Filed under: Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:15 am
Even superheroes take like three weeks to get through the Sunday paper. So in case you missed it, or are still stuck on Automotive, here’s a nod to an interesting piece in the Times by Tara Parker-Pope. At a time of “sustainable”-chic, what — Parker-Pope asks, makes a relationship (in this case, marriage) last? It’s not just a toolbox containing “communication skills,” say. Actually, those things do help relationships endure, but they don’t — necessarily — make them “meaningful and satisfying.” As it turns out, “the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, it isall about you.
Well, sort of. Let’s put it this way: it’s about finding someone who makes your life interesting — who inspires you to try new things, to shift and change in ways that please you.
Caryl Rusbult, a researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam who died last January, called it the “Michelangelo effect,” referring to the manner in which close partners “sculpt” each other in ways that help each of them attain valued goals.
Dr. Aron and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, have studied how individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences, a process called “self-expansion.” Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.
While the notion of self-expansion may sound inherently self-serving, it can lead to stronger, more sustainable relationships, Dr. Lewandowski says.
“If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position,” he explains. “And being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”
Over time, the personal gains from lasting relationships are often subtle. Having a partner who is funny or creative adds something new to someone who isn’t. A partner who is an active community volunteer creates new social opportunities for a spouse who spends long hours at work.
I mean, even relationships that end, if they had some good to them — and come on, most do — you still get something, leave with something, carry something forward that enriches your life. Hobbies, interests, new perspectives, learning experiences. Like, from that one boyfriend, I got skiing, and art history. From another, bread-baking, and rage. I KID. (Just about the rage.)
What this also says to me: no one — no one! — should be made to feel bad or needy or girly or “desperate” or whatever for wanting to find love. We are social, seeking beings. We don’t want someone just to make us complete. We want someone to help make us, and our worlds, even bigger. And to do the same for that someone.
Bonus: Take Parker-Pope’s quiz to find out how much your relationship, past or present, “expands[/ed] your knowledge and makes[/made] you feel good about yourself.”
Check out this whole-series Buffy trailer, which made me wishsohard I had the entire thing to watch over again, for the first time. For those of you non-Buffcore fans following along at home, yes, the series ended in 2003. And yes, people are still making these trailers. Still. Shouldn’t they (um) get over it and move on? (They even had the chance to rebound with Angel! And then Cordelia was even on Veronica Mars, which was like Buffy without the undead!)
Eh, I don’t think so. Because — as our tipster said — “the fact that fans are still working this turf really speaks to the power of a beloved story and the ability of media to create a sense of family.” Might seem weird, yes, but it’s undeniable and therefore important. Related: Show of hands — how many of you have, as a beginning-of-relationship rite of passage (through probably not pass/fail like the football trivia quiz in Diner), re-watched all of Buffy just so your new loved one could, you know, “understand”?
Ah, springtime in the city. Birds are chirping, trees are blooming, squirrels are frolicking, and MATH is in the air? The Huffington Post’s “Why Dating in New York Sucks (With Mathematical Proof!) reminds me of another article in which a British economist employed Drake’s equation to figure out why he had no girlfriend. In the HuffPo iteration, Satoshi Kanazawa is presented with the question: “Is there mathematical proof that dating in New York is difficult?”
Kanazawa references a theorem proven by two dorks without dates (ahem…mathematicians in 1966). According to Kanazawa:
This applies to anything, dating, looking for a job candidate. If you have a pool of candidates that you haven’t seen and if your job is to pick the best candidate then it’s been mathematically proven that the best strategy to do is to reject the first 37% of the candidates regardless, so you just reject the first 37% of the candidates and then choose the next candidate that is better than all the candidates that you’ve seen before. So if you apply that to a dating situation that means that you have to reject the first 30% of all the people you date regardless and then you marry the one who is better than all the ones you’ve dated before.
Already, I am finding some holes in Kanazawa’s rationale. First off, if the mathematicians said your best strategy is to reject the first 37% of candidates when hiring someone for a job, then why would you reject only 30% of all the people you date? Isn’t a life partner supposed to be a little more important and hopefully permanent than your employee?
The filmmaker Naftali Beane Rutter — a dear friend of mine! — has a screening of his documentary film “Today” on April 7th at 6pm, the closing night of the New Filmmakers 2010 Spring Festival at Anthology Film Archives. Here, via a kindly-provided screener, is a sneak peek…see you there in a few hours!
“Today” is a poignant look at three families as they continue the simple task of living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Blaise, Stanich and McPeak families differ in race, religion and socio-economic class, yet have other profound commonalities. In spite of Katrina, the families remain more or less intact, with parents and children in the same household. The mothers, Alice, Sissy and Lore, form the backbone of each family, running things at home while the husbands work. While “Today” addresses the common roles and identities forged by motherhood, it also offers a delicate portrayal of how each woman makes motherhood her own.
