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The news that Melania Trump will live apart from her husband, President-elect Donald Trump for a few months until their son Barron, 10, finished school, was shocking to many people.

While it may seem odd that a married couple doesn’t live together, the Trumps’ decision to live apart is actually part of a growing trend  —  living apart together couples, also known as LATs, or apartners.  live_apart

About one-third of U.S. adults who aren’t married or cohabiting are in LAT relation-
ships
. While some are young people in long-
distance relation-
ships because of schooling or careers, or couples who want to live together but can’t for various reasons (such as military families), many include women like me  —  divorced, middle-aged empty-nesters who want nothing that resembles the married life we knew. In fact, more older divorced and widowed women are choosing live apart together relationships so they can enjoy their romantic relationships without the complications, caretaking and complacency of living together.

But a good portion are married, like the Trumps — who will be the highest-profile example of this demographic trend. Still, the number of couples who are “married, spouse absent,” according to the United States census, is a lot less than the numbers of couples living together — just a little more than 3 percent of the population.

How will they make it work? Does it help or hinder a relationship? What are the benefits? What about the kids?

Upsides of living apart

In researching LATs/apartners for The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels—  which offers a living apart together model as one of many marital options couples can chose from to individualize their marriage  —  I discovered that LATs/apartners feel more committed and less trapped than live-in couples. When you live apart, each person has to actively work on commitment and trust; it’s not taken for granted. Nor is sex — especially since so many couples are dealing with what they consider sexless marriages.

I also learned that many people who are in LAT relationships, or were in them for a while, say that they learned valuable relationship skills, such as trust, patience and better communication. Many also got better at time management, independence, and discovering intimacy that wasn’t just about sex and touch.

Those are the kind of skills can lead to a more satisfying relationship, and relationship satisfaction can make couples feel more committed to each other. Couples who feel committed to each other are motivated to show it; they act in ways that their partner can clearly experience as loving. And they don’t need to be under the same roof to act loving.

Isn’t that exactly what people want in a romantic relationship?

Living apart — good for women?

“It’s of particular interest to women, who often get the short end of the stick in marriage and cohabitation. They still end up doing most of the caretaking and household chores, even if they work full time,” says Montreal filmmaker Sharon Hyman, who is working on a documentary called “Apartners: Living Happily Ever Apart” that I will be a part of as well as apartners from around the world.

Couples, especially women, who are apartners relish the fact that to have time and space apart, and believe it may just be the secret ingredient to keeping love alive and passions growing. When you remove the petty, annoying parts out of a relationship, like laundry on the floor or who’s spending too much on what, then you are left with the good stuff — the chance to truly be intimate and present with your partner. Many believe that it actually makes them a better spouse.”

Hyman has been an apartner for almost two decades and wouldn’t have it any other way, although she acknowledges it may not be right for everyone.

“I am not an advocate for couples living apart. What I am an advocate for is having options. I just do not believe that there is only one way to love, no one-sized-fits-all, cookie-cutter way to have a relationship,” Hyman writes in Psychology Today. “It is all about what works best for you and your mate.”

What about the kids?

Of course, living apart together isn’t that hard if you don’t have kids or your kids are grown and out of the house; it’s an entirely different thing if you’re trying to raise a child or children together. Barron’s schooling is supposedly why the Trumps made the decision to live apart for a while. Children add complications to the arrangement, but they aren’t insurmountable.

The Trumps will have to come up with a plan that addresses how Donald will maintain meaningful connection with Barron and have everyone feel like they’re part of one family. Technology makes that awfully easy nowadays.

Then they’ll just need to keep communicating. Trump will want to be sure to let Barron know when he’ll be home again, and assure him that they will have plenty of one-on-one time together, as well as family time, before he heads back to Washington.

In most cases, the person living apart from the family home would want to be sensitive to the spouse at home with the kids; you want to avoid the “super-parent” syndrome — making one person responsible for all the caretaking — as much as you can. Since that’s the arrangement the Trumps already have — and let’s face it, they have lots of paid help, too — this won’t be an issue for them.

A POTUS who looks like us

Say what you will about the Trumps, but here’s an upside to their planned arrangement: couples about to wed or even long-term couples who feel stuck in their marriage may look at the marital arrangement of the future POTUS and FLOTUS and decide that they, too, would like to become apartners. Since fewer of us in America are in traditional nuclear families, why wouldn’t we want a president who reflects who we actually are — beyond just a man of color like President Obama or a woman like presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Every couple is free to individualize their marriage so that it works for them, no one else. And that’s exactly what the Trumps, married almost 12 years, plan to do.

Unfortunately the Trumps’ arrangement will cost U.S. taxpayers money — an unknown amount right now, unless they plan to fund their lifestyle on their own, which is highly doubtful. There may be many things to not like about Trump whether you voted for him or not, but choosing an alternative marital model shouldn’t be one of them.

Interested in having a LAT marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.


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On a rainy cold night recently, I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” again, the Oscar-winning 2004 film about love by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry that developed a cult following of sorts.

