MONEY financial advisers

Why Financial Advisers Should Discuss Their Own Money Problems

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FineCollection—Getty Images

Talking about medical bills, divorces, college funds, and past money mistakes can help an adviser and client connect.

Recently, a prospective client of financial adviser Robert Wyrick Jr. wanted to know exactly how Wyrick handles his own finances.

Wyrick, of MFA Capital Advisors in Houston, wasn’t fazed; he had plenty to say. Seven years after spending more than $1 million for his wife’s costly and ultimately losing battle against ovarian cancer, he still had managed to start his own company and make sure his two kids had enough money for college. He felt confident he could share the bad and the good, so he answered the prospect’s questions, even sharing screenshot of his investments. And Wyrick won the client’s business.

“I say, ‘Why not?'” said Wyrick. “If a person is sitting there with their life savings, and they’re interested in talking with an adviser, everything should be on the table,” he added.

It can be tricky for an adviser to introduce his or her own point of view and experiences into the conversation — after all, the focus needs to remain on the client — but advisers say dropping a veil or two goes a long way to building trust and the client relationship.

The key is making the conversation about the client, and picking up on cues. Some clients may want to know everything, down to the last mutual fund sale, while others may just want to hear that they are understood.

David Edwards, of Heron Financial in New York, lets prospects and clients know that he went through a divorce, and that he has kids in college. He said it helps to establish commonality.

“People feel very vulnerable,” he said. “They are in their underwear. And anything I can do to get into my underwear with them goes such a long way to easing the conversation.”

Of course, it’s easier to share financial successes, such as fully funded college accounts, than it is financial missteps, but Rick Kahler of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., has learned to be open even about those. He often emphasizes to his clients that most millionaires have more financial failures than less wealthy people.

“I tell my clients, ‘My job is to make every mistake I can possibly make, so you don’t have to,'” he said. Kahler, who’s 59 and been in the business over 30 years, said he used to think it would be bad to admit missteps to clients, but he’s changed his mind. “Now I’ve done a 360. It comes with the gray hair.”

Emily Sanders, a managing director at United Capital in Atlanta, has also found that sometimes, sharing a personal story can help a client avoid a misstep.

When she was married to her ex-husband, for example, Sanders contributed less to her 401(k) than her husband did to his, because she of course did not guess the marriage wouldn’t last. When she sees women making the same mistake, she gently refers to her own experience and suggests a more practical course. Relating her own experience makes it a friendly conversation, not a scold, Sanders said.

“It comes down to being a genuine person,” Sanders said. “Even though I’m a financial adviser, I’m not perfect.”

TIME Fatherhood

Mark Sanford’s Oversharing Doesn’t Make Him a Bad Dad

Sure, the S.C. senator wrote a 2300-plus-word breakup post on Facebook that reads like a romance novel--but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to see his kids

Being a hideously tone-deaf oversharer and terrible husband does not necessarily make you a bad father. An embarrassing one, yes, but not a let’s-keep-him-away-from-the-kids one. I’m speaking, of course, of South Carolina Senator Mark Sanford and his latest Facebook rant.

There are so many things wrong with the way the Senator runs his personal affairs. First and foremost, he too often seems lose sight of the “personal” part of that phrase. He justified his 2300-plus-word Facebook post of Sept. 12 by saying he believes he owes the taxpayers of South Carolina an explanation: “In as much as you sign my paycheck and you have elected me to represent you in Washington, I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter.”

This feels a little like a butcher forcing his or her customers to watch him make the sausages, because later they’re going to buy them and eat them. No, really, sir: we’re fine.

The “sausage,” in this case, is that Sanford and his wife, Jenny, with whom he split after falling in love with an Argentinian women, Maria Belén Chapur, are fighting over how much access he has to their four sons. Attorneys are involved, and while Sanford proclaims a huge aversion to the legal profession, he’s decided to lawyer up. (Jenny’s side claims he always had a lawyer.) All of this, one would think, might merit a crisply worded 250 word press release, noting that the Senator, having tried all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with his former wife, has retained legal counsel and blah blah blah et cetera. Nothing to see here; move along.

But no. The public has to endure another in a series of Heartfelt Sanford Outpourings, which–for those who haven’t been following along–so far include the one about how he was not on the Appalachian Trail but with a woman (June 24, 2009), and how Maria Belén, the woman he was with not-on-the-Appalachian-Trail, was his soulmate and how theirs was “a forbidden, tragic love story,” (July 1, 2009).

