Tag Archives: real relationship

FOR COUPLES: Ask Not What Your Relationship Can Do For You….

happy couple last slideOkay, so I stole the line from JFK, but I do think people have love backwards. They keep asking themselves what their relationship can do for them instead of what they can do for their relationship. Love is a verb, not an asset to procure. It’s something we do. From a psychological stand point, people seek out love for mutual caring. But too often I hear people evaluate their relationship based on what they are getting out of it, instead of what they are putting in. They worry if they are gaining social status, and even housekeeping skills. They worry if they give too much, too early, that they will become devalued. (This point is somewhat true. Both men and women like to bond with a mate that is a little bit hard-to-get)

But once partners make to each other, too often they evoke Janet Jackson’s hit song as a battle cry, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?!” Can you imagine what home life would feel like if the two partners vowed to only count the amount they give and not the amount they receive.

Here’s a suggestion for this week only. Oh, God, I sound like a Sunday preacher! Put a chart on the fridge. Give yourself a star or check mark for every supportive statement and kind act that you give your lover. If you reach 21 by the end of the week (that’s only three a day) give yourself a treat. Some time alone, a trip to a day spa, a long sleep in, giant hike or bike ride. Love yourself as a reward for loving another.

And, guess what? What you water will grow. But not if you hover over it and constantly measure the seedling.

For more watch: THREE Ways to Strengthen YOUR Relationship TODAY:


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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 Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates?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 COUPLES: Can You Survive a Long Distance Relationship?

DepartureYou may have heard of this little saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but anyone who has been in a long distance relationship that went sour knows this isn’t always the case. More popular than ever before, the long distance relationship seems here to stay. Fueled by both the need for a mobile workforce and increased romantic opportunity through technology such as Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Twitter, research shows that some couples survive long distance relationships, while others don’t.

Purdue University researchers Ji-yeon Lee and Carole Pistole looked at attachment style, idealization (how one positively views their relationship,) and relationship satisfaction in two groups of college students totaling 536. One group had partners living in close proximity and the other were in long distance relationships. They hoped to identify which factors are related to relationship satisfaction. The group was asked to complete a series of online survives that focused on anxiety and anxious attachment. In the end the researchers found that both long distance and local relationships with partners who have troubled attachment styles were less satisfied overall about their relationships. Interesting to note, people in long distance relationships who tend to have a lot of anxiety or avoidance around emotional closeness, tended to show more idealization, or fantasies that the relationship was great. They also tended to disclose less and reported greater relationship satisfaction. It may be that people who have difficulty getting close to someone actually prefer a long distance relationship where they can imagine things are going well, without having to do the day-to-day work of growing emotional intimacy.

But for any couple, not seeing a significant other every day can cause some emotional barriers. Here are some tips to help make a long distance relationship work:

1. Make an end game. If your long distance relationship doesn’t have a time line and a goal, then it runs the risk of falling apart as soon as the sexual passion dies down. If the relationship is new, discuss how long each of you plan to engage in long distance courtship before discussing moving to the next step.

2. Keep it real and honest. Because people with insecure attachment styles tend to disclose less, it’s important that you don’t let your fantasies run away with you. Ask direct questions and give direct answers, especially when it come to feelings. Don’t assume anything.

3. Stick to a schedule. If your long distance relationship doesn’t have a predictable schedule of communication times, you run the risk of slipping into a zone of “only when it’s convenient.” And that’s not a real relationship. All relationships involve some kind of compromise and making time, by phone or Skype every day is important to growing a secure attachment.

For Men: First Date Strategies

Man getting ready for a date or weddingLet’s face it, first dates can feel downright awkward. Two people, pretending to be who they wish they were, while they keep their real motives hidden. Is she looking for a boyfriend or a fling? Is he thinking she could be wife material or a fun-time girl?

While traditional dating wisdom says that women decide within 30 seconds if they are physically attracted to a man, a study done by the University of Texas demonstrates that it takes twenty minutes for men to decide if they want to have a second date or not. The study also found that the more attractive a female date is, the more likely a man inclined to take her out again. (They needed a study to decide that?) And, the thing that keeps men strong and brave, even if they aren’t sure that she’s swooning, is the fact that men tend to over estimate how attracted a woman is. This crazy male trait can also set men up for a serious let down.