Ostensibly, the romantic-sci-fi-comedy-drama addresses the importance of memory even as we struggle to get closure after a relationship falls apart so we can move on. As more and more of us are serial monogamists and not “until death” types, this seems more urgent than ever.  why_relationships_end

We may not have memory erasure nowadays, but we most certainly have ghosting — a quick way to end an unhappy relationship that social media has perhaps enabled and even encouraged. But that only adds to the confusion; how can you get closure after that?

Hearing the truth

While there are many, many compelling things about the film, I found myself gravitating toward a teeny-tiny subplot: when both Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) accidentally hear the tapes each recorded of the other in their attempts to erase each other from their memory, they get a glimpse of what their former romantic partner was thinking of them at the time things went south. Let’s just say it isn’t pretty.

Joel was boring, Clementine says. Clementine was stupid and only slept with people to get them to like her, Joel says. And so the things that initially attracted them to each other ended up being among the things that repelled them.

There’s some truth in that. “We all start as strangers, but we forget that we rarely choose who ends up a stranger, too,” writes Brianna Wiest.

Yet, they try again — with Clementine acknowledging that she’ll eventually end up thinking that he’s boring and he’ll probably end up thinking she’s a slut. “OK,” he says. “OK,” she says. And just like that, they take another leap of faith, which we all do every time we enter a romantic relationship — although it’s usually not with the same partner.  They’re doomed and they know it; we’re always hopeful we won’t be but often end up doomed anyway.

Easy = complacent?

There are lots of articles on the “secret” to long-lasting love, usually tapping into the wisdom of a couple who have hit, 50, 60, 70 years or more of marital “bliss.” Usually, it’s about having good communication, which makes sense. Still, many of us want a relationship to be easy, forgetting that “easy” can lead us to become complacent. That doesn’t work well, as even Susan Sarandon discovered.

Among the many things the movie made me think about was this: perhaps if we want to have long-lasting love we have to keep finding new things to love about each other instead of just thinking of our beloved as static — he’s this, she’s that — which, as Clementine and Joel discover, only leads to frustration, disappointment and, eventually, rejection. Of course, in order for our beloved to find new things to love about us, we just might have to actually offer new things to love.

Want to learn how to create a marriage based on your goals and values? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.



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When my second hubby and I married, we knew we wanted to be parents. We were both working in the newspaper industry — meaning we weren’t wealthy — but because we both agreed that we wanted someone to be home to raise the kids. Since he was older and more established in his career (and also worked for a paper that was part of the union), we agreed I’d quit my full-time job and do freelance and he’d be the breadwinner. We knew we’d have to live small; thankfully, our home had a rental unit, and we relied on that income. stay-at-home working parent

Freelance writing with a baby? Trying to make calls and write in stolen moments of nap time? Uh, nope. So after trying an at-home business that, when I finally looked at the numbers, made me less than minimum wage — I painted wood high chairs in fanciful designs — I took a part-time job as an on-call copy editor at night. Later, when our second son was born, I worked part time a few days a week, relying on the help of the lovely young woman, a former nanny who lived in our rental until and watched the boys in exchange for reduced rent while she went to school to become a hair stylist, until I got a job that I could do at home, as the editor of a kids’ newspaper.

Granted, none of those jobs made me a lot of money, but it helped keep our family afloat — and was essential income when my former husband’s union went on strike — and, more important, it kept me up-to-date in the career I loved and enabled me to maintain relationships with editors.

I had no idea how important that would be until, 14 years into the marriage, we divorced and I needed to find full-time work again. And I found it, but at wages I made when I was in my 20s — except I was in my 40s! I was making below California’s poverty level. But I didn’t have the luxury of hoping for a job at a nearby union paper to open up and I wasn’t in a position to move to another city or state; I didn’t want to uproot my kids or have them be raised solely by me or their dad (we had 50-50 physical joint custody). So, I grabbed the first job that came along and lived small.

Do I regret my choice? Not at all; as isolating as being the stay-at-home parent can be, I would never trade those years with my boys. But, there are a few things I would have done differently. Unlike a recent blog post by Wealthy Single Mommy, aka Emma Johnson, you can afford to be a stay-at-home parent nowadays; it just takes a new way of thinking.

Like Johnson writes, you must plan for the unthinkable — divorce, disability, job losses, death. These are real things and they happen, a lot. Marriage is not a financial plan — unless you’re entering a safety marriage, in which case the agreement is most likely sealed with a prenup.

Ah, yes, a prenup! While prenups have historically been about money and property, I would have made mine about other things, too, addressing chores, cooking, childcare, etc. — all the things couples fight about. I call that a marital plan.

So, what can parents, or couples who want to become parents, do? How can we solve the stay-at-home-working-parent-work-life-balance-dilemma instead of just waiting for companies to solve it for us (if they even will)?

