Considering recycling your virginity?

For anyone who has tired of the hook-up and one night stand relationships- there is hope. Now you can recycle your virginity, which is to say you can set back the block and begin again, a newly reincarnated virgin. Essentially recycling one’s virginity means that you will abstain from sex, maybe until you are engaged or married to “the one.”

Certainly this practice is not completely new. Women have probably been recycling themselves through the centuries, after making a choice to change the way they live, to erase a sexual assault or for other reasons that made sense in the world they lived in. In our world of easy and open sexual relating many women are becoming disillusioned with the cycle and finding themselves wanting more than just a good time. So, they make a choice to change how they approach relating and relationships, and in doing so, take sex out of the equation. It certainly changes who and how they date- and gives them a way to get to know men without sex being the primary part of their relationship. It also helps them to get to a second and third date and see if there could be more there than the physical.

For those of you who may be rolling their eyes and thinking something like, “please, this is the 21st century and men DO marry women who DO,” that is really not what this is about. It is about a woman making conscious choices about who she will share herself with, and when. It’s about getting to know men as friends first, through casual relating, conversation, and fun with their clothes on.

Let’s face it; sex is not all it’s cracked up to be as anyone who has ever felt regrets and/or took the walk of shame will tell you. If you want something real and lasting with a guy, isn’t it worth your time and patience? Men like women who like themselves, stand up for what they believe in and have standards. It’s attractive to both sexes. So, if you want to try a more old-fashioned way to approach dating, go for it. All you have to lose are some cheap thrills and moments of intimacy that only tease at the real thing.

Do you know the 10 relationship behaviors of the happiest couples?

Psychology today ran a piece by Doc Barton on what behaviors we typically see in the happiest couples. This is useful information to anyone who is single and hoping for a relationship or anyone in any stage of a relationship. This is so because too many folks say that they don’t know any happy couples or come from homes where their parents were divorced- which leaves them with no positive role models for how to have a successful and lasting union.

Doc Barton’s 10 behaviors are ones that resonate with this psychotherapist and relationship coach- and they are ones that I coach folks to use with their partners, especially when going through a rough patch or dealing with a situation that has them struggling to find a middle ground.

Are any of the following behaviors ones that you display and if not, why not give them a try?

  • Be best friends
    • Be able to laugh at yourself
    • Be open to new ideas and experiences
    • Be willing to be willing
    • Be kind
    • Be able to give all of your attention
    • Be demonstrative
    • Be trustworthy
    • Be available
    • Be Proactive

As you consider these, imagine if your partner employed them liberally in their interaction with you? Does it feel great just to think about that? If so, that could lend some motivation to you to get going on these. It’s all about caring enough to try. Once they become part of your repertoire, you will marvel at how much less work your relationship takes.

Dating in the Boomerang generation

The NY Times just published a lengthy piece on the increasing number of “boomerang kids” – the young adults who have moved back home to live with their parents, many for years. These young adults talk about how they can save money on rent while they make career and life plans. They also talk about the recession and how hard it was for the brief time they lived on their own- according to many, it was almost impossible to make ends meet. They felt they were at a dead-end and moving home would give them freedom to make some changes. Some also admit that they like the safety net of their parents’ home- and have fears about going out on their own.

One in five people in their 20’s and early 30’ live at home (home of origin). For their parents’ generation it was one in 10. The costs of a college degree, escalating housing prices and a high unemployment rate are mostly to blame. Yes, earlier generations had their challenges too- it just seems like a perfect storm happened for this age group and their challenges are greater for living independently.

Some experts believe this is temporary and that as the employment picture brightens and loans get paid down/costs come under greater control- more young people will decide they want to be on their own. However, many others believe this is a new trend and that we could be going back to a time when young adults lived at home until they were older and/or married. If “home” is too comfortable, they will stay- and it appears that these kids raised by helicopter parents see many positives to living with the parents.

