Six Year Study Compares Cohabitation with Marriage

shutterstock_294024353Cohabitation has come a long way in our society. Years ago it was referred to as shacking up, and in some areas “living in sin.” Today, Gen Xers and Millennials are choosing this form over traditional marriage in numbers far above that of their parents. There are many reasons for this. One is a lot of children of the 80s and 90s had divorced parents, and vowed they themselves would never go through it. The cost of going to college and setting up a career both in time and finances make a wedding impractical. The sheer cost of weddings today are astronomical, which is a hard price tag to swallow, since student loan debt and other personal debts are high. Meanwhile, after pushing off marriage and cohabitating for some time, couples just get used to living together, and don’t see the point of going beyond “Facebook official.” Couples who cohabitate see many advantages. They still retain a certain level of independence. What’s more, a person can extricate him or herself from the arrangement without significant cost or legal wrangling. Of course, long-term cohabitation is considered common law marriage in some states. Anyone cohabitating long-term should look into the law, for their own knowledge.

Still, many couples today wonder what advantages, besides tax incentives and for some health insurance coverage, they would warrant by being married? A six year study looked into happiness rates between the married and those who cohabitate, and the results are fascinating. Advocates of marriage say that a relationship cannot have the depth and breadth without the strong commitment a marriage provides. Some studies have also shown health benefits that do not carry over to cohabitators. This study compared the health and wellbeing of married versus cohabitating couples, as well as how much time each partner spent with friends and family. This was a national sample including 2,700 U.S. adults. Participants at the onset were people who were single and not cohabitating. They were questioned in 1987 or 1988, and then followed up with six years later. Researchers examined three particular romantic arrangements: those who went from single to married, those who were cohabitating, and those who had lived together before marriage. They were all compared among seven different aspects: happiness, health, depression, self-esteem, contact with parents, time spent with friends, and the quality of relationship with parents.

In the final analysis several things of interest popped up. In terms of happiness, there was no difference between those who got married without cohabitating, and those who married after living together. In all cases, contact with parents and relationship with parents remained the same. Those who cohabitated first before marriage spent the least amount of time with friends. Whether they got married or not afterward, cohabitators had higher self-esteem than married people. If the couple only stayed together for the six initial years of the study, cohabitators rated happier. Overall with all couples, there was no difference in happiness between married people and those who lived together, whether cohabitators decided to get married or not. Researchers concluded that married people may be healthier because of their ability to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance. Other than that, marriage and cohabitation lined up the same category by category. There was some indication however of additional satisfaction with cohabitators, due to their flexibility and a little extra autonomy. This should be food for thought for anyone considering whether to continue to cohabitate or get married. Though social pressure may be off, expectations fulfilled, and access to health insurance and other incentives gained, if you are expecting it to make you happier, closer to your partner, and more fulfilled, think again, at least as far as this study is concerned.

For more information on cohabitation read, Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller.

Men Have a Hard Time Understanding Women’s Emotions

Men Have a Hard Time Understanding Women’s Emotions

When a relationship is not going well, it is many times the woman who is dissatisfied. Ask any divorce lawyer or just look at the statistics and you will see the majority of divorces are filed by women. In these cases, they usually complain that their man does not care about them, or does not care about their emotional needs. But the problem is oftentimes not that he does not care, but that he does not understand what it is she wants. Men and women communicate differently. Men are very direct. Women come at issues from different angles. Men are problem-solvers. For women, the needs vary. Sometimes they need emotional validation or support, and at other times just some understanding. A gal does not necessarily want her guy to solve her problem, but just to listen. Women can usually read each other’s emotions quite easily, and they come to one another’s aide in sympathy and kind words without even being asked. But a man who can pick up on her general mood, may not notice all the nuances within it. Understand that communication is a skill in which we all learn. We are not limited by our gender. In fact, each partner should try earnestly to consider how the other person communicates, and tune in to their frequency.

This may mean that a man learns to not only hear but really listen to his girlfriend or wife. He should not be so quick to offer logical suggestions and advice. Instead, he should listen carefully, tell her in his own words how he understands the situation, and validates her feelings. Consider the difficulty of the problem and her capability of handling it, before offering advice. If you believe she is able to handle this one, keep the advice to yourself, or only extend it if she asks. For women if she has certain emotional needs her man is not getting, she needs to tell him directly, and learn to be more direct about her thoughts and feelings. Sometimes women have an attitude such like, “He should just know” Or “If he really loved me he would know.” But the majority of men communicate directly. So he has no hope in knowing. It also cuts out a woman’s responsibility to communicate her feelings to her man, in a way he can understand. But it too shows her anxiety surrounding these feelings. No matter how much alike you look at the onset, there are wide gulfs between any two individuals. If they are to stay together these chasms need crossing. Any worthwhile relationship is built on good communication. It is not a miracle simply arrived upon but the result of long, patient conversations and hard work.