Here are three tips to help you men have a successful first date:

  1. Calm your nervous system. First dates can be wrought with anxiety. One way to ease that anxiety and calm down to act more relaxed and natural, is to boost your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells that control motor skills, motivation, arousal and thinking. A study published by Current Biology,  found some foods, such as apples, bananas, and avocados, can increase dopamine levels. For your main entrée try ordering a plate of chicken, turkey or cheese. Food and drinks that will disrupt your dopamine are sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
  2. Be What Women Love – While men put youth and beauty at the top of the list when choosing a mate, women put looks way farther down. Studies from around the world, show that women look for resources (Sigh. Income), intelligence, and kindness before they rate a man on looks. And the best way men can display intelligence is through humor. Kindness can we displayed  by treating everyone around you with respect, from the wait staff to the valet parker.
  3. Be Cool, Dude. That old deodorant ad tag line, “Never let them see you sweat” applies to first dates. Both genders what to feel like they are winning a prize. If you act too eager and energetic, she’ll devalue you. Instead, be kind. Be cool. And never ask her out for a second date until at least three days after the first day. Make he wonder if you like her. That’s how to play an “A” game.

And, if your date goes well and you hope it may lead to sex, arm yourself with knowledge about the differences between men and women’s sexuality. Watch my video here:

FOR WOMEN: Are You a MILF or a MILM (Mother I’d like to Marry)

Child giving a kiss to his mother on the cheekWith the rate of American babies born out of wedlock continuing to climb, (it’s currently 44%) it has increased the number of single mothers on the mating market. In fact,  I’ve had a number of conversations lately with single mothers about the idea of getting married again. While plenty are happy to raise their kids alone, and prefer to keep a lover in a romantic compartment in their lives, others dream about being a real couple.

I happen to fall into the later camp, although I’ve long ago dumped the notion of a blended family. After I saw the chilling statistics about children and “steps,” I put my love life on hold. Sadly, one of the most dangerous places for a child to be is in a home with non-biologically related males. That includes mommy’s boyfriend, husband, or teen step brothers. These kids have eight times the rate of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. As I’m raising girls, I’ve decided that my nest will have to be nearly empty before I introduce some foreign testosterone into my household.

But I know that other single mothers are dating and hope to find love while raising kids. So, I have applied my intellectual mind to the study of what makes women marriageable. I have some real-world role models, too. Sherryl Walsh (no relation) had been a single mother of FOUR for ten years in 1975. That’s when she married her coworker, Neil Walsh, a single, child-free man of only 30. Sherryl was 36. Recently, Neil passed away, after 34 years of marriage — and when I called to offer some words of condolence, I also asked Sherryl for her advice. If a mother of four could find a great husband in 1975, she had to know something I don’t. Her advice was simple: Marry a good friend. Neil was a good friend from Sherryl’s office. Their friendship lasted almost 40 years. Sherryl, now I’m looking a little closer at my plumber, my agent (too young), and the guy who fluffs my latte at Starbucks. Because those are the guys I “work with.”

I also spoke with another MILM role model — astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s wife, Lois. I have met her a few times over the years at charity events, and one time I cornered her at a cocktail party and asked her how an unknown, middle-aged mother of three could snare one of the most eligible men on the planet (I didn’t use those exact words, though). Lois gave me some interesting advice. She talked about helping a man feel like a king in his own household. Some people say that Buzz, despite being the second man to walk on the moon, was all but forgotten until Lois got hold of his public image and put him back on the map. Her technique seems to be to make herself indispensable, and to remind him how valuable he is. I’ve always said, “Water what you’d like to grow. Not the weeds.” Lois seems to have watered his self-esteem, and man, did it bloom!

The research is clear. Men fall in love, not through sex, but through trust and loyalty. If you are a single mother and hope to become a MILM (Mother, I’d Like to Marry) then establishing a trusting friendship is the best strategy. It will also give you time to weed out the deceptive men whom you’ll learn are not so good for your children.

Which brings me to another topic. When I wrote a book called The Girlfriend Test: A Quiz for Women Who Want To Be a Better Date and a Better Mate, I interviewed 100 married or committed men and asked them why they chose the gal they were with, and why they didn’t marry the rest of us. Their answers were sometimes hard to hear. Despite the rumor that women are too needy, I more often heard from my interview subjects that women were “too independent.” When pressed for more details about what that meant, men couldn’t describe it well (they are the gender that excels in brawn. We are the gender that excels in words), except to say that they found themselves thinking, “What does she need me for?” Ya see, men like to be needed. Actually, all people like to be helpful and needed. But men feel really good when they can fix something.

And someday, my own nest will be closer to empty. So, for now you can wall me a MILM-in-waiting. LOL. I do believe that women can have it all, but not necessarily all at the same time.

For more watch: What a MILF Wants