Get a prenup/postnup

When a couple decides to have children, women — and it’s still women — are the ones who typically stop or curtail work to take care of them. Increasingly, men are doing that, too. Regardless of gender, anyone who is the main caretaker should be compensated, and that must be put in writing. As we wrote in The New I Do, Beyonce’s prenup supposedly stipulates that she’ll get $5 million per child for time lost from her career. Just recently, she and husband Jay Z updated it — aka a postnup — to address custody issues and other things. Because that’s what smart couple do; they keep talking about what their needs are as their life changes. You also want a parenting prenup, one that addresses everything about how you will raise your kids, from schooling to discipline to religion. Don’t assume your spouse will be on the same page once you pop out a baby, and in the event of a split, a parenting plan of action will help you avoid a long, nasty custody battle. Honestly, the state already has a prenup for you and it generally is not a happy one for one or both people; why give the state the power over your life?

Create a work reentry plan

Like my former husband and me — but with a gender switch — my esthetician and her husband decided, since she made more, he’d stay home to raise their daughter until she was in kindergarten. Well, that time has come, but he didn’t wait until now to start thinking about what he was going to do; he’s been actively training, networking and keeping the gears in motion so he’d be ready to jump back into the working world full time. Luckily, she has a flexible job and she can create her own hours, working nights and weekends if need be, so he can be flexible in whatever new job he gets.

Find flexibility

We are increasingly moving toward a gig economy. This has its downsides for sure, but it also has its upsides in that you’re not stuck to a 9-to-5 (if you’re lucky to only work those hours nowadays). That said, if one of you has a job that allows you to make your own hours, or if one works mostly nights and the other mostly days, or you have one day together instead of the weekend, or whatever creative way you can come up to share the child-rearing while having two incomes, you’ll each be be able to spend more time with your kids.

Create community

Parents were not meant to raise kids on their own. Throughout history, couples — OK, moms — had help raising the kids, whether from grandmas or alloparents or kinfolk or nannies or other kinds of help (wet nurses, anyone?). It’s only relatively recently that couples seem to think that they must do it all by themselves because they’re the only ones who know how to do it (not true) or they’re just afraid that they’ll be judged (very true). Get help. You need it and your kids will benefit. When you think about, we already rely on various people — teachers, coaches, babysitters, family, friends, etc. — but few of them are ongoing, readily available and fully engaged with our kids. It really does take a village to raise a child. Rather than worry about whether we can afford to stay home or not, why not think about different ways to raise our kids while we work, whether from home or not?

Think outside the box

We’re closing in a time that we need to stop talking in terms of “stay-at-home” versus “working” parents, and more about, how do we — individually and as a society — want to raise our kids, the future? I love the creative ways people are finding a way to get back to community child-rearing, from cohousing to communes to intentional intergenerational communities to multigenerational housing. In other words, they are acknowledging that it isn’t just about careers and work-life balance; it’s more about how you want to live, what you value and what you want your society to look like. If you’re creating a space for others to care for your children in an ongoing, engaged and loving way, many of your childcare issues will be non-issues and you won’t have to worry about losing income or career momentum by opting out. And even if you work at home, being a parent won’t be so isolating.

Redefine success

In her brilliant new book, “The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream,” Courtney Martin writes, “When the economy crashed, the air was let out of the overinflated ego of the so-called American Dream.” Rather than keep struggling for that dream, which is increasingly becoming unattainable, she says many young people — she’s in her 30s — are redefining it. Her “new better off” doesn’t mean a big job, big salary or big house — it’s more about living in a supportive, creative community. People around the world raise children with much less than what most Americans have, and they’re often a lot less stressed. Why? According to recent research: “The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers.” We have a new President-elect, and I don’t have much faith that Trump will do much, if anything, to create social policies that support caregiving and child-rearing. Which means it’s really up to us to find ways within our own communities to make things better; I’ll pretty much bet there are other parents who want the same thing.

Want to learn how to create a parenting prenup? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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It’s a familiar story — a talented but tortured man, consumed by drugs or booze or demons or womanizing or all of the above, is told by his woman: “It’s me or your partying.”

And just like that, he cleans up his act and starts putting her and their family first. Then they live happily ever after — like in a fairy tale. Rescue

In his new biography, Bruce Spring-
steen credits his wife of 25 years, Patty Scialfa
, for helping him through his depression by being stable and strong.  Alec Baldwin recently credited wife Hilaria for helping him be a better parent to their three kids (his poor older kids!) Ozzy Osbourne thanks his wife, Sharon, for standing by his side as he’s dealt with his sex addiction. Samuel L Jackson credits his wifeLaTanya Richardson, and daughter, for getting him into rehab. And Jon Bon Jovi just thanked his wife of 27 years, Dorothea, for helping him to beat his demons.

These are feel-good stories, ones that might actually make us us think that fairy tales really do come true.

Except, these aren’t the fairy tales I grew up with — did you? In these fairy tales it’s the women who rescue the men. Honestly, when did you ever read a Princess Charming story? When did you see a Disney movie in which the beautiful princess rides in on a white horse, rescues the man in distress, takes him to her castle and they live happily ever after?

Right. Never.