As we get to know the Blaises, we feel at home with the ease and comfort they exude through their interactions. Being a family of six and living in a FEMA trailer is certainly not an ideal situation, yet Alice encourages her children to learn all they can, get an education, and pursue their dreams, even if those dreams include driving a bus. Alice’s impressive joy and hope reveal themselves as she cares for her children and in the brief moments she interacts with her husband and another family member, Uncle Lewis.
Similar to the Blaises, the Stanich family consists of five people also sharing one small living space: one room of a house Angelo Stanich, Sr. has been hired to repair. Katrina destroyed the Stanich’s home forcing them to move from Elmer, LA, to Alexander, LA and now finally to Holy Cross. They, too, had a stint in a FEMA trailer. Angelo, Sr. is present and participates in the lives of the children, but the main task of raising the children is thrust on Sissy as she navigates through the chaos that has become their lives.
In comparison to the Blaises and the Stanich’s, on the surface, the McPeaks seem rather untouched by Katrina. Lore runs with her headphones, does yoga in a park and gives mani-pedis in her work studio behind their home. Unlike the Blaise and Stanich families, the McPeaks’ world and their home have not changed much since Katrina. Lore’s world is comprised of conversations regarding farmers’ markets, designer paints and boat services. Robert and Lore have their 19th anniversary coming up, but there is a sadness to Lore. Of the three families, the McPeaks seem to be the most economically sound and stable, yet these resources only serve to point out what is missing — namely, Robert at the dinner table with his family. Robert works 12 hour shifts as a volunteer police officer and when home is often distant. Whereas the Blaises and the Staniches eat and pray together and fill their homes with the bustling of family life, the McPeak household is echoingly silent.
“Today” is essentially a portrait of how our interpersonal relationships and connections sustain us, particularly in times of loss and hardship. While there are questions I’m left asking about each of these families, the film draws us in to the nuanced rhythms of their lives. So, see the film and tell us what you think.
As Amy noted earlier, Christian at OK Cupid’s blog recently found, using all sorts of lovely charts and graphs, that “the male fixation on youth distorts the dating pool.” Maybe so, but I have an observation — or maybe a confession — to make: The fixation on youth isn’t just male. While it may be represented as such online, there’s still a whole lot going on offline. Since moving to New York almost 5 years ago, I have, ahem…well, I have developed a habit of dating younger men. Before living here, I mostly dated older men. Why the shift? Is it something in the water?
At the ripe age of 31, while staring into space writing at a coffee shop, I noticed a guy looking at me rather intently. He caught my eye, smiled furtively and then took a swig of his grande. I smiled back and continued about my business. The next time I looked up, his eyes met mine and he executed a rather sheepish wave of his hand. Within seconds he was sitting in front of me and by the time I left, a date was planned. About four dates in, we met up with one of my friends for drinks. Somehow the subject of age came up.
I figured he was younger from conversation and just how he carried himself. I’d also dated a 22-year old the summer I was 29, so when coffee shop guy told me he was 26, it didn’t faze me. What I wasn’t expecting was his reaction to my age. At first it was incredulous disbelief. Had I no proof of identification and a friend to verify, he wouldn’t have believed it. He had guessed I was 24 or 25, but suddenly it clicked. I was confident and self-assured, had lived on my own in quite a few places, and pursued various interests. I wasn’t 25 or even close.
Suddenly he made assumptions about what I wanted: something serious, marriage, babies. Like, with him.By next week. It didn’t matter that we were on date number four or that I was just out of a tumultuous relationship. In his head my age screamed entrapment. Like I was ready to drag the first guy who smiled at me that morning to the altar. Needless to say, our date was cut short and the warm goodbye that ended our previous date was replaced with a very reticent hug.
While looks have something to do with attraction to the young and virile/fertile, maybe the reason per Christian’s data that “the median 30 year-old man spends as much time messaging 18 and 19 year-olds as he does women his own age” is not only about physical attraction. What might also be at play is what those men want at the moment and what they perceive rather than just cut and dry looks. People seem to think that once women hit a certain age, we’re on this warpath to the altar or the birthing center. Yes, we have a time limit with reproduction, but we already know that and a lot of us make peace with it one way or another. However, we don’t have an expiration date when it comes to love, lust, spontaneity or enjoying life. We also don’t want to marry and make babies with everyone we go out on a few dates with. While we are more likely to be looking for a real relationship, we also like to meet new people and explore our options. What we don’t want is a constant reminder of how old we are and questions like “shouldn’t we be finding that special someone soon?”
For me dating younger men has been an eye-opening experience. At first I found myself drawn to them because they are cute and fun, but that’s not all they are and that may be a common mistake when going younger – the seriousness factor. The men who are choosing younger women are potentially not doing so at a disservice to older women, but possibly as a disservice to younger women.
