Are good marriages made by two single thinking people?

For several decades, the time that people have spent as married adults has decreased significantly. We are living as singles longer, and with divorce, becoming single again at higher rates. The good news here is that marrying at a later age decreases your chance of divorce. It also allows you more single time to get your finances together, achieve educational goals, and learn to stand well on your own two feet. Singles usually have wider and stronger social networks than married folks—and interact more frequently with those in their neighborhoods, with coworkers and with their families of origin. In other words, they have higher social integration, which is a very big plus for anyone because research has shown that this deceases health risks and increases life expectancy.

Who knew? Relationships with friends and others in our environment are better predictors of good health and happiness than relationships with family. In summary—we thrive on friendship and association with folks in the wider world around us, and marriage can be very insulating.

None of this is to say that marriage does not have proven emotional and financial benefits—because it does, and this is well documented. But happy singles are more likely to bring those factors from their successful single life to marriage, and be more successful there as well.  It seems that those at the greatest disadvantage are the previously married—it may be that they get the worst of both worlds through the experience of an unhappy marriage and divorce. This may be because they relied too heavily on their spouse when married and lost their self-reliance and those social connections and supports that would have sustained them through and beyond divorce.

Having strong relationships with others outside your marriage also strengthens the marriage. Couples who socialize with others are happier with one another. Women handle marital problem issues better when they have a close friend to talk to and get support from. This may be one important reason that focusing solely on the couple relationship when addressing problems is a problem in itself. It leaves out the importance of others to the individuals within the couple. Couple who socialize with other couples enjoy one another during these interactions and report that date nights alone are not nearly as pleasurable. Us married folks can attest to this—much more fun to go out with a fun couple or two. You get to see and experience your spouse in a different way.

Think twice before ending your long-term marriage

Gray divorce is on the rise—and the longer a couple is married, the more expensive it is for them to breakup. This is because they have acquired more assets, and are closer to or have entered retirement—which means you have limited earning time left, and therefore, time to recover.

Yet the divorce rate among adults 50 and older has doubled since the 1990’s, while going down for all other age groups. There can be many reasons for this, including children having grown and left the nest and couples finding that what they had in common has moved on, and with so little time left, they don’t want to waste any.

Divorce attorneys can charge anywhere from $250.00 to $ 650.00 an hour. The average cost of a divorce falls between $25,000 and $50,000. But if a couple has more to untangle, it can get very expensive. If they go to court to fight it out, triple those costs or more.

With fixed assets, impending retirement, and less chance for future earning to make up the loss—gray divorce should be carefully considered before taking the first steps. If you have to liquidate retirement accounts early, there is a stiff penalty. Taxes will be huge, not to mention lost retirement funds when they are really needed. Then there are the property divisions, and the need to establish two separate households. The result of living on half the income they once expected is often that one or both ex-spouses end up with a lower standard of living. Not what anyone wants to contemplate as they enter their golden years. With all this at stake, it is wise to put in some investment and work to see if the marriage can be turned into a happier and more satisfying one.

Divorce mediation is an option that can greatly reduce legal fees and the time it takes to get a divorce. So there is cost saving up front. The problem is that you will still be living on half of what you had planned when you were a couple, looking forward together towards your retirement years.

How much money would it take to dump your partner?

A few weeks ago, Washington Post business columnist, Michelle Singletary wrote an interesting piece titled, Would you dump your honey for this much money? In it she examined a pool that asked millennials what they were willing to give up for their career. The results might surprise you.

Comet, a website that provides people with student loan financing, conducted the survey with 364 employed, childless, young adult participants—asking them if they would stay single to focus on work or break up with a partner if it meant getting a raise and/or promotion.

A full 41% said they would break up with their significant other for a life-changing promotion. 32% said they would call it quits for a significant raise. Talk about expendable relationships. Specifically, respondents said it would take 36,000 to delay getting involved; 37,000 to end their relationship; 64,000 to delay marriage; and 67,000 to delay parenthood.

Probably not that surprising is that male participants were willing to make these sacrifices for half the money women needed to make the same choices. What about you? What would you be willing to give up if the price were right? Do you think this is more a reflection of the quality of these relationships than everyone having a price? Definitely something to think about. Maybe everyone contemplating marriage should consider what amount they would be satisfied with to walk away from this other person. If the answer comes too quickly, it’s time to hit the pause button.