These communications always seems to come from the Harlequin playbook, full of emotional pleas and heartsore teeth gnashing. “No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” writes the former Love Guv in his latest post on Facebook.

The one difference is that Harlequin novels are blessedly brief. As one wit noted, Sanford’s post contains more words than the Senator has uttered in Congress this year. It’s a small mercy that there is no accompanying video to go with this announcement, as that’s where Senator Soulmate really seems to let his emotions get the better of him.

It’s clear, though, that this post too was written in the heat of the moment and without much forethought. One sentence uses the word “way ” four times. Other phrases in his Facebook tome, with their references to faith, smack of that kid in a church youth group who always used prayer requests as an excuse to gossip about other kids in the youth group who weren’t in the room.

Still other pieces of this confessional quilt have enough lashings of self-pity to make Uriah Heep throw up a little in his mouth. “It seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict,” writes Sanford. Quick, alert the Nobel Committee: Mark Sanford, Peacemaker at a Price.

What transpires is this: Sanford and his wife continue to tussle, legally, over how often he gets to see his sons. He’s accusing her of playing dirty pool–all pretty standard high-conflict divorce shenanigans–and it is stressing him out, people. As a result of this, he’s calling off his engagement to his Argentinian soulmate, whom he has “always loved.” (Not quite enough to let her know in advance of the announcement, though, reports say.)

But while Sanford may be about the most ridiculously inept and cheesy cheating ex of all time, none of it should disqualify him from being able to see his four sons. He says, somewhere in there among all the crazy, that he didn’t get to see one of them for 17 weeks. It’s hard to tell if that’s just the anguish speaking or if it’s true and it’s generally a fool’s errand to try and second guess the family courts. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. But if true, that’s too long. There’s already enough fatherlessness in the land.

Custody battles can be ugly messy businesses and can end up in disaster and tragedy. Posting a public tear on a well-visited social media site about a mean ex-wife is clearly bad for the kids (and avert-your-eyes embarrassing for everyone else), but it does not disqualify someone from being a dad. One definite upside of regular contact with one’s offspring is that they’re not afraid to opine on how irrevocably lame attempts at social media are. Now that is advice which Sanford desperately needs to hear right now. And which we, the public, need him to hear.

TIME Love and Money

Wealthy Kids Are More Affected by Divorce Than Poor Kids

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Getty Images

And study says it's not just because they suddenly have less money

Children of wealthy families that come apart have a bigger spike in behavior problems than children of poor families who experience the same thing. But wealthier children benefit more from being incorporated into stepfamilies than poorer children do. So says a new study in the latest issue of Child Development, which also noted the kids’ age when parents separate plays a key role, with the most vulnerable stage being from 3 to 5 years old.

The study was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the University of Chicago, using a national sample of nearly 4,000 children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Researchers divided the kids into three groups by income and studied the effect of a change in family structure on each group.

“Our findings suggest that family changes affect children’s behavior in higher-income families more than children’s behavior in lower-income families — for better and for worse,” says Rebecca Ryan, assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, the study’s lead author.

Why do children of high-income parents act out more after separation than children from low-income parents? Ryan isn’t sure. “To be honest, our study finds most conclusively that they do act up more, but says less about why that might be.”

But she has some guesses. The first is that dads, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there’s a big dip in household income. Or it could be that the kids have to move to a new neighborhood/school/friend group and the instability takes a toll. Or maybe less-wealthy families don’t take it so hard. “Parental separation is more common among lower-income families,” says Ryan. “Parents and children may perceive family changes as more normative, more predictable, and, thus, less stressful.”

However Ryan says, it’s not just about the money. “Changes in income itself did not seem to explain the increase in behavior problems, which surprised us.” Moreover the changes in behavior were only noticeable if the kids were younger than 5 years old. “We found no effect of parental separation on children ages 6 to 12,” says Ryan.

Another surprise was that wealthier kids older than 6, who were blended into stepfamilies had improvements in their behavior. Ryan and her crew first noticed this when she did a prior study back in 2012, but was still surprised to have those findings confirmed. That study also suggested that parental separation affects kids whose parents were actually married more than those who were cohabiting.

Ryan cautions that the differences between kids whose parents were separated and those who were together was not as strong as the differences among low-, middle- and higher-income families. “These results suggest that many factors other than family structure influence children’s behavior, particularly for children in low-income families. For them, the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to social and emotional well-being.”

She even wades a little into the debate on whether fixing marriage will help fix poverty or whether you need to fix the poverty to have a shot at saving marriage. She’s on the side of the latter. Programs designed to save marriage, she says, will not be as effective as programs that “enhance the quality of the socio-emotional or educational environments in the home.”

TIME Family

Honey Maid Ad Celebrates Families Changed by Divorce

The graham-cracker maker says divorced families are blended but not broken

First it was family diversity, now it’s families affected by divorce. Honey Maid, the graham-cracker maker with the hot-button ads, has a new marketing campaign that sends this message: “Just because a family has broken up doesn’t mean they are broken.”

Last spring, Honey Made released its first installment of the much-discussed “This Is Wholesome” ad campaign that included same-sex and interracial marriages and had right-wing conservative groups complaining. In its new ad, “#NotBroken,” the company celebrates families that have been reconfigured through divorce.

“Of the 73 million American children under the age of 18, 1 in 10 is currently living within a stepfamily environment,” said Gary Osifchin, senior marketing director of biscuits for Mondelez International, which owns Honey Maid.

At a time when 42% of American adults are members of a “blended” family (i.e. have at least one steprelative) according to the Pew Research Center, Honey Maid’s strategy could be a winning one.

“We’ve seen an overwhelming response to the ‘This Is Wholesome” campaign and we feel that it is critical to continue sharing stories and advertising that truly reflects our consumers,” Osifchin said.

The ad has been released in advance of National Stepfamily Day on Sept. 16 and Honey Maid is encouraging people to use the hashtags #NotBroken and #ThisIsWholesome to highlight themes raised in the ad.

TIME Family

There Is No Longer Any Such Thing as a Typical Family

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Fox

It has been displaced by a vast array of different living arrangements, a new study confirms

Pretty much everyone agrees that the era of the nuclear family, with a dad who went to work and the mom who stayed at home, has declined to the point of no return. The big question is: What is replacing it? Now a new study suggests that nothing is — or rather, that a whole grab bag of family arrangements are. More Americans are in families in which both parents work outside the home than in any other sort, but even so, that’s still only about a third.

University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen, the author of The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change, released his new study on Sept 4. He identifies the three biggest changes in family life in the past 50 years as the decline of marriage (in 2010, 45% of households were headed by a married couple, whereas in 1960 it was close to 66%); the rise of the number of women in the paid workforce; and the whole stew of blended, remarried and co-habiting families.

Families headed by single moms‚ whether divorced, widowed or never married, are now almost as numerous as families that have a stay-at-home mom and a breadwinner dad — about 22% and 23%, respectively. There’s been a marked in rise in people living alone and in unrelated people living together.

This is a huge change from the 1960s. “In 1960 you would have had an 80% chance that two children, selected at random, would share the same situation. By 2012, that chance had fallen to just a little more than 50-50,” says Cohen. “It is really impossible to point to a ‘typical’ family.”

To make his point, Cohen has created a chart, with what he calls a “peacock’s tail” of changes from 1960 to now, fanning out from a once dominant category:

Sources: the 1960 US Census and the 2012 American Community Survey, with data from IPUMS.org.

As you can see, about as many children are being taken care of by grandparents as are by single dads. Co-habiting parents, who barely registered in 1960, now look after 7% of kids. Meanwhile married parents who are getting by on just dad’s income are responsible for about a third of the proportion of households they were responsible for in 1960.

And the diversity goes deeper than the chart suggests. “The increasing complexity of families means that even people who appear to fit into one category — for example, married parents — are often carrying with them a history of family diversity such as remarriage, or parenting children with more than one partner,” says Cohen.

All of this is important Cohen notes, because policy is sometimes based on a one-size-fits-all model, which is no longer viable. “Different families have different child-rearing challenges and needs, which means we are no longer well-served by policies that assume most children will be raised by married-couple families, especially ones where the mother stays home throughout the children’s early years,” writes Cohen.

He cites social security as one policy stuck in the past: legal marriage and the earnings of a spouse determine retirement security for so many people. “A more rational pension system for our times would be a universal system not tied to the earnings of other family members,” he says. He also thinks universal preschool is long overdue, now that so many children’s mothers are out working.

And what of same-sex parents? Why aren’t they in Cohen’s chart? Because, although they get a lot of the attention, there simply aren’t enough of them to register yet. According to Cohen fewer than 1% of kids belong in families of this category. Even that figure may not be accurate, he says, because “at least half of the apparently same-sex couples in census data are really the 1-in-1,000 straight couples in which someone mismarked the sex box.”

Gotta love statistics.

MONEY Divorce

Alimony Is Broken — But Let’s Not Fix It

divorcing couple wedding cake
Jeffrey Hamilton—Getty Images

A financial adviser explains what's wrong with alimony now — and why proposals to reform it could make things even worse.

After years of working as a financial adviser to divorced and divorcing clients, I’ve concluded that the institution of alimony is a mess. But some of the proposed fixes for it are even worse.

Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is the legal obligation of a person to provide financial support to his or her spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. Once upon a time, alimony was the right of the wronged spouse in a divorce; now, under no-fault divorce laws available in all 50 states, it as become conditional based on numerous statutory factors and case law.

Here’s where the mess comes in. Most of the time, divorcing spouses aren’t equal, economically speaking; they have different earnings and earnings potential. Family courts have to decide when and how to measure economic inequality following the termination of marriage — and how to rectify it.

But alimony awards are highly discretionary. Unlike the case with child support, there is no general standard or formula for setting the amount and duration of alimony. Cases with similar facts can have wildly different outcomes.

Plus, alimony is one of the most contentious issues that tend to prolong divorce litigation; nearly 80% of divorce cases involve a request for modification of alimony.

Here are two examples I’ve seen first-hand of disparate alimony award obligations.

Exhibit A:

  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith, married for 32 years, divorce at ages 57 and 55, respectively. He’s a lawyer making over $300,000 a year; she has always been a homemaker.
  • Mrs. Smith is awarded lifetime alimony of $110,000 a year.
  • Mr. Smith, taking early retirement at age 62, files to terminate alimony.

Exhibit B:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Jones, married 25 years, divorce at ages 52 and 53, respectively. He’s an investment banker making $1.2 million annually; she, a former sales consultant, has raised the children and stayed home for 20 years.
  • Mrs. Jones is awarded $300,000 alimony for 10 years.
  • Mr. Jones quits his job five years after the divorce to become a schoolteacher, lowering his salary to $50,000. He files to reduce his alimony.

From a distance, the facts were roughly similar. But the outcomes weren’t.

The judge in the Smith case reduced alimony only slightly, and kept it in force for her lifetime. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones’s alimony was cut more than 90%, to $25,000 annually. She ended up having to sell her home, cut lifestyle expenses, and re-enter the workforce.

Many believe that alimony needs to be fixed because of the extraordinary degree of variance among rules of law applied in various decisions. The easy answer to this complicated problem: create uniform standards and formulas for calculating alimony awards. Formulas allow for objective quantification of an outcome, given a set of measurable circumstances — predominantly the length of a marriage.

More and more states are taking a hard look at alimony and are experimenting with adoption of alimony guidelines or a formula for temporary alimony that offers judges a framework for determining permanent awards. A few states have gone further to abolish the need for alimony all together.

But formulas can be too simplistic in their application, placing at risk numerous deviation factors that provide a greater chance of the result fitting the facts of the case. Marriages differ by type, socio-economic status, and too many different and divergent fact patterns. Judges may feel compelled to calculate alimony based on a simple formula using years and percentages, rather than the full merit of a nonworking spouse’s worth.

Proposed new laws are written in gender-neutral terminology and suggest potential for drastic changes, some even retroactively. The effects of new laws will affect substantially women, who represent 97% of the people seeking and requiring alimony.

If alimony duration is predetermined by length of marriage, women who are victims of domestic abuse will face an impossible choice. They will be pressured out of fear of homelessness to stay in an abusive relationship until they meet a target cutoff date for lengthening their support. At the same time, men who want to get out of a marriage cheaply can run to divorce court on the eve of the next cut-off period.

Rather than zealously reform alimony laws, I suggest that alimony has evolved already to mirror many socio-economic developments in institution of marriage and “partnering.” In fact, there are now six variations on alimony, each applicable to a different family situation:

  • Temporary — Ordered when parties separate prior to divorce.
  • Rehabilitative — Given to the lesser-earning spouse for the time necessary to acquire paying work and become self-sufficient.
  • Permanent — Paid to the lesser-earning spouse until the death of the payor or recipient, or upon remarriage of the recipient.
  • Reimbursement — Given as reimbursement for expenses incurred by a spouse during the marriage, such as for education.
  • Durational — Limited in time and not paid for more than the length of the marriage.
  • Lump Sum — A specific, unmodifiable amount paid at once or in installments.

Given the variety of marital relationships, spouses in modern marriages are unlikely to find a single-formula solution to be equitable. Sweeping reforms may not represent progress at all, but a hindrance to fundamental public policy.

We should focus instead on how to encourage equal economic allocations and financial control during marriage. Some financial strategies are to mandate high schools to educate young adults about finances; to require institutions to secure informed consent from all owners for activity in joint financial accounts; to suggest to remarrying couples the use of more prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to allocate and quantify marital economic equality; and to prepare thorough estate plans that provide for trustees and third-party administrators of wealth.

Strengthening the economic partnership in marriage promotes a more predictable and measureable outcome in divorce.

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Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is www.divorcematters.com.

TIME psychology

6 Things to Do to Improve Your Relationship

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Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

In the past I’ve covered the research regarding what you should look for in a marriage partner.

What do studies say about what you can do to improve your relationship?

Excitement

Divorce may have less to do with an increase in conflict and more to do with a decrease in positive feelings. Boredom really can hurt a relationship:

Being bored with the marriage undermines closeness, which in turn reduces satisfaction, Orbuch said.

“It suggests that excitement in relationships facilitates or makes salient closeness, which in turn promotes satisfaction in the long term,” she said.

We spend a lot of time trying to reduce conflict but not enough time experiencing thrills. And the latter may be more important.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.

The research points again and again to how important thrills are:

  • Think a pleasant evening is all it takes? Researchers did a 10 week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

So do something exciting. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple.

Let Yourself Be A Little Deluded With Love

Being a little deluded helps marriages:

…people who were unrealistically idealistic about their partners when they got married were more satisfied with their marriage three years later than less idealistic people.

And it’s not just true for marriages:

…relationship illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love, and trust, and less conflict and ambivalence in both dating and marital relationships. A longitudinal follow-up of the dating sample revealed that relationships were more likely to persist the stronger individuals’ initial illusions.

5 to 1

Keep that ratio in mind. You need five good things for every bad thing in order to keep a happy relationship:

A 2.9: 1 means you are headed for a divorce. You need a 5: 1 ratio to predict a strong and loving marriage— five positive statements for every critical statement you make of your spouse.

And when you’re dealing with your mother-in-law the ratio is 1000 to 1. I’m not kidding.

Be Conscientious

Conscientiousness is the trait most associated with marital satisfaction:

…our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.

Actually, you can kill a lot of birds with this one stone because it’s also associated with longevity, income, job satisfaction and health.

Gratitude

Gratitude can be a booster shot for a relationship:

…gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.

It can even create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop:

Thus, the authors’ findings add credence to their model, in that gratitude contributes to a reciprocal process of relationship maintenance, whereby each partner’s maintenance behaviors, perceptions of responsiveness, and feelings of gratitude feed back on and influence the other’s behaviors, perceptions, and feelings.

Try

Sounds silly but it’s true. Want a better relationship? Try.

Sounds ridiculous but:

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Related posts:

The Science Of “Happily Ever After”: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive

What are the four things that kill relationships?

What are the 5 things that make love last?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Ask the Expert

When Parents Can Say No to Picking Up the Tab for Insurance

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q. My ex-husband has been responsible for providing health insurance for our kids until the age of majority. My sons are now 21 and almost 18. My ex has family coverage for himself and his new wife, but he wants me to put the kids on my insurance now that they have reached the age of majority. Covering the kids doesn’t cost him anything extra, but for me to switch from a single plan to a family plan is an extra $175 a month and I can’t afford it. Since the age of majority for health insurance is now 26, is it possible he still is required to keep them on his insurance?

A. No, he’s not obligated to keep them on his health plan. Under the health law, insurers must offer to cover young adults up to age 26, but parents aren’t obligated to provide it, says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert on the health law.

Further, the requirement to offer coverage isn’t related to the age of majority, which is defined by individual states and is generally between 18 and 21, says Randy Kessler, an Atlanta divorce lawyer and past chair of the American Bar Association’s family law section.

