Marrying up is not just for women anymore

September 17th, 2017

Actually, I’ve never been comfortable with the term. Yes, we all used it when joking about a friend/family member “marrying up,” and often it was also meant to be a complement to the spouse they were lucky to snag.

Then there was always the downside, that belief on the part of (too many) men that women look to date guys who have good careers and earn hefty paychecks—in order words, Golddiggers who were only into a guy if he had money.

This stereotype has persisted over the years, and in fact, there are women who have fed it and given the rest of us a “bad name.” These women make no bones about it, they want a good earner/provider—they are the ones like the young women depicted in An officer and a gentleman,” setting their sights on flyers and the life a marriage to one would provide.

Not that it isn’t understandable and even smart for women to seek men who are financially secure and responsible. It is and most of us are fine with that criteria. In these relationships it’s not about marrying a guy because of his assets and earning potential—it’s about paying attention to the practical things when you meet someone and realize you are falling for him, for so many reasons. He might be handsome, sweet, funny, sincere, and loyal—but unemployed, lacking any direction, and happy to follow your lead and let you be the one who handle finances and other things in the relationship. For some women, this is acceptable because he meets their needs and this compromise would be worth what they get in return. For many of us, this could be a weight that we would resist as time went by and could be a deal breaker down the road.

A recent study turns this dynamic on its head, finding that it’s more likely now for WOMEN, not men, to have that college degree and better career opportunities, and therefore it is men who are now more likely to benefit from marriage than women.

This study, published in Demography, backs up what educated women living in Metropolitan areas have been saying for a while—it’s hard to find suitable men to date. OUCH

Essentially as women have become more educated, empowered, and successful, they are less likely to benefit from marriage. Yes, the standard of living has gone up in families with two-income earners—but it is men who benefit from this as they were once (primarily) the sole earners for their families.

The study’s data was taken from U.S. Census data in 1990 and 2000, and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey. People included ranged in age from 35-44, who were in nuclear families. What they found is that women’s annual personal income increased three times faster than men’s incomes from 1990-2011, even with the pay gap. Women were also earning college degrees 39% more, and men only 10% more, during that time period.

This progress by women has improved the standard of living for men more than it has for womens’ standard of living–defined here as equivalized income. Boiling this down, the study concludes that women used to have an advantage in the marriage because they could marry up, but now that is no longer the case. Women are earning more and contributing more—and are more likely to marry men who are less educated and who earn less.

Therefore women are on their way up, and depending on how you view all this—have new advantages but drawbacks as well. They have more independence and security in general, and can be equal partners in terms of their financial contributions in their relationships/families. Given traditional roles however, women are still more likely to be the primary parents—doing the lion’s share of parenting and household management.

So guys, the next time you fear she is more into your career/job/real estate then she is into you—consider that it may be you who has the most to gain from a relationship with this educated and successful career women—who’s also a good friend and loving partner.

Looks like we may have entered the age where women should be on the look-out for men who are searching for a sugar mommy.

If you are great relating on Face Time, does this mean it will be so in real time?

September 10th, 2017

A great piece ran in the N.Y. Time’s Modern Love column a couple of months ago on one woman’s experience with falling in love on Face Time and then taking the relationship into a day-to-day, real time relationship. Needless to say, it was challenging.

Maria Shehata, a stand-up comedian now living in London, was a single woman living in Los Angeles when she met and then began a long-distance, face time relationship with a man who lived in London. They had hung out about four times in person, related well, and then began an intense, Face Time relationship, where they talked so long and so easily, she gave up any thoughts of trying to meet someone else.

They carried on this virtual relationship for three months before Nick flew from London to L.A.. It wasn’t easy for him because Maria had several rommates and they shared a bathroom—none of which was something Nick wanted to do. However he liked Maria enough and over he came.

Now this was a “relationship” where they hadn’t even held hands yet—they really knew nothing about how a physical relationship might go, let alone staying together in close, shared quarters. Yet Maria felt closer to him than all the guys she had dated in her years in L.A. so she was hopeful. She did ask her therapist and friends for input—and shared some funny comments and observations. She is after all, a comedian.

Essentially her therapist was unfazed about them not really knowing one another and reminded Maria that her parents had an arranged marriage—not very different from what Nick and Maria were attempting. It had worked out for them, though they had only met briefly before Maria’s dad chose her from a small group of interested women.