When I dated a 22-year-old at 29, I embraced the experience. Surprisingly, fitting into each other’s worlds wasn’t actually that much of a stretch. What I was surprised about was the reaction from my friends, particularly my female friends. A lot of them voiced some concern because 22-year-olds wouldn’t want to get married anytime soon. That was just it. At the time, I wasn’t ready to get married. I was running far away from commitment and wedding freak-outs. Dating a 22-year-old was safe.
In terms of OK Cupid’s data, I would like to see a chart comparing what exactly each person is looking for – like are the 30 year old men who are messaging 18-19 year olds looking for a relationship or a “playmate”? Odds are, they are not looking for a life partner. As such, young women as a whole may be getting the short end of the deal in terms of their interactions with much older men. They may not be taken seriously or seen as viable long-term partners. Maybe the disparity between men and women’s dating habits with regard to age in the OK Cupid data is just as much about emotional age as it is about physical attraction. Hell, if those men need convincing that older women can be as full of fun and energy as a younger woman, then maybe older women don’t want them anyway.
My point is we often date people we think we might not get serious about when we are not ready to be serious –- which is fine, but we should also be open to the possibility that someone will surprise us. What I’ve learned as I’ve returned to a place where I am ready for a relationship is that men of all ages can be both fun and serious, thoughtful or thoughtless. Internet dating eliminates nuances as it makes us all check a box, but it’s only reflective of what we as a society already perceive. It’s time older women and younger women alike get as much credit for their whole person and not categorized by stereotypes of age and gender.
Used to be that when the issue of “green” came up in a relationship, someone had a jealousy problem. But now the New York Times reports that therapists are seeing a growing number of couples with serious disagreements about how far they should go to save the environment. What’s a couple to do when one wants to consume, consume, consume and the other wants to reduce, reuse and recycle?
In my own life, I’ve found myself too environmentally conscious for some and not enough for others. What it really comes down to is clear communication and the ability to gauge whether or not different values equal dealbreakers. Since I am not married, the extent to which I choose to be environmentally conscious is already a part of the whole package; slight variations in the size of our collective footprint are negotiable. Basically, I choose my battles if I really like someone.
As family and marriage therapist Linda Buzzell tells the Times, “The danger arises when one partner undergoes an environmental ‘waking up’ process way before the other, leaving a new values gap between them.” The article makes it sound as if for those already married, this is akin to someone suddenly finding God (and being married to a heathen). While it can be that dramatic in terms of thought process and lifestyle, it can also be explained as just an aspect of personal growth — which is natural over time and especially over the course of a marriage. My question is whether the problems couples are experiencing stem more from an inability to stay connected and cope with personal growth on any level (whether that takes the form of a new environmental consciousness or an interest in hot rods) or if we are looking to scapegoat Mother Nature?
Robert Brulle, a professor of environment and sociology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said that he himself has seen this issue break up a marriage. Typically, “One still wants to live the American dream with all that means, and the other wants to give up on big materialistic consumption, “ he says. “Those may not be compatible.” Maybe it’s time to find a new American Dream and give healthy marriages and a healthy environment a place to grow within it.
Coda: Have you ever grappled over greenness? Share or opine in the comments!
Can men and women be friends? Ah, a question for the ages: one that men and women have wrestled with and debated until TOTALLY JUMPING EACH OTHER’S BONES. I kid. In fact, I have always been a firm believer that those of opposing genders should have no issue getting beyond those barriers — people are people, after all. Why should gender have such a big impact on who we hold near and dear?
Well, yeah, OK, I guess isn’t always that simple. Erin Scottberg at Lemondrop doesn’t think so either. Yes, she says, it is perfectly normal and possible for men and women to maintain friendships. But as we orbit around the sun, each year adds an extra challenge to bringing new opposite-sex friends into the mix.
According to Erin, there are two basic guy-friend categories. The seriously dear pal who you’re Just Not Into (otherwise known as Boy BFF, or BBFF), and the seriously dear pal whom you’ve hooked up with but it’s so not a thing. (No, really.) But!
“Now that I’m older,” she writes, “it seems that — unless the men in your life have been grandfathered into your post-college world — these two categories no longer exist. From a guy’s point of view, every stranger is either a potential screw … or nothing. But the thing is, as a single lady, when I meet a guy who I think is cool, but I’m not physically attracted to, I want to be his Just Friend.
I’ve discussed this with friends and think maybe my recent platonic dry spell comes down to geography. People who live their adult lives near where they grew up or attended college have plenty of friends, male and female, and are set with their circle. They don’t need anyone new. As one friend said, “When a guy tells me he wants to be just friends, I think ‘You’re in your late 20s. Don’t you already have enough?’” But when you’re new to a city, the answer to that question is usually, “No.”