The health insurance coverage arrangement that you describe is pretty typical, says Kessler. You could go back to court and try to get your child-support payments increased to cover the cost of providing health insurance for the kids, but “it would be unusual for the courts to be helpful,” says Kessler. Absent some significant change in your or your ex-husband’s finances, or unforeseen and costly medical expenses for your children, in general “you can’t have another bite at the apple.”

With no legal requirement to compel either of you to cover your kids, it’s something the two of you will just have to work out, says Kessler. In addition to covering your children on your own or your ex’s plan, it’s also worth exploring whether they might qualify for subsidized coverage on the state marketplaces or for Medicaid, if your state has expanded coverage to childless adults. If they’re in college, student health coverage is worth investigating as well.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

TIME Infidelity

Cheaters’ Dating Site Ashley Madison Spied on Its Users

Erin Patrice O'Brien—Getty Images

A service for people seeking affairs secretly analyzed its members' conversations

In a study to be presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco on Saturday Aug. 16, Eric Anderson, a professor at the University of Winchester in England claims that women who seek extra-marital affairs usually still love their husbands and are cheating instead of divorcing, because they need more passion. “It is very clear that our model of having sex and love with just one other person for life has failed— and it has failed massively,” says Anderson.

How does he know this? Because he spied on the conversations women were having on Ashley Madison, a website created for the purpose of having an affair. Professor Anderson, who as it turns out is a the “chief science officer” at Ashley Madison, looked at more than 4,000 conversations that 100 women were having with potential paramours. “I monitored their conversation with men on the website, without their knowing that I was monitoring and analyzing their conversations,” he says. “The men did not know either.”

Now, let’s put aside for one second that it’s mighty convenient for a guy paid by a website that promotes cheating among married people to publish a study that finds that cheating probably doesn’t hurt marriages. Let’s put aside too, as a probable clerical error, that the study’s press release calls Anderson a professor of masculinity, sexuality, and sport, but the University of Winchester website lists him merely as Professor of Sports Studies, and that seven of his 10 books are about sports and only one is about relationships.

And while we’re putting things aside, let’s also overlook the fact that in seeking to find out how women feel about their marriages, he drew his subjects entirely from a website that women visit specifically to cheat. And from conversations among people who were seeking to be anonymous and who had ample reason to be less than candid. Almost by definition, any user of Ashley Madison is lying to someone: either her husband, which draws her honesty into question, and/or other users of Ashley Madison, which makes the data highly suspect. Or she has an open marriage, in which case she is not a good subject for a study on cheating.

When asked how he adjusts his figures for this selection bias, Anderson’s answer is simple. “I don’t,” he says. “Most of our knowledge of women who cheat comes from another population via selection bias, those in counselors’ offices. My method is the best way we can do this. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have.” That’s a lot of caveats for a guy who also says he wants the study “to help unravel the stranglehold that our culture has on sex and love.”

Even if we overlook that whole pile of problems, or get around it somehow since it’s a little large to look over, then we still have the basic problem with this study that this guy spied on Ashley Madison users to get his data. He covertly monitored the conversations of people who had come to the website in order to ensure their privacy.

Anderson’s data “included profile information that the women supplied when they signed up for the site (information not made available to other Ashley Madison users)” he writes in the study, as well as information other users could see. “We also acquired all private message conversations that [users] had with men on the website for one month.” Were the users aware that every intimate thing they said in the course of finding an affair partner might be made available to Professors of Sports Studies? Well, sort of. Back when they registered for the site, it was in the terms and conditions. Because everybody reads the user agreement carefully, of course.

Anderson, who likes to use the term “monoganism,” as if mutually agreed fidelity were a cult of some sort, maintains that one of the reasons monogamy is becoming such an imposition on modern couples is a condition he calls “relative sexual deprivation.” His theory is that people feel sexually deprived because thanks to the internet, everybody’s aware that there are many more opportunities to get some nooky that monogamous couples have to let slide. “Individuals evaluate their own standing by comparing their current position with those who have more,” he writes. “Women may therefore look at their monogamous relationships and consider themselves sexually deprived in comparison to what they see occurring in today’s sexualized culture.”

To recap: women want to cheat, not because they don’t love their spouses, but because the internet makes them feel like they’re not getting enough sex and also gives them so many more opportunities to cheat. Places, like, say, Ashley Madison. Which is totally the place you should go, apparently, if you both love your husband and wish to be spied on.