Maria speculates that one problem is that there are too many choices today, and that people throw away others without even taking the time to get to know them. Hook-ups with no emotional strings are common, so no one really bonds and gets to know the other person. Over Face Time, Maria felt she did get to know Nick and he her—and that they had formed a meaningful bond.

It turned out that physically they were compatible, but in so many other ways, it was a struggle. He would get upset if she left the kitchen cabinet open, and could not understand why things that stressed him out didn’t bother her at all. They spent money differently and had clashing bio-rhythms. Finally they decided to see a couples therapist who help Nick see that Maria wasn’t going to change and asked Maria where her boundaries were. Good observation and question that were followed by the therapist telling them that if this continued, it just wouldn’t work.

Maria and Nick apparently stuck it out and decided that addressing their differences was worth the effort because what they have basically works for them.

So can a long-distance, virtual, passionate love affair become a real-time, face-to-face one? It depends on the couple, their bond, their differences and similarities and what they are willing to do to make it work.

Just one woman’s story, but a useful one.

How pornography can negatively impact your relationship

September 9th, 2017

Pornography is “hot.” As an industry it continues to grow and thrive. Approximately 65% of men and 35% of women under 40 are once yearly users; and 45% of men and 15% of women are weekly users. It’s estimated to be a $10 to $12 billion (that’s billion) dollar industry per year in the U.S. alone, and $97 billion globally.

Yet there is concern about how the use of pornography affects people—especially the young and those in committed relationships. Addiction, human trafficking, child endangerment, its influence on how we view sexuality, sexual relationships, and bonding and attachment—are all reasons for concern. Yet, like most things, there could be a positive impact from its use when it is mutually shared between a couple, and helps to open them up to experimenting sexually and enhancing their intimate relationship. However the downsides are greater than the upsides.

Studies have shown that there is also a societal effect that is troubling—undermining women’s rights, minors having exposure, and an increase in violent and even dehumanizing content leading to desensitization. There are not enough studies on how it affects the long-term stability of marriages and risks of breaking up. However data from a few studies shows a correlation between pornography use and divorce. It points to underlying intimacy issues, relationship instability, and a problem with healthy bonding and attachment.
One study examined data from 2012-2016, taken from the Portraits of American life Study. The purpose was to see if earlier pornography use predicted later relationship instability. Approximately 1,000people over 18 from diverse backgrounds participated—and the researchers controlled for many variables including pornography viewing, sociodemographic factors, and romantic breakup. They tested the hypotheses that viewing pornography earlier in life will predict a greater likelihood of experiencing romantic breakup later on.

What they found is that most associations are gendered, most likely due to how men and women use pornography. Men use it more often and use it to masturbate, while women use it more for the purpose of enhancing their relationship lovemaking. Therefore the negative impact of pornography use on attachment, infidelity, and relationship quality impacts men far more than women.

The findings showed a significant correlation between men using pornography in 2006 and the risk of breaking up six years later. Protective factors were marriage, parenthood, older age, being better educated, and religious beliefs. Factors that increased the risk of breakup included being single, living together, being divorced, being African-American, and having no religious affiliations.

Some of this seems like common sense—that those who are committed and have strong religious beliefs are more likely to work at and put up with unhappiness in their relationships. There are also many other factors that could play a role such as the relationship of their parents, developmental maturity, difficulty relating to others, differences in values and beliefs, and past sexual experience. In order to have a better handle on the answer to this question, these would need to be controlled for in any future studies.

But even with those unanswered questions still out there—it is clear that there is some impact that using pornography has on relationships, especially when the user is a male. Therefore if this is an issue/potential issue in your relationship, it would be good to have frank discussions about a partner’s past and present use and what, if any impact, their partner feels it has on their present relationship. Ignoring or dismissing it could land your relationship in divorce court.

New study offers proof that guys dig romance too

August 30th, 2017

The results of a new US nationality representative study of sexual behavior have recently been published in PLOS One. The Sexual Exploration in America study used a sample of Americans who answered questions about whether they have engaged in a list of more than 30 sexual behaviors. In addition, the appeal of nearly 50 sexual behaviors to this group was also measured.

The Indiana University study was the first to capture a wide range of diverse sexual behaviors that have never been examined before in the general population. The more then 2,000 women and men were found to have engaged in a wide variety of behaviors, including some fairly common ones. Interestingly for both women and men, the most appealing of these behaviors were romantic and affectionate ones that included cuddling, whispering sweet romantic things and kissing during sex, and creating a more romantic ambiance prior to engaging in sex.

