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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Marriage and family conflicts

News Conflict Management Skills Recommended Links Borderliners and sociopaths in marriage Divorcing Borderline Psychopath Marital Infidelity Marriage and unemployment Buyer's remorse Conflicts with a narcissistic mother
Understanding Borderline Rage The Techniques of a Female Sociopaths Female Sociopaths Double High Authoritarians Borderline Psychopaths Social alienation Conflicts with a narcissistic son    
Films depicting female sociopaths Movies depicting BPD Psychopaths in Movies What Other Couples Do Sex, Lies And Videotape Woman of the Year Unfaithful The Good Wife Bonfire of vanities
Anger trap Negative Politeness Diplomatic Communication Fighting direct verbal abuse Six ways to say No and mean it Office Stockholm Syndrome Rules of Verbal Self Defense     
Female bullies The Fiefdom Syndrome Learned helplessness Oscar Wilde Quotes Somerset Maugham Quotes Groupthink Quotes Humor Etc

Acknowledgement: In refining my views on the subject I am indebted: Love, Sex, and Intimacy Their Psychology, Biology, and History by Elaine Hatfield, Richard L. Rapson and Revolutions of the Heart Gender, Power, and the Delusions of Love (1999) by Wendy Langford and   The Evolution Of Desire Strategies Of Human Mating by David M. Buss.  The material below is heavily influenced by those, mentioned above,  books. 

Contents


Introduction

Marriage is difficult in the best of circumstances

Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the
habituation of the middle aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.

—John Ciardi

“The thing about life is that you must survive.
Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen.
 What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough.
 Not in the sense of being mean to others,
but being tough with yourself
and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”

 Katharine Hepburn

When we contemplate the miseries that most humans have had to suffer for most of human history (and still do), our obsession with relationships, beauty and immediate gratification is not only looks frivolous, but also remarkably stupid. There are more things to justify the gift of life than happy-ever-after romances. From this point of view, falling in love can be seen as a misguided quest for redemption, based on the delusion that freedom can be attained via bonding with the ‘significant other’ of the opposite gender and a lot of sex.  As Marlene Dietrich noted "In America, sex is an obsession". I would add say that sax is simulations an escape from the cruel reality of neoliberal society. Neoliberalism expects -- and education at every level has been redesigned to promote this -- that economic decision-making will be applied to all areas of life (parenthood, intimacy, sexuality, and identity in any of its forms), and that those who do not do so will be subject to discipline. Everyone must invest in their own future, and not pose a burden to the state or anyone else, otherwise they will be refused recognition as human beings. As George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith pointed out, neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism ) creates the culture of cruelty with its "horrific effects on individuals" and by extension on the institution of marriage.  As Katharine Hepburn noted “The thing about life is that you must survive. Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough. Not in the sense of being mean to others, but being tough with yourself and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”  It is very important not get brainwashed by propaganda and keep realistic expectations.

While propaganda present romantic love a s liberating force, that bring individual to a new level maturity (as if  alcohol abuse does something similar to it victims :-)  it is simply not true. Does not the romantic love establish a domain in which coercion is still exercised, albeit in more subtle manner?  For example via socially enforced "standard of female beauty", and unequal position of partners after marriage.

The questions that arise here are: What are prevalent forms of this coercion? Why is it so invisible? If romantic love and subsequent marriage are actually a subtle method of governance, a form of unequal social relations between men and women, this presuppose (to various degree)  the subservant role of women (which partially dictated by biology), then how is this manifest in the experience of the subjects of love and later marital partners (especially females)?  Is marriage disappointments is that is something given, taking into account exaggerated expectation and rapid decline of erotic component ( which for a time serves an anesthetic to the pains of living as a couple is cruel and individualistic neoliberal world) why are we not preparing young women for it ?  And if so, what is best form of coping with it and at which level of this disappointment the divorce became the best option (approximately each second marriage in the USA ends in divorce those days, so this is a mass phenomenon that requires careful study).  

All those question should not only be asked, they should be honestly answered by those who are entering or already entered this form of human relationships.

Love and marriage can't be much fun, if the society in which you are living is deeply sick, as is the case with neoliberal society.  Which by definition is the paradise only for top 0.1%, which everybody else thrown under the bus, but to various degrees, of different buses, if you wish.  Still it is kind of "the last refuge" from harsh and cruel reality. Sill despite the dominance of neoliberalism with its ruthlessness and cult of self-centered individuality (narcissism) in modern Western culture, there is nothing most individuals desire more than to get into the state of "encompassing romantic love" (aka "love madness") and naively expect that if you achieve this state of exaltation (not that different from intoxication from narcotics, such as heroine) such relationship could last for a lifetime. Like in cults, converts cling to the illusion as long as they can, even after they realize that they were royally duped.

What is really funny is that historically the romantic love, which serves as the  basis for "romantic marriage" pattern in our Western culture, was the feeling reserved for one's mistress in medieval Europe during the period of arranged marriages. Yet, as a bewildered Western population generally recognizes, people rarely achieve a sweet, lasting emotional attachments on the bases of romantic love alone, not matter how mad they were initially of each other.  This is a temporary state of of exaltation, which sooner or later is history. The key for the lasting relationships is what is left when it is gone.

In other words, "romantic love" (with its instinctive human mating mechanisms as the base)  is neither necessary, nor sufficient condition for a lasting, healthy relationship between two partners of the opposite sex in a modern society.  One apt comment on the famous claim that "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage", is the suggestion that instead  "love is a very unruly horse, far more apt to run away from the carriage than to pull it."  May be love and divorce are those that typically go together ... like carriage and a horse. If you honestly want to have a society in which people choose their mating partners on the basis of personal affection only,  there will be many broken hearts and broken lives as affection is typically asymmetrical: one is really passionately in love, while the other "allows" himself/herself to be loved ("in consent"). This "in_love/in_consent asymmetry was noted by many authors and reflected in quotes of such literary giants as Oscar Wilde  and Somerset Maugham:

In other word this interesting and encompassing feeling typically is not  shared in equal degree by two partners. As Oscar Wilder noted one typically loves, and the other only allows to be loved. Exactly because the spouse was chosen out of love the marriage is more fragile that people realize.  In other word marring a person on the base of romantic feeling alone is a huge gamble.

That's why our society is saturated with self-help books, crammed with advice on how to "make relationships work",  with soap operas, and stereotypical (but quite brainwashing) Hollywood movies. In other words, our disappointments with our relationships cannot be ascribed to insufficient attention to the subject: “love” is as magical a word in American culture as is “money.”

So the problems might well be related to the fact that there is something wrong with the society in which we live too and cultural myths that we are brainwashed into.  Successful marriage, much like successful business between two partners,  is probably more about the ability of successful problem solving together,  then romantic love. Like the period of arranged marriages in Europe had shown quite clearly, respect might be enough. And not only respect to the partner. We need to take into account social forces that are bigger that us. And respect them.  And do not try to turn the partner into scapegoat of our problems which might well be caused by the "society at large". Also some amount of suffering is not completely bad idea, it typically contributes to the person maturity. Compare this statement with sentiments expressed in the song  Lynn Anderson - I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (BBC Top Of The Pops) - YouTube

One possible problem is that most people enter love affairs with quite unrealistic hopes, hoping for the escape from the dullness of their present lives, much like people enter cults or convert to some new religion. Such marriages are drenched with illusions that they have found the perfect mate, imagining (or even initially experiencing) ever-thrilling sex, and that magically romantic love will help their relationship to evolve into permanently happy marriage ("happy-ever-after" mentality). 

Majority, especially women, see their dreams crashed rather quickly with various levels of dashed expectations. Levels of disappointment dramatically grow after the first year (and  typically are much higher for women, then men). In the beginning, passionate love's euphoria anesthetizes the couple from cold winds of life. But like any anesthetic, this effect does not last forever.  At some point problems, it is problem solving abilities of the couple, are all that matters. If problems became chronic and are not resolved,  relationship eventually fails. It is not accidental that the probability of divorce for those with a college degree was lower compared with those without a college degree. College graduates were 20% less likely to divorce (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Moreover, the “divorce gap” between college graduates and those with less education was larger in the NLSY79 cohort than it was for the 1950–1955 birth cohort. In the NLSY79 cohort, the divorce rate for first marriages is nearly 20 percentage points lower for those who have completed their bachelor’s degree compared with those who have completed high school, regardless of whether they have some college or not. The gap is even greater, approaching 30 percentage points, when comparing those with a college degree to those with less than a high school diploma. Just as with first marriages, college graduates were more likely to stay in a second marriage when compared with groups that have less education.

Approximately half of first marriage ends in divorce in the USA.

The end of marriage -- divorce (considerable percentage of marriages ends at or before the the third year)-- typically leave people stunned and baffled about what has gone wrong. Some men and women iterate via this cycle several times ("serial monogamy").  In this sense the second marriage is similar to the first one, but the the second time you at least suspect that you are gambling.

Still there is a such powerful cultural pressure and a set of feelings and ideas associated with romantic love. It touches  important dimensions of human freedom and self-worth such as: pleasure vs  fear, freedom vs regulation/restriction, procreation vs abortion, control vs abandonment, health vs disease. For example, sex could be used to strengthen the relationships, move it toward commitment. When the relationship has reached a stage where sexual intercourse is appropriate, people who are acting rationally are those who offer sex as a bargain for getting commitment. While there is no a priori or biological reason why sex and committed personal relationships should be linked, as relationships between customers and prostitutes seem to show, But there are clearly social reasons.

Within establish Western social canon romantic love  tends to be portrayed   only in positive terms, even by those writers who regard romantic love as a special case of narcissistic delusion.  But some realism gradually cripples in. Long rejected now is the old notion, still vigorously advocated by the dating agencies and popular magazines that there are people who are destined for each other on the basis of the set of their individual traits alone ("matching couples").  On this simplistic level, a relationship is expected to succeed just because of the set of individual traits of partners "match" each other. Such a list used for "matching" of dating websites might include, for instance, their attitudes, their personalities, their socio-demographic positions in the society, educational level,  and, especially,  their physical attractiveness.  While chances for successful relationship are higher if individuals have common social background, education and social status, people change and in ten years change considerably. That includes the level pf physical beauty in woman, sexual capabilities in man (which drop rather dramatically from their peak in early twenties), and most important the level of their education and career success.  Still the confirmation by the web site algorithms that the selected partner is an "appropriate mating partner"  serves as an powerful enticing mechanism, creating initial positive feeling toward the person during the first date. But  the idea of matching traits as the precondition for the successful relationship is definitely false.  Biological mechanisms of attraction and the social context in which individual see each other at the first date definitely plays greater role.  Unfortunately, we all judge strangers by appearance.  And this factor creates huge risks as sociopaths are especially adept in producing a very good first impression.

In reality if we stay within the framework of "romantic love" instead of static traits the emphasis probably should be on human mating patterns (which are partially inherited and similar to those in primates world) and to the dynamic process of  Romantic transformation, mysterious conversion of a rational person into infatuated lover. The latter includes idealization and adopting some kind of self-delusion (aka "rose glasses") toward the person of other sex. Which is especially strong in narcissists. 

Infatuated lovers temporarily forfeit the personal autonomy and fall in so called "love madness". In the latter role it has structural similarities to radically altered states of mind induced by depression, psychosis and some drugs such as cocaine and heroine.  In the latter sense lovers are not that different from  converts to a   high-demand cult (and recruitment to which often uses "love bombing" as a trap).   And like is clearly the case with converts, any romantic love as a relationship clearly involves "loss of previous identity" and the accommodation on a "newly born individual" to the object of his love.  In other world the mechanism involved bears considerable similarity (and might be identical)  to  the effect of "conversion" experienced by people who are indoctrinated into cults or a new religion ("Born again Christians" come to mind).

Attraction refers to any direct orientation (on the part of one person toward another) which have a sign and the level of intensity. While there are several conceptually similar sentiments (such as gratitude and respect), attraction research has concentrated primarily on romantic love and erotic attraction.  Romantic love can be defined as instant erotic attraction, spontaneous passion felt toward the individual of other sex. In some (very rare) cases it reaches such high level of intensity that it often enables the individual to transcend the limitations of mundane existence and his/her social circle, defying customs, parents, laws, etc.

At the core of intense attraction (aka "romantic love') are mixture of two factors:

It is felt as the result on the self-evaluation of the level of of physiological and psychological arousal ("I feel tense and excited when I'm around her, I must love her") in the presence of other person. In other words when persons are physiologically aroused in the presence of another individual, and the person is socially attractive to them, they tend to interpret their arousal as being in "love". There is also strong positive feedback loop in action here: persons who behave positively, rather than negatively, toward another individual will consequently increase his/her attraction to the individual.  

In other words "true" romantic love requires reciprococity, which is quite difficult to achieve. But people are flexible and feelings can be faked. So the person who in not really in love can react to the person who in really in love with faked emotions.  So inread of real love, the desire to be loved can serve as substitute, especially for women.

When an individual is unsure whether or not a behavioral approach will meet with acceptance, he or she may hesitate to make the approach. For shy individual this represent a huge problem that they might ever overcome, losing their chances at the mating space. Kissing, for instance, in Western societies is generally viewed as an appropriate expression of love. So if the other person allow to be kissed, this serve as a confirmation of reciprococity (which might be completely false). If the stage of "revelation of feelings" proves that there is some reciprococity there is an expectation that the other person will altruistically provide benefits or favors across a number of situations and over time.  Here again the danger of sociopaths comes into play as they are especially adept is exploiting this particular expectation.

While physiological arousal in romantic love has mainly biological components, they are intrinsically intermixed with the standards dictated by society (standard of female beauty is a pretty telling example; especially perverted preoccupation with thinness, that so badly affect so many females in the USA and Western Europe). For a heterosexual Western male, the desire to fall in romantic love seems to become particularly strong in the presence of a psychically beautiful, well dressed, narcissistic or sociopathic female. In this case an extreme tension is experienced between the apparent self-sufficiency of the object who seems to remain "cool", self-possessed and self-contained despite your advances, and the biologically aroused subject who typically is dissatisfied with himself, and is full of doubts about his self-worth and wants the confirmation of his self-worth from a female.  If the woman in question is slightly younger than male (three-four years for male in thier twenties) it substantially increases the level of attraction:

Youth is a critical cue, since women's reproductive value declines steadily with increasing age after twenty. By the age of forty, a woman's reproductive capacity is low, and by fifty it is close to zero. Thus, women's capacity for reproduction is compressed into a fraction of their lives.

Men's preferences capitalize on this cue. Within the United States men uniformly express a desire for mates who are younger than they are. Among college students surveyed from 1939 through 1988 on campuses coast to coast, the preferred age difference hovers around 2.5 years.4 Men who are 21 years old prefer, on average, women who are 18.5 years old.

... ... ...

Actual marriage decisions confirm the preference of men for women who are increasingly younger as they age. American grooms exceed their brides in age by roughly three years at first marriage, five years at second marriage, and eight years at third marriage.8 Men's preference for younger women also translates into actual marriage decisions worldwide
 

Standards for Female Physical Beauty

Human males have faced a unique set of adaptive problems and so have evolved a unique sexual psychology. They prefer youth because of the centrality of procreation in human mating. Their desires are "wired" to gauge a woman's future reproductive potential, not just immediate impregnation. They place a premium on physical appearance because of the abundance of reliable cues it provides to the reproductive potential of a potential mate. Men worldwide want physically attractive, young, and sexually loyal wives who will remain faithful to them at least until offspring matures enough. These preferences cannot be attributed to Western culture, to capitalism, to white Anglo-Saxon bigotry, to the media, or to incessant brainwashing by advertisers. It looks like those criteria universal across cultures and are absent in none. that's why we can talk about them as being 'wired" -- they are deeply ingrained, evolved psychological mechanisms that drive our mating decisions, just as our evolved taste preferences drive our decisions on food consumption.

Homosexual mate preferences, ironically, provide a testament to the depth of these evolved psychological mechanisms. The fact that physical appearance figures centrally in homosexual men's mate preferences, and that youth is a key ingredient in their standards of beauty, suggests that  even variations in sexual orientation does not alter these fundamental mechanisms.

These circumstances upset some people, because they seem unfair. We can modify our physical attractiveness only in limited ways, and some people are born better looking than others. Beauty is not distributed democratically. A woman cannot alter her age, and a woman's reproductive value declines more sharply with age than a man's; in this sense the evolution deals women a cruel hand, at least in this particular area. Women learn to fight the decline through cosmetics, through plastic surgery, through aerobics classes -- an eight billion dollar cosmetics industry has emerged in America to exploit these trends. Eastern woman also use cosmic surgery in alarming rates to convert themselves into '"white female" standard of beauty.  Preoccupation with thinness, instilled by advertisers and fashion industry (criminal fashion industry I would say, if we access that damage to young women health they inflict), drive make many young females into depression ,  bulimia and anorexia.  Such is the power of this primitive (but socially transformed) mating mechanisms (Am I Thin Enough Yet The Cult of Thinness and the Commercialization of Identity )

Several years ago, the director of the Counseling Center at Boston College asked me to help find out why the Center was overwhelmed with female students reporting eating problems. The situation had been getting worse over the past few years. Numerous cases of bulimia (compulsive binge eating, often followed by self-induced vomiting) and anorexia (obsession with food, starvation dieting, and severe weight loss) appeared every week.

As the author of a previous study on female student career and lifestyle aspirations, a teacher of women’s studies, and a faculty advisor, I was fasci- nated by the fact that eating disorders were much more common among women.1 I wanted to understand why such problems had recently exploded. Although bulimia and anorexia are individual diagnoses, one can assume that broader factors are at work when the incidence of a disorder suddenly in- creases.2 Was something going on in our society to foster such behavior?

Over the next several months I began researching the field of eating disorders. But the problem didn’t strike home until one of the sophomores 1 was advising came into my office in tears. Janet broke into sobs and said to me, “I don’t know what 1 am going to do. I’m too fat for the cheerleading squad. ’’

Janet was fairly tall (5' 8") with a medium build. She weighed 125 pounds. She told me that when she showed up for the co-ed cheerleading tryouts, there had been a public weighing at the gym. All female applicants had to line up and get weighed, and, if they were over the 115-pound limit, they were rejected without a chance to demonstrate their skills. Janet had been starving herself for days, hoping to make the weight cut, but had failed. A policy like this sends a clear message—there is an “ideal" body image a woman must conform to if she wants to become a cheerleader. Society expects to find petite women on a college cheerleading squad, “girls" whom male cheerleaders can tumble and lift in cheerleading routines. The cultural message is the same for other popular collegiate groups such as sororities and high status cliques: a thin woman is a “valued" woman.

... ... ...

It is no wonder that American women are obsessed with thinness. They are exhorted to strive for a physical ideal that is laden with moral judgment. Slenderness represents restraint, moderation, and self-control—the virtues of our Puritan heritage. But our culture considers obesity “bad" and ugly. Fat represents moral failure, the inability to delay gratification, poor impulse control, greed, and self-indulgence.

The slim figure has also come to represent health as well as beauty. It is promoted in advertisements for the multimillion-dollar beauty industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the food industry. Bookstores are full of advice on losing weight, flattening the stomach, getting rid of cellulite, or dressing to look more slender. Ten years ago, there were 300 diet books in print;3 today, there are countless more. Some of the bestsellers include Dr. Robert Haas’ Ear to Win (over two million copies in print), Harvey and Marilyn Diamond's Fit for Life (three million in print), and William Duffy’s Sugar Blues (over one million in print).

Since the 1960s, the ideal body type for women has become steadily slimmer and less curvaceous than in the 1950s, which had idolued Marilyn Monroe’s bosomy beauty. In the 1970s, visitors to Madame Tussaud’s London wax museum rated Twiggy as the “most beautiful woman in the world." 4 Playboy centerfolds and Miss America contestants have become more and more slender between 1958 and 1988, and the actual Miss America winners are thinnest of all.5

Fueling this trend are large-scale market interests that exploit women’s insecurities about their looks. American food, weight loss, and cosmetic industries thrive on the purchases made to obtain the unobtainable goal of physical perfection. The slim and flawless cover girl is an icon created by capitalism for the sake of profit. Millions of women pay it homage.

But why are women especially vulnerable to eating disorders? Influenced by patriarchal institutions, from the conventional family to schools and the media, girls as young as seven and eight learn that the rewards of our society go to those who conform, not simply on the level of overt behavior, but on the level of biology. If you want to be valued, as a potential spouse, as a coworker, as a friend, then get thin.6

... ... ...

... I chose to use the dramatic metaphor "The Cult of Thinness" because the basic behavior associated with culthood — ritualistic performance and obsession with a goal or ideal — is also characteristic of many modem women.7 I hope to convey the intense, day-to-day involvement that the pursuit of thinness demands. The body rituals women practice, and the extent to which they sacrifice their bodies and minds to this goal, seem to create a separate reality for its followers. An extensive interview with Anna, a woman who had actually been a member of a religious cult, helped me to see the many parallels (Chapter 1).

In the course of investigating this cult we’ll examine why women place such a high premium on their bodies (Chapter 2). We'll see how body percep- tions differ among men and women, and how weight has become a primary dcfiner of women’s worth and identity. Historically, women have always gone to great lengths to transform themselves to meet the changing cultural require- ments of femininity. 1 trace the mind/body dualism in Western cultural thought, which casts women in the role of the body, and men in the role of in the mind. I show how dominant social and economic interests, sometimes characterized as “patriarchal" and “capitalist,” shape this dualism.

...In the context of modem times and for the purposes of this study, patriarchy can be defined as a “system of interrelated social structures, and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women."’ In this study I will examine the various manifestations of patriarchy as they have evolved within and between social and economic institutions. We will find that one major manifestation of patriarchy is the primary image of women as good wives and mothers and objects of decorative worth. I define the basic nature of capitalism as a political/economic system based on the principle of a competitive, free market economy. These interests have made big business out of women’s preoccu- pation with their bodies. Aided by advertising and mass media, the Cult of Thinness generates enormous profits for the food, diet, and health industries (Chapters 3 and 4).

There is something similar phenomenon called "trophy wives". The latter are not just the perquisites of high status of a men (look at Donald Trump), but in fact increase the status of the man who can win them. Experiments have documented the considerable influence of attractive mates on men's social status. Presumably because consensus is that attractive women have high value as mates and hence usually can get what they want in a mate.

The male unhealthy preoccupation with the female beauty, although heavily socially conditioned,  has some biological explanations. There are some evidence that physical beauty correlates with women reproductive capacity and the survival chances of their offspring, but not to the extent it became the criteria of success in mating process in Western societies.  Still, while beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder and the social standard of beauty is quite irrational, those eyes and the minds behind the eyes have been shaped by millions of years of human evolution.

Our ancestors had access to two types of observable evidence of a woman's health and youth: features of physical appearance, such as full lips, clear skin, smooth skin, clear eyes, lustrous hair, and good muscle tone, and features of behavior, such as a bouncy, youthful gait, an animated facial expression, and a high energy level. These physical cues to youth and health, and hence to reproductive capacity, constitute the ingredients of male standards of female beauty.

Because physical and behavioral cues provide the most powerful observable evidence of a woman's reproductive value, ancestral men evolved a preference for women who displayed these cues. Men who failed to prefer qualities that signal high reproductive value--men who preferred to marry gray-haired women lacking in smooth skin and firm muscle tone--would have left fewer offspring, and their line would have died out.

Clelland Ford and Frank Beach discovered several universal cues that correspond precisely with this evolutionary theory of beauty,12 Signs of youth, such as clear skin and smooth skin, and signs of health, such as the absence of sores and lesions, are universally regarded as attractive. Any cues to ill health or older age are seen as less attractive. Poor complexion is always considered sexually repulsive. Pimples, ringworm, facial disfigurement, and filthiness are universally repugnant. Cleanliness and freedom from disease are universally attractive.

... ... ...

Cues to youth are also paramount in the aesthetics of women's attractiveness. When men and women rate a series of photographs of women differing in age, judgments of facial attractiveness decline with the increasing age of the woman.14 The decline in ratings of beauty occurs regardless of the age or sex of the judge. The value that men attach to women's faces, however, declines more rapidly than do women's ratings of other women's faces as the age of the woman depicted in the photograph increases, highlighting the importance to men of age as a cue to reproductive capacity.

...In a third study, they found that twelve-month-old infants played significantly longer with attractive dolls than with unattractive dolls. No training seems necessary for these standards to emerge. This evidence challenges the common view that the idea of attractiveness is learned through gradual exposure to current cultural standards.

Unfortunately in cultures where food is relatively abundant, such as the United States and many western European countries, the relationship between plumpness and status is reversed, and the rich distinguish themselves through thinness.  Men apparently do not have an evolved preference for a particular amount of body fat per se. Rather, they have an evolved preference for whatever features are linked with status, which vary in predictable ways from culture to culture.  Actually in the Us man prefer fatter bodies of woman as most desirable partners that woman assume, but cultural pressure destroy lives of so many young girls and woman, when they try to comply with unachievable standard of thinness dictated by fashion magazines and Hollywood.

While men's preferences for a particular body size vary, the psychologist Devendra Singh has discovered one preference for body shape that is invariant -- the preference for a particular ratio of waist size to hip size.25 Before puberty, boys and girls show a similar fat distribution. At puberty, however, a dramatic change occurs. Boys lose fat from their buttocks and thighs, while the release of estrogen in pubertal girls causes them to deposit fat in their lower trunk, primarily on their hips and upper thighs. Indeed, the volume of body fat in this region is 40 percent greater for women than for men.

The waist-to-hip ratio is thus similar for the sexes before puberty. After puberty, however, women's hip fat deposits cause their waist-to- hip ratio to become significantly lower than men's. Healthy, reproductively capable women have a waist-to-hip ratio between 0.67 and 0.80, while healthy men have a ratio in the range of 0.85 to 0.95. Abundant evidence now shows that the waist-to-hip ratio is an accurate indicator of women's reproductive status. Women with a lower ratio show earlier pubertal endocrine activity. Married women with a higher ratio have more difficulty becoming pregnant, and those who do become pregnant do so at a later age than women with a lower ratio. The waist-to-hip ratio is also an accurate indication of long-term health status. Diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, previous stroke, and gallbladder disorders have been shown to be linked with the distribution of fat, as reflected by the ratio, rather than with the total proportion of body fat. The link between the waist-to-hip ratio and both health and reproductive status makes it a reliable cue for ancestral men's preferences in a mate.

Singh discovered that waist-to-hip ratio is a powerful cue to women's attractiveness. In a dozen studies conducted by Singh, men rated the attractiveness of female figures, which varied in both their waist-to-hip ratio and their total amount of fat. Men find the average figure to be more attractive than a thin or fat figure. Regardless of the total amount of fat, however, men find women with a low waist-to-hip ratio to be the most attractive. Women with a ratio 0.70 are seen as more attractive than women with a ratio of 0.80, who in turn are seen as more attractive than women with a ratio of 0.90. Studies with line drawings and with computer-generated photographic images produced the same results. Finally, Singh analysis of Playboy centerfolds and winners of beauty contests within the United States over the past thirty years confirmed the invariance of this cue. Although both centerfolds and beauty contest winners got thinner over that period, their waist-to-hip ratio remained exactly the same at 0.70.

Advertisers exploit the universal appeal of beautiful, youthful women. Madison Avenue is sometimes charged with inflicting pain on people by advancing a single, arbitrary standard of beauty that everyone must live up to. Advertisements are thought to convey unnatural images of beauty and to tell people to strive to embody those images. This interpretation is at least partially false. The standards of beauty are not arbitrary but rather embody reliable cues to reproductive value. Advertisers have no special interest in cultivating a healthy set of beauty standards and merely want to use whatever sells most. Advertisers perch a clear-skinned, regular-featured young woman on the hood of the latest model car because the image exploits men's evolved psychological mechanisms and therefore sells cars. Sex sells. But those  media images we are bombarded with daily, however, have a pernicious consequence:

In one study, after groups of men looked at photographs of either highly attractive women or women of advertisements,   were asked to evaluate their commitment to their current romantic partner. Disturbingly, the men who had viewed pictures of attractive women thereafter judged their actual partner to be less attractive than did the men who had viewed analogous pictures of women who were average in attractiveness. Perhaps more important, the men who had viewed attractive women thereafter rated themselves as less committed, less satisfied, less serious, and less close to their actual partners. Parallel results were obtained in another study in which men viewed physically attractive nude centerfolds--they rated themselves as less attracted to their partners

The reason for these distressing changes are found in the unrealistic nature of the images. The few attractive women selected for advertisements are chosen from thousands of applicants. In many cases, literally thousands of pictures are taken of a chosen woman. Playboy, for example, is reputed to shoot roughly six thousand pictures for its centerfold each month. From thousands of pictures, a few are selected for advertisements and centerfolds. So what men see are the most attractive women in their most attractive pose with the most attractive background in the most attractive airbrushed photographs. Contrast these photographs with what you would have witnessed in ancestral times, living in a band of a few score individuals. It is doubtful that you would see hundreds or even dozens of attractive women in that environment. If there were plenty of attractive and hence reproductively valuable women, however, a man might reasonably consider switching mates, and hence he would decrease his commitment to his existing mate.

We carry with us the same evaluative mechanisms that evolved in ancient times. Now, however, these mechanisms are artificially stimulated by the dozens of attractive women we witness daily in our visually saturated culture in magazines, billboards, television, and movies. These images do not represent real women in our actual social environment. Rather, they exploit mechanisms designed for a different environment. But they may create sources of unhappiness by interfering with existing real-life relationships.

As a consequence of viewing such images, men become dissatisfied and less committed to their mates. The potential damage inflicted by these images affects women as well, because they create a spiraling and unhealthy competition with other women. Women find themselves competing with each other to embody the images they see daily -- images desired by men. The unprecedented rates of anorexia nervosa and radical cosmetic surgery may stem in part from these media images; some women go to extreme lengths to fulfill men's desires. But the images do not cause this unfortunate result by creating standards of beauty that were previously absent. Rather, they work by exploiting men's existing evolved standards of beauty and women's competitive mating mechanisms on an unprecedented and unhealthy scale.
 

 Exchange theory of attraction

This observation lies at the core of so called "exchange theory" of attraction which  suggests that outside biological component individuals are most attracted to persons who provide the highest ratio of social rewards to social costs. Thus, we know, for example, that "propinquity" (with is larger then proximity), cooperativeness, the possession of culturally valued attributes (for example, physical beauty), similarity in personality, social background, and attitudes all lead to attraction and, hence, are presumed to be rewarding. In other words "exchange theory" aligns with the philosophical position that human behavior is hedonistically determined. That this social transaction is regulated by the desire to derive maximum pleasure and minimum pain from others. One reason women exert choice about mates stems from the most basic fact of reproductive biology. One act of sexual intercourse, which requires minima atory and energy-consuming nine-month investment by the woman that forecloses other mating opportunities. Women then bear the exclusive burden of  lactation, an investment that may last as long as three or four years. This great initial parental investment of women makes them a valuable, but limited, resource. Those who hold valuable resources do not give them away cheaply or unselectively.  Evolution has favored women who prefer men who possess attributes that confer benefits and who dislike men who possess attributes that impose costs. Modern birth control technology has altered these costs. Now women can have short-term dalliances with less fear of pregnancy. But human sexual psychology evolved over millions of years to cope with ancestral adaptive problems. We still possess this underlying sexual psychology, even though our environment has changed.

While male attraction mechanisms are based of biological signals and they can take a risk of making mistakes, woman needs to be more conservative in their mating strategies. So it is more important foe a women to evaluate correctly the cues. Women on the mating market look for "eligible" men. The word eligible is a euphemism for "not having his resources already committed elsewhere." The term eligible here is a euphemism for the highest-status, most resource-rich unattached man around. The eligibility problem becomes especially acute in areas where men are apt to deceive women, such as pretending to have higher status than they do or feigning greater commitment than they are willing to give. Men also differ widely in how willing they are to invest their time and resources in long-term mating. Simplifying, some men are "cads", preferring to mate with as many women as possible, investing very little in each. Other men are "dads", channeling all of their resources to the chosen  woman and her children. that means that in selection a mate, the male's resources for female play more important role as the criterion of mating preference,. Husbands provide their wives and children to an extent that is unprecedented among primates. For all primates females must rely solely on their own efforts to acquire food, because males usually do not share food with their mates. Men, in contrast, provide food, find shelter, and defend territory. Men protect children. They tutor them in the  strategies of social influence and valuable skills, transfer status, aiding offspring in forming reciprocal alliances later in life. In other words women themselves and their offspring gained a powerful advantage by being able to choose "right" mates.  Such  cues are often indirect, such as those that signal a man's upward mobility potential.

