I am also making regular posts about love and other topics of psychological interest at http://drbillykidd.hubpages.com/
There are lots of rock songs about a woman getting sexually excited about a man while at the same time her head says, “No.” Is this a verifiable biological phenomenon or is it all just in a woman’s mind?
The fact is that scientists have discovered that women’s YES/NO sex debates stem from the very core of their biological processes. It is not something women simply conjure up in their minds. In fact, studies show that it is common for a woman to feel the maybe-yes/maybe-no debate up to 20% of the times she’s sexually aroused. That is why she should not be guilt tripped by the whole thing when she decides to say “No.”
To better understand the YES/NO sexual debate, let’s compare the differences between the way women and men get turned on:
• Women Evaluate Potential Sexual Encounters on Two Different Levels. This creates two different takes on the situation: the physical and the emotional. These two perspectives arise from two semi-independent biological processes. So it’s natural that, on occasion, a woman will have conflicting feelings about sex—the physical feelings of arousal won’t match her emotional feelings about having sex. In certain situations, a woman may be focusing on the emotional content so intently that she may not even notice she that is physically aroused.
• Men Have Comparatively Fewer Conflicting Feelings About Sex. Men’s emotional responses about sex are often more closely aligned with their physical responses. That means that a man generally has a hard time arguing against his erection. Men, of course, are aware of the deeper emotional aspects of sexual relations. But they are not wired to closely monitor the difference between their emotional and physical feelings the way women are.
• Women Have Distinct Feelings of Physical Togetherness. Women tend to focus on the whole act of sexual engagement—that it is two bodies together, getting it on. During sexual relations, women are aware of how they are physically positioned and what is happening to them. A woman’s experience is also affected by her partner’s movements and actions. This means that a woman’s sexual arousal can reflect the overall toss, turn, and tumble of both bodies—reflecting the feeling of being physically together. Men, on the other hand, feel more independent during the early aspects of sex, like actors performing, where they have to stay on top of their job or they might lose it.
• Men Are Aroused By Bodies and Faces. In contrast to women, men generally do not focus so much on the sexual activity itself. Rather, they focus on a woman’s body and face, and how that stimulus rattles their genitals. Also, a man’s awareness is more self-focused when contrasted to a woman’s. This may give the impression that men need to take charge of the sexual activity—as if testosterone propels them to be sexually aggressive. But scientists have shown that this is not true. Rather, an amyloid protein regulates men’s sexual potency, and sexual aggressiveness is not related to testosterone levels whatsoever. Instead, aggressiveness is the product of a man’s values and his life experiences, not some innate compulsion to copulate with everything that’s around him.
• Women’s Feelings of Excitement are Conditional. Women’s emotional urges to have sex are generally dependent on the situation that she finds herself in. It’s normal for a woman to be thinking: “Is it safe, interesting? … ah, just too cool.” The relationship itself also matters to a woman. This is why women are concerned about men being friendly, helping, and cooperative partners. These things tend to make sex an intimate emotional act that takes place with a particular partner. Sex is generally personalized, in other words, unless a woman suppresses these natural emotions so that she can have the sexual experience without the feeling of attachment.
• A Man May Have Limited Emotional Engagement. Men get emotionally involved when they are in love and when their family-feeling buttons get pressed. So there are times when a man isn’t aware of his emotional involvement in a sexual relationship until after it grows on him. Men, like women, are hit with bonding hormones when they reach orgasm. That makes them want to be with their partners. But some men have been raised to suppress those innate feelings.
• Sexual Arousal is Just Half the Ballgame. Sexual relationships don’t take place in a relationship vacuum—unless you and your partner are working hard at having no strings attached. Sometimes, of course, no-strings-attached does not work out that way, and a person feels lousy afterwards. That’s because you slip and get emotionally involved and maybe guilt-trip yourself over it. That happens because there are five relationship feelings that can engage when you are being intimate with a partner: the sexual feeling, the in-love feeling, feelings of friendship, the feeling of being a couple, and the feeling of wanting to help each other out. This is why, from a biological standpoint, sex doesn’t always happen in an emotional black out.
• Dealing with ‘YES-NO’ Sexual Cues. A woman cannot simply change who she is to accommodate a man’s sexual interests. And she shouldn’t have to. When a woman is feeling the Yes-No debate, she really is not ready for sex. She needs time and her own space to understand what she is feeling. While she cannot argue with his erection, she can talk around it. So switching the topic and simply moving on to some other activity is her best recourse for the moment. A man who isn’t obsessed like an addict about sex should be able to move forward with her. Men who demand sex, and keep track of the sexually exciting females, are sex addicts.
• Machismo and Sex Addictions. Some men refuse to listen when a woman signals she’s not interested in having sex. They will badger and harass her because they want a quick sex fix to escape their feelings of frustration, anger, and powerlessness. Or, they enjoy exploiting and hurting women, and feel entitled to do so. For them, sex is not about the woman at all—it’s about the expression of male power and the use of force. Today, the majority of young men are not trained to think this sort of macho behavior is normal the way some of their fathers did. And most women won’t tolerate it. Yet, with half the world’s population, sexual exploitation is the norm.
• Men and Women Reach Orgasm on Different Pathways. Women, more so than men, have a Yes/No debate going on in their minds before they consent to sex. That reflects, in part, nature’s safety value that allows women to think before they act. But once it’s over, men and women end up at the same place. Their bodies and souls interpret orgasm the same way. Unless—they are working hard at being emotionally uninvolved.
If a woman feels conflicting feelings about sex, that’s OK. It is normal, not some sort of problem with her. Nor is it necessarily the case that she’s made a judgment against a potential partner. It’s simply nature calling. A woman can ignore these feelings and venture forth. Or she may believe that she is simply not ready and wait until she understands what those feelings really mean to her.
People respond sexually the way they do because it’s a part of who they are. The only time you need to work on trying to respond differently is where you are not satisfied with your sex life or when you are in the habit of getting in another person’s space when you are not invited.
There is a lasting lesson about human behavior and the nature of love in the Shakespeare’s story about Romeo and Juliet. Let’s look at it and see why love can be so deadly, and then see how these lessons apply in today’s Bold New World of Romance.
As the story went, Juliet had been set up by her parents to marry Paris, a man related to prince of Verona. Juliet could have carried on in a grand style if she wanted. But she let it all go when she fell madly in love the moment she met Romeo. That same night, they decided to elope. They were married the next day by their friend, the friar. But facing the danger of reigniting an on-going feud between their two families, they didn’t steal away together. Instead, they decided to meet the next night at Juliet’s home and make love for the first time.
Before Romeo got to her home the next day, he was caught up in the old inter-family rivalry with Juliet’s cousin, Tibalt. When Tibalt suddenly stabbed Romeo’s friend, Romeo killed him. The news got to Juliet’s nurse and she told her about it. Even though Juliet became upset, she still saw Romeo later, and they made love. Her man—the one she had known for two days!—was suddenly more important to her than her cousin’s life.
Romeo was banished from Verona by the prince because of the killing. So Romeo and Juliet used messengers to relay their communications. But Juliet’s most important message didn’t get through to Romeo. She had said she was going to fake her own death so she could steal away with him to another town without being recognized. Through the grapevine, Romeo got word of Juliet’s supposed death,. But he never received her note that would have told him she was really alive. So Romeo believed she was dead. And feeling distraught, Romeo killed himself. When Juliet heard that Romeo was dead, she killed herself.
People may exclaim: “That’s the power of love!”
You, too, may call this love if you define it as going whacko over someone at first sight. But the word love has a dozen different popular meanings and no clear agreed-upon definition. That is why so many of us cannot separate fact from fiction, or media dramatization from reality, when it comes to interpreting what is going on in our own love lives. And that is why it’s important get a modern scientific understanding about what love really is—the stuff that Socrates and Freud didn’t even understand!
Modern science has shown how love arises up within in us from 5 separate physiological systems. The effects of these 5 relationship systems combine—in various and sundry forms—to produce different motivational states. But despite the fact that people are capable of having dozens of different motivational states driven by these 5 distinct love systems, we call all of them by one name: love. And that is one of the biggest reasons we’re never on the same page when we talk about love with another person. We simply don’t know how to define our emotional state in terms of the 5 feelings that arise from the 5 biobehavioral systems. And that’s why we end up doing stupid things like killing ourselves.
If you’re getting confused, hang on a minute. This really isn’t rocket science. Let’s look at the first love system that gives rise to the crazy-in-love feeling. This love-at-first-sight form of romance—which was featured in Shakespeare’s play—arises from the effects of a particular type of serotonin that drives the in-love system.
When this neurotransmitter circulates in the brain, people’s thoughts become obsessive and their behaviors become overly dramatic. This creates the type of feeling people are referring to when they talk about in-love passionate romance—the feeling that makes you feel like you’re walking on a stage.
Romeo and Juliet’s actions are clearly understandable when we look into the psychological processes that motivated their behaviors. From a scientific standpoint, we can say that Romeo and Juliet’s in-love romance, biobehavioral systems got jacked up super-high the moment they met.
That’s not difficult to imagine if you think of a biobehavioral system as (1) a biological system that regulates thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which is (2) an organic circuit that is hard-wired into our brains.
With Romeo and Juliet, their in-love, biobehavioral, relationship circuits impelled them to both see each other as the One–their dream lover come to life.. When that happened, their in-love relationship systems drove each of their thoughts, actions, and emotions related to love. That caused them to focus narrowly on each other, and tune out the rest of the world–and all other possible ways love can be expressed through the other 4 love systems: the sexual system, the friendship system, the bonding system, and the helping system.
What’s Shakespeare was trying to show us with this was that when the in-love system jacks all the way up to over-drive, dangerous things can happen. That’s why the story is about being crazy in-love, not about sexual attraction. Sex was kind of a “whatever” thing with them. Instead, they we’re using the in-love go crazy feeling to help them escape their vindictive, upper-class reality.
The in-love, romance systems that got turned on in their heads is distinct from the sexual biobehavioral system. These systems involve two diverse groups of thoughts, actions, and emotions. Each of these two distinct groups propels you toward a specific type of relationship outcome.
For instance, by falling in love, you select a partner from all the other available ones. On the other hand, when the sex system kicks in, an individual wants to make love. But it isn’t necessarily related to a specific person. It’s about getting turned on and having your body and soul exude a sexual feeling. People are turned on sexually, in other words, by something that caught their attention, firing up their sexual relationship system—not because they believe someone is their soul mate.
These two distinct relationship systems are powered by different neurotransmitters and hormones. Neurotransmitters are the chemical substances that regulate how the messages from nerve impulses flow through our brains. Hormones, on the other hand, are steroids and groups of amino acids that travel in our blood and regulate body functions.
When the sexual neurotransmitters and hormones kick in, we feel sexually aroused. That arousal relates to an environmental stimulus or a something that an individual recalls to mind. This causes a person’s attention to narrow momentarily on whatever has caused him or her to become sexually aroused. A person’s attention does not necessarily stay focused on this particular sexual stimulus afterwards. Once an individual consummates a sexual activity, the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate sexuality stimulate a different action—which might be motivated by a feeling of relaxation, bonding and reward, or one of frustration.
On the other hand, when the passionate in-love neurotransmitters and hormones kick in, we go goofy and just can’t seem to stop thinking about a particular person. This can go on for months. It involves some of the same neurotransmitters that create obsessive-compulsive disorders—what psychologists call OCD. With our thoughts narrowly focused, we only want a particular partner—now and forever, or so it seems—so much so we can hardly be distracted. It follows that falling in love is about selecting a partner from all the others and not about having sex. That’s how we interpret the rush of hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies and brains.
Being in love, then, is not necessarily about sex. When seen in this light, however, the idea that being in love legitimizes sex, and justifies rushing to get married, makes little sense. After all, just because your hormones and neurotransmitters drive you to go wacko about someone doesn’t mean it is going to last forever. After all, when you think about it, Romeo and Juliet weren’t even friends. They hadn’t known each other long enough for their romantic friendship biobehavioral systems to kick in.
