Tag Archives: love life

FOR SINGLES: Is Marriage Becoming Extinct?

The shape of our families is constantly changing. People are marrying for the first time, and the divorce rate just keeps 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 Singular Magazine, devoted to the lifestyles of those who have made a commitment to being single. It even 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 Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates?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.

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.

Watch my youtube video: What is Slow Love?

FOR WOMEN: Six Sexuality Facts That May Surprise MEN

Couple having sex - woman on topThe study of women’s sexuality is relatively new in the grand scale of research history, but now science is finding statistics about women’s sexuality that make most women say, “Duh.” Here are a few recent studies that might surprise some men:

1. Women tend to become aroused by erotica involving men, men and women, and just women, indicating a bisexual arousal pattern. This doesn’t mean women all behave in a bisexual manner. It simply means they can be turned on by both thoughts or images of both genders. This is different from most straight men who only become aroused by heterosexual erotica, and gay men who mostly become aroused by homosexual material.

2. Women’s brains can separate mental arousal from genital arousal. For instance, even if she is not mentally stimulated, a woman’s body can have a physiological reaction to sex. (Thus the confusion of some rape victims who experience a spontaneous orgasm during the trauma.) And women can sometimes be mentally aroused and have trouble becoming wet and wild down below.

3. Body image is connected to sexuality for women. Women who feel more positively about their own genitals find it easier to orgasm and are more likely to engage in sexual health promoting behaviors, such as having regular gynecological exams or performing self-examinations.

4. For women, physicality grows out of emotionality. Emotional availability activates their physical sexuality. Women are more apt to show up physically and sexually when their partner is emotionally present, while men tend more to just show up.

5. Women fear emotional infidelity more than physical infidelity and men fear the opposite. In one study women preferred that their husband see a prostitute once per week rather than have platonic, though intimate, lunches with a co-worker. This points to the fact that women fear a diversion of resources that might come with an emotional connection.

6. Women have less ability to have a stand alone physical relationship because their body releases oxytocin during orgasm. Oxytocin, the female bonding hormone, is also released during breastfeeding. For that reason women sometimes become bonded through sex even when they don’t mean to.

Watch my YOUTUBE Video on:

Five Sex Myths That Keep Women Single

FOR COUPLES: Expressing the “F” word: Feelings

Communication problemsWhile some people seem to express emotions easily, most people have to learn. Having emotional language skills is crucial to not only the relationships we have with others, but also the relationship we have with ourself. If we can’t name our feelings and share them, we are a long way off from being able to process them and use them in a healthful way. Having an honest emotional vocabulary is crucial to emotional intimacy, though this communication art is easier for some of us than others.

There’s a joke I make about men. I like to say that most of them act like they’re afraid to say the “F” word — FEELINGS. And  I’m not totally off base here. Men and boys are socialized to express less emotional communication and I think the are also biologically wired to have less emotional awareness than women. There’s even a diagnosis is the therapist’s bible of mental disorders, the DSM, called Alexithymia, which basically means an inability to connect feelings with words. In recent years a Harvard professor, Dr. Ron Levant came up with the phrase “normative male alexithymia” to describe how American males are culturally conditioned  to repress their vulnerable and caring emotions, causing them to become underdeveloped in emotional expressiveness.

But a fear of talking about feelings is an equal opportunity affliction. Since feminism gave way to the no-rules relationship revolution, an age where emotions are less and less risked, many women have followed the example of men. I would venture to say that women’s greatest assets — an awareness of emotions and verbal skills — have been abandoned by too many of our gender.

The solution? To delve into the the squeamish sea of honest communication that focusses on personal feelings rather than points fingers at others.  One of the reasons this is a challenge for some is that this important skill was neither taught nor modeled by our parents. Parents of the 1960’s more often practiced critical parenting rather than emotionally intimate parenting. Critical parenting sounds like this: Johnny you are a messy boy! Look at that disgusting room. No TV for you, bad boy! Emotionally Intimate parenting sounds like this: Johnny, I feel angry when I have to clean up your mess and I want you to feel proud of your room, so I’m going to help you become neater by saying a clean room means a reward of TV. See the focus on feelings, in this case anger and pride, with a positive reward instead of shame as the behavior shaper.

