Should You Stay with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Get Married?

long term

Should You Stay with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Get Married?

Sometimes you are at a point in a relationship where you are so in love, everything seems perfect. You and your partner have been together for quite some time and you are expecting things to progress. But when you broach the idea of marriage, the other person gets anxious or defensive. Perhaps they don’t believe in marriage. Maybe they’ve been down that road before. Or maybe you get a noncommittal “we’ll be married, someday” without a hard date to count on. If you are with someone who is eluding your efforts to get married, or just says they don’t believe in it, while you do, what do you do? You could hand them an ultimatum, either marry me or I will find someone who will. But that usually doesn’t end well. Should you stay with someone who doesn’t want to get married? That depends on a number of factors. First, are they against marriage in total or just marrying you? If the relationship is mutually beneficial, warm, open, loving and stable but marriage is against your partner’s personal philosophy then you can negotiate and come to some sort of compromise. If this person is just biding their time with you until someone better comes along then this person is not the one for you.

Another important thing to do is to search your feelings about marriage. Why is it that you feel as though you need to get married? For some, it has something to do with their culture or religion. Others are being pressured by a family member. It could be something you have always dreamed of. Or it might be because all of your friends have gotten married. Start to uncover what your real feelings are about getting married and why you feel that way. It will give you a better perspective on why it is so important to you and how to address the issue. If you just want to walk down the aisle, have a great reception and be the center of attention, think of the aftermath. You are supposed to spend decades of life with this person, living side-by-side. So you want to make sure your desire to get married is genuine. Then consider the person themselves. Is this who you really want to spend the rest of your life with? Do they love you? Are they supportive? What’s the communication situation like? How is the sex? If you were both thrown into a crisis situation together, would your relationship make it through? You don’t want to set yourself up for divorce.

Don’t just wait around for a proposal and brood. That will never make it happen. If you’ve still decided this person is right for you, discuss all the insights that you’ve come to with your partner. Don’t pressure them with an ultimatum. They will probably pull away from you. That won’t get you anywhere. Instead, slowly get your partner used to the notion. Introduce things subtly and make the idea seem like theirs. British psychologist Anjula Mutanda says to ask your partner, “If we were to get married, what would be your ideal way of doing it?” Agree with their answer and make it sound as if you are very impressed. Keep subtly moving things along like this and see if you get anywhere. If you want to take a more straightforward approach, sit them down in a comfortable place when you are both in a good mood. Make sure it is free of distractions. Compliment your partner and tell them what they’ve done right and what personality traits you adore about them. Tell them how close you feel to them and how much the relationship means to you. Let them know the reasons why you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Explain to them in a calm manner why marriage is so important to you and why you want that person to be them. Tell them you aren’t pressuring them or giving them an ultimatum. Let them know that you can make each other so happy. And then give them time to think about your thoughts and feelings and let the matter drop. Don’t blame. Don’t be defensive. Instead, use a positive, complimentary and romantic approach. If they still refuse to marry you, you’ll have to be ready to either move on or settle for not ever being married. But if they really love you and you were meant to be together, you two will find a way forward. For tips on being extremely persuasive in your quest read, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.

Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

Happy couple in bed --- Image by   Darren Kemper/Corbis

Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

It is a common misconception that people who have been together a long time inevitably see their passion fade. So can marriage and lust coexist?  In fact, research has shown that married people are having more sex than their single counterparts. For instance, a 2010 Kinsey Institute survey found that three out of five single people went without sex last year, as opposed to one out of five married people. In another study conducted by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth which studies families, married 25 to 59 year olds were more likely to have sex two to three times per week than their single counterparts. Usually couples have sex often in the early phase of the relationship but frequency slows down as time goes on. What often happens is people get caught up in the demands of a career and raising a family and so have sex less often. But studies have shown that married people enjoy it more. Laura Carpenter, a sex researcher from Vanderbilt University says, “While people get older and busier, as a relationship proceeds they also get more skillful—in and out of the bedroom.” Still, couples often blame dry spells on their marriage. It’s usually certain aspects of the marriage such as an all too familiar partner, arguing or household chores and the politics that can come with them.