Some of those are physical, such as a mans athletic ability or health. Chomical diseases, especially any venereal disease,  are regarded as extremely undesirable characteristic in a mate. Physical characteristics, such as athleticism, size, and strength, convey important information that women use in making a mating decision. In Western cultures, tall men make more money, advance in their professions more rapidly, and receive more and earlier promotions. Few American presidents have been less than six feet tall.

Barbara Smuts believes that during human evolutionary history physical protection was one of the most important things a man could offer a woman. The presence of aggressive men who tried to dominate women physically and to circumvent their sexual choices may have been an important influence on women's mate selection in ancestral times. Given the alarming incidence of sexual coercion and rape in many cultures, a mate's protection value may well remain relevant to mate selection in modern environments. Many women simply do not feel safe on the streets, and a strong, tall, athletic mate acts as a deterrent for sexually aggressive men.

This preference for taller men is not limited to Western cultures. Among the Mehinaku tribe of the Brazilian Amazon, the anthropologist Thomas Gregor notes the importance of men's wrestling skills as an arena where size differences become acute:

A heavily muscled, imposingly built man is likely to accumulate many girlfriends, while a small man, deprecatingly referred to as a peritsi, fares badly. The mere fact of height creates a measurable advantage. . . . A powerful wrestler, say the villagers, is frightening . . . he commands fear and respect. To the women, he is "beautiful" (awitsiri), in demand as a paramour and husband. Triumphant in politics as well as in love, the champion wrestler embodies the highest qualities of manliness. Not so fortunate the vanquished! A chronic loser, no matter what his virtues, is regarded as a fool. As he wrestles, the men shout mock advice. . . . The women are less audible as they watch the matches from their doorways, but they too have their sarcastic jokes. None of them is proud of having a loser as a husband or lover.41

Barbara Smuts believes that during human evolutionary hisSeveral years ago, the director of the Counseling Center at Boston College asked me to help find out why the Center was overwhelmed with female students reporting eating problems. The situation had been getting worse over the past few years. Numerous cases of bulimia (compulsive binge eating, often followed by self-induced vomiting) and anorexia (obsession with food, starvation dieting, and severe weight loss) appeared every week. As the author of a previous study on female student career and lifestyle aspirations, a teacher of women’s studies, and a faculty advisor, I was fasci- nated by the fact that eating disorders were much more common among women.1 I wanted to understand why such problems had recently exploded. Although bulimia and anorexia are individual diagnoses, one can assume that broader factors are at work when the incidence of a disorder suddenly in- creases.2 Was something going on in our society to foster such behavior? Over the next several months I began researching the field of eating disorders. But the problem didn’t strike home until one of the sophomores 1 was advising came into my office in tears. Janet broke into sobs and said to me, “I don’t know what 1 am going to do. I’m too fat for the cheerleading squad. ’’ Janet was fairly tall (5' 8") with a medium build. She weighed 125 pounds. She told me that when she showed up for the co-ed cheerleading tryouts, there had been a public weighing at the gym. All female applicants had to line up and get weighed, and, if they were over the 115-pound limit, they were rejected without a chance to demonstrate their skills. Janet had been starving herself for days, hoping to make the weight cut, but had failed. A policy like this sends a clear message—there is an “ideal" body image a woman must conform to if she wants to become a cheerleader. Socierv ex-n>physical protection was one of the most important things a man could offer a woman. The presence of aggressive men who tried to dominate women physically and to circumvent their sexual choices may have been an important influence on women's mate selection in ancestral times. Given the alarming incidence of sexual coercion and rape in many cultures, a mate's protection value may well remain relevant

Another important set of cues relate to social status (which in all societies mean greater access to resources), education, possession of a promising career and the esteem in which a man is held by his peers. But the working hypothesis in "exchange theory" of attraction is that for women they are directly or indirectly about economic resources for raising offspring. American women generally  value education and professional degrees in mates -- characteristics that are strongly linked with social status. Women shun men who are easily dominated by other men or who fail to command the respect of the group. Other things equal they prefer to marry up. The age of a man also provides an important cue to his access to resources. Just as young male baboons must mature before they can enter the upper ranks in the baboon social hierarchy, human adolescents and young men rarely command the respect, status, or position of more mature older men. On average women prefer men who are roughly three-five years older. Physical strength also increases in men as they get older, peaking in their late twenties and early thirties. Women who prefer older men are in a better position to gauge how high they are likely to rise. But the difference in age should be small --  no more then three-five years. Young women typically prefer mates who are no more then three-five years older but who have considerable promise, rather than to substantially older men who already have attained a higher position. In the USA  hard work proved to be one of the best predictors of past and anticipated income and promotions. Those who said that they worked hard, and whose spouses agreed that they worked hard, achieved higher levels of education, higher annual salaries, and anticipated greater salaries and promotions than those who failed to work hard. Industrious and ambitious men secure a higher occupational status than lazy, unmotivated men do.

Another important dimension for woman is the emotional stability of mates. Emotionally unstable men are very costly to women. First, they tend to be self- centered and monopolize shared resources. Furthermore, they tend to be possessive, monopolizing much of the time of their wives. They show higher than average sexual jealousy, becoming enraged when their wives even talk with someone else. They show dependency, insisting that their mates provide for all of their needs. They tend to be abusive both verbally and physically. They display inconsiderateness, such as by failing to show up on time. And they are moodier.  They have more affairs than average, which suggests a further diversion of time and resources. The unpredictable aspects of emotionally unstable men inflict additional costs by impeding solutions to critical adaptive problems. The erratic supply of resources can wreak havoc with accomplishing the goals required for survival and reproduction.

The ephemeral quality of intelligence provides another important cue. No one knows for sure what intelligence tests measure, but there is clear evidence of what high scorers can do. Intelligence is a good predictor of the possession of economic resources within the United States.29 People who test high go to better schools, get more years of education, and ultimately get higher paying jobs. Even within particular professions, such as construction and carpentry, intelligence predicts who will advance more rapidly to positions of power and who will command higher incomes

The other  crucial cue is compatibility with a mate. Women generally prefer those who are most likely to mesh cooperatively with one's own particular personal characteristics and thus are most similar to one's own. Discrepancies between the values, interests, and personalities of the members of a couple produce strife and conflict.

The psychologist Zick Rubin and his colleagues studied 202 dating couples over several years to see which ones stayed together and which broke up.32 They found that couples who were mismatched in these regards tend to break up more readily than their matched counterparts. The 103 couples who broke up had more dissimilar values on sex roles, attitudes toward sex among acquaintances, romanticism, and religious beliefs than did the 99 couples who stayed together.

But like in cults there a hidden power play here, with man usually emerge as a domineering partner in the relationship. Some patterns of falling  into the state of "love madness", especially so called "Transference love" (the phenomenon of intense love reliably arising between a patient and the therapist) might simply reflect a general tendency for women to be drawn to those in a more powerful position and who are young enough to be able to procreate children successfully. 

A further odd cultural assumption is that the future "bliss" is guaranteed for those who experienced Romantic transformation as if the present form and that the initial intensity of a relationship determine its future success. Nothing is more remote from truth. infatuation with  the "object of desire" can never be a solid foundation for such a complex enterprise as modern marriage. Moreover, if we view romantic love through the prism of "cult indoctrination" mechanism, people often leave cults.  No matter how intense is the initial love we are never able to predict with absolute certainty the future of the relationship. People evolve, mature,  change, their daily involvement with others and each other is often replete with dilemmas and new experiences and circumstances. Including extramarital affairs.  Biological mechanisms of mating of human species which "romantic love" reflects does not answer those challenges. The level of involvement, as well as sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, sexual motivation, and so on, are not constants, but are highly variable (and individual, contrary to Hollywood propaganda) and drastically change with age and the number of years in the relationship. This variation alone may be a cause for relationship problems or a relationship breakup, if it is based solely on "romantic love" as the fundament of the relationship. 

It is also possible that couples at varying stages in the life cycle are tied to one another by different patterns of sentiments. Love may be necessary for some relationships in their early phases of development, whereas liking and respect may suffice at later stages (samples.sainsburysebooks.co.uk)

Levinger (Chapter 5; Levinger & Snoek, 1972) has distinguished between levels of relationships in terms of the degree of the involvement of the persons with one another and has suggested that the antecedents and consequences of attraction vary for the different levels. According to Levinger, attraction in the early stages of a relationship is largely based on the expected rewards and costs of a relationship as estimated from the image projected by the other person. Image includes factors such as physical appearance (body build, facial attractiveness, clothing, grooming, etc.), demeanor, and attitudes toward a limited number of topics. At later stages of interdependency, however, actual rewards and costs are seen by Levinger to take on greater importance in determining attraction. 

In other words, we can view romantic love as a secular religion supported both by biological mechanisms of mating inherent in human species and by the society.

Romantic transformation and the state of "love madness"

Most men and women articulates their experiences of falling in love through a cultural narrative of "romantic transformation"; loneliness and the struggles of being single or in a loveless partnership suddenly became history by the sudden appearance of ‘true love’. Life instantly obtains a new meaning.  From a rational perspective, this "romantic transformation"  is based on biology.

This "romantic transformation", the abrupt falling in love, has the features of loss of rational self-control and due to this is often called "love madness".  It involves an emotional storm, a violent rapture, with consequent bewilderment.  But it does color the world differently and often such a meeting "opens the eyes of the affected person to the bleakness of their existence". Dante speaks of a “stupor” when he first encountered Beatrice, and all who have fallen into romantic love can testify to the sense of being overwhelmed, thrown into confusion, joyful at being in the same world with such a heavenly creature as the beloved and yet pained by a sense of inadequacy and despair of ever being worthy of and ever winning his or her love.  They desperately long to reciprocation and fear the lack of thereof.  If genuine reciprocity follows on falling in love, the feeling became more serene or at least less violent and disturbing. 

In the state of "love madness", the lover is disabled as for the ability of rational thinking and acting with regard for reality. In this state, he/she can be destructive of the beloved, of self, and of others (such as his male competitors or her female competitors for the object of desire). For the infatuated lover, the “love” is a law to itself, tending to override all loyalties, commitments, and ethical norms for human actions.  It  can withstand the powerful opposing forces, violate taboos (Lolita) to let their feelings override reason and the current commitment. An interesting cinematic treatment of the latter phenomenon was given by David Lean famous film Brief Encounter. From Amazon reviews:

... It captures the time beautifully and how people used to have higher standards & actually cared about their families, unlike the vulgar times of now..for example, look at Titanic...enough said. I love the cinematography...capturing the smokey dark train stations with high contrast black and white...it's so grand. This film has it's own atmosphere, like Casablanca. If you like Casablanca, you'll love this movie. I love ending because it is so mysterious-- After Laura relives her story in her mind, you can almost read it on her face and her husband goes over to comfort her: "What ever dream you had, it wasn't a very happy one, was it? You were a long way away. Thank you for coming back to me." He says it as if he heard the story while she was telling it, but then again we shall never know. It is almost haunting because I think about so often. This film my be brief, but my encounter with it will be forever.

...Made in 1945, the film is remarkable because even though Laura and Alec engage in a furtive affair, they elicit audience sympathy, partly because we enjoy their delightful repartee and intelligent conversation and partly because they find in each other the attention and appreciation — and later love — that they lack in their marriages. The contrast between what they have and what they might have leads to the illicit affair. The tone of the movie has an elegance and gentility compared with modern romantic dramas, which usually run from melodramatic to cutesy. These are not wide-eyed teenagers swept up by infatuation. They are mature people whose chance meeting opens their eyes to the bleakness of their existence.

Those who are overwhelmed by "love madness" are favorite tragic or comic figures for dramatists and novelists. For example, romantic obsession with Mildred Rogers, in Somerset Maughm's novel, Of Human Bondage, is a classic illustration of romantic infatuation.

The subjective experience identified by the term "love madness" as revealed in personal testimonies contains the following elements:

  1. intrusive thinking about the person who is the object of desire;
  2. acute longing for reciprocation from "object of desire"; dependency of mood on object of desire" actions, or more accurately, interpretation of "object of desire" actions with respect to the probability of reciprocation;
  3. inability to be in the state of "love madness" to more than one person at a time;
  4. some fleeting and transient relief from unrequited  passion through vivid imagination of action by "object of desire" from which reciprocation can be inferred;
  5. fear of rejection and shyness in "object of desire" presence, especially in the beginning and whenever uncertainty strikes;
  6. intensification through adversity (at least, up to a point), acute sensitivity to any act or thought or condition that can be interpreted favorably;
  7. extraordinary ability to devise or invent "reasonable" explanations for why the neutrality or even rejection that the disinterested observer might see in "object of desire" behavior is in fact a sign of hidden passion;
  8. an aching of the "heart" (a region in the center front of the chest) when uncertainty is strong;
  9.  buoyancy (a feeling of walking on air) when reciprocation seems evident;
  10. a general intensity of feeling that often leaves other concerns in the background; and a remarkable ability to emphasize what is truly admirable in "objecto of desire" and to avoid dwelling on less favorable characteristics. 

Love madness theory holds the following:

  1. The underlying mechanism is universal for "romantic love" and human species in general, across all cultures and civilizations. 
  2. The state of love madness comes into being automatically when barriers to receptivity are down and a likely person appears.  What happens thereafter depends on how strongly it seems that the hoped-for reciprocation will indeed occur. This is largely, though perhaps not entirely, a matter of  "object of desire" actions. Small doses of attention from the "object of desire" increase the intensity of love madness
  3. Reciprocation leads to euphoria, followed by a union that might be stable or unstable, and that might or might not endure.
  4. Similarity of experience among diverse persons as well as involuntariness suggests that "love madness" is rooted in biological properties of human species, nos o much in culture or lifestyle. 

When "love madness"  is intense, no aspect of living is as important as is the hope of achieving the persistently envisioned goal of reciprocation. Surely it is no accident that the time of life during which, by group consensus, human beings are most attractive -- post-adolescence and early adulthood -- is also the time at which most romantic love based mating is initiated. Physical attractiveness and youth are rough indications of good health and other attributes that relate to breeding capability and thus genetic fitness. Sex differences in the importance of physical attractiveness to human beings is also well documented. Isn't one of the biggest problems of living that of trying to meet standards that can only be achieved by a few at the top? Wouldn't transmission of the most favorable genetic material to future generations be better served by a mate selection process that did not depend so much on stereotypes of appearance but rather depended on assessment of a possible mate's aptitudes and capabilities? In other words, wouldn't producing healthy and desirable children be more likely if it did not depend on superficial physical traits when other features might be of greater importance?

The answer might be that the large role physical attractiveness plays in mate selection permits traits uncorrelated with beauty to be selected randomly.  That is, there may be greater genetic benefit from not allowing individuals to choose mates by conscious, rational means. What appears to be a good match by "rational" criteria might in fact have amounted to a genetically unfit form of inbreeding. Physical attractiveness draws individuals to a mate who may be unlike themselves in other respects. The ability of the culture to shift specific standards of beauty seems to occur only within a certain range. Whatever factors cause an individual to "select" a specific person as  "object of desire"  the mechanism of "love madness" cements the reaction and locks the emotional gates against competitors. This exclusivity weakens the effect of physical attractiveness, since the most beautiful individual in the world cannot compete with the "object of desire" in the this state once "lock-in" has taken hold. Thus, persons across a wide range of physical appearances are able to secure mates.

Romantic love as a cult

In modern Western societies, couple relationships almost always come into being through a more or less powerful experience of emotional ‘bonding’, infused with erotic attraction. Being part of such a couple is held to be fundamental to our happiness, well-being and sense of place in the world. Reproduction, the family, and to a great extent social life itself, are seen as ideally based upon and around the loving (heterosexual) couple. Thus, while "falling in love" remains something of a religious mystery in romantic love cult, it is generally understood and experienced as a beneficial and foundational life event...  Much like the idea of salvation in Christianity.

In other words, falling into romantic love looks like a variation of the older, deeper narrative of salvation. Women’s accounts of ‘losing themselves’ and ‘finding themselves’ may be dressed up in the flowers of romanticism, but they are rooted in the notion of salvation, another long-forgotten religious mechanism to give up an imperfect self in exchange for existential security of religious zeal. As psychoanalysts often postulate, sexual love may be an ‘adult’ phenomenon, but might have some correlation (as psychoanalysis suggests) with the expression of a tiny infant who, in terrified apprehension of a large, changing, frustrating world, takes refuge in the blissful illusion of the security in the hands of perfect and all-powerful parent.

As the structure of neoliberal society breaks down, as the labor market grows more competitive and ruthless, and as people become more mobile in their search for work, traditional sources of stability of marriage are fast disappearing. Commoditization of sex has further contributed to a society in which life is experienced as empty and soulless. Even for the lucky ones, new ‘freedoms’ offer little compensation for a lonely and hollow life. It is in such a society that romantic love is gaining ever greater significance as a ‘secular religion’, ‘a faith quickly finding followers in a society of uprooted loners’. Yet, paradoxically, the more that love appears as the escape from social instability and meaninglessness, the more impermanent and chaotic love becomes.  The more desperately we grasp at the hope of ‘intimacy’, the more surely we are cast down into loneliness and alienation.

While "romantic love" is a religious doctrine, marriage is a social institution. In other words without an organized society ("civilization") there is no marriage. A social institution can be defined: “a set of positions, roles, norms and values integrated in particular types of social structures and organizing relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life-sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment.”  The emphasis is on stability, predictability and raising children. As such marriage is badly compatible (or, more correctly, incompatible) with the notion of romantic love. There is also problem with the equality which does not depend on the traits of the particular spouse, but are culturally defined:

Mansfield and Collard (1988:230), for example, found that the newly-wed couples in their study were ‘eager’ to present their marriages as conforming to the egalitarian ideal, even though what they actually said about their relationships revealed that ‘despite the current rhetoric of sexual equality, it seems that husbands and wives frequently experience each other as intimate strangers’. In a study of the domestic division of labor among Dutch couples, Aafke Komter (1989) was similarly struck by the contrast between her own conclusions that these marriages were thoroughly unequal, and the keenness of both husbands and wives to present their relationships as equal. Duncombe and Marsden (1993:237) also report ‘wives in our study who claimed to be happy despite overt evidence to the contrary’ and note in particular ‘the couples’ management of their image to outsiders—including interviewers—so as to present a picture of companionate love’. They suggest, moreover, that this effort may not only be for the benefit of others, and cite Arlie Hochschild’s (1983) theory of ‘deep acting’, whereby a feeling that one believes one should have or wants to have obscures the authentic feeling, even for actors themselves.

It is of significance that the contradictions of love often seem to be most visible in the accounts of women, who appear to put considerable effort into papering over the very cracks which are at once revealed by their own expressions of dissatisfaction. Evidence of gendered patterns further belies the claim that love is becoming chaotic, fragmenting into ‘an infinite number of private systems of love’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995:180). It suggests, on the contrary, that predominant configurations of love are still very much with us.

 What has perhaps changed is that where once the relationship between gender, power and love may have been betrayed by formalized modes of deference and institutionalized inequalities, it is now obscured by individuals’ own attempts to contain the contradictions in their experience. Those who seek the truth about love must therefore, above all, maintain a critical distance from the new romantic ideal. This is not easy; even theorists who do not deny that power and love are connected are easily ‘put off the scent’ by the hiddenness of power and their own romanticism. Ethel Person, for example, accepts that male domination can be a problem in love relationships, but is at once blinded by her own faith in the ‘power of romantic passion’. She thus observes that ‘successful’ couple relationships involve ‘a workable balance of power, often so subtle and so apparently automatic in its operation that neither the lovers themselves nor outside observers even notice it’ (1990: 162). Lapsing into a subjective moral individualism based in the emotion of love itself, she thus concludes that the ‘only criterion that can be used to judge them is whether the lovers themselves feel satisfied that neither the one nor the other is being unduly exploited’ (ibid.: 163). This, however, may be precisely the criterion which renders the couple relationship an effective and unseen field of governance.

While redemption/salvation via romantic love  is a dangerous fantasy, cultural legitimization is given to the desire to seek completion through the romantic attachment to a sexual object, unconscious conviction that what we lack in ourselves is possessed by someone who represents our ‘opposite’, most likely, although not necessarily, someone of a different sex. Both lovers have surrendered their desire to control, given up their defenses, and opened their hearts to the "healing power of a love" which is benevolent and empowering, a Goddess which will not let them down and is able to transmuted pain into pleasure, sorrow into joy, envy into admiration and resentment into affection.

But what will happen if this newly acquired faith becomes tinged with rational doubts? What will happen if love  reveals its contradictory and unstable nature.  That it is actually a form of coercion and subordination, In any case a rational analysis clearly does not augur well for the development of ‘democratic love’.  It is highly unequal, by definition with a woman on the receiving end of inequality. In other words falling in love, brings both partners, but especially a female into a social bond which is deeply and inherently problematic if we strive for absolute gender equality.  It's certainly the case that dissatisfaction and disappointment about  "high load, no reward" situation into which they slide were prominent themes in women’s accounts of current and previous love relationships. Accounts were imbued with a sense of mourning for a lost world of the initial period of intense verbal and physical communication, lost  emotional closeness and a deep sense of connection (aka "lack of intimacy" in marriage). The loss which seemed to most complete and irrevocable. In other words this is not a bug, but a feature. Women’s perception, however, was that it was their partners who were responsible for this change. Few are able to transcend the scapegoating and see that it was the concept of "romantic  love" itself that contains irreconcilable contradictions, like any organized religion. Remember Marx's classic quote "Religion is the opium for the masses". Here we can say that "Romantic love is the opium for women".

Like with any organized religion, there is a social consensus, set of rituals and shared assumptions about what and how a "proper love" needs to be worshipped with a date and then intercourse as a kind of religious rituals for this religion. This religious doctrine dictates (literally dictates) what are proper sexual activities, and what "turns us on", igniting this mysterious (mystery is the core of any religion) feeling  Especially what is the current standard of female beauty, female presentation of self through clothes and makeup (fashion); even the cars we choose to drive..

Sex is heavily overemphasized in the religious doctrine of romantic love, providing, in a way, the backbone for the relationship, the element of "compulsory program" without high performance in which the relationship became the second rate. Which creates a lot of anxiety in young woman.   There is even a specialty of sex coach :-)

One interesting consequences of this is that an 'immoral' act is almost invariably a sexual act; immorality in the printed media, in cinema or in visual imagery is likewise predominantly defined in terms of the sexual content. There is an immediate recognition that sex, even at the commoditized level that is used for advertizing and by Hollywood, has a significance which is profoundly social.  Simultaneously our ability to give 'a wonderful sex' (whatever it means)  is persistently cultivated by Hollywood and mass media. That creates so much stress on young men and woman, which in reality it is just a perverted indicator of our right to membership to the "romantic love cult" and to the world of artificially moldered female beauty,

All shades of white: from arranged marriage to voluntary marriage

There are two basic forms of marriage  voluntary and arranged  with many variants falling in-between:

Despite difference in forms, the institution of marriage is virtually universal in human societies. It contributes immensely in forcing two people of different gender to cooperate with each other and with other relatives in the maintenance of household.  The family is supposed to produce children, security to maintain procreation and meet emotional needs of spouses. But the devil is in details and happiness in marriages is achievable only in few cases. So excessive expectation undermine chances for life-long marriage. Of couse problem-solving skills are also important and people with higher level of problem-solving skills has better chances to have a happy marriage.  While ideally, marriage is meant to be permanent, marriage in modern societies becoming increasingly fragile and unstable. Many last just several year (there is a jump in the rate of divorces approximately after two years of marriage).  fidelity is a great problem in neoliberal society with its cult of individualism and "self-realization". Things became complicates if marriage became a classic "love triangle". In such cases the marriage hardly can be viewed as monogamous.  Actually the degrees of polygamy/bigamy the actually exist in Western societies are usually brushed under the carpet

Degrees of polygamy and bigamy in various societies

Based on the number of female partners (aka wifes) we can distinguish several additional types of marriages, notably, monogamy (1:1), polygamy and bigamy (one to many).   Please note that a considerable part of mankind still practices arranged marriage model, with many countries using this model allowing some form of polygamy (typically for Muslim part of population). Classic "love triangle" in Western marriages can be classified as a cease of bigamy. In no way Western societies, especially the USA can be considered completely monogamous.

In other words, such archaic and dehumanizing for women arrangement as polygamy is still practiced in large number of countries including the USA.

Friendship as a more solid base for marriage

An Marilyn Monroe noted: "Experts on romance say for a happy marriage there has to be more than a passionate love. For a lasting union, they insist, there must be a genuine liking for each other. Which, in my book, is a good definition for friendship. "

Hollywood produces a simplistic and harmful myth that nothing is more important for a happy marriage them falling into romantic love and experiencing "romantic transformation" first. And this myth continued to be the prevalent idea about love and marriage in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

At the same time there is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love and by extension marriage based on romantic love. If this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure and to learn how one could do better — or they would give up the activity. Since the latter is impossible in the case of love, there seems to be only one adequate way to overcome the failure of romantic love as a basis for the marriage — to examine the reasons for this failure, and to proceed to study the alternatives.

The fundamental reason of instability of marriage based on romantic love is the erotic attraction itself is unstable and fleeting phenomena that rarely last several years and never a lifetime.

That makes friendship is a more solid base for a stable marriage and to a certain extent preferable to "romantic love" scenario (which actually does not exclude experiencing some weaker forms of romantic/erotic attraction, without "romantic transformation"). This was notched by Aristotle. It is commonly said that a friend is an other self ("other me").  The mutual personal attraction at the core of personal friendship is not and cannot be obtained via "romantic transformation" which is at the core of "romantic love". In case of "love madness" some biological trait matching and the vision of the beloved's beauty and splendor, is what incited  the lover and initiates an affective response. The lover in the state of "love madness" experience  “recognition,” a abrupt discovery of the splendor of the beloved the has not been known before. In extreme cases it comes as a revelation.

One frequently employed way of contrasting personal friendship and "romantic love" is that of saying that romantic lovers face each other; while friends face together in the same direction. While romantic lovers are united by the erotic splendor of the partner, personal friends are united rather by some common interest and mutual non-erotic attraction.   Even when their attention is directly focused on some activity they are engaged in together, friends have a keen oblique attention to each other, while still the presence of the friend affects the experience.  There are clear and convincing indications of this in experience. One is that when doing some things together, for example, listening to music, contemplating the beauty of nature, entering into a social gathering, friends are by their presence to each other sensitized to the beauty of the music or of nature or other persons in a way they would not be, if alone. A second indication is that during shared activities, even those that demand close attention to the activity, for example, working together at a difficult task that requires great concentration, playing competitive games – during these activities there is a special delight for the friends just because the activity is shared with each other.  After their activity together, each frequently remembers not only what they were doing, but also what was revealed about the other's style and qualities while they were doing it. Friendship grows during the friends' shared activities, whether those in which they seek enjoyment or those in which they work together for common goals.

Old friends go to the concert together. As soon as the music begins, they are rapt and seemingly totally oblivious ‘each’ to the other. But neither would consider for a moment going to the concert alone. Underneath the silent raptness, their friendship continues to grow quietly -- a conclusion proven by a new depth of sharing as they return home amid slow, mulling conversation. Not rarely three friends hike the mountain trails for six to eight hours with only an occasional word and an almost silent midday lunch. Yet the enjoyment of each other is intense and, underneath the quiet calm intimacy grows. It would seem that the beauty of music and nature mysteriously sensitizes each person to the other instead of distracting each from the other (Hassel 1982, 40).

The core of personal friendship, we saw, is mutual non-erotic attraction. There can be various other relationships between the friends. They may, for example, be related as father and son, as father and daughter, as mother and son, mother and daughter, sisters, brothers, sister and brother, teacher and disciple, leader and follower, wife and husband, and so on. Each of these relationships can specify a subtype of personal friendship in which the friendship is enriched by some special affective tone or coloring, including is case of husband and wife sexual.  But this is enrichment element, not the cornerstone of the relationship as with romantic love.

ABCDE model of the romantic relationship development

Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him
and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him.
 ~H.L. Mencken, A Book of Burlesques, 1916

Unsentimental views of love and marriage and common sense are healthier attitudes than Hollywood-induced fantasies of the magic of "true" love.

The "power of love"   is celebrated by most writers, even those writers who admit it to be a narcissistic illusion.  They nevertheless praise the apparent benefits which "romantic love"  brings to those involved. Are those benefits real, that's the question.  However,  we act if those illusions are gospel to be compliant with.  Whether the luck of finding "true love", makes such a person really happier and whether such a couple can  "live happily ever after" is quite another story.

In reality, if only romantic love serves as the raison d’être of an actual relationship, this bond proved to be deeply problematic. It is of a fragile, contradictory and unstable construction, fused with unrealistic expectations which are experienced as crucial and yet which are largely unconscious. It is nice supplement to existing foundation of the relationship, but is more problematic as the cornerstone of the relations. It implicitly requires each lover to be their partner’s perfect parent, and allow the projection of their ideal self-image. That means that lasting romantic love is a ambitious venture indeed! In the bliss of initial mutual attraction no problem is apparent, for mutual idealization causes powerful positive emotions to flow between the lovers. Little hurts and ‘misunderstandings’ will be laughed at and dismissed, for neither wants to see that the worm is already in the bud.  Gradually things change. And they change irrevocably.

Chances are that gradually the woman will be molded into alienated from her husband ‘everybody’s Mummy’. Their male partners assume a distant and frustrating "detached" stance which is combined with an apparent desire to be a ‘good boy’, to please ‘Mummy’, and to hide things which might get him into trouble. Perceived in terms of roles, rules, and functions rather than as individuals, many woman begin to feel more like objects than people (which is the essence of alienation).  At this point for most women, the bliss of "true love" completely disappears  and is replaced by feelings of hurt and rejection as male partners quickly lose interest and withdrew emotionally. Essentially putting themselves in the position of power over their spouse, and implicitly enforcing traditional marriage "master-servant" relationship between partners. So much for gender equality. 

Alienated, frustrated and overworked women began to lose self-respect. Attempting to talk to their partners about this loss did not usually help, since men appeared baffled and complained that women are ‘too demanding’. If challenged, the man usually state that he still loves his partner, but this contradicts his actual behaviour.  So those women who hoped that the relationship was a shared project, need to assume the responsibility for ‘holding it all together’ —a task which could become quite emotionally and physically extensive. They experience their situation as grossly unfair and men were frequently described as lazy, irresponsible, selfish and immature.  Some became psychically abusive. Sex becomes a routine. Considerable amount of  men (and much lesser amount of women) engage in extramarital relationships (up to 50% in the USA ). 

At this stage both previously "deeply in love" partners are deeply hurt, disappointed and frustrated, but the loss of self-respect and the degree of frustration of women is much higher.  On another, being ‘everybody’s Mummy’ provided certain "compensatory gratification"; women could feel pride in their "strength" and preserving the family (especially if there are children in the household) as well as their competence in comparison to their ‘hopeless’ partners, which they learn to manipulated from the position of weakness.  And, that in a limited and paradoxical ways, affords them an exercise of control which appeared to be completely lost due to partner emotional withdrawal and molding the relationship into traditional marriage with well defined and unequal roles.   Men tend to exercise forms of control which had  demoralizing effects upon their female partners. As men withdraw, lapse into silence and hide their feelings, secrets  and problems, women became increasingly anxious and uncertain. They felt alienated and tried to close the gap by developing an exaggerated sensitivity to their partner’s emotional state in the effort to "work him out", and by trying to persuade him to "have a open talk" Their efforts are typically rebuffed.

The dynamic of the relationship from romantic love to alienation greatly affects people involved. And its overall effects are not neutral. Romantic love does not merely fail to give us what we desire but in so doing compounds painful feelings of dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Especially foe women. After all, it was to solve the problem of our unsatisfactory existence that we fell in love in the first place, and underneath feelings of hostility and frustration with the love object lurks a lack of faith in our own potential. Love’s painful failure and the problems it reveals have become the subject of a proliferation of professional advice, counseling and self-help literature. We need to be aware that romantic love does not bring lasting happiness. Strangely, however, people look to almost any explanation for this but the fact that they fell in love in the first place. Indeed, quite often the cure prescribed for love is more love— ‘don’t worry, you’ll meet someone else’. While we blame ourselves, our partners, our parents, ‘men’, ‘women’ and society (and not without merit, as neoliberal society is a very cruel one and that affects relationships), we fail to see the inherent problems and contradiction in the romantic love concept. Romantic love may, temporarily, bring pleasure, excitement and feelings of great joy. It can challenge us and provide us with some opportunities to learn. For many people this is the way to have their first sexual experience. But romantic love in itself is not a stable fundament for a lasting relationship.

 In his ABCDE model of relationship development, George Levinger (1983) traced five phases in personal relationships based on romantic love:

  1. Acquaintance. When couples first meet, they strive to make a good impression. They try to present carefully edited versions of their life histories, which present them in the positive light. They size up one another. Erotic drive can develop. For the heterosexual Western male, the desire to fall in love seems to become particularly strong in the presence of feminine narcissism when an extreme tension is experienced between the apparent self-sufficiency of the object who ‘seems to remain cool, self-possessed and self-contained’ and the subject who is dissatisfied with himself, and full of doubts about his self-worth.  If the woman has a certain vulnerability, being perhaps younger than himself or in a less powerful social position, so much the better. Psychoanalysts think that this is the image of  ‘mother’ who is the object of the male romantic transformation (Man marry the womand who are like his mother). The female "romantic transformation" (aka falling in love) begins with the ‘affirmation’ of her hero, an affirmation which bestows upon her a coherent, potent and radiant subjectivity. For the male subject, however, the heroine  is merely a support for his own ‘self-esteem and self-worth. Outside sexual attraction, her actual qualities matter less. In a way she is idealized as the always-loving, ever-giving woman who confirms his narcissistic longings by being completely satisfied with him and by him. So the state of being in love for a male is a grandiose illusion which manifests as the profoundest attraction to a woman he does not know and does not understand. Those contradiction are well reflected is popular quotes about love. For example: 
  2. Buildup of an ongoing relationship. Couples assess the pleasures and problems of connecting with each other. In a couple fall in love, lovers idealize one another; and for some period ("honeymoon") they “fuse” with one another, emotionally and physically. During this period lovers assume that the other is able to fulfill all their needs. Those contradiction are well reflected is a couple of following quotes: 

    You have to treat your wife like you treated her when you first met her and were trying to get her in bed. ~Alice Cooper, interview with Cal Fussman, 2008 August 2nd, for Esquire's January 2009 eighth annual Meaning of Life issue

    An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit. ~Pliny the Younger, Letters

  3. Commitment. A couple "ties the knot", entering marriage. This is a more important stage for a woman then for a man.  Women past and present face the adaptive problem of choosing men who not only have the necessary resources but also show a willingness to commit those resources to them and their children. This problem may be more difficult than it seems at first. Although resources can often be directly observed, commitment cannot be. Instead, gauging commitment requires looking for cues that signal the likelihood of fidelity in the channeling of resources. Love is one of the most important cues to commitment. But initial romantic feelings and sexual attractiveness of two partners are a very unstable basis, at best. Please note that sexual attractiveness typically is asymmetrical in a sense that one partner has much stronger feelings ("in love"), while other has weaker feelings and just "allow" the other to love her/him ("in consent"). This asymmetry can be allowed only if a woman see that the the mate committed himself to the relationship. In this case they can commit themselves to long-term relationships and continue to merge and consolidate their lives around the other spouse. But lovers cannot stay on undecided forever.   If a male fails to commit, the female often leave him:

    The weight women attach to commitment is revealed in the following true story (the names are changed). Mark and Susan had been going out with each other for two years and had been living together for six months. He was a well-off forty-two-year-old professional, she a medical student of twenty-eight. Susan pressed for a decision about marriage--they were in love, and she wanted to have children within a few years. But Mark balked. He had been married before; if he ever married again, he wanted to be absolutely sure it would be for good. As Susan continued to press for a decision, Mark raised the possibility of a prenuptial agreement. She resisted, feeling that this violated the spirit of marriage. Finally they agreed that by a date four months in the future he would have decided one way or another. The date came and went, and still Mark could not make a decision. Susan told him that she was leaving him, moved out, and started dating another man. Mark panicked. He called her up and begged her to come back, saying that he had changed his mind and would marry her. He promised a new car. He promised that there would be no prenuptial agreement. But it was too late. Mark's failure to commit was too strong a negative signal to Susan. It dealt the final blow to their relationship. She was gone forever.

    One major component of commitment is fidelity, exemplified by the act of remaining faithful to a partner. Fidelity signals the exclusive commitment of sexual resources to a single partner. Another aspect of commitment is the channeling of resources to the loved one, such as buying her an expensive gift or ring. Acts such as this signal a serious intention to commit economic resources to a long-term relationship. Emotional support is yet another facet of commitment, revealed by such behavior as being available in times of trouble and listening to the partner's problems. Kindness is an enduring personality characteristic that has many components, but at the core of all of them is the commitment of resources. The trait signals an empathy toward children, a willingness to put a mate's needs before one's own, and a willingness to channel energy and effort toward a mate's goals rather than exclusively and selfishly to one's own goals. Kindness, in other words, signals the ability and willingness of a potential mate to commit energy and resources selflessly to a partner. The lack of kindness signals selfishness, an inability or unwillingness to commit, and a high likelihood that costs will be inflicted on a spouse. Commitment entails a channeling of time, energy, and effort to the partner's needs at the expense of fulfilling one's own personal goals. Acts of reproduction also represent a direct commitment to one's partner's genes.

    Because sex is one of the most valuable reproductive resources women can offer, they resist giving it away indiscriminately. In this sense sex means commitment on the part of  a woman. In return they universally require love, sincerity, and kindness is a way of securing a commitment of resources commensurate with the value of the resource that women give to men. Requiring love and kindness helps women to solve the critical adaptive mating problem of securing the commitment of resources from a man that can aid in the survival and reproduction of her offspring.

    Some quotes that reflects inherent contradictions of commitment phase:

    • People do not marry people, not real ones anyway; they marry what they think the person is; they marry illusions and images. The exciting adventure of marriage is finding out who the partner really is. ~James L. Framo, "Explorations in Marital & Family Therapy"
    • A man marries to have a home, but also because he doesn't want to be bothered with sex and all that sort of thing. ~W. Somerset Maugham
    • Mother-in-law: a woman who destroys her son-in-law's peace of mind by giving him a piece of hers
    • The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character. ~Peter Devries
    • Before marriage, a girl has to make love to a man to hold him. After marriage, she has to hold him to make love to him. ~Marilyn Monroe
  4. Deterioration of mutual attraction. Familiarity breeds contempt. People usually respect less someone they know well enough to know his or her faults. Unfortunately, as couples settle into a routine, kind words are often replaced by harsh evaluations, thoughtful courtesies by neglect. Coincident with this was an apparent loss of interest of a man in his woman; whereas early in the relationship the man openly demonstrated that he liked his partner, admired her and enjoyed being with her, he now seemed increasingly indifferent. Roughly 41 percent of newlywed women and 45 percent of women married for four years complain that their partners do not spend enough time with them. The analogous figures for men are only 4 percent during the newlywed year and 12 percent during the fourth year of marriage. Other things became the focus of the husband interest and attention. Examples included sport, socializing with other men, and especially work. These changes led most married women to experience powerful and painful feelings of abandonment.  During the first year of marriage, only 13 percent of women  complain that their partners are self-centered. The key complain during the first year is the dramatically increased workload. By the fourth year of marriage, the numbers more than double. In other word each third woman feels abandoned by her partner. Many start contemplating divorce. 

    For some reason, married couples frequently (or even typically) treat one another worse than they would treat total strangers. Man especially tend to take way too many things for granted. Some couples almost completely stop looking at each other, stop touching, stop talking kindly essentially living like two strangers in the same house/apartment.  Moreover, when a wife tried to talk to her husband about what was happening, they typically met with very little success. On the contrary, women’s efforts seemed only to compound the problem. as men often seemed completely baffled as to why women were so upset. They would increasingly react by maintaining their ‘distant’ and ‘unemotional’ stance, while becoming angry and defensive if women ‘pushed the issue’. Whereas 64 percent of newlywed women complain that their husbands sometimes fail to pay attention when they speak, 80 percent of women are disturbed by this behavior by the fourth and fifth years of marriage. Fewer husbands overall show distress about their partners' inattentiveness, but the increase in this complaint over time parallels that of their wives, rising from 18 percent to 34 percent during the first four years of marriage. Mosti woman compain about husnabds ignoring a spouse's feelings. Among newlywed women, 35 percent express distress about having their feelings ignored, whereas four years later this figure has jumped to 57 percent. The comparable figures for complaints by men are 12 percent in the first year and 32 percent in the fourth. 

    Some of this dynamics is due to the switch of priorities of the male in the relationship. Effective courting signals to a potential mate one's selfless willingness to put that mate's interests before one's own, or at least on par with one's own.  That instantly disappears after marriage. After the marriage is reasonably secure, the tactics signaling selflessness subside because their initial function of attracting a mate recedes in importance. As Helen Rowland sarcastically noted "When a girl marries she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one." Perhaps this is what married women mean when they complain that their spouses "take them for granted."  Initially, during honeymoon period, most husbands are typically  loving and devoted, and women feel that they were ‘special’ and loved. But after the first year or so,  their desire for attention and affirmation of love starts being ignored or, even worse, reflected back to them as "unreasonable" demand. This would lead women to feel hurt. Women’s efforts to communicate this problem seemed only to compound the problem in that, paradoxically,  the more they asked for recognition of their hurt feelings, the more their partners were liable to ‘back off’. In reality this is about terms the ‘unequal emotional contract’ of heterosexual love. While wives attempt to uphold their expectations that love relationships is reciprocal they are forcefully molded into traditional marriage role. 

    Attempts to change this rising inequality, however, brings its own set problems. Relationships could come to feel like a constant ‘battleground’ of sexes. While women themselves felt that they "couldn’t have spelled out more clearly" why they were dissatisfied, their husbands remained puzzled. Men appeared to alternate between making ‘efforts’ which women complained were ‘hopeless’ and ‘pathetic’ and getting angry and defensive, complaining that they felt unappreciated. Thus in many marriages there seemed to be no way for women to resolve their anger and disappointment at their partner’s withdrawal. Accounts suggested a tendency for them to oscillate between the two unsatisfactory positions outlined above: either fighting for a ‘better deal’ which meant constant struggle and frustration, or giving up the struggle. The latter enabled a greater degree of ‘harmony’, but instills in a wife feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment which did not go away. That leads to the growing sense of alienation which she had come to experience.

    It is quite clear that a fine balance of "in love"/"in consent" feelings (the asymmetry of feelings of two spouses toward each other; reciprocal romantic love is an extremely rare event) achieved during courtship  gradually dissipates within a couple of years of marriage. Some spouses attempt to force their "significant other" to become what they think they should be and sometimes change is possible. But in most cases it is not. So the spouse iether accept the reality and the relationship remain stable but lo longer based solely of mutual attraction, or relationship goes into decline phase.  One solution to this contradiction therefore seemed to be for women to channel their efforts into trying to ‘make the relationship work’. This strategy, however, brought further problems. Faced with a partner who himself appeared disinterested in ‘making it work’ in the way she wanted, a woman could easily come to feel that the only way to ‘keep things going’ was to take on that responsibility herself. Such was the extent of this that several women described themselves as more or less singlehandedly ‘providing a relationship’ for the man to ‘be in’. This can be illustrated by the following quote:

    Ruth:[breaks into laughter] You’re joking! [laughter] Oh well really, are they ever? No, of course they haven’t. They never are, never. I can say that absolutely, absolutely across the board. No. It’s always been me looking after the relationship. I sometimes like envisage it like a little garden, you know? I’m the one who does all the gardening and the men come out and sit in it [laughter]. I do. That’s how I imagine it. They sit in it, and I’m pulling the weeds up, pruning the roses [laughs]. That sums it up for me.

    Responsibilities could come to stretch way beyond the ‘front door’ to include the maintenance and support of wider family and social networks. One woman, for example, described how she had come to take responsibility for remembering her husband’s relatives’ birthdays, and buying, wrapping and sending presents and cards to them. She also reminded him when he should telephone his parents and even on occasions did this on his behalf if he ‘couldn’t be bothered’. In addition to the lack of intimacy, women’s other major area of complaint about men was their selfishness, laziness and expectation that their female partners should be responsible for ‘everything’.

    But such complains do not take into account often high demand modern work environment inflicts on man, with the danger of losing the job always lurking nearby for many marring man. Losing job and entering long term unemployment is a hit that can destroy marriage even more effectively than alienation of the wife.  culturally a husbands still is viewed as a breadwinner and loses his social status if he becomes unemployed,  see Marriage and unemployment

    Women’s claims that they were responsible for ‘everything’ did not necessarily imply that men did nothing. Most male partners were prepared to contribute to some extent. However, women complained that what men would not do was to take domestic responsibility or show initiative. Even where both partners were in full-time employment, men were reported as assuming their contributions to be ‘helping’ the woman and deferring to her overall organizational responsibility   for the household. This was experienced by the woman as very hard work (and it really is), since each time she wanted her partner to do something, she would need to give him specific instructions. He might then carry out the task, often with some degree of grumbling or procrastination, but would then return to his passive position and do nothing more until a further instruction had been issued. The responsibility which women carried often led them to feel constantly tired and overworked. Again, however, there seemed no way to resolve this problem in a couple in which both spouses work, so iether a women in this situation accepts this additional workload or they would find themselves oscillating between two equally unsatisfactory positions. As Mignon McLaughlin sarcastically put it "Many marriages are simply working partnerships between businessmen and housekeepers." (The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960)

    One of the most prominent changes within marriage over time occurs in the realm of sex.  One indication of the lessened sexual involvement of married people with their spouses over time is the decline in the frequency of intercourse. When married women are less than nineteen years old, intercourse occurs roughly eleven or twelve times per month.  By age thirty it drops to nine times per month, and by age forty-two to six times per month, or half the frequency of married women half their age. Past age fifty, the average frequency of intercourse among married couples drops to once a week. These results may reflect a lessened interest by women, by men, or most likely by both. Another indication of the reduction in sexual involvement with age comes from a Gallup poll measuring the extent of sexual satisfaction and the frequency of sexual intercourse over time among married couples.8 The percentage of couples having intercourse at least once a week declines from nearly 80 percent at age thirty to roughly 40 percent by age sixty. Sexual satisfaction shows a similar decline. Nearly 40 percent of the couples report "very great satisfaction" with their sex lives at age thirty, but only 20 percent voice this level of satisfaction by age sixty. The arrival of a baby depresses the frequency of sex even more, when the rate of intercourse averages about a third of what it had been during the first month of marriage. Although more extensive studies over longer time periods are needed to confirm this finding, it suggests that the birth of a baby has a longlasting effect on marital sex, as mating effort shifts to parental effort.

    Some relevant quotes:

  5. Ending of the relationship, or separation. Most divorces are sought by woman, Separation happens when by woman became convinced that it is only husband  who has their ‘needs’ and ‘demands’ were increasingly met, while she felt abandoned and devalued. As we mentioned above, as the couple became more established, so the distribution of labor often takes more traditional forms.  Gradually, women came to assume responsibility for other areas such as housework, household budgeting, shopping, childcare, arranging holidays and organizing family occasions such as Christmas celebrations. If  a woman is not satisfied with this arrangement, one solution to this dilemma was to consider ending the relationship. This, however, was in complete contradiction to women’s own powerful desire not to lose the love in which they had invested so much hope. At the end of the day all relationships end. Happy one with the death of the spouse, distressed with the divorce or estrangement and separation without divorce, but when spouses pursue their own life path separately.

The picture is not a very pretty one, but humans were not designed by natural selection to coexist in matrimonial bliss. They were designed to fight for survival and genetic reproduction. The psychological mechanisms supporting those two mechanisms are often selfish ones.

Here are additional considerations about "power play" in marriage adapted from Revolutions of the Heart Gender, Power, and the Delusions of Love - 1999,   by Wendy Langford.  (she is a little bit over the top in psychoanalytical mumbo-jumbo, but has an acute eye of the first class researcher on the subject):

The processes of change through which the newly formed couple moved as they ‘settled down’ certainly appeared detrimental to the women.  On top of the painful experience of the emotional withdrawal of their once-keen partners and the frustration of needs and desires they hoped would be fulfilled, they ended up experiencing themselves as ‘responsible for everything’. Women felt hurt, angry and devalued as they grappled with the contradictions that these changes entailed. The relational dynamics which emerged appeared to facilitate women’s disadvantage within their love relationships. Through withdrawing interest in their female partners, focusing their affirmation on other things and by ‘opting out’, men appeared able to benefit from a dominant pattern of gender relations characterized by an unequal division of labor, and to ensure that their own needs and desires were met while those of their partners were rendered illegitimate.

Certainly, few of the women   presented their marital history as a straightforward narrative of her own subjection to the demands of traditional role of the woman in the family and loss of power in comparison with her husband. While women looked for explanations for their partner’s disengagement, however, the exact relationship is a typical power relationship. Through withdrawing interest in their female partners, focusing their affirmation on other things and by ‘opting out’, men appeared able to benefit from a dominant pattern of gender relations characterized by an unequal division of labor, and to ensure that their own needs and desires were met while those of their partners were rendered illegitimate.

Moreover, where the operation of male power was visible to women in relationships of their friends, this was not usually in respect of their own current relationships. Several women, for example, talked about how other women they knew were dominated by male partners, sometimes speaking very critically about the woman concerned in the vein of ‘I don’t know why she stays with him. I wouldn’t put up with it’. Women were also much more likely to see themselves as having been subordinate in their own past relationships. With the benefit of hindsight and the comfort of having ‘moved on’ from a painful situation, it was perhaps easier to admit that they had been ‘naive’ or ‘stupid’ and allowed a man to ‘get the better of them’. They might stress, however, that they certainly would not let this happen now.

However, things are perhaps more complex than this in respect of love relationships. In some studies women not only claimed to feel powerful, but gave examples of how they were powerful in the sense of being able to get their partners to do things they wanted them to. Which is the essence of power. Most typically, women claimed they had a kind of ‘emotional power’ over men which enabled them to get their own way.

Generally speaking, then, men would only ‘do anything’ in certain narrowly defined senses. This would mainly involve supporting the woman in her ‘Mother’ role by doing practical tasks ‘for her’ such as DIY jobs, washing up, getting her car serviced and so on. Sometimes it would extend to supporting women’s outside activities. Examples included giving her lifts to evening classes and making tea and coffee if she had a group of people round to the house for a meeting. Indeed, it seemed that some men were very keen to do these things, and were sometimes quite amenable to being ‘bossed around’ by their female partners. However, the ‘anything’ that men would do generally did not include all the things that women claimed they really wanted men to do, such as taking domestic and relational responsibiliand giving emotional support. Moreover, women complained that men expected them to be pleased and grateful for anything they did and wanted to be praised for their efforts.

A second sense in which women felt they could exercise power was in respect of acting as a judge of their partner’s behaviour. Paradoxically, although men seemed very reluctant to do what women wanted them to do, this did not mean that they were necessarily unconcerned about women’s approval. On the contrary, according to some accounts, men appeared to be quite anxious about what their partners thought of them, especially as to whether they were ‘good’.

However, although men sought women’s approval, this did not generally mean that women had the power to determine the criteria by which the man was to be judged. On the contrary, so long as a man did not indulge in excessive ‘bad behaviour’ (drinking, gambling, womanizing, wasting money), ‘did his best’ in terms of the traditional male role, and especially if he did something ‘extra’ such as ‘helping’ around the house, he expected to be seen as a ‘good boy’. Indeed, he might be quite indignant and defensive if, despite all of this, he still did not meet with his partner’s approval.  

... ... ...

More specifically, several psychologists have observed how heterosexual relationships are characterized by a particular gendered dynamic whereby men avoid women’s demands for intimacy and connection, while women alternate between approaching men and coping with the pain and frustration of being ‘shut out’. This has been variously termed the ‘pursuer—distancer’ pattern (Fogarty 1976), the ‘rejection-intrusion’ pattern (Napier 1978), the ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern (Wile 1981) and the ‘approach-avoidance dance’ (Rubin 1983). The analysis presented here, however, features three particular aspects which have not been highlighted in other studies. Firstly, this gendered pattern appears embedded within, and characterised by, a ‘mother-son dynamic’ which is visible and at times quite explicit in women’s accounts. Secondly, this dynamic has a particular and paradoxical relation to gender hierarchy. Thirdly, and crucially, the dynamic is one which ‘grows out of’ an initial situation in which love appears to have a quite different manifestation.

Asymmetry of love and romantic harassment

Today novels, and films are filled with stories of passionate mutual love. Surprisingly, we rarely see reports of people who were loved but failed to love in return. Sometimes, the rejected lover's pursuit of the other turns into harassment. Here harassment is defined as “the persistent use of psychological or physical abuse in an attempt to begin or continue dating someone else after they have clearly indicated a desire to terminate a relationship”. A majority of college women (56%) reported that they had been romantically harassed

Romantic harassment includes such behaviors as these: Rejected lovers repeatedly telephone late at night; they ring the bell and run; watch, follow, repeatedly telephone at home or work; besiege with an avalanche of letters; send flowers; jump out of the bushes when the other returns home late at night from a date; insult or physically attack; or threaten to kill. Interestingly enough, when harassers are interviewed, they generally do not think of such activities as harassment! They think they are trying to establish a love relationship.

In attempting to combat male harassment (it can go both ways), women attempt a variety of strategies. Some do nothing. Some try to “be nice” (“Can't we just be friends”?) and reason with the man; some are direct or rude, saying or yelling “leave me alone!” Some change their telephone numbers or move. Some get boyfriends or parents to talk to or threaten the man; some file harassment charges in civil court. Such harassment is painful for women. They experience fear, anxiety, and depression. They suffer from stomachaches and nervous tics. In the short run, nothing works terribly well; lovers refuse to give up.

The best strategy for anyone who wants to get rid of someone who just won't quit seems to be to adopt a “zombie” approach—being polite, brief, and displaying no emotion. This approach means that harassers no longer can get any rewards for calling, writing, following, or threatening. Most harassers find it extremely rewarding if the woman is “nice” and tries to explain her feelings with infinite patience because they get the contact they crave. They experience equal rewards if she gets furious since they are finally getting through to her.

Better to say in a lifeless tone, “I put that in the hands of my lawyer.” As a zombie you may be permitted one more polite sentence, such as: “Feel free to talk to him.” Eventually, lovers/harassers lose interest in zombies. If there is no emotion off which to bounce, the unrequited passion turns into boredom. Time eventually dims the fervor, and the nightmare comes to an end.

Familiarity breeds contempt. People usually respect less someone they know well enough to know his or her faults. Western-style marriage now primarily based on initial romantic feelings and sexual attractiveness of two partners, which is very unstable basis in itself.

Sexual attractiveness typically is asymmetrical in a sense that one partner has much stronger feelings ("in love"), while other has weaker feelings and just "allow" the other to love her/him ("in consent").

One of the key problems is that  sexual attractiveness typically is asymmetrical in a sense that one partner has much stronger feelings ("in love"), while other has weaker feelings and just "allow" the other to love her/him ("in consent"). This asymmetry might well be not an optimal criteria for forming a lasting union. It is quite clear that such this "in love"/"in consent" feelings can gradually dissipate within a couple of years of marriage. Some spouses attempt to force their "significant other" to become what they think they should be and sometimes change is possible. But in most cases it is not. So the spouse iether accept the reality and the relationship remain stable, but lo longer based solely of mutual attraction, or relationship goes into decline phase.  Troubled couples quickly get locked into negative tit-for-tat exchanges. Warring couples can manage to fight over almost anything. They fight over their personal dispositions (he is messy; she is compulsive), over marital norms (what is “right” or “wrong”; he doesn't spend enough time with the children; she doesn't keep the house clean enough), or over a thousand and one specific issues.

Romantic love role in maintaining patriarchy  pattern of social arrangements

In The Second Sex, first published in 1949, de Beauvoir developed a Hegelian analysis of patriarchy. The key dynamic is a fundamental tendency of human consciousness, when it becomes aware of itself as a subject, and in turn becomes aware of the existence of other subjects, to see them as objects, as ‘other’, and as inferior, as a defense against its own fear of their subjectivity. If no effort is made to construct reciprocity (the recognition of each other as free and equal beings), this tendency, combined with the varying life conditions of different groups, leads inevitably to relations of domination and subordination. Members of dominant groups become the ‘Ones’, who reduce the existential threat of the ‘Others’ by objectifying them. This is the basic dynamic that, historically, has shaped relations between men and women, producing gendered forms of consciousness which are in turn reinforced through the actual life situations of the sexes. Women, defined as ‘Others’, are directed towards a life of dependence, vulnerability and self-sacrifice in a sphere of ‘immanence’. Men are defined as the ‘Ones’ who are capable of ‘transcendence’, and are directed towards a life of independence, strength and self-determination.

According to de Beauvoir, the ideology of romantic love plays a significant part in maintaining patriarchy  pattern of social arrangements. Denied a vision of her own transcendence, a woman learns that devoting herself completely to a man is the way that her own life can have a meaning beyond the realm of immanence. In an account which adds a gendered dimension to the claim that modern love has a religious or spiritual significance, de Beauvoir argues that feminine consciousness in particular is structured to seek freedom through self-sacrifice in love:

She chooses to desire her enslavement so ardently that it will seem to her the expression of her liberty; she will try to rise above her situation as inessential object by fully accepting it; through her flesh, her feelings, her behaviour, she will enthrone him as supreme value and reality: she will humble herself to nothingness before him. Love becomes for her a religion.

(de Beauvoir 1988:653)

In order to pursue this apparent route to salvation, a woman must believe in the impossible: liberation through servitude. She may employ ‘bad faith’ in an attempt to resolve this paradox, but this involves entering into a series of manipulations and self-deceptions which trap her even further. Only ending the liaison can free her, but this is terrifying because it means facing up to that which caused her to enter it in the first place: her failure to achieve her own transcendence. Romantic love is thus an ‘existential fraud’

De Beauvoir’s analysis was taken up, for example, by the US group The Feminists, who integrated it into a Marxist framework in order to argue that love is an ideological device, a form of ‘false consciousness’ which serves the interests of the ‘ruling class’, men, through preventing women from bonding with their own ‘sex class’. Being ‘in love’ acts as a self-defense against the painful truth of subordination by offering women the delusion that they are both givers and receivers.

Despite its limited development, however, the radical feminist critique of the 1970s stands as a cogent challenge to an ideal which promises comfort, security and identity within a cozy world of coupledom. It certainly paints a very different picture to the one that prevailed in ‘malestream’ sociology at this time, which departed little from the romantic ideal in its portrayal of the couple as an increasingly ‘symmetrical’ and humane relationship between intimate equals (Young and Willmott 1973; Berger and Kellner 1974).

We can see, then, that love does not exist in a fixed or unchanging form; our contemporary experience of love is something which has come into being. Love has become an exclusively focused, ‘spiritualised’, erotic passion which is articulated through romantic codes, and which forms the basis of our social identity.

In exploring sexual decision making we need to clarify the ways in which people propose sexual activity, eroticize their discussions with each other, say no to sexual advances, verbalize the problem of asking about safe sex, talk to others in the peer group about sex, and so on. In addition, we need an understanding of the ways in which sex talk arises from the normal interaction of two people in the relationship, as partners get ideas and desires, make suggestions to each other, react to the other's suggestions, and generally fit sex into their ordinary lives. 

The art of being married

When couples were happy with the status quo, they were unlikely to bother trying to understand why things were going so well. When unhappy, however, they willingly spent a great deal of time figuring out who was in the wrong and why. Unfortunately, such ruminations are almost always self-serving.  People are too eager to believe their own justifications and excuses; they rarely admitted even to themselves that it was them who were selfish, neurotic, stupid, or mean. But they were more than willing to see their partners in a negative light. If people replay old grievances over and over again in their minds coming up with the same old answer: “I am right and you are wrong”. That's why marital conflicts tend to became self-sustained, if not resolved promptly. Attitudes harden and spouses became distant from each other.

There are multiple problem in "making marriage work" and they are far more complicated than is generally recognized. Some conflicts are inevitable, for example, conflicts between commitment to the relationship and intimacy and the demands of one's successful career. Or at least much more common then recognized.   Few people are fully aware of the level of difficulties most people encounter in simultaneously maintaining a successful and durable relationships and advancing one's career, of the psychological obstacles to this, and a role that pure luck/accident plays in a good fortune. Couples do not exist in a vacuum. First, they must deal with their personal social net —with parents, children, stepchildren, friends, and rivals. Next they need to deal with social net that encompass work colleagues, and dangers that can come from this social network (such as extramarital relationship with secretaries and such). They must face huge time the demands of their careers, especially if they have tendency to workagolism (which might be viewed as a king of escapism ;-).  They must handle the powerful feelings associated with jealousy. Internet pornography further complicated things creating some unrealistic model of intercourse and sexual games.

Paradoxically romantic love is neither necessary,  no sufficient for a stable, mutually beneficial relationship. Ability to use relationship for mutual benefits does not depends on love.  The same is true about raising children. How good couples are at solving the problems presented by the arising in the relationship problems, conflicts and challenges is more dependent not on the initial intensity of romantic love (which can serve as anesthetic for the brief initial period of the relationship), but it is highly dependent on the intellectual abilities of the individuals, including knowledge their self-control, and their past experience. Avoiding jumping to conclusions, skeptical attitude to the information on the Web and reading a good book on the subject is always a good start ;-)

Traditionally, IQ tests have assessed language and mathematical ability. Recently, there is a tendency to distinguish between IQ and social skills. It is the latter that are enabling people to deal with loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and the world. (We all know brilliant people who are so arrogant, obnoxious, irritating, or insensitive that their intelligence does them little good. Others end up muttering “I'll be darned if I'll cooperate with that jerk.”)

Social skills (sometimes also called emotional intelligence) refer to the ability to communicate and behave with others in ways that are socially appropriate and effective

The best way to gain fulfilling relationships lies less through obsession with romantic love (which by definition is a short term phenomenon, as familiarity breeds contempt) than with greater efforts toward building a balanced life, of which healthy marriage is an important part,  based on one's unique biology, history, personality, and individuality. Romantic intimacy can bestow on us a lot of fun and pleasure. But there are other kinds of intimacy and other glories of life outside sex. It you carefully add them they can enhance even 'average" romance or even replace it when necessary: fruitful work but without obsession, healthy family without infatuation, reliable friends,  raising children, healing, developing your own creativity, enjoying music, theater,  sunrises, and sunsets.

In other word ability to have a lasting relationship with a good (but far from perfect) marital partner is a learned art.  Much depends on the person you selected, but the level of compatibility between two intelligent people is usually very high (given you you was not too overwhelmed by feeling and did not married a borderliner, narcissist  or sociopath) is an art and as such it can be learned.  Of cause,  some buyer remorse is always present (and please not that psychical beauty, and it's ugly perversion -- thinness of women -- is way too overvalued in Western societies) And it is important to understand that a perception of reality is not the same as reality itself (which any drunk person can attest ;-).  The same is true about your perception of your marital partner. So some level of disillusionment is given.  Did you here about such thing as 'confirmation bias", If not read on.

In general if we want to learn how to love and live in marriage, we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, like playing piano, or  painting, or the art of medicine or engineering. We can formally divide the process of learning into two related and intermixed, but still distinct parts. 

But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art — the mastery of the particular art should be the priority for the individual in question. And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of high rate of failed and unhappy marriages. In spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love. The career success, prestige, money, power — almost all of our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving and living in the marriage...  Dating and marriage are considered as 'afterthought" and often done of autopilot, without critical analysis and attempts to learn, who actually you are dating (at least question is this person a boderliners or  a sociopath should be asked). But it should be viewed as a difficult and challenging "college level" class.  A person spends dating and then in marriage as much, if not more time, then in any other activities. If we add bedroom time, then more. Could it be worth to learn at least how to avoid typical blunders and how to resist cultural brainwashing? Is no this art worth the right amount of energy  to spend learning it ?

Here we also come to topic of social skills. Skills that constitute the "art of love and marriage" actually are generic social skills that can be polished in environments distinct from dating and marriage.  Traditionally, IQ tests have assessed language and mathematical ability. Recently, researchers have begun to recognize the importance of social skills in enabling people maintain healthy relationships in marriage, to deal with loved ones during inevitable conflicts, create a circle of friends, acquaintances, and to deal with the world and social environment as a whole.  We all know that some brilliant people who are narcissists, borderliners or other types of  sociopaths, or are so arrogant, obnoxious, irritating, or insensitive that their intelligence does them little good and dooms them to be a failure with the marriage with any partner. As others muttering behind their backs after each interaction “I'll be damned, if I deal with that jerk again.”

Social skills refer to the ability to communicate and behave with others in ways that are socially appropriate and effective. Among them:

How to deal with the conflict

There is no way to avoid conflict in any marriage. The question is: How will you deal with it? Two people with different backgrounds and personalities unavoidably have different interests. different idiosyncrasies, different expectations, If those interests diverge chances on preserving the marriage are slim.  Now add to this some bad habits or personality problems and  social pressures. Conflicts are unavoidable. A good movies that touched this theme in an intelligent way is What Other Couples Do . One way or another, all conflicts end. among possible endings are separation, domination, compromise, integrative agreement, and structural improvement

Often people choose to avoid conflict. Many happily married couples simply ignore small day-to-day irritations. Couples may also avoid conflict for less appealing reasons. Some men or women are bullies. A wife may know she can get her way simply by laying down the law and refusing to discuss things. Her husband may be afraid to “push it.” He may know he can get his way by nagging, nagging, and nagging. Sometimes couples avoid conflict because they know that it is hopeless. They have been through the same discussion again and again; it never goes anywhere and they are simply tired of the fight. Such marriages may seethe with hidden conflict. Some older couples settle for empty relationships. In these   marriages, former lovers now just don't care enough even to fight.

Once conflict starts, it can take either of two main turns—toward direct negotiation and de-escalation, or in opposite direction

We can view compromise as a process in which two individuals both give up a little bit so that the other can get some of their needs met. (Or, as Professor Higgins wryly observes in My Fair Lady, so “neither gets what either really wants at all.”) For example, let's assume that a couple was fighting over the division of household tasks. Both were working all day. They picked up the children, made dinner, cleaned up, and fell into bed totally exhausted. They were arguing about who should do the gardening. This tiny issue is inflated out of proportions since neither had any more to give. A compromise might involve something  skipping the church altogether on some Sundays or cut back on daily expenses so that they could afford to hire a part-time housekeeper or gardener. 

The keys to attaining lasting agreements is the determination to work out a solution that satisfy both as for basic goals, demonstrating flexibility in regard to the means and ends of achiving those goals. Couples have to be flexible about the means for attaining their goals but try not to compromise their basic goals. If either of them sacrifices too much, the agreement will not last.

Structural Improvement depends on the ability to see big picture. Some people are able even after a severe conflict to step back and try to see the bigger picture. For example, if an overworked couple desperately trying to meet ends realize that living in Manhattan is too expensive for their incomes and moving say to NJ they could have less stressful life and have a better school for their children and rent a bigger apartment or buy a small house with mortgages and expenses for a fraction of the cost of the two bedroom apartment in Manhattan. All they had to sacrifice is time to commute to Manhattan. In this case, they can chose to make that particular structural change which might eliminate the source of the conflict. Or that it might be a time to leave highly stressful job and lower their standard of living in order to preserve their physical and mental health.

Riggio found that women scored higher than men on the expressivity and sensitivity scales. Men scored slightly higher on the control and manipulation scales. Social skills allow people to shape social situations, cooperate with others, and solve problems. People's social competence cannot help but influence how comfortable they feel in romantic social settings and how adeptly they deal with social difficulties.

Among the catalysts of marital conflict are children, in-laws, money and career issues, extramarital affairs, and the neoliberal imperatives that come from the society in which we live. There are many factors that can destroy the relationship really quickly. Extramarital affairs are one of them.  Perhaps we should be less surprised at the number of divorces than by the fact that a good number of marriages manage to survive and prosper.

We can list four initiating events that can spark conflict: criticism, illegitimate demands, rebuffs, and cumulative annoyances. Once an initiating event has occurred, the interaction takes a decisive turn. The couple may either engage in conflict or avoid it. Generally, more powerful spouses are more likely to open the battle; the powerless are more likely to try to avoid trouble. But if things get bad enough, even a less powerful spouce may decide to “stand up and fight.”

Neoliberal society amplifies those conflicts with its cult of individualism, cult of the "sex for sake of sex" instilled by Hollywood ("sex as an entertainment"), insecure employment and "homo homini lupus est" (a Latin proverb meaning "A man is a wolf to another man" ) mentality.  Cult of consumerism also has large destabilizing effects.

As "feelings" fade and economic circumstances became more challenging (for example  a long period of unemployment of the husband -who still is considered to be a "breadwinner"), it is important that they are naturally replaced with other bonds.  If not marital conflict arise, which in many cases leads to divorce. In other words conflict is inherent in marriage as an institution and stable marriage is just temporary state of any marriage. most marriage periodically come under stress and their stability depends on how such a stress is resolved. 

Recently increased rate of divorce became interpreted in sociological terms as the result of interaction of romantic, voluntary model of marriage with several negative factors (and first of all with the neoliberal society with its cult of individualism):

In a study of sixty-five newly-wed couples, for example, Penny Mansfield and Jean Collard (1988) found that while both partners were eager to present their relationships to the researchers as conforming to the egalitarian ideal of ‘sharing and caring’, much of what they actually said revealed a very different picture. The women had generally entered marriage seeing it as a relationship and seeking a ‘common life’ involving everyday companionship and an exchange of intimacy which would make them feel valued as individuals. Men, on the other hand, saw marriage as a ‘life in common house/apartment’, so their focus is place-based rather than relationship-based: ‘somewhere and someone to get out from and return to’ (Mansfield and Collard 1988:179). They did not generally feel a need for self-disclosure. After only three months of marriage, the authors found women to be seriously disappointed and feeling ignored. Talking about the problem, moreover, proved extremely difficult, since men were simply baffled and saw their wives as ‘rabbitting on’ and being ‘a pain in the neck’ (ibid.: 173-174). The study highlights a sharp distinction between the promise of emotional fulfillment that is the ideal of modern love, and a wide gender gap of expectation in its practice: ‘[t]here is, it seems, “his” marriage and “her” marriage existing apart from “their” marriage’ (ibid.: 179). The authors conclude that ‘[i]t is a life founded upon notions of coupleness, togetherness and equality. Yet at each point in the story it becomes clear that the worlds of husband and wife are separate and asymmetrical’ (ibid.: 194).

Very similar patterns have been found in a more recent study of the relationship between the economic and emotional lives of sixty mature married or cohabiting couples. Jean Duncombe and Dennis Marsden (1993) did not set out to investigate asymmetry of emotional response, but this emerged during the research process as the dominant pattern described by their female interviewees. The women sought validation from, and wanted to feel emotionally ‘special’ to, their male partners. They were disappointed however by the men’s lack of spontaneity and ‘emotional participation’ in the relationship. Thus Duncombe and Marsden suggest that an increase in conflict and unhappiness within relationships may be occurring; gender differences in emotionality may be highlighted and intensified by the shift from marriage as an ‘institution’ to the ideal of fulfillment within personal relationships.

These empirical studies find, then, that there is a major, and possibly increasing, tension between the contemporary ideal of love and its practice. While the ideal of an intimate relationship offers salvation and solace to the notional ‘individual’, actual men and women appear to have quite different relationships to that ideal. For example, while Beck and Beck-Gernsheim’s abstract partners undertake endless ‘relationship work’, Duncombe and Marsden found that only real women and not real men were doing what they call ‘emotion work’. While abstract lovers negotiate the content of the ‘love package’, real women, it seems, have considerable difficulty in persuading real men even to sit at the negotiating table. And while abstract relationships last only as long as they are emotionally satisfying for both parties, real relationships seem to continue anyway, despite the fact that women, in particular, say that they find them most unsatisfying. This gendered concretization of ‘emotional satisfaction’ thus suggests three things: first, women and men do not appear to agree either about how important it is, or indeed what it is. Second, whatever it is, women seem to think they are getting less of it than men. And third, there is little evidence of couples utilizing democratic practices to sort these differences out. What, then, might this tell us about the relationship between love and power?

We can view 'emotional ‘remoteness’ of husbands is a form of power. We also can note that women have at least the theoratical possibility of exercising emotional power over men by deliberately withholding emotional ‘services’ which men want. 

Some writers have addressed the question of gender differences in love at a theoretical level, but have concluded that these are evidence of ‘complimentarity’ rather than power differentials. Francesca Cancian, for example, echoes earlier functionalist models of coupledom which contrast the ‘instrumental’ role of the male breadwinner with the ‘expressive’ role of his wife (see Parsons and Bales 1956). She claims that ‘women and men prefer different styles of love that are consistent with their gender role. Women prefer emotional closeness and verbal expression; men prefer giving instrumental help and sex’ (Cancian 1985:253). Current difficulties result, according to Cancian, from a failure to understand and respect this difference. A ‘feminization of love’ over the last century means that ‘only women’s style of love is recognized, and women are assumed to be more skilled at love’ (ibid.). This has led to misguided pressure being put on men to show their feelings and a denial of the ‘legitimacy’ of men’s claims that sex is their expression of love. Cancian considers that the existence of male domination in love relationships has been exaggerated. Indeed, she concludes that ‘men’s power over women in intimate relationships is severely limited by the social organization of love’

Confronting your spouse with grace and tactfulness requires wisdom, patience, and humility

Since every marriage has its tensions, the key is learn to deal with them. Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to existing differences. Opposites attract and that probably true for many marriages. Usually a task-oriented individual marries someone who is more people-oriented. People who move through life at breakneck speed seem to end up with spouses who are slower-paced. It’s strange, but that’s part of the reason why you married Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before.

But after being married for a while (sometimes a short while), the those differences might became irritants. People start arguing over small things, Ad to this problems with handling finances and  raising children. It’s important to understand these differences, and to a reasonable extent try to accept and adjust to them.  Like in Serenity Prayer  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Confronting your spouse with grace and tactfulness requires wisdom, patience, and humility. Here are a few other tips we’ve found useful:

Resolving conflict requires forgiveness

No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other, they will fail. With failure comes hurt. And the only ultimate relief for hurt is the soothing salve of forgiveness.

Forgiving means giving up resentment and the desire to punish. By an act of your will, you let the other person off the hook. And as a Christian you do not do this under duress, scratching and screaming in protest. Husbands and wives can become extremely proficient at trading insults—about the way he looks, the way she cooks, or the way he drives and the way she cleans house. Many couples don’t seem to know any other way to relate to each other.

Love and career

Feminists in the nineteenth century, for example, argued that the blind, passionate, seductive and conflicted nature of romantic love undermined women’s interests. They envisioned a more equal model of ‘rational love’, based on knowledge rather than fantasy or passion. Which proved to be a fantasy.

One destabilizing factor in marriage is involvement of one of the spouses in so called career rat race. A career rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless attempt to climb the ladder up. It conjures up the image of lab rats racing through a maze to get the "cheese" much like neoliberal society is brainwashing people into racing to climb up and get ahead financially, even if their current financial position allow comfortable and secure living.

If a brilliant comedy  Woman of the Year  this problem was depicted in grotesque but still educational form;. here are some quote from Amazon reviews that highlight this value:

...Woman of the year is a light hearted romantic comedy, which examines the lives of professional couples and how it affects their private lives. As you can guess there is certain amount of drama in the midst of a love story. The beautiful, brilliant and independent journalist Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) and the macho sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) clash over whether athletic events should be suspended for the duration of the war. She insists that sports column be abolished during war, but Sam believes that it is essential for morale. The editor brings them together to make peace but the pair when they see each other for the first time, they fall in love! When they start dating, things don't go easy on them. When Sam takes her to a ball game, Tess like the game, but when Tess introduces Sam to her international friends, he is not too thrilled. Nonetheless, they marry, but he quickly discovers she is so busy with her profession and that she has no time for him. When she adopts a war orphan without discussing with him, he realizes a drastic step must be taken, because she has no idea of being a wife and mother.

There are some very funny scenes in the movie; one of my favorite is when Tess drives back to Sam's apartment while he is sleeping; she decides to prove herself as a wife and a good cook. Using a recipe book she prepares his breakfast, which awakens Sam, and he silently watches as everything goes wrong for Tess, she breakdown when coffeepot and waffle iron both overflow, and the kitchen get messy. Sam then embraces her and says he doesn't want to change her; he merely wants their marriage to come first. The ending is somewhat discomforting for modern day feminists as it sounds too anti-family to be an independent professional woman. After all, this movie was made for audience of the year 1942, and they wouldn't have a liked it any other way than a woman learns a lesson, finally, that she has to be a caring wife, and not just a professional journalist and a political activist.

===

...Script aside, the plot is interesting, and certainly quite radical for its time. However, the ending (a hilarious set-piece of comedy though it might be) leaves things largely unresolved. We have a wonderful, strong female character in Tess Harding--this is clear enough in the first half of the film. But her strength, her forceful personality and go-getting attitude, become her weakness in the second half, so much so that she becomes almost a caricature of the original Tess Harding. Some of the things she does (her 'humanitarian' wholesale adoption of Chris, for example; her rudeness and blithe ignorance of Sam's worth) are truly reprehensible, and the point the writers are making is clear--a female who tries too hard to be a male loses her feminity, and cannot ever really be fulfilled. In this sense, the gender politics, as other commenters have pointed out, is 'deplorable'.

And yet there is a grain of truth in it; if one *can* be brought to believe that Tess could really treat Chris and Sam in the way she does, one can't help but applaud Sam's decision to leave. The role reversal is almost complete--Sam himself comments on the fact that she 'makes love' to him to smooth over their quarrels. She charges on her own merry way without asking him about his life, his opinion, or anything that remotely matters to him. Their union was neither perfect, nor a marriage, as he justifiably charges.

The uneasy tension between the admirable and the deplorable Tess Hardings comes at the end: you most certainly get the impression that the film itself didn't quite know whether or not to affirm the Tess character. In fact, by all accounts (even Hepburn's own), the film originally ended with an unqualified affirmation of Tess's character--promising to be more involved in her husband's life, Tess is depicted at a baseball game, cheering alongside Sam, getting louder and louder and rising higher in her seat above him. It was both an affirmation of Tess the character, and a lingering question mark about the Harding-Craig reunion.

Test audiences didn't like it. (Apparently, it was the *women* who felt threatened by the character Hepburn portrayed on screen. She was too strong, too beautiful, too *everything* all at once.)
What transpired in the end, then, was a re-shot ending that muddied the moral of the film in suggesting that women could not really be fulfilled without their men. Sam wants her to be Tess Harding Craig; she wants to be Mrs. Craig; she wants to change; he thinks (and probably knows) she can't. The logical ending would have seen Tess, cast as she had been in the traditional masculine role, wooing Sam back, only to cast doubt over whether her atypical (for the time) strength as a female would unequivocally threaten the typical male figure as embodied in Tracy's character. The original ending would have better borne out the logic of the film--a valuable DVD extra if ever there was one. You can perhaps applaud the spirit of the film, without accepting the fact that it seems to let that spirit fade away in the end.

So what is there of worth in WOMAN OF THE YEAR, with its original ending gone, and its revolutionary potential muted by a slapstick scene in a kitchen with exploding waffles, too much coffee, and a woman who just can't seem to figure out how to separate eggs? Well, the answer is simple, and it's already been given. This is a movie to watch, and to watch *again*, because it is the first cinematic pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. For a couple of hours, you're allowed to watch these two great, mythical actors playing two people in love... while falling in love themselves. That is most certainly a rare privilege, if ever there was one.

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...The basic premise of the movie is that you have a romantic comedy dealing with role reversal--the woman, Hepburn, is the successful one who's worried about her career, and the man, Spencer Tracy, is the second banana with the unimportant job. Both of them are reporters working for the same paper, but this movie doesn't have any of the snappy dialog you might see in a movie like "His Girl Friday."

===

...this plotline addresses the issue of the fate of the career professional woman which then was something of a novel and exceptional circumstance for stay-at-home-Mom America (although very shortly women would be “drafted” into the workforce in droves once the men are off to World War II but then they pushed back homeward again when the men came home for the “golden age” 1950s). That novel and exceptional idea of a woman trying to make a career in a man’s world in the 1940s and being very good at it rather than staying at home is today’s norm with women remaining single longer, or forever, forgoing marriage, foregoing children (or having them as a conscious single parent) and having a fruitful and socially useful life. In fact the whole plotline of this film today would have to revised, or be subject to some wicked humorous antics to get any notice.

Here is how things looked the 1940s though. Two professional writers, Tess the social commentator (played by Hepburn) and Sam the regular guy sportswriter (played by Tracy), work for a New York City newspaper (where else?) and by fair means or foul having had a dispute about the virtues of baseball, well, fell in love, yeah, got all misty-eyed over each other. Go figure, opposites attract, okay. And that is all well and good but deep down Sam is an old-fashioned guy who wants a wife who will cater to his needs, and bring forth children. Tess however is in the center of a whirlwind of important 1940s social and political events for which she will eventually receive an award as “woman of the year” and thus not inclined to pursue his dream for her.

So you can see the problem, love and all, since their schedules don’t coincide, their day to day concerns don’t coincide and Tess lets the secret out -- Sam’s work as a topnotch sportswriter is not important, not in the great scheme of things. Sam is put upon, is made to feel like a second-class citizen, is made to feel, well, like a woman then, and probably more than we want to admit now as well. Sam can’t take it anymore after a while and leaves. Of course in 1940s melodramatic time the resolution here revolves around Tess trying to be a good wife, a good housewife if you can believe that (and mercifully failing as even Sam can see). Yeah, today that story ending would certainly have to be updated. Oh, by the way, this film also shows in passing how two actors who are involved with each other off-stage (the beginning of the big Hepburn-Tracy affair) can go the extra mile in a performance to get that right dramatic effect like I noticed as well with Bacall and Bogart in To Have Or Have Not.

...Oh, no! Oh, no! My husband has been a grouch ever since we got married because I have gone on with my internationally-important work! I have not expressed much interest in his job reporting on men's ball games. Oh, gosh, I am not womanly because I do not give up my job and friends, or my concerns about a friend escaping from fascist Spain, to wrap my whole life around his. I am excluding him from my life because I speak French, German, Italian, Russian, Greek, and Chinese, as well as English, and he doesn't. I have been given a huge award as Woman of the Year, but ironically, I am not womanly at all, and therefore it is a hollow honor, and he doesn't come to the award ceremony because I don't really deserve it, or him. And he is leaving me because I don't pay enough attention to him. Because no matter what my gifts and abilities, the only thing really important about my life is whether or not I can get married, and hold on to my man, by making him the most important thing in the world. Even more important than me, or the world. Oh no, I've been wrong, I've been wrong! I'm crying now, I've been made to be womanly in my suffering, because of my shame. I must run to him now, and apologize to him for not being a womanly wife to him, and for making him unhappy. Oh, thank goodness, my step-mother has given me a book on the womanly arts, because it is really, really important that I learn to make coffee for my husband, because obviously my only function on earth is to make him the center of my life! Oh, gosh, I am so funny and silly when I try to cook, and I do everything wrong because despite being world famous, I am an inept person when it comes to the things that really matter. Sigh. If I were truly womanly, I would believe all this crap.

===

..."Woman of the Year" happily manages to avoid many of the pitfalls inherent in stories focused on sexual politics. While Tess' career is not endorsed as inherently fulfilling, typical gender roles aren't offered as the solution (however much Tess would like to believe they are). Indeed, the film asks for compromise and balance from its characters - in fact, no clear solution is reached by the film's end. It's up to the viewer to hope that they'll find one.

===

..."Woman of the Year" could have been a screwball comedy about the battle of the sexes. The themes are definitely there. Does a woman have to give up her professional life when married? Does she have to play the submissive role of "housewife" and "stand by her man"? Or can she be independent and have both, a carrear and family? And think they have Katherine Hepburn playing the role! One of Hollywood's leading feminist along with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Mary Pickford (who showed amazing business savvy).

"Woman of the Year" starts off as Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) and Tess Harding (Katherine Hepburn) get into a debate about of all things; baseball. The two work for the same paper and Tess, in Sam's eyes, is one of those snobbish know-it-all's. Soon the two start an exchange of words in their colums.

And it's here the movie plays as a screwball comedy and works best. I love a scene where Sam takes Tess to her first baseball game and has some difficulty explaining the game to her. There is also a scene where Tess invites Sam to her room and the movie's last scene are my favorites. But, all of these scenes play up the comedy.

===

Newspaper columnist Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) is drawn into a good natured war of words with a co-worker over comments she made during a radio show. Although entertaining to readers, the printed jabs hurled between her and sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) comes to an abrupt end when their boss makes it clear he wants his newspaper writers to maintain a united front to the public. During this announcement, the two writers meet for the first time and become smitten with one another. Although Tess and Sam seemingly have nothing in common, they grow closer and eventually marry. However, problems begin almost immediately as Tess is unable to comprehend the importance of being married and Sam becomes frustrated with her inability to keep her work life and home life separate. Tess, however, soon gains some valuable insight into her situation when she attends her father's wedding and soon Tess and Sam are reunited with a much better understanding of their relationship.

===

While the domesticity scene concluding the film seems out of place (the story goes that MGM added it to make Tracy the 'winner' of the 'battle of the sexes', to a much more chauvinistic 40s audience), so many scenes ring true that the film goes beyond simple comedy/drama to a timeless statement about commitment, priorities, and accountability for one's actions. And despite the serious issues raised, it makes you laugh, too! Hepburn's reactions at the ball game, and Tracy, trying to be inconspicuous at the women's club meeting, are among the comic highlights. The star duo are so natural together that it's hard to believe this was their first teaming, and the chemistry carried over into their private lives as well, beginning a romance that lasted 25 years.

Importance of your social net

In recent years, individuals have begun to recognize how much of a “safety net” other people provide. Recently divorced men and women joke how “I'm building up my support network” as they go about the process of restoring ties and friendship with old friends they neglected, making new friends and rebuilding their lives. People can receive all sorts of support from others—emotional, informational, and practical. If you are ill with the flu, a friend can drop by to cheer you up, bring you some orange juice and a hot meal, and telephone your office to say you won't be able to come in to work. Those who have no one to help may find themselves walking shakily to the store on icy sidewalks or trying to negotiate with some frustrating bureaucrat when they have a fever of 103 degrees.

When social support networks are weak, even mild stressors begin to take a toll; severe stressors may prove to be overwhelming. In old age, as family members and friends die, colleagues forget to call, and social support systems are lost, the elderly become more vulnerable. Dame is true during the period of long unemployment.

Of course, the same family and friends that provide social support for us expect us to return the favor, if necessary. Some researchers point out that a reasonably small, intimate group of family and friends is actually likely to be most supportive. If one has too many family obligations or if one's friends are less emotionally stable, affluent, competent, or healthy than oneself, a support network may actually drain one's coping resources.

Material resources

Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can help to avoid a host of stressors.  Without money, everything becomes a maddening trial. Every decision, large or small, can end up as a fight: “We can't afford to do that!”

Money can be used to buy housekeeping and gardening services (saving time, energy, and avoiding frustration for dual-career families), to secure the best medical treatment, to hire legal assistance, to have fun, to foster romance, and to modify the physical environment in a wide range of stress-reducing ways. Money may be used to buy a house in the safest neighborhood, near the best schools, and allow one to avoid the stress of overcrowded conditions, crime, and helplessness.

One even that can hit a family like brick is when breadwinning husband loses his job. That create acute conflict which is more pronounced if the couple does not have savings that allow them to go "job free" for a couple of years. 401K is of cause an important resource in such cases, but it is better to have "stash" fund for such emergencies that became more and more common in neoliberal society as they try to puch everybody into terms. Especially important if the spouse is over 50. In this case it is a must. see

All these strategies may come to naught in trying to save a foundering relationship. When nothing works, when couples are unable either to reconcile themselves to the status quo or to solve their problems, they have one more problem solving option: they can decide to end the relationship.

The fallacy of positive thinking

American pop psychology would have us believe that “thinking makes it so.” True devotees of "positive thinking" vastly exaggerate the possibilities of feelings promoting a fallacy that what you want to feel, being whatever you want to be. Best-sellers include such self-help paperbacks as Getting Control, Taking, Charge of Your Emotional Life, Do It!, or Love Power in a World Without Limits. They all emphasize the power of positive thinking, believing, or visualization in securing an emotionally controlled (and hence “better”) life.

Realistic constraints in relationship which actually determine the health and life/death of the relationship are waved away with a dismissive gesture. In some measure, then, the innocent American tradition of believing in “mind over matter” combined with good old American optimism has created a pretty powerful brainwashing cocktail.

Still what is called cognitive therapies directed at change of our attitudes might be moderately effective.  The concept of defense mechanisms, and the fact that people employ a variety of unconscious strategies to shield themselves from pain and anxiety can be moderately useful in coping with marital conflict.  The role of anticipations in influencing feelings and action might be higher that is generally recognized. A given culture or family may teach children rules, which they internalize (something like “Never hurt anyone” and “Stand up for yourself”)

When such rules are discordant with reality or are applied excessively or arbitrarily, they are likely to produce psychological or interpersonal problems. The meanings that people assign to the events determine how they will respond emotionally.

Once people have assessed the situation, they have to decide what to do about it. Lazarus (1991) argued that people may use two very different strategies in coping with problems. First, they can focus on controlling their own emotions. (They resolve to worry about problems “tomorrow,” convince themselves that things will change “somehow,” or shrug off their troubles: “There's no use crying over spilt milk.”) Or, second, they can try to deal with the problem itself.

If people decide to focus on emotional control rather than direct problem solving, again they have two choices. They can try to manage their emotions in two different ways. They can try to avoid painful confrontations with reality. Such defensive techniques can help people survive. Sometimes, however, the rigid use of palliative techniques can be dangerous. Individuals who repress their emotions or toughen themselves to feeling may lose a sense of their own humanity. They may come to disdain those who have chosen to deal with reality in a more clear-eyed way. They may fail to take the precautions they need to stay alive. It can be like the frog that is placed in a beaker of water that is gradually heated. Instead of jumping out, it will adapt to the new conditions and continue on and on to adapt to the uncomfortable heat. Finally, it can adapt no longer; it is dead. Some people seem to behave like that.

People can also try to modify their physiological reactions to emotional events. They may meditate, jog, drink, or take drugs.  Abuse of antidepressants became a real social problem in the USA.

It is very difficult to maintain a relationship based solely on mistrust

It is very difficult to maintain a relationship based solely on mistrust.

Pierce Brosnan

Infidelity if the problem that is leading cause of divorces in the USA.  This is a breach of trust, that is very difficult to amend.

Many people assume that it is “normal” to have a happy marriage. Almost 90% of Americans choose to marry at least once. When spouses are first asked whether they are satisfied with their marriages, most (84%) say yes. However, when pollsters press on, underlying problems begin to emerge. Forty percent admit that they have considered leaving their partners. Today, almost 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Although about half of first marriages fail, about 75% of men and women will later remarry. Approximately half of those remarriages will also fail. Margaret Mead once contended that our society is moving toward “serial monogamy.”

How married couples interpret one another's behavior depends on how happy they are. Happy couple make relationship-enhancing attributions. If their husbands ask them out to dinner, happily married wives give the husbands full credit for their generosity. They explain away their husbands' flaws.

Distressed couples exaggerate their partner's flaws. They can find an unflattering explanation for almost anything. They make distress-maintaining attributions. If their husbands do something wonderful for them, unhappily married wives explain it away, attributing a good behavior to external, unstable, and specific causes. The carefully chosen bouquet of woodland flowers is scorned; he just picked it up on the highway to buy a little peace; it's a poor excuse for a present.  (They attribute them to internal, stable, and global causes.) If his wife leaves her soggy towel on the bed, he assumes the moral high ground. That is just one more bit of damning evidence; she is selfish, unconcerned with anyone else's feelings, and she'll never change.

Happy and distressed couples don't just differ in the way they think about events; they differ in the way they feel about them as well.

While previously mainly men phenomenon, now infidelity became more common for married women too. Affairs can occur in happy marriages as well as in troubled ones, but they dramatically more frequent in troubled one. Although the involved spouse may not be getting enough from the marriage, often the "disgrunted" spouse is not giving enough. It take two for tango.

Among other typical reasons is attempt to raise low self-esteem, relationship deficits (e.g., lack of affection), or a social context in which infidelity is condoned. It also may indicate an addiction to sex or romance. People addicted to romantic relationships are driven by the excitement and emotion which a new relationship temporary brings to them.

In most people affairs cause feelings of shame and worthlessness. that's not true for sex addicts and philanderers. The latter perceive extramarital sex as an entitlement and status symbol (the more, the higher status is).  Infidelity is essentially a breach of trust, so it can be any action that violates an implicit or explicit agreement between two married people.

Jovelyn Garcia

I just can't stand cheating in any form. You better give up the relationship then cheat all you want. I quit on my marriage because my husband lied to me. I just can't accept deceit cause i've been honest since day one.

 Dishonesty is certainly always a part of an infidelity.

Seeking sex outside of the relationship can also be compared to seeking alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling; virtually any substance or behavior that provides a “quick fix,” a distraction from everyday life, something that makes you feel anticipation, intoxication, even fear of being caught doing something “bad”. It can also be difficult for some people who have sex with someone they have deep intimacy and connection with. The idea of “dirty” or playful sex with the same person you share so much of your life with can be a hard concept to reconcile. For some, built into their belief system of “hot” sex is the idea that the person you are having sex with doesn’t truly know you nor do you know them, allowing a certain freedom and separation from your real life.

Crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships is helped by modern communications, especially Internet, as well as high demand of time of a modern workplace.

Internet bring a new class of affairs called emotional affairs. The latter differ from platonic friendships by

Certain life cycle changes (midlife crisis in men, etc) also stimulates infidelity. Some associate infidelity with selfishness. Some dissatisfied spouses begin an extramarital relationship as a way of exiting from an unhappy marriage. More frequently, however, the marital history is re-written to justify an ongoing affair. It is unreasonable to compare a brief splash of intensity of feelings in an affair which is still at the stage of romantic idealization with the routine familiarity of spouses in a long-term marriage (The Causes of Marital Infidelity LIVESTRONG.COM)

The actual chances of infidelity might not be as high as many sources claim. In fact, Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of PsychCentral.com, suggests these chances could be less than six percent in a given year in his article, "How Common is Cheating and Infidelity Really?" However, he warns that this number could increase to about 25 percent, depending on how long the relationship runs. In either case, if you’re worried about infidelity in your relationship, learning the common causes of cheating can ease your fears or help you address potential problems.

  • Physical Desires. Sexual discontentment and desires often contribute to incidents of cheating, suggests Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychology, in her PsychologyToday.com article, "The Eight Reasons that People Cheat on Their Partners." Some people expect that a new partner can serve their sexual needs better than his current spouse. This can especially true if the frequency or physical passion has diminished over the years. In other cases, a person might believe that in addition to sex with the spouse that she deserves more encounters.
  • Emotional Desires. Emotional needs contribute to incidents of cheating, as well. For example, feeling an emotional disconnect from a spouse might lead someone to pursue an affair, suggests Whitbourne. While this infidelity might initially be restricted to an emotional level, it could grow into a physical affair. In other cases, a partner might feel underappreciated by a spouse but praised by a third person, leading to cheating. Sometimes a spouse will feel completely satisfied with their partner, but an emotional desire to simply pursue new experiences could also lead to affairs.
  • Vengeful Desires. Affairs based on revenge are rare, despite over exaggerations in movies, notes Whitbourne. However, a husband and wife routinely face domestic disputes, it is possible that one member of the marriage might cheat out of spite. In cases like this, the cheater might make the affair known to cause his spouse emotional pain. On the other hand, the cheating spouse might still keep the affair a secret, as the satisfaction of secret payback could be rewarding enough.
  • Platonic Relationship or Affair? Platonic friendships have the potential to evolve into emotional affairs, warns the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. However, the line between these two types of relationships can run thin. A platonic friendship becomes an affair when three conditions are met, suggests the AAMFT. The first is that an emotional affair will have more emotional intimacy than the marriage itself. The second is that the affair will involve some level of secrecy. For example, perhaps a husband intentionally does not tell his wife that he has daily video chats with another woman online. The third trait of an affair is sexual chemistry.
     

See more at

Most divorces are sought by women. This trend was typically linked to the new level of women’s involvement in the workplace, as well as the modernization of women’s roles in general. The realities of living together that create major strains are ignored in modern cultures and especially by Hollywood. Women once married, are often exposed to expectations that are ingrained in the cultural concept of marriage, which are quite different from expectation throughout the engagement period and are not visible during this period. Many woman resent that their situation in marriage inherently involves inequalities, putting substantially more stress on a woman shoulders including not only an unequal distribution of domestic labor, but also an unequal fulfillment of other emotional or physical needs within the relationship.

Marriage tends to increase a woman’s workload – both physically and emotionally, especially upon the birth of children. Heavy involvement of woman in their careers and new roles in workforce also represent a significant reason for the dissolution of many marriages. Such women also less dependent on the marriage for financial stability. Divorce perhaps becomes more common when the couple has less to exchange.

A marriage is a social group, so the psychology of small groups is applicable to marriage (with some limitations). And that means that conflict in marriage coused by infidelity is a form of small group conflict. The most typical signs are similar:

Marriage and Neoliberalism

Another factor in the instability of marriage is that its traditional aspects contradict neoliberal ideology and can't be not properly adjusted to neoliberal society.

Neoliberalism affect  marriages in multiple ways.  Neoliberal society with its cult of individualism and individual egoistic pleasure (sometime deceptively called "self--fulfillment") is one.  It deprives women of basic social rights making raising children and maintaining healthy divide between family and work  much more challenging, pushing a lot of single mothers into object poverty and damaging women health. If we compare the USA to France in this respect, the USA really looks like a banana republic (the tendency that started during  Reagan presidency):

  1. Maternal leaves with pay begin 6 weeks before birth and continue for 10 weeks after delivery. Business leaders in France support this policy. “By contrast,” wrote Fred Hechinger, education editor of The New York Times, “American business interests lobbied so successfully against legislation that would have provided 10 weeks of unpaid maternity leaves that President Bush vetoed it” (Hechinger, 1990, p. B8).
  2. French parents may take off two years without pay after a child's birth, knowing that their jobs remain protected. In contrast to the 6 weeks that a mother in the United States is lucky to get (without pay), mothers in Norway, Austria, Portugal, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Israel, Greece, and Canada receive leaves of 12 to 24 weeks with full or partial pay. Unpaid leaves for longer periods can be taken with a guarantee that mothers can return to their jobs (Lande, Scarr, & Gunzenhauser, 1989).
  3. Prenatal and postnatal health care, immunization, and high-quality lowcost day care for children under 3 are anchored in French national policy.
  4. Preschool for 3- to 5-year-olds is free, and 98% of the children attend it, “more than three times the American percentage” (p. B8).
  5. French preschool teachers possess the equivalent of the Master's degree in early childhood and elementary education. Pediatric nurses direct child-care centers, while staff members have taken four years of courses related directly to child care and education.
  6. France offers free college tuition plus a stipend to students of preschool education if the student pledges to work five years after graduation in the field.

Hechinger (1990, p. B8) concluded:

A look at child care in industrial societies suggests that under regulated capitalism, as in France, or in social democracies, as in Scandinavia, children's welfare is protected because it is viewed as crucial to the children's and the nations' futures.

By contrast, leaving child care exposed to the uncertainties of a largely un-regulated free market, as in the United States and Britain, has created conditions that [are] crazy. The practice leaves many children with inadequate care and permanently-damaged, a costly liability to society.

The American fetish for female thinness is another particularly vivid instance of cultural lunacy, illustrates painfully how a weird social norm can wreak havoc on the confidence, sense of priorities, and happiness of an entire gender. Janet Maslin's review of the film The Famine Within, a “documentary about American women's collective obsession with body weight” makes some telling points.

In 1954, the average Miss America contestant was 5 foot 8 inches and weighed 132 pounds; (2) by 1980, the height of the beauties remained the same, but the average weight had dropped to 117 pounds; (3) the average North American woman is about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 144 pounds, dramatizing how “radically different” is the physical ideal celebrated by the national media from the national reality; and (4) “Eighty percent of fourth-grade girls have already been on their first diets” (Maslin, 1991, p. B3).The larger world weighs heavily on the way we think, feel, and behave about sex, love, life, and ourselves as persons. Usually the weight is a burden that mightily limits freedom, confidence, joy, and choices. But culture can also enrich choices, support family life, and improve the chances for healthy relationships. In this vein we wish briefly to mention some of the policies consciously developed in France to nurture their children and improve the chances for marriages to work. These policies have echoes in many other European societies but have failed thus far to make a dent in the United States.

 

Among the most typical issues that cause such a conflict we can list the following:

  1. Neoliberal culture of "wolf-eat-wolf" individualism and narsissism.
  2. Excessive, infused by Hollywood and Novels unrealistic expectations. A very idealized and romanticized view of love. Is not romantic love a flavor of masochism ?
  3. Infidelity: That's explain probably 20-30% of all divorces. Not everybody can forgive infidelity.
  4. Unemployment. The cultural role of a man as breadwinner is still ingrained in society. And often this corresponds to reality: man still typically bring home higher salary them woman. That means that unemployment often severely stresses marriage and ruins all the plans. Often a couple needs to sell their house and lower their standard of living.  If the husband is unemployed and the wife is employed, he still only does about forty percent of the work in the domestic sphere (Thompson and Walker). Domestic tasks themselves continue to be divided along gender lines.
  5. Domestic Violence: Spouses can resort to psychical violence to assume or prove dominant position in marriage.
  6. Insults: Words can hurt as much or more as physical pain.
  7. Control and Dominance issues. Sometimes overcontrolling behaviors is the key issue that leads to divorce. Controlling and wanting to "get your way" is not a gender specific marital problem. It is definitely one that can kill a marriage.  That's very typical for authoritarians.
  8. Disagreement over finances. Opposites attract. A wife who is a saver might marry a spender and vise versa. Shopaholics have high level of divorce as they typically endanger family finances. Gamblers have even more problems.
  9. Substance abuse. Alcoholics are a huge problem in family and few spouses can tolerated this addition for long.  Narco-addicts are even bigger problem, but they are more rare problem.
  10. People have different approaches to parenting. Authoritarians typically want to be too strict with the children.  And they typically see the other spouse being to lenient and too overprotective toward children. 
  11. Narcissism, egoism, self-centerness, self indulgence.
  12. The grass looks greener on the other side, but it does not necessarily holds to be
  13. Midlife crisis. very real if you are 40 something.

Like any interpersonal and workplace conflict, marital conflicts  typically can be framed along the following lines:

  1. Interest-Based Framing Interest-based framing describes conflicts in terms of interests, rather than positions. Often, interests are compatible, even when positions are not. Thus interest-based framing enables the parties to identify win-win solutions to problems that might not have been evident when
  2. Fairness-Based Framing In fairness-based framing, the parties approach the conflict as an effort to obtain what is rightfully theirs. In doing this, they base their arguments on principles of fairness which are accepted by the larger society, including their more reasonable opponents.
  3. Needs-Based Framing This approach frames a conflict as a collective effort to fulfill the fundamental human needs of all parties. By eliminating the tensions that arise when these needs go unmet, the approach can sharply reduce the level of conflict.

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Old News ;-)

[Oct 02, 2017] Bill Black: Marriage and the Jobs Guarantee

Jobs is another significant stress on modern marriage...
Notable quotes:
"... This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 297 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and predatory conduct, particularly in the financial realm. Please join us and participate via our donation page , which shows how to give via check, credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Read about why we're doing this fundraiser, what we've accomplished in the last year and our current goal, more meetups and travel . ..."
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... The "young woman with crusty old rich guy" is so common it's a cliché. ..."
"... The tactic is only going to sway a portion of the cultural warriors, because a lot of them are arguing in bad faith. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on October 2, 2017 by Yves Smith This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 297 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and predatory conduct, particularly in the financial realm. Please join us and participate via our donation page , which shows how to give via check, credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Read about why we're doing this fundraiser, what we've accomplished in the last year and our current goal, more meetups and travel .

Yves here. Bill Black's article is well timed as well as important. Tonight, the Wall Street Journal was flogging "Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage," adapted from a new book, which argues that young men aren't getting married because it's so easy for them to get laid. Black takes on this effort to try to present good old fashioned moralism as the remedy for deeper economic problems in his next column in this series, so let me have a mini-go at its first.

It does not appear to occur to author Mark Regnerus that young women might be the ones who aren't so keen to get married, due among other things to the widely reported immaturity of young men. Moreover, there are now more women than men graduating from college and law schools than men. Women are acculturated to marrying up or at worst sideways, income-wise. Might another problem be a shortage of sufficiently-desirable partners?

The book's findings are also at odds with trends that have been widely reported: more young people, particularly young men, being less keen about having casual sex; the number of sex partners among young people falling and the age when young people on average start having sex rising. Admittedly, some of this change has been attributed to smart phones degrading social skills to the point that it apparently makes young people less adept at flirting and seduction.

To give an idea of the caliber of this alleged research, this was the only argument presented to counter the notion that young people aren't getting married because many aren't making enough to set up households:

A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates.

Help me. What do you think mining boom towns are like? Answer: they bring in a lot of men, from engineers (yes, petroleum engineers skew male) and oil industry workers like derrickhands. They do risky physical work and are paid well. But most of the men are transients, and aren't looking to stay and marry local women. Moreover, the influx of men skews the gender ratio, putting the men who are interested in getting married at a disadvantage from a dating perspective (if you think men who want to get laid can't fake romantic interest, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you).

Even though the book claims to be based on exhaustive work, all you need to do is have a gander through the underlying study to see it screams bias. As we've regularly reminded readers, survey instruments are very sensitive to the order and phrasing of questions.

The first section is about religion. Not exactly subtle about what the researchers think matters. And while generalizing from one's social circle falls into the "data is not the plural of anecdote" fallacy, I consider my peer group to be stodgy, yet this study say the number of sex partners I know many of my friends (male and female) have had puts them at the far end of the spectrum of this study.

Put it another way: in the 1950s, before birth control, Kinsey found that the average man reported having had six sex partners and the average woman, three. This would seem to be impossible unless you have gay men having sex way way out of proportion to the general population (which as far as I can tell, they do, but even so, not enough to fully account for this difference), and/or men overstating and women understating their histories, and/or men and women having different ideas of what constitutes having had sex with someone else.

So what has this study found about our modern era where people are supposedly having way too much casual sex? On p. 23:

The median heterosexual man or woman (age 18 to 60) reports somewhere between four and six opposite sex partners in their lifetime.

This is in line with what Kinsey found in the stone ages before The Pill. So exactly where is all this casual sex that is leading to the handwringing? Either it's not happening despite birth control (doubtful) or the sample for this study, despite its size, is crap.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

The University of Missouri – Kansas City recently hosted the first conference on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and a closely associated idea, a federally-backed job guarantee for everyone willing and able to work. On September 25, 2017, the New York Times published an article exemplifying one of the applications of the job guarantee that would provide a win-win that should unite anyone interested in strengthening the family. The title is "How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?" Claire Cain Miller authored the column, and her key takeaway are in these two passages.

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place -- especially financial stability . For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

These facts establish an obvious policy that could unite the public. The combination of MMT full employment policies and the job guarantee is the best way to strengthen family financial stability. The United States, which has a sovereign currency, can do that. The European Union nations that lack a sovereign currency will frequently be unable to do so. Jobs, not simply income, are essential to many humans' happiness and sense of self-worth. Unemployed American men, for example, do less housework than do employed American men. Businesses are deeply reluctant to hire the unemployed, particularly if they have been unemployed for any significant time. The cliché of males responding to unemployment through depression has considerable truth.

Miller's article notes that there is an unproductive split between conservatives and progressives about how to strengthen families. Conservatives tend to claim that the problem is cultural. Progressives generally agree that culture is important but note that the surest and quickest way to make productive changes in culture is frequently economic. Progressives oppose conservatives' punitive and authoritarian policies that purport to change culture and note that they have failed. Miller correctly notes that the economics and culture are closely interrelated.

Conservatives deeply resent safety net programs in which the recipients are able to work but decline to do so. The complementary steps to run a consistent full-employment program are to follow MMT principles with an employer-of-last-resort job guarantee program. The job guarantee does not merely guarantee that anyone willing and able to work in the government or non-profit sectors can do so; it finesses the disinclination of private sector employers to hire the unemployed. We can provide a full employment economy with rates of inflation so low that even (very conservative) central bankers consider desirable , not simply acceptable.

The job guarantee program would also allow us to close one the great perception gulfs between progressives and Trump's supporters. Trumps supporters believe that disfavored minorities prefer not to work and live on the dole. Progressives believe the opposite. The jobs guarantee would provide the definitive test that could end any debate and replace perceptions with an easily observable reality. The job guarantee test has the potential to do what female employment in World War II did – destroy prejudiced myths that 'everyone' knew were true. It turned out that women could do a massive array of jobs and that they were interested in doing so.

The Themes of this Series of Columns

This column is the first of three related columns on the general topic of the conservatives' culture wars in which the family is ground zero. I develop several themes. First, that their culture war is rests on false premises. There are win-wins available, particularly through the job guarantee and MMT that allow great progress in strengthening the family. Progressives would be delighted to work with conservatives to implement these winning strategies.

Second, the policies that the conservative culture warriors are pushing rest on bogus claims. They also fail.

Third, the policies that the conservative culture warriors are pushing are nasty. They represent authoritarian, dogmatic, and bigoted pathologies that have long disgraced America.

Fourth, the conservative culture warriors do not address most of the critical problems Americans and others face. They religiously ignore the cultural/ethical problems of conservative elites and the Republican Party and the harm that these cultural/ethical problems inflict on Americans and the peoples and creatures of the world. The culture warriors overwhelmingly support and assist Republicans implementing pathological policies arising from these cultural/ethical problems. Those pathological policies channel the most disgraceful American traditions.

Fifth, the conservative culture warriors religiously refuse to join progressives and others in embracing cultural values the conservatives purport to treasure even though there is an obvious potential for broad consensus on a broad range of cultural and ethical views and policies that represent the very best of American traditions. The conservative culture warriors are hypocrites who want a culture war that energizes the worst elements of their base even though they know that the result will be to degrade American values and practices and cause immense harm to the "other."

Other Win-Wins We Can Implement to Strengthen Families

We could build on these win-wins by getting rid of federal subsidies to places that are not real colleges – the scores of fraudulent for-profit schools. Fraudulent for-profit schools do not provide the benefits to employment and marriage that real public and non-profit community colleges, colleges, and universities provide. This reform would also greatly reduce eventual losses due to student loan defaults.

Conservative culture warriors that run the Education Department are racing to prevent sanctions against these fraudulent schools. Other conservative culture warriors applaud this obscenity.

We could create another win-win by providing real sex education (rather than the sham of "just say no") and provide ready access to contraceptives including the morning after pill to poorer women. All of these reforms reduce considerably births outside of wedlock. Conservative culture warriors in the Trump administration are trying to eliminate these successful programs – and the conservative culture warriors outside the administration are cheerleaders for the travesty.

A win-win policy that has been shown to be exceptionally effective is the provision for home visits by specially trained nurses to new moms who are most at risk of being overwhelmed. The nurses explain and demonstrate, for example, the importance of moms talking pervasively to their infants. The Trump administration's culture warriors targeted the program for elimination because it is successful. Conservative culture warriors know the program works, but refuse to oppose their fellow warriors.

Even When the Culture Warriors Talk Economics They Get it Wrong

"Financial stability" is the key concept, one that "pro-marriage" cultural warriors and weak economists have repeatedly failed to comprehend. Their typical "analysis" goes like this – if poor women would only marry their boyfriends, they would have materially larger income and only modestly larger living household expenses. (Their analysis almost invariably purports to describe the marriage decisions of poorer, heterosexual women, so I address that context.) The simplistic idea is that adding the male's income to that of the poor woman means that she and her children must be better off. The only slightly less simplistic version of this claim is that married couples tend to have stronger economic results than do the unmarried. Both arguments ignore the most important and fundamental applicable principle of finance – risk. Fortunately, poor women apply a more sophisticated analysis to the question of marriage than do these economists.

Risk, as most poor women understand, is the key. It is not sufficient that the male, on the average day, would be a source of financial strength, particularly if the mother has children. If the male does not have stable income, creates a material risk of increased expenses, or both he is a threat to financial stability that can put the mom and her child at grave risk. One car accident while impaired or even tripping on the stairs while impaired and breaking a leg can put the household in a financial crisis. The typical working class household has under $400 in savings. Even if they have auto and medical insurance, the deductible plus the loss of work due to the injury or wrecking the auto can instantly hurl the household's financial stability into a desperate crisis. If the male's job is unstable with material periods of unemployment or underemployment the household is made more unstable. If the male becomes depressed when these episodes occur the financial and family instability increase greatly.

If the male has expensive tastes for non-essential goods or if he has a substance abuse problem, he makes the household more unstable financially and in terms of safety for mom and her kids. If the male is violent or hostile towards mom or her kids, or indifferent or unreliable in providing childcare he makes the household more dangerous and unstable.

It is impossible to "hold constant" for these factors in an empirical test. Heterosexual moms are in the best position to judge the strengths and frailties of potential male mates. If the man is interested in marrying her, and seems to the primitive economist to add to the household's total wealth, and she does not want to marry him the logical inference is that she has a reason for her unwillingness. The types of risks I have explained are realistic examples of those reasons. In statistical jargon, they represent "unobserved differences" – unobserved by the researcher who cannot "hold constant" for them, but observed by the heterosexual women making the decisions whether to marry a particular man.

The job guarantee does not eliminate many of the risks I have described. It would improve job and income stability, particularly for working class males. That would be unambiguously good for men, women, the economy, and our culture. The ability to run a real world test that demonstrated that disfavored minorities do want to work could reduce bigotry and our cultural and political divisions.

In my second column in this series, I criticize Mark Regnerus' false assertion that working class male employment stability is unrelated to women's decisions whether to marry. Miller's column provides a useful corrective.

In a working paper published in July, three economists studied how the decline in manufacturing jobs from 1990 to 2014, across industries and regions, "contributed to the rapid, simultaneous decline of traditional household structures."

Labor market changes made men less marriageable, they concluded. There were fewer available men, because unemployment was associated with a rise in incarceration or mortality from drugs and alcohol. The men who were left were less desirable, because they lacked income and were more likely to drink to excess or use drugs.

Researchers found a corresponding increase in births to unmarried mothers. The decline in marriage was not offset by more couples living together.

***

Never-married adults cite financial instability as a major reason for being single, especially those who are low-income or under 30, according to a new Pew Research Center survey . Most men feel it's important for a husband to be a financial provider, especially men without college degrees, according to another new Pne ew survey .

Women, meanwhile, have learned from watching a generation of divorce that they need to be able to support themselves. And many working-class women aren't interested in taking responsibility for a man without a job.

"They say, 'If he's not offering money or assets, why make it legal?' " said June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the author with Naomi Cahn of "Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family."

(June Carbone is the inaugural holder of the Robina Chair in Law, Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota's Law School. She is also my spouse.)

PS

Carbone notes that marriages in which both couples have at least college degrees have vastly lower divorce rates. If you are in college and contemplating marriage after graduation do not assume that you are doomed to a high risk of divorce.

Larry , October 2, 2017 at 7:46 am

What Yves states in the foreword and Black states in the article is so obvious as to be head slapping as to why other "experts" don't see it. How can an economist or scholar argue that marriage would always be a virtue and not take into account decisions at the relationship level that Black nicely outlines here? Are these not the same so called "experts" touting a philosophy of markets being rational because of a series of individual choices within them? Obviously the decision to forgo marriage is a rational one.

Perhaps I'm the one who is too naive and "experts" must double down on blaming the victim of policy so that they can continue dumping on victims with increasingly bad policy.

Steve Ruis , October 2, 2017 at 9:08 am

Can you spell "hidden agenda" boys and girls?

savedbyirony , October 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

"Hidden agenda"!!! Surely not Mark Regnerus! He of the fraudulent, Witherspoon Institute funded "Gay Parenting 'Study'".

savedbyirony , October 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

A brief demonstration of the scholarly quality and integrity of some of his past work: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/10/new-criticism-of-regnerus-study-on-parenting-study/?utm_term=.bd05745ddab

tony , October 2, 2017 at 9:09 am

Ideologues always reach the same conclusion. You can have them make an argument, show them that the facts they had were wrong and showed the opposite, and their response is to reformulate the argument to reach the original conclusion.

DF , October 2, 2017 at 8:09 am

Another related issue is that a lot of these men have atrociously bad credit. I know at least one person who hasn't married her baby-daddy because his credit is off-the-wall bad (he mostly uses prepaid debit cards to avoid taxes and back child support).

Kurtismayfield , October 2, 2017 at 1:02 pm

And there is the second reason not to marry him.. avoiding child support is not exactly a good sign of reliability. I know a few anecdotes that work for cash because of such situations.

Code Name D , October 2, 2017 at 3:08 pm

The child support system is a strong disinsentive against men to even have relatonsips. There are cases where men have been ordered to pay child support, even if its not their child, or having as much as 90% of their wages garnished. I know a man where his two boys have moved out of their mom's and are now living on their own. One even being in he US Marine core – and he STILL has to pay child support.

The current system is to easy to abuse. Incresng risk for men. There only real option these days is to no longer play the game.

Counterpt , October 2, 2017 at 3:56 pm

This is exactly the point I am making below. The article and comment by Yves is written as if there is risk on only ONE side that needs to be "managed" when there is actually risk on both.

If it is "ok" now to think of these matters in purely economic terms, why should men accept any risk either? Instead of "hiring" what amounts to a full time "sex/support" employee, why not simply contract for the services you need on an a la carte basis?

Need someone to pretend to care about your problems? Go talk to a therapist at $100/hr.

Need "affection" services? Go to a sex worker or a "cuddle salon".
http://www.richmond.com/business/local/metro-business/buzz/cuddle-salon-to-open-wednesday/article_08155f30-da65-11e4-841b-bbb743b671eb.html

Not only will you be a good capitalist, you'll have reduced your risk and kept each relationship on an honest, purely transactional basis.

Romance!

Darn , October 2, 2017 at 8:23 am

Krugman had a nice turn of phrase a while back, something like, why do conservatives not consider that social breakdown isn't causing unemployment, but that unemployment is causing social breakdown?

I think we should consider the case for moving from a full employment economy with a welfare state to "free markets" would lead to greater "responsibility" to be falsified. Ppl can't take up responsibilities without an income.

Synoia , October 2, 2017 at 1:21 pm

In the gig economy, there is no stability of "work place." It could be anywhere, and one has to migrate or travel to find the work.

Few want to raise children when they might have to move cities at any time to continue to earn.

Counterpt , October 2, 2017 at 10:08 am

"Women are acculturated to marrying up or at worst sideways, income-wise. Might another problem be a shortage of sufficiently-desirable partners?"

"They say, 'If he's not offering money or assets, why make it legal?' "

So this is ok? Women are acculturated to be gold diggers and that's that? Doesn't this flirt with blaming the victim? Might this also not be a problem the in same way men are acculturated to prefer young, bone thin models?

Perhaps there are a number of men who have seen this dynamic at work and are choosing to stay single since the only factor that seems to actually matter is our income level.

Put another way, why would I want to marry someone who is most likely going to leave for greener pastures the moment my career takes a turn for the worse?

jrs , October 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm

why make it legal anyway unless you plan to breed? It's just a piece of paper, an old religious relic.

LyonNightroad , October 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Furthermore, then what exactly is the man offering money or assets for?

Rojo , October 2, 2017 at 3:56 pm

I don't think Yves was saying it was ok.

Although actual gold-diggers are rare, I think there's a cultural lag on the part of many women. They want to make their own money, as they should, but still want a man to make more.

Counterpt , October 2, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Rare? C'mon rojo. The "young woman with crusty old rich guy" is so common it's a cliché. See one Hefner, Hugh. You really think if he had been a local schoolteacher that those women would agree to put up with his nonsense?

Rojo , October 2, 2017 at 4:06 pm

I would consider Playmates to be pretty rare. Most women I know do have more of an "income line" than most of my guy pals. But the straight-up rich-guy anglers are the minority.

HotFlash , October 2, 2017 at 4:32 pm

And Hugh is unique.

HotFlash , October 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm

The "young woman with crusty old rich guy" is so common it's a cliché.

Lessee, other cliches -- 'woman driver' oh, that one doesn't work anymore. Maybe 'ditzy girl'. No, not that one. How about 'dumb blonde'? OK, not that either. I forget, what were you trying to prove by citing 'cliche'? And I'm still keeping this family-bloggable.

HotFlash , October 2, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Whoa, whoa, whoa! If offspring are contemplated (by either party), then it is usual for the female to spend at least some time with the new little creature, and it may be medically necessary -- childbirth is still not a piece of cake. As well, the current thought is that parent-child bonding or whatever socializes the little critters so they don't become psychopaths -- seems like a good idea to me.

Now, in my country, Canada, we are guaranteed 17 weeks of maternal leave, plus 17 weeks of parental leave (both parents can take it) and adoptions are included (slightly less time, IIRC), so around 35+17 = 52 weeks off to care for your child. That's not all paid, very little is, but you get your old job back, guaranteed. However, you're still gonna need bucks, so it's nice if there is one income coming in while the other parent, um, parents.

US-ians, benighted country that you live in, do not have any such thing and any woman contemplating having children would be a poor mother indeed to not provide for her child This is not gold-digging, it's just rational acting.

Kathryn M Tominey , October 2, 2017 at 4:46 pm

In my family, my mother's college-educated farmer father, had a mantra regarding women and professions. He said, every woman should have a profession so she'll never have to marry to live. His daughters went to college to become teachers. His granddaughters went to college, his granddaughters, great grands, 2Gs on track.

Any woman with children knows she may become the primary or sole breadwinner in her household. Unless she is a complete fool or exceedingly wealthy.

Tribes affiliated with conservative religious practice should require their church to provide support for abandoned or abuse wives & children in their Churches. Let Graham, Osteen, et al pony up Support money, health insurance, etc for female adherents in poverty owing to following their advice regarding birth control & selection criteria for spouses.

PKMKII , October 2, 2017 at 10:10 am

The tactic is only going to sway a portion of the cultural warriors, because a lot of them are arguing in bad faith. Ignoring even the ethno-nationalist cultural warriors who aren't interested in traditional religious values, many of the traditional values CW's, especially those in positions of power, are just using that argument as apologetics for the economic failings of the system. Blame loose morals, homosexuality, and lack of religiousity for stagnant wages, opioid abuse, un- and under-employment, as to create a cover for the free market, shareholder value, wealth hoarding, etc. So it's not enough to just make appeals to the true believers, but enlighten them to the fact that many of their so-called peers are wolves in sheeps' clothing.

HotFlash , October 2, 2017 at 4:40 pm

The tactic is only going to sway a portion of the cultural warriors, because a lot of them are arguing in bad faith.

Agreed. But it might sway their listeners/followers, which would be more to the point that converting people who are arguing in bad faith.

Andy S. , October 2, 2017 at 10:25 am

The University of Missouri – Kansas City recently hosted the first conference on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and a closely associated idea, a federally-backed job guarantee for everyone willing and able to work.

I'm going to flog this point one more time. It is a logical fallacy and, more to the point, a potential distraction to link MMT and progressive issues.

Aside from the purely academic discussion, we most often see MMT raised to answer questions such as:

How can we fund job guarantees, universal health care, better public education, etc.?

Let me point out that MMT can also answer the question:

How can we fund greater military adventurism, a more effective and intrusive surveillance state, pork projects and tax cuts for the politically favored?

Progressive policy issues will not be advanced by a change in the accounting rules. Progressive policy issues will ultimately only be advanced by promoting and electing people who support progressive policy issues.

MMT is both a fiscal model and a budgeting/planning tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for ill depending on who wields it

RabidGandhi , October 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

Ugh. Didn't we just leave this party, Andy ? Repeating: MMT is not a tool. MMT is a theory explaining how the currency system works.

Jeremy Grimm , October 2, 2017 at 3:39 pm

What you said.

@ RabidGandhi -- Agree with you too but take a look post and some of the comments from yesterday on the opener to the ongoing MMT Meeting.

Jeremy Grimm , October 2, 2017 at 3:50 pm

look [at the] post [ -- – ugh!]

JustAnObserver , October 2, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Steve Randy Waldman had this article from a few years ago on this subject: "Marriage promotion is a destructive cargo cult". Title maybe a bit OTT but IMHO definitely worth a read even if he goes the UBI route rather than the JG one.

http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/4938.html

r2 , October 2, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Maybe policy ought to consider universal healthcare at an affordable rate to the economy (ie less than 12% of GDP). Extending universal education to 16 years seems reasonable, too. BTW everyone ought to have basic training in real home economics and health even within a college prep program. Plumbing, electrical, construction, gardening, child rearing, cooking, etc. are real skills that contribute to health and well being.

HotFlash , October 2, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Yes, yes! Standing on my chair clapping!

jsn , October 2, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Andy S.
The UMKC scholars who have advocated the dissemination of information about the Chartalist aspects of the dollar system since the abandonment of Bretton Woods have done so from a position of principled progressivisim, they advocate the work they have done for progressive reasons.

I agree entirely on the moral neutrality of tools, what can be used for good can be used for bad. The essential issue at play here is the Chartailist reality now described by these scholars to define the policy space available for progressive causes has been well understood by the MIC and FIRE sectors of the economy since 1971. They have profited grotesquely while pauperizing the nation under a deliberately propagandized attack on "government debt" for any purpose other than their own enrichment.

Progressives won't have material successes until progressive efforts are funded. The recognition that the US Govt can purchase whatever is for sale within the dollar denominated world system at no cost to itself simply by paying for it must be applied again to public goods rather than war mongering and financial speculation. This won't happen until people understand what money is to a sovereign issuer.

Yes, also any bastard who takes hold of the system, like our last half dozen presidents, can use it for Forever War and to guarantee rentier income. But the policy space for progressivism must be staked out according to the terms of the actual, existing, function monetary system through which policy will be deployed and through which, once understood, the incredible waste of the last 4 decades can be exposed.

Harold , October 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

This article does not appear to be up yet at New Economic Perspectives.

Rojo , October 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm

"Put it another way: in the 1950s, before birth control, Kinsey found that the average man reported having had six sex partners and the average woman, three. This would seem to be impossible unless you have gay men having sex way way out of proportion to the general population (which as far as I can tell, they do, but even so, not enough to fully account for this difference), and/or men overstating and women understating their histories, and/or men and women having different ideas of what constitutes having had sex with someone else."

Could this also be due to prostitution? I mean if more than a few of the men have one or two pro's in the their totals, but you don't include prostitutes in your sampling (and how many of them are going to answer a survey), they you'd get a skew.

MichaelSF , October 2, 2017 at 5:01 pm

In these modern times where one or both members of a couple may have experienced one or more divorce among their parents marriage may not be seen in quite as rosy a light as it once was. Most people are aware that "happily ever after" is not a sure thing so why be in a rush to enter the matrimonial state?

As an anecdatum I'll offer that my wife and I (both of us with divorced parents, university grads, career Federal civil service, no children nor desire for them) have been together just under 40 years but only married for the last 10. We were fine with our unmarried status, what prompted the change was when we started doing planning for our modest estate. The attorney we were seeing pointed out that the process would be greatly simplified if we just got married, and since we had no significant objections either way we did that.

There was no big change in our lives other than having another anniversary to celebrate, mainly just some legal/financial benefits.

So while there may be some correlation that can be drawn between marital status and economic status, I'm not sure how much causality can be established.

[Jul 18, 2017] A man does not want anything they get too easy

Jul 18, 2017 | awfulavalanche.wordpress.com
      • yalensis says: July 17, 2017 at 3:29 pm Mark: Blame me, I was the one who urged everybody to engage and fight against Matt.
        Against those who said, "Ach Gewahlte, just ignore this noodge "

        People can disagree with my reasoning, but I figured if somebody shows up spoling for a fight, then they should get what they ask for.

        It's like, if you were in a space station, and an energetic monster suddenly starts zipping around acting hostile, then you should take note and not ignore it.

        Which is another plug for one of my blogposts, a movie review.
        Sorry, I coundn't resist!
        As Blanche Dubois used to say: "Attention must be paid."

        Reply

[Nov 06, 2016] Incarceration in the United States

Nov 06, 2016 | en.wikipedia.org


According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails in 2013 – about 0.91% of adults (1 in 110) in the U.S. resident population.[2] Additionally, 4,751,400 adults in 2013 (1 in 51) were on probation or on parole.[2] In total, 6,899,000 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013 – about 2.8% of adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. resident population.[2]

[2] Correctional Populations in the United States, 2013 (NCJ 248479). Published December 2014 by U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).


... and those who survive, survive in the belly of the beast.

[Sep 22, 2016] 6 Signs Your Spouse Has Checked Out Of Your Marriage Huffington Post

Notable quotes:
"... Will you get dinner and pick up the kids? Could you call the plumber about the kitchen sink?" ..."
"... everything - ..."
"... "I'll be in bed in a little bit" ..."
"... Do you want to be more mindful about eating healthy foods that'll keep your mind and body at their best? Sign up for our newsletter and join our Eat Well, Feel Great challenge to learn how to fuel your body in the healthiest way possible. We'll deliver tips, challenges and advice to your inbox every day. ..."
Mar 14, 2016 | www.huffingtonpost.com

When your spouse isn't interested in doing the "work" of marriage, it's easy to feel powerless. But all isn't lost, said Jeannie Ingram, a couples therapist based in Nashville, Tennessee.

"The relationship doesn't have to end," she told HuffPost. "The truth is, all relationships need tuning up from time to time."

Below, Ingram and other experts share the most common signs a spouse has checked out of a marriage - and what you can do to take matters into your own hands.

1. They spend a lot of time around you but not with you.

It doesn't count as quality time if one of you is distracted by your smartphone or checking work emails, said Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist based in Denver, Colorado.

"If you and your spouse spend a lot of time in the same room but they never do things with you, they've likely disengaged from the relationship," he told us. "Nobody wants to spend the two hours after work browsing social media."

Try planning new, exciting things to do together so hopefully "your partner will want to shut down the computer and turn off their phone to be with you," Anderson said.

2. They never include you in their weekend or after-work plans.

Spending time apart (pursing your hobbies or seeing friends) is essential in a healthy marriage. It keeps the mystery alive. But spend too much time apart and you're well on your way to living separate lives, said Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist who works in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"If your S.O feels disillusioned with the marriage, they might cope by distracting themselves with things they enjoy that that don't involve you," she said.

To figure out why they're disengaging, broach the conversation in a calm manner, at a time that works for the two of you, Whetstone said.

"Therapists call this 'coming toward your partner,'" she said. "Watch the tone of your voice and your body language and find the right time - not in the middle of something hectic. Ask, 'Hey, what's up? I've noticed you pulling away lately.'"

Most importantly, don't lash out if their answer upsets you. "Make it safe for them to reply or they're not likely to open up again after that," Whetstone said.

3. They never ask, "How was your day?"

If your conversations are limited to household logistics (" Will you get dinner and pick up the kids? Could you call the plumber about the kitchen sink?" ) and your S.O. seems disinterested in how you're doing, your marriage may be in trouble, Anderson said.

"When someone checks out of a relationship, they stop caring about their partner as much," he said. "They don't ask you how work is going, how your family is doing or even if you got that promotion you wanted."

To show that your marriage is still very much a priority - and that you, at least, care about them - make it a point to vocalize that.

"Just because they've checked out doesn't mean you have to," Anderson said, "And after they see how much you care, they might just start caring more, too."

4. They aren't interested in sex.

The thrill is gone - and your S.O. seems entirely OK with that. Why might that be the case? Oftentimes, partners avoid physical intimacy after they've been hurt emotionally, said Ingram.

"In the beginning, couples in love are so intoxicated with each other that they share everything - they allow themselves to be fully vulnerable," said Ingram.

But that same vulnerability also opens you up to hurt from your partner.

"If you're emotionally hurt, intimacy doesn't feel safe - it's just too vulnerable," Ingram said. "Couples need to become conscious of this and be willing to talk about why they avoid closeness, perhaps in the office of a qualified marriage therapist."

5. They're hyper-critical of your friends and family.

Your partner may not be as forgiving of your parents as you are, but they shouldn't take the liberty to rag on them any chance they get, Whetstone said.

"It shows disinterest but it's also unacceptable behavior," she said. "Set a boundary and say something like, 'Please, why so much venom? It hurts me when you throw so much negativity on to me and my friends and family. What's going on? Obviously you're unhappy about something. Please, let's talk about it.'"

6. They go to bed at different times.

"I'll be in bed in a little bit" is not as innocent a phrase as you might think, Ingram said.

"Commonly, couples fall prey to what I call 'functional exits," she said. "These are behaviors that are part of everyday life, but serve the dual purpose of avoiding intimacy. For example, work, hobbies, or when you regularly say or hear, 'You go on to bed; I'll be along later.'"

The good news? Mismatched bedtimes and similar problems are easily fixed if you and your partner are willing to make the effort.

"Exits like these are not necessarily a sign the relationship needs to end, but rather, an indication that it's time for some work," she reassured.

Do you want to be more mindful about eating healthy foods that'll keep your mind and body at their best? Sign up for our newsletter and join our Eat Well, Feel Great challenge to learn how to fuel your body in the healthiest way possible. We'll deliver tips, challenges and advice to your inbox every day.

[Sep 10, 2016] Surviving the Storm - Divorcing a Narcissist

May 02, 2016 | dalkeithpress.com

Dalkeith Press

You may have thought that living with your troubled spouse was hard. But now that you've reached the point of divorce, you probably already know that this can be ever harder. Narcissistic behavior can be labeled as borderline, sociopathic, narcissistic, or just intolerable, but it all derives from one fundamental driving force: narcissists can't tolerate criticism, especially public criticism. And divorcing them is about them most direct and public criticism you can make. You'll know you're there when your soon-to-be ex spouse begins a campaign of destruction against you. And if you don't know how to resond and deal with it, it can take a terrible toll.

Surviving the Storm offers practical strategies that can help you reach a settlement with your soon-to-be ex, in spite of his or her seeming determination to scorch the earth. The key is understanding that narcissists fear, above all, critical judgment by others. Your decision to divorce sets these fears in motion. To counter them, you need to know how to split the battlefield, offering on the one hand a safe alternative in which you get what you need, and on the other a continuing stream of criticism, judgment, and shame heaped on your soon-to-be ex. In essence, you trade the safety of silence for the things you need in the settlement.

Surviving the Storm also offers practical boundaries on what you can and can't expect to do. It explains the impact of divorcing a narcissist on your children, and offers strategies and tactics to help achieve a custody arrangement that is best for your kids. It explains what parental alienation is and where to get more help with it. It offers some reflection on the moral issues we face in divorce, including the Catholic Church's surprising position holding that marriage to a narcissist is a moral impossibility. Finally, it offers a perspective on healing and the need for new experiences to move on.

Richard has been helping people deal with the trauma and pain of abusive relationships for nearly ten years. His other books are Tears and Healing , Meaning from Madness , In Love and Loving It - Or Not! , Tears and Healing Reflections , and the Way of Respect If you've read them, you know his style, and this book is also short and to the point, giving you the information and insight you need without wading through hundreds of pages you don't need.

[Jun 25, 2016] Anthony Weiner's Dirty Business Reveals The Sad State Of Sanitized Sex

Notable quotes:
"... Make Love Not Porn: Technology's Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior ..."
July 30, 2013 | huffingtonpost.com

Most political sex scandals follow a predictable narrative: An illicit sexual encounter is followed by exposé, and then the inevitable apology and atonement.

From what we know about Anthony Weiner's transgressions, the mayoral candidate deviated from these stages in one key way: With copious use of the web, he appears to have satisfied his urges without actually having sex. The X-rated photos and explicit messages he exchanged with young women online don't appear to be a means to an end - no prelude to trysts in seedy hotel rooms or parked cars (offers of apartments aside) - but rather, they were the end.

Thanks to technology, it's a sex scandal without any sex.

Weiner's particular form of indiscretion - using websites to expose himself to more than a dozen different women - reveals how social networks have become portals to new kinds of sexual encounters while forging fresh forms of sexual transgression.

His online dalliances underscore a new age of sanitized sex, where sexual relationships have been reduced to their most abstract elements and all necessity for physical contact has been eliminated. In contrast to an earlier generation that experimented with spouse-swapping, group sex and free-love communes in the 1960s and '70s, today's online generation is embracing sex with no one. Flirtation, foreplay and consummation can be tidily reduced to a few typed sentences and graphic photos, or perhaps even a phone call, if a couple really wants to go the extra mile. To satisfy their desires, a growing number of people, like Weiner, don't need intercourse - they just need the Internet.

As Andrew Sullivan observed in 2011, when Weiner's racy pictures first surfaced, "The online world creates an outlet for the feelings that sexual adultery or sexual adventure create - but without actual sex, without actual intimacy, without our actual full selves."

Weiner, who seems to have sent at least one illicit photo to a woman without any encouragement whatsoever, seems to have a thing for exhibitionism. Some might see in his behavior the online equivalent to donning a raincoat in an alleyway and flashing women who walk by, but others suggest he represents something else: A man whose deviance could only exist in the online world, which makes spontaneous flashing possible without the effort involved in the more traditional variety. "I'd bet my whole Ph.D. that he wouldn't be standing on a corner doing that," notes Barry McCarthy, a sex and marital therapist, and professor of psychology at American University.

Instead, Weiner, like so many others online, has become accustomed to on-demand sexuality, where relationships with another person are convenient, controllable and entirely on his terms. We're adopting an Amazon.com or Seamless Web approach to our sex lives, expecting that sexual fulfillment can be ordered up over the Internet like sneakers or pad thai. And Carlos Danger's dalliances with people like Sydney Leathers suggest that, increasingly, they can be.

"He was never going to take this into the real world, but he wanted to express himself as a sexual being, and technology gave him the ability to do that," said Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, a platform for "real-world" sex videos, and author of Make Love Not Porn: Technology's Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior. "[Sex] is like anything else on the Internet: It's very easy to get a quick hit everywhere."

It's especially easy to get a quick hit on one's own terms. Weiner minimized the risk of rejection by relying on social media to serve up the women to him - he generally approached women who'd followed or praised him on Twitter and Facebook. The web allowed him to form relationships with real women who were mostly fantasy, responsive avatars that wouldn't spoil the illusion with annoying habits, physical imperfections or emotional demands. The online nature of the affairs also allowed him to indulge these fantasies on his schedule, anywhere and anytime he pleased. And he operated in an atmosphere of unreal reality, just virtual enough to seem innocent and unreal, and just real enough to make the fantasy a fulfilling one.

These virtual affairs aren't only more convenient, but the crescendo of a sexual relationship - eliciting desire, stoking connection and eventually reaching orgasm - requires less participation from the people involved than ever before. There are no rendezvous in out-of-the-way motel rooms and no heavy petting. Only typing.

What we have seen of Weiner's trysts has revolved around a kind of "sex" that was clean, cold, practical and utterly efficient. The leaked transcripts of Weiner's chats with Leathers don't read like the torrid, passionate correspondence of star-crossed lovers separated by circumstance. They're transactional and to the point. Weiner seemed to indulge a fantasy, then quickly get back to planning his political comeback.

For a public struggling to make sense of Weiner's online affairs, the virtual element makes them appear dirtier, says Rachel Hills, author of a forthcoming book on sex and Generation Y. Yet Tinder, the online dating app wildly successful among college students and twenty-somethings, perfectly embodies the rise and appeal of Weiner's brand of sex-free sex: The app, which connects people who find each other mutually attractive, can make people feel wanted without ever requiring them to speak to another person directly. Feeling desirable is now achievable through an app. Lonely? Insecure? Just log on, rate a few faces and wait for someone to like you back.

Tinder, one Tufts University sophomore explained to me this past spring, is used "more as an ego boost-type situation than a dating situation or a way to connect with people." The same could be said of Weiner's activities online.

Though these online relationships may seem as two-dimensional as the sites on which they play out, their effortlessness and simplicity raise a key question: Will they make offline relationships seem more appealing, or less? Is the absence of a warm body a downside or more of a perk? A John Edwards type might have had to soothe his lover's feelings or explain why he had to leave in the middle of the night. When Weiner had had enough, he could just shut down his computer.

Except, of course, Weiner's disgrace delivers yet another reminder of another aspect of the online realm. Just as it beckons as a place full of seemingly unlimited encounters achievable at any moment, it also functions as the ultimate archive, a repository of every embarrassing exchange, accessible to anyone connected.

The medium that enabled sexless sex scandals will also preserve them forever.

[Jun 25, 2016] A French Point of View on Anthony Weiner's Sexting Scandal by Laurent-David Samama

Notable quotes:
"... Seen from a French point of view, I must say that this whole Weiner story illustrates to perfection what we can call the "American hypocrisy." On the one hand, you are offended by a man sending a few sextos (which is not a devious behavior!) and promoting virtue whenever you can but on the other hand, you're doing nothing to limit the influence of Hollywood-made erotic and pornographic production, you're watching Jerry Springer trash-talk on TV on a a daily basis and you're delighted to see what teenage icons such as Selena Gomez and Miley Cirus became (they went from being stupid and delicious products to being the latest, outrageous Madonnas with no talent...). ..."
Aug 1, 2013 | www.huffingtonpost.com

It surely is this summer's major headline! Former U.S. representative and NYC Mayor candidate Anthony Weiner has been caught sexting with young girls again and again despite the fact he his married to a caring and supporting woman. So what? Is this really a big deal? Does it really need to be the most commented subject across America at a time where Detroit is falling down and leaker Snowden is reminding us of some scary Cold War nightmares?

Seen from a French point of view, I must say that this whole Weiner story illustrates to perfection what we can call the "American hypocrisy." On the one hand, you are offended by a man sending a few sextos (which is not a devious behavior!) and promoting virtue whenever you can but on the other hand, you're doing nothing to limit the influence of Hollywood-made erotic and pornographic production, you're watching Jerry Springer trash-talk on TV on a a daily basis and you're delighted to see what teenage icons such as Selena Gomez and Miley Cirus became (they went from being stupid and delicious products to being the latest, outrageous Madonnas with no talent...).

This is pure nonsense!

There is something America must understand: you can cheat on your wife and still be a good politician. Remember JFK and Bill Clinton? They both had affairs while at the White House but in the meantime, they are unanimously considered as top of the notch U.S. presidents. Weiner, Clinton, JFK. These men illustrate the fact that politics is dirty and so is sex! (And so is 1 in 5 readers of this op-ed since 1 American out of 5 is said to sext on a regular basis!)

[Jun 20, 2016] The Gifts of Imperfection Let Go of Who You Think Youre Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are Brene Brown 9781592858491 A

www.amazon.com
Kristen B on March 6, 2012 A
Book that Changed My Life

I originally bought this book in May of 2011. I can't remember exactly why it spoke to me, but I know I was looking for self esteem boosting books. I think maybe the title resonated because I realized I was having some trouble with perfectionism. Accepting mistakes, compassion for myself, forgiving myself, but also pushing forward to being a better person, a better worker, friend, girlfriend, etc. It resonates today because I see how much of a perfectionist I can be, and how much trouble I am having forgiving myself for past mistakes, and trying not to label myself because of them. I am having trouble sufficiently feeling the guilt enough to change, letting that feeling in, but then forgiving myself, and not letting those behaviors define who I am as a person.

How did the book address this?

Where I still don't feel resolution:

I am still not sure how I am going to be able integrate this intellectual understanding into a daily practice. When I do something "wrong", especially something I have done wrong a hundred times before, will I be able to lean into the guilt, instead of the shame? Will I be able to lean into the vulnerability? Will I be able to be present to the vulnerability around me?

I know a big part of this is simply practice. And finding strategies that resonate. But the first step for me is an intellectual understanding, and this is certainly worth reading if that is something that is important to you.

Supplementary Materials:

[Jun 12, 2016] Somerset Maugham on asymmetry of love and marriage

[Jun 12, 2016] Want to avoid fighting over money in your marriage Try this first

The Washington Post

If you're fighting about money in your marriage, what do you wish you had known about your spouse before you exchanged vows?

Would you have gotten out of the relationship had you known your partner was an unrepentant spendthrift and that his or her attitude would cause you great stress in your marriage?

Had you discovered your other half was hiding a great amount of debt, would you still have gotten married?

Those of us who give financial advice often urge couples to take a premarital class to address any potential issues prior to tying the knot.

But for many couples, a premarital class is too late. The engagement ring has been given, the wedding dress ordered and the nonrefundable deposit made on the reception hall. Some couples are already living with each other, perhaps in a home they've bought together.


It's often because of these financial entanglements that people aren't willing to split up even when there's late-breaking evidence that their partner might not be the right person for them. They needed earlier intervention.

I've long been a fan of a 10-week course at my church for couples who are contemplating marriage. The couples must finish this class before they can even take premarital classes.

It's a smart concept developed by Skip and Beverly Little, the directors of the couples' ministry at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Md. To complement the course, the Littles have written "So You Think You Want to Get Married?" ($11.99, Xulon Press). The book is my pick for this month's Color of Money Book Club. You can buy it at Xulonpress.com, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

"So You Think You Want to Get Married?" is a biblically based premarital class prequel. It's very conservative in its views. And while it might not appeal to you if you aren't religious, I nonetheless wanted to highlight the work the Littles do because of their unique concept.

When you are considering getting married, you need to rely on facts, not just feelings, the Littles contend.

"Many troubled marriages began with false expectations and a misunderstanding of marital roles," they write. "Imagine being on a job without clearly defined roles and responsibilities. You would constantly show poor performance, which is what happens in marriage."

Numerous surveys indicate that fights about money top the list of concerns for couples. But it's not the money that's the root of the arguments. It is the fundamental issues that the couples failed to address or even notice before their wedding.

A study released earlier this year found that 88 percent of adults 25 to 34 who are married or living with a partner said that financial decisions are a constant source of tension in their relationship. And yet, many couples in the survey - which was conducted by the American Institute of CPAs and the Ad Council - said they had never discussed their financial goals or habits.

The focus of "So You Think You Want to Get Married?" is broader than finances, but discovering who your potential mate is financially is vital to a successful marriage.

Throughout the book, the Littles share stories about couples who have gone through their program, such as "Jimmy" and "Susie." They, like other participants, had to share their credit reports and credit scores with each other.

Turns out, Susie was an excessive spender with a poor credit history. Although Jimmy was aware of her spending habits, he didn't know she had been criminally prosecuted for writing bad checks.

"Jimmy could not believe he had come so close to getting married without taking a closer look at the implications of Susie's extreme spending habits," the Littles write.

Through various exercises and questions, the Littles get people to "explore and evaluate their decision to love for a lifetime." The Littles also advise couples to get parental guidance in their decision to marry. Don't think your family dynamics won't impact your marriage, they write.

Spiritual or secular, we should be encouraging serious couples to really delve deep while they are courting. "In relationships, 'wearing masks' causes people to marry individuals they do not really know."

The underlying theme in "So You Think You Want to Get Married?" is: As you gain insight about your partner, when you find serious issues, you can and should walk away from the relationship if the problems are insurmountable or you are unwilling to live with what you discover. It will save you a lot of heartache and money.

I'll be hosting a chat about this month's selection at noon Eastern on July 6 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. The Littles will be my guests and will answer any questions about their book. For more information about their program, check out skipandbeverly.com.

netbranchologist, 6/11/2016 5:25 PM EDT

Even for people of modest means, one way or another, a prenuptial agreement will solve 90% of these problems. Prenups require full financial disclosure of assets, liabilities, past and prospective earnings. Each party can specify who's responsible for what and which assets are to be individually held. All this reduces the likelihood of being blindsided.

Combine this with a credit report, the pre-marital course mentioned above and a criminal background search and you'll have a very good idea of what you're entering into. It can all be handled diplomatically well before the wedding dress is bought.

There's no better tool to sober a couple up to the realities of their joint future or, regrettably derail a marriage that shouldn't take place.

CalypsoSummer, 6/11/2016 7:28 PM EDT

Yes, there's nothing like preparing for the divorce before the wedding ceremony even takes place, to ensure a happy life together.

"Oh, darling, I love you, I'll love you forever, and when we split up, you'll only get 20% of the marital property, here, sign this right now."

noaxe397, 6/11/2016 5:03 PM EDT

Wouldn't it be obvious to two people dating for a while what each one's spending habits were? If she has 300 pairs of shoes and is always bedecked like Cleopatra in jewelry and he is always driving the latest 6-figure vehicle and renting out the Boom-Boom Room for his buddies, well?

Also, ANY couple that needs PRE marriage counseling to work out problems is sort of missing the whole concept, wouldn't you agree?

CalypsoSummer, 6/11/2016 7:30 PM EDT

Actually, no. The PRE marriage counseling covers things like the participants' expectations on their prospective roles in the marriage, on children and child-rearing, on finances, on career goals -- all sorts of things that starry-eyed people in love don't usually think to cover, but which cause the devil of a lot of heartache and problems in the marriage itself. Love is wonderful, but love is not enough.

ejr1953, 6/11/2016 5:03 PM EDT

Over 30 years ago a young lady at my work was dating a former co-worker, a very nice guy, but one who just would not manage his money. When he & I worked together he made more than double what my wife and I earned, we had a modest house, two modest cars...and he was a renter, modest car, nothing extravagant but he was always broke.
When she started dating my former co-worker, I let her know about his money habits, but as time progressed they were smitten with each other and got married.

Just a few years later, one night I got a phone call from the lady, she and my former coworker were getting divorced. She said she should have taken my comments about his money management to heart, as she came into the relationship with several investments, all evaporated during their short marriage.

I, on the other hand, chose my mate very wisely. We've been married over 35 years and have a lot of "balance" in our life choices. We have no debt and will be enjoying our golden years comfortably together.

Epaminondas Vindictor, 6/11/2016 4:53 PM EDT

Donald Trump's solution was the pre-nup.

CalypsoSummer, 6/11/2016 7:31 PM EDT

Ivana broke the first one because of his philandering with Maples and got a lot more money than Drumpf wanted to give her.

roblimo, 6/11/2016 4:05 PM EDT [Edited]

When I met my wife she was deep in debt. I worked hard, made a bunch of money, and paid it all off. We thought we were sitting pretty until I went through two years of no work and WHOOPS! $100,000+ in medical bills. Bankruptcy time. But we came out okay, with a decent house trailer on a deeded lot in a nice Florida park free and clear, and due to the heart problems that caused the medical bills, I get disability -- which is enough for us to get by on since we're basically pretty frugal. Do I regret our marriage? Not a bit! Aside from love, my darling wife has saved my life twice when I had heart failure(s). Can't beat that. And she smartened up about spending along the way, too. Darn right I'll keep her -- and it looks like she wants to keep me, too.

CalypsoSummer, 6/11/2016 7:33 PM EDT

People will talk about sex but they find it really uncomfortable to talk about money. It's not 'romantic.'

DANGULP, 6/11/2016 2:58 PM EDT

Money issues are salient ones because of they are often ones that have to be dealt with on a daily basis. So, resolving money issues ahead of time (in whatever way), will help.

But at a more general level I believe there is a perhaps more important question to ask oneself about a potential marital partner. That question is:

"Do I want this person's past to be my future?"

Sadly, although we think people change, personality is pretty stable from about age 15 on. And people can and do change, but often only after serious effort and only if they attribute the problems they had to themselves.

But by and large, people are pretty stable over the course of their lives. If you wait around long enough, you will find that most people treat everybody about the same, for example. Politeness and lack of constant contact can disguise that reality.

Look at history. Not at statements and talk. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Do not write off history in any important dimension: money, religion, leisure activities, food choices, children, friends, family, etc.

It doesn't take all that long to find this out. A long courtship or engagement isn't needed, because you aren't taking data just from your time with that person. It is pretty straightforward to detect patterns in a person's life, if your focus is on looking for them. In fact, how people are during courtship may not be a very good predictor. Look for the patterns before your courtship.

Do you want your future to be like your partner's past?

Travis Bickle, 6/11/2016 4:13 PM EDT

I stopped drinking 10+ years ago and what a huge change! My finances are excellent and relationships with friends and family are great...happily married too and grateful

Bsmiths, 6/11/2016 4:38 PM EDT

Except adolescents and young adults often go through a period where they are trying out a number of identities. People do mature a lot by the time they are past their early twenties.

DANGULP, 6/11/2016 4:56 PM EDT

I am not sure that is actually the case. Having taught at the college level for 30 years I could see that a huge number of freshmen were far past that kind of stuff.

It is true that there is a different level of maturity at age 25 than at 18, but it is still the case that the BEST predictor is past behavior, unless someone undergoes a radical self-transformation where they assume complete responsibility for all that they are (like Travis Bickle above). And like travis Bickle (above), that is now his history, a history to be able to confidently predict one's own future from (e.g., I can count on Travis Bickle to do the tough thing if needed because he has already done it).

We have to be careful about writing off too much to immaturity. When you do that you are kind of hoping to draw an inside straight. It might work out, but it's better to stick with your pair of 4's.

[May 25, 2016] Oscar Wilde on Love

[May 17, 2016] 6 Warning Signs Youre Dating a Narcissist

Notable quotes:
"... By Nancy Kay from DivorcedMoms.com ..."
Jan 17, 2015 | www.huffingtonpost.com

By Nancy Kay from DivorcedMoms.com Could you be dating a narcissist and not even know it? After starting to date again after divorce , I often found myself drawn toward highly successful professional men who are competitive in business and strongly determined to continue to build their own financial empire. Their determined, confident attitudes and visible business successes appealed to my strong desires for security and stability. A recent first date I went on was with this type of guy. My date with a dentist turned into a three-hour marathon of misery for me when he insisted that we sit in a back booth that he had reserved in advance with the hostess by visiting the restaurant the night before and then he told our server that he would leave an extra generous tip if she served our meals at a very leisurely pace. Right away he launched into a one-sided brag fest about how he got elected president of his college fraternity and why he easily scored highest in his graduating class on the dental board exam. He then dropped names of all the famous people he knows who live in our city and then went on to reveal the names of all the famous people his dad knows too. By the time the pasta finally arrived, I wanted to collapse into my plate from sheer boredom and exhaustion. After that mind-numbing experience, I ran to my car and swore off dating for several months. Unfortunately this was just one more very disillusioning date with a narcissistic man . I had already experienced many others. Several times I dated a man exclusively for three to six months, expecting things to become more serious over time, only to have them abruptly break things off with very little explanation or distance themselves with vague excuses about why they couldn't continue to spend time with me. After spending many frustrating weeks trying to figure out how to get each of these men I had dated exclusively to connect with me on an emotional level so that our relationship could continue to grow, I finally discovered that there was a big disconnect between the type of relationship I was expecting to unfold and what these narcissistic men were able to contribute in terms of intimacy, emotional connection and respectful two-way communications. I discovered that I was living on crumbs and pretending it was a whole nutritious meal. Are you dating a narcissist? Here are six warning signs: 1. He is pre-occupied with how things around him appear and how he is perceived by others. He aggressively pursues financial success and is not content with what he already has acquired or achieved. He has a strong craving for admiration, praise and his home, car, clothes and high status are a direct measurement of how successful he appears to others. 2. He exploits or takes advantage of others to get what he wants. Narcissists are highly skilled at using others' talents; taking advantage of their desire to avoid conflicts and their good natured helpfulness as a means to an end to achieve their own goals. 3. He does not appreciate or even see your unique abilities and natural gifts. Highly self-absorbed, narcissists are so driven by how they can use others to benefit themselves that your own individual strengths, abilities and achievements are often ignored or dismissed as inconsequential. 4. He resents authority and despises correction or being told what to do. He is reluctant to accept any blame or criticism and strongly prefers to be in control of things and those around him at all times. Having his faults pointed out to him or even having to admit that he made a mistake can set him off into a fit of rage. 5. Petty arguments often erupt into power struggles. The narcissistic man thrives on being right so disputes are rarely resolved. Mediation and counseling rarely helps to improve communications with a narcissist because this type of person sees themselves as under attack and can't stand for their actions to be subject to the opinions of others and held up to the light. 6. He disregards your healthy needs for attention and affection. Since narcissistic men often lack empathy and the self-examination necessary to create an intimate relationship, you'll often find yourself running on empty. Attempts to get more affection from him often leads to him creating a secret life to run to and evading your questions about what is really happening or not happening in your relationship. If you recognize these signs in a man that you are dating, it is helpful to remember that narcissists have very rigid expectations (especially for themselves) and so this type of man rarely changes his ways. Understanding or experiencing intimacy and love within the context of a balanced and healthy relationship is not on the agenda of a narcissist. Unfortunately, many times we keep trying to change a narcissistic man into who we'd like them to become or the reverse - trying to twist ourselves like pretzels into a perfect version of what he wants instead of cutting our losses. Recognizing the traits of a narcissistic man and realizing how deeply rooted they are is critical so that we can begin taking back control of our own life and start to move forward in a healthier direction.

[May 17, 2016] Are You Dating a Narcissist

www.huffingtonpost.com

< Have you ever had a situation that goes something like this?: You meet someone and it feels like the stars align. This person is so into you and lavishes you with attention, romance and gifts. The relationship moves very quickly and it feels like you have met "the one." Months down the road when things have settled in comfortably, things start to change. The person who used to adore and worship you now fluctuates between needing you desperately and devaluing you. Perhaps as time goes on, the person who you thought cared so much becomes more emotionally unavailable, distant and cruel. The "Jekyll" part of the personality starts to overtake the "Hyde." How did this person who used to be so wonderful and made such an effort to be with you all of the sudden turn out to be so opposite than what you thought? This can leave someone confused, hurt, angry and depressed. If this situation sounds similar to something you have experienced, you may be or may have dated someone with narcissistic tendencies. Here are some of the warning signs:

1. They are madly in love with you right off the bat and the relationship moves very quickly: People with narcissistic tendencies use fantasy like projections when picking a mate. Usually it takes a certain amount of time to fall in love with someone. Sure, you can feel chemistry and a connection with someone but to fall in love with who a person truly is (flaws and all) takes some time. A person with narcissistic tendencies loves the intense feelings and the attention. Sadly, their intense interest in you is more so about them and their needs than it is about you.

2. They fluctuate between adoring you and devaluing you: People with narcissistic tendencies are very hot and cold. They can be mean and critical one second and then sweet and loving the next. This becomes very confusing because you are still seeing glimpses of the wonderful person you first fell in love with but you are also getting to see another side that makes you feel bad about yourself.

3. They have little ability to empathize and everything is on their terms: Someone with narcissistic tendencies doesn't really see things from your world or from your point of view. Everything is about them and what they want. They ignore your needs in the relationship and only focus on getting what they want or what works best for them. They will always be their number one priority and everyone else will always come after that.

4. They cheat, lie or manipulate and don't feel remorse: Narcissists don't really empathize so when they do something to hurt you, they don't really feel remorseful. This can actually be the most hurtful part because it may make you feel like they never cared about you at all. Moving on can be very hard because a lot of people feel that they need closure or apologies that they will never get from narcissistic people.

5. When it's all over, it's like you never mattered: A classic case narcissist mostly uses people for their own gain and has very little emotional connection to those that are in their lives. Because of this, they discard people in their lives very easily. I recently watched an episode of the new HBO show Girls and in this particular episode, one of the characters who had broken up with her serious long-term boyfriend 2 weeks prior now finds he already has a new girlfriend. Shocked that he could move on so quickly from something so serious she exclaims. "you're a sociopath!!" and walks away. Even though she was the one who broke up with him, she is shocked that it feels like their relationship meant nothing to him at the end of the day and that she was easily replaceable. People recovering from narcissistic relationships are often in shock that someone who once claimed to love them so much has moved on so quickly and without any sense of remorse.

How to spot a narcissist:

I always tell my clients to take the time to really get to know the people they are dating before getting too emotionally invested or putting all their eggs in one basket. There are definitely fairy tale stories out there of two people falling madly in love with each other right at the get go and spending their lives happily ever after, but that is generally not the norm. Keep your guard up the more intensely the person is into you and the earlier on it occurs. Past relationship patterns are also very important to look at. As mentioned above, people who are narcissistic are intense very quickly and end up leaving a trail of shattered relationships and people who are left to pick up the pieces (and often need quite a bit of therapy after being in the destructive path of a narcissist). If you get an idea of the dating history of someone and it follows a certain pattern, pay attention to that. Yes, people can change, but past relationship patterns can raise a lot of red flags. The reason people have a hard time of extricating themselves from a narcissistic relationship is because it is hard to get past the fact that someone who used to be so wonderful and loving can turn so cold, hateful and lacking in remorse. These people hang on because of the glimpses they get of the good side and hold out the hope that if they were only "good enough" or "better", or unconditionally accepted and loved this person then they could get the nice and kind person back.

It turns into a vicious cycle and the more you get into a relationship, the harder it is to get out of. Being in a relationship with a narcissist will make you feel crazy and most narcissists actually don't actively leave relationships; they wait to be left first. It can be really hard to get out of a relationship like this and if you have never been in one, it's hard to know how. If someone makes you feel worthless or crazy and you know they are not treating you with respect, or empathizing with you, that might be hard to change. Learning to spot negative patterns early and having the strength to know what you deserve in a relationship is one of the best things to do if you find yourself involved with one of these people.

Recovery after a narcissistic relationship:

Recovery after a narcissistic relationship can be very difficult. Many people are driven to therapy because they have been left completely shattered and fragile after a relationship with a narcissist. The most important thing to remember is that it's not about YOU. This has everything to do with the flaws of the narcissist and their inability to make real, meaningful connections with others. What they have done to you is what they have done and will continue to do in all their relationships unless they recognize this within themselves and get help. The problem is, most narcissistic people never recognize that they need to change. Remember that you deserve a relationship that builds you up, that makes you feel safe, and that brings you happiness and warmth. A person who is narcissistic cannot give this to you, simply because they are not capable of it.

**This article originally appeared on Pamela's Punch

[May 17, 2016] 10 Signs Youre In Love With A Narcopath

Notable quotes:
"... "You're the prettiest. The sexiest. The skinniest. The best mom. The funniest." ..."
"... "You have such a sexy voice. Not too high, nor too low; it's just perfect. My friend Courtney's voice is super high-pitched and she has this weird way of talking through her teeth. Annoying." ..."
"... "You have a great body. I guess I'm used to having more to hug with my ex!" ..."
www.huffingtonpost.com
What do you get when you cross a sociopath with a narcissist? The least funny joke and the worst kind of hybrid: a narcissistic sociopath, narcopath for short. Both a narcissist and sociopath have an inflated sense of how important they are, as well as a constant need for praise and admiration. One commonality between the two is their ability to fool others in order to get what they want, without remorse. But what sets them apart is that a narcopath is unable to handle criticism or be viewed in a negative light, whereas a sociopath couldn't care less who thinks what or how they're perceived. When you hear the word narcopath you may picture a deranged, knife-wielding lunatic - at least that's what I pictured before I met my own. Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. Narcopaths are boogie men in disguise and wolves in sheep's clothing. Their abuse is sometimes so subtle that you don't see it until the curtain closes and your world is torn apart. Still unsure if you're in a relationship with a narcopath? Here are ten telltale signs that you might be.

1. Things move from zero to one hundred in seconds.

From the beginning, nothing is normal with a narcopath. Things progress at warp speed, hop-scotching over the usual stages of a relationship. Instead of slowly getting to know one another, you go from the first date to planning your future together within weeks of meeting. And when your gut warns you things are moving too fast, you tell it to shut up because you've finally found your soulmate.

2. They're a broken record of compliments.

A narcopath will sweep you off your feet, place you on a pedestal, then worship you from down below. They'll tell you the things you've always wanted to hear, saying them over and over and over again. But listen closely and you'll notice there's not much variation in these love monologues, and their sweet-nothings sound more like a script than anything from the heart. "You're the prettiest. The sexiest. The skinniest. The best mom. The funniest." If everything feels staged and too good to be true, it probably is.

3. They flatter you with comparisons.

There's no period at the end of a compliment. Instead, a narcopath compliments you by comparing you to someone else in their life. In my case, he'd say things like, "You have such a sexy voice. Not too high, nor too low; it's just perfect. My friend Courtney's voice is super high-pitched and she has this weird way of talking through her teeth. Annoying." Or, "You have a great body. I guess I'm used to having more to hug with my ex!" Praising you by putting down others is a huge red flag, not to mention incredibly distasteful. And while it's no doubt flattering to hear these praises, keep in mind that one day they'll be offering them to someone else and using your name to fill the second blank.

4. Your chemistry between the sheets is off the charts.

You've never felt this much passion with anyone else. Pushing all the right buttons in just the right ways, it's like they're reading your mind and its desires. The reason sex is so mind-blowing, at least in the beginning, isn't because they know what to do with their hands; they know what to do with your mind . They'll make you feel like you're the only one who's ever existed to them. Yes, narcopaths are indeed that great - at acting, that is. By mirroring your every emotion they're able to make their own emotions seem genuine and fool you into thinking yours are real.

5. Their eyes are windows to nothingness.

My Narc-in-a-Box would stare at me with such intensity I'd become nervous, fidget, and quickly turn away. Speaking directly into my eyes with a deadpan and unwavering stare, I don't think he blinked once during our four months together. At times his gaze was so piercing that his pupils practically vanished. But sadly, behind all that intensity lied a vast amount of dark nothingness. I turned away from that stare because it made me feel uneasy in all the wrong ways.

6. They always lead the conversation back to themselves.

On the surface, a narcopath seems hyper-focused on you and genuinely interested in learning all there is to know. Yet the moment you begin divulging this information, they quickly interrupt with a story of their own. It's like a revolving door: They ask you a question to gain the opportunity to talk about themselves. They're quick to interject with their thoughts and opinions, and always have a similar experience to share with you. Experiences that, once dissected, are nothing more than sweetly camouflaged one-uppers and indirect ways to let you know that they know better.

7. They have a checkered relationship history.

I've never met anyone with such an odd and storied relationship history. He traveled to Texas after meeting a girl online, then met his ex-wife online, and later flew in another girl he met online (through a quiz website!) all the way from Europe, before finally meeting me online. Narcopaths often leave long trails of broken relationships behind them, but of course they were never the ones responsible for breaking them. And no matter how long ago it ended, they'll claim all their former flames still burn strongly for them from afar.

8. They use big words that have little substance.

Have you ever read something that initially seems incredibly deep and profound, until you reach the end and realize it's nothing but a nonsensical jumble of fancy words? A narcopath craves superiority and thrives on being smarter than everyone in the room. The only the problem is that often times they're not, forcing them to fake it and pray no one catches on. On the surface, a narcopath seems highly intelligent and cultured, but dig deeper and you'll discover it's nothing but fluff.

9. They give because it makes them look better.

Give and you shall receive. Or, in the narcopath's case, give and tell everyone within a thousand mile radius who you gave to and exactly how much. A narcopath doesn't give because it makes them feel good on the inside; rather, they give because it makes them look good from the outside. No kind deed goes unnoticed, because they'd never allow it. Whether it's helping an old lady cross the street, giving a homeless person a buck, or donating to their children's PTA, they'll make sure someone knows about their generosity.

10. They're no stranger to the silent treatment.

Narcopaths love to dish it out. You may see glimpses of this passive-aggressive form of punishment early on in the relationship, or it might come on suddenly out of left field. Either way, the silent treatment is without a doubt the most vile and abusive trait that narcopaths possess. Like a child, anytime they can't get their way or feel threatened, they stomp away with their arms crossed and punish you with a deafening silence. The harder you reach out, the more you cry, and the angrier you become, the better they feel. It's normal for your partner to get angry, sulk, or brood sometimes. What isn't normal is using silence as a weapon to punish and control you, then sitting back and gaining pleasure from your pain.

This article originally appeared on YourTango .

[May 17, 2016] 7 Strategies for Dealing With the Narcissist You Love

Notable quotes:
"... Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline . ..."
Jun 23, 2014 www.huffingtonpost.com

Late last year, I wrote a piece where I shared a perspective, based on growing research , that narcissism isn't simply a stubborn trait, but a style of coping. The seeds of that idea turned into a book , scheduled for release in spring next year. Since I promised a follow up, I'm taking a brief break from the larger project to deliver on my promise. Here's a glimpse at what's to come. If you think your partner's a narcissist , you might want to try these seven strategies. Check For Abuse : None of what I'm about to suggest is likely to help if the person you love is physically or emotionally abusive. Not all narcissists, even those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) , resort to abuse. But some do - and if you're on the receiving end, your first step should be to explore what makes it hard for you to leave . If you're facing abuse, it doesn't matter whether it's driven by your partner's narcissism, chronic pain, or drug addiction - the problem is the abuse, plain and simple. And the abuser is 100 percent responsible for his or her choice. Until that changes, you probably won't feel safe enough - nor should you - to take the kinds of risks I'm recommending here. Check for Denial: Most people recognize denial when they see it. It's easily the most famous of all the defense mechanisms. The alcoholic who protests, "I just enjoy the taste of fine wine!"; the terminally ill patient who assures everyone, "It's just a cough"; and the narcissist who, despite having alienated all her friends and lost her job, proclaims, "I'm just fine" - all are exhibiting denial. The more denial a narcissist displays, the less hopeful you should feel about change. How bad is denial? In adolescents , it predicts some of the most ruthless, demanding forms of narcissism - adults who happily admit "I find it easy to manipulate people." Make sure your partner can admit something's wrong, even if it's as simple as saying, "my life isn't where I hoped it would be." Contrary to what you might think, some narcissists do seek therapy . Which kinds? The "vulnerable" ones, riddled with shame and fear; they freely admit they have problems instead of burying them beneath near-delusional denial. In fact, they're also more likely to stick with treatment once they start. Beware the Manipulator : Across studies , narcissists who score high on measures of entitlement and exploitation (or, EE, as researchers call it) have the highest levels of aggression, a strong impulse to cheat, and even, when angered, a penchant for stealing or sabotaging property at work. In fact, EE singlehandedly accounts for most of the worst behaviors a narcissist can display. Manipulative narcissists are also more likely to score higher on measures of Psychopathy and Machiavellianism. The former is a cold callous personality linked to criminal behaviors, while the latter, as you can guess from the name, describes a cutthroat, "do whatever it takes" personality. Along with narcissism, these two traits comprise personality's dark triad . Not all narcissists are cold and manipulative. But the ones who are pose the greatest threat because they're so practiced at play-acting and deceit you'll have a hard time separating fact from fiction. Check Their Willingness to Change: This one might seem obvious, but it's crucial enough that it bears mentioning. The easiest way to test a partner's capacity to change is to seek help from a couples therapist - or any therapist for that matter. Even people who aren't narcissists can be leery of therapy, so this one shouldn't be considered a litmus test. If your partner's willing to work with you, though, your odds at improving the relationship have probably jumped by an order of magnitude. Check Your Anger: "You've always been the paranoid, jealous type," sneers your partner after you openly wonder about the amount of time he's spending with his attractive coworker. Our natural tendency, when faced with such shocking indifference to our fear of losing love or needing more closeness and comfort, is to protect ourselves. For many people, this means donning battle armor and launching an attack. "You're the most selfish person I know! I don't know why I'm with you!" As understandable as the protective measures are, they cut us off from crucial information: Can our partners hear our sadness and fear and feel moved? If there's any way at all to reach through the detachment, it's by sharing our feelings at a more vulnerable level. Try this: "You mean so much to me; I hear you talking to her and I'm scared I'm not enough for you." Or, "Your opinion means the world to me; when I hear you talk to me that way I feel so small and worthless in your eyes." Most partners, if they can feel anything at all, will melt when they hear comments like this. They don't just convey your pain with greater clarity; they remind your partner why the behavior hurts - because it comes from the one person who matters most. How effective is this kind of communication? Across decades of studies, 90 percent of couples who learned to share the sadness and fear beneath the anger, healed their broken bond and enjoyed happy, closer relationships. Likewise, in multiple recent studies , narcissists who focused on caring and closeness ("communal behavior") actually scored lower over time on several measures of narcissism; those who saw their partners as communal (compared to those who didn't) even said they'd be less likely to cheat . Check Your Silence: Say you come home from a hard day at work, and your boyfriend, grumbling about the weekend plans being up in the air, starts lecturing you about how indecisive you are. "You sure take a long time to make decisions, don't you?" Condescending remarks like this don't always enrage us. When our self-esteem is already crumbling, they often shut us down completely; we crawl away, crestfallen, or slip into hours of silence. But we have to find a voice again if we want things to get better. Research suggests that silent withdrawal is just another way of coping with feeling sad or fearful about our connection with people we love; your best bet, as with anger, is to go beneath the impulse to shut down and share the upset. "I'm feeling so put down right now I'm afraid you've stopped caring about me altogether." Why is this so important? Though they appear to be universal ways of coping with fears about the people we love, anger and withdrawal also ramp up our partners' insecurities . The result? Our loved ones fall back on their usual way of protecting themselves - like criticism or indifference - instead of hearing our pain. If they're narcissists, that means they resort to their favorite MO - narcissism. Be Honest with Yourself: If you've tried a more loving approach to sharing what hurts in your relationship, and the narcissist in your life still won't soften, you truly have done everything you can. This might be the only hope for change. Those of you who wrote in to say you already tried this and it didn't work have made a valiant effort; you may have exhausted your supply of empathy from working so hard. If so, my heart goes out to you. But staying in an unhappy relationship comes at a steep price, including your self-esteem. Ask yourself, honestly - are you staying because your partner's doing his best to change - or because it feels too hard to leave? Even if the people we love want to change, none of us should be expected to endure the same hurts over and over. Narcissistic arrogance and hostility elicit our worst behaviors ; they get beneath our skin, working away like a thousand needles. The natural response is to pull away or lash back; but if you do your best to share the pain openly, letting your loved ones see your softer feelings, you're giving them their best - and only shot - at hearing you. If they can't understand your pain then, perhaps they never will. As sad and difficult as it feels, you might need to take care of yourself by leaving. Because regardless of which habit steals their attention away from genuine love and intimacy, if our loved ones can't risk change, their problems are here to stay. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline . If you like my posts, let me know! Let's connect on facebook and twitter. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter, for more tips and advice, as well as information on my forthcoming book , about understanding and coping with narcissism in all its forms, in our friends, lovers, colleagues-and even ourselves. HARPERWAVE AND HARPER UK, SPRING 2015

Follow Dr. Craig Malkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrCraigMalkin

[May 17, 2016] Emotion-phobia by Dr. Craig Malkin

The overall pattern of narcissistic behavior is emotional instability and aggressive behavior caused by insecurity and weakness rather than any real feelings of confidence or self-esteem. One very interesting and revealing feature of a narcissist (as well as several other types of psychopaths) is emotion-phobia
Notable quotes:
"... Narcissists abhor feeling influenced in any significant way. It challenges their sense of perfect autonomy; to admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them. So they often change the subject when feelings come up, especially their own, and as quick as they might be to anger, it's often like pulling teeth to get them to admit that they've reached the boiling point - even when they're in the midst of the most terrifying tirade. ..."
www.huffingtonpost.com

Emotion-phobia: Feelings are a natural consequence of being human, and we tend to have lots of them in the course of normal interactions. But the very fact of having a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally by friends, family, partners, and even the occasional tragedy or failure. Narcissists abhor feeling influenced in any significant way. It challenges their sense of perfect autonomy; to admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them. So they often change the subject when feelings come up, especially their own, and as quick as they might be to anger, it's often like pulling teeth to get them to admit that they've reached the boiling point - even when they're in the midst of the most terrifying tirade.

[May 16, 2016] Stockholm Syndrome The Psychological Mystery of Loving an Abuser, Page 1

Notable quotes:
"... In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation. The "Stockholm Syndrome" reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual. ..."
"... Stockholm Syndrome (SS) can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, father or mother, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority. ..."
"... In relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive, but evidence that the abuser is not "all bad" and may at some time correct his/her behavior. Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation. An aggressive and jealous partner may normally become intimidating or abusive in certain social situations, as when an opposite-sex coworker waves in a crowd. After seeing the wave, the victim expects to be verbally battered and when it doesn't happen, that "small kindness" is interpreted as a positive sign. ..."
"... During the relationship, the abuser/controller may share information about their past - how they were mistreated, abused, neglected, or wronged. ..."
"... Sympathy may develop toward the abuser and we often hear the victim of Stockholm Syndrome defending their abuser with "I know he fractured my jaw and ribs…but he's troubled. He had a rough childhood!" ..."
"... Keep in mind: once you become hardened to the "sad stories", they will simply try another approach. I know of no victim of abuse or crime who has heard their abuser say "I'm beating (robbing, mugging, etc.) you because my Mom hated me!" ..."
"... In abusive and controlling relationships, the victim has the sense they are always "walking on eggshells" - fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst. For their survival, they begin to see the world through the abuser's perspective. They begin to fix things that might prompt an outburst, act in ways they know makes the abuser happy, or avoid aspects of their own life that may prompt a problem. If we only have a dollar in our pocket, then most of our decisions become financial decisions. If our partner is an abuser or controller, then the majority of our decisions are based on our perception of the abuser's potential reaction. We become preoccupied with the needs, desires, and habits of the abuser/controller. ..."
"... Controlling partners have increased the financial obligations/debt in the relationship to the point that neither partner can financially survive on their own. ..."
"... The legal ending of a relationship, especially a marital relationship, often creates significant problems. ..."
"... The Controller often uses extreme threats including threatening to take the children out of state, threatening to quit their job/business rather than pay alimony/support, threatening public exposure of the victim's personal issues, or assuring the victim they will never have a peaceful life due to nonstop harassment. ..."
counsellingresource.com
While the psychological condition in hostage situations became known as "Stockholm Syndrome" due to the publicity, the emotional "bonding" with captors was a familiar story in psychology. It had been recognized many years before and was found in studies of other hostage, prisoner, or abusive situations such as:

In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation. The "Stockholm Syndrome" reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual. In fact, it is often encouraged in crime situations as it improves the chances for survival of the hostages. On the down side, it also assures that the hostages experiencing "Stockholm Syndrome" will not be very cooperative during rescue or criminal prosecution. Local law enforcement personnel have long recognized this syndrome with battered women who fail to press charges, bail their battering husband/boyfriend out of jail, and even physically attack police officers when they arrive to rescue them from a violent assault.

Stockholm Syndrome (SS) can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, father or mother, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority.

It's important to understand the components of Stockholm Syndrome as they relate to abusive and controlling relationships. Once the syndrome is understood, it's easier to understand why victims support, love, and even defend their abusers and controllers.

Every syndrome has symptoms or behaviors, and Stockholm Syndrome is no exception. While a clear-cut list has not been established due to varying opinions by researchers and experts, several of these features will be present:

Stockholm Syndrome doesn't occur in every hostage or abusive situation. In another bank robbery involving hostages, after terrorizing patrons and employees for many hours, a police sharpshooter shot and wounded the terrorizing bank robber. After he hit the floor, two women picked him up and physically held him up to the window for another shot. As you can see, the length of time one is exposed to abuse/control and other factors are certainly involved.

It has been found that four situations or conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome. These four situations can be found in hostage, severe abuse, and abusive relationships:

By considering each situation we can understand how Stockholm Syndrome develops in romantic relationships as well as criminal/hostage situations. Looking at each situation:

Perceived Threat to One's Physical/Psychological Survival

The perception of threat can be formed by direct, indirect, or witnessed methods. Criminal or antisocial partners can directly threaten your life or the life of friends and family. Their history of violence leads us to believe that the captor/controller will carry out the threat in a direct manner if we fail to comply with their demands. The abuser assures us that only our cooperation keeps our loved ones safe.

Indirectly, the abuser/controller offers subtle threats that you will never leave them or have another partner, reminding you that people in the past have paid dearly for not following their wishes. Hints are often offered such as "I know people who can make others disappear". Indirect threats also come from the stories told by the abuser or controller - how they obtained revenge on those who have crossed them in the past. These stories of revenge are told to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.

Witnessing violence or aggression is also a perceived threat. Witnessing a violent temper directed at a television set, others on the highway, or a third party clearly sends us the message that we could be the next target for violence. Witnessing the thoughts and attitudes of the abuser/controller is threatening and intimidating, knowing that we will be the target of those thoughts in the future.

The "Small Kindness" Perception

In threatening and survival situations, we look for evidence of hope - a small sign that the situation may improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abuser's benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captor. In criminal/war hostage situations, letting the victim live is often enough. Small behaviors, such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water, are enough to strengthen the Stockholm Syndrome in criminal hostage events.

In relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive, but evidence that the abuser is not "all bad" and may at some time correct his/her behavior. Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation. An aggressive and jealous partner may normally become intimidating or abusive in certain social situations, as when an opposite-sex coworker waves in a crowd. After seeing the wave, the victim expects to be verbally battered and when it doesn't happen, that "small kindness" is interpreted as a positive sign.

Similar to the small kindness perception is the perception of a "soft side". During the relationship, the abuser/controller may share information about their past - how they were mistreated, abused, neglected, or wronged. The victim begins to feel the abuser/controller may be capable of fixing their behavior or worse yet, that they (abuser) may also be a "victim". Sympathy may develop toward the abuser and we often hear the victim of Stockholm Syndrome defending their abuser with "I know he fractured my jaw and ribs…but he's troubled. He had a rough childhood!"

Losers and abusers may admit they need psychiatric help or acknowledge they are mentally disturbed; however, it's almost always after they have already abused or intimidated the victim. The admission is a way of denying responsibility for the abuse. In truth, personality disorders and criminals have learned over the years that personal responsibility for their violent/abusive behaviors can be minimized and even denied by blaming their bad upbringing, abuse as a child, and now even video games. One murderer blamed his crime on eating too much junk food - now known as the "Twinkie Defense". While it may be true that the abuser/controller had a difficult upbringing, showing sympathy for his/her history produces no change in their behavior and in fact, prolongs the length of time you will be abused. While "sad stories" are always included in their apologies - after the abusive/controlling event - their behavior never changes! Keep in mind: once you become hardened to the "sad stories", they will simply try another approach. I know of no victim of abuse or crime who has heard their abuser say "I'm beating (robbing, mugging, etc.) you because my Mom hated me!"

Isolation from Perspectives Other than those of the Captor

In abusive and controlling relationships, the victim has the sense they are always "walking on eggshells" - fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst. For their survival, they begin to see the world through the abuser's perspective. They begin to fix things that might prompt an outburst, act in ways they know makes the abuser happy, or avoid aspects of their own life that may prompt a problem. If we only have a dollar in our pocket, then most of our decisions become financial decisions. If our partner is an abuser or controller, then the majority of our decisions are based on our perception of the abuser's potential reaction. We become preoccupied with the needs, desires, and habits of the abuser/controller.

Taking the abuser's perspective as a survival technique can become so intense that the victim actually develops anger toward those trying to help them. The abuser is already angry and resentful toward anyone who would provide the victim support, typically using multiple methods and manipulations to isolate the victim from others. Any contact the victim has with supportive people in the community is met with accusations, threats, and/or violent outbursts. Victims then turn on their family - fearing family contact will cause additional violence and abuse in the home. At this point, victims curse their parents and friends, tell them not to call and to stop interfering, and break off communication with others. Agreeing with the abuser/controller, supportive others are now viewed as "causing trouble" and must be avoided. Many victims threaten their family and friends with restraining orders if they continue to "interfere" or try to help the victim in their situation. On the surface it would appear that they have sided with the abuser/controller. In truth, they are trying to minimize contact with situations that might make them a target of additional verbal abuse or intimidation. If a casual phone call from Mom prompts a two-hour temper outburst with threats and accusations - the victim quickly realizes it's safer if Mom stops calling. If simply telling Mom to stop calling doesn't work, for his or her own safety the victim may accuse Mom of attempting to ruin the relationship and demand that she stop calling.

In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome in relationships, the victim may have difficulty leaving the abuser and may actually feel the abusive situation is their fault. In law enforcement situations, the victim may actually feel the arrest of their partner for physical abuse or battering is their fault. Some women will allow their children to be removed by child protective agencies rather than give up the relationship with their abuser. As they take the perspective of the abuser, the children are at fault - they complained about the situation, they brought the attention of authorities to the home, and they put the adult relationship at risk. Sadly, the children have now become a danger to the victim's safety. For those with Stockholm Syndrome, allowing the children to be removed from the home decreases their victim stress while providing an emotionally and physically safer environment for the children.

Perceived Inability to Escape

As a hostage in a bank robbery, threatened by criminals with guns, it's easy to understand the perceived inability to escape. In romantic relationships, the belief that one can't escape is also very common. Many abusive/controlling relationships feel like till-death-do-us-part relationships - locked together by mutual financial issues/assets, mutual intimate knowledge, or legal situations. Here are some common situations:

In unhealthy relationships and definitely in Stockholm Syndrome there is a daily preoccupation with "trouble". Trouble is any individual, group, situation, comment, casual glance, or cold meal that may produce a temper tantrum or verbal abuse from the controller or abuser. To survive, "trouble" is to be avoided at all costs. The victim must control situations that produce trouble. That may include avoiding family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who may create "trouble" in the abusive relationship. The victim does not hate family and friends; they are only avoiding "trouble"! The victim also cleans the house, calms the children, scans the mail, avoids certain topics, and anticipates every issue of the controller or abuse in an effort to avoid "trouble". In this situation, children who are noisy become "trouble". Loved ones and friends are sources of "trouble" for the victim who is attempting to avoid verbal or physical aggression.

Stockholm Syndrome in relationships is not uncommon. Law enforcement professionals are painfully aware of the situation - making a domestic dispute one of the high-risk calls during work hours. Called by neighbors during a spousal abuse incident, the abuser is passive upon arrival of the police, only to find the abused spouse upset and threatening the officers if their abusive partner is arrested for domestic violence. In truth, the victim knows the abuser/controller will retaliate against him/her if 1) they encourage an arrest, 2) they offer statements about the abuse/fight that are deemed disloyal by the abuser, 3) they don't bail them out of jail as quickly as possible, and 4) they don't personally apologize for the situation - as though it was their fault.

Stockholm Syndrome produces an unhealthy bond with the controller and abuser. It is the reason many victims continue to support an abuser after the relationship is over. It's also the reason they continue to see "the good side" of an abusive individual and appear sympathetic to someone who has mentally and sometimes physically abused them.

Is There Something Else Involved?

In a short response - Yes! Throughout history, people have found themselves supporting and participating in life situations that range from abusive to bizarre. In talking to these active and willing participants in bad and bizarre situations, it is clear they have developed feelings and attitudes that support their participation. One way these feelings and thoughts are developed is known as "cognitive dissonance". As you can tell, psychologists have large words and phrases for just about everything.

"Cognitive Dissonance" explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable. When we have two sets of cognitions (knowledge, opinion, feelings, input from others, etc.) that are the opposite, the situation becomes emotionally uncomfortable. Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation - few want to admit that fact. Instead, we attempt to reduce the dissonance - the fact that our cognitions don't match, agree, or make sense when combined. "Cognitive Dissonance" can be reduced by adding new cognitions - adding new thoughts and attitudes. Some examples:

Leon Festinger first coined the term "Cognitive Dissonance". He had observed a cult (1956) in which members gave up their homes, incomes, and jobs to work for the cult. This cult believed in messages from outer space that predicted the day the world would end by a flood. As cult members and firm believers, they believed they would be saved by flying saucers at the appointed time. As they gathered and waited to be taken by flying saucers at the specified time, the end-of-the-world came and went. No flood and no flying saucer! Rather than believing they were foolish after all that personal and emotional investment - they decided their beliefs had actually saved the world from the flood and they became firmer in their beliefs after the failure of the prophecy. The moral: the more you invest (income, job, home, time, effort, etc.) the stronger your need to justify your position. If we invest $5.00 in a raffle ticket, we justify losing with "I'll get them next time". If you invest everything you have, it requires an almost unreasoning belief and unusual attitude to support and justify that investment.

Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals. Almost any ordeal creates a bonding experience. Every couple, no matter how mismatched, falls in love in the movies after going through a terrorist takeover, being stalked by a killer, being stranded on an island, or being involved in an alien abduction. Investment and an ordeal are ingredients for a strong bonding - even if the bonding is unhealthy. No one bonds or falls in love by being a member of the Automobile Club or a music CD club. Struggling to survive on a deserted island - you bet!

Abusive relationships produce a great amount on unhealthy investment in both parties. In many cases we tend to remain and support the abusive relationship due to our investment in the relationship. Try telling a new Marine that since he or she has survived boot camp, they should now enroll in the National Guard! Several types of investments keep us in the bad relationship:

Emotional Investment
We've invested so many emotions, cried so much, and worried so much that we feel we must see the relationship through to the finish.
Social Investment
We've got our pride! To avoid social embarrassment and uncomfortable social situations, we remain in the relationship.
Family Investments
If children are present in the relationship, decisions regarding the relationship are clouded by the status and needs of the children.
Financial Investment
In many cases, the controlling and abusive partner has created a complex financial situation. Many victims remain in a bad relationship, waiting for a better financial situation to develop that would make their departure and detachment easier.
Lifestyle Investment
Many controlling/abusive partners use money or a lifestyle as an investment. Victims in this situation may not want to lose their current lifestyle.
Intimacy Investment
We often invest emotional and sexual intimacy. Some victims have experienced a destruction of their emotional and/or sexual self-esteem in the unhealthy relationship. The abusing partner may threaten to spread rumors or tell intimate details or secrets. A type of blackmail using intimacy is often found in these situations.

In many cases, it's not simply our feelings for an individual that keep us in an unhealthy relationship - it's often the amount of investment. Relationships are complex and we often only see the tip of the iceberg in public. For this reason, the most common phrase offered by the victim in defense of their unhealthy relationship is "You just don't understand!"

Combining Two Unhealthy Conditions

The combination of "Stockholm Syndrome" and "cognitive dissonance" produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed "all their eggs in one basket". The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

For reasons described above, the victim feels family and friends are a threat to the relationship and eventually to their personal health and existence. The more family/friends protest the controlling and abusive nature of the relationship, the more the victim develops cognitive dissonance and becomes defensive. At this point, family and friends become victims of the abusive and controlling individual.

Importantly, both Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance develop on an involuntary basis. The victim does not purposely invent this attitude. Both develop as an attempt to exist and survive in a threatening and controlling environment and relationship. Despite what we might think, our loved one is not in the unhealthy relationship to irritate us, embarrass us, or drive us to drink. What might have begun as a normal relationship has turned into a controlling and abusive situation. They are trying to survive. Their personality is developing the feelings and thoughts needed to survive the situation and lower their emotional and physical risks. All of us have developed attitudes and feelings that help us accept and survive situations. We have these attitudes/feelings about our jobs, our community, and other aspects of our life. As we have found throughout history, the more dysfunctional the situation, the more dysfunctional our adaptation and thoughts to survive. The victim is engaged in an attempt to survive and make a relationship work. Once they decide it doesn't work and can't be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.

Family and Friends of the Victim

When a family is confronted with a loved one involved with a 'Loser' or controlling/abusive individual, the situation becomes emotionally painful and socially difficult for the family. (See " Are You Dating a Loser? Identifying Losers, Controllers and Abusers ".) While each situation is different, some general guidelines to consider are:

Final Thoughts

You may be the victim of a controlling and abusive partner, seeking an understanding of your feelings and attitudes. You may have a son, daughter, or friend currently involved with a controlling and abusive partner, looking for ways to understand and help.

If a loved one is involved with a Loser, a controlling and abusing partner, the long-term outcome is difficult to determine due to the many factors involved. If their relationship is in the "dating" phase, they may end the relationship on their own. If the relationship has continued for over a year, they may require support and an exit plan before ending the relationship. Marriage and children further complicate their ability to leave the situation. When the victim decides to end the unhappy relationship, it's important that they view loved ones as supportive, loving, and understanding - not as a source of pressure, guilt, or aggression.

This article is an attempt to understand the complex feelings and attitudes that are as puzzling to the victim as they are to family and friends. Separately, I've outlined recommendations for detaching from a Loser or controlling/abusive individual, but clearly, there are more victims in this situation. (See " Are You Dating a Loser? Identifying Losers, Controllers and Abusers ".) It is hoped this article is helpful to family and friends who worry, cry, and have difficulty understanding the situation of their loved one. It has been said that knowledge is power. Hopefully this knowledge will prove helpful and powerful to victims and their loved ones.

Please consider this article as a general guideline. Some recommendations may be appropriate and helpful while some may not apply to a specific situation. In many cases, we may need additional professional help of a mental health or legal nature.

[May 06, 2016] See Girl Run

Starring Adam Scott, Robin Tunney, Nate Meyer, Jesse Sweet
www.amazon.com
Amazon.com

Brad Smithon February 5, 2014

An ode to fidelity

The problem is there really doesn't seem to be any chemistry between the married couple, even when, in flashback, we watch when he proposes. So the whole premise of this little indie - that one must work on one's relationship if one has made the commitment - doesn't hold up that well. The depressed brother who can't stop crying can't quite hold that somber affect throughout, either. I caught him lightening up a few times when he wasn't supposed to. In the end, I'm not sure I bought what the script was selling, but it is a sweet little film that is worth watching, with its nice indie soundtrack.

The 5 Biggest Areas of Conflict for Couples

RELEVANT One of the most common misconceptions in marriages today is that fighting is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. But is it? Is a healthy marriage really one completely absent of conflict?

As a psychologist (Les) and a marriage and family therapist (Leslie), married since 1984, we don't claim to have a perfect relationship. We fight-just like every other couple on the planet. But we've learned a secret: There's a difference between a bad fight and a good fight.

And when a couple learns to fight a good fight, the conflict actually brings them closer.

We've learned a secret: There's a difference between a bad fight and a good fight.