This also helps to show why so many people have dysfunctional partnerships. If you get married when you are acting like someone with an in-love, obsessive-compulsive disorder, the odds are that you are getting hooked up with someone you don’t know much about. This is why they say the reality of the marriage sinks in after the honeymoon when individuals discover the truth about their partners. Some call this sobering moment the stranger in the bed experience, and they wonder what they were thinking when they got married. The answer is, they were not thinking. They were experiencing the Romeo-Juliet complex.
The other forms of love can be explained in a somewhat similar fashion—in terms of a neurotransmitter or hormonal response to a partner or potential partner. In my book, Low Stress Romance, I explain how the various love systems operate to create 5 different kinds of love. If you read the book, it’ll give you the tools you need to define exactly what state of love you’re in at any time in any relationships. For a summary of how those love systems work, see my blog article How Love Works — The Love Code.
In the meantime, remember is was unbalanced love—without friendship, bonding, or the true desire to help each other—that killed Romeo and Juliet. So when you’re flipped out crazy about someone, you might think about the fact that there are 5 love systems and you can’t have a satisfying long-term relationship until the all kick in.
Believe it or not, we get married because of five diverse feelings: feeling in-love, feeling like friends, feeling sexual about each other, feeling like family, and feeling like we want to help each other. Each of these feelings triggers neurotransmitters and hormones in our bodies to create a “need” to be with our partner. If that is so—and it’s been scientifically proven—then why does money play such a big part in today’s marriages? Is there, like, say, a “money hormone” that’s got to get triggered, too, for a long-term relationship to work in the modern world?
No. Rather, money, in a pay-to-play society does a lot to determine whether we’re going to be an effective couple. That’s because money helps us solve some of the problems that take modern day stress off our backs. To put it differently, the stress of modern life makes any relationship difficult at times. Even just being friends can be tough when you’re under stress.
There are so many stressors today that they can add up so high that it can knock a person over. Like the traffic stop after the insurance company fails to tell you that your car insurance check never got to them on the day that your boss tells you that your position is going to be eliminated. When we have enough money to cushion ourselves from these sorts of issues, it gives us more time and energy to feel the five feelings of love and to enjoy our relationship with our partner.
Across America, more and more people are acknowledging this–that money is central to their vision of a successful marriage. So they are waiting until their careers are well established before getting married. As far as companionship goes, they are learning to get by with the help of their friends. And twenty percent of the women are not going to get married and have a baby–as hard as they may try. They feel they are either too poor to be a success at marriage, or they get so involved in their careers that they just give up the thought of having a child. Some, of course, simply cannot conceive any children. Meanwhile, because of modern technology, age thirty is no longer the time the the biological clock stops.
But there is more going on here than what meets the eye. As we all know, the very nature of family and work is changing. Along with these social changes, the nature of marriage is changing, too. It is no longer a social contract with defined rules. Rather, each couple decides on their own what their relationship will be like.
So play it smart. Don’t be afraid to discuss your money concerns with your lover. This is an import part of building a relationship in today’s world. If you need a conversation starter, say that you think you’ve got the marriage, money hormone running through your veins! That’ll catch even the most distant lover’s attention.
AFARRI Articles From the Archives of the Romantic Relationship Institute August 2011
Billy Lee Kidd, PhD
The uncertain nature of young urban mobile single adult [YUMS] romantic relationships was conceptualized in this study through the use of grounded theory methods. Informed by social constructivist theory, the data were analyzed within an Atlas.ti software environment. The results supported a core category that the uncertainty inherent in the lives of young adults creates not only a peer group attitude of ambivalence toward long-term romantic relationships and marriage but a feeling that the traditional guidelines for romantic relationships are dysfunctional and outdated. While supporting these results, a contrast study held in a different region of the United States demonstrated the presence of a bifurcated young adult population: one segment of the population is actively working at improving cross-gender intimate communications while the other group is actively working to avoid romantic intimacy altogether.
Key words: young adult, emerging adulthood, romantic relationships, marriage, ambivalence, uncertainty, friendship network, Mensa
There has been a sizable shift in the sociocultural forces that influence young urban mobile single adult [YUMS] romantic relationships (Arnett, 2004). Their relationships have been impacted by technological innovations, a globalized job market, increased mobility, a shift in gender roles, as well as by the deinstitutionalization of marriage (Coontz, 2006; Le Bourdais & Lapierre-Adamcyk, 2004). This creates so much uncertainty in romantic affiliations that the traditional milestones and timelines for relationships have become ambiguous (Collins & van Dulmen, 2006; Kidd, 2009; Reitzle, 2007; Vennum & Fincham, 2011). It follows that the traditional ways in which social scientists conceptualize young adult romantic affiliations may not always be sufficient to describe what is occurring within this new sociocultural milieu.
The purpose of this research project was to create an expanded understanding of the sociocultural stage on which young urban mobile single adults, between 18 and 30, act out their romantic relationships. The objective therein was to build a grounded theory which conceptualizes the peer group epistemological understandings on which young adults base their decisions about romance. While the literature has acknowledged the ambiguous nature of young adult affiliations (Arnett, 2004; Collins and van Dulmen, 2006), there has been few attempts to create a grounded theory that conceptualizes how relationships actually take place within the postmodern young adult sociocultural milieu. Without such an explanation, the gaps in the literature concerning the young adult population remain unfilled (Gibbons & Ashdown, 2006; Hendry & Kloep, 2007). In the meantime, this population continues to be misunderstood and does not obtain full societal support in building the next generation of families (Clark, 2004).
A social psychology constructivist perspective (Vygotsky, 1978) guided the research process during this study. This perspective holds that individuals construct the meanings of their personal relationships within the context of a peer group knowledge base (Blumer, 1969). It follows that the interview protocol was designed to uncover the common peer group understandings that the research participants used for interpreting what is going on within their romantic relationships. It was held that these understandings would be unique to the participants’ postmodern cohort and, therefore, differ from that of previous generations of young adults (Eyerman & Turner, 1998).
This project involved two separate studies, a primary study and a contrast study. For the primary study, 12 participants were selected by convenience sampling. They were between 19 and 29 years old. Their mean age was 25. While half the participants were currently enrolled in school, 2 of the 12 participants had master’s degrees, 7 participants had baccalaureate degrees, and 2 participants had associate degrees. There were 3 males and 9 females who participated. Nine of the participants were employed. Eight of the participants lived in Portland, Oregon, and four lived in the San Rosa, California. There was no requirement that participants had to currently be involved in a romantic relationship, and only half were. None were married, and none had children.
The contrast study was conducted at the 2007 Mensa USA, Inc., Annual Gathering (for details see, Kidd, 2009). The 4 participants were from Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and New Hampshire. Ages ranged from 18 to 29. One participant had a baccalaureate degree, two were enrolled in undergraduate programs, and one was a high school graduate. Two were employed. All were single and did not have children. None were currently involved in a serious romantic relationship.
Grounded theory methods (Charmaz, 2006; Glaser, 2001) were used to construct a theory that explains the tentative nature of single young adult romantic relationships (Arnett, 2004). This was accomplished by combining phenomenological methods of data gathering and theme abstraction (Giorgi, 1985) with grounded theory heuristics. The use of data gathered in this fashion is in keeping with Glaser’s (2001) dictum that “all is data.” The overall method was justified further by Charmaz’s (2006) reasoning that any sound method of gathering and analyzing data can be used in combination with grounded theory practices. The Atlas.ti (Scientific Software Development, 2007) qualitative data analysis program was used for analyzing the data.
For the primary study, there were two initial focus groups, followed by four individual interviews. The coding process rendered 115 phenomenological-based meaning units that were abstracted from the transcripts of the combined dialogues (Giorgi, 1985). These phenomenological-based meaning units were treated as the equivalent of focused-coding units (Charmaz, 2006).
Six natural categories emerged from these coding units when they were analyzed with grounded theory methods (See Appendix A). This process involved using abductive inference (Pierce, 1974, 1979) coupled with a constant-comparative sorting method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This procedure of discovering categories was facilitated by the unique Atlas.ti sorting system that ties quotations of the interview transcript to the codes and memos that arise from them. During this process, lower-order codes that related to general themes were placed into columns on Atlas.ti network pages. These columns of interrelated codes were combined hierarchically through the creation of higher-order codes that synthesized emergent themes. This process continued until six theoretical categories were produced.
These theoretical categories were then woven together into a narrative which explained the participants’ collective peer-group story (Glaser, 1978). That narrative, when reworked for verbal and scientific clarity, was transformed into a grounded theory. That theory conceptualized how the uncertainty in the participants’ sociocultural milieu creates feelings of ambivalence towards serious, long-term romantic relationships and marriage.
Research Participant Member Check
Member-checking has become an integrated part of grounded theory practice for establishing credibility as an alternative to internal validity (Charmaz, 2006; Lincoln & Guba, 1985, 1999). To that end, the six superordinate theoretical codes that supported the core category in the primary study were discussed with one of the research participants. The participant said these statements represent how her peers understand these issues. Thereafter, all six charts that depicted the six superordinate theoretical categories were reviewed by another research participant. That participant noted that charts explained his “whole life.” After the first draft of the report for the current study was written, parts of it were presented to one of the research participants. That participant agreed that the ideas and concepts in the paper represented a clear picture of how his peers approached romantic relationships. At each stage of the member check, the feedback from the participants was incorporated into the succeeding draft of the evolving, final report.
In qualitative studies, transferability is a proxy for external validity (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, 1999). When a conceptualization can be transferred to other research endeavors, it enhances the trustworthiness of the original study, thereby increasing its authenticity. To that end, a separate focus group was held in Birmingham, Alabama. It took place at the 2007 Mensa USA, Inc., Annual Gathering (for details see, Kidd, 2009). The same research methods that were used in the primary study rendered 40 focused-coding units. When those were analyzed, four theoretical categories emerged from the data. When woven together, they formed an adjunct theory that supported the findings from the primary study, which are reported in the next section.
Results from the Primary Study
Six major theoretical categories emerged from the transcripts of the individual and focus group interviews. These categories supported, explained, and elucidated the core category that the uncertainty inherent in the young adult sociocultural milieu creates a peer group attitude of ambivalence towards serious long-term romantic relationships and marriage. These theoretical categories are discussed below and are followed by the grounded theory that emerged from them.
Six Emergent Theoretical Categories
Romance as a Non-Committed Learning Experience
The research participants reported that making life course decisions concerning career, finances, and lifestyle was generally more important than establishing serious long-term romantic relationships. They did not use the expression committed relationship, however, when discussing this. That was because committing to a relationship was seen as something people did at age 30 or older. Before that age, romantic relationships were so tenuous that the idea of commitment seemed unattainable.
The tenuousness of this situation was reflected in the fact that young adult relationship behaviors are so variegated that there are no agreed upon peer group guidelines for romance. That was made clear during a focus group discussion. A 29-year-old male consultant said:
I think it’s very unclear—the differences between romance, and dating, and relationships. Is it all the same thing? Is it different facets to the same piece? What is appropriate, and what is not—it’s very confusing … There aren’t any clear rules to dating, even much less for all relationships. There’s not really any set of guidelines.
Evidence of how this causes confusion in romantic affiliations was evident in every interview. Without common peer group guidelines, definitions, or milestones, each relationship is approached as a new situation where one learns by trial and error. Under these circumstances, romance becomes a non-committed learning experience. Inherent in this conceptualization is that dating often is a casual, dressed-down experience where finding a marriage partner is not a central concern. Dating itself is sometimes replaced by social endeavors where a person is invited to participate in an activity with a potential-partner’s friends.
In this environment, choosing romantic or sexual partners is sometimes a product of rational choice rather than the outcome of falling in love. Passionate romantic love was, in fact, seen as too unstable a foundation on which to base a long-term relationship. Rather than search for a permanent partner, the participants tended to analyze whether someone met their present functional needs. This focus on ration decision-making, however, does not mean the participants did not fall in love. Falling in love was, rather, as one participant said, “Something you try once or twice, and then move on because it is just too crazy.”
Cautious Romantic Attachment
The research participants reported that the process of bonding to a romantic partner was a serious issue to be approached with caution. They said that all too many couples in their parents’ generation were bonded together in a contentious relationship that embodied an endless argument. Rather than faulting their parents’ generation, however, they blamed the traditional bonding process itself for such relationships. Falling in love in order to create a committed romantic partnership simply does not make sense. An in-love passionate attachment was seen as being a very unstable, unreliable bond, which often implodes on itself. They said there had to be a better way to create a long-term relationship.
