Tag Archives: Relationships

Is Marriage Becoming Extinct?

stockvault-happy-family124699The shape of our families is changing. People are marrying for the first time later in life, and the divorce rate is soaring, giving way to many single parent households. Single life is no longer a short rite of passage; it’s an important consumer demographic. For the first time in history (since the immigration of mostly male, early settlers), almost half of adult Americans are now unmarried. There’s even a magazine devoted to the lifestyles of those who have made a commitment to be single. It includes ads for commitment rings to purchase for oneself.

But has love changed? Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates? Is long-term monogamy even necessary for our species’ survival? The answers are complicated. Marriage may be changing, but it will never go out of style.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a fight going on right now in America to allow more people to be granted marital rights.

Marriage may not be going away, but its purpose has shifted. Historically, marriage was a place for women and children to have economic protection. It was a place where religious values could be taught and extended to the next generation, and a place where family fortunes could remain intact. More recently, marriage became a place for a relatively new invention: romantic love. But since dating and hooking up have morphed into America’s favorite pastime, full of hopeful highs and disappointing lows, even romantic love is losing its luster.

So why choose marriage today? Because it is an intellectual decision that leads to survival of the species. Anthropologists have always said that it was human’s sophisticated social structures, including the adoption of long-term monogamy, that help our species procreate and thrive.

Humans are the animals that require a huge amount of nurturing for our psychological and physical survival, more than virtually any other animal on earth. While most newborns are up on four legs and running with the herd just hours after birth, we Homo sapiens have a vulnerable in-arms (or stroller) phase that lasts almost four years. And it’s really, really hard to nurse and carry a baby while extracting resources from the environment. Just ask any single mother. Doable, yes, but very difficult. Remember the mission: to grow up healthy and create offspring that are also healthy and ready for careers and parenthood.

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Family therapists know that dysfunctional family systems eventually fall out of evolution’s chain. Each generation has fewer and fewer offspring that survive through the next procreation, until the family line finally dies off. Apparently, neglectful parenting can create drunk drivers, criminals caught in crossfire, hermits, drug addicts, and narcissists too selfish for parenting — all people with lower chances of reproducing. But let me make one thing clear before I get inundated with e-mails about this: I am IN NO WAY SAYING that all single mothers create dysfunctional families. What I am saying is that every time one factor is removed from a system that has been selected through evolution, the chances for dysfunction increase. Plenty of single mothers are raising healthy kids with the help of extended family, surrogate male role models, and friendship villages that act as a de facto family. And this is part of our changing family structure.

Evolution has shown that our best chances for survival and for the survival of our offspring’s offspring is a team approach to raising humans. And the best team captains are people who have a biological interest in the child. And to create that, we need to sometimes put the notion of romantic love aside and make an intellectual decision to do what’s best for our genes, ahem, I mean kids.

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FOR WOMEN: Why Men Stray And How to Prevent Cheating

It is estimated that 65% of divorces occur  because of an extra martial affair. And, despite the sexual revolution and the reduction of the “double standard,” more men still cheat than women. Now science shows us why this gender imbalance might exist.

First, there could be a genetic link. Swedish researchers recently identified an infidelity gene, which is present in four of 10 men. This gene can explain why some men are more prone to stormy relationships and bond less to their wives or girlfriends. However, it’s important to remember that biology is not destiny. People born with genetic predispositions to say, heart disease or obesity, make lifestyle adjustments that compensate for the negative gene.

Secondly, men may find it easier to cheat because they feel less than woman. A Spanish study recently revealed that the interpersonal sensitivity of men (especially those aged between 25-33) is low compared to women. This clearly could affect a man’s ability to empathize with his partner. The study also showed that men feel less intense guilt and this difference is particularly stark in the 40-50-year-old age group, a group particularly vulnerable to the mid-life crisis affair.

Finally, more men fear emotional intimacy and more than do women. Believe it or not, some men find lovers so they can  avoid any real intimacy. Emotional closeness and the expression of vulnerability that goes with it scares many men, so they distance themselves from their wives by cheating on them. At the same time,  they don’t get too emotionally involved with their lovers. This kind of “watering down of the milk” feels safer to some men.

As always, my solution to bullet-proof relationships is to grow a bond through emotional intimacy. To make a relationship  rock-solid, one must move a step or two closer to the bone, and hone some relationship skills. Compassion can be learned. Fair-fighting is a skill. And stonewalling is a killer of all connection. Intimacy is not easy nor pain free. Extreme emotional intimacy and mutual care may involve squeamish feelings of shame, the forced expression of awkward words, an ability to see the ugly in others and still love them, and worse,  the ability to glaringly see the ugly in ourselves and still feel lovable. But the pay-back is pure kryptonite. An I’ve-got-your-back-if-you’ve-got-mine emotional contract that can make your relationship affair-proof.

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FOR SINGLES: Best Advice For Singles

Singles concept.Recently at a live event, I was asked for my best advice for singles. While some of the other panelists who were dating coaches and match-makers, offered wisdom about online dating, profile photos and pick up lines, I took a more philosophical approach. My best advice for singles is this:

Go out and create a happy, meaningful life for yourself. When a single person has reached a stage in their individual growth where they have built a purposeful, connected life with multiple secure attachments to friends and extended family, they have suddenly become an attractive mate. Longing for someone else to make you feel complete isn’t sexy. But having an authentic relationship with the world, with your community, with your family, and doing the exchange of care that is part of a good romantic relationship is the way to practice being a great mate.