This coupled with the economic reality of more people who are unemployed, underemployed, earning less, and paying higher taxes- and even having a college degree will not guarantee financial and job security.
Much has been written about how this will impact the larger economy, especially down the road- but what about its impact on this generation’s ability to build relationships, marry and start families? The mean age of first marriage continues to climb and many people are delaying having children till they are older due to financial concerns and social changes. Often they opt to live together first, or decide to have children and skip the marriage part. These decisions have consequences that we may not even fully see yet. Now add to this the number of young people living with their parents. The challenges to growing a relationship- privacy, independence and autonomy, the experience of living independently and handling one’s own finances and household/lifestyle responsibilities would all be absent from the person’s experience. Should they want to date someone living on their own, this could lead to issues for that person who is handling their responsibilities and paying their own bills. It would also be difficult to make such a big decision and make the move to an independent life straight from Mom and Dad’s nest. Therefore, it would be too easy to stay comfortably in place, while time marches on and the years pass.

Student debt’s impact on dating and relationships

It’s the topic of many financial columns, blogs, articles, and even a couple of best selling books. The President of the U.S. wants to take action to help alleviate it. Student debt in this country now tops one trillion dollars and it’s owed by those who have completed college and graduate school as well as the many who took out loans but never earned their degree. Add to this the difficulty in finding high paying and professional jobs after graduation for those who do- and this debt amounts to a life impacting burden that not only restricts a person’s ability to cover basic bills, live independently, and purchase a home- it is also interfering with the dating and relationship lives of those who carry it..

It’s more and more common for young people to be asked by potential mates about their credit score, level of debt and financial health. It’s playing a major role in the marriage and childbirth rates- and certainly the overall health of the economy. Top financial experts are looking for solutions and it may be that the only ones will take a long time and will require those affected to delay the normal next steps that their unfettered peers will be able to take- as they sail past them and into futures where they have more choice and control.

If you are one of those people who carry student debt- dealing with it smartly and efficiently should be one of your most immediate and primary goals. Instead of making a plan to meet new people to date- work on a plan to get out of debt faster. Look for ways you can cut your living expenses and overall spending and use that extra money to lower those loans. Think of it as an investment in not only your financial future- it will also help you to have a more satisfying and successful dating life by increasing your opportunities to connect with compatible singles with whom you will be free to move into a future life with- one that is unencumbered by debt and all the dead ends it can bring with it.











Could “Chick Flicks” replace couples counseling?

The results of a new study were published in December in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The researchers, lead author Ronald Rogge (of The University of Rochester), Thomas Bradbury (the Relationship Institute at UCLA), and others found that discussing five (relationship) movies a month could cut the three-year  divorce rate in half. The long-term study included 174 newlywed couples who participated throughout  their first three years of marriage. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups- conflict management, compassion and acceptance training, and relationship awareness through film- and the movie-and talk approach was just as effective as the more intensive therapist-led methods. The results suggest that couples know what they do that is right or wrong- however, they don’t think about their behavior as it is occurring, and this leads to conflict and divorce.

The researchers were excited when they thought about how this model could be adapted to help couples in general- and it is something they could do on their own. In this study, participants were given 47 movies to take home and were asked to watch one a week for the next month, followed by a 45 minute discussion. The results were the same as the more intensive and professionally led groups the other couples were assigned to.

So what is different between this approach and couples watching movies together as a general course in their lives? One is that all the movies have an intimate relationship as central to the plot- chic flicks. The other is that they then discuss the characters and this helps develop insights into their behavior and how it impacts their partner.

My only concern with how this would translate into a regular marital intervention is that guys have to be dragged to chic flicks. Maybe this is why the result doesn’t happen more often outside of the study- guys don’t go to them, end of story. I also wondered if the guys who would be willing to go at all or more often are more “in touch with their feminine sides.” No, this is not a negative- it’s just that some guys are more open to this and to experiencing something that is outside the typical “guy” experience. If a guy is naturally more this way- wouldn’t he naturally be more tuned into his partner and her feelings/needs?

However, these couples were randomly assigned to this group and given this as homework- and it was effective. So, if we can somehow get out men to go to these more often and discuss their thoughts about them afterwards, we could all be more happily married. ? Definitely something to think about if you have hit a rough spot with your mate.


Do the Uncool kids end up being better partners?