As it stood, however, there was no agreed upon approach for romantic bonding to replace falling madly in love. When the participants spoke of romantic bonding, they said their cautious style of making romantic attachments could be likened to putting a potential partner through a vetting process. This is different than what was traditionally called dating. Bonding and dating were often seen as separate issues, similar to how sex and reproduction have become separated (Baker, 2008). The bonding process was more akin to watching how a potential long-term partner handles oneself in various situations over time. This slow process of building a relationship differs from the traditional act of making a blind commitment that cannot be renegotiated, except through divorce.
It followed that the participants did not speak of searching for the perfect soul mate. They said there are too many life course tasks to accomplish before they could be that serious about finding a partner. In all actuality, only one of the 12 research participants in the primary study, a 29-year-old woman, was actively looking for a permanent mate. But the participants also noted that the tentative relationships they participated in were not necessarily what they really wanted or desired. It was, rather, all they could achieve considering their current socioeconomic statuses and standing within society. Moreover, they said that a subgroup containing, perhaps, 20% of their peers rejected the very idea of intimacy between partners and romantic attachment in favor of having no-strings-attached sexual liaisons.
Friends Provide Emotional Support
Friends often figured more prominently than romantic partners in providing emotional support for the participants. They also turned to their everyday friends more often for the emotional support than to their families. This included seeking out their friends to get feedback and insight concerning stressful social issues, such as problems concerning sexuality and romantic partners.
Within their friendship circles, the research participants generally developed intimate cross-gender, communication skills. The development of these skills was seen as a necessary preparation for later serious romantic relationships. It follows that the mutuality and emotional support found within a best friends’ affiliations becomes something that might be expected in future long-term romantic relationships. Yet, with such a strong reliance on friends to provide so much of each other’s emotional support, the participants reported that they do not always expect a deep emotional attachment to take place in their current romantic relationships.
Low Key Sexual Relationships
The research participants reported that their approach to sexual relationships varies from that of previous generations of young adults. Nowadays, the period between reaching sexual maturity and selecting a long-term partner generally lasts from between 10 and 20 years. Consequently, casual sex practices have replaced the search for long-term partners and getting married. As a result, there is a strong focus on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
At the same time, sexual exploration has become an accepted female prerogative. Women want to embrace their sexuality because it is an important part of life. What is more, being judged by how many sexual partners one has had was seen as being outdated.
It followed that the participants reported that their peers generally did not make moral judgments about each other’s sexual behaviors. They said that seeking sexual pleasure was normal and that one does not have to be passionately in love in order to have a sexual relationship.
In taking these positions, the participants said they believed they still held to the same values regarding sex as their parents. What is different is their way of expressing those values. They said, however, that a subgroup of their peers—the singlehood, no-strings-attached crowd—may, in the long run, prove to be different from their parents because of the value they place on having sex without emotional intimacy.
Marriage is De-emphasized
The research participants saw marriage as a relationship that would occur at a later stage of their lives when they had obtained full adulthood statuses. Attainment of those statuses would allow them to carry adult responsibilities, one of which was involvement in a long-term serious relationship.
They said that their peers had set the bar for marriage quite high because they were quite leery of repeating the marriage patterns demonstrated by their parents. Those was described as falling in love, marrying, and having children, followed by incessant arguing, divorce, and then repeating the pattern all over again. Consequently, marriage was seen as a negotiated agreement, not as a contract.
As such, the functionality and satisfaction of a relationship was seen as being dependent on the level of the partners’ communication skills. The only milestones leading to marriage were finishing school and establishing economic independence. Yet, the participants also expected that future partners would have achieved a semblance of emotional maturity and would be capable of admitting to their mistakes.
Current partners, however, were often exempt from the high expectations pertaining to future marital partners. That was because current romantic and sexual relationships were regarded as transitional learning experiences. From this position, past relationships could be seen as win-win affiliations, where both people had learned something.
Of note is that the participants saw the general economic and demographic strength of today’s robust singlehood culture as acting as a counterweight that is balanced against the traditional marriage culture. Singles supported each other emotionally and maintained lifestyles that conflicted with the prospect of long-term partnering and marriage. Also, the fact that motherhood is under-supported by society was seen as a factor making it harder to commit to having children. And so, it followed that three of the participants reported no interest in getting married and having children.
Postmodern Developmental Tasks
The research participants reported that in today’s complex world assertive behaviors are essential for mastering the tasks that establish full adulthood statuses. Yet they reported that some young adults react with indifference toward establishing those statuses. Such indifference was generally tolerated by the participants’ peers until age 26. Thereafter, it was expected that friends and colleagues stop “acting like adolescents and grow up.”
A young adult woman’s life-course task was to discover economic independence, not the establishment of a long-term romantic relationship. This arises from young single adult women’s increasing sense of economic and sexual empowerment. Young women were also expected to develop a strong sense of self. Therefore, a young woman would not necessarily expect to have a strong we-ness identity from being part of a couple when she did marry. Nor were young women expected to base their future identity solely on being a mother. In this context, the participants reported that a romantic partner should be but one person in a married individuals’ social support network, not the entire connection.
The male participants had low-key attitudes about how gender roles were changing. So, for example, in one of the focus groups two women were discussing cross-gender friends having sex together, a behavior called friends with benefits. The dialogue ensued as follows:
First Woman: “I think that friends with benefits is along the lines where there’s always one person that kind of thinks it may be going somewhere, or would want it to, and the other person could care less if the relationship ended tomorrow.”
Second Woman: “It’s usually the male that doesn’t care.”
First Woman: “I’ve been in a situation where it was the other way around.”
Second Woman: “That happens.”
Male Participant: “You go, girl!”
The young man’s low-key response elicited laughter. But the expression “you go, girl,” basically translates to “get it on, girl!” By saying this, he not only lowered the cross-gender tension in the discussion but volunteered his support for female assertiveness and self-determination.
This was typical of how the young adult men handled cross-gender tension in the focus group discussions. This reflected the fact that there was no apparent gender differences in willingness and ability to communicate about romantic, sexual, and gender identity issues.
Theory of Uncertainty and Ambivalence in Young Adult Romantic Relationships
All six of the theoretical categories discussed in the previous section related to the uncertainty and ambivalence that young adults experience in their romantic relationships. When woven together into a conceptual narrative, they generated a theory that elucidates and explains the peer group understandings that provide the social framework in which the participants’ romantic relationships took place. That theory is stated as follows:
Young urban mobile single adults have no agreed-upon peer group guidelines for romantic relationships. This creates a social environment where romantic relationships are seen as tentative affiliations. The impact of this situation creates a peer group sense of ambivalence toward passionate romantic partnering, long-term commitments, and marriage.
It follows that romantic relationships are often seen as non-committed learning experiences. This attitude arises from a social milieu in which serious romantic relationships must compete for time and energy against career goals, financial concerns, and casual sex affiliations that are supported by a strong singlehood culture. Consequently, many young adults have adopted a style of romantic attachment whereby they make rational decisions about serious relationships during a cautious commitment process.
Within this milieu, socially successful young adults often display an assertive style of communication in their cross-gender interactions. These exchanges may eventually lead to negotiated romantic relationships where partners support each other’s career and life course goals. Yet due to a lack of role models that exemplify intimate relationships, social success can be conceived of in terms of superficial affiliations for sexual convenience. Consequently, some young adults may want to have a meaningful relationship but feel ambivalent about trying to do so because they would not know how.
In this environment, young adults often rely on their friends to provide emotional support, companionate bonding, and a place to improve cross-gender communication skills. This companionate support acts as a coping mechanism for coping within this ambiguous relationship milieu, where changed timelines and milestones delay young adult involvement in committed romantic partnerships.
The ambiguous character of romantic relationships within this social environment propels a subgroup of young adults to focus their social energies on partying and having fun. Their casual-sex relationships preclude opportunities to learn intimate cross-gender communication skills that might eventually lead to meaningful relationships. As a result, they shun bonded attachments and reject the prospect of serious long-term relationships.
Results from the Contrast Study
A separate study was undertaken to demonstrate whether the same research methods used on the West Coast of the United States yielded similar results on the East Coast. To that end, a focus group was held with four young adult attendees at the 2007 Mensa Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama.
Forty themes arose from the transcript of that discussion. When those themes were examined from a grounded theory perspective, four theoretical coding categories emerged. These categories related to how romantic relationships were impacted by globalized economic and sociocultural change. Each of these four theoretical coding categories will be examined below. That will be followed by the grounded theory that emerged from them.
Four Emergent Theoretical Categories
Modern Romance Issues
The participants in the contrast study noted that romantic relationships in their social world have no agreed upon guidelines, timelines, or milestones. They said the lack guidelines created the need for functional, cross-gender communication skills. It also led the participants to believe that meaningful serious relationships in a modern age require emotional maturity. These beliefs, they reported, has caused their peers to set the bar quite high for serious romantic relationships and marriage.
The participants also reported that the lack of generation guidelines for romantic relationships has led to a subgroup of their peers to avoid intimacy altogether. For them, the bar for relationships is quite low, based on mostly on companionate drinking and on sexuality with no strings attached.
A major concern of the participants was the belief that traditional romantic relationships of their parents’ generation did not always allow for genuine emotional growth. They said that the pomp and circumstances and formulaic thinking surrounding marriage can hinder partners from developing their relational skills. Despite this focus on functional relationships, the participants noted that one’s romantic relationships should not interfere with following one’s passion and focusing on one’s own personal development.
Modern Friendships Issues
In the participants’ social world, friends turn to each other when under stress, when making important decisions, for romantic and sexual relationships advice, and for shared activities, including simply having fun. In doing this, friends help friends discover a meaningful reality within a society in transition, where isolation, loneliness, and depression are a common by product of rapid social-economic change.
Friends often have deeper ties of trust with each other than with their romantic partners. The key issue here may be that friends are able to support and accept each other’s emotional development over time, while people bonded simply by a passionate romantic tie may not be able to make such adjustments and provide support for developmental change. It follows that the participants said that an serious long-term romantic partner would have to be accepted by one’s friendship group.
Friendship groups form, the participants reported, around shared principles, which is the glue that holds friendship networks together. While divergent value systems are broadly tolerated across the macrocosm of the young urban single adult population (Arnett, 2004), this sharing of similar moral perspectives was seen as the motivator for collections of young adults to gravitate together into a particular friendship group in the microcosm. In contrast to their own circles, the participants noted that some friendship groups are simply social drinking and hookup networks, where emotional intimacy among friends fully never develops.
Modern Marriage Issues
The participants reported that the general acceptance of cohabitation, single parenting, and childbearing outside of marriage restrained young adults’ interest in marriage as a relational, institutional, and legal entity. They said that these issues had changed young adults’ options and made the traditional milestones of their parents’ generation outdated.
In today’s complex world, marriage required emotional maturity, continued personal development, and the maintenance of an I-ness sense of self, in contrast to a we-ness couple identity. It follows that the participants did not expect to have marital partners who would be emotionally dependent on them. Partners without a strong sense of self cannot sufficiently communicate their needs and desires, and therefore, effective communication within couples breaks down.
The participants also noted that a sound marriage requires intimate sharing in a supportive and positively-balanced relationship, with partners who had reached a minimum level of emotional maturity. They said further that a romantic friendship affiliation within marriage allowed for a deep level of commitment, where partners support each other’s personal development and spiritual growth.
Interestingly, the participants noted that a subgroup of their peers has no interest in these issues surrounding marriage. Young adults in this group act like their singlehood world will keep them socially afloat indefinitely, thereby precluding the need for future serious romantic relationships.
Modern Society in Transition
They said that there were few barriers to cross-gender communication among their peers. The discussion among their peers of gender issues had started at an early age, sometime in late grade school or early middle school. Upon reaching young adulthood, the old standard of gender rivalry had been replaced by one of gender equality. In these circumstances, male expression of emotional feelings was simply a given, as was female discussion of sexuality.