The researchers also found that many participants rated acts as sexually appealing and something they had tried in the past, yet few continued to engage in them over time. According to researchers, this study could help couples to open up and engage their partners in more candid conversations about sex and intimacy in order to strengthen their relationship happiness.

Who knew that men really do like cuddling, kissing and whispering swet and sexy things as much as the sex act itself?

What the eclipse experience taught us, or should have

August 25th, 2017

There was a lot of hype and most of us thought we knew what the experience would be/should be like. There were the science Geeks who traveled to where it would be a total experience, or who purchased their glasses and planned their viewing spot well in advance. Then there were the curious—those who thought it would be a new and novel way to spend some time on an otherwise boring August workday. Then there were the many who didn’t give it much thought at all, but by the time it was a day or two from occurring, they began to get on board, desperately trying to find safe viewing glasses and thinking about their schedule on the 21st.

No matter which of these groups you fell into, it is unlikely you were prepared, really prepared, for the emotional/spiritual impact of the eclipse experience. One has to wonder—was it the hype, that everyone was talking about and participating in it—or was it something else? Something perhaps more primitive and deep.

Consider this—it was an experience that brought so many people together, into one shared experience of something much greater than ourselves. As we shared this experience we were all one, in the moment—and the everyday, mundane, stressful, and/or unhappy thoughts slipped away—if just for a little bit of time. As we entered that moment we felt at peace, there was a wonder that many of us have not experienced since childhood. And somehow the Universe though distant and expansive, seemed so close and very much a part of our existence. All of our problems suddenly seemed so small, as we ourselves did. The sense of something much greater was all around and in us. This was a perfect in the moment experience—where joy is found, and whatever your beliefs, there is a strong sense that we are not alone in the universe.

I often talk about happiness with my clients—what it is and how we can find more of it. What I always recommend (among other things) is that people seek out experiences that allow them to be in the moment—preferably in nature. Think about it, have you ever felt stressed or sad when walking on a quiet beach, swimming in a clear sea or lake, hiking a mountain trail and/or waking up to a glorious sunrise out in the wilderness? I don’t know about you, but over my life I have ‘collected” those moments, many of them—and they have helped me through some long, dark nights of the soul.

What the eclipse should have taught us is that happiness and joy can be found all around and in us. All we need to do is tune in and stay present, in that lovely moment and experience.

The Bachelorette men talk candidly about race

August 3rd, 2017

This season of The Bachelorette has been interesting in all the usual ways AND because the topic of race has been out front and center, which is unusual in any setting. When president Obama was first elected there was a lot of talk about the nation becoming more color-blind—the then Attorney General Eric holder said that “we need to have open, honest discussions about race.” Amen, brother, if only that had happened.

Instead, it feels at times like we have taken a few steps backwards—though I am in the camp that believes that once a bell has been rung you can’t un-ring it. So yes, as a nation we have evolved, especially when we look at the overall attitudes of the youngest members of our society.

Take the latest group of bachelors who were chosen to court Rachel. They are a mixed bag of races and ethnicities—and their ages spanned from a number of years younger than Rachel to a few years older. Clearly when Rachel was asked about her type/preference, she expressed openness.

What has struck this viewer about this group is how cohesive they have been, with very few exceptions. Every season has a “bad guy or girl,” that person who just can’t seem to get along with the rest of the group, who causes problems for specific individuals, and who may be talking trash in order to disqualify a rival. This time, it’s Lee. Interestingly enough, most of the guys liked him at first, some even defended him after he began acting out. His behavior has been examined and interpreted by many, and he has been called a racist by some, but my view is that lee has a lot going on beneath the surface and I’m not sure anyone really gets him.

Because he targeted one of the black suitors, the label racist began to stick. Lee also has sent tweets since the show ended that could be construed as racist—but who really know? The silver lining to all of this drama came this week on the “Men tell All” segment—in case you are not a watcher, this is when all but the last few to be decided men come on the show to rehash their experience with the Bachelorette and each other. Needless to say, Lee was on the hot seat. There were a couple of others who were targeted a bit, but not like Lee.