Women stand by their man

Yet, there’s a collective “awww” when a celebrity acknowledges the power, patience and enduring love of their woman. And as women, there’s no better testament to what we do best — we love, we nurture, we trust, we give and we wait, patiently. We stand by our man. Somehow we’ve been convinced that it’s up to us gals to save our relationship. And so we often do.

But if women can save men with society’s blessing, why is everyone so down when men save women? Could it possibly be because we women tend to “save” a man emotionally and men tend to “save” us financially?

Everyone from therapists to friends to parents to relationship “experts” have been hammering one message to women: Prince Charming doesn’t exist. A man is not going to come and rescue us, gals, so we need to get our heads out of happily-ever-after fairy tales and Disney movies, and into reality and our own 401(k) plans.

Fantasies run deep

As much as we women understand that, those fantasies still run deep. “Sometimes women just want to be rescued,” Your Tango declared after a survey of single women in New York City revealed a preference for firefighters (brawn) and Wall street execs (bucks) as potential perfect mates.

A recent study indicates many women nowadays see Prince Charming as their retirement plan. Even highly educated and well-off women still marry men who make more than they do, another study indicates. Not too long ago, Cosmo reported the results of a few surveys that found most young married and single young women would become domestic goddesses if they could afford to.

And the guys? Well, unemployed, underemployed and low-income men are just not good dating or marriage material in the eyes of many women.

In truth, it isn’t just women who want fairy tales to come true. Men do, too, or so says Robert J. Sternberg, a professor of human development at Cornell University. But they don’t dream of being saved — their fairy tale is more about a beautiful, sexy woman they can sacrifice for. I wouldn’t begrudge a man his fantasy, but time and time again, men’s fairy-tale ending is the direct result of their woman saving him when he messes up.

The message is clear: You can be an emotional gold-digger, but you sure can’t be a financial one.

Want to learn how to individualize your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 


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Monogamous marriage is unromantic. Not my words but the words of actor Hugh Grant while promoting the movie Florence Foster Jenkins.

As he told radio host Howard Stern:

I can see the lovely aspect if you marry exactly the right person — your best friend and it’s cozy and it’s lovely. But, people make so many mistakes. Do I think human beings are meant to be in 40-year-long monogamous, faithful, relationships? No, no, no. Whoever said they were? Only the bible or something. No one ever said that was a good idea. I think there’s something unromantic about marriage. You’re closing yourself off.”

Then he chatted up the benefits of having affairs, admiring the French and the Italians “who are very devoted to their marriages … but it is understood that there might be other visitors. … that’s what keeps marriages together.”

It would be easy to toss off Grant’s thought; after all, he’s never been married although he’s had some high-profile long-term relationships, like with actress Elizabeth Hurley, and has two children with Anna Eberstein and two with Tinglan Hong.

So why even listen to him?

Well, because celebrities matter evidently.

Celebrities affect change

celebrity_cultureAccording to a new study, celebrity culture “is enormously influential in changing norms and has a very wide reach.” And as much as you make like or loathe celebrity culture — I unapolo-
getically fall in the loathe category — it is normalizing alternative ways of being.

For example, look at how it has impacted the way we feel about single moms.

Sociologist Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk analyzed nearly 400 issues of People magazine over the decades to see what, if any, impact came from featuring single moms on the cover — from Goldie Hawn to Melanie Griffith to Sandra Bullock to Madonna to Angelina Jolie (although many of them were partnered at the time). What was clear, she determined, was that celebrity pregnancies helped destigmatize childbirth outside of marriage:

Celebrities typically did not apologize for getting pregnant outside of marriage. But the family model also changed over time. The early model dictated that you should marry by the time the baby is born. By the mid-2000s that had changed, and it became widely acceptable in the celebrity world to have a child without marrying first.”

That all sounds great … until you realize the magazine has only featured white, wealthy women having or adopting babies on their own. If you’re a poor single mom of color, well, I don’t think People or anyone else is lauding your situation. In fact, you’re probably still being stigmatized and judged, and pressured to just get married already by conservatives, no matter what celebrities are doing.

And there are still some who’ll be upset by People magazine covers featuring single moms no matter what because they believe that kind of media coverage is glorifying single motherhood.

We don’t hold men to those same standards, however. Just look at how Donald Trump, a celebrity by virtue of his reality TV shows before he ever became the GOP presidential contender, is treated. Trump has five children from three marriages — which is OK as long as you’re white, wealthy and privileged, as write in the Washington Post. “Imagine the public response if either President Obama or Hillary Clinton had children from three different partners. That would have likely barred them entirely from high-level politics,” they write. Indeed!

Making non-monogamy the norm

But getting back to Grant — the father of four from two unmarried partnerships, but also white, wealthy and privileged. Will his outspoken views on monogamy, marriage and affairs affect societal change? Let’s get him on the cover of People espousing that and let’s see. I would hope so; I believe we should be questioning monogamy, marriage and our complicated beliefs about infidelity. But I doubt it.