A study that was published this month in the journal Child Development came to the conclusion that the cool kids from junior high end up being the marginalized adults by the time they reach their early 20’s. Apparently, cool younger kids only hang out with the best looking kids and often run with older kids (because that is really cool) who may be a bad influence- and experiment with drugs and sex and get into petty crime because they think it’s cool or perhaps it’s another way to stand out.

According to the study, as they move into high school, their popularity quotient drops as other kids are more focused and serious and more mature about school and being responsible. This leads the once cool kids to struggle to try and find a way to fit in more and when they can’t- they often start to become marginalized and drift towards the kids who are less stable and mature. Over time, this worsens and by their 20’s they are often high school drop outs, have a criminal history, and/or are underemployed or unemployed and drifting.

The theory behind why is rather simple- they miss out on important developmental phases and experiences that their uncool peers get to have. This leaves them socially and psychologically delayed- which of course has nothing to do with IQ.

Several things came to mind when I read the study. The first is child actors/musicians who grow into dysfunctional young adults- think Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber to name only two of many. They grew up way to fast and took on adult roles before they were emotionally and developmentally ready. By the time they reached their early 20’s, they were missing some critical experiences that would have prepared them for being responsible adults. Now both struggle with substance abuse and criminal behavior.

I also thought about all the young adults who struggle to set and keep goals, stay in school, hold down jobs- and have healthy relationships. They are often attractive, charismatic and intelligent- but just can’t seem to get their act together. Were they cool kids once? Are bad boys often ex cool kids and is this why they just can’t get it together in their relationships and make healthy commitments?

If you were one of the quiet ones, painfully shy, a geek or a nerd or just more of a loner- it looks like now is your time to be cool. You went through all those difficult adolescent stages with your eyes wide open and you learned a lot along the way. For anyone who is planning to attend a school reunion soon or who has the opportunity to connect with old schoolmates online- don’t rule out any uncool kids from your past. According to this study- they could hold the great potential for a healthy relationship and satisfying partnership.

Gray divorce shattering retirement dreams

The New York Times is running an interesting piece right now on how divorce among the older long-marrieds is impacting their finances and especially their retirement security. “Gray” divorces are on the rise according to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. Among folks 50 and older the divorce rate has doubled since 1990- and it’s expected to keep rising. So much for the belief that the divorce rate is only high among those who have young children, and are in the most stressful times of their life/marriage, etc.

The Times focuses on how assets are split in half, retirement income gets fought over, the importance of talking to a financial advisor before calling a divorce lawyer- and they even talk about possible hidden assets that can’t be accessed once a divorce is finalized. Therefore they emphasize the need to go slowly, get the best settlement you can- and really do your homework along the way. Did you know there is such a thing as a forensic accountant who can search out any hidden or even forgotten assets a soon to be ex-partner may have? I can’t speak for anyone who has decided that divorce is the best option- but it sure feels like the hardest and least desirable, especially if you are an older adult with less time to start over and rebuild wealth and regain lost lifestyle perks.

There is only a brief mention in the article of the pain and loss associated with the death of a marriage- and the emphasis is how this leads people to less thought out planning and rushing a process that is just too important to get wrong. While this is all useful to anyone facing a gray divorce- I think folks should stop and spend some time and effort before making the decision to move towards divorce at all. Yes, there are the big 3 that are not negotiable in any marriage- abuse, addiction, and complete emotional estrangement. These can be worked on but only if both partners are willing to do the hard work- and after years of living with someone who may be ‘guilty” of one of these, it may just feel like too little too late.

But what about all the space between marital discord and unhappiness and these three? In my experience as a psychotherapist and relationship coach, there is often room in a relationship for working on problems, space in which to find compromise and enough energy to do the necessary work. What is often lacking is the belief that change is possible or the will is not there to see the difficult process through.

But then I think about what this article details- the anxiety, uncertainty, grief, stress, work, and emotional and financial cost- especially for those who don’t have much time for starting over and who wouldn’t find it easy to do so at an older age even if they were determined to do so. Losing one’s home, giving up much loved possessions, breaking up your family, losing mutual friends, living on less, maybe much less- and having an uncertain and potentially very lonely old age to look forward to. Speaking for myself- this is motivation to slow down and really think about how brown that grass could be on the other side of the marriage fence.