The guys seemed split on how they view lee and his motives—and this split did not fall on racial lines. Some of the white guys were harder of him that some of the black guys. What was interesting were Lee’s responses. He was very slow in responding and almost sounded like he was speaking from a rehearsed script. To say he was non-specific would be a huge understatement. The guys challenged him over and over to respond with specifics and acknowledge what he has said/written that made him sound like a racist. Towards the end, he kinda-sorta did, and overall the guys responded with forgiveness and thanks for him doing so. What a GREAT group of guys.

As I watched and listened, I thought about Holder’s words and how this is what he must have meant. There was an openness and candidness that was delivered without malice, threats, name-calling, or hostility. The guys were direct but appropriate, and they spoke from a place of vulnerability. At the end, I almost felt a Kum-bay-ah moment, which I hope will encourage others to have these kinds of discussions that inevitably lead to highlighting how truly alike were all really are and how any difference we have are really only skin-deep.

Oh and the last 3 bachelors are comprised of 2 white guys and one black guy. I am rooting for Eric—and no, it has nothing to do with the color of his skin. If Rachel doesn’t want him, I’m considering adoption.

Almost everyone leans to the right–when it comes to kissing

July 31st, 2017

Whether you consider yourself left leaning or right leaning, it’s a good bet you always lean right when going in for a kiss. New research from the university of Bath (England) looked into the kissing bias of people and concluded it could have wider cognitive and neuroscience implications.

What the researchers found is those who kiss on the left are in the minority because most people are actually hardwired to lean to the right. This study published in the journal Scientific Reports is the first to explore this bias for turning the head to one side, and how partners match each other’s moves when kissing.

48 couples were invited to kiss at home, then go into different rooms and open an envelope and report on different aspects of the kiss—independently of one another. The results show a bias for both partners turning their heads to the right. Men were (not surprisingly) 15 times more likely to initiate kissing, and over two-thirds of couples leaned to the right.

If the initiator were right-handed, they almost always leaned right—however many left-handed recipients also went right in response to their partners. Researchers believe this matching was to avoid the discomfort of ending up with mirroring heads, leaning to the same side. This suggests an underlying cognitive mechanism is at work. Most interesting is that couples in the study from Bangladesh had the same experience as those from Western countries. In Bangladesh kissing is completely private and couples do not have any exposure to other’s kissing as they do in Western countries. Yet both followed this kissing pattern. This suggests that neurology is at work in how people kiss, very interesting.

So we now have scientific data to suggest that males initiate kissing more than females and that the majority of people across different cultures lean to the right—while kissing. The study authors hope this will lead to more study of neurology and social behavior.

Marriage may not be good for your health after all

July 23rd, 2017

A study published this month in Social Science Quarterly examined the marriages of people born over three decades, 1955-64, 1965-74, and 1975-84), and included people married for three different lengths of time (4 years, 5-9 years, and 10 years or longer). 12,373 adults participated. The question researchers were trying to answer; do people who marry become healthier than they were when they were single? The surprising answer was NO, they do not.

Conventional wisdom has always told us that marriage is good for our health—and that this is especially true for men. However the health of both men and women were examined, and no, marriage did not produce health benefits and longevity like we have always been told. Of course, my first thought was, Did they control for the variable of children? After all, kids put a lot of wear and tear on a couple and it is certainly possible that CHILDLESS couples have better health than those with children, especially multiples.

Let’s face it, marriage has big perks. Financial, emotional, and security benefits come with marriage. Not to mention how society has always viewed/treated the married VS single adult. Yet, even with these benefits, marriage does not make us healthier.

Singles do work harder as a group to stay in shape, exercise, connect with others for socialization and support—and we know those all bring big health benefits. Then there is the independence singles enjoy—they don’t have to negotiate all big decisions and factor in the needs of their spouse in the way that a married person does for the sake of the union. There is more flexibility, space, time for meditation and relaxation without the needs and noise of someone else intruding. Yet the large majority of singles seek partnerships and marriage. Hummm, wonder how unmarried partners would fare in this kind of study.

Let’s face it, there are pros and cons to marriage—and the biggest factor is who you marry and how healthy and happy your relationship is. Marriage is one of the most important decisions of a lifetime because it will have a huge impact on one’s future life/happiness/well-being or not. So marry well but continue to take care of your needs as well as those of your spouse. Great partnerships beat out a solo life for most people any day.