Here are some ways to practice being a great mate:

• Drive close friends to the airport
• Help a single mother with anything from babysitting to home repairs
• Play Scrabble with an elderly person
• Call your mother
• If you call her too much, stop calling your mother
• Cook for friends
• Do some charity work
• Socialize with married people and families (marriage is contagious)
• Join a club, book group, wine tasting, gardening
• Mentor or tutor a younger person

And that’s my best advice for singles.

DR. WENDY WALSH IS AVAILABLE FOR TELEPHONE RELATIONSHIP COACHING. TO SCHEDULE, PLEASE CLICK HERE AND COMPLETE THE BOX ON THE LEFT. SHE’LL PERSONALLY RESPOND.

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FOR WOMEN: Is Your Spouse Being Financially Unfaithful?

Man taking euros banknotes with stealthy expression.Does your spouse keep a separate safe deposit box? Do the family’s financial statements get mailed to an office address, not the home? Is he or she an ATM junkie? If so, there’s a chance your spouse could be stepping out on you with the family money. And this behavior is far more common with men than women.

It’s one thing to fear that your husband might stray with his heart and/or his body, but what most women don’t realize is that the risk of financial infidelity is far more dangerous and could lead to longer term consequences for women and their children.

“Most divorces are not impulsive decisions. One party or another checks out emotionally three to five years before they file for divorce,” says, Stacey Napp the CEO of Balance Point Funding, an investment firm that invests in women who have become financially disabled during a divorce proceeding. “Long before a man leaves, he begins to squirrel away assets so that he’ll hold the power in divorce court.” The behavior is more common with affluent husbands because, as a family’s net worth rises, couples tend to move into traditional gender roles, with the woman working less and handling more child rearing and household management chores. And if divorce happens these women are left unprotected. Since it is illegal in most states for a family attorney to work on a contingency (taking a percentage of the final settlement) the exit game becomes one where divorcing husbands strive to leave their wives with no assets to hire a good divorce lawyer — who may demand as much as $20,000 on the first visit.

“Divorce isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be dirty,” says Napp, who founded her company after her own divorce and the financial infidelity she experienced that nearly cost her her entire lifestyle. According to Stacey Napp, there are six red flags that women should be on the alert for:

Is he being financially unfaithful?

1)      Your bank, brokerage or financial statements are sent to his office, and not to your  house
2)      You’re not the beneficiary of his life insurance policy
3)      Like clock work, the same amount of money is  being withdrawn from your joint account every month
4)      He has a separate safe deposit box
5)      Significant repeated cash withdrawals on your joint credit cards
6)      Does your husband own his own business and have his family as employees and/or partners in that business?  That alone isn’t a red flag, but if any of the above are also present- watch out!

So, if you do suspect trouble, is there anything you can do to stop the leakage? Yes, according to Napp, you have to act like your own forensic accountant and gather intelligence before he hides evidence from a real court. That may mean photocopying every document he ever brings home — including his entire wallet and briefcase. Since people stay in contact with their money, photocopy cell phone records, check frequent flyer miles, even the home telephone bill. Ever the financial sleuth, Napp says that calling fast food delivery restaurants in areas where phone calls have been made, can reveal what address goes with what number. And always, wives should request a once yearly free credit report from all three credit reporting bureaus. This report can contain information regarding financial institutions that he may have established relationships with that you were unaware of. It would also show any aliases and/or alternate social security numbers being used by your spouse.

With the enormous emotional pain that women experience during divorce, financial unfaithfulness adds another layer of injury. Injury that can have tragic consequences for children who might be yanked from school after losing tuition and women who many lose their home and community support system. Stacey suggests that women who are full-time mothers are especially vulnerable to this kind of infidelity.

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FOR MEN: What’s Your Face Type?

BeerGirlsGuys may think they have a type that they are attracted to, but new research shows that face type is related to what kind of relationship a man in looking for. When a guy is looking for a short-term fling, one kind of gal is much more attractive. But when he’s looking for a solid, long term commitment kind of gal, another kind of face becomes attractive. The difference, masculine and feminine cues.

Anthony Little from the University of Stirling and Benedict Jones from the University of Glasgow conducted a group of 393 heterosexual men, within the group, 207 claimed they had a partner. During the study, participants were shown 10 pictures of women. Each photo was paired with another photo, the difference being that one was more feminine while the other had more masculine traits. The men were given the task to choose which photo was more appealing to them. What Anthony found interesting was how men tend to act the same way as women when it comes to short term relationships: women tend to pick a guy with more masculine features, and for men it is the more feminine traits a women carries that is appealing.

For longer term goals, men chose women who had slightly more masculine facial features.

Why the difference? Evolutionary psychologists could easily speculate that men who want to spread their seed, would choose a woman with fertile cues, but sharing a home, hearth, and bank account might be easier if the woman felt less alien. The other thought is that a less attractive wife would leave him less vulnerable to mate poaching. Trust me, marrying a “10” means a lot of maintenance and mate guarding.