use a computer, have little or no experience with one, and/or are not comfortable with meeting someone that way? After all, rejection is hard at any age, but can be very tough on an older person who may have been in a relationship for years, has no recent experience with having to put themselves out there- and who doesn’t have as much time or opportunity as young daters who are practiced and savvy in the art of marketing themselves.

You could consider using a matchmaker. There are an estimated 3,000 matchmakers in the U.S. and about 90% of them work with seniors. One issue that women going to matchmakers should be aware of is that senior women outnumber men, and it may be that there are few available males in a matchmaker’s client base. If the men just aren’t signed up, a woman’s chances of meeting someone go way down. Fees can start at 10,000 and go way up from there- some paid upfront and the rest if a match is made.

The good news is that older folks are looking for stability and companionship most of all. Women don’t care much about how much money a man has- and men aren’t focusing as much on looks.

A matchmaker can look at your values, personality traits, lifestyle needs and wants- and use these to find someone who is a similar to you. You would get to meet people that you would not ordinarily come into contact with- and the process is easier, safer and less hurtful. When using an online dating site, many folks might view your profile and yet no one will contact you- ouch.

If you have the financial resources and are looking for someone to go through your later years with- this might be for you. Make sure you do your research, ask a lot of questions and get your matchmaker to really work for you. If you can’t afford this, consider going to HowAboutWe and trying to connect with others that way. It’s still safer, less pressure- and you get to experience them in real time, right from the start. Even if you don’t find love, you could meet some new friends and have someone to call when you want to go out and play.

Meir Kin uses old orthodox law to extort ex-wife

March 25th, 2014

Meir Kin, an orthodox Jew who has been legally divorced from his first wife, Lonna Kin for more than 7 years just married his second wife, Daniella Barbosa last week. What’s unusual about this situation is that Mr. Kin has refused to grant his first wife a “get,” which is the term used for a document required by Orthodox Jewish law to end a marriage. It’s like an annulment if you are Catholic. Without the get, his first wife is not free to marry again. So how is it that he is? Apparently, 100 rabbis need to give special permission for this to happen, and Mr. Kin claims to have gotten that.

Of course, his second wedding drew a number of protesters, including several Orthodox rabbis. They feel he is using and corrupting the law and are even doubtful he got 100 of their own to sign off for him. You may be wondering why Mr. Kin would go to all that trouble to hang on to the first wife while marrying another. Apparently his ex owns a successful company and makes more than he does- a lot more. So he is demanding 500,000 and full custody of their 12 year old son in exchange for granting the get.

As you may imagine, this story drew a lot of attention when covered by The New York Times. It hit the most emailed and read list for good reason. New York is rich with successful, professional women- and has a strong Jewish population, many of whom lean more to the left (religiously speaking anyway) than Mr. Kin. These women are in an uproar, orthodox women and men are not happy about it either- and almost everyone is condemning his behavior. In the past, husbands who refused gets were isolated by the community. There have even been cases where they were kidnapped and tortured in order to persuade them to free their ex-wives to move on and marry again. However, shunning doesn’t work as well anymore and kidnapping and torture carry a heavy sentence.

So what is the first Mrs. Kin to do? She could convert to Conservative Judaism, hire a hit man or just decide to live in sin if she meets a great guy. Whatever her decision may eventually be, the great majority of Jews and non-Jews, women and men, will stand behind her. After all, slavery is out of style- and few people would support a law that gives all the power to one partner, especially one that wants to have his wedding cake and eat it twice.

You can read the full story here

Marital First Responders

March 22nd, 2014

A father-daughter team have come up with a program that trains friends and family to be skilled listeners and confidents to their friends and family when they are struggling with problems that are negatively impacting their marriage. Bill Doherty, PhD is a recognized marriage and family therapist who co-founded The Doherty Relationship Institute with his daughter, Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, MS, a licensed associate marriage and family therapist. Together they designed the Marital First Responders Boot Camp training- to help the people who others seek out for support and guidance when in a marital crisis.

Their program has provoked some debate and has its detractors because many professional counselors would perceive it as giving people a “license” to practice therapy. After looking over their program and what their focus is, I would disagree. They want to help empower the many friends and family members who get approached, often out of the blue about a marital crisis. Often these friends have no idea how to respond or can take sides, give advice that makes the situation worse- or try to play rescuer. Any of these can help escalate a crisis and/or cause a rift in the relationship between the helper and helpee.

The Marital First responder program helps its trainees to be better listeners, confidents, and referral sources to those resources that could be of great use to the couple. They are trained by professionals who offer them basic skills, not the training that therapists receive or are licensed to practice.

At the very least this training could help people in crisis avoid the trap of going to their friends and family for therapy- and then being no better or worse off as a result. Couples need a good support system and every therapist assesses this resource when a couple comes to see them. So arming that important resource with the tools to be more effective could only be a good thing.