Mo’Nique has been candidly talking about her open marriage to hubby Sidney Hicks — which was her idea — for awhile (and kudos to them; the controversy over her announcement led them to start a podcast, Mo’Nique & Sidney’s Open Relationship). And while the Academy Award-winning actress has appeared in People magazine several times, she was never on the cover for her views on the benefits of an open marriage. And that’s exactly why Mo’Nique should be plastered across the cover of People magazine.

I can see “the problem.” Oh, she’s a woman. Oh, she’s a woman of color. Oh, she’s a woman of color in an open marriage. Oh, she’s a woman of color in an open marriage that was her choice.

This is not going to fly.

Which is too bad, because if celebrity culture can indeed change societal norms, then we need role models like Mo’Nique on magazine covers like People to normalize open relationships and Hugh Grant to normalize the idea that “40-year-long monogamous, faithful” marriages may not be the ideal.

And, while we’re at it, hopefully promote the idea that you don’t have to be white, wealthy and privileged to benefit from changing societal norms.

Want to learn how to individualize your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 


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When I interviewed Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester, a few years ago, when his provocative book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, was published, I was disturbed by his claim that cheating is a rational choice for people constrained by the social dictate of monogamy. trump-ivana-divorce

According to Anderson:

The reason men lie about cheating, however, is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) (after they are denied) they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn’t meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.”

I thought about that when I stumbled upon an article in the Washington Post that culled GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments on women, sex, marriage and feminism taken straight from his books.

If you’ve paid attention to some of his recent comments about women, you probably thought you’d heard it all — and perhaps more than enough.

So I was shocked to discover that he once considered asking Ivana, his first wife, to open up their marriage, according to his book Trump: Surviving at the Top:

I even thought, briefly, about approaching Ivana with the idea of an ‘open marriage.’ But I realized there was something hypocritical and tawdry about such an arrangement that neither of us could live with — especially Ivana. She’s too much of a lady.”

Right. Clearly he realized it was an arrangement he couldn’t live with (but of course decided it’s something she couldn’t live with, being the “lady” he pigeonholed her to be). So here’s how he treated his “lady” — he cheated on her with Marla Maples, who ended up being wife No. 2. So much for any concerns about being “hypocritical and tawdry.” Sorry, but you don’t get to decide for your spouse what may or may not be “hypocritical and tawdry” for him or her. At least give your spouse the option to decide for herself.

Non-monogamy, but not for all

It’s too bad he didn’t present it to Ivana and let her make up her own mind about whether it would work for them or not. Maybe that would have salvaged their marriage. Maybe not. Who knows, although let’s be honest — many men want the non-monogamous option for themselves and not their partner, as Anderson discovered, and I would pretty much guess Trump would be no different. He was no longer turned on by a woman who was a “businessperson rather than a wife,” according to his book. He never gave her the option and instead decided to cheat on her with Marla, which clearly excluded Ivana from the discussion about her own sexual needs and their needs as a couple.

No one knows how many people are having affairs — many say the infidelity rate hovers around 20 percent although, let’s be honest; people who are cheating aren’t always truthful about their infidelity (especially, evidently, women). But we’re much more likely to disapprove of it nowadays; as one sociologist puts it, the “increasing hostility towards affairs is located in the discursive context of the ‘specialness’ of sex and the centrality of trust and communication to constructions of contemporary relationships.”

Do we prefer cheaters?

There are many, many, many things to not like about Trump; this is yet another reason, although in the grand scheme of things not to like about him, perhaps it’s a mere blip — if even that much. Even if Trump and Ivana stayed together because they had an open marriage, I still wouldn’t want to have him be my president, and my guess is that if they stayed together as a that way, Trump would never, ever have become the GOP presidential candidate.

We’d much rather elect a cheater than someone in a consensually non-monogamous marriage — at least we can relate to cheating. But an open marriage? Shudders!!

That may change, however. More millennials are experimenting with consensual non-monogamy. This makes sense as they’re also delaying marriage, so they have many more years to explore relationships. Will that change once they tie the knot, if they tie the knot? We’ll have to see.

But we’ve had a black president and we are on our way to having a woman be president. Maybe a single, or asexual, or LGBTQ or consensually non-monogamous president is next.

Want to learn how to have an open marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.


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There you are, finally pregnant, getting the nursery ready and looking forward to your new role as Mom and — bam, your husband cheats on you.

Wonderful.

At least that’s what happened to Katie Price, one of the stars of the British daytime TV show Loose Women. pregnant_cheating

Not only did hubby Kieran Hayler cheat on her, but he cheated on her with her best friend.

Former Congress-
man Anthony Weiner was sexting (the first time) while wife Huma Abedin was secretly pregnant, back in 2011. Whether you consider that cheating or not, Abedin finally did — filing for divorce after the third sexting scandal.

They weren’t the first poorly behaved dads-to-be.

Common event

The concept of a husband who cheats while his wife is pregnant is “probably more common than people suspect,” says Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women.

In fact, a 2012 study indicted that men are at a slightly higher risk of cheating when their wife is pregnant.

Why?

It isn’t necessarily about sex. “It can also stem from an emotional need, like a desire to be cared for, to feel important or special,” he says.