The participants noted, however, that some young adults are not adept at successfully coping in this postmodern social environment. People without friendship support networks can become isolated and invest unduly in maintaining online personas and fictionalized identities that become more important to them than face-to-face social activities.
It was also noted that a sizable minority of young adults, perhaps 25%, simply were not interested in intimate romantic relationships. Rather, they sought non-committed sexual encounters that are often of a one-time nature. This group was characterized as having a proclivity for socializing in bars and being unconcerned about meaningful relationships. It was posited by the participants that this avoidance of attachment between partners is one way of coping with the transitive and ambiguous nature of postmodern love. The resultant emotional distance between partners was seen as a method of avoiding emotional pain.
Avoidance of attachment contrasts with the participants’ general coping strategy of developing intimate social skills within a friendship network and applying those skills to their romantic relationships. In that context, romantic relationships are then seen as learning experiences in which individuals can discover what will be important to them in future long-term, serious relationships.
Theory of Bifurcated Postmodern Romantic Relationships
The results of this study endorse a theory of bifurcated romantic relationships, where young urban mobile single adults, facing constant sociocultural change, choose between two general styles of romantic partnering: constructive intimacy or attachment avoidance. This is done in order to cope with the reality that there are no established peer group guidelines for postmodern love. These two styles of partnering commonly find support in friendship circles, where similar morals bind young adults together to either practice intimate cross-gender communication skills or to avoid emotional attachment altogether.
In the present study, we created a grounded theory that conceptualizes the tentative and uncertain nature of young urban mobile single adult [YUMS] romantic relationships. In making this conceptualization, we provided a theoretical foundation for interpreting the ambivalent feelings many young adults have regarding serious romantic relationships and marriage (Jaison & Ganong, 2011). We also discovered two generational coping strategies for dealing with the tentative nature of postmodern love.
Thetheory of uncertainty and ambivalence in young adult romantic relationships explains how relationship uncertainty arises from constant sociocultural change. Constant change has left young adults, between ages 18 and 30, without any guidelines that regulate romantic relationships. This creates a peer group sense of ambivalence toward serious romantic relationships and marriage. This type of social uncertainty, as an influence on romantic relationships, stands in contrast to the current body of literature that mostly focuses on the uncertainty that arises between partners who are already in relationships.
With the contrast study, we demonstrated that the sense of uncertainty concerning serious romantic relationships is similar on the West and East Coasts of the United States. On both coasts, young adult relationships are impacted by technological innovations, a globalized job market, increased mobility, female economic and sexual empowerment, and a shift in gender roles, as well as by the deinstitutionalization of marriage.
Our conceptualization of the uncertain nature of postmodern young adult romance was supported by several key themes that emerged from our conversations with the research participants. The participants reported that romantic relationships were seen as non-committed learning experiences that did not necessarily lead to marriage. Consequently, they often relied on their friends to provide that emotional support which has been traditionally given by spouses and the nuclear family. They also reported that casual sexual relationships were generally accepted without the encumbrances of moral judgments. At the same time, in-love passionate bonds were not seen as enduring or stable enough to support long-term romantic relationships and marriage.
It followed that the participants endorsed a cautious style of romantic attachment in a situation where the bar for marriage was set quite high. In this atmosphere, traditional gender roles were in a state of flux, as young women actualized their new economic and sexual empowerment. Adjusting to these circumstances, men and women showed no apparent differences between abilities or willingness to communicate about romantic and sexual issues. The research participants perceived these attitudes and behaviors to be a part of a generational response to the socioeconomic structural changes that are taking place worldwide.
These findings demonstrate how changes in the socioeconomic structure have pushed a substantial segment of American young adults into identifying with the postmodern era. Within this segment of the young adult population, romantic relationships are not defined as taking place on a set timeline or with any agreed upon expectations (Arnett, 2004). Rather, relationships are individually-negotiated, tenuous arrangements, often conceptualized in terms of time, distance, place, and convenience. The participants did not expect the uncertainty inherent in these arrangements to resolve before they obtain full adult statuses at approximately age 30.
It was significant that the participants had ambivalent feelings not just about long-term relationships but also about each step of the traditional partnering sequence. That sequence is commonly considered to have five steps: dating, falling in love, making a commitment, marrying, and having children. The female research participants said that this leaves out the parts about discovering one’s sexual and economic potentials, two tasks the must be accomplished before they settle down with a permanent partner. Both men and women said these five steps of traditional partnering seemed more appropriate for people who were aged 30 and older.
All the participants agreed that commitment is something that must wait until they have attained full adulthood statuses and are performing associated adult roles. Meanwhile, they said they live in relationship limbo on the edge of full adulthood, where making commitments to relationships, as well as to adult roles, is a slow, cautious, cognitive-oriented process.
The underlying structural issue here is that socioeconomic change has been taking place for the participants’ entire lives. So they have watched as the rules that guided relationships for their parents’ generation lost their relevance in the swirl of postmodern cultural change. In the process, they became aware of the lack of role models, who displayed functional behaviors concerning romantic partnering, which were appropriate for their evolving sociocultural niche.
The research participants believed their peers had successfully adapted to this situation by acknowledging and accepting the uncertainty inherent to this stage of their lives. They would have liked to have guidelines for romance to replace the traditional ones that were viewed as dysfunctional, but they were not overwhelmed by the lack of them. In the meantime, they accepted the fact that the development of emotional maturity must precede the development of the ties that bind romantic partners into long-term relationships. They said that not all of their peers felt this way and that, in fact, there were two different coping styles for dealing with the tenuous relationships inherent to young adulthood.
One relationship coping strategy is to work at improving intimate cross-gender communication skills within the context of friendship networks. With the help of friends, romantic relationships are seen as learning experiences, rather than win-lose experiences, should two partners split up. The object here is to prepare oneself for the art of emotionally mature communication for that time, around age 30, when a serious, long-term relationship can be established. The participants believed that at least half of their peers have adopted this coping strategy.
The other coping strategy is to avoid intimacy altogether. The young adults who adopt this strategy were said to foresee futures where they would be single and not engaged in serious romantic relationships whatsoever. Instead, they envisioned cross-gender relationships in terms of companionate drinking and sexual escapades. The research participants guessed that between 20-25% of their peers use this coping strategy to deal with the uncertainty surrounding postmodern love.
This bifurcation of romantic relationship coping strategies divides young adults into two categories: those who are working at improving intimate cross-gender communications and those who avoid them. It would seem that this general division of postmodern youth needs to be taken into consideration when setting up future studies concerning young adult relationships.
In conceptualizing the tentative situation of postmodern young adult romantic relationships, we believe we have added to the literature concerning young adult romantic relationships. In doing this, we have offered a new template for comprehending young adult behaviors and attitudes. While the traditional template frames marriage as the goal of young adult dating activities, our template frames romantic relationships within the postmodern reality of constant change (Beronsky, 2005; Rosa, 2007). Within that framework, a prime developmental task for young adults is to generate positive coping strategies to deal with their feelings of ambivalence regarding serious, long-term romantic relationships.
Our findings stand in distinction to the research studies that frame commitment to meaningful relationships as a normative prospect that is achievable for young adults under age 30 (for example, see Levitt et al., 2006) . Contrary to that traditional framework, our participants believed that establishing a meaningful, long-term romantic partnership before age 30 is very difficult. They could cite only a few cases among their peers where especially-mature couples had accomplished it.
During the course of the current study, the participants disclosed that they were strongly aware of how the young adult life course developmental tasks are changing from generation to generation. They were also aware of how their peer group conceptualization of these tasks influences how individuals experience themselves and form an identity within the evolving postmodern social reality.
For example, they told how young adult identity rumination starts to end at age 26. That is when the process of commitment to life course options begins to solidify and a full adult identity begins to coalesce. They said that before age 26, however, it generally is not clear where their life course choices are going to lead them. This idea of late-young-adulthood identity coalescence is being studied by other researchers (see for example, Luyckx, Schwartz, & Goossens, 2008), and we hope our contribution will further the advancement of that body of literature.
Development and identity theorists have, of course, been trying to come to grips with these sorts of postmodern issues for more than a decade (Arnett, 2000). The focus of their work has been on the large variety of life course choices available in the postindustrial environment. They have also focused on how long and complex a process it is to establish a full adult identity in a globalized technocracy. The elongated period of time wherein adolescents move forward and commit to adult roles has been called emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000). Arnett (2004) postulated that during this extended sojourn between adolescence and full adulthood many young adults live in a state of identity moratorium (Erikson, 1968; Marcia, 1968).
We did not find evidence that any of the participants were experiencing a classic identity moratorium. Yet, in one sense, there was a readiness to want to make life choices and an unwillingness to commit to any one option prematurely. But on the other hand, the participants in the research study all appeared to have a strong sense of self. All were committed in various ways in working toward achieving full adulthood statuses.
If we were to describe what we did not see, however, Erikson’s identity diffusion probably fits. In this case, the participants reported how 20-25% of their peers were comfortable with acting like adolescents, without being concerned about making adult commitments. This subgroup of YUMS appears to have stepped away from working on developmentally-appropriate young adult tasks that would allow them to reach full adulthood statuses.
To combine what we saw along with what the participants reported, it seems to us that emerging adulthood extends adolescence up to age 26. That is when commitment to careers was supposed to take place. This is a natural outcome of the world of work becoming more complex, where a living wage is hard to achieve before age 30.
This reminds us of the fact that the concept of adolescence was only invented at the beginning of the last century (see Hall,1904). That was when universal schooling started and the process of childhood discovery was extended through the teenage years. Today, with adolescence now being extended by the demands of a complex world, 26 is the new 18. That is when, according to the participants, you must attempt to take responsibility for your life, whether you are ready or not.
Moving beyond how our finding relate to psychological theory, we would like to note that the Atlas.ti computer software program (Scientific Software Development, 2007) assisted us is significant ways in building a grounded theory. Most importantly, it allowed us to construct aggregated themes across interviews. Also, the convenience of having all the interview transcript quotations available, directly linked to the codes from which they arose, as well as to the related memos involved in the theory building process, expanded our ability to comprehend the underlying assumptions of what was actually be discussed.
In small, interview-based studies, a question generally arises concerning the sample size. The total number of research participants, 16, cannot begin to represent the entire YUMS population. In fact, the research participants even said so, noting that people from rural backgrounds and certain ethnic and religious groups do not live in the same sociocultural niche as they do. With the contrast study, we demonstrated, however, that young urban adults from the Southern and Eastern United States appear to hold to the same peer group epistemological understandings as our West Coast participants.
In the contrast study, we also showed that a group of young adults purposely selected to have intellectual abilities at or above the 98th percentile would likewise hold to similar understandings as the participants who were selected simply by convenience sampling. Thus, it appears that in an incremental fashion we have demonstrated the transferability of our findings.
It must be added, however, that the all the participants were self-selective in that they each seemed to be interested in being part of a project that they hoped would help their cohort establish new guidelines for romantic relationships. The research participants also appeared to all have high social and career expectations. It might be said, then, that young adults with average social and economic expectations were not represented in this study.
It follows that we acknowledge that the young adult sociocultural landscape is not homogenous. Some young adults go to work right out of high school, fall in love, and get married in the traditional fashion. They may understand some of the frustrations voiced by our research participants concerning the uncertainty of romantic relationships. But they probably do not have the same ambivalent feelings concerning long-term relationships and marriage.
It follows that the ultimate transferability of this research cannot be demonstrated by us but must be demonstrated by other researchers. They will either find the information useful or they will not (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). What is important is that the findings represent a conceptualization that explains the research participants underlying motivations as best as was possible in light of our competence as researchers at the time that the study took place (Glaser, 2001).
Six Emergent Theoretical Categories
[Click on the figures to enlarge them]
Figure 1. Romantic relationship issues. The combined themes point towards a non-committed, learning-oriented style of romantic relationships.
Figure 2. Modern friendship issues. The combined themes suggest that friendship networks are the primary means of the participants’ emotional and affiliative support.
Figure 3. Modern sexual issues. The combined themes suggest that sexual exploration occurs within an environment of relaxed timelines, where competing options are consider.
Figure 4. Modern marriage issues. The combined themes suggest that marriage is deemphasized, but not devalued, because of changed timelines and partner expectations.