13 Signs you are in Love

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and a well-known expert on love, led a study that revealed the brain has an in-love phase, with 13 telltale signs that say you are definitely in love.

The 1st sign is the belief that this person is unique, and that nobody else could possibly be to you what they are. Researchers said this belief was fed by the chemical, dopamine, which impacts attention and focus.

The 2nd sign is when you can only see what is right about this person—and that you simply cannot find anything wrong with them. In other words, they are perfect. You daydream about them, focusing on all the positive feelings and activities associated with them. Researchers say that the chemical norepinephrine increases this daydreaming and associated images and memories.

The next sign is those up and down mood swings—euphoria and increased energy can swing to sleeplessness and loss of appetite in hours. Little things that are said and done can set these off, and any small wrinkle can lead to feelings of despair. Researchers say that being in love is a form of addiction.

The 4th sign has to do with feeling closer due to any adversity that befalls you—and intensifies the romantic attraction. Again dopamine producing neurons can lead to this more intensified reaction.

Another sign is obsession. People in love have trouble getting the person out of their thoughts. Every waking moment is spent thinking about them, and thinking about what it will be like when you next see them. Researchers say that 85% of a person’s thinking can be taken up with this obsession.

Then there is the emotional dependency. Jealousy, fear of rejection, anxiety when separated are all symptoms of this dependency. The person can’t imagine a future without them, and would not want to. The same area of the brain that activates with cocaine addiction, activate with obsession. No wonder we call it an addiction.

Fantasies of a future life together are frequent and intense. Couples in love are constantly thinking of ways to be together, spend more time together, and be closer. MRI studies show that neural systems underlying drive and reward recognition become active when people in love gaze upon their beloved’s face. Can’t make this stuff up folks.

“A fool for love” has a basis in reality. People in love are ready to do ANYTHING, sacrifice anything for the person they love.

When we are in love, it takes a priority over other things in our lives. Everything from daily routines and habits to how you dress and what you eat can be affected. However, this has its drawbacks as essentially people are attracted to their opposites, and changing your life to fit someone else’s could eventually work against that initial attraction.
Possessiveness is another sign of being in love. It’s not just physical-it’s also the desire to be exclusive and number one in every area of the person’s life. Jealousy and insecurity can really show themselves here.

Emotional intimacy begins to weigh more heavily than physical intimacy—though couples often say that physical intimacy is also very important to them and the relationship.

Couples in love say they just cannot control how they feel—that their passion is involuntary. They feel they have no ability to stop these feelings and desire. No wonder stalking can be so scary.

The in love phase will change, converting to one of attachment. The highs are gone, but the desire to be together remains though they have a more realistic, pragmatic and codependent relationship when this love phase ends. For some, the relationship ends completely when the highs are gone.

So if you think you are in love, reflect on these signs and see if they fit. Do the same for your love object—for if they do for you, but not for them—you may be the only one in love.

It’s valentine’s Day and you forgot

Maybe you had a funny feeling when you woke up that somehow you had forgotten something. Perhaps you had remembered, but thought you would get to it later and later never came. Or maybe you always procrastinate when you feel unsure about how to handle something—and Valentine’s Day is something you never seem to get right.

Whatever the reason or excuse, unless you come up with something quickly that she/he will like, your relationship could suffer big time. There are last minute ideas that can be fun and even romantic. All that is needed is some imagination, willingness to go for it—and just a small amount of time/running around/hard cash. Consider some of the following ideas:

Some flowers accompanied with caviar, a favorite sweet treat, a very personalized card that tells them how you feel in a unique/funny/offbeat way, or my personal favorite, a little “book” of coupons that you make, each offering one service, surprise, dinner in or out, or whatever. Use your imagination here.

Tickets (will cost you) to hear live music, see their favorite team play, or to a new movie or live theatre performance. Before of after you could consider a light meal, perhaps in an out of the way, not well-known little bistro or fun bar.

A little gift that is exactly what your significant other has been saying they want to pick up for themselves. Maybe a new toy like an Echo Dot or a higher tech remote control; a bottle of their favorite spirits, a new set of glasses for their wine or liquor bar, and/or a gift certificate to a massage or a mani/pedi.