Or, as psychologist Robert Rodriguez, author of What’s Your Pregnant Man Thinking?, says, it could be because the husband feels a bit lost — or “usurped by the impending arrival” — and what that may mean for him and his role in the family, which may explain why Rodriguez says about 10 percent of dads-to-be cheat on their partners during pregnancy.

That seems high, but according to Noel Biderman, founder of AshleyMadison.com (remember?), most men start cheating on their wives during pregnancy or right after.

According to Biderman:

sociologists will explain that cohabitation breeds indifference, but the biggest factor ends up being that all of the sudden, especially when a first child or pregnancy is on the scene, your sex life goes from 100 mph to zero. Like, literally, there becomes a period of abstinence. Women feel less attractive so there’s an emotional side to not wanting to be sexually active for some, not all. There’s a healing period of time, and then there’s a demands period of time. Having a newborn is tough. It doesn’t lead to a lot of intimacy.

Men are ‘ill-prepared’

It would be easy to lump their behavior into the “worst-case cheating scenarios,” along with men who cheat on or dump their wife when she’s sick or suffering. Except there’s a difference — pregnancy doesn’t just affect the woman. It changes a man’s identity, it changes his brain, it changes the couple’s dynamics — nothing is the same again. We tend to romanticize motherhood and assume all women want to be mothers — sorry, we don’t. But there aren’t the same expectations of fatherhood for men (although we expect dads to be more than just breadwinners now; we want them to be nurturers, too).

Thus, as Biderman notes, “They’re just ill-prepared for it.”

Let’s face it: having kids, no matter how much we love them, is hard work and research shows that marital satisfaction plummets in the first two years after the birth of a baby.

Do married men know that? Do married women? Better yet, does anyone who’s about to become a parent, married or not, know that?

Surprisingly enough, no — even though there’s a wealth of information out there on how a baby impacts a romantic relationship.

True, most men don’t cheat on their wife when she becomes pregnant. But some do. Nevertheless, the path to fatherhood is complicated for men. Maybe we should start talking about that.

Want to learn how to individualize your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.


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No matter how you feel about the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt divorce — including the desire to not have to think about it, celebrity divorces or divorce in general — there is one thing all parents should pay attention to.

The reason they split, we’re lead to believe, is because they couldn’t agree on how to parent their six children: Jolie wants to homeschool their children so they can become “worldly” as the family travels throughout the world and among their homes in France, New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York City, and Pitt supposedly wanted them to be enrolled in school. parents divorce

That’s just one small part of being a parent — school is important, yes, but there are a lot of other factors that go into how parents will have and raise children, from how many they’ll have to how far apart they’ll be born or adopted to religious instruction to discipline to who’ll care for them to activities and sports. In other words, there are lots of things to think about when a couple decides to become parents — and a similar process must happen when a man or woman considers whether to become a single parent. But, here’s one thing that doesn’t happen when one decides to become a single parent — there’s no one else’s opinions, feelings, thoughts, desires to take into consideration. But if you’re raising children as co-parents, there are a lot of things that need to be decided together.

Except, are parents fully deciding together how they will raise their children?

What is a parent’s responsibility?

OK, most of us are not living the life of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But, any couple deciding to have children together or even those couples who didn’t decide but suddenly find themselves pregnant, have a certain responsibility to figure out what they’re doing and why  … ideally before their child is born.

Of course, things change once your kids are born and then start to grow. Learning challenges may suddenly appear or an illness. So, having a parental plan of action isn’t set in stone; you have to be flexible. But a parenting plan is a baseline.

Apparently, it wasn’t just how the kids were going to be schooled that helped lead to the Jolie-Pitt split; it also was how they were being disciplined. Both Jolie and Pitt admitted he was the stricter of the twobut perhaps just with their boys. “I am with the boys,” Pitt once said. “Girls do no wrong so I don’t have to be.” As a former girl myself, I would beg to differ.  Girls do plenty of wrong and I’m actually surprised by his rather sexist view.

Nevertheless, discipline and schooling are two huge issues when it comes to raising children and if couples become parents without having some sort of a meeting of minds, they are setting themselves up for trouble — and perhaps divorce. Divorce per se isn’t bad for children, but if the parents are still fighting, well, we know from studies that conflict is what’s harmful to kids. And because Jolie is fighting for full physical custody of their children and Pitt has reluctantly agreed to that for now, continued conflict for them is not out of the question. Guess who will suffer?

Given all that, it’s clear the old way of becoming a parent is no longer working for us or our kids. There’s been some talk about a “new ethic of responsible parenthood,” which sounds great on the surface although I have some problems with what’s suggested on how to create that.

Yes, there needs to be policies that give parents the support they need, but the onus is on every person who decides to raise a child to plan for parenthood, especially if they’re co-parenting.

Are prenups for kids?

Jolie and Pitt allegedly have an “iron-clad” prenup for their substantial wealth. How ironic, then, that they don’t create a “prenup” for what seems to be even more precious — the well-being of their children. Those six kids have a right and a need to have access to both parents (assuming that doesn’t put them into a harmful situation) equally. At the same time, each parent should have a right to be an active partner in deciding what’s best for his or her children. Neither is likely to happen now.

That’s why divorce can be so painful.

Many of today’s marriages are based on having children — so-called high-investment parenting (HIP) marriages. But that’s not enough. In The New I Do, we address what a prenup for a parenting marriage may look like; in fact, we call it the true definition of planned parenthood. A prenup for kids may seem silly — honestly, who has one? — and perhaps even unnecessary. Except, there are no guarantees in life, love or marriage. If your kids matter to you — and I’d say most parents would say they do — and you want to make sure you have a say in how they’ll be raised, whether you’re cohabiting, married or in a parenting partnership, please don’t wait until things fall apart (and none of us think it will) and you and your co-parent are unhappy or angry or both or worse; make a plan. Now. Your children will thank you for it one day. Or, just as good, perhaps they’ll never even have to know.

Want to learn how to have a parenting plan? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 


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Affairs have suddenly popped up in the national conversation, and honesty — who doesn’t like a good open discussion about the dishonesty of infidelity?

OK, well maybe it’s just me …

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a pal of Donald Trump’s, recently suggested in a conversation slamming Hillary Clinton about Bill Clinton’s affairs that “everybody” commits infidelityaffairs

That’s an interesting comment coming from the party of “family values” (or maybe that’s just how you feel because, you know, you yourself have fooled around).

In any event, saying “everybody” cheats seems to be a stretch; while it’s hard to get an exact number of people who are cheating because it’s all self-reported (and you have to think that those who are lying to their spouse are probably not going to be totally honest when it comes to a poll on infidelity), some studies indicate it’s about 20 percent of married couples while others suggest it may be as high as 60 percent to 70 percent. Not everybody, but a lot nonetheless.

Which is why therapists like Esther Perel, author of Mating In Captivity, and Tammy Nelson, author of The New Monogamy, suggest it’s time to rethink infidelity.

How some affairs start

People cheat for all sorts of reasons. And we know that a certain percentage of people who engage in infidelity say they have happy marriages. Still, it would be interesting to know how some affairs start. So I was interested in reading a new study that looks at exactly that.

According to the study, there were a few things going on:

  • Dissatisfaction and hopelessness in the marriage
  • A value of novelty and passion in romantic/sexual relationships
  • There is a sense of deserving sexual satisfaction
  • The spouse and self are viewed as fixed characters
  • Lack of curiosity for the spouse as a subject
  • An experience of passion overtaking and overriding one’s judgment
  • The affair is not recognized as an affair until after it begins
  • Divorce is not considered a real option

This is hardly rocket science. As study author Nicolle Zapien states:

The current structure at first glance is not particularly surprising and seems intuitive — one is experiencing an unsatisfying marriage, has a desire for passion and novelty, and begins a passionate affair with a stranger. It reads like the plot of a romance novel. However, the current structure is not experienced as a familiar plot, leading to an affair, by the one who begins an affair; instead it is surprising and later confusing.”

In other words, the person who ends up cheating didn’t actually plan it, and the “moment that it is considered ‘erotic,’ named ‘sexual’ or therefore ‘an affair’ occurs after a clear and embodied sexual act (e.g. a kiss, going to a hotel with the intent to have sex).”

That certainly seems to fly in the face of what most of think is going on when infidelity occurs; how can someone not see that his or her behavior — flirting, sexting, sneaking around, etc. is a recipe for trouble? Wouldn’t it be inevitable? Not to say that some affairs aren’t planned. It’s just interesting to see how some people never saw it coming (but I’ll bet if their spouse knew what they were doing, he or she would!).

OK, the study was really limited, just three people — this is not comprehensive. It references similar results of another study, of four women in the Bible Belt who had affairs, and yet that, too, was extremely limited. Limited or not, however, it at least forces us to acknowledge that for a certain percentage of the cheating population, affairs “just happen.”

What about opening up the marriage?

What I find interesting is that the discussion of opening up the marriage — what we present as a viable option in The New I Do — was quickly rejected: “I knew that he couldn’t handle it if I actually said, ‘I want to see other people,'” one woman says.

That’s too bad because as much as we may know our partner and what he or she might say, we might want to consider giving him or her the option to be an active participant in what happens within the marriage regardless. That’s the part of cheating that hurts the partner; excluding us from our own marital destiny (and the lying, obviously). Of course, suggesting that we want to sleep with someone else — and hopefully granting the same privilege to our partner — can create all sorts of problems we may not want to deal with. So many of us just choose to do the “easier” of the scenarios: cheat.

Recently the Guardian ran an article on how to cope with a sexless marriage. It was the usual response — be patient, be kind, seek help, etc. — with tips on how to “bring back intimacy.” None of that is wrong per se, but those tactics can only go so far. This week, the paper ran some selected comments by readers — because there were many — on what it really feels like to be in a sexless (by their definition) marriage. They are as painful to read as the ones readers have posted on The New I Do website and on this blog. If the only options are to suffer, divorce or cheat, well, who’s really the “bad” guy or gal in the scenario?