Or maybe it’s just that as we get older, relationships get more serious, and, sadly, a good friend of the opposite sex is almost always a threat — while your high school BBFF’s girlfriend may realize you’ve “been around forever,” the girlfriends of newer BBFFs might not be so understanding.
I have been in both situations. I have two very close male companions (we eloquently describe ourselves as “The Holy Trinity”). I’ve known them since the ripe old age of eleven and have been close as could be with them ever since. One I dated briefly in my youth in that “aw it’s so cute they just kissed” sort of way, but we always fell into that category of being ‘Just Friends’. The other has since gotten married and as a side note, his wife and I get along swimmingly. Gender has never been a barrier here.
In fact, I’d have to say that a vast majority of my friends are men. Some I have know for what seems like forever and some I met just a short while ago. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but sometimes it REALLY works. Ya see, the boy who I was “best friends” with turned out to be the love of my life. Does it prove the “When Harry Met Sally” theory? Not really. If that were the case I’d probably be a bigamist.
As a woman working in the video game industry about 95% of my coworkers are men. I’m sure one or two may have had more than friendly feelings for me, she says modestly, but for the most part gender has never had a role in how we communicate. I think most friendships are rooted in common ground, and if you can relate to this person (male or female), everything else becomes less of an issue. Does it become more challenging? Yeah. But then again, everything gets harder as we get older standing up, seeing small print, etc.). I think making new friends as we get older is complicated enough on its own without throwing male and female parts into the mix.
Can we be friends? Well, I hope so. It’s lovely to meet you.
A new study shows the link between sex and sharing the housework. The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Earlier studies have hinted at this connection for men; the sight of a husband mopping the floor or doing dishes sparks affection in the hearts of many wives. But the more-housework-equals-more-sex link for wives, documented in a study of 6,877 married couples published online recently in the Journal of Family Issues, is a surprise.” – (via Pat’s Papers)
It’s all rather wife/gender biased, but so is life and that’s the problem, boo!
Interesting revelation: no matter what the individual attitudes about gender roles, both partners pitching in meant for a more satisfying and frequent sex life. Now that’s bipartisan!
It’s all about partnership and shared goals, coupled with (no pun intended) a work hard/play hard attitude that reinforces the team spirit, lack of selfishness, and mutual support. It reflects a willingness to respond to the needs of the other — which is tres important in the boudoir, n’est pas?
Not surprisingly these couples make sex a priority, and working on a task together — no matter how mundane — sparks relationship chemistry.
All you wizened, still-not-”old“-yet-thank-you-very-much souls in the crowd will enjoy a mature chuckle over this list, brought to you by Tango, of bad-bordering-on-cheesy relationship mistakes (female variety).
Personally, I damn near find serenity in knowing how many of them I used to act out, having now graduated to a level of in-my-bones instinctiveness about what not to do. Such as: “Thinking our partners must be interested in everything we do, think and say”; “Putting so much energy into a fairy-tale romance that we’re disappointed with anything less“; and “Not asking for what we want in bed.” (Amen, sister!) They’re so familiar, they border on cliche — but cliches wouldn’t be cliches if they weren’t rooted in truth.
And so, if these mistakes are a thing of your present, not your past, allow me to offer up a little bon mot I’ve long held dear: “Cliches happen.” Spoken by a very wise, not-very-old, ridiculously sexy man.
What we saw Monday was rubbernecking, slowing down to gawk at a smoldering wreck. It doesn’t mean another 5.2 million people suddenly wanted to see a “reality” show about raising eight kids.
What happened Monday, in fact, took the focus away from what the show has always been about. What was envisioned as an irresistibly cute fifth birthday party for their sextuplets became a footnote to Jon and Kate’s simmering anger toward each other and the suddenly uncomfortable tabloid life they signed up for.
Now, sure, the fate of a “reality” TV show about a couple raising twins and sextuplets will not be the biggest long-term issue for those kids if their parents split up.
But being on TV is what Jon and Kate seem to do now, and it’s hard to see how Monday night’s sad, uncomfortable dance will create the kind of long-term television viewers really want to follow.
Sad and uncomfortable, most of us can get without turning on the TV. It’s not that we have any inherent problem with discomfort on “reality” TV. Watching supermodels eat maggots seems to be cause to tune in, not tune out.
We are intrigued by physical exhaustion on “Survivor,” we feel the frustration of the overweight on “The Biggest Loser,” and we love seeing Gordon Ramsay fillet his erring chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen.”
But watching an actual relationship deteriorate — the cold silence, the simmering resentment, the little cruelties — that’s not much fun.
Right. A lot of us can get that without turning on the TV, too. So when it comes to reality-TV couples, perhaps it’s time to look away — and maybe toward the genuinely charming (and even edifying) The Little Couple, whose honeymoon period, we hope, will last a good long time.