Figure 5. Modern romantic attachment issues. The themes related to romantic attachment point towards cognitive evaluation when making bonding choices, as well as cautious commitment.
6. Modern identity issues. The combined themes related to identity suggest take-charge and self-defined characteristics support a negotiated style of romantic relationships.
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Are you trying to get your man to change his behaviors? Let’s say, change those things that grate on your nerves, embarrass you, or just seem plain stupid?
Lots of women are in your position. But psychologists warn that it’s very difficult for anyone to get their lover to change unless their lover really, really wants to change. That’s why it’s important to look at at the major mistakes you might make in your reasoning when you start thinking you can get him to change:
● He’ll change for you just because he is in crazy in love with you. The problem here in your thinking is that it links together two unrelated behaviors: a) falling for someone and b) changing for someone. The first behavior—falling in love—that’s easy. It just happens. On the other hand, changing an ingrained love style takes a realistic goal, a good plan, and a lot of hard work. And just because you two are in love doesn’t mean he’s going to rewire his brain for you—regardless of what he says—not unless he has been meaning to make that change already.
For the full article on the seven mistakes women make trying to change their men, click here.
You might have asked yourself if there is a scientific way to figure out whether you should go or whether you should stay in your current romantic relationship. The answer is yes. The Romantic Relationship “Should I Go or Should I Stay?” Check List is based on new discoveries about how our biological systems create all the different feelings that hold our relationships together. To see the check list, or copy and use it, click here.
The research shows that there are nine common mistakes people make when they remarry. For instance, it’s easy to have a rebound love affair to put your last relationship out of your mind. But that doesn’t fix the underlying problem concerning you and your ex-partner’s lack of functional relationship skills–which caused your relationship to tank. Remember, you have to learn from your last relationship in order for the next one to be meaningful and fulfilling.
I discuss this and 8 other issues concerning remarriage in the article Crazy Love – Should I Get Married Again? – Check List. You’ll be surprised at how much it will help you if you are facing a decision about whether to get married again. Be sure to view the video interview with Pat Bubash, author of Successful Second Marriages. She takes you into the lives of couples who have achieved great second marriages and lets them show you how that have done it.
With all the media attention being focused on the politics of the moment, most analysts have overlooked one of the most defining characteristics of the Obama presidency: His marriage. Yet even the casual observer cannot help but notice the Obamas’ friends-and-lovers-too relationship. That’s the image they project whenever they are in public together.
Certainly if you are under forty years old, and you saw the Minnesota hand bump, you took it as a sign of two best buddies celebrating. We have to look deeper, however, into the American psyche to understand why people see the Barak and Michelle Obama as role modeling the ideal American marriage.
People identify with the Obama marriage because lovers, who are best friends, are the type of couple that we admire most. So we notice that the Obamas are relaxed and spontaneous when they are in the public eye. And we acknowledge that they actually are having fun together despite the demands of their positions as president and first lady. Americans also realize that they share similar goals, including raising their children in a nurturing environment. Yet their relationship goes much deeper than what we see in the video clips.
On the night that Barack and his team of advisors decided to make the run for the presidency, Michelle was there as Barack’s supportive best friend. She knew him so well that she interrupted the politicking and asked him right in front of everyone what he hoped to achieve by making a run for the White House. That forced Barack to cut to the chase.
The future president pondered the thought for a moment, and then he said he wanted to make America a place where every child could fulfill his or her dream. As an afterthought, he added that every child in the world should have a similar opportunity. After hearing that, no one in the room could back out or back down. And the race was on. The team had discovered its mission with the help of Michelle Obama, who had prodded Barack—her best friend—to either get it on or get over it–the idea of running for president. This is just one of many examples of how the Obamas’ friendship relationship works in uncanny ways.
In their pressure-cooker world, their combined social and verbal skills help them discover a shared purpose, founded on shared values. This doubles their power to make good decisions in their domestic and public life, as well as with their careers. It also gives them a common ground on which their romantic relationship is played out.
• Mutual trust and cooperation
• Emotional honesty
• Encouragement for expressing one’s true feelings
• An active listening processes where they hear each other out
• Support for each other’s goals and emotional growth
• A collaborative helping process whereby they solve problems together
• A sense of equity that both partners really matter
• Mutual affirmation and self-validation
• Common concern and care for their children
• Supportive mutual friends
• Celebrating their successes together
That is an unusual list of qualities for a romantic relationship. Yet it shows the kinds of attributes that it takes to support a low-stress romance when you have a high-performance career.
Some people find the Obama marriage easy to imagine. Others see it as a long-term solution to the problems that they keep repeating over and over, ad infinitum, in their relationships. But if you’re under twenty-six years old and single, you might be moving too fast to imagine being friends with your lovers. Or, if you’ve loved and lost, and are bitter about it, you might be put off by other’s successes. Still, there is a lot you can learn from the example they set.
Barack and Michelle Obama show what is possible to achieve in a romantic relationship. And just because they are rich and famous, you should not take the stand that you couldn’t do it too. You can have a relationship like the Obama marriage if you work on developing certain relationship skills.
To have a relationship where you are friends with your lover, follow these guidelines:
• Look at your current and past relationships as learning experiences
• Treat your partner like you would like to be treated
• Don’t hold grudges and don’t keep a list of your partner’s faults
• If you get angry with your partner, let it go after you cool down
• Learn to feel confident and relaxed around your lover
• If there’s a problem, talk it over and try to find a solution together
• Be honest with your partner or else admit that you are with the wrong person or are not ready for a mature relationship
• Stay away from potential partners whom you do not trust
• Realize that crazy love passes and transforms in to reward love or it fades away completely
• Understand that true love means feeling rewarded to be around your partner
• Realize that you might meet the perfect person yet not be ready for developing the perfect relationship
• Stop searching for ‘the One’ and start learning intimate communication skills
• Realize that sex and love are only half of a great relationship and that you’ll eventually get tired of your partner if you are not friends
• Realize that feeling like family with your lover is one of life’s most rewarding experiences
• Know that you can’t expect your partner to change just because you demand it
• Get married to celebrate a great relationship, not because you feel obligated
These relationship understandings are not that hard to learn if you work on one of them at a time. Remember, you have to move at your own speed in developing a meaningful, exciting, best-buddies partnership. Above all, you have to realize that the hardest part of achieving a friends-and-lovers-too relationship is taking the first step and truly believing that you can do it. If you believe in it, you’ll see over time that you’ll attract partners who believe in being best friends with their lovers just like you.
-Dr Billy Kidd
In an interview with Dr. Billy Kidd, author Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill explained what it takes to make your marriage exciting and meaningful.
BK: In your book, you said a couple has to have a sense of a team spirit to have a great marriage. How can a couple discover that? Or is team spirit something that comes instinctively?
SO: Team spirit is something that develops as a couple comes together–though talking, dating, or living together. Without it, couples shouldn’t get married. There are, of course, different levels of a team spirit, and it can be crushed or shut down. When couples come to me, we have to get it up and going. It’s behind the reason they got married.
BK: You talk about how important it is for a couple to find an activity that both partners can do together. I mentioned this to Bruce Cadle, the Date Night Chef, and he said that a weekly shared meal, which becomes a ritual, adds meaning to a marriage.
SO: Right. But it’s not about trying to capture what you did before marriage. Rather, it’s something you share together. It doesn’t have to be a meal. It could be bowling. But if you know that even during the busiest week you are going to come together and do whatever it is that you do–that’s what adds meaning to a marriage.
BK: Do partners have to be great friends to have a great marriage?
SO: You should hope that you are able to treat your spouse nicer than anyone else in the world. And your spouse should be someone you share everything with, and should keep your secrets.
BK: Right, and as your best friend, there are things that only your husband knows.
BK: You talk about couples having their own time and method of making a daily connection. Do you work with young adults who connect daily by text messages, and how does that work for them?
SO: I’m seeing more and more of that. And my concern is what does it do to you if you feel you can never get away, never be on your own? I also see young women who say they are in love, or dating, or feel that they will marry someone, but they are annoyed that this person is staying in touch mostly by text messages. The women feel they are losing–or simply don’t have–a special connection to the man.
BK: Right, the out-of-touch-feeling. You also say in your book that it is important for a couple to celebrate their successes. Why is that?
SO: In my work with couples, I have come to see it as a highly motivating behavior. It really keeps things going in the relationship.
BK: You also said that “A good marriage is about new dreams. Things cannot stay the same; you must be able to change.” Do people understand that when they get married?
SO: When you’re young and get married, and you have all your dreams and hopes in front of you, you don’t see the bigger picture. But you learn, hopefully, to do a lot of creative brainstorming together as things in your relationship change. That’s because you can get stuck in a marriage. You might come into it thinking, “I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom,” and ten years down the road see that it isn’t good for you.
BK: So you teach creative brainstorming?
SO: Yes, how to put everything on the table. Not shutting down each other’s ideas. And also knowing that the one thing we can count on in life is that things will change.
BK: You talk about the toughest time is when your partner hates you, but if you hang in there you’ll work through it. How do people work though hating each other?
SO: I know that hate is a strong word, but I think it happens in many relationships. You just can’t live with someone for a long time without going through something like that. So what I was thinking when I used the word hate in my book was that people need to acknowledge that something could happen. Things don’t stay the same. When couples come into my office, I try to get them off that hate-each-other track. I say, “Let’s forget that you hate each other. We all hate our spouses, at times. That’s fine. But have some faith, and let’s look at some of the things going on in your relationship.”
BK: You also mentioned that touching is an aphrodisiac. I’m curious how you figured that out. The research shows it, but I haven’t seen any popular writers put it that way.
SO: Yes, but touching is different than having sex. It’s not an aphrodisiac everyday, of course, but it can lead to it. If you can count on it happening every day, a certain type of hug, or sitting on the couch together, by the end of that week, you might be more up for sex.
BK: What is interesting about this is that we have this stereotype that was handed to us by other generations that women want to cuddle and men don’t. But–this is unreal what the research shows–cuddling increases testosterone levels in both men and women, and raising testosterones increases the ability to get sexually aroused and have orgasm for everybody. Just cuddling!
BK: You’re welcome. On another subject, the age of first marriage is advancing, almost up to age 28 for men. And more people are not getting married despite the fact that they believe in it. They say they cannot afford it, so they are putting it off later and later. Do you see the effects of this new economy, this recession–how it is affecting marriage?
SO: The biggest trend that I have seen–and I did an interview on it for an article in the New York Times last year–is that people are coming to me who would have gotten divorced because they are ready to leave. But because their finances are difficult, they haven’t even been able to figure out a way for one of them to move out and have a separation. So they come to me saying, “How can we learn to live together in the same house when we cannot afford to live separately?”
BK: Right, I’ve heard that. I wanted to sum up be asking, what is your short take on how to create a great marriage? You know, for somebody just starting out.
SO: First of all you need to be honest with each other, so you can get to know each other better. And your goal would be to come together in your marriage with simple daily behaviors that you can count on from each other. These will give you a shoulder to lean on when things get tough. Part of the theme of my book is that the feeling of the trust, the feeling of security, of having this person you can count on–all of these things that do not seem important in themselves–if you figure out how to do a few of these behaviors, day in and day out, you can’t go wrong.
BK: That’s great. I’ll stay in touch. Thanks for your ideas on having a great marriage.
SO: You most welcome. It was great to be interviewed with someone like yourself. Keep up all your good work.
Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., is the author of A Short Guide To A Happy Marriage. This transcript was edited for brevity.
In a Mindy McCready song, her date has her body screaming ‘Let’s get it on!’ while her mind is saying ‘I don’t think so.’
Any woman who has been in this situation might have guilt tripped herself about the decision she made. But she shouldn’t have. Scientists have discovered that women’s YES/NO sex debates stem from the very core of their biological processes. It is not something women simply conjure up in their minds. In fact, studies show that it is common for a woman to feel the maybe-yes/maybe-no debate up to 20% of the times she feels sexually aroused.