For some women crying is a way of venting. It makes certain men uncomfortable however. And women may feel ashamed afterward. But really they just want support from their partner, not for him to pull away. Men are taught never to cry in our society. Ladies, if you cry just let him know that this is emotional venting. Guys, hold her and be there for her and you will make the relationship stronger. Lastly, fellas if a woman wants to talk about an emotional problem you two are having, do not get defensive and start yelling at her. You should not just apologize and clam up either. Both may put stress on the relationship, rather than relieve it, and the first choice definitely will. Instead, listen to her and re-explain in your own words. When she feels you get it, show her that you care, validate her, and work together to find a solution. Lastly, men sometimes have a hard time communicating their emotions. Ladies, be patient. Guys, find a way to tell her how you feel, so she understands you better. Communication is not easy. But get it right and your relationship will be so much closer, and you will end up cherishing every moment together.

For more on what to do when the real work in a relationship begins pick up a copy of, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What to Do When the Honeymoon Is Overby John Bradshaw and Joe Barrett.

Should You Let Your Lover Visit a Dominatrix?

Should You Let Your Lover Visit a Dominatrix?

We often think of sexuality as a solid set of likes, desires, and characteristics. But as we grow and develop, our interests might change or deepen. Especially today with so much access to sexual material on the internet, and a looser attitude toward sexuality in general, people feel free to explore experiences and fetishes they may not have otherwise communicated. But this puts the monogamous relationship in a particular bind. Sometimes two people get together with very different thresholds of what is acceptable in the bedroom and what is not. What makes it doubly difficult is that many people do not find this out until later on, after the nuance of what the BDSM community calls “vanilla sex” has worn off. Usually one person gets comfortable with the repertoire, while the other gets bored with it. Another thing that sometimes happens is one person gets interested in a particular fetish, or certain aspect of BDSM, or finally feels comfortable enough to share their other-than-straight-sex interest. At this point, the vanilla loving partner gets freaked out. They may go through a point of insecurity, wondering if they are enough for the kinkier partner, which one hopes they are assured that they are. But then things come to a point where, each person has to ask, what do you do with this fetish or fascination if the other partner is disinterested, or unwilling to fulfill it? Should you let your partner visit a dominatrix for instance?

First of all, take a step back for a minute and realize that for your partner to divulge this to you, your relationship must have good communication. That speaks to a strong bond and a deep well of trust. These are not things to be taken lightly. Often the emotional paradigm and the sexual one are not at the same level. We may be getting all that we need and more in terms of emotional needs, but a preoccupation or overwhelming desire is waiting in the wings. This is a solid relationship. But the fetish if ignored is not going to go away. Instead, it will fester underneath the surface. You do not want to put your lover in a position where they may feel desire to cheat. Reconsider their fetish. Is it really something you do not wish to take part in? Perhaps you can have a playtime for the kinky one, and straight sex for the vanilla partner. If you are totally against taking part, consider allowing them to see a professional. There is no actual sexual interaction between the dominatrix and her client. It is really about focusing on the fetish itself, and fulfilling that desire. It may even make the relationship happier.

Do not think after years of marriage that you have your partner all figured out. Sexuality is a constantly evolving thing. It is one of the aspects after all, that keeps sex interesting. What the practice of tantra but also of BDSM teaches us is curiosity and compassion. Instead of acting out of fear or judgment, push these thoughts aside. Instead, move forward with curiosity. What is it about this act or fetish that they find so appealing? Where does it stem from? Through sexuality we can learn a lot about our partner’s psychology and our own. Supplant judgment with curiosity. Support your partner in their explorations. Set boundaries that both of you are comfortable with. Allow yourself the freedom to explore some fantasies and kinks of your own, and tell your partner about them. Make plans to have them fulfilled. Being open, honest, flexible, practice superb communication, and be responsive to our partner’s needs. This is what being in a long-term relationship is all about. Do not allow them to go if you have misgivings. Talk it out, until you both feel comfortable. You may even want to meet the dominatrix in the flesh. Whatever the situation, remember to make your relationship your own. Don’t try to fit into some preconceived mold of what you think it should be. Instead, make your relationship a place where both of you can be happy and yourselves.

For those who have changed their mind, and want to give it a shot read Dominatrix 101: The Good Girl’s Quick Guide to Dominating Her Man by Rebecca Lawson.

Should You Break up With Someone if You Aren’t Sexually Compatible?

Should You Break up With Someone if You Aren’t Sexually Compatible?

Human sexuality was not a topic broached in America for most of its history. It wasn’t until the Kinsey Report in the 1950’s that we started talking about sex. This is also when we started to learn how wide and varied a spectrum human sexuality actually is. Sex is important in a relationship, and an integral part of human life. It helps couples stay connected. When a couple is not having sex, it usually speaks to some unresolved issue brewing underneath the surface. So if you used to have good sex together, but it somewhere fell apart, it is important that both of you sit down and work it out together, without any blame, guilt, or shame. Just try to find out where you went off the rails, and what you can do to get back on again. For those who believe that they are not sexually compatible from the start, or that once the honeymoon phase wore off, things fell apart, take a look at what the problem is. Each person should be able to explain to each other calmly and rationally why it is not working. Couples can have all sorts of sexual issues that put strain on their relationship. But many of these can be worked out, so that the couple can enjoy a happy, healthy sex life.