So, assuming that you were parented in the more common, critical way, here’s a crash course in how to use emotional language to grow intimacy in all your relationships. First of all, in every communication, try to identify your own feelings and express them as a reaction to someone’s behavior rather than an assault on their behavior. People get less defensive when they hear the words, “I feel” than when they hear “You are.”

Having trouble labeling that uneasy feeling in your stomach? Here’s Dr. Walsh’s handy dictionary of the most common feelings people express. I like to call them the twenty power words of emotional intimacy. Next time you tell a story to someone, add your emotional experience by saying “I feel,” followed by one of these words: Nervous, Happy, Sad, Angry, Disappointed, Hopeful, Ignored, Embarrassed, Envious, Jealous, Lonely, Excited, Surprised, Proud, Scared, Guilty, Aroused, Uncomfortable, Rejected, Loved.

This kind of language will open the door to the most tender parts of your psyche and help you become more accessible and ultimately more lovable. It will also model skills for others, including your kids. Yes, even your sons. Using emotional language is a bit terrifying at first, but trust me, it can enrich all your relationships. “I feel” quite confident about this.

Watch my youtube video on:

How to Communicate and Be Heard

FOR MEN: Real Men Hate the Word Love

love-limit-road-sign-trim-black-partsHave you ever noticed that I talk about relationships all day long and I only rarely mention love? And when I do, it is usually to caution that it is a delusion intertwined with sexual attraction. Or, I remind you that love is a verb, not a noun. An action word. Not a state of being. Long term love is an intellectual commitment, I say.

Could I sound any more unromantic?

Hey, and speaking of romance, I normally dismiss flowers, chocolate, fine wine, and high heels simple accoutrements to delusion. I should also tell you that my “brainy” ideas about love have garnered me a group of male readers who say, “finally a woman who gets it.” Men do love to make rational sense of things that are so irrational. And men love to hate the word love. It feels weak to think feelings for a woman might disempower them.

But do I really get it?

I certainly have some textbook notions about how biology and psychology get all tangled up and sometimes make people do things they shouldn’t be doing. Running off with a paramour when a perfectly good spouse is right in front of you. Staying with an abusive spouse because of love. Jumping into bed with a Casanova because you will be the one to change him. Thinking that a loss of sexual energy is a loss of love. And, my favorite transgression of love’s delusion: Dragging children through our delusions.

Could love really be that dangerous? Must it always involve some form of heartbreak, dysfunction, boredom, loss, or even violence? And if that is the case, why do we march right back into the fire when we should know better?

I have some of the answers. But only some.

Psychologists would say that love is a seeking out of early womb experiences and infantile bliss. A baby’s play and cuddling becomes an adult sex life. Parts of our brain consider a lover a kind of mother, a nurturer, a protector, even an executor of boundaries. We feel safe and cared for in a love relationship.

We do it, that is, fall in love because it is the single best chemical high in our lifespan. At least, the best high that both genders can experience. Women also get to do childbirth, which is pretty darn close to experiencing heaven and hell at the same time. But love is different. It is shared with an adult.

Both genders can experience love together. Love. An unconscious handshake between too souls who agree there is more to this world than work, play, and food. It is an exchange of mutual projections that when executed well, is better than any Academy Award winning movie. Love may be a delusion but it is one of the best ones we have. And sometimes it’s all we have. With so many people losing faith in old religions, I wonder if love is becoming our new religion. And what is faith after all? Merely a belief in something that we have little scientific proof of. I would venture to say that we have far more proof of love’s power than many religions do in their folklore. The selfless acts of love that happen every day are real, observable, and can bring us to our knees in awe of the God-like powers within humans.

Now I will really go out on a limb and say that Love (look, I’m using a cap now!) can feel like a spiritual experience. All we can hope for, is that each new love relationship will bring us different challenges. We hope that as we grow we will not become trapped in familiar, unhealthy patterns that get us stuck. Delusion or not, love is something we should all sign up for. It’s an antidote to fear, horrific TV news, sickness, and other suffering. Love is the answer. And when life gets us down, when we feel, shame, loneliness, victimized, pressured, indecisive, or angry, love is the only choice that will work every single time. It won’t always have an instant result and it won’t always come back directly to us with the precision of a ping pong ball, but a loving act will change our biology and change the world. One selfless act at a time. Don’t fear love, nor waste it thoughtlessly. It is the biggest gift you will ever receive. Ya listening guys?