Maybe we should have seminars where older divorced people give talks to those contemplating divorce and give them a view of post-divorce life in their golden years. Call it tough love for divorce contemplating boomers. If you are an older person, married for years and considering divorce- and looking forward to kicking back and enjoying those later in life years without the stress of your present relationship- consider spending some time with your divorced friends, going out to bars and social events frequented by divorced and single older adults- and you just may get a dose of reality that could save you from the biggest mistake of your life.

Dates to fear: Peak break-up times

If your relationship is humming along so well that it seems too good to be true… or if you and your partner are struggling and you fear you are about to be dumped- there are times you should get out of town and be completely unreachable, because according to facebook the peak break-up times in rank order are:

Spring Break
Valentine’s Day
Two weeks before winter holidays
April Fool’s Day
Summer Holiday

If you got through the winter holidays unscathed, remember that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. You can always take a mini-trip out of town with ‘single’ friends, or suddenly come down with the flu the day before. However, if you feel confident that your relationship is made in heaven, then enjoy that yearly day for lovers as you sit back and chill- at least until April fools day rolls around.

Drama Kings and relationship deal breakers

We have all heard the term “drama queen” but never “drama kings” until Dalma Heyn came out with her insightful book by the same name; Drama Kings- The men who drive strong women crazy. Essentially, Ms. Heyn ‘s book is about those toxic men who are driving women crazy- and are leading to a greater number of women choosing to leave their relationships and these guys behind. These men are often smart, charming, takers who are feeling impaired and unable to be one half of a healthy, intimate relationship. I love this book and have recommended it to a number of my strong, independent, smart and successful female clients who are in these toxic relationships and are struggling with if and how to get out of them.

One of my clients came in last week with this book in hand and announced that she had read it the week before, had bought two copies and had already recommended it to a number of her friends. Wow, seems like there may be more of these guys around than even I once thought. This client also announced that she was finally able to break off with this guy because she realized that he and the relationship would never change. Essentially, she had not gotten her needs met for a long time, but had hung in there trying to be understanding, supportive and strong. This book helped her to see that even with all that, he wouldn’t change until and unless he was motivated to do so.

I decided to blog about Drama Kings to get the word out to all you women out there who may be in relationships that don’t meet your needs, require you to do all the giving- and often leave you feeling like it is all your fault. If this resonates with you, run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore or go online and get Drama Kings.

What’s your probability for divorce?

New statistics on divorce are in the news this week, and they point to some interesting and surprising facts about who is more likely to get divorced and who is statistically favored to go the marital distance. America’s Families and Living Arrangements study from the US Census Bureau along with new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided us with information that could be useful as part of any pre-marital counseling or classes. Some salient tidbits include the fact that the divorces rate for males goes down as they get older and their incomes rise, yet the opposite is true for older women who are high wage earners. Hummm…

Ethnicity also factored into these new statistics. Older white and black males have a much lower rate of divorce than Hispanic males (double their counterparts) – and older, financially successful Hispanic women have been dissolving their marriages at a rate of nearly one in three.

The third interesting statistic is that when unemployment rises, the divorce rate drops- and as unemployment drops, the divorce rate increases. There really does seem to be something to the effect that hardship has on priorities and the willingness of people to pull together.

So, what’s the bottom line that we should take away from these findings? How about some or all of these as possibilities?
• Money does not buy happiness or contentment.
• Women probably do stay in unhappy relationships due to financial and lifestyle considerations.
• More freedom and choice may offer greater opportunity to seek experiences and relationships beyond the confines of the marital one- and this can lead to discontent and a feeling of wanting more on an intimate or interpersonal level.
• Men who are more mature and reasonably content in their marriages and lifestyles appreciate the convenience and benefits they have- and are less likely to go outside the relationship.
• Marrying a little older can help you avoid divorce if you are a man.
• If you are a woman, your probability of divorce will increase if you are a high wage earner.

Some of the above are said a bit tongue-in-cheek and I’d guess that any of them would be affected by what a partner brings to the relationship in the form of money, friendship, intimacy and humor.