To better understand the YES/NO Sex Debate, let’s compare the differences between the way women and men get turned on:
• Women Evaluate a Sexual Situation on Two Different Levels. This creates two different takes on the situation: the physical and the emotional. These two perspectives arise from two semi-independent biological processes. So it’s natural that, on occasion, a woman will have conflicting feelings about sex. Her physical feelings of arousal just don’t match her emotional feelings. In certain situations, a woman may be focusing on the emotional content so intently that she may not even notice she that is physically aroused.
• Men Have Fewer Conflicting Feelings About Sex. Men’s emotional responses are often more closely aligned with their physical responses. That means that a man generally has a hard time arguing against his erection. Men, of course, are aware of the emotional aspects of sexual relations. But they do not monitor the difference between their emotional and physical feelings as closely as women do.
• Women’s Feelings of Physical Togetherness. Women generally get caught up in the whole act of two bodies being entwined, getting it on. During sexual relations, women are aware of how they are physically positioned and what is happening to them. This means that a woman’s experience is considerably affected by her partner’s movements, actions, and sense of engagement. This is why her feelings of sexual arousal often reflects the overall toss, turn, and tumble of both bodies going at it together.
• Men Are Turned On By Bodies and Faces. In contrast to women, men generally do not focus so much on the sexual activity itself. Rather, they focus more on a woman’s body and face, and how that rattles their genitals. Also, a man’s awareness is more self-focused when compared to a woman’s. This may give off the impression that men need to take charge of the sexual activity–as if testosterone propels them to be sexually aggressive. But sexual aggressiveness is not related to testosterone levels whatsoever. Rather, aggressiveness is a product of a man’s values and his life experiences, not some innate compulsion to nail down everything that’s around him.
• Women’s Conditional Feelings of Excitement. Women’s emotional urges to have sex are generally dependent on the situation that she finds herself in. It’s normal for a woman to be thinking: “Is it safe, secure, non-hostile, interesting, or just plain cool?” The relationship itself also matters to a woman. This is why women are concerned about men being friendly, helping, and cooperative partners. These things tend to make sex an intimate emotional act that takes place with a particular partner. Sex is generally personalized, in other words, unless a woman suppresses these emotions so she can have the sexual experience without any feelings of attachment.
• Men’s Limited Emotional Engagement. Men get emotionally involved when their in-love and family-feeling buttons get pressed. Sometimes a man isn’t aware of his emotional involvement in a sexual relationship until after the fact. Men, like women, are hit with bonding hormones when they reach orgasm. That makes them want to be with their partners. But some men have been raised to suppress those feelings.
• Sexual Arousal is Only Half the Ballgame. Sexual relationships don’t take place in a relationship vacuum–unless you and your partner are working hard at having no strings attached. Sometimes, of course, no-strings-attached does not work out that way, and a person feels lousy afterwards. That’s because you slip and get emotionally involved and maybe guilt-trip yourself over it. That happens because there are five relationship feelings that can engage when you are being intimate with a partner: the sexual feeling, the in-love feeling, feelings of friendship, the feeling of being a couple, and the feeling of wanting to help each other out. This is why, from a biological standpoint, sex doesn’t always happen in an emotional black out.
• Dealing with YES-NO Sexual Cues. A woman cannot simply change who she is to accommodate a man’s sexual interests. And she shouldn’t have to. When a woman is feeling the Yes-No debate, she is not ready for sex. She needs time and her own space to understand what she is feeling. While she cannot argue with a man’s erection, she can talk around it. So switching the topic and simply moving on to some other activity is her best recourse for the moment. A man who isn’t obsessed like an addict about sex should be able to move forward with her.
• Machismo and Sex Addictions. Some men refuse to listen when a woman signals she’s not interested in having sex. They will badger and harass because they want a quick sex fix to escape their feelings of frustration, anger, and powerlessness. Or, they enjoy exploiting and hurting women, and feel entitled to do so. For them, sex is not about the woman at all–it’s about the expression of male power and the use of force. Today, the majority of young men are not trained to think this sort of macho behavior is normal the way some of their fathers did. And most women won’t tolerate it.
As we look at how men and women get turned on sexually, the bottom line, here, is that men and women reach orgasm on somewhat different pathways. Women, more so than men, have a Yes/No debate going on in their minds before they consent to sex. That reflects, in part, nature’s safety value that allows women to think before they act. But once it’s over, men and women end up at the same place. Their bodies and souls interpret orgasm the same way.
So remember, people respond sexually the way they do because it’s just who they are. The only time you need to work on trying to respond differently is where you’re not satisfied with your sex life or when you are in the habit of getting in another person’s space when you are not invited.
If you want to learn more about sexual relationships, see my book, LOW STRESS ROMANCE. It’s available in paperback and Kindle formatting. If you want to talk to me about the information in this article, please contact me at www.billykidd.com and tell me your thoughts. All responses with be kept confidential.
Patricia Bubash, M.Ed., LPC, 1-27-11 § Some people say that the second divorce could not be as painful as the first one. But if they have never been through it, how would they know?
I talked to a lot of couples about this when I was researching my book, Successful Second Marriages. What I heard was a resounding, “It hurts!” They said that you need to learn from your first marriage, and then, hang in there in your second one until you get it right—not split up.
Our conversations were held in a variety of living rooms, kitchens, or family rooms. The degree of economic status of each home varied. But there was no difference in the degree of sincerity and commitment brought to the new relationship.
Without a doubt, they knew what worked and didn’t work the first time around. What they told me was that a little personal insight goes a long way. And accepting responsibility for your actions instantly improves the status of a marriage.
For instance, Derek and Colleen said, “Know what you contribute to the marriage, either positive or negatively.” Similarly, Max and Janet said, “Each of us has certain personality traits, good and bad behaviors, and expectations we have for our married life. Hopefully, you don’t think that you are perfect and your partner has all the faults.”
Similarly, Marcia suggested that the key to an improved marriage is not to let frustrations and anger build up: “In my first marriage, we did not talk about what was bothering us. We’d let it fester. My second husband, David, and I get whatever is bothering us out on the table for discussion. It could be as simple as a difference over a household expenditure or as serious as allowing his aging father to live with us. And whatever happens when you talk—don’t go to bed angry.”
David and Marcia were not alone in their advice to communicate emotions, annoyances, frustrations, discontent—whatever the problem—to your partner. So many people said that in their first marriage they had simply ignored their spouse’s signs of unhappiness. They foolishly thought the problem would resolve itself. Or they kept quiet about what was bothering them. So no one was working to resolve the issues.
The point here is that it is essential in any marriage that a couple learns how to express themselves to each other. The traditional rule that silence is golden does not apply to a happy marriage.
Paula knew this. She was determined that her second marriage would be one where she and her husband talked and shared whatever was on their minds—good or bad. She and her first husband had quit talking to each other long before the marriage was legally ended. She was convinced that her marriage with Steve would not be a repeat of the past. Before becoming Mr. and Mrs., she signed them up for membership with ACME.
That organization fosters marriage enrichment via a variety of activities. One activity is where couples gather in small groups and exhibit the sharing of positive communication techniques. Individual couples dialogue together, allowing their group members to observe, suggest, and encourage better communication.
A Licensed Professional Counselor, who is certified as a marriage and family therapist, gave me the bottom line on why second marriages fail. So many clients viewed the failure of their first marriage as not being their fault. It truly astounded her how these clients choose not to look back, gauge what went wrong, what role they played, what they really wanted in a marriage, and how much they were willing to give to married life?
As these second timers entered into another marriage they were no more insightful about the factors contributing to their divorce than when they married that first time! Their take on their divorce was simply this same old tired story that keeps the marriage-divorce cycle going: “I married the wrong person last time. This time my marriage will last forever because now I am marrying the right person.”
If you said that last time and this time, too, you can move toward a successful marriage by thinking of your partner being your best friend. Also, remember that you need quality time together to make a marriage work. You’ll also find yourselves enjoying lots of shared activities if you have a spiritual connectedness.
Having a common goal or activity is also vital to a second marriage. Whether it is planning a trip, starting a business, joining a couples’ bowling team, volunteering together, attending church, shared activities bring closeness, compatibility, and connectedness to a relationship.
The dynamics of planning for something and then accomplishing it together is different from the day-to-day activities of work, maintaining a home, parenting children, and paying the bills. Taking time out from the necessary things breathes freshness into marriage.
So plan together. For some it is an annual trip. For others it’s a date night, forming a card club, or taking dance lessons together. The point is to do something different and break out of the usual routine. It is also rewarding when you successfully plan for retirement together. Discussing travel plans, new hobbies, and where to live can be exciting.
Remember, accomplishing a goal as a couple is equivalent to being a team. As in a team, partners are working together, sharing ideas, decisions, thoughts, and the sense of together we can.
My book opens with the following old English proverb:
Marriage halves our grief
Doubles our joys, and
Quadruples our expenses
I believe the words of this adage speak to the positive side of having a soul mate, a partner, a husband, and a wife. Within a great marriage, we have a soul mate who supports us through grievous times, making the anguish seem less overwhelming. As a best friend, our partner delights in our joy, is glad for the pleasure we are feeling, and is pleased for our accomplishments.
If we are honest about our less than perfect self, support our partner when times are difficult, act like a best friend, set some goals as a couple, we will not only improve our marriage, but feel successful about the relationship we share with our partner.
Patricia Bubash received her M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Working with students and families has been her true calling for over thirty years. For more than twenty years she has presented workshops at the community college on a variety of topics relating to parenting issues, self-esteem, children, and divorce. Patricia is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and a Stephens Minister.
Patricia Bubash was interviewed about her book, Successful Second Marriages, on TV 4 – St. Louis. Further information can be found on her website: www.successfulsecondmarriages.com, by contacting her at email@example.com, or through her Facebook page. Also, you can tweet her on Twitter.
Bob Quinlan 1-21-11 § A lady once barked at me for opening her door, yelling, “I can open my own door!” This simple act of courtesy, and attempted chivalry, was not appreciated. Rather, it was condemned.
Believe me. I wasn’t trying to imply that she couldn’t open the door, that I was physically stronger, or that she didn’t deserve to make as much money as me for doing the same job. I was just trying to be nice but was emotionally slapped for being kind. Do you think what she did encouraged or discouraged this sort of civilized behavior?
Let me tell you, I was determined not to let this angry, insecure, or over-compensating woman deter me from being a gentleman. I still walk to the outside of the sidewalk when I’m with my wife. I still refer to her as My Queen. Our sons have learned to stand when a lady arrives at or leaves the table. These kindnesses are appreciated by M’ Lady. She enjoys the kindnesses I share and recognizes that they are not a matter of control or superiority, but of caring and showing appreciation for all of the kindnesses she gives. She rewards my gestures, which encourages me to repeat these behaviors.
Our society has changed dramatically. Perhaps much of the gender confusion stems from the fact that women are starting to become the kind of men that they used to want to marry. And maybe some women consider men to be expendable. After all, women are not being protected in the safety of their fortified castles, anymore, and most households have women working outside of the home.
I have written a book, Earn It: Empower Yourself for Love. It is quite different from other relationship books. That is because it uses basic business principles and terminology understood by both women and men—who are seen as equals in relationships as well as in business.
Yes, you read that right—men can understand romance! Sometimes we treat our clients and co-workers better than we treat our personal partners. But just as we cannot successfully take our clients’ business for granted we cannot take our loving relationships for granted and still be successful in love. Anything taken for granted, including love, is vulnerable.
The point is that you can have more love in your life—if you deserve to have more love in your life—and you can empower yourself to receive it. But just as you must earn your rewards in business, you must earn your rewards in your personal relationships. Obviously, the more you fill your customers’ needs, the more of their business you will receive. But sometimes we overlook the fact that the more you fill your loved one’s needs, the more of his or her love you will receive.
In Earn It: Empower Yourself for Love, I focus on three primary principles:
- Love is an investment from which you are entitled to receive a fair and reasonable return—no more, no less. When you invest the behaviors necessary to earn the rewards, you empower yourself.
- Once you demonstrate the necessary behaviors, you earn a return on your investment. This will make you more valuable to your partner and s/he will reward you, partly to motivate you to meet her or his future needs. This will encourage you to reinvest in your partner—actions he or she will find to be self-empowering.