Watch my youtube on:

Is Rational Love Replacing Romantic Love?

FOR SINGLES: Ten Rules for Using Technology to Date

Guy texting girl madText, Email, Facebook, Twitter give the appearance of instant access to your lover. A way to stay connected. But it’s a clever trick. The very things that are designed to keep us closer, if used incorrectly, can brutally tear us apart.

To understand what I mean, let’s think about the things that keep a low-tech relationship sharp — plenty of face-to-face time, long conversations, great sex (with foreplay and after-play), and intimate activities like Sunday morning toe-touching in bed with the New York Times. These practices are the workhorse of intimacy, and they are irreplaceable.

Now let’s consider a modern “high-tech” relationship. A few texts or emails sent during the week to firm up weekend plans. A rendezvous on the weekend that may or may not involve sex (or may involve only sex and no date) and then a Facebook status report on Monday that confirms that your partner is indeed “in a relationship.” You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? Not a bit. People write to me all the time with questions about the meaning and protocol of Facebook’s “In a Relationship” descriptor. And during the week, those same people hang onto their electronic device like it is a life-line to love. They reread the texts. They count the texts. They interpret the texts. They depend on a string of impulsive digital communications to determine how secure their relationship is!

Sadly, this isn’t compassionate love. It’s a crazy mind game. And it is not communication. It is a poor replacement for healthy communication.

I used the example of text because most people are oblivious to how dangerous a weapon it can be. With text’s brevity and it’s inability to gage the mood of the receiver, those 140 characters can be packed with a power to inflict great pain if taken the wrong way, and read at the wrong time. Of course, email has it’s on list of transgressions. A longer format and a safer place to express feelings, email is still void of eye contact, touch, body language, and voice tone. Could you imagine listening to a recording of your favorite band, with most of the instruments missing? That’s what email is to human communication.

With all that said, in the busy world of convenience and multi-taking, is there, in fact, a way to use technology to grow love verses extinguish it? Well, thank you for asking! Yes, there certainly is. Here’s Dr. Walsh’s list of Do’s and Don’ts for high Tech love:

Ten Rules for Using Technology to Grow Love:

1. Make sure phone calls outnumber emails. Emails are not a substitute for voice-to-voice communication. They are just a side dish.

2. Send texts regularly, every other day or so. If you are dating and growing a relationship, a short, brief text can help you stay in his or her mind. If you are married and/or living together a text every now and then can help keep love alive.

3. Don’t bombard them with texts! (or emails) That’s stalker behavior.

4. Only say positive things in a text. 140 characters is no room to criticize, complain, offer advice, or explain your complicated life. Stick to greeting card slogans: “Thinking of You” and “Wish Your Were Here.”

5. Use tech to schedule a more intimate phone call. This is what all boys and girls like to read in a text or email: “Missing You! What time can we chat?”

6. If you are on Facebook and see that your date or mate is also online, it is always polite to send a IM of hello. In the real world if you both turned up at the same party, you wouldn’t ignore them, right?

7. Tech is meant to be a two-way conversation. If anyone you care about sends you an email or a text, and you are swamped, you still must respond! Even the most busy of us can find a second to send at least a happy face. Keep the line of communication going and the next phone call will be a happy one.

8. Even if you have a good excuse, do not flirt with anyone on Facebook if your status reads “In a Relationship.” That’s a bonehead move.

9. Never Tweet or Facebook Post any information about your real-world relationships (Especially the one with your Ex!) To do so would be inviting a forum to enter your tender relationships. Intimacy must grow in privacy.

10. Never break up using technology. Period. If you were brave enough to enter the relationship with your voice (or any other body part) you can find the cojones to break up with grace and class. Use your words, people. And say it out loud.

For more watch my youtube:

Four Tech Mistakes Single Women Make