 

TIME Crazy In Love

We All Secretly Hope Jay and Bey Get Divorced

Beyoncé & Jay Z
Beyoncé &= Jay Z Frank Micelotta—Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

Call it crazy, but no longer in love—just like the typical married American

On Wednesday night, Jay Z and Beyoncé, who are so private, they refused to tell us why Jay Z was kicked repeatedly in an elevator by Beyoncé’s sister Solange—even though we really wanted to know, even though the pain of not knowing never subsides—once again showed movies of their daughter on a Jumbotron. If putting babies on Jumbotrons were a press release, by the way, it would read, “Please leave us alone. Our private lives are sacred. And also please enjoy these images of our daughter on a Jumbotron.”

Displaying one’s infant child on a Jumbotron seems like a strange reaction to being in the spotlight, rather like a homeopathic remedy given in unsuitably large quantities. My immediate thought, probably not original, was that they were trying to use the child as a sort of decoy: Look at the thing we wrought when we made mad, passionate pro-creative love, and of course we are still in love, because people with children who used to be really in love never fall out of it and get divorced. Gosh, here I am like every other Tom, Dick and Perez Hilton, analyzing Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marriage like I know what’s going on. I’m not a mind reader. I’m not one of the 300 or 400 people who, if imminent divorce is actually a secret, are being paid to manage it full time, while simultaneously ensuring that it is not a secret.

Sure, I could shut up about stuff I know nothing about, but how can one resist the new national pastime? And how can one deny they want the guessing game to be our national pastime? Seriously, if you’re not trying to figure out what it meant when Beyoncé changed the words in “Resentment” from “Been ridin’ with you for six years now” to “Been ridin’ with you for 12 years now,” or whether it’s really true that Beyoncé has been shopping around for her own apartment in New York City, or whether their distance on stage means that they’re splitting up or that they’re just plain sick of being paid millions of dollars to sing and dance, can you really call yourself an American?

The day after the news broke that Jay and Bey were having problems and were going to break up as soon as their tour ended, Twitter buzzed with pre-breakup anxiety-meltdown tweets, like (I’m paraphrasing), “No, I love Beyoncé and Jay Z they are too perfect don’t let it be true #distraught,” and, “Maybe Bey and Jay-Z are just going through a rough patch #fingerscrossed,” and, my favorite, “If Bey and Jay can’t make it, please tell me who can #sad #breakups #why.” They persist. Yeah, there’s the odd person who is like, “Hey, me and Beyoncé are going to be single moms together #cool.” But mostly not.

However, it seems abundantly clear that if two pop stars who have turned themselves into global brands can’t spend the rest of their lives together in wedded bliss in a nation where about half of all marriages end in divorce anyway, then there is no hope for anyone. And just because there are a few individuals out there who are upset for 45 seconds that Jay and Bey might indeed split up (I am going to go out on a limb and guess that none of these people are named Solange Knowles), most people are delighted.

Sorry for yet more unproven, random Jay-Bey theories, but I know this. How? Because I am a human being, and if I know one thing about human beings, it is that the only thing they love more than french fries, Law & Order: SVU and sleeping is when rich, hot people’s lives are revealed to secretly suck.

I additionally know this because when I went to Google “How many marriages end in divorce?,” I only got to “How many marriages” before Google kindly guessed the end of my question: “are sexless?” So. There are six 15-year-olds out there who don’t want Beyoncé and Jay Z to break up. Everyone else in America has circled Sept. 13, the final night of Jay and Bey’s On the Run tour, on their calendar in red. Between now and then, they will wake every morning at dawn, kneel by their bed and mutter, “God, please let those people who forced us to watch that “Partition” video in which they acted like being together for 11 years was so hot be so frickin’ over each other, because they so frickin’ deserve it.”

On second thought, maybe the Jumbotron was an act of generosity—Jay Z and Beyoncé’s way of saying, We live in a disgusting, exploitative and fame-obsessed world, and please allow us to signify the moment where this particular situation jumped the shark. Ten years from now, perhaps, Tavi Gevinson, interviewing Beyoncé for the last magazine in existence, will turn off her iPhone 18’s recording device, rest her vintage Mont Blanc pen pensively against her lip, lean across a marble table in a hotel bar and whisper, “Tell me, Beyoncé. Was the great Blue Ivy Jumbotronning of 2014 in fact rooted in a sort of meta, post-Warhol sensibility?” And Beyoncé will perhaps reply, “Oh, Tavi. I thought you’d never ask.”

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

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