- The quality of the reward will be directly related to the quality of the investment. If you give less, you are allowed to receive less in return. The more you give, the more you are permitted to receive. You empower your partnership.
Love is earned logically. List some one-word synonyms or components of love, such as acceptance or respect. Did you think of caring, affection, passion, or devotion? Aren’t each of these earned or unearned? Isn’t acceptance earned or unearned? Doesn’t unconditional respect even sound absurd? If each of the components of love can be earned or un-earned, then their collective sum, love, can also be earned or un-earned. Love is earned logically.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as unconditional love. It is a very nice goal that we can all strive to achieve. But do you know anybody who practices truly unconditional love without getting anything at all in return? Love is so deep and involved that it requires some kind of feedback, reward, or nourishment to continue. Love does not exist regardless of its circumstances. Love may lead to reciprocation, self-satisfaction, respect from others, good karma, or a place in heaven. Love is not humanly unconditional in the long term.
Unconditional love implies that love will happen unconditionally—regardless of any conditions. It suggests that you are completely powerless regarding love. You are not that vulnerable. Once you accept that you can influence your feelings, you empower yourself. You cannot control love, but you can motivate others to want to love you. Likewise, you can motivate others to love you less. Love can be enhanced or reduced; love can be earned or unearned.
The acceptance that there is no such thing as unconditional love is extremely empowering. Once you make love a priority in your life, you can choose to demonstrate behaviors to earn more love and its many rewards. Acknowledging this principle allows you to decide whether you get a little bit of love in your life or a lot of love in your life. The choice is yours.
Once upon a time, you earned your partner’s love and commitment. Selling him or her was the easier part. The real challenge is to repeatedly re-sell to your partner, service him or her properly, to confirm your partner’s decisions to stay involved with you.
So, ask yourself: What have you done lately to re-earn your partner’s love? How are you motivating him or her to want to meet your needs?
Which perspective do you honestly feel will bring more love into your life: a) There is unconditional love and I will be loved no matter what I do or don’t do, or b) there is no such thing as unconditional love. It is up to me to earn it.
The choice is yours. The question is: What will you do to earn it?
Bob Quinlan is the author of newly released (6/10) Earn It: Empower Yourself For Love. Nine years of providing psychiatric nursing, combined with twenty years of medical sales experience, demonstrated to Bob that there are many similarities between personal and professional relationships. Earn It uniquely uses basic business principles and terminology to provide a common understanding of relationships for women and men. If you want to learn to maximize your relationships at work and home, get the book!
Bruce Cadle, 1-26-11 § Soon after my wife Valerie and I got married I noticed something that was not good. We stopped dating. We dated every weekend prior to getting married. But once we got married—maybe since we saw each other daily—we stopped. I don’t think it was intentional. It just happened.
The reason I noticed wasn’t because my calendar was clear on weekend nights. I noticed because it seemed like our romance was different … dwindling. Things weren’t bad, rather, they seemed slightly strained, dry, forced.
Valerie still remembers the day I came to her and said I want a date night—a time for us to focus special romantic attention on each other. We didn’t have much money, so going out to dinner once a week was out of the question. We decided to have a nice romantic dinner by candlelight at home.
It was great! We relaxed, talked, laughed, just like we did while dating before marriage. That simple decision to start having a consistent date night made a huge difference in our relationship. As our communications deepened, our hearts connected and our romance revved up.
We’ve been married 35 years now, and date night is still our favorite night of the week. Years ago I decided I should cook on date nights to give Valerie a night off. I started developing my own recipes and gradually increased my cooking skills. I started taking elegant dishes and simplifying them so I could prepare a multi-course dinner without stressing out.
Even though our kids are grown and our finances have improved over the years, we still prefer having date night at home. We can take our time and relax. Sometimes we talk for hours over a leisurely meal.
We make date night a priority in our schedules and say no to anything else that arises on Friday nights. We look forward to date night all week long just like we did before we got married.
A couple of years ago I started posting our date night menus on Facebook every Friday afternoon. I got lots of requests for recipes and began sharing them so that other couples could learn how to have fun, fancy, and easy date nights at home. Someone who enjoyed my recipes suggested that I should do a date night TV show. Their suggestion led to me being a finalist in the 2010 Food Network/Youtube Next Food Network Star competition.
Second only to the enjoyment that I get from our weekly date night’s is the enjoyment I get from helping other couples establish a weekly date night too!
Bruce Cadle is the author of Party For Two – Fun, Fancy & Easy Romantic Recipes from The Date Night Chef. Available on Amazon.com.
Everyone knows there’s a dozen ways to leave your lover. But if you feel ambivalent or confused, how do you know if it’s really time to go? For people who have been in a relationship for at least a year, there’s an easy way to figure it out.
Copy and print the list of questions below. Study them and then mark a yes or a no in front of each one. The questions are derived from the science-based Love Code. Your answers will reveal how much you and your partner love each other and how much potential there is in your relationship. If you’ve been together for a long time, it will show you if you’re growing together or growing apart. Ready? Here goes:
- Do I think about my partner without getting angry, or jealous, and want to be with him or her whenever I’m not out doing my own thing?
- Does it feel like my partner thinks about me quite a bit without getting angry or jealous?
- Do I trust my partner?
- Do I feel rewarded just to be around my partner, and do I get excited sometimes just because my partner shows up on the scene?
- Are there times that my partner looks excited when we meet?
- Do I talk to my partner about my sexual needs, and does my partner generally get it?
- Does my partner try out new things when we are in bed?
- Am I satisfied when the sex is over?
- Does my partner seem to be content when we’re done having sex?
- Does it feel like my partner is one of my good friends?
- Am I on my partner’s A-list when he or she wants to get together with someone to kick back and relax?
- Do I discuss my relationship only with people I trust rather than complaining all over town about it?
- Does my partner come to me when there’s a problem between us rather than holding it inside?
- Do I just let it go after I get angry with my partner?
- Does my partner forgive my mistakes, rather than reminding me of them?
- Do I see conflict as differences between us, not something lacking in my partner’s character?
- Does my partner acknowledge sometimes that we disagree without attacking me personally for who I am?
- Do I discuss my personal problems with my partner?
- Does my partner share his or her problems with me?
- Do I kick back and relax after I talk about my day with my partner?
- Does my partner loosen up after talking about a stressful event with me?
- Do I enjoy helping my partner when he or she asks for it?
- Does my partner look like he or she enjoys helping me when I ask for it?
- Does it really matter to me if my partner succeeds in life?
- Does my partner want me to achieve my goals on the job, at work, and at home?
- Do I tell myself I’d do it all over again because it’s hard to imagine being without my partner?
OK, that’s it! Now, count up how many times that you answered yes. Then, use the interpretive scoreboard below to help you figure out what it means.
- 21 – 26 Great Relationship – Keep it!
- 17 – 20 OK Relationship – Try a little harder to discuss what’s going on.
- 12 – 16 Troubled Relationship – Counseling could make it work better.
- 7 – 11 Almost Over Relationship – Get ready for the breakup.
- 0 – 6 Dead Relationship – There’s nothing to lose by leaving.
There are, of course, other ways to interpret your score. If you are feeling upset after reading this article, call someone and talk things over. If you have children, think of their safety before you decide to pack up and leave. Whatever you do, remember that it takes two people to make a great relationship work. You cannot make your relationship exciting and meaningful all by yourself.
If you’re thinking about leaving your lover after reading this, here’s something to think about: You don’t have to put someone down in order to go. Just go.
If you need help with your relationship, or just don’t quite get what’s going on with this check list, Contact Dr Billy Kidd.
Professionals: You can use The Relationship – Should I Go or Should I Stay? – Check List in your practice if you credit your copies to Dr. Billy Kidd @ BlameBilly.com.
Spring fever is real. Sure, we think of it as a time for young people to cut loose on spring break. But we don’t realize there’s a whole lot of biological action taking place to motivate people to get it on when the sun comes out.
Part of it is about the sun and increased levels of vitamin D and how that raises testosterone levels in our bodies. The rest is about exploring the world—which gets people primed and ready for sex. Let’s look at the scientific facts behind spring fever so you’ll be ready … no matter how crazy it gets … when you hit the beach!
• Sunshine raises vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is generated when sunlight hits your skin. During winter, your vitamin D levels drop by 50% unless you take supplements. When you get out and hit the beach at the onset of spring, your vitamin D levels jump back up—especially if you’re in the semi-tropics like Cancun, Mexico, Hawaii, or Thailand.
• Vitamin D is Associated with Testosterone. When vitamin D goes up, so does your level of testosterone. This happens because vitamin D increases the production of testosterone in men’s and women’s sex organs. And that is what makes Spring fever come alive.
• Testosterone is Necessary for Sexual Arousal in both Women and Men. It’s an urban myth that testosterone is strictly a male hormone. Women are dependent, too, on sufficient levels of testosterone in order to become physically aroused about sex. There is, in fact, a testosterone patch for women who just can’t get physically aroused about sex. Emotional arousal, of course, is different and related to another set of hormones and neurotransmitters.
• Exploring the World Increases Emotional Desire for Sex. When individuals get out and explore the world—like people do when spring fever hits—the willingness to engage in sex increases. That’s because exploring new things increase the neurotransmitters tied to the mental-emotional part of being hot to get it on. That mental-emotional part of sexual desire generally involves a debate about whether the time and place is right for sex. Exploring the world works to tune that out.
What this all amounts to is that spring fever is a biological Yes!Yes! reaction to hitting the beach: Yes—your body is getting aroused for sex. And Yes—your head says, “Why not?” to sexual encounters.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your relationship status is. Do yourself a favor. Take a spring break and hit the beach. Bring your lover or spouse, go with a friend, or jump on a plane and just arrive. Don’t ask why, just go do it! It’s great for your health—both emotionally and physically. And for your love life. Let the sunshine give it a tune up!
– Dr Billy Kidd
’By Dr. Karen Gail Lewis Some of us remember the movie Where The Boys Are. Or, maybe, just the popular theme song from it. The hook was that – back in the 60s and 70s – the girls wanted to be where the boys were.
Times have changed. Today, “the girls” want “the boys” to be where they are – emotionally. This isn’t an idle desire. Let’s look at how this change happened, as there is a lesson in it for all of us.
The women’s movement starting in the ‘70s led to considerable changes in women’s expectations for themselves – both professionally and personally. Women gathered together for support, in Conscious Raising groups in the early years, to make these changes.
Now, at the same time, men started their own movement. However, without the strength of the mutual support groups, after a spurt of a excitement, it lost steam. Check bookstore shelves and you’ll see women’s self-help books far out-number those for men. Women care about self-awareness and self-improvement. There are far fewer books for men. Talk with sales people and you’ll see that women buy most of the men’s books – hoping men will read them.
I have a funny story about this. Years ago in one of my men’s therapy groups, the members were talking about a new relationship book. Lonnie proudly said, “Tanya bought it for me; I keep it on my night stand – unread, but it’s there!”
Art smiled, “When Nance gave it to me, I put it under my pillow. I hope to absorb it while sleeping.” Everyone laughed – except it wasn’t really funny.
The problem here is that men mouth acceptance of women’s financial and emotional independence without understanding what these changes mean for them. Women are in an entirely different position.
Since women don’t need men to support them financially, and it’s no longer shameful to be single, women are freer to make choices based on what’s best for them. They want a man to carry his share of making the relationship work. They want a man to participate in balancing each of their needs. They want a man to share his feelings, to be empathic, and to show interest in their life, not just talk about himself.
Sarah, a mid-30 year old pediatrician, complains about the man she has been dating for 6 months, “I work real hard at making this work with Brendon. He doesn’t seem to appreciate my efforts – and he sure as hell doesn’t make any effort for me. If I can’t get him to respond more to me, then I don’t want to be with him. Yet, I’ve dated enough to know there aren’t that many men out there I even want to consider being with. I feel stuck – either put up with less than I want or be alone.”
This smacks too closely to the old message that women have been nursed on: Don’t be so fussy. Don’t be so choosy.