Of course, the result is only as good as the screening and training for the boot camp is. If folks are drawn to this because of their own unmet needs, that could be a problem. Hopefully, the training weeds out those with issues that would impact their ability to perform effectively in this role. It’s also important that trainees know the limits of this role and are given tools to evaluate their interactions when they help others, to make sure it is not about them, but about the people they are helping.

As a licensed therapist and certified life coach- I see the value of this program and think its detractors should take a hard look at what they are really worried about- its impact and effectiveness or their bottom line.

A good winter for online dating only?

March 15th, 2014

This has been one of the coldest winters in years for much of the U.S. Storms have been hitting us hard since January- and another one is just about here. Remember when St. Patrick’s Day felt like the beginning of spring for many of the mid-Atlantic and Eastern states? Parades are held, bars fill up with all those of Irish ancestry and all the others who become Irish for one day. Often the sun is shining and some years the temperatures have even reached the high 70’s or low 80’s. Not this year.

So how has the weather impacted dating or has it? Certainly it has led to more time online on dating sites and connecting via social networking. After all, what else is there to do when the temperature outside is below zero, the winds are howling, work is closed (again) and everyone has been told to stay off the roads. So bad weather should be good for dating, right? No, not necessarily. Over 60% of couples say they met through friends, not through an online dating site. Yes, virtual love is happening and the number of matches is growing- but meeting the old fashioned way still holds the number one spot.

Don’t despair just yet. The long, cold winter will be ending soon- the outside world will warm and wake up, and everywhere singles will be emerging from their homes seeking others for fun, companionship, and more. The dating season is just about to warm up- will you be ready? Get your inside spaces in order and your taxes done while it is still cold and stormy. Then, in a few weeks, you can look forward to getting out and connecting with new people for friendship, fun and maybe more.

In defense of Juan Pablo

March 13th, 2014

According to Chris Harrison of the reality show The Bachelor- the season that just ended was “easily the most polarizing season we’ve ever had.” Apparently Chris felt that right from the beginning “something just didn’t feel right and didn’t fit.” Of course, that something was Juan Pablo, the sexy former pro soccer player and single dad.

Juan Pablo was different in that he was, in his words, “honest” about his feelings throughout the process. He often became emotional when saying good-bye to Bachelorettes whom he had to send home- and was very candid when he shared things with the women- most notably when he whispered something to Claire in the helicopter that caused her a lot of distress and led her to question if he was the man she had believed him to be. Apparently the remark was sexual and crudely stated that he liked being intimate with her, but didn’t really know her.

However, it was the final scene that Chris and many show fans have been most upset about. Juan Pablo chose Nikki, but he didn’t propose, he asked her to accept the final rose and see where things might go from there. Apparently his inability to fall in love during the required time and offer a proposal with a woman he isn’t sure he loves is a big no-no for The Bachelor. I don’t know about other viewers, but Brad Womack came immediately to my mind. Brad did something very much like this- only he sent both women away and ended the season that way. Yet, according to Chris H. this season had the most shocking ending- he also added some comment about needing to take a shower after Juan Pablo and Nikki exited the stage following their After the Final Rose interview. Wow. I think Chris’s behavior is what is shocking.

Throughout that interview, Chris kept pressuring Juan Pablo to say he “loves” Nikki. In many different ways and over and over again- and each time, Juan Pablo reiterated how much he likes and cares for Nikki- but that he would never propose until he was absolutely sure. Chris also seemed put out when Juan Pablo spoke of his desire for privacy now that the show is over. Certainly that is not unreasonable. They had him for the duration of filming and the final appearance the other night. Now, they get to live a private life and see if and how they might mover forward together towards commitment. It’s interesting that Chris focused on how hard this must be for Nikki and how wrongly she was being treated by Juan Pablo. I think it was wrong for Chris and the audience to make such a show of their relationship as it is as they implied that Nikki was settling and letting herself be dissed.

I spend a lot of the time I work with singles encouraging them to figure out what they want from a relationship and then carefully go about meeting and dating people who have the traits they are looking for. I urge caution, reminding them that there is no rush to get there, and if there is- this could be a major red flag. No one should ever hurry along something as important as the decision of who they want to make this important commitment to.

I say good for Juan Pablo for standing up for his convictions and being honest- even when there was great pressure to propose, come on the final show professing great love- then in a few months or so getting interviewed about the break-up and offering all the details on why it just wasn’t ever the right relationship for him. That is what we have come to expect from the show, with a few happy exceptions. Of course, I would like to have a word with Juan Pablo about his rude and hurtful comment to Claire- and how he could have explained his doubts in a gentlemanly fashion, instead of like an insensitive beast. Honesty is fine, as long as it is not delivered like a heat seeking hurt missile- which slams the receiver with a gratuitous and painful overkill.