The key here is to not despair. Get up, move away from your keyboard or put your device down—and head out in search of a great last minute gift. Then send them a sexy and (mysterious) text asking them to wear a special something and show up at a certain time/ place for a little romance.

You can do it….

Good financial advice for singles on Valentine’s Day

Michelle Singletary, money columnist for the Washington post had a great column in this Sunday’s paper titled, Four lessons from the stock market if you’re looking for love. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Yet it has great value to anyone who may soon get into that blissful state, where they forget that exciting romance doesn’t last forever, and financial security is a pretty big turn on when travelling through life with someone. Just imagine a life without it? And do that now, before you fall in lust and lose your head.

This is the point that Ms. Singletary makes (very well) in her piece. She uses lessons from the stock market as her frame—and they are actually a great guide when evaluating someone’s rightness or wrongness for you.

The first lesson is that you need to have a plan, one that takes you through the ups and down of the stock market—and a shared life together. If not, you may end up with someone you are not financially compatible with and life will be a constant struggle of savings VS spending, debt VS security.

The second is to not let your emotions cloud your judgment. If you panic when the stock market falls and get too comfortable when it is on a roll, you may lose sight of the bigger and healthier picture and make the wrong moves. When choosing a mate, you don’t want to overlook or ignore red flags that seem so unimportant when you are head over heels, but will be waving brightly when the hormones and highs of love subside. Imagine struggling through life, living hand to mouth, never having enough to take a real vacation, live where and as you want and/or retire someday.

The third is don’t take more risk than you can afford. Ms. Singletary states that staying with someone who doesn’t have your financial values will leave you frustrated at best and struggling and miserable when you have never had a plan and never have enough.

The fourth is manage your expectations. If you choose someone who has certain traits that concern you but expect this will change later on—you will be very disappointed when this doesn’t happen. Don’t expect anything you don’t see and know is actually there. Love does not conquer all.

As usual, Ms. Singletary delivers some sound financial, and in this case, relationship advice. Check her out on Washingtonpost.com.

Words won’t help your hook-up odds

There was an interesting Modern Love piece in the NY times a week or so ago. It was written by Gabrielle Ulubay, and is titled, For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.? Right off the bat, I was suspicious of the title and after reading it, definitely see a different way to get to a better outcome.

To begin with, just the term hookup conveys sex with no strings. It’s a coming together of two strangers who are looking for fun without commitment and a relationship. If this author truly wanted just a fun sexual experience, why would she be upset when she doesn’t ever hear from the guy again? According to Gabrielle, guys should just be honest during a hookup—not expressing any attraction/interest/admiration beyond the physical act. Then somehow, the experience would feel better/be better for anyone who participates in it.

Maybe I just can’t help myself, but when I read between Gabrielle’s lines, I heard her express a desire for something more than a one-night stand. She wanted to hear the words, though they frightened her because she feared they were not genuine. However she wanted to believe they were—which tells me that she wants more than a hookup.

I am not suggesting that Gabrielle should not enjoy sex “as much as a guy does.” There is nothing wrong with that. But by not being completely honest with herself about what she wants beyond the sex, is helping to keep her in this unhappy pattern. She even references her fears that this guy will find out that she hooks up a lot, and will see her differently. This suggests she is not truly OK with how she sees herself, and no amount of loving and adoring words from someone else can change that. Nor will doing the same thing over and over again bring different results—unless she just gets lucky.

If Gabrielle were my client, I would begin by talking to her about her relationship goals/dreams/desires, or lack thereof. I would encourage her to explore her own heart—without the voices of the larger culture weighing in. For instance, is she telling herself she only wants to have a good time, to enjoy the sex and the guy’s brief company without strings? Or somewhere deep down, is there a hope for something more—a best friend, lover, and partner? If so, why can’t she admit this to herself? Is there a fear she will seem desperate, weak, an un-feminist? So what, is her goal is to find her heart’s desire, what does it matter what other might think?

Then I would encourage Gabrielle to approach dating differently. I would suggest no sex for a number of dates or even months. This way, she and the guy (if he is still interested when she says no) will get to know each other a bit as people without an intimacy that is not really intimacy—just sex. They can actually go on fun dates, play together, talk about their passions and hopes, share stories of growing up, turn one another on with their shared sense of humor or intellectual connection. Then sex will happen “organically,” with an openness, greater honesty, and a sense that they really do know each other in some ways and so far have liked what they see and want to see more.

