New study says those with more Facebook friends are materialistic

December 10th, 2017

Please don’t shoot the messenger…
A new study from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany found that materialistic people see and treat their Facebook friends as “digital objects,” and have significantly more online friends than those people who have a lower interest in possessions. They also have a higher need to compare themselves with others—so the more “friends” the better.

According to this study, these are the folks who use Facebook frequently, actively sending out and responding to posts. They acquire “friends” like possessions—which helps them achieve their goals and feel better about themselves through this social comparison. The researchers also note that “materialists love tools that don’t cost money.” I must debate this last point as it’s safe to say we all love useful tools that don’t cost money—it’s smart and frugal.

The researchers asked 242 Facebook users to answer an online questionnaire that asked them to rate their agreement with statements in order to calculate their Facebook activity. They were queried about things like posting photos, how often they compare themselves with others, things they want but don’t currently have, and what having more Facebook friends says about them and how gaining more will help their goals. The results pointed to those who are more materialistic having a stronger need to compare themselves socially to others, having more Facebook friends, and objectifying their “friends” more than other users. The study was replicated with some changes in the demographics of the group used, and it came out with the same conclusions.

The researchers did emphasize that Facebook is a useful tool for achieving goals, but has its limits and downsides. So keep posting and using Facebook as a tool of convenience and a great way to keep in touch with others and to network towards your social and career goals. Just remember that more isn’t necessarily better, and quality over quantity could work best for you.

The bad boys of power and privilege

December 2nd, 2017

Depending on what generation you are from, when you think “bad boy,” you might conjure up an image of James Dean, Marlon Brando, J R Ewing, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Mark Wahlberg or Shia LaBeouf—to name only a few. There is clearly no shortage of these guys, though most of us are a bit surprised at just how many can be described this way.

#METOO has been an eye-opener, to say the least—even for those of us who have worked with sexual assault and abuse victims and have been surprised at times by who the perp turned out to be. That rough around the edges, down on his luck, from bad circumstances Neanderthal may be the gentlest and most respectful guy towards the women around him, and the guy in the 1500 dollar suit may be a dangerous predator.

Since the story about Harvey Weinstein broke and was followed by the #METOO avalanche–story after story about guys we have been big fans of, respected, thought of as safe and cuddly, and believed to be liberal supporters of women and feminism, have been coming out, one after another. Some even fear a potential witch hunt backlash by vindictive/rejected/unhappy females looking for revenge. While false accusations happen (remember Duke lacrosse team and Jackie from UVA), they are rare and usually with careful fact checking, they are exposed as fabrications.

There is also concern about more “innocent” gestures being interpreted as over the line—like a hug, a complement to someone about their appearance, or a suggestion to get together for coffee, lunch, or a drink after work. Indeed, I have expressed my thoughts to my millennial sons, reminding them to be mindful of not only their words and actions, but how they are received by the other person. When false accusations are made and accepted too easily—it takes something away from all the victims who need our support and trust.

And yes, there are many victims out there, and a big problem for all of us is what to do with the accused. After all, the accusations vary widely—some are of rape, sexual aggression towards underage girls, flashing and exposure, and/or holding jobs and promotions hostage to sexual favors. While others are inappropriately touching someone during a photo shoot or when offering condolences, of making lewd or inappropriate remarks to a co-worker, or of kissing a woman without her permission or cooperation. While none of these is appropriate and all are a violation of some sort—shouldn’t the punishment fit the sin, and how are we to determine what is right for each?

There is one very positive thing that has come from this awful mess—and that is women who have been victimized now have a voice and no longer have to feel guilty, responsible or as if they somehow were to blame—which are the kinds of feelings that all victims have in common. Women will be heard, believed and finally get the support they have often had to live without, sometimes for years. The scars that this kind of thing leave can be very deep and very damaging—depending on so many variables, and the woman (or man) herself/himself.

It’s a sure bet this thing has not run its course and many names will be coming out over the following weeks and months. However all of us should avoid that high horse—as it is a long way to fall and fall we will if it turns out our husband, son, or close friend is one of those outed. No one is immune—we have all loved people who are less than perfect, and if it turns out to be someone close to you, where will you stand? Definitely something to think about. We are all human and flawed—and before we issue a siren call to have them all locked up or beheaded, we should take a deep breath and give justice a chance to sort all this out and decide what is appropriate for whom.

The “good” divorce

November 26th, 2017

The NY Times Modern Love column is running a piece right now penned by Elizabeth Covington, a New Yorker who is the mistress/girlfriend to a man who left his wife for her—a wife who has befriended the author and made great efforts to include her in the family throughout the separation and impending divorce.

Wow, right? Well, of course these relationships are not as uncomplicated as they seem on the surface—and no, the wife wasn’t happy about her spouse asking for a divorce after falling for another woman, not happy at all. Yet she has taken the high road and reached out with friendliness and inclusion. So the question is why?

The comments on this piece (mine included) number almost 400 and counting. As you can imagine, anger at the author (and hubby) is what most (many women) readers write about. Comments like their selfishness, thinking only about their own wants and needs, not trying to fix the marriage, breaking up a “happy” family, are all expressed. There are also folks (mostly men) who think the women readers are being too hard on Josh. Then there are the ones who accuse Beka of being a “martyr”, manipulating the situation to gain attention…really???

This couple was a successful, power couple who had been married for quite a few years and have two “lovely” little girls. The author expresses her relief that she never wanted any of her own and was saving all her maternal instincts for these girls, really? Josh deals with all this by becoming extremely anxious and self-medicating with alcohol, standing somewhere in the background as Beka steps up to try and make the best of a devastating blow to her world and that of her children.

There will be folks who read this and who will stand on all sides of it—depending on their own experiences and past/present relationships. Many will feel rage, others sorrow, and still others will feel superior, thinking they could/would never behave like either Josh or Elizabeth. Not so fast…no one can be sure till they have been there and as Josh is quoted saying, many of their friends were divorcing for the same reason.

I am clearly old school and conservative with it comes to relationships. If you are a woman and are approached by a married man, say no upfront. Once you are in, it’s much harder to get out. If you are a guy (or woman) who is unhappy (apparently josh was “miserable”) in your marriage—seek professional help before trying to find a distraction/replacement. Many marriages can be saved, but not if the individuals don’t admit there is a serious problem and take steps together to address it.

It’s clear Beka would have been all in with counseling, addressing issues, working to meet Josh’s unmet needs—but if he wasn’t able or willing, the end would have been the same. Had Beka decided to act out her grief and taken this to the mats—a lot of money would have been spent and the anger and hurt would have helped create a very toxic environment for Beka, Josh, and mostly the children. Kuddos to Beka for doing what she could to make the best of a terrible situation that her spouse (and Elizabeth) created. No doubt Beka was not and is not a saint—though Josh told Elizabeth she is a wonderful and beautiful person. Indeed, her actions have clearly demonstrated this.

Are women who grew up without fathers doomed to misread a man’s interests later on?

November 11th, 2017

New research finds that women who had poor quality fathering or a father who was mostly absent while they were growing up—falsely perceived a greater interest from men they were dating or interacting with. They saw more sexual interest and arousal than was actually present, and more interest from the men in mating.

The downside of this is that these women are more likely to engage in risky or unrestricted sexual behavior—like hooking up with men they have just met, and answering booty calls with an eager yes.

This research co-authored by University of Utah psychology professor, Bruce J. Ellis and professor Sarah E. Hill and graduate student Randi Proffitt Leyva of TCU in Fort Worth, Texas emphasized that many studies have pointed to the importance of a father to a daughter’s sexual development and future choices in partners, but that no one has really explored how one leads to the other.

Some research has suggested a genetic cause, where men who engage in risky behavior have daughters who do so as well. But this new study says that is only a small part (maybe0 of the cause. They found that when women were reminded of the painful and disappointing experiences with their fathers that this led to their false perceptions of a man’s interest in them. This perceived interest then led to an increase in their engagement in sexual behavior. Interestingly when women were reminded of disappointing experiences with their mothers it did not increase their engagement in sexual behavior.

Many of the participants came from intact families and had fathers present when growing up. However the level of engagement and the divorce of parents later on were significant factors in the women’s sexual behavior as adults.

The bottom line is that dads matter a lot to their children—and dads play a critical role in the daughter’s development, especially in how and who she will choose to become involved with as an adult. Divorce is also a factor as is how engaged a dad is and the quality of his relationship with his children.

Moms have always been seen as the driving force and biggest shaper of a child’s development and this study sheds a light on how short-sided that thinking is….sorry Dr. Freud.

Sexual harassment and the mistrust between the sexes

October 28th, 2017

I was recently interviewed by a French TV station, looking for my feedback on sexual harassment in America and its impact on the relationships between men and women in this country. They compared and contrasted the relationships we have here with the ones men and women in France share—and are mystified at why they are so different.

In France, and in much of Europe, there is an openness we do not have in our culture. People kiss one another in greeting, touch is used frequently—and personal space is not something people think about. Yes, they do have sexual harassment issues like we do, and rape is a problem there as well. So why are they so open and we are not? I blamed it on culture.

Though the US is a melting pot of folks from other places and cultures—we do have a national culture along with the ones that different subsets bring with them and that continue to influence them. But it is the larger culture that demands space, reinforces the importance of good boundaries, asks for safe spaces, and is very aware of how and what they say and do might impact the feelings of others. Many express concern about a climate of correctness that has shut down all discourse and disagreement.

Now for the irony—sexual harassment is epidemic—and men (mostly) are acting out sexually in large numbers, especially when they have an advantage that helps them get away with it. How could this be in such a climate and culture? Maybe because we had stopped talking about these things in frank and open ways—which would help those who needed it to ask for help and speak frankly about their experiences.

#METOO should help. So should all the discussion that is bound to take place in boardrooms, bars, and among friends and acquaintances when they come together socially. Not just women, but men need to be able to share at least some of what they are feeling and why they think this is happening and what can be done about it. Instead of men being viewed as potential predators, not to be fully trusted at work on in a social setting—maybe we should try harder to understand their feelings in this new dating and relating culture and listen to what it is they have to say about it.

We need and want each other. Underneath everything else, we are very much alike. Wouldn’t it be a much nicer world if we could show more affection, talk more freely, and be ourselves without fear of being labelled or rejected as incorrect?

Common sense dictates that we treat stranger encounters with care, that we not take unnecessary chances, and that we avoid leaving ourselves vulnerable to potential predators. These are good guidelines for living—but there is a lot of room between them and the distrust, anger, and judgement that is occurring too often between the sexes. We won’t be a safer or better people by shutting down open and honest dialogue and discourse. And telling guys to watch everything they say and do will not improve their behavior—only lead them to be more cautious and less emotionally available to women who they may be interested in or who may be interested in them.

Older men and younger women—the attraction and downsides are real

October 1st, 2017

The NY Times ran a fun opinion piece by Mona Chalabi that deals with the topic of men seeking younger women to date—and many younger women are interested in them as well. Ms. Chalabi uses her own experiences and adds a bit of humor and statistics to make her point.

The dating website OK Cupid collected data that showed the most attractive ages for potential dating partners, for both men and women. The numbers were clear, very young women were interested in men a couple of years older and this number decreased as they aged, showing more interest to younger guys as they got older. Men on the other hand, were interested in women their same age when they were in their early twenties, but as they got older, their love interests got younger and younger. These differences end up giving men more time to grow up, move into committed relationships, and become fathers.

This is why Ms. Chalabi titled her piece, “I want my 2.3 bonus years.” After all, this is at least what men get to have those experiences, party, and decide what they want to be when they grow up. The author laments that this is just not fair. She acknowledges that we don’t stop growing and experiencing just because we are coupled, it’s just that women have less time to have all those fun single life experiences before they settle down, have children, and end up being the primary care taker (in the majority of cases). Therefore men have an edge even after becoming Dads—which they can do much later than women can.

Then there is the reality of a woman being married to an older man and growing older with him. She may very well end up being his caretaker due to that age difference.

The author confesses to being a bad first date because she will ask her date what he is looking for—like commitment, parenthood or just a good time. Then when he replies he is only shopping and not in a rush—she practically blows a gasket at his arrogance. Unfair, just unfair.

Ms. Chalabi goes on to cite research that shows men might not be completely realistic about how young a women could be and still be interested. Apparently, very young women seek same-age guys and only consider much older ones as they get older, along with being open to the younger ones too. However there are young women who would consider a man 3-5 years older as they are more mature, worldly, sophisticated, and successful. Young guys, not so much.

Let’s face it, men are seen as getting better with age, women as getting older. The author proposes that all women join her in a pledge to date within their age range and leave the older guys to the older versions of themselves. Would be nice if she could pull it off. Women would benefit as well as they enter later years with a partner who can keep up with them, not need to be cared for by them.

Think about it ladies—it can happen, one young single woman at a time….

Marrying up is not just for women anymore

September 17th, 2017

Actually, I’ve never been comfortable with the term. Yes, we all used it when joking about a friend/family member “marrying up,” and often it was also meant to be a complement to the spouse they were lucky to snag.

Then there was always the downside, that belief on the part of (too many) men that women look to date guys who have good careers and earn hefty paychecks—in order words, Golddiggers who were only into a guy if he had money.

This stereotype has persisted over the years, and in fact, there are women who have fed it and given the rest of us a “bad name.” These women make no bones about it, they want a good earner/provider—they are the ones like the young women depicted in An officer and a gentleman,” setting their sights on flyers and the life a marriage to one would provide.

Not that it isn’t understandable and even smart for women to seek men who are financially secure and responsible. It is and most of us are fine with that criteria. In these relationships it’s not about marrying a guy because of his assets and earning potential—it’s about paying attention to the practical things when you meet someone and realize you are falling for him, for so many reasons. He might be handsome, sweet, funny, sincere, and loyal—but unemployed, lacking any direction, and happy to follow your lead and let you be the one who handle finances and other things in the relationship. For some women, this is acceptable because he meets their needs and this compromise would be worth what they get in return. For many of us, this could be a weight that we would resist as time went by and could be a deal breaker down the road.

A recent study turns this dynamic on its head, finding that it’s more likely now for WOMEN, not men, to have that college degree and better career opportunities, and therefore it is men who are now more likely to benefit from marriage than women.

This study, published in Demography, backs up what educated women living in Metropolitan areas have been saying for a while—it’s hard to find suitable men to date. OUCH

Essentially as women have become more educated, empowered, and successful, they are less likely to benefit from marriage. Yes, the standard of living has gone up in families with two-income earners—but it is men who benefit from this as they were once (primarily) the sole earners for their families.

The study’s data was taken from U.S. Census data in 1990 and 2000, and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey. People included ranged in age from 35-44, who were in nuclear families. What they found is that women’s annual personal income increased three times faster than men’s incomes from 1990-2011, even with the pay gap. Women were also earning college degrees 39% more, and men only 10% more, during that time period.

This progress by women has improved the standard of living for men more than it has for womens’ standard of living–defined here as equivalized income. Boiling this down, the study concludes that women used to have an advantage in the marriage because they could marry up, but now that is no longer the case. Women are earning more and contributing more—and are more likely to marry men who are less educated and who earn less.

Therefore women are on their way up, and depending on how you view all this—have new advantages but drawbacks as well. They have more independence and security in general, and can be equal partners in terms of their financial contributions in their relationships/families. Given traditional roles however, women are still more likely to be the primary parents—doing the lion’s share of parenting and household management.

So guys, the next time you fear she is more into your career/job/real estate then she is into you—consider that it may be you who has the most to gain from a relationship with this educated and successful career women—who’s also a good friend and loving partner.

Looks like we may have entered the age where women should be on the look-out for men who are searching for a sugar mommy.

If you are great relating on Face Time, does this mean it will be so in real time?

September 10th, 2017

A great piece ran in the N.Y. Time’s Modern Love column a couple of months ago on one woman’s experience with falling in love on Face Time and then taking the relationship into a day-to-day, real time relationship. Needless to say, it was challenging.

Maria Shehata, a stand-up comedian now living in London, was a single woman living in Los Angeles when she met and then began a long-distance, face time relationship with a man who lived in London. They had hung out about four times in person, related well, and then began an intense, Face Time relationship, where they talked so long and so easily, she gave up any thoughts of trying to meet someone else.

They carried on this virtual relationship for three months before Nick flew from London to L.A.. It wasn’t easy for him because Maria had several rommates and they shared a bathroom—none of which was something Nick wanted to do. However he liked Maria enough and over he came.

Now this was a “relationship” where they hadn’t even held hands yet—they really knew nothing about how a physical relationship might go, let alone staying together in close, shared quarters. Yet Maria felt closer to him than all the guys she had dated in her years in L.A. so she was hopeful. She did ask her therapist and friends for input—and shared some funny comments and observations. She is after all, a comedian.

Essentially her therapist was unfazed about them not really knowing one another and reminded Maria that her parents had an arranged marriage—not very different from what Nick and Maria were attempting. It had worked out for them, though they had only met briefly before Maria’s dad chose her from a small group of interested women.

Maria speculates that one problem is that there are too many choices today, and that people throw away others without even taking the time to get to know them. Hook-ups with no emotional strings are common, so no one really bonds and gets to know the other person. Over Face Time, Maria felt she did get to know Nick and he her—and that they had formed a meaningful bond.

It turned out that physically they were compatible, but in so many other ways, it was a struggle. He would get upset if she left the kitchen cabinet open, and could not understand why things that stressed him out didn’t bother her at all. They spent money differently and had clashing bio-rhythms. Finally they decided to see a couples therapist who help Nick see that Maria wasn’t going to change and asked Maria where her boundaries were. Good observation and question that were followed by the therapist telling them that if this continued, it just wouldn’t work.

Maria and Nick apparently stuck it out and decided that addressing their differences was worth the effort because what they have basically works for them.

So can a long-distance, virtual, passionate love affair become a real-time, face-to-face one? It depends on the couple, their bond, their differences and similarities and what they are willing to do to make it work.

Just one woman’s story, but a useful one.

How pornography can negatively impact your relationship

September 9th, 2017

Pornography is “hot.” As an industry it continues to grow and thrive. Approximately 65% of men and 35% of women under 40 are once yearly users; and 45% of men and 15% of women are weekly users. It’s estimated to be a $10 to $12 billion (that’s billion) dollar industry per year in the U.S. alone, and $97 billion globally.

Yet there is concern about how the use of pornography affects people—especially the young and those in committed relationships. Addiction, human trafficking, child endangerment, its influence on how we view sexuality, sexual relationships, and bonding and attachment—are all reasons for concern. Yet, like most things, there could be a positive impact from its use when it is mutually shared between a couple, and helps to open them up to experimenting sexually and enhancing their intimate relationship. However the downsides are greater than the upsides.

Studies have shown that there is also a societal effect that is troubling—undermining women’s rights, minors having exposure, and an increase in violent and even dehumanizing content leading to desensitization. There are not enough studies on how it affects the long-term stability of marriages and risks of breaking up. However data from a few studies shows a correlation between pornography use and divorce. It points to underlying intimacy issues, relationship instability, and a problem with healthy bonding and attachment.
One study examined data from 2012-2016, taken from the Portraits of American life Study. The purpose was to see if earlier pornography use predicted later relationship instability. Approximately 1,000people over 18 from diverse backgrounds participated—and the researchers controlled for many variables including pornography viewing, sociodemographic factors, and romantic breakup. They tested the hypotheses that viewing pornography earlier in life will predict a greater likelihood of experiencing romantic breakup later on.

What they found is that most associations are gendered, most likely due to how men and women use pornography. Men use it more often and use it to masturbate, while women use it more for the purpose of enhancing their relationship lovemaking. Therefore the negative impact of pornography use on attachment, infidelity, and relationship quality impacts men far more than women.

The findings showed a significant correlation between men using pornography in 2006 and the risk of breaking up six years later. Protective factors were marriage, parenthood, older age, being better educated, and religious beliefs. Factors that increased the risk of breakup included being single, living together, being divorced, being African-American, and having no religious affiliations.

Some of this seems like common sense—that those who are committed and have strong religious beliefs are more likely to work at and put up with unhappiness in their relationships. There are also many other factors that could play a role such as the relationship of their parents, developmental maturity, difficulty relating to others, differences in values and beliefs, and past sexual experience. In order to have a better handle on the answer to this question, these would need to be controlled for in any future studies.

But even with those unanswered questions still out there—it is clear that there is some impact that using pornography has on relationships, especially when the user is a male. Therefore if this is an issue/potential issue in your relationship, it would be good to have frank discussions about a partner’s past and present use and what, if any impact, their partner feels it has on their present relationship. Ignoring or dismissing it could land your relationship in divorce court.

New study offers proof that guys dig romance too

August 30th, 2017

The results of a new US nationality representative study of sexual behavior have recently been published in PLOS One. The Sexual Exploration in America study used a sample of Americans who answered questions about whether they have engaged in a list of more than 30 sexual behaviors. In addition, the appeal of nearly 50 sexual behaviors to this group was also measured.

The Indiana University study was the first to capture a wide range of diverse sexual behaviors that have never been examined before in the general population. The more then 2,000 women and men were found to have engaged in a wide variety of behaviors, including some fairly common ones. Interestingly for both women and men, the most appealing of these behaviors were romantic and affectionate ones that included cuddling, whispering sweet romantic things and kissing during sex, and creating a more romantic ambiance prior to engaging in sex.

The researchers also found that many participants rated acts as sexually appealing and something they had tried in the past, yet few continued to engage in them over time. According to researchers, this study could help couples to open up and engage their partners in more candid conversations about sex and intimacy in order to strengthen their relationship happiness.

Who knew that men really do like cuddling, kissing and whispering swet and sexy things as much as the sex act itself?