Science can’t help us here. There are few studies that have looked into what a normal sex life looks like in mid-life. There is no recipe therefore on what can keep sex hot and lust going in a marriage. Still there are indicators. The eminent John Gottman, a pioneer in the field of couple’s research and head of Seattle’s Gottman Institute says that when men and women share their lives, they are more likely to engage in sex. Men who share in the household chores and childcare had sex more often than those that didn’t, Gottman’s research found. Other researchers have also found that the more a couple shared, the more sex they had. Other research has shown that it doesn’t matter who is the breadwinner. No matter the financial situation, long-term couples had the same frequency. On another front, it’s important to see a certain psychological paradigm that exists and how to overcome it, or balance it out. Our sexual feelings are filtered through our culture. Rules and norms on desire, fantasies and arousal lock us in to what researchers call “sexual scripts.” These are the roles, desires and fantasies we allow ourselves to take part in. University of Washington Sociologist Julie Brines thinks the trouble is we are still stuck in traditional sexual scripts. Even more problems occur when we are between scripts.  “I don’t think we have newer alternatives to traditional sexual scripts in marriage,” she said. Since couples relate differently in and out of the bedroom perhaps our sexual scripts should reflect this new dynamic. But one has yet to settle in.

Psychotherapist Esther Perel says the issue of losing passion in a marriage comes when we are too focused on our need for security. It comes to dominate our competing need for novelty. Perel says that, “couples who describe themselves as loving, trusting, and caring complain that their sex lives have become dull and devoid of eroticism.” What Perel does then is show couples how to, “reconcile our fundamental need for safety and security with our equally strong need for adventure and novelty.” It’s worth noting that her 2013 TED Talk has five million views on YouTube. Some suggest using one’s sexual imagination to explore what is interesting and novel to the couple themselves. Gottman found that desire was present most in couples who responded to each other’s feelings. Those that were adversarial shut down desire. These were the sexless marriages. Gottman also found that sex didn’t take a back seat to other things on the couple’s agenda.  “Couples who are going to have a lot of sex end up somehow being able to communicate to one another that it’s a priority,” the researcher said. “It is not going to be the last item on the infinite to-do list.” When one person wasn’t in the mood in these marriages Gottman said one would give the other person an alternative to intercourse. This is done so as to show love and concern for the spouse and their needs. Lastly, to keep the spark alive, Gottman said that sexual imagination needs one very important thing, a free and comfortable atmosphere conducive to play. For more on keeping the novelty in your marriage read, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

Both Sexes get Jealous but over Different Things

jealousy

Both Sexes get Jealous but over Different Things

Most people agree that just a smidge of jealousy can be a good thing. It shows how much you mean to your partner and vice versa. But we have to be careful in the quest for recognition, rekindled desire or appreciation. Some use jealousy as leverage to dislodge these emotions from our lover. But we should not play with the heart of another too cavalierly. Such machinations often make matters worse. The only good jealousy, the kind that leads to positive change, is taken in small doses. In larger forms, possessiveness and covetousness are destructive forces that ultimately tear two people apart. Both sexes experience jealousy, but they do so differently and over different things. That’s according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Chapman University’s David Frederick in conjunction with UCLA’s Melissa Fales conducted this study. They decided to try to use big data to see if a phenomenon in a previously conducted study was supported or torn down. The finding was that the majority of men are outraged by sexual infidelity. This is true even when no emotional connection is involved in the act. Women on the other hand are torn up over emotional infidelity even in instances where no sex takes place.

The researchers reviewed a survey taken by NBC.com back in 2007. 63,894 participants took that survey. The questions in the survey surrounded dating and relationships. One section in particular was of interest to these researchers: “Take a moment to imagine which of the following situations would be MOST upsetting or distressing to you.” The first answer, you found your partner in a sexual relationship with someone else, but they have not fallen in love with that other person. The second was you found out your lover fell in love with someone else, but had not slept with them. 54% of men said a sexual affair was the most egregious transgression. This same answer was selected by 35% of heterosexual women, 34% of gay men, bisexual men 30%, bisexual women 27% and lesbian women 34%. Researchers believe these gender-specific responses have evolutionary roots. Men’s concern over sexual infidelity stems from the need for assured paternity, for supporting one’s own genetic offspring. For women, pair bonding is the issue. From an evolutionary standpoint, a woman wants to know the guy will be around to help raise her vulnerable young and provide for them.

The problem is this programming helps us survive a Stone Age world that no longer exists. Does this sort of ingrained thinking help or hurt our aims in the modern love sphere? How our current needs and these ingrained processes interact is a point of concern. How does this pan out with couples who don’t want children or can’t have them? What about countries where gender equality has nearly come to pass? What role do messages from advertising, our culture and the media play in our selection of a mate and how do these interact with our Stone Age subconscious? Researchers say the results aren’t exactly cut down gender lines. In fact, there was a little more variance among different nations in the world. The cultural and contextual factors are important and play a significant role. Although there is an overall pattern, individual men and women also have different perspectives. But this research doesn’t take such nuances into account.  Sorting it all out however is complex. We may never have a formula for how human jealousy works, or how human relationships should be conducted in the modern world, for that matter. But further insights such as these can help us know ourselves better and figure out how best to negotiate the modern needs of love with those that inhabit our subconscious from our ancient past. For more on the evolutionary roots of love pick up a copy of, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare: How Evolution Shapes Our Loves and Fears by Gordon H. Orians.