Love, class, and social status on the Bachelorette

July 12th, 2017

Much was made about Rachel Lindsay being chosen to be The Bachelorette for this current season. Rachel is the first African-American woman to snag that coveted role—and as soon as it was announced, the buzzing about race started.

In fact, on the first night when Rachel was presented with 31 men to whittle down over time to “the one,” one of her African American suitors commented on how many “brothers” were part of the group. Of course this was to be expected given that Rachel is black and dates black men, along with men of other races. So the group was very diverse, and as it turn out, not just in terms of race.

The most recent episode featured Rachel and her remaining 6 men, who she needed to cull down to the 4 who would get “hometown dates.” One of those 6 guys is Eric from Baltimore. Eric is black, and Rachel obviously feels a special connection to him as he has lasted this long. The other 5 guys are white. However, Rachel has more in common with many of the white guys than with Eric, because, well, race isn’t everything.

This week, Eric talked candidly with Rachel about how he grew up—it’s the first time any of us had heard his story. Apparently he was raised on mean streets, with many of the men in his family doing serious time for selling drugs, burglary, and other criminal offenses. Eric had to fend for himself, has never seen both his parents at the same time, in the same room. and has never brought a woman home, never. Rachel listened carefully and what scared her was that at age 29, he has never brought a woman home. This is something all the other bachelors have shared doing with their families, but not Eric.

It doesn’t matter that Eric and Rachel are both black—they are farther apart then she is with her other suitors due to class and social status.

Growing up in an upper middle class home with two well-educated, professional parents—Rachel comes from a good, solid environment. She was loved and nurtured, and had advantages. She went to private school and received a good education that led her to law school and a successful law career. Eric probably had to fight his way to school, went to a sub-par school, and had few if any role models teaching him what it meant to be a well-adjusted, successful, law-abiding adult black male. Yet Eric graduated from college with honors, one of the lucky (smart, determined) kids from the hood to survive and thrive past young adulthood.

One has to wonder how much if any experience Rachel has with guys from backgrounds like Eric, yet she likes him, really likes him. This season’s Bachelorette highlights the importance of not placing too much emphasis on race. After all, the difference is only skin deep.

First dates and the “fake wallet reach”

July 8th, 2017

The Wall street Journal had an interesting piece by Khadeeja Safdar about how paying for first dates has evolved over time due to online dating and changing gender roles. In a nutshell, forget about chivalry. What is chivalry, you ask?

In the old days (not too long ago), when the check arrived women would reach into their purse as though they were going for their wallet—expecting the guy to say, I will get it.” This ritual went on everywhere, and everyone knew what was going on and what was expected from whom. No more. Now men “forget” their wallet,” or ask her to split the check 50-50, with some regularity. Women know that if they do the reach, they may end up footing the whole bill for a meal he happily consumed much of.

Online dating and especially dating apps have led to many more first dates—or really more like encounters. People swipe right, pick a nearby place to meet, and conduct a short interview. What I recommend to clients is to go for coffee, or any quick, easy beverage. No this doesn’t mean drinks as they can be costly. If the brief interview goes well, you can always suggest or agree to dinner—then the check splitting will be an issue. Because so many app “dates” are over fast and don’t result in a second date, this is the way to go.

But what about those who meet online or at a party, bar, through a friend? How should they handle this? Being old school, I think the man should always offer the first time. She should offer to at least leave the tip. If all goes well, she will have plenty of dinners to pick up the check for later on.

Another way this could be decided is that whoever does the asking and picks the venue pays. After all if she asks and picks a very expensive restaurant, should he be expected to foot the bill when he might have chosen something within his budget instead? There is definitely wiggle room for the old-schoolers on that one.

This ritual could also be a good way of measuring your compatibility and even your values. If a woman is looking for an old school guy or someone who is interested in a long term relationship with more clearly defined and traditional roles—this first date ritual will give her a lot of information to help her decide on going for a second date or not. The same is true in reverse for the guy. If he is looking for a career woman who will be a co bread winner, he may want to only consider the women who offer and want to pick up their half, right from the start.

One important caveat here guys. Equality is equality. Don’t expect ANYTHING in return—which you should not regardless. Specifically I mean, even a kiss at the end of the date or an offer to come back to your place or hers needs to be gentle and slow, and if not eagerly responded to, backed away from. If you want an assertive co-partner, expect her to be on all fronts. If you want someone more traditional, you may be the one who is expected to take the lead in many or most areas. Either is fine when it is what you both are looking for.

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