One common problem is the frequency of sex. Oftentimes, one person has a stronger libido than the other. This libidinal differential can be overcome in many ways. One is the one person who is less interested clear away presumptions and see if they can get in the mood. What turns this person on? Is it a certain kind of talk or atmosphere? Try and build that atmosphere and incorporate those aspects that they like, and see if they can get turned on. But if it does not work, perhaps some other accommodation can be made. No one should be forced to have sex against their will. Everyone has the right to sovereignty over their own body. That said, there may be other ways to please the libidinous lover in a way that is mutually acceptable such as digital stimulation, oral sex, body contact, watching while they masturbate and engaging in dirty talk, and more. A total lack of libido is often a symptom of a deeper psychological issue such as depression, or a physical one, such as a side effect of a certain medication. The appropriate person should get checked out if this is the case.

Another problem could be competing roles. Usually in the bedroom one person likes to be dominant, the other submissive. There are a scant few who are known as “switches” who can go equally both ways. But what do you do if you both want to be dominant or submissive? Why not take turns? Remember that giving your lover the kind of sex they want is a gift. It speaks to your generosity as a lover. What’s more, being able to grow beyond our comfort zone or normal mode of operation from time to time helps us to test our boundaries, and ultimately grow as a person. If it is a specific sex act your partner does not want to engage in, like oral sex, consider how important it is to you. Can you really not live without it? Most couples take it out of their performance and move on to things they are mutually interested in. But if you cannot live without it, you may have to talk about other arrangements, or just find a new partner. Another difference that can come up are “comfort creatures” who know what they like and want to stick with it, versus “thrill seekers” who get bored with repetition, and desire novelty in the bedroom. How do you negotiate this situation? The best thing to do is to each of you explain what your fantasies are, and find places where you can compromise. Another option is to negotiate. “I will do (blank) for you if you do (blank) for me.” Find ways to have both novelty and safety, like role playing and wearing different costumes. It is still you, but it isn’t. That way you both get what you want.

To learn more read, Marriage and Sex Box Set: Best Prescriptions on Keeping the Flame Ablaze and Maintaining a Happy Bond (Relationship Advice & Marriage Help) by Sheila Butler and Cassandra Levy.


Forgive in a Relationship but Don’t Forget

Forgive in a Relationship but Don’t Forget

There can be no healthy relationship without forgiveness. Besides communication, forgiveness is perhaps the most important quality to be engaged by both partners. Use it unsparingly unless your partner has crossed an un-crossable line. For most, our transgressions can be forgiven, and amends made. We all push boundaries and go too far once in a while. It is after all human nature. Perhaps some do it without even realizing it. Forgiveness is a quality we usually learn as a child when our siblings or peers have gone too far, but when their misbehaviors are forgivable. It is a quality parents and teachers instill and reinforce within us. Everyone has a different capacity for forgiveness, and some need more time to do so than others. But everyone can learn to forgive. Though some say they do, in their heart they secretly carry anger and resentment. But this can be toxic both to the person themselves and the relationship. Psychologists say those who can actually forgive experience better mental health. It is not about justice but healing. Remember what Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Forgiveness is actually about ourselves, not the other person.

For those who have gone through a bitter divorce, or some other trauma, therapists say that when we are ready, we should forgive, whether the perpetrator deserves it or not, and whether they accept it or not. That is not for their benefit, but our own, so we can let go of the bitterness that is poisoning our heart, and be able to heal and move on. The reason you should not forget is that we learn from examining past experiences. We find out more about ourselves, our partner, and how best to handle the same or a similar situation in the future. We learn what we are sensitive about, what are buttons are and how they can be pushed, and if we delve deeper we can learn about the origins of these things too. What exactly are you set off by and why? Does it lead to past, undealt with trauma? And what was it about your partner that made them go there? Was it an accident or did they do it on purpose? By examining these, you can get to know yourself better, your partner, and your relationship too.

After the honeymoon phase, couples are met with a series of inconsistencies or incongruities that they must negotiate in order to stay together. It is from here that many transgressions arise. Another area can be the emotional baggage one or both partners carry. Forgiveness is important to bring things back to center. But using the knowledge of what occurred can help you to create some ways of operating or develop some basic rules, to keep the same problem from happening again. Out of this you grow stronger, and closer, and your relationship develops. This improves the overall health of the relationship, strengthens commitment, and allows the couple to avoid such problems in the future. It can be very difficult to forgive, especially for the proud and hot heated, and those who tend to hold a grudge. But whether you are planning to stay in this relationship, or your lovers wrongdoings have been too great, forgiveness is the most important step toward healing. Remember that forgiveness is not allowing mistreatment to go on. Instead, it is understanding what happened to you, and coming to terms with it.

For more pick up a copy of Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything by Iyanla Vanzant.