Old-fashioned, maybe. But if your goal is a relationship, it’s a better path to follow.

A round-up of last year’s best relationship advice

Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal did a great piece in her Bonds column last week on “The Year’s Best Relationship Advice.” She includes a selection of great advice from non-experts who have someone gotten it really right in their own relationships. They have shared this with her through the thousands of letters she gets from readers—and the ones featured really stuck out for Ms. Bernstein.

The first one is about breathing deeply and listening—yes, I said breathing and listening. Nothing special or complicated—just breathing and listening while you partner speaks—especially if what they are saying has the potential to make you defensive or angry. No interruptions, comments, smirks or other conversation killers. Simple, right?

Another is to jump to a positive assumption/conclusion, rather than a negative one. How often we assume the worst, based on either past experience or just our own defenses working against us? When you assume something positive it keeps you in a calm and open state—and very often it turns out that jumping to a negative conclusion would have been incorrect and would have taken away from the good will and trust in your relationship. If it turns out that assuming the best was incorrectly, you can shift gears and address the problem—in a better and more productive state of mind.

A third suggestion is that you spoil one another. You know, do nice things for one another just because. This reader said that it’s important not to draw attention to any helpful deed or kind gesture, as that would take away from it because it would make it about you, the doer, instead of just because.

A fourth idea that I especially like is to be easy to love. Now you may be thinking that you already are and what does that mean… Think about it, do you make an issue of things you could just let go? Do you jump to criticism because your partner doesn’t do things just the way you would like and you assume he or she does this on purpose? Maybe their love language is very different and you could try to learn to speak it, while gently demonstrating what rocks your world and how to do it. Be a low maintenance partner—this will make you so much easier to love and appreciate.

Lastly is the suggestion that you prioritize and have a f_ _ _ it bucket. Do you really have to get upset or agitated over the little stuff? What about saying f _ _ _ it and moving on? This is definitely a “pick your battles” kind of thing and it makes great sense—especially in relationships. Who wants to be around someone who reacts to everything as though it all has the same weight and importance? Geez, exhausting to be sure.

Great stuff to think about as you consider your relationship resolutions for 2018.

The season for hygge

When was the last time you were hygge? No, it’s not some new age trend that is all the rage, then quickly vanishes. Instead it is a decades old Danish and Scandinavian practice of “joining with a loved one in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.” Think cozy fire on a cold night, a good bottle of wine to share, candlelight and maybe soft music in the background, and all around, a stillness that brings an in the moment experience of peace and intimate sharing. And what better time to get hygge than during these bitter cold days of winter (at least for many of us).

If this sounds like an unrealistic scene from a ROM-COM, or someone else’s love life, but never yours—you should consider upping your game. Hygge is all the rage, with everyone wanting to experience it—and why not, achieving it is a realistic goal for everyone.

You can begin by making sure your home and surroundings set the right scene for relaxing, getting comfortable and indulging yourself with down time, good drink and food, a good book, and a fire or other relaxing focal point. Once your environment is ready, all you need to do is step into it, shed your worries and thoughts of anything else, and allow contentment to wash over you.

This might seem complicated, but in fact it is just the opposite. You get hygge by simplifying, shedding, reflecting on what you are grateful for and what is good in your life, and staying completely present and in the moment. Once you have given yourself the space, time, and permission to do this, you will begin to look forward to every hygge experience ahead.

Once you are a master hygge practitioner, invite someone you really like to join you. Set the scene, keep it simple, and just BE in the same space and time—with no need for explanations or clarifications on your “relationship,” “status,” and/or “what this is or where it is going.” Just being together in the moment will bring a feeling of intimacy and a shared peace. You can cook a simple meal together, listen to music, and/or enjoy good drink—just keep it simple and real. Your only take away afterward should be how nice that was, whatever it was, and a desire on both of your parts to try it again.

How many times have you or someone you know made fun of those online profiles that talk about sharing a warm fire and a good glass of wine? What about the ones describing long walks on an empty beach or a picnic by a lake or in the woods? Maybe folks made fun because it seemed like a scene from a movie or romance novel—trite and unrealistic. If so, think again. True peace and happiness can only be found while you are fully present, in the moment—hopefully sharing it with a special someone or someone you think could become special.