Can you find Mr. /Ms. Right in church?

February 10th, 2016

There has been a lot written about the importance of compatibility in relationships—similar values, goals, lifestyles, and even work ethic. Compatibility VS incompatibility in any of these can make or break a relationship, as too many couples find out after saying “I do.” Notice I didn’t specifically mention religion, race, or ethnic background—because honestly, though these can be deal breakers for some couples, it’s usually because their differences in one of these areas results in a clash in desired lifestyle, goals, and/or values. So where am I going with all this?

Today is Ash Wednesday, observed as the beginning of the Lenten season for Catholics, and a day of fasting and repentance for many Western Christians. Generally speaking it is not a day that those who are casually observant adhere strictly to. By this I mean attending mass or services, getting ashes and going to confession (Catholic), abstaining from meat—and/or making a decision to give something up for the duration of lent. Therefore, those that do are often the more observant among their peers.

If you are a single Christian/Catholic who will be at services today and throughout the Lenten season—you will be doing so with others much like yourself. Some will be much older, others younger, and still others married or in committed relationships. However, there will also be available singles—men and women who may be looking for that right person on dating sites, in clubs and bars, and through work and/or friends. But do they or you (really) look around at the other faithful when in church? Or would this feel inappropriate, and if so, why?

A number of years ago, when I was young and single, a guy actually tried to hit on me in the line for confession—you can’t make this stuff up folks. It made me uncomfortable because it was inappropriate to strike up a conversation, given where we were. I did my best to nicely shut him down and that was that—not my type. However I have reflected on that incident from time to time and have come to the conclusion that if he had attempted conversation after service or just outside church, I would have been open to talking to him, even though I may have still found him to be wrong for me.

What I am trying to say is that Church could be a great place to meet someone—especially if your congregation has other singles, evening masses, social gatherings after services, ministries you can join, etc. And if your religious beliefs are a big part of your life, and if you want marriage/kids with someone who shares your values—you can improve your odds by going to the special services (like Ash Wednesday, Stations of the Cross, etc.), and by paying attention to who else is there. Chances are you won’t be the only single adult in the group, and when you see others you can try to sit near them, exchange a glance/smile, and try to walk out next to or near them following services. Then, ask a question or share an observation and if they respond, you have made a connection. Depending on their response, you could talk a little longer, look for them to sit with the next time you are there, suggest you go over for coffee together after the service, etc.

Love could be just a church service away. What have you got to lose?

The Bachelor’s Olivia

February 3rd, 2016

For any of you who are fans of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise—this last week must have really kept your attention. There was a bit of drama that the show likes to bill as “shocking,” and “like nothing you have ever seen before,” but which is often just a variation on one of several plots and character types that keep cycling through.

This season we do have a sweetheart for the Bachelor. He’s a hunk with class and a heart and soul—nice going, producers. Then there are the women—the sweet ones, the aggressive types, Ms. Catty, those with hard luck stories, a divorced mom with 2 kids (it’s always been one in the past), the narcissist, one who just seems clueless, and yes, always a mean girl or a few wanna be mean girls in the bunch.

The group dates continue to be competitions, where there is always at least one contestant who is really good at whatever the date challenge is. The one-on-one dates are always romantic, a little thrilling, and help us see more of how the two people actually relate without all the distractions of other suitors. Then of course, there are the surprises, dreamed up by the producers to keep us on the edge of our viewing seats, least we should get bored or the show get too predictable.

This season Olivia gets to be the hated girl. It started with the First Impression Rose, which always turns the other girls green and a bit mean. Add to that Olivia’s personality and love of the camera and as much attention as she can draw to herself—and the role becomes hers for the duration. However in Olivia’s case, there seems to be a bit of cluelessness as opposed to nastiness at work. She is great at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, which is interesting, given her real-life job as an on air reporter. Perhaps she shines only when it’s all scripted for her. Some of her comments before the camera when she is being interviewed sound arrogant, but somehow she really seems to believe that “Ben is mine.” This week she made a comment to the group when one of the women was talking about her single parent challenge of juggling children along with the rest of her life. It caused a firestorm from both the other women and the viewing public—but my take is that Olivia was trying to fit in and put her foot in her mouth when attempting to do so. In other words, her intentions were not as they were interpreted, and when she tried to explain her comment, it was just awkward.

Honestly, if we dissect the scene, then examine the comments uttered afterwards by the other women—Olivia looks like a victim of Mean Girls here. They jumped on her and wouldn’t let go. One went to Ben to tell him how awful she is and that “no one likes her.” That is a hallmark of mean girl cliques—they gang up on one poor scapegoat and attempt to destroy her. The surviving twin really put on a water works show to Ben and got his sympathy, big time.

However, Ben has been one of the gang living in the house. He was on Andi’s season and Nick was the hated one in the house. So Ben gets these dynamics and is probably savvy enough to have a sense of what drives these scapegoat situations. It is almost always the “winning” one who gets targeted the most—and it begins with that first impression winner. Sounds a lot like the Presidential primaries, doesn’t it?

Olivia is beautiful, has a great career—and will land on her feet. I do recommend she consider counseling, just to develop some insight into herself and learn to see herself more as others do. Essentially she needs to work on raising her Emotional Intelligence—then she wouldn’t make herself such a great target for Mean Girls masquerading as victims.

Do you zig when your partner zags?

January 12th, 2016

The NY Times ran an interesting piece this past weekend on the Lark-Owl problem that many couples have. This is when one is a morning person and the other gets a second wind late at night and rises later—which leads to an incompatible sleep schedule.

For many couples, different sleep cycles mean they see less or little of one another, which can lead to a breakdown in communication and intimacy. However since sleep plays a major role in mental and physical health, it is hard for individuals to attempt changing their natural patterns and risk exhaustion/brain fog/illness for the sake of the relationship.

Approximately 60% of the population sleeps with someone else, and if their bed partner has a sleeping problem it usually impacts them and their relationship satisfaction. Research has shown that people sleep better when sleeping alone, probably because they have no one there to disturb their sleep or impact their sleep/rise schedule. However, people in general report they are less happy sleeping alone—so learning how to get adequate sleep when sleeping beside a partner who has a different sleep cycle should be a priority for everyone.

Whether you are a Lark or an Owl will depend largely on genetics, and less so on age and gender—that is, primarily what your parents and grandparents were and are. Each of us has a sleep chronotype, which is our internal timing that can vary up to 12 hours from our partner’s chronotype. These are like fingerprints, everyone is different and the possibilities are as numerous as the people with them.

We have a problem when our natural rhythm doesn’t line up with the demands of our personal and work lives. The result is “social jet lag,” which we can all relate to. We can adjust our internal clocks by staying in the light longer or turning lights off earlier. The author uses camping as an example. For anyone who has camping experience you know what it was like to be ready for sleep soon after dark and an early meal. Then when the sun rose, you found yourself awake and ready to get up and start the day. But for most people who work inside, often in front of a computer screen, sleep problems are common.

Recent research suggests that different sleep patterns don’t have to be a deal breaker and can in fact, be beneficial—allowing one partner to handle early times with children or both to have some alone time when the other is catching their zsssss.

Otherwise finding time when both are awake to connect can help keep the relationship strong and healthy. Couples who master this are often better problem solvers in general. What is NOT advised is to try and get your partner to change for you. If you pursue this solution, you will end up with a tired, irritable partner who is lacking in energy, unable to focus or be productive—and who blames you for their problems at work and in the relationship.

Bachelor fans—Can you resist Reality Steve?

January 4th, 2016

The NY Times ran a fun and interesting piece the other day on Reality Steve. Many Bachelor fans know who this guy is—the one who posts spoilers on his site, detailing each rose ceremony, every date, behind the scenes talk about the contestants, and who ends up with the final rose.

Steve is usually right in his predictions. He scours the web looking for anything he can find on social media, tabloids, and gossip sites that is related to the current or upcoming season. He also has sources (a mole?) who feed him some pretty accurate stuff. Apparently this started four seasons ago (13th season) when Jason Mesnick was the bachelor. Reality Steve got an email saying that Jason had dumped his first choice on the “After the Rose” show and reconnected to the runner up, who he is now married to. Steve went with this, and a (reality TV) star was born.

Reality Steve’s predictions are so accurate that they could ruin much of the fun for viewers. Apparently most people stay away until after the show is well underway, when it must get harder to resist knowing if He picked that woman you hate or went for the one who is really right for him.

Steve has been wrong once or twice, but usually finds out just before something airs and quickly goes in and changes the information. It’s a part time gig that earns him a “comfortable 6-figure income.” He is 40 and single and admits that his employment and career could be a problem for him in dating, so he prefers to date women who know what he does beforehand.

Going up against a big corporation like ABC has its downsides. He has been sued twice for trying to go around contracts and the law, but now manages to get free and legal information for his predictions. Apparently there is much to be had if you are creative and determined to find it. Reality Steve admits he is not a fan of the show and would not watch it if it wasn’t how he makes his living.

If you are a Bachelor fan and just HAVE to know if He got rid of so and so, or is falling for what’s her name, you can always cheat and check out Reality Steve’s site at

Does your tone of voice predict marital bliss or divorce?

January 1st, 2016

An interdisciplinary team comprised of researchers from USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the University of Utah developed an algorithm that can predict (with a 79% accuracy) a couple’s future marital success based on the tone of voice that partners use with one another. Apparently the accuracy rate of this algorithm is better than that of marital therapists who worked with these couples.

Over one hundred couples were recorded for over two years during therapy sessions—and then their marital status was tracked for five years more. With a focus on acoustic features that included pitch, intensity, shimmer and jitter; the algorithm was able to detect and interpret the nature and level of emotion contained in their speech. Then a prediction was made based on the level and consistency of positive or negative emotion that was detected.

Once the algorithm was fine-tuned, it was measured against the analysis made by therapists who had coded the couples for positive or negative qualities. What the researchers found was that using only the voice input resulted in higher accuracy in predicting future marital success or failure.

What this research clearly underscores is what many nonverbal communication experts have been saying for a long time—“it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Not only does tone of voice convey the strongest message, it also has the greatest impact on the person receiving the message. This research showed an impact on the emotional state of both partners, and how it changed over time, depending on the primary tone of voice that each used across therapy sessions.

This is exciting stuff because now we have a new tool that can be used to better help couples who come in for counseling due to serious relationship issues. We can not only more accurately assess their relationship potential on the first session, we can evaluate if the counseling is working based on tone of voice over time. As a therapist I also think we can coach people to be mindful of HOW they speak to one another in order to help keep the lines of communication open, and facilitate an environment of greater trust and respect. Many of us do this already, but putting more focus on HOW people communicate can produce more accurate feedback, while helping the couple to feel more hopeful, positive and invested in the process.

So remember, it’s everything you don’t say that can speak the loudest. Want to know more? You can read more on this research at

What your speech says about where you are from

December 21st, 2015

I was raised in a home where a lot of emphasis was placed on proper speech. Not only the words, but the accent. We were from New York and having a certain local accent was NOT prohibited. Often we got lectured around the dinner table on how we would be able to tell if a perspective date came from the “right background” by how they spoke. This was drilled in and indeed, I still have a high awareness of how people speak, the words they choose and how they use them.

The NY Times is featuring an interesting piece right now on its opinion page titled How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk. It’s a quiz that finds your “personal dialect map,” which pinpoints where you are from by the way you speak. It’s not quite as detailed as what my family had in mind—which was really about the kind of “family” you came from, not the geographic area. However it is interesting especially in light of how much people move around and pick up different styles of talking, expressions and words, along the way. Indeed I took it and it did not anchor me to a particular place, which is accurate as I have lived a number of places, in the North, South (Virginia), and even in the British Isles.

If you are interested you can find the quiz here

And remember, people do notice HOW you speak almost more than the words you use. Raising your awareness to this will help you to make better first impressions and raise your Emotional Intelligence score by strengthening your charisma.

Bad posture can ruin your dating life and impact your relationships

December 13th, 2015

Our Smartphones have become essential tools for not only communicating with others but for organizing our lives, managing our work and personal schedules, storing data, shopping, finding our way around, and accessing all kinds of information—all with a few easy clicks and swipes. What did we do before we had them?

We managed with payphones, our telephone and address books, appointment calendars, filing systems, libraries, and yes, our feet. Life was slower, we had real-time, face-to-face interactions with others, we were inconvenienced, we had to plan ahead, and many of us got hopelessly lost sometimes. But we were more active and apparently our posture was a lot better.

According to the New Zealand physiotherapist, Steve August, we are suffering from the iHunch, also referred to as iPosture and itext neck. This condition happens over time and is the result of bending our necks forward 60 degrees as we use our phones. The resulting stress from the weight this places on our spines forms a stoop or hump on our upper backs. This used to be much more common in the elderly, but now is happening more and more in the young. Just writing this is leading me to sit with a very erect posture and to hold my head as straight as possible as I type.

In addition, the consequences go beyond just the physical—as if that weren’t bad enough. Depressed people slouch in much the same way. So do folks with low self-esteem and/or a problem with assertiveness and confidence. A study published earlier this year in Health Psychology found that when subjects in their study were told to slouch during mock job interviews it led to lowered self-esteem, greater fear, and increased negativity—even when these slouchers had no history of these issues. The researchers concluded that “sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.”

Another study found that slouching can affect memory, where the slouchers had better memory recall for negative VS positive information. Most of us have heard the term “selective memory or hearing,” where people seem to only recall certain things that were said to them or that occurred. It’s not a leap to consider how their posture might be contributing to this. Another study showed more productivity among those who sat upright VS the slouchers. Do you ever struggle with finishing a memo, letter, or work project? Consider trying a different and more upright posture and see if this helps you to think more clearly and be more productive. The smaller the device, the greater the slouch, so that is also something to consider.

Now what does all this have to do with relationships? In fact, everything. What you communicate nonverbally to those you interact with at work, on the street, at social and other non-related work events, and with those you are close to—all impacts how they see you and the quality of the relationship you have with them.

Think about it, if you are out at a club and an attractive stranger looks your way and sees someone who is communicating low self-esteem and a negative attitude—do you think that person will have an interest in getting to know you? What about in your work relationships? How might a co-worker relate to you if they see you as negative, timid and unproductive VS positive, assertive and confident? This is also important with family, friends and in intimate relationships. Everyone wants to be around people who lift them up, who come across and confident, strong and at ease. If you ever wonder what you may be doing wrong that leads to confusing and/or disappointing interactions with others—consider your posture. It’s a great place to start.

Will you be happier if you marry rather than cohabitate?

December 10th, 2015

Ohio State University used data that was collected in the 2000’s for a study that examined how living together VS getting married impacts an individual’s well-being, and it compared the differences between the impacts on men VS women. The conclusions were that young women, get as much benefit from moving in with a partner (in a first relationship) as they do from marriage. They also experienced the same decline in emotional distress from either cohabitation without marriage and marriage. Clearly moving into commitment with or without marriage improves a woman’s sense of security and increases her happiness.

Men on the other hand had a drop in emotional distress when they went directly to marriage, but not to a shared living arrangement (in their first committed relationship.) It is somewhat surprising that marriage causes less distress for a guy than moving in together does. Perhaps making the big decision and having this behind them has a calming influence on men but not on women.

However, once both sexes get to a second or subsequent relationship, the differences in their emotional returns from living together VS marrying are the same. Apparently guys feel better about living together as opposed to going right into marriage after they have some serious relationship experience under their belts.

It’s interesting that marriage used to be a requirement for a certain level of contentment, especially for women, but that now people are just as happy without it. No wonder the marriage rate has gone down and that people are getting married at a later age and often after living together for a while.

If you want to read the study, you can find it online in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Beauty is as beauty does

December 6th, 2015

In the spirit of true feminism the 2016 Pirelli calendar, which is an art item released by an Italian tire company—will break with its pin-up tradition of featuring nude and partially clothed models. This year it will be filled with women who are known not for their looks, but for their accomplishments. Serena Williams, Patti Smith, Amy Schumer, Fran Lebowitz, Kathleen Kennedy, Tavi Gevinson, and Yoko Ono are among those featured.

These women come from all kinds of backgrounds and their accomplishments span a wide spectrum. What they have in common is what they have done with their talents and lives, not how good they look doing whatever. This year is also the first time in over 25 years that a woman has shot the calendar—Annie Leibovitz, the renowned photographer was chosen for this honor.

Only Williams and Schumer are photographed in their underwear—everyone else is fully clothed. It has long been said that it’s what you can’t see that adds to sexiness—perhaps that will be the case here as well. Schumer summed it up in her usual funny way on Instagram when she wrote the caption “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.”

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and Schumer covers it well… This should be a shot in the arm for all women of all sizes, shapes, races, backgrounds and ages, beautiful is as beautiful does–you go girl.

Superwoman at work and home

December 4th, 2015

The Pew Research Center has come out with more interesting statistics on how many families now have two working parents, who the highest earner usually is (him or her), and who handles the greater load of responsibility for children and the running of the household.

According to the study, conducted from September 15th through October 13th, 2015, in two-parent families, parenting and household chores are shared more equally when both parents work full time, as opposed to when Mom is employed part time or unemployed. However, even when both parents work full time outside the home, women handle the greater share at home.

The study’s 1,807 participants revealed that only 26% of the women are presently stay at home Moms, which is a big drop from 40 years ago. Their medium household income is much higher, yet finding a way to balance work and home life continues to present a significant challenge the couples report.

What is most interesting is the discrepancy between how men and women scored the division of labor in their homes. Both groups of Moms, those who were employed and those who weren’t—reported that they did more on every item listed in the survey than their spouses (64% report they do more). Men on the other hand reported across the board that they handle a greater share than what their wives have said. 31% or Moms say the work is shared equally, 41% of Dads say that they do half.

They are in closer agreement on who focuses more on their work—the majority are in agreement that men do. It should be noted that whether the Mom works part time, full time, or is a stay at home parent, He usually earns more—which may be why his work is (needs to be?) a primary focus for him.

Given the statistics, women report more stress when trying to find a balance between work and home. In addition it would make sense that if they are more focused on home that this would be their priority and where their heart is. For dads, it is also a priority, but it seems they often leave the home/child worry to their spouses.

Another interesting statistic is how those with a college education differ from those without one. For both women and men, there is a 20+% difference in how much they struggle with this balance, with the college educated finding it much harder. White parents are also more likely to cite balance as a problem over non-whites. There were also differences between those who report enjoying parenthood and those who don’t enjoy it as much. Of course, the stress that comes from the work/home juggling act is a factor and when it is not felt as strongly, parents report more enjoyment in that role. THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO TAKE NOTE OF.

The study also goes on to offer data on how parenting impacts career goals—and there is a lot of breakdown on male VS female perceptions about how well they share responsibility and prioritize their home life and children. Since these issues are what many marital therapists like I are frequently confronted with—this study could provide useful insights to both struggling couples and those who are tasked with helping them. Click here to go to the study