Men are caught in Gender Roles says study

gender roles

Men are caught in Gender Roles says study

Today society allows or even encourages women to take on traditionally male roles such as working outside the home. There are lots of households where for the first time the woman makes more than the man. However, according to a new study, men are caught in gender roles and it may be to society’s detriment. There has been tremendous change for the charge of feminism. We have seen dramatic transformations in American attitudes toward homosexuals. However, our concept on heterosexual masculinity hasn’t changed. Though we are seeing more stay at home dads, they make up only 1% of marriages. Men continue to be rare in traditional female industries such as childcare, nursing or secretarial work. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 51% of Americans believed that children were raised better if their mother remained in the home. Yet, a scant 8% said this about fathers. Even wanting time off was considered less masculine according to a study out of the University of Florida.

In our overtly masculine culture, even though gender roles have changed for women, any boy who exhibits feminine behavior is still ostracized. Sociology professor Barbara Risman of the University of Chicago said of this phenomenon, “If girls call themselves tomboys, it’s with a sense of pride. But boys make fun of other boys if they step just a little outside the rigid masculine stereotype.” Global Toy Experts did a survey and found that over 50% of women wouldn’t give their son a doll, but only 32% said the same thing about giving a toy truck or car to a girl.

Boys don’t veer off from masculine toys. Those that do, try on dresses, wear pink or like Disney Princesses are maligned by their peers and thought of as weird or strange by adults. Some students are even threatened and ridiculed. A story recently in the L.A. Times talked about a Los Angeles couple who was slurred on the internet because their son preferred traditionally female toys to male ones, even though he self-identifies with being a boy. Though between the years of 1971 to 2011 women have flooded into male industries such as law, finance, business, and the hard sciences, only 2% of men have gone into education, the arts and so on. How will this play out as our society progresses? Will we see a loss of femininity in our culture? Or will men become more feminine? In the decades to come even more sweeping changes are bound to shift our society. For more on this topic, read Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

phone

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

We are connected to so many different people, venues and organizations through our computers and mobile devices that today people are overwhelmed with options. This is true of modern day “hookup” culture where young adults, spurning marriage and family planning for the extended education it takes to get a job in today’s market, cycle through one hook up after another, for fear of missing out on an amazing experience with someone new. But the problem is that they are never in a relationship long enough to form any kind of intimacy. Studies have shown that millennials are more frustrated and emotionally unfulfilled than previous generations. People of all ages now serially date. They cycle through one person they met online after another, fearing that they are missing out on “the one.” But with so many options, their standards skyrocket. The result? They are too picky and judgmental. They gloss over each date, never really piercing the surface and getting to know the real person deep down inside. Instead, they usually find a superficial reason to rule the person out and move on. So they may have found “the one” without even giving “the one” a chance.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is now something of a massive psychological condition brought on by mobile devices carrying the internet. People veer to their Twitter while at work, diminishing their concentration on an important task. They check their LinkedIn while with friends, their Facebook while on a date, they even put their own lives at risk and the lives of others by texting or checking email while driving. Lots and lots of people around the world do this. And when confronted with how wrong that is, they just shrug.

Our fear of missing out has us glossing over what is really important in life, and that’s being there, being in the moment, savoring it and enjoying it. Alone Together by Sherry Turkle has a chapter on this phenomenon and The New York Times covered FOMO in an article by Jenna Wortham. There are singles who go on Facebook and feel bad when they see how happy their married or attached friends are. There are teens who lose sleep and are distracted from their studies constantly checking their social media to see who broke up with who, who is dating who and so on. The truth is, this is an impulse control problem. FOMO makes us hyper vigilant, always seeking for something better for ourselves. Most of the time, however, there isn’t anything on there that’s so important it should interrupt the real, offline life in front of you.

Being constantly distracted is no way to live life. Being constantly unsatisfied isn’t a great way to manage a love life either. Instead, limit your use of social media. Only check it at certain times of the day and stick to your schedule. When you feel the itch to check, notice something in your immediate environment that makes you feel satisfied: a warm smile, a delicious cup of coffee, a beautiful scarlet picture frame with a photo of someone you love. Savor the real world with all of your senses and you’ll soon see that social media just can’t compare.