January 4, 2011
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 is all 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.”
January 21, 2010
How soon can we get the world into the hands of this generation?
“It doesn’t bother me to tell kids my parents are gay. It does bother me to say they aren’t married. It makes me feel that our family is less than their family.” — Kasey Nicholson-McFadden, 10
Question #2: Why was this article in the Styles section?
July 30, 2009
Cintra Wilson explores Tiffany & Co. with sharp ear, tart tongue:
I have always been mystified by Tiffany’s heart-shaped silver dog tags, worn on a choke chain, with the engraved instructions, “Please Return to Tiffany & Co.” This, I have always assumed, is precautionary: If your lady gets lost, someone will put her on a plane back to the jewelry store. In any case, they are hugely popular.
July 22, 2009
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen has a very funny essay at HuffPo about her proposed changes to the New York Times’ hoity-toity weddings section.
Less rich-relative flaunting. This isn’t the Common Application. Lines such as “the bride is a great-great-great-granddaughter of the New York banker and philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff and of Abraham Abraham,” sound ridiculous. More than one great is braggy. And why did great-great-great-grandfather have the same first and last name? One exception is Sage Lehman, “a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt.” This is exciting, because as a Gossip Girl fan I wonder how Sage will get that diamond back from Nate Archibald.
April 23, 2009
So I’m on my second marriage. My third, if you count the eight-year relationship between the two. So I know from divorce, splitups and breakups, and I say basta. So anytime someone has constructive advice about how to make my marriage go the distance, I sit up and take notice. Immediately followed, usually, by slumping back down and putting my head between my legs, because omfg, I just can’t.
The New York Times has trotted out the old “date-night” advice: making time for each other to reconnect sans kids is good for your union. Well, duh. Is the New York Times going to pay Barnard Babysitting? Anyway, the newest research says that even if I manage to find a sitter, find enough energy, and tear myself away from my child — is there an opposite of dayenu? It’s not enough for us. If we do all that and then just sit at our favorite sushi place, staring at each other — we’re still in mortal danger of becoming a statistic. Turns out we have to do more than go on a date — we have to go on an exciting date!
Novelty is the goal — it’s supposed to re-up our supply of dopamine and mimic the headiness of our early love. You know what else would reignite my dopamine? My husband throwing out those heinous maroon sweatpants. But I digress. The studies indicate that we’ll feel more connected and satisfied if we do stuff we don’t usually do, like “attending concerts or plays, skiing, hiking and dancing.” That, my friends, is quite an evening.
Look, I’d love to. I’d love to hike and dance and hang-glide. (That’s not true. I would hate to hang-glide.) But I already feel so much pressure to plan a night out. And at this point, believe me, sitting at a table that someone else is going to clean up counts as a novel experience. I’m going to have to hope that’s enough for now.
September 16, 2008
Once upon a time, BG had a perfectly magical date with a then-obscure movie star who, as it turned out, was apparently on a different date at the time. One of the fun parts of the story (and its two-years-later coda) is this: the friends who set us up had told me way too much about him. I knew his hobbies, his college major, his newborn niece’s infelicitous name. The challenge for me, then, was to react to his biographical information as if it were news (“Econ, huh? So then how’d you get into acting?”) and to not ask questions about things I wasn’t supposed to know yet (“How’s your niece? I mean — how’s Nice? In the summer? Ever been?”) I met this challenge, thankyouverymuch, but it required a mighty effort. And nohedidn’tcallwhateverthat’snotthepoint.
The point is: that was before Google.
July 20, 2008
Love is scarce. When making romantic investments, try to remember what you learned in econ.