Marilyn, on the other hand, takes a different perspective. She just turned 40. “In my 20s and 30s, I did all the things I was suppose to do – the on-lines, the blind dates, the bars; I joined groups hoping to meet men with mutual interests. Oh, I got dates, alright. But, I always came home horribly depressed. I don’t know why it took me so long to see how I was making myself miserable. So, yeah, I’ll probably remain single, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be an ‘old maid.’ It means I won’t be abusing myself and my self-esteem with men who aren’t worthy of being with me.”
Women really don’t have many choices. In fact, in my research for With or Without A Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives, I learned when asked if women were single by choice that about 50% said yes and 50% said no. The curious aspect, though, were the comments – which were identical: Both groups said they didn’t like their choices.
What annoys women about today’s men? Men haven’t grown in ways that make them ready for a healthy mutual relationship. So, rather than ask, “Where are the men?” the more accurate question for a woman to ask is, “Why aren’t men working as hard as women to make themselves emotionally ready for a good relationship?”
I have found that men’s relationship problems focus on either one of two things: a) men simply accept that their needs won’t get met and they feel unappreciated, or b) they leave – without a discussion. Too often, they do not look at their part in why a relationship is not going well. They don’t look for patterns from prior relationships to see what they can learn about themselves. Self-awareness is not a strong suit for too many men.
In my office, I seldom have men seek counseling because they are in a bad relationship or have had a string of them. They come when the woman they love drags them or threatens to leave if they won’t get therapy. Or, they come after she has already left and they are broken hearted.
This is not to say that all women do a great job at relationships. But, at least women talk about what they are doing, should have done, or could have done to make a relationship better.
For the most part, the biggest problem for women is not their self-reflection but their self-blame. Even though they know the man is not doing his part to sort out their troubles, they fall back on thinking, “It’s my fault.” By blaming themselves, though, they don’t have to face the reality that they alone can’t make a relationship go well. They need the man’s participation.
In one group of single women, Elaine shared a new insight I now call the Fix-It Solution. She said, “If the problem lies within you, you may view it as a personal failure, but at least you can tell yourself you have a chance to fix the problem. If it’s the man’s problem, there is nothing you can do about it. It’s out of your control.” Anna Beth counters, “Well, frankly, I’d rather think it’s my problem. Then I can do something about it.”
That is the dilemma for women – accept you can’t change a man or take the blame on yourself.
Women – Here are two ways to avoid the Fix-It Solution.
- Do your own personal growth work; understand your part in why relationships don’t work. Read self-help books, go to therapy, and talk with friends. See patterns from prior relationship and avoid repeating them.
- Learn the specific gender differences that may be contributing to your dissatisfaction. Learn them, and then … QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.
Men – Here are some suggestions to avoid hearing “What’s wrong with men?”
- Women like to be asked about themselves – and then have you listen when they respond, and then have you ask more about what they’ve just told you. This is to say that women like to have a back and forth conversation, not a question and answer session.
- The best aphrodisiac for women is talking about your feelings.
- When there is tension, as happens in all relationships, don’t ignore it and don’t disappear. There really is no such thing as avoiding conflict. There is only putting off dealing with it – when it’ll be much worse.
- Don’t just hold a book on relationships or put it under your pillow. Read it, and then most importantly, apply what you read.
Finally, for both men and women, learn to deal with tension and conflict in healthy, appropriate ways – ways that lead to resolution, with each of you feeling better about yourself and each other. It can and has to be done to have a satisfying relationship.
A good relationship takes work – with continual tweaking. So, whether it’s Low Stress Romance, by Dr. Billy Kidd, or my own Why Don’t You Understand? Gender Relationship Dictionary, or the myriad of books on dealing with conflict, as the old ad said, “Just do it!” Then, feature yourself in the new movie, Here’s Where the Men Are!
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis has been a marriage and family therapist for 39 years. She has authored numerous books and articles on relationships – for married couples, singles, and adult siblings. She also runs Unique Retreats For Women. She has offices in Washington, DC and Cincinnati, plus she offers phone consultations.
By Elliott Katz What’s happened to modern men? Why are women so frustrated with them? Why is it that when a man takes a woman out on a date he can’t even decide where to go for a cup of coffee? What is going on with men that causes women initiate most divorces?
Today’s man often thinks he’s being sensitive and non-controlling by letting a woman take the lead and make the decisions. He thinks he’s pleasing her. He doesn’t realize that to the woman, he is shirking his responsibility to show leadership and make decisions, and depriving her and their children of the leader and guide they expect from a man.
Single women have told me that when they marry a man they are trusting him with their lives and that they cannot trust their lives to a man who won’t show leadership and make decisions. One divorced woman said that if her husband of 38 years had understood these basic but crucial truths, her marriage would not have disintegrated.
Why do so many men not know that women want strong men?
Many men today grew up without strong male role models. They came from divorced families or their fathers worked long hours. At school most of their teachers were women and on television they saw men portrayed as incapable buffoons.
Here are Key Traits of Being a Strong Man:
When a man sees a situation that needs to be dealt with, he should step forward and handle it. People admire those who step forward to handle difficult situations – and don’t wait for others to solve the problem.
To avoid accusations of being controlling, a lot of men have gone to the other extreme – they leave most decisions to the woman. A man needs to make his share of decisions and take responsibility for the outcome. One of the meanings of the word “manly” is being decisive.
Take responsibility for improving the situation. Don’t blame others. There is little sympathy for a man who blames a woman – even when he thinks she pushed him into it. People will say, “You’re the man. Why did you let it go on?”
Here are Tips for Women on Encouraging Men to Take the Lead:
Let him decide
If he asks you to make a decision, say: “You decide.” Then don’t say anything else.
Ask him to handle it
Ask him to take charge of handling a problem, but don’t tell him what to do. If he asks, say: “If you’re not sure, do research. That’s what I do.” Avoid contradicting him unless what he wants to do is damaging.
Tell him he made a good decision and how you appreciate when he takes charge and handles a problem. If he made a mistake, tell him what you learned from it.
Elliott Katz is the author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, which is being translated into 21 languages in Europe, Asia and Latin America. When he discusses these ideas with women, they often ask how can they get their husbands, boyfriends and sons to read the book. One woman said she would tell her husband—read it and she’s waiting for him in the bedroom in her negligee.
Do you recognize the need for men to be strong in your relationships? Please share your thoughts Bethestrongman@aol.com
By Dr. Cornelia Gibson Believe it or not, women—well, most of us, or let’s say, some of us—would not mind submitting to the man in our life. What we are really afraid of is the man abusing that power or leading us down a dead end street. The expression “a happy wife, a happy life” is so true. We would give anything to the man in our life if the giving was mutual. However, so often once the man is happy then that is the end of the giving.
Who’s intimidating who?
I would not necessarily say that men are intimidated by us successful women. Rather, I would say that men believe they have to do more, make more, and be more than us. In reality, we are not trying to change men. Surprise, surprise! But men start feeling they are valued less, while at the same time, feeling pressure to do more. However, I have secretly been told that the pressure comes from within themselves and from their friends. When a man is comfortable with who he is and what he is—and I might add, whose he is—then the intimidation factor does not come in to play. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
I have personal experience with a relationship in which he, the man of the house, felt pressure to do what I was doing. When I started to continue my education, so did he. He took two classes and dropped out. Both starting and stopping was his choice. I supported him and stood behind him in both of these decisions. His friends however taunted him in the beginning. They told him that he was just trying to keep up with me. Then these friends told him that he was going to lose me to someone more educated. I loved him for who he was, but he started believing all the idiotic outside influences. Let’s face it, he needed new friends. They were not very supportive. I have other examples about friendship, but you can only find them in my novel, Surviving Broken Promises. I know—I’m such a tease!
Questions and Answers
Q: Where are all the men?
A: That’s what we want to know.
Q: Are you intimidated by us?
A: We think not.
Q: Do you want us to slow down and be less than our full potential?
A: We won’t.
Q: You want us to submit?
A: We will if you’re worth it and you understand it’s a two-way street.
Q: Where are all the women?
A: Sitting at home because a man has not asked us out. However, some of us have no problem asking the man out, we just choose not because it’s easier that way.
Dr. Cornelia Gibson holds doctorate degrees in counseling psychology and education. She has written a fiction novel about relationship issues that both men and women have found interesting, funny, entertaining. It also has initiated many relationship debates.
Dr. Gibson’s ten-plus years of education taught her how to listen to both sides of a story and make both sides feel comfortable rather than attacked. Many of her male friends have told her that she is a good listener and that she doesn’t talk too much. She tells men, “Please don’t compare me with the women in your lives—humph—because with over $100,000 in student loans. I would hope I have learned something useful, non-intimating, and—delicious!”
Dr. Gibson is currently working on a stage play called Surviving Broken Promises. Her web site is Surviving Broken Promises.
By Randy Gilchrist, Psy.D. As a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist, I’ve noticed a trend in my therapy office that goes like this:
A woman, between 25 and 40, comes in for help. She has done well in college and has a successful career. She generally keeps herself in shape and has a lot to offer the world. She has friends, ties with her family, and interesting hobbies. She seems to have everything going for her except one thing: She would like to have a man in her life—but she keeps running out of luck when it comes to meaningful and exciting relationships.
Either no one is asking her out, or she does the asking and pursuing, but has little success. This has led many women to ask me things like, “Where have all of the men gone?” and “What’s wrong with men today?” or “What’s wrong with me?”
The women I see show signs of confusion, frustration, and even depression. They ask, “How could a woman be successful in every way today except with men? Are men just insecure and intimidated today by a successful woman—especially if she earns more money? Or, have many men just lost interest in women? What is it with men today?” There are a number of possible answers to these questions and I don’t pretend to have all of them. However, I do have a few ideas that may be of help.
In today’s post-feminist world, there isn’t anywhere for a woman to go to learn about men’s wants, needs, and feelings. What she gets from TV and movies doesn’t work in the real world, and what she learned growing up is often out-dated. As a consequence, many women have become focused on defining and demanding that their needs be met. So they sometimes do not know how to switch focus in order to understand the emotional needs of the men in their lives.
I believe that this helps to explain the most common complaint I hear from men. It involves the attitudes some women exude. The story I hear goes something like this: “She has this attitude that `I make my own money, and I look good and act sexy, so that’s basically the end of my job in the relationship. Now, it’s your job to cater to my many wants, feelings, and needs with patience, giving, supportive listening, and romance.’”
Granted, it’s only a small minority of women who have this one-directional entitlement approach. But it only takes a few experiences with it for a young man to adopt relationship expectations that are limited to sex and “whatever.”
Another complaint I hear from men today is they simply want a woman to be happy and in a good mood most of the time. But they say that is tough to find. In addition, there are still a lot of traditional men out there who want to feel important to a woman, believe that they are needed, and that they are their woman’s hero.
I know, modern women often don’t want to role play this traditional stuff. But all it really takes is a smile, a thank you, and the showing of appreciation and admiration of the efforts he puts into the relationship. The secret here is that this makes a guy feel like a hero, that he has actually accomplished something. It’s not that he’s simple-minded, but that’s the way his reward system works.
However, if the man can’t ever seem to do things right or good enough in a woman’s eyes, he’ll feel inadequate, incompetent, and think that he’s doing a bad job in the relationship. If this is the case, he’s not going to feel wanted or needed and is going to be put off.
Yes, I’m a psychotherapist, so I know there are two sides to this story. But I think it’s important to hear what men are saying. Lots of today’s men are not experiencing enough positive feelings in their relationships for them to get serious about it.
So if a woman really wants a man in her life, it helps if she focuses on the few things he needs most. If he’s a good, solid guy who treats you well, fulfilling these few needs should be pretty simple. Give a him your good mood and compliments, and he’ll give you the world. Conversely, expect the world but give little, and few men will be interested in sticking around.
On the positive side, it’s important to remember that happy, healthy relationships with decent men still do occur. When you apply this formula—pick well, nurture well—you’ll be in good shape. Remember, men approach relationships like a job: If you let him know he’s doing well with some perks and praise, he’ll want to keep up the good work.
By the way, do you need a solid reference book on what makes for a good relationship? I suggest anything from the world-renown relationship and marriage expert, John Gottman. A good example of his work is The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Take care, and happy hunting!
Dr. Randy Gilchrist is a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist in Roseville, CA. He is also the creator of The Weight Loss Mindset™ audio hypnosis program.