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.

New study says those with more Facebook friends are materialistic

Please don’t shoot the messenger…
A new study from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany found that materialistic people see and treat their Facebook friends as “digital objects,” and have significantly more online friends than those people who have a lower interest in possessions. They also have a higher need to compare themselves with others—so the more “friends” the better.

According to this study, these are the folks who use Facebook frequently, actively sending out and responding to posts. They acquire “friends” like possessions—which helps them achieve their goals and feel better about themselves through this social comparison. The researchers also note that “materialists love tools that don’t cost money.” I must debate this last point as it’s safe to say we all love useful tools that don’t cost money—it’s smart and frugal.

The researchers asked 242 Facebook users to answer an online questionnaire that asked them to rate their agreement with statements in order to calculate their Facebook activity. They were queried about things like posting photos, how often they compare themselves with others, things they want but don’t currently have, and what having more Facebook friends says about them and how gaining more will help their goals. The results pointed to those who are more materialistic having a stronger need to compare themselves socially to others, having more Facebook friends, and objectifying their “friends” more than other users. The study was replicated with some changes in the demographics of the group used, and it came out with the same conclusions.

The researchers did emphasize that Facebook is a useful tool for achieving goals, but has its limits and downsides. So keep posting and using Facebook as a tool of convenience and a great way to keep in touch with others and to network towards your social and career goals. Just remember that more isn’t necessarily better, and quality over quantity could work best for you.

The bad boys of power and privilege

Depending on what generation you are from, when you think “bad boy,” you might conjure up an image of James Dean, Marlon Brando, J R Ewing, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Mark Wahlberg or Shia LaBeouf—to name only a few. There is clearly no shortage of these guys, though most of us are a bit surprised at just how many can be described this way.

#METOO has been an eye-opener, to say the least—even for those of us who have worked with sexual assault and abuse victims and have been surprised at times by who the perp turned out to be. That rough around the edges, down on his luck, from bad circumstances Neanderthal may be the gentlest and most respectful guy towards the women around him, and the guy in the 1500 dollar suit may be a dangerous predator.

Since the story about Harvey Weinstein broke and was followed by the #METOO avalanche–story after story about guys we have been big fans of, respected, thought of as safe and cuddly, and believed to be liberal supporters of women and feminism, have been coming out, one after another. Some even fear a potential witch hunt backlash by vindictive/rejected/unhappy females looking for revenge. While false accusations happen (remember Duke lacrosse team and Jackie from UVA), they are rare and usually with careful fact checking, they are exposed as fabrications.

There is also concern about more “innocent” gestures being interpreted as over the line—like a hug, a complement to someone about their appearance, or a suggestion to get together for coffee, lunch, or a drink after work. Indeed, I have expressed my thoughts to my millennial sons, reminding them to be mindful of not only their words and actions, but how they are received by the other person. When false accusations are made and accepted too easily—it takes something away from all the victims who need our support and trust.

And yes, there are many victims out there, and a big problem for all of us is what to do with the accused. After all, the accusations vary widely—some are of rape, sexual aggression towards underage girls, flashing and exposure, and/or holding jobs and promotions hostage to sexual favors. While others are inappropriately touching someone during a photo shoot or when offering condolences, of making lewd or inappropriate remarks to a co-worker, or of kissing a woman without her permission or cooperation. While none of these is appropriate and all are a violation of some sort—shouldn’t the punishment fit the sin, and how are we to determine what is right for each?

There is one very positive thing that has come from this awful mess—and that is women who have been victimized now have a voice and no longer have to feel guilty, responsible or as if they somehow were to blame—which are the kinds of feelings that all victims have in common. Women will be heard, believed and finally get the support they have often had to live without, sometimes for years. The scars that this kind of thing leave can be very deep and very damaging—depending on so many variables, and the woman (or man) herself/himself.

It’s a sure bet this thing has not run its course and many names will be coming out over the following weeks and months. However all of us should avoid that high horse—as it is a long way to fall and fall we will if it turns out our husband, son, or close friend is one of those outed. No one is immune—we have all loved people who are less than perfect, and if it turns out to be someone close to you, where will you stand? Definitely something to think about. We are all human and flawed—and before we issue a siren call to have them all locked up or beheaded, we should take a deep breath and give justice a chance to sort all this out and decide what is appropriate for whom.

The “good” divorce

The NY Times Modern Love column is running a piece right now penned by Elizabeth Covington, a New Yorker who is the mistress/girlfriend to a man who left his wife for her—a wife who has befriended the author and made great efforts to include her in the family throughout the separation and impending divorce.

Wow, right? Well, of course these relationships are not as uncomplicated as they seem on the surface—and no, the wife wasn’t happy about her spouse asking for a divorce after falling for another woman, not happy at all. Yet she has taken the high road and reached out with friendliness and inclusion. So the question is why?

The comments on this piece (mine included) number almost 400 and counting. As you can imagine, anger at the author (and hubby) is what most (many women) readers write about. Comments like their selfishness, thinking only about their own wants and needs, not trying to fix the marriage, breaking up a “happy” family, are all expressed. There are also folks (mostly men) who think the women readers are being too hard on Josh. Then there are the ones who accuse Beka of being a “martyr”, manipulating the situation to gain attention…really???

This couple was a successful, power couple who had been married for quite a few years and have two “lovely” little girls. The author expresses her relief that she never wanted any of her own and was saving all her maternal instincts for these girls, really? Josh deals with all this by becoming extremely anxious and self-medicating with alcohol, standing somewhere in the background as Beka steps up to try and make the best of a devastating blow to her world and that of her children.

There will be folks who read this and who will stand on all sides of it—depending on their own experiences and past/present relationships. Many will feel rage, others sorrow, and still others will feel superior, thinking they could/would never behave like either Josh or Elizabeth. Not so fast…no one can be sure till they have been there and as Josh is quoted saying, many of their friends were divorcing for the same reason.

I am clearly old school and conservative with it comes to relationships. If you are a woman and are approached by a married man, say no upfront. Once you are in, it’s much harder to get out. If you are a guy (or woman) who is unhappy (apparently josh was “miserable”) in your marriage—seek professional help before trying to find a distraction/replacement. Many marriages can be saved, but not if the individuals don’t admit there is a serious problem and take steps together to address it.

It’s clear Beka would have been all in with counseling, addressing issues, working to meet Josh’s unmet needs—but if he wasn’t able or willing, the end would have been the same. Had Beka decided to act out her grief and taken this to the mats—a lot of money would have been spent and the anger and hurt would have helped create a very toxic environment for Beka, Josh, and mostly the children. Kuddos to Beka for doing what she could to make the best of a terrible situation that her spouse (and Elizabeth) created. No doubt Beka was not and is not a saint—though Josh told Elizabeth she is a wonderful and beautiful person. Indeed, her actions have clearly demonstrated this.