Obviously, not everyone who has an affair has a sexless marriage and obviously not everyone who has a sexless marriage cheats. And, sorry Rudy, not “everybody” cheats. But every committed couple right now, married or not, might want to have a conversation about monogamy, define infidelity and determine what their options might be should their sexual needs ever differ. Or, they, too, might find themselves surprised and confused one day.

Interested in opening up your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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I loved my wedding rings. The first one, purchased when I was not yet 21, from a jeweler’s case in Golden, Colorado, was a gorgeous delicate band of flowers in white gold. Because it was mass produced, I imagine  there were hundreds of other hippish young women who wore the same band to prove their special union, but that didn’t matter to me — the ring proved my very special union, and that’s all that mattered. wedding bands

My second wedding ring was custom-designed by me, fashioned from the melted-down gold from the bands of our first marriages, as well the diamonds (yeah, that’s what happens). I’m not sure a custom-designed ring offers a couple any more clout or guarantees than a mass-produced one but, regardless — both my former husbands and I wore rings that clearly displayed, “I’m married.”

But does that matter? Must married people wear a wedding band? What if they don’t want to or can’t because of metal allergies or their occupations or maybe they just don’t like jewelry; do we judge them? Is it making a statement about their union?

If we want married and engaged people to wear rings that clearly proclaim “taken,” then what should we think of people who wear wedding bands when they’re not married, or women who wear engagement rings when they’re not engaged? Are they liars?

No wedding ring = available?

A number of married men don’t wear wedding bands — Donald Trump, Prince William and Jay Z among them. Some people believe that if a man doesn’t wear a wedding band it’s because he wants to let it be known, “Hey, I’m available,” even if he’s quite committed or married, which may or may not mean he’s available (there are open relationships after all). “There are many who subscribe to the notion that affairs may be avoided if both sexes would simply adhere to this public signifier that they are ‘taken,'” says the New York Times.

Really? Wearing rings would prevent affairs from happening? Nah …

Does this just speak to women’s insecurities? Why are we looking to a ring to tell us “the truth”? Shouldn’t a direct, “Are you married or in a committed relationship?” be enough?

Maybe not.

Because evidently a certain number of men wear wedding bands as a way to attract babes, at least according to research by University of Texas psychology professor David Buss, who calls it mate poaching. Some people are attracted to and pursue others who are in committed, presumably monogamous relationships (which is what Angelina Jolie allegedly did when she “stole” Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston and is now perhaps having regrets). A person who is married is “proof” that he or she can commit.

But some people pursue men or women wearing a wedding band precisely because they’re unattainable; all they want is a romp or two and a married person is probably more likely to just want a fling and nothing else.

Which makes me wonder, does a wedding band mean anything anymore (besides to the couple, obviously) and, if so, does it mean what we want it to mean? And while women often wear engagement rings, there’s nothing comparable for men — no bling that says, “I’m spoken for,” before the “I dos” have actually been said. Why not? It kind of speaks to the “women as a man’s property” thing.

There’s power in wearing a ring on the left-hand ring finger: “make no mistake, people always notice rings. They may not say anything, but they scanned your hands within seconds of seeing you and deciding to engage in a conversation. So be careful about what messages you are sending in certain situations (interviews, conservative business settings, trips abroad) where the casual observer may have their own interpretation of what your rings mean.”

Fine. Since I have recently become aware of  people in committed relationships who’ve worn rings that might signify that they’re married even though they’re not, I have to question, why? Is it the desire to be seen as “desirable,” the desire to be seen as “taken” (which might mean the same as being seen as “desirable'”), the desire to take oneself off the market, some combination of the above or something else? Some women argue that engaged men should be as transparent about their relationship status as women are — or at least what we expect women to be.

A warning flag for women

It’s funny but if you are a woman, attached or not, certain circumstances may make wearing an engagement ring or wedding band a survival tactic; “Being seen as married will lower your profile and stave off uninvited advances,” suggests the Canadian government’s “Her Own Way: A Women’s Safe Travel Guide,” which got a bit of flack for that advice.

I’m pretty sure a lot of women would agree that we’d rather not have to bother with that pretense, but I have no idea how many have succumbed to that supposed “survival” tactic abroad. But a lot of us do just going about our daily life.

A recent study indicated that most women removed their wedding bands for work stuff, including going on job interviews. “Of the 35 percent who removed the ring for work reasons, their justification was that the ring would harm their career.”

My head hurts reading that. But there’s more, according to Stuff Mom Never Told You:

The problem with this is that in removing wedding bands women are giving in to the societal perception that they’re somehow unable to succeed in both their careers and family life. There’s also the mentality that if a woman is engaged, hiring her could be risky because obviously, she’ll be getting preggers as soon as she can, so whatever training and work went into her time at a company before her maternity leave will be seen as a waste.

So that big rock or the gold band on your finger is sending all sorts of messages. So does not wearing one. I guess the bigger question is, does that matter to you?


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