TIME psychology

6 Things to Do to Improve Your Relationship

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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

Brad and Angelina Getting Married Is a Slap in the Face to Gay Americans

Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie attend the Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict at ExCel on June 13, 2014 in London, England. Danny Martindale—FilmMagic

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married last weekend at their magical fairy castle in France. Mazel tov! I would hate to deny anyone their happiness and tell them they can’t get married when they’re in love. Oh wait, except that is exactly what the federal government tells countless gay couples every day by refusing to recognize their rights to get married. Angie and Brad spoke out in support of gay marriage many times and even vowed they wouldn’t say their marriage vows until everyone could. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt, not everyone can get married, so how good is your promise?

Back in a 2006 Esquire article, Brad said that he and Angie “will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” I can’t tell you how much this meant to gays and lesbians all over the country. They were two of the first celebrities to draw attention to the fight for marriage equality and did it before marriage was legal in states like New York, Connecticut, Iowa, California and a growing number every year. This brought international attention to the cause and showed that they were principled people who were willing to put their beliefs before their convenience.

Now they got married in France and it just all seems like a ruse. Maybe they just meant that they would get married somewhere, like France, where marriage is legal for all couples and has been since 2013? It’s like their trans-Atlantic knot tying is some sort of logistical and semantic alley-oop around the vow that they already took to the gay community. “Oh, well, if we do it in France maybe the gays won’t notice.” Sadly, when it comes to same-sex marriage, what happens in France stays in France. In fact, if I went to France and married a Frenchman (let’s call him Pierre), it wouldn’t even be recognized in a majority of states in this great nation of ours. That shows you how good getting married in France is. (Remember when we were changing “French” to “freedom?” Not when it comes to same-sex marriage!)

Still it seems like what Brad and Angie said the first time around doesn’t matter to them at all. It’s as if they didn’t want to get married in 2006 and said, “What if we say it’s because gay people can’t get married? Then people will stop bothering us about getting hitched and we’ll look so noble.” Now that they’ve had their ceremony and the wedding cake is in the freezer, it looks like their declaration was mercenary rather than thoughtful. In 2012, shortly before their engagement became national news, Pitt told The Hollywood Reporter, “We made this declaration some time ago that we weren’t going to do it till everyone can. But I don’t think we’ll be able to hold out.” They even knew they were breaking their word but didn’t seem to care anymore.

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard. The couple says that their legal union means a lot to the children and that’s why they did it. What about teaching their children about standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s tough and unpopular? What if one of their children grows up to be gay and still can’t get legally hitched? What about all the gay and lesbian couