September 16th, 2014

Can you imagine a world where men would be made fun of following one of their popular contests? Men traditionally compete around their strength and endurance, athletic ability, smarts and professional achievements—and yes, their attractiveness and success with women. Everything from body builder contests to The Bachelor—men show what they are made of, and show it off, too.

The Ms. America pageant is an institution in this country. Regardless of how it has been viewed recently—it once drew and large audience and the winners went on to further schooling due to winning scholarships and to a variety of careers that follow that kind of exposure. It was a way for women to use what they have to get a leg up—after all, don’t all of us identify then maximize our talents to achieve success?

Now women who compete in these pageants are ridiculed. They are criticized for allowing themselves to be objectified—please…. The talent part is something that people are really having fun with as is evidenced by #BadPageantTalents. It’s the top trending topic on twitter today. Interestingly enough, women are doing most of the making fun of… so much for sisterhood.

Isn’t true choice about making life decisions that we believe are best for us—without being held back, ostracized, criticized or sabotaged for our choices? The feminist movement was supposed to have been all about that—however, things don’t seem to have changed that much, or enough. There have ALWAYS been women professionals, business owners and community leaders. Yes, once upon a time, they were few, but they existed. Now women can be found everywhere–on space missions, the battlefield and in the Chairman’s seat in the boardroom. If some women choose to be stay-at-home moms, to enter beauty pageants, or to work in fields that are traditionally dominated by women, so what? It’s their choice.

Oh, and all you women out there who are criticizing other women’s choices–take a closer look at what motivates you. Is it really disgust, a fear these women are hurting the cause, or just plain old-fashioned resentment towards women who follow their own path and don’t look for anyone’s permission to do so? Want to support women making their own life choices? Avoid judging and try competing only with yourself.

Oscar and Reeva–the ultimate domestic violence

September 13th, 2014

Oscar Pistorius, the South African “Blade Runner” was convicted of a lesser charge of murder yesterday. The judge found him to be guilty of an act that is akin to manslaughter—which means he took his girlfriend’s life, but had no plan or intent beforehand to do so. What his sentence will be is anyone’s guess. No one disputes he did it—not even him.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius had been dating for only three months when he shot her in his home. He has claimed all along he thought she was an intruder—but no one seems to have ever really believed his story. According to an ex-girlfriend of his who was interviewed recently about their relationship—Pistorius was mercurial, unpredictable, got angry over small things and apparently for no “real reason”—and had a passion for guns. Reeva’s broken-hearted mother also said that her daughter had told her they had been fighting a lot and that they were considering breaking up. Remember—this was after only three months of dating.

This short a period of time in a relationship usually puts the couple in the first stage—when they have not even moved into something with more openness and commitment—when they are still “high” on the newness of the relationship, and when conflict is low or nonexistent. Yet, theirs was a relationship marked with tension and fighting—which definitely points to a strong probability that it would be ending soon. It was Valentine’s Day–which is (believe it or not) a day when many couples break up. My own theory about that has always been that it’s mostly because folks are really confronted with what they think they should be feeling or should have in their relationship—and the reality falls so short, they end it. It’s very possible that the fighting overheard by neighbors was about just that—and that Oscar, like other abusive men, decided if he couldn’t have her, no one could. Sounds so simple—but it’s actually very common.

Domestic abuse is on everyone’s mind lately—and Mr. Pistorius was guilty of ultimate abuse. Had he not owned guns, he may have used his fists. His male advantage might have been compromised a bit when he wasn’t wearing his prosthetics—but otherwise, he would most likely have used his fists. A good argument for taking guns away from anyone who has been served a restraining order for domestic abuse, or who has a history of it. They are still dangerous, but without a gun, the woman has a fighting chance. Even if knocked out, she can recover and come back to defend him to the world while taking some of the blame on herself.

But that is for another column.

Ray Rice—AKA, the Beast

September 8th, 2014

We all know that domestic violence occurs—it cuts across all socioeconomic and racial lines, and somehow, we have never been able to find a way to reduce the problem. A history of family violence, childhood abuse and neglect, mental illness, chronic stress, and serious financial problems are all issues we often see present in situations where this violence occurs—but even though they are factors, they never justify it.

Football players are a macho bunch—huge men who get paid to bulk up their muscle and reach their maximum capacity for strength, speed, and toughness. Lots of men wouldn’t want to face off with any one of these NFL players, because it wouldn’t be a fair fight. So how in the world could a woman possibly defend herself against one of these guys or really any guy? She couldn’t and shame on any one of them for taking advantage of that.

We have all seen the video. Some folks will say she shouldn’t have provoked him—we hear that a lot with domestic abuse. She should have stayed meekly in her corner, cowering—so the beast wouldn’t be stirred. Instead, she moved towards him after he pushed her—and he cold-cocked her and with one blow, she was out cold. He’s darn lucky she didn’t hit her head in such a way that the blow was fatal. It happens.

After Ray Rice lost it and struck his fiance—one would think he’d be very concerned, even a little concerned, have some remorse…some reaction that showed regret or dismay over what he had just done. But no—it got worse. He DRAGGED her over the threshold of the elevator as she lay face down on the hotel hallway carpet. Her skirt was hiked up, her shoes off and she was clearly dead weight. But for a guy who faces off against NFL players weighing over 250 pounds, made of solid muscle and pumping with intense adrenaline, c’mon—he should easily have been able to at least pick her up and carry her to the room. It wouldn’t have made up for the hit—but it may have helped us to believe he has at least some human decency. Instead, he treated her like a ripped bag of groceries, dragging, pushing, turning, shaking and attempting to sit her up. All the while some guy was standing there, apparently concerned enough to remain and speak to him about what was going on.

Then the NFL basically closed ranks, slapped him on the hands—and the poor thing missed two games. His then fiancé, now new bride, refused to press charges (old story) and everyone seemed to write it off as “boys will be boys.” That is until the whole scene came out—a picture of one hard punch is certainly worth a thousand words of explanation. Now he has been kicked off the team, there has been an explosive outcry and the twitter sphere has been lit up all day with the comments and fall-out.

Maybe something good will come of this. Maybe finally everyone will start to realize just how awful domestic violence is. Nothing like watching a woman get knocked out by a well-placed punch to get us in the mood.

As a therapist who has worked with couples/families where domestic violence has been an issue—I am truly concerned about Ray Rice returning home after being fired—and taking his rage out on the person he will probably blame. Before he had to make nice and beg her forgiveness—marrying her and probably showering her with gifts. Now, after having lost his job and suffering public humiliation—he is a ticking time bomb who could go off any minute.

Moms lose-Dads rule

September 7th, 2014

It’s interesting how some things never seem to really change that much. Once upon a time women (mostly) stayed home if they could afford to and their job was to take care of the home and children. The Dad earned the money and everyone knew their roles and life was simple (sort of, maybe for some but not for others).

Then women became liberated—which sounded great in the beginning, but has led too many women to have two full-time jobs instead of one. Women are going to college and graduating at higher rates than their male peers. Many women are beginning to out earn their partners—and there is an increasing number of women who are the breadwinners while Dad stays at home and cares for the house and kids. All of these work when two people in a relationship are OK with them—so that of course is what choice is all about and what it looks like when it’s working optimally. However, women continue to be the ones who give birth, do much of the nurturing and caretaking, and make the greatest sacrifices in their careers—in spite of all the changes and progress that have taken place in our society.

The NY Times has an interesting piece titled “The Motherhood penalty vs The Fatherhood Bonus.” Essentially it’s a provocative look at how a man’s career benefits from having children and a woman’s suffers if she becomes a mother. Apparently women who are mothers are less likely to get that job, they are perceived as less able and capable workers—and are not paid as well as their males peers doing the same job. Men who are fathers are more likely to be hired for the job (are stable and reliable) and are actually paid more (need to support their families), especially if they become fathers while in their job.

Variables like types of jobs, hours worked, and what their spouses earn/don’t earn have no impact on these differences. Therefore it’s about perception and expectations of women workers who are moms vs male workers who are Dads. Amazing given how many well-educated, professional women are out there—including CEO’s, women entrepreneurs, women in the professions and women in high-level government positions.

This is bad enough, but worse when we consider that 71% of Moms with children at home work outside the home. 40% of these women are the sole breadwinners—40%. The only exception was women in the top 10% of earners who lost no income when they had children. Those in the top 5% even got bonuses equal to those of their male counterparts.

This study underlines the importance of women knowing what they want and planning and working for it—but recognizing they can’t have it all, all at the same time. It is this belief that too often leaves women wondering what they are doing wrong or why their incredible efforts aren’t turning out the same results as the men they know are getting. For women, having a career requires something men don’t have to have—a determination and good support at home as well as the workplace. They may need to be more patient for some things and more aggressive and persistent when going after others. A woman’s life holds many possibilities and she can be what she wants to be and have the things she desires, just like the guys do. However, never or rarely at the same time—and never without some additional sacrifice of time, leisure, and rest. If women get hung up on fairness or look for a 50/50 split with the men in their lives, they will be disappointed. At least until we figure out how to alter basic biology—women will almost always do the lion’s share of parenting and that has its price.

What do Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna have in common?

September 2nd, 2014

You thought I would say boyfriend problems, competing for the same role—or maybe dated the same celebrity guy. No this time it’s overexposure and not of the wardrobe malfunction type. Celebrities are people too—folks tend to forget that. They have their moments, like the ones when they take sexy photos to share with their partners. Given how often they change partners, they may do more deleting than the rest of us—but when it comes to cyberspace, once it’s out there, it’s out there.

A couple of days ago Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, and a few other celebrity ladies were speaking loudly through their publicists about nude and sexually explicit photos of them that had been hacked and posted online. Apparently these photos were taken over several years and were being stored in that impenetrable vault, the cloud. So of course, this shouldn’t have happened, right? Not so fast.

There is something very deceiving about the sense of security people feel when they use servers and cloud technology that claim to be hack-proof. The worst kept secret is that this is not even possible—just ask the Pentagon and any businesses that have had their data compromised. Given this belief, it’s likely that many women and people out there have taken compromising photos and/or made sexually explicit home movies, believing they were private and would remain so.

Not only has this happened to the famous—many regular women have had compromising photos that were still in the possession of exes go viral. This is mostly known as revenge sex or when boys kiss and tell. Yes, shame on them but ladies—you are just too smart for that.

The take away here is that NOTHING you will is secure, kind of like emails, audio tapes, etc. many a person has been run afoul of the law or had a serious image problem when something like this got out. When you are in a relationship and you are in love, it’s great, there is trust and you just know this guy would never do something like that—think again.

Does this mean you can’t have some sexy, edgy fun? No, just get all the “negatives”–in this case that involves any and all digital traces so they can never go online, where they will be forever and accessible to some savvy hacker with time on their hands. Not to mention a disgruntled ex who is out to make it hard for you.

And unlike Jennifer who acknowledged her photos had been compromised—deny, deny, deny. Blame photo shop—it usually works and proving it isn’t is a job no one will take on.

Seeking marriage? Try shorter men

August 31st, 2014

Science has been backing up the worst kept secret about women for some time—they go for the tall guys. Two sociologists, one from the University of North Texas and the other from Rice University found that 48.9 percent of women have a height requirement for their online profiles—he needs to be taller. They collected data from Yahoo dating personals and used open-ended questions in an online survey they conducted. The reasons women offered for their height preferences were connected to societal expectations and gender stereotypes. 29 percent of the women also talked about feeling awkward about being out with a shorter guy. Interestingly, the men came in at 13.5 percent who wouldn’t date a taller woman. Among college students who were also surveyed as a separate group–55 percent of women required taller men and 37 percent of men said the women needed to be shorter.

Now a new study that has yet to be peer reviewed is suggesting that shorter guys might make better partners. According to this new research—they do more housework, earn more than their taller peers—and are less likely to get divorced. Take that, tall guys. Two sociologists from NYU used data from a University of Michigan project that’s been collecting data on 5,000 families for almost 50 years—and used it to see how a man’s height impacts his relationship once he is past the dating/courtship stage. It’s hard to argue with such a rich trove of data and what it shows.

They also found that short men are less likely to get married—their marriage rate is 18 percent lower than taller guys. Their sample included men from the ages of 23-45—so who knows if it goes up later, when women are more savvy about who they choose and why. Apparently short men are seen as less masculine and this impacts their marriage rate. This might explain the “Napoleon” syndrome. Perhaps because finding partners is harder for these guys—they are more likely to marry older and less educated women. One theory the authors came up with is that older women may help them feel more mature, worldly and masculine. Yikes.

My take away from this is that SMART women who seek a good partner who will make both a good husband and Dad should look twice at shorter men. What’s wrong with wearing flats—easier on the back? Of course, I have a bias here—I am married to a man who is shorter than my type was when I met him, taller than me by only a small inch or two. He is successful, masculine and aggressive, and his height has never been an issue-ever. I’m certainly glad I was able to see who he was in the package he came in back then. Or otherwise—I would have missed out on a great life/family.

Does your love life need help? Try some “choreplay”

August 22nd, 2014

As a psychotherapist and relationship coach who works with many couples—I often hear men (especially) lamenting that their wives are not interested/have little interest in sex. Their wives often respond with something along the lines of “I’m so exhausted and have not time to myself—and he doesn’t get it.” They go on to talk about all the housework, care giving of children, and for many, their own jobs outside the home—that take all their time and energy and leave them craving quiet and sleep at the end of their long days. They say their spouses don’t get it because they don’t share these responsibilities—and if they do, their share is much smaller.

A study from researchers at Cornell University and Georgia State University may have a solution—share the household chores. According to their findings, younger couples (average age, 36) who split the house/kid chores have the most sex, are happy with how often they have it—and report high satisfaction with the sex itself. The study surveyed 600 couples, almost 90% were married, they averaged a moderate to low income, 55% had at least some college education—and all had at least one child living with them.

Previous studies have showed couples with more traditional roles as having a better sex life—therefore this may reflect changing attitudes, expectations and what people want from their partners. It’s interesting to note that the results were not impacted by the woman working outside the home or full time at home.

One interesting finding was with the couples where he did most of the housework. In these cases they had less sex and reported the least sexual satisfaction regarding quantity and quality. One could draw a number of hypotheses from this—but that is for another article.

So the next time you want more sex, run the vacuum or do a load of laundry—it’s great choreplay.

Thirty nights of sex

August 16th, 2014

A Utah couple with two young children, two demanding jobs and lots of reasons to be too tired for intimacy decided to try a “sexperiment”—and then blogged about it.

Meg Conley was concerned that she and her husband Riley Bingham were losing touch with one another—which every busy couple knows is all too easy to do when the demands of family and parenting get added on to work and other life stressers. So one night after Riley arrived home, Meg proposed having sex for 30 days—straight. He was very game, and so they did.

Meg shared in her blog that it was hard sometimes to get up the energy and enthusiasm, but that the closeness and positive changes in both their attitudes made it worth it. It’s interesting and not surprising that Riley had enough energy and that wasn’t an issue for him—hummm. Riley did say that they became less “selfish” towards one another—intimacy can really encourage a closeness that tunes the individuals into each other—and contributes to each feeling more cared for and appreciated. It certainly worked here.

Meg was also happy with the change in how much they opened up to one another—talking and sharing feelings more. She even noted that they were more playful with one another and felt like “kids again.”

I have always maintained that having sex more often has benefit in and of itself. But too often we put the emphasis on fireworks and make it such a chore and hurdle—that the good old fashioned quickie has gotten a bad name. This sexperiment sheds new life on that—and given how well it worked for Meg and Riley I would recommend it to all couples. Do it more and don’t get hung up on who does more of what and how—just get it on and have fun.

Can you be single and happy?

August 9th, 2014

Too often I get that question “Can someone be single and truly happy?” My response always follows a similar vein—it depends. If a single person’s idea of happiness centers on being married, it’s unlikely they will find “happiness” while still single. After all, their definition is very narrow and depends completely on one element being present in their life. Yes, it’s a big one, I get that. But life is made up of so many little and big things—and happiness can be found in many people who have some but not others—including marriage.

All this leads me to an article in the New York Times titled–The magic of Swimming on Martha’s Vineyard. You may be thinking, now what does THAT have to do with happiness–a lot actually. Its author, Jane Gross writes about her passion for swimming—in pools, lakes, ponds, rivers and the ocean. She mentions some great places she has gone swimming—but nothing beats her special place on Martha’s Vineyard. Now, for the connection to happiness. Begin with rereading her title for this piece and you find the word magic. What does this word connote for you? Certainly can’t imagine having a magical experience and feeling unhappy at the same time. Now where am I going with this, you ask? I’m using this one teeny example to illustrate how joy can be found when following a passion—and that feeling of joy comes from being fully present in the moment and at peace with the world around you.

Ms. Gross’s article is a pleasure to read. It takes you to a quiet part of the island—away from where the rich and famous flock every summer. Her favorite swimming hole is an ocean inlet called Lambert’s Cove—and as she describes it, the reader can hear, see and smell the beauty and tranquility of the place, the magic as the author puts it. Every year she rents a small cottage nearby and spends each day there swimming, walking the shore, eating fresh fish and lobster and watching the sun set in a beautiful island sky. Ready to pack your bags about now?

The point I am trying to get to—is that even though happiness cannot be defined and no one has ever come up with an adequate way to describe it, we know it when we feel it. That feeling of peace, a oneness with the natural world around us, an absence of stress, being completely in the moment—these are all ways we describe our feelings of happiness. Ms. Gross’s happiness when swimming at Lambert’s Cove is not shared with anyone—she experiences it alone and she describes the experience as magic.

If you believe you will never be happy as a single person and marriage is your ultimate goal—try reaching out for moments of happiness by finding your passion and indulging in to when you can. These moments won’t keep you warm at night or offer a sounding board when you need one, and they can’t share your burdens and triumphs through the road of life. But they can bring you joy, allow you to be, just be in a perfect moment for a little while—and they will help you to be a happier and more complete person which is a very attractive trait in any potential partner or spouse.

Want to read the piece? You can find it here on:

Dating after 50—for Dummies

August 5th, 2014

There’s a new book titled Dating after 50 for Dummies—written by AARP relationship expert, Pepper Schwartz, PhD. Who would have thought that the AARP would have their own relationship expert? It’s not the same world that boomers grew up in when older folks retired and headed for a quiet pasture.

The Today Show did a segment on the book and Dr. Schwartz offered advice to boomers who are entering or reentering the dating scene. As I watched it, I thought, there’s little being said here that is different from what we advise younger daters to do.

On the show, Dr. Schwartz emphasized the importance of knowing new technology, picking up a new hobby to meet people, and presenting yourself in an accurate way. Two out of three are important to stress with all ages—but younger folks don’t need any prompting regarding the importance of technology. Actually, they may have the opposite problem of too much use of technology and how this interferes with relating and intimacy. But I’ll save that for another blog post.

Trying new activities in order to meet people is always a great idea, but only if these things are something the person is genuinely interested in and would enjoy even if they didn’t meet compatible singles to date. They would still be spending time pursuing a passion, would meet like-minded people for friendship/companionship—and these new friends have friends who have friends. Think about the networking possibilities.

Presenting yourself in an accurate way is always important because if you don’t, you will get busted eventually—and that is not a fun experience. Trying to market a false version of yourself could get you more initial winks, email and first dates—but it won’t lead to anything more. Instead, you will most likely anger or annoy the other person who feels duped and that they have wasted their time. A lose/lose all around.

I would also add that there are real differences in dating at 25 and dating at 55. Older daters aren’t looking for great potential parents in the people they date, money is an issue but only in that they may not want to combine their resources if they marry. After all, most people want their children to inherit their wealth after they pass. A partner’s health is a much bigger issue with older daters. No one wants to end up a caregiver to someone they have only been with for a couple of years. Most importantly—what boomers look for in potential mates will be informed by years of living and most likely, marriage. The things they wanted when they were young could be very different now. Stability, good health, a great sense of humor, someone who is easy to be around, financial stability and independence—and an overall great companion are highly ranked qualities with older daters.

So if you are over 50 and dating—check out this book, put your dancing shoes on, get out there and have fun—and Mr./Ms. Right might just happen along.