All couples generally fight over the same five things: money, sex, work, parenting and housework. Most argue about these five issues over and over again because these are all stressors that speak to our sense of love and fairness.

But you can learn to fight about them in a healthy way. Here are some tools to help you cool down "The Big Five."

Money

Allow us to say it straight: Money fights between couples are rarely about money. So if you want to minimize a currency conflict, trace it back to the fear that's fueling it.

Instead of fighting over the amount of money that was spent on who-knows-what, shift the focus toward what really matters: (1) your fear of not having influence in important issues impacting your life, (2) your fear of not having security in your future, (3) your fear of having no respect shown for your values, or (4) your fear of not realizing your dreams.

Sex

To keep sexual grievances down and the marital bedsprings bouncing, we recommend focusing on solving "coordination failure." It's a common problem in marriages. The number-one reason people report not having sex in their marriage is "Too tired," followed closely by "Not in the mood." Most of the time, that's code, knowingly or not, for having mismatched sex drives.

So start talking about it. As we write this, we can almost feel you cringing. For most couples, talking about sex is about as comfortable as sleeping in a car. Yet it's a conversation that's critically important to aligning your libidos and minimizing your conflicts. When the time is right, when both of you are relaxed and not distracted, ask each other to explain when you feel most eager to head to bed. Your answers may surprise you.

Work

We've got two words for you: date night. We know. You've heard this a thousand times: do a weekly date night or your marriage will suffer. Sounds more like a threat than friendly advice, doesn't it? But it's a surefire way to keep career conflict to a minimum.

Marriage is lived best when you're not trying to balance the scales.

In spite of this frequent advice, the message doesn't seem to be getting through. Here's how often married people, aged 25 to 50 with two or more children, have a date night:

Yikes! We can do better than that, and there's good reason to do it. The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia recently released a report titled "The Date Night Opportunity." This study found that husbands and wives who set aside a deliberate time to connect and have fun at least once a week were approximately three and a half times more likely to report being "very happy" in their marriages.

Children

The solution for nearly any parenting conflict is found in getting on the same page and presenting a unified front. Otherwise, your kids play you against each other and add fuel to the parenting fire. Conflict decreases as teamwork increases. It may not be easy to agree with your spouse on the rules and standards you are willing to enforce with your kids. That's why the first order of business is to iron out differences behind closed doors.

Don't try to solve your parenting squabbles in the moment-while the kids enjoy the show. The time for presenting your ideas and negotiating trade-offs is when the two of you are alone. Once you reach agreement, stick together. When parents present a united front, there's no room for recriminating I-told-you-so's.

Chores

Let's face it-most housework fights come about because one spouse is keeping score. That's a bad idea. The scales of marriage are always in flux, and you're only setting yourselves up for turmoil if you've installed a figurative scoreboard in your relationship. Using the division of labor approach does away with all that.


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/5-biggest-areas-conflict-couples#AcWUjC5Ug0dm1P7u.99

[Apr 13, 2016] Gone Girl

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry Amazon Digital Services LLC
Gone Girl is best watched for two of its two and a half hours.
Notable quotes:
"... The dialogue is snappy and razor-sharp. The acting is awesome, from the main characters all the way down to minor roles. ..."
"... A movie about passion, lies, obsession, the death of love, and living with sociopaths, this is a remarkable movie. It also reinforces my belief that I never ever want to get married ..."
"... Ben Affleck, a capable actor and a fine director, knows what is to be caught in the media's unforgiving line of fire and has earned poor reviews in the past for exuding a certain bordering-on-self-parody, macho-man overconfidence and self-satisfaction, so he is an ideal choice to play the husband, an individual who is either a decent man in over his head or a chiseled sociopath who can barely hide his smile in front of the cameras. ..."
"... My favorite films of his are still Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but this plants its flag close to the top. ..."
"... Tyler Perry plays a jovial, smirky Johnny Cochran-type lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money defending men accused of killing their wives ..."
"... The Gone Girl screenplay had plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. In fairness, it was well acted and it started off well enough, shining a light on the deterioration of a marriage, how the media picks and chooses its heroes and villains for ratings, and just how easy it is to manipulate a public that thinks appearing on The Bachelor will lead to true romance. The send up of Nancy Grace and her ilk alone is worth sitting through. ..."
"... More than that, I perceive it as a condemnation of marriage, romantic relationships, and the (alleged) fakery of them. ..."
"... It is also a blatant commentary on sensational media and public hysteria/groupthink (I.e., "sheeple" and witch hunts). There is also a strange comment on parenting, if you compare nick's mother to his father and Amy's parents. ..."
"... There's another part of the movie, much smaller than what was advertised, which was why I wanted to see the movie in the first place. The role the media plays in these kind of situations. I was led to believe that it was an examination of the subject. It's not. ..."
"... Ben Affleck does a fantastic job playing Nick Dunne, a somewhat employed writer married to the no-so-right-in-the-head Amy (Rosalund Pike). The one thing Amy can do well is mess with your life. She messes with Nick's to the point the world believes Nick has killed her and he has to hire high profile attorney Tanner Bolt, played extremely well by Tyler Perry. ..."
"... Gone Girl is best watched for two of its two and a half hours. ..."
"... Great for 1.5 hours and the rest was trash. ..."
"... Gone Girl is brilliant, for 3/4 of the movie. The rest, of the story falls off the tracks and then struggles to reach the end...struggles, because it pushes the boundaries of weakness of Nick(Affleck). ..."
"... It sparks questions in you as you watch, as to just how well do you know your spouse? How well do they know you? ..."
"... It's a cast of talent with Ben Affleck Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coone, Rosamun Pike, Tyler Perry and others that highlights every angle of this demented story. ..."
"... There were parts that dragged on somewhat. The movie has a longer running time than most. ..."
"... Gone Girl is directed by the same man who brought you Fight Club, Social Network (the Facebook movie), and Se7en. ..."
"... In many instances, the film was making a statement (an unbiased one at that) on everything wrong with modern-day media, law enforcement, marriages, and the image of gender roles in society. Tough stuff! The only complaint I can make about the film is how it is not really all that cinematic and the film's uncertain ending. But then again, the ending can be seen both ways either as a metaphor about reality's way of saying no one is either good or bad or an attack on the senses with a strange turnaround for a particular character. ..."
Amazon.com
Paul Donovan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 12, 2014 Format: Amazon Video
A twisty and twisted new classic Nine Things About the Movie "Gone Girl" (USA, 2014)

1. One of the best movies of 2014, this multi-layered, wickedly brilliant film is a great adaptation of the 2012 novel.

2. It was directed by David Fincher. He collaborated with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross again for the smoothly foreboding soundtrack. Fincher has developed a unique cinematic style, and this movie is a showcase of it.

3. The heart of the movie is a mystery - a wife disappears from her home on the morning of her anniversary. But not only do we not know who did it, we don't even really know what happened.

4. The movie flips back and forth between the husband's perspective and the wife's, slowly unfolding its secrets like a black, poisonous flower.

5. Besides the core mystery, the movie is also a commentary on media hype, along with trial by popularity. Nancy Grace probably wishes she could sue somebody for this movie.

6. Perhaps more chilling than the mystery is the depiction of what has to be the most dysfunctional marriage in cinematic history.

7. The movie is almost 3 hours long, but it doesn't feel like it. The plot is tight - no scene is wasted. The dialogue is snappy and razor-sharp. The acting is awesome, from the main characters all the way down to minor roles.

8. Part of the reason the movie works so well is that the author of the book, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay. It's set in Missouri and feels pretty authentic, probably because the author is from Kansas City.

9. A movie about passion, lies, obsession, the death of love, and living with sociopaths, this is a remarkable movie. It also reinforces my belief that I never ever want to get married. 23 Comments

CMM, December 10, 2014 Format: Blu-ray
Gone Girl is the Complete Package. Gone Girl took the world by storm. And I'm not just talking about the film. The book (I highly recommend this read) by Gillian Flynn quickly became one of the bestselling novels of 2012. Through word of mouth, people left and right were finding out about this tale of a dark and twisted marriage. It was seen almost everywhere, so I was no surprise that the rights would be snatched up (by Reese Witherspoon, nonetheless). And the stage was quickly set for David Fincher to work his dark directing magic.

The story tells of a married couple, Nick and Amy Dunne, on their fifth wedding anniversary. That morning, Amy mysteriously vanishes, leaving behind a rather suspicious trail of evidence.The authorities and the media quickly swoop down on Nick, who seems nice enough, but is oddly evasive and may not be telling the whole truth. As events unfold, you will be left wondering how well you truly know the person you love.

With jaw-dropping performances from Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris, and Patrick Fugit, you will be in for a treat. These actors portray their respective roles with such power and perfection, and I was pleasantly surprised. I think you will be as well. I expect to see award nominations for these players within the coming weeks. If not, I will riot.

Not only is the acting fantastic, but the score paints a beautiful picture as well. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who scored Fincher's last two films--The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) have returned to deliver an astounding and haunting score that perfectly suits the story. Equally peaceful and disturbing, it mirrors the characters' behaviours as their secrets are unveiled.

Gone Girl is the complete package. Creepy, witty, breathtaking, you will finish this movie with your jaw open. I guarantee it. Truly beautiful, Fincher has outdone himself. I recommend purchasing this at your earliest opportunity.

D. H., October 4, 2014 Format: Amazon Video

I have not read the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl. Not out of any particular aversion. I just never found my way around to it. So I entered this film adaptation by premiere stylist and suspense conjurer David Fincher quote-unquote blind beyond a general knowledge of the story involving a suburban Missouri man who becomes a suspect in his wife's mysterious vanishing. And beat by beat, scene by scene, twist by twist, the film blew me away. It is an airtight and atmospheric blend of the hilarious, the macabre, and the romantic. It satisfies first as a crime mystery. With a perverse, yet playful hand, it transforms the essential and inevitable questions of the genre (who is who? who is where? who has done what? who is alive? who is dead?) into delightful webs of opaque morality and disturbing brutality. There are other concerns and components, too, and this joins such films as Sweet Smell of Success and To Die For among the best indictments of media sensationalism and the way it can bastardize humanity. It achieves this via acidic and vivid (and therefore highly enjoyable) illustration of its points rather than didactic condemnation.

The film is buoyed by spot-on casting decisions. In a strange way which pays enormous dividends, many of the stars seem to be chosen based on their undesirable traits. Ben Affleck, a capable actor and a fine director, knows what is to be caught in the media's unforgiving line of fire and has earned poor reviews in the past for exuding a certain bordering-on-self-parody, macho-man overconfidence and self-satisfaction, so he is an ideal choice to play the husband, an individual who is either a decent man in over his head or a chiseled sociopath who can barely hide his smile in front of the cameras.

And the beautiful Rosamund Pike can seem distant on screen, a type of icy English rose to be admired and never touched, and she is therefore ideal as a so-picture-perfect-as-to-be-unknowable wife pushed to unusual and dangerous places. Hers is a particularly alarming and inspired turn (the actress' best since the undervalued Barney's Version), and it would be a shame if she were not recognized by the Academy with her first nomination early next year.

This line of casting thought extends to other plays in the substantial ensemble. Why not, for example, hire Tyler Perry, who has turned himself in a household name with outsize charisma and a self-forged aura of spiritual authority, to play a showboating A-list lawyer? Throughout Gone Girl, the roles fit so very snugly.

And behind the camera, Fincher is in as fine a form as ever. My favorite films of his are still Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but this plants its flag close to the top. His antiseptic, meticulous, and perfectionist shot compositions turn the banal suburban environments into under-lit and malevolence-infused spaces, and every scene (whether overtly suspenseful and violent or of a quieter domestic variety) has an incisive and taut quality. This is a long film at 148 minutes, but never an overweight or ponderous one. It holds viewers' heads and hearts with vice-grip intensity from frame one onward and leaves us (or me, at least) at once amused, energized, and despairing.

David R. Eastwood, March 29, 2015 Format: DVD

THOROUGHLY NASTY, REPULSIVE, & SMARMY ... BUT WITH A VERY CUTE LITTLE ORANGE KITTY

The plot of David Fincher's film GONE GIRL (2014) is one more variation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's old Sherlock Holmes story "The Problem of Thor Bridge." One among many ... and perhaps the nastiest.

As all the blurbs reveal, Ben Affleck plays a husband named Nick Dunne, who is suspected of killing his wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, when she mysteriously disappears under highly suspicious circumstances.

Although the cast is uniformly talented, nearly all of the characters are unlikeable ... and several of them are downright repulsive. Tyler Perry plays a jovial, smirky Johnny Cochran-type lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money defending men accused of killing their wives

... the shark-like, frenzied TV scandal-mongers are totally disgusting ... and the couple who are the parents of Amy (the missing wife) are blood-sucking horrors who have used their daughter for their own financial benefit for years.

Only two of the main characters are "normal" and basically "neutral" in their presentation: Margo Dunne, the sister of Ben Affleck's character, played by Carrie Coon, and Rhonda Boney (!?), the female detective who is in charge of the investigation, played by Kim Dickens. The only wholly likeable character is the little orange cat of Nick and Amy, which only has about 5 minutes of on-screen time.

The solution to Amy Dunne's disappearance gradually comes to light over the next TWO AND A HALF HOURS, and without giving any spoilers here, I will assert that it is a repulsive conclusion to the film.

I viewed the film with a small group of adults (approximately 55 people), and especially during the final 45 minutes some parts of the film caused nearly the whole audience to laugh at the preposterous events and new revelations. The scenes with Neil Patrick Harris seemed to get the highest number of unintended laughs.

In my judgment, this film is quite smarmy and a huge waste of one's time. Not even the sweetness of the little orange cat can compensate for the general nastiness of the characters and their actions.

KTFaye, February 14, 2015 Format: Amazon Video

Like the marriage in the movie, it starts well, then completely falls apart

The Gone Girl screenplay had plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. In fairness, it was well acted and it started off well enough, shining a light on the deterioration of a marriage, how the media picks and chooses its heroes and villains for ratings, and just how easy it is to manipulate a public that thinks appearing on The Bachelor will lead to true romance. The send up of Nancy Grace and her ilk alone is worth sitting through.

But then it all falls apart. I won't spoil it for those who haven't yet seen it, but the complete unraveling of film after the "twist" actually became laughable with such huge gaps in common sense, implausible occurrences, security camera footage that not a single cop decided to look at, and just plain linear storytelling of getting from A to B that it's actually boggling. It wasn't the twist itself, that was actually pretty clever, it was all the lapses that came after.

Even in a work of fiction there logic rules that need to be followed, and therein lies my issue with Gone Girl. It's difficult to elaborate on everything that's wrong with the last third without revealing what happens after the so-called big twist. (Just google Gone Girl plot holes and you'll find plenty of examples). But the film ends with an eye roll instead of a bang. There's suspending disbelief, which I'm happy to do if there is other convincing evidence, and then there's beating disbelief to death with a tire iron--which is what Gone Girl gives you in the end.

I understand that Gillian Flynn translated her book to screen and reworked the whole last third, which is exactly where it all falls apart. Perhaps being a staff writer at Entertainment Weekly for 20 years -- where the emphasis is clearly on get it out fast rather than get it out right -- dulled her logic and skills! Either way, while some Oscar snubs are occasionally puzzling, I'm not in the least surprised that there were none for this screenplay.

Ripley7700 on March 5, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Split on this one...

At the end of this movie, I found myself very confused. Not about the mystery but whether I liked the movie. It wasn't because the characters were so complex or multi-layered that they pushed my perceptions of "good" and "evil." In fact, I found Amy and Nick strangely two-dimensional.

I was so mystified by my mystification that I did a first: I read a bunch of professional reviews to see if that would help me put my finger on it. I was further surprised to see a common theme among them: is this movie misogynist, misandrist, or misanthropic? If it is any of these, I think it is the latter.

More than that, I perceive it as a condemnation of marriage, romantic relationships, and the (alleged) fakery of them. In that vein, I found it spiteful rather than satiric. It is also a blatant commentary on sensational media and public hysteria/groupthink (I.e., "sheeple" and witch hunts). There is also a strange comment on parenting, if you compare nick's mother to his father and Amy's parents. That one was a bit lost on me, and perphaps it is clearer in the book where there is more detail on that (note: I haven't read the book).

At this point, I'm still baffled by my reaction to this movie, and the best way I can rationalize it is that I think this is a solid suspense/murder mystery but I didn't buy the "psychological" part of this psychological thriller.

That part seemed forced to the point that it detracted from the good things. I admit that I liked Basic Instinct more (maybe I'm just getting old and need to rewatch that one).

Some positives: I thought the casting was superb and the directing was also very strong. I thought the actress who played the twin sister was particularly good. On a final note, I found the end rather abrupt. Don't know if this will help people who haven't watched it yet, but maybe this will help validate other viewers who wish they could have "cracked open" their own skulls at the end of this movie.

Buddhasmom, March 4, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Don't see it alone

This movie isn't anything you'd expect. I think that's why my review is mixed. I liked that it was not what you expected, I guess. I think I was irritated at the female character. All of them really, but the wife really annoyed me. It was kind of sick and really twisted. I kept saying to myself, "okay well lets appreciate it for what it is and keep an open mind." That was really difficult. This isn't an easy movie for me to pin down for you. Especially because I don't want to give anything away and to really give you a mental picture, I almost have to give stuff away. I'm going to try to stretch my creative muscle here, though, and give you some kind of perspective.

One half of the picture is the hero and he screws up bad, but the punishment is horrific compared to the crime. I'm not crazy about those type of movies. The kind of movie where the hero just keeps getting hit with new bad stuff. Too much like my life, I guess.

The other half of the movie is a revenge thriller. You want to get behind it, because you kind of think, "well, they deserve it.' But it's not that cut and dry. You want to get behind it but it's hard because the way the revenge is executed is so sick and twisted and over-the-top. It comes so close to the edge of being completely unbelievable and so sick that the sympathy you once held is lost completely. But a part of you still wants the revenge taker to succeed and wants to be on their side, moreover, there are a lot of folks out there that didn't lose their sympathy at all, which says a lot about society in general and ones friends in particular.

There's another part of the movie, much smaller than what was advertised, which was why I wanted to see the movie in the first place. The role the media plays in these kind of situations. I was led to believe that it was an examination of the subject. It's not.

So look, I don't know that I would recommend renting it 100%. I am very much on the fence about this movie. I'm sorry. I would suggest watching it with a bunch of your friends. It's one of those movies that you go to with those friends who like to talk about movies. You'll have so much to talk about so you don't want to see it all alone.

CJs Pirate, December 7, 2015 Format: Amazon Video

Gone Girl is Best Watched for Two of its Two and a Half Hours

Wanna watch a great movie? Quit this one 2/3rds of the way through. Wanna watch something turn from very good to stupid? Watch this all the way.

Ben Affleck does a fantastic job playing Nick Dunne, a somewhat employed writer married to the no-so-right-in-the-head Amy (Rosalund Pike). The one thing Amy can do well is mess with your life. She messes with Nick's to the point the world believes Nick has killed her and he has to hire high profile attorney Tanner Bolt, played extremely well by Tyler Perry.

The acting is quite good, with the exception of Neil Patrick Harris, who just seemed miscast as Amy's high school friend Desi Collins to whom she turns for "help". Here's the part where everything turns weird. Shortly after her time with Desi is the best time to stop the movie and enjoy what had been made. Any further, and I'm not spoiling anything here, the movie hits a wall.

Gone Girl is best watched for two of its two and a half hours.

SpaxyDaxy, January 28, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Rosamund Pike carries it...

I really like David Fincher movies. They always have a lot of action, a little suspense, and a sense of humor. And this one is no different. I was confused by some parts of the movie, and displease with other parts, mainly the ending. It was a book before it was a movie, so that's no ones fault who were involved in the production of the movie. But I can see how in a novel the ending would've been handled in a better way. In a novel there's more character development, so you get to see the motivation behind each decision that a character makes. Any movie you only really see what the director wants you to see, and what the actors are capable of portraying. Ben Affleck was out of his league with that powerhouse of a actress Rosamund Pike. If she doesn't get at least a nomination, the whole system is flawed. Had the movie been handled with a bit more care, it probably would have been one of the greatest movies I've ever seen... that's saying a lot because I really don't like Ben Affleck and he's on screen 80% of the movie. He does add a snarky lightness that's needed in such a heavy movie. It's a solid 3.5 stars. Definitely must see for originality.

Amazon Customer, March 6, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Great for 1.5 hours and the rest was trash.

Ok you want an honest review. Here goes. Well acted, excellent plot...up to a point, then it falls apart. The twists no longer are logical, they are just dark and twisted, taking you on a journey that has lost its way, but determined to land you at the end, an end already prepared. So it gets there, but by the time you get there, you wonder, what happened? That's because you are waiting for it to take a right, on to the road of plausibility. Gone Girl is brilliant, for 3/4 of the movie. The rest, of the story falls off the tracks and then struggles to reach the end...struggles, because it pushes the boundaries of weakness of Nick(Affleck).

So my rating is 3 stars. I walk away feeling like I wasted the last 45 mins on junk. Prior to that, it was fascinating. The high rating is what's wrong with people today...everyone runs in packs and no one, no one dares to be honest, less they are an outcast. Go see it for yourself and then dare to put an honest review here.

TeaRose, March 9, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Review form Book Reader

As someone who has read the book prior to seeing this film, I may have a slightly different take on the movie then others. I found it difficult to decide how many stars it deserved. The first act and most of the second act are well edited from the book. The changes that are made make sense in order to condense a complicated story into a film. But somewhere in 2nd and totally the 3rd act the motivations for the characters gets muddled. The book spends a lot of time letting you read what Nick and Amy are thinking. The movie. though it tries at first, seems to give up on that element. But it is a crucial element in understanding the ending at the very least. Nick is self-centered and deeply flawed in the book. Amy is, a sociopath. The depth of her manipulation, cruelty and insane notion of punishment and justice is not explored near enough in the film. Her crazy and expert manipulation is intense in the book. Nick never really worries what happened to her when she vanishes and hates her. I wish the movie was able to flesh out more of these massive personality flaws. Without this the movie in the end falls flat. However, I don't have a good idea as to how the movie might have done this given the time restrictions.

Julee M on May 16, 2015 Format: Amazon Video | Verified Purchase

Intense, Dark, Cast of Talent...Must See

My husband and I heard so much about this movie. I am very fond of true crime and we both like drama movies. We gave it a go.

It is dark. It is twisted.

A marriage of hope, happiness and on the fifth wedding anniversary it all vanishes. Hope, sorrow, and mystery. Amy Dunne is missing the trail of evidence leads to suspicions of her husband Nick Dunne.

It sparks questions in you as you watch, as to just how well do you know your spouse? How well do they know you?

It's a cast of talent with Ben Affleck Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coone, Rosamun Pike, Tyler Perry and others that highlights every angle of this demented story.

There were parts that dragged on somewhat. The movie has a longer running time than most. My husband wasn't impressed--until the ending. I was sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time saying, "you've got to be kidding!"....it was intense. it was well executed. It was dark. It was great!

Visual Bureau, October 24, 2014 Format: Amazon Video

Although feels like a TV movie, its performances, look into media and the law, and unbiased analysis on a marriage is sharp!

"Did he or not kill his wife? Is this all a set-up? More questions can be unraveled in one of the most surprisingly complex yet straightforward mystery-thrillers of the year. Bear in mind, I was never anticipating to see this film just by chance after some friends brought me.

Gone Girl is directed by the same man who brought you Fight Club, Social Network (the Facebook movie), and Se7en. A purveyor for dark, brooding films, Gone Girl is no stranger to this with a knack for complexity and disturbing emotions channeling through the central performances by Ben Affleck (whose career escalated to much more respectable degrees after State of Play and Argo) and Rosamund Pike (an up-and-coming British actress) playing two conflicted souls frustrated over their relationship only to then, days on end, leave a field of investigation and suspicion into the lives of Affleck's character whether he or not had any part into the disappearance of his wife?

While the premise sounds absurdly ordinary and entirely like something from Lifetime but unlike some of Lifetime's corny products, this film feels more uncertain and depressing in tone and is more graphic in content. However, any comparisons to Lifetime can be set aside with the film's surprisingly self-aware nature and persistent dark humour, which albeit odd for a film of this calibre, works in some ways to break the tension and melodrama.

Using Neil Patrick Harris from "How I Met Your Mother", the model from the Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" music video, and Tyler Perry from the "Madea" films maybe the most bizarre choices for a high-stakes drama but it works in a surreal way.

In many instances, the film was making a statement (an unbiased one at that) on everything wrong with modern-day media, law enforcement, marriages, and the image of gender roles in society. Tough stuff! The only complaint I can make about the film is how it is not really all that cinematic and the film's uncertain ending. But then again, the ending can be seen both ways either as a metaphor about reality's way of saying no one is either good or bad or an attack on the senses with a strange turnaround for a particular character.

Without giving much away, Gone Girl is aimed at the more ambitious viewer and for anyone who likes their Lifetime or Investigation Discovery TV shows with a bit more class, acting skill, and raw spirit. It sure knows how to be pessimistic and insightful without remorse. And the message is relevant and important too with a nice look into how marriage and relationships just aren't a realistic goal in today's society which I wholeheartedly promote."

[Apr 08, 2016] Suspicious Minds

Starring Patrick Bergin, Jayne Heitmeyer, Gary Busey, Alain Zaloum
Notable quotes:
"... On the other hand, Jayne Heitmeyer does a fabulous job as the femme fatale and creates enough suspense for the, as odd as it was, ending. ..."
www.amazon.com

Mr. Math Experton June 28, 2012

Good Film Noir. Patrick Bergin Makes This to Work.

6/12: Suspicious Minds is an enjoyable low-key film noir. I think the whole thing was well done, heightened by the fine performance of Patrick Bergin who is familiar to the audience as the evil guy in Sleeping with the Enemy. In this film Suspicious Minds, he is the good guy, and the mustache of his is what makes it film noir. I like the mystery aspect of it, and the plot is done with intelligence. It's sensible, it works, and it passes for a good thriller. I know that you see Gary Busey on the cover, but really...he is nominal in this one. It's better if he is left off of the cast; his presence serves no purpose.

It's strictly a Patrick Bergin vehicle.

On the other hand, Jayne Heitmeyer does a fabulous job as the femme fatale and creates enough suspense for the, as odd as it was, ending. All in all, Suspicious Minds will do for a 90 minute entertainment of a modern film noir with twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the end. Then, you will be surprised.

[Apr 05, 2016] Kiss Your Fights Good-bye Dr. Loves 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflict and Rekindling Your Relationship Dr. Jamie Turndorf

Just Me, April 9, 2014

Instruction manual for relationships - great for guys

I'm a woman, which means I've read lots of books on relationships. Of all of them, this is the best one for guys. It is written in a straight forward manner that most men would appreciate and the information is truly helpful. It tells you what to DO. Not a touchy-feely book, but it still addresses emotions, because what is a relationship without emotions. But this is not about drowning in emotions, it's about what to do, or not do, to have a happy and contented relationship with little negative drama.

The "program" is straightforward and easy to follow. It has great insight into what causes problems and how to resolve them. It's a nuts & bolts type of book, offering what you need to know, without fluff. Solid.

Much of the book is concerned with the fact that men, especially, tend to enter ANS (autonomic nervous system) arousal when in conflict, and this makes it difficult for them to relate to the other person at that time. This is key, and points the way toward successfully handling conflict. The info on couple types is great -- traditional, separates, independent, or mixed. The coverage of "old scars" is another key to understanding reactions and how to get past the difficulties they cause. One of the keys to solving problems is partial identification, otherwise known as seeing things from the other person's point of view. This is a major stumbling block for many people, and the tactics in this book for getting past this are super. This is especially important because most women want to be understood. Turndorf's coverage of overt fight content vs. the core of the issue offers useful insight.

Toward the end of the book, Turndorf gives a good summary of the book when she says, "Before you bring your problem to your mate, you will need to complete some Self-Work tasks that include identifying the Old Scars that the conflict rekindles; recognizing the Fight Traps you feel like using; draining off the emotional venom; digging up love; preparing your Icebreaker (which announces that a problem exists), your Lead-In (which is a supportive statement), and your Problem Statement; determining whether or not you're dealing with a negotiable issue; and preparing for a full-scale negotiation, if this applies." All of this is covered in the book.

Chapter contents (subheadings):

  1. CH 1 - Understanding the Chemistry of Fighting
  2. CH 2 - The Relationship Battleground: Identifying and Rating Your Conflicts on the Fighting Richter Scale -- Conflict Causes (Affection, Where's the Beef?, Intimacy, Leisure, Jealousy, Household-Chores, Lack-of-Follow-Through, Lack-of-Initiative, Parenting, In-Laws, Friendships, Values, Selfishness or Lack-of-Cooperation, Control, Money, Power-Struggle, You're Shutting Me Out, You Never Listen to Me), Conflict Vs. Fighting, Fight Habituation, Fighting Richter Scale (Stage 1 - The Broken Record, Stage 2 - Withdrawal, Stage 3 - The Bitter End)
  3. CH 3 - The No-Fly (Off the Handle) Zone: Eliminating Fight Traps and Faulty Conflict-Resolution Tactics -- Fight Traps: Counterblaming, Verbal Attacking, Scorekeeping, Winners/Losers, I'm Right You're Wrong, Character Assassination, Globalizing, Kitchen Sinking, Throwing Oil on the Fire, Fighting Dirty, Ancient History, Exploding, Power Plays, One-Upmanship, Recruiting Allies, Guilt Trip, Silent Treatment, Withholding, Silent Sabotage, I Told You So, Sarcasm, Ambusher, Indirect Digs, Nagging Whining & Complaining; Obstacles: Old Scars, Seesaw Effect, Refusal to Negotiate, Manipulation, Problems Due to Couple Types, Yielding, Ostrich Policy, Contending, Lack of Cooperation, Controlling, Competition, Only Wimps Give In, No Team Players, Lack of Creativity
  4. CH 4 - The Battle of the Bulge: Sex Wars -- Anger & Insecurity: The Best Forms of Birth Control, Men as Emotional Providers, Security Vs. Variety, Different Sexual Tastes, Sex War Games, Sec As the Battleground for Nonsexual Issues
  5. CH 5 - Battle Scars: How Childhood Wounds Cause Chronic Relationship Conflict and How to Heal Them -- Repetition (the first clue), Intensity (the second clue), Old Scars Test, Stripping Away the Fight Content, Drawing a Fight Map (1 - Chart the Emotional Course of the Fight, 2 - Recognize the Feelings that You Experienced in Childhood, 3 - Recall a Specific Childhood Memory, 4 - Identify the Type(s) of Treatment You Yearned for from Your Parent(s)), Achieve Your Happy Ending (1 - Know Your Mate's Old Scars, 2 - Discuss Your Old Scars, Types of Old Scars (1 - Please Pay Attention to Me, 2 - Get Off My Back, 3 - Why Can't I Just Play?, 4 - You Don't Care What I Do, 5 - Stop Yelling At / Hitting Me, 6 - Please Stop Yelling At Each Other, 7 - Stop Hitting Each Other, 8 - Stop Touching Me That Way, 9- You Like My Brother / Sister More)
  6. CH 6 - How Your Head Can be Your Own Worst Enemy: Training Your Mind to Fight For (Not Against) You -- Steps: 1 - Hold Your Horses, 2 - Take a Step Back in Time, 3 - Take a Hard Look at Reality, 4 - Check Out Your Suspicion, 5 - Smooth and Ruffled Feathers, Excessive Personalization
  7. CH 7 - The Battle-Ax: How Women can Use Climate Control Techniques to End Relationship Fighting -- Relationship Essential Nutrients for a Man, Relationship Essential Nutrients for a Woman, Eight Basic Cool-down Principles, General Cool-down Techniques, Seeing the World From Your Mate's Point of View
  8. CH 8 - Listening to the Battle Cry: How to Use Your Ears to Resolve Conflicts -- Why is Listening So Necessary?, Listening Blunders, What Causes Listening Blunders?, Listening Blocks: Discomfort Over One's Own Feelings, Listening Skills
  9. CH 9 - On Furlough: Knowing When Not to Negotiate -- Violations of Relationship Laws, Emotional States, Value Conflicts, Beware the Tendency to Negotiate on the Overt Fight Content, Your Emotional Core
  10. CH 10 - The Peace Treaty: How to Negotiate a Contract -- Getting Started, The Problem Statement, Presentation of Your Issue, Switching Battle Gear: Becoming the Discussion Overseer, If All Else Fails Abort Mission, How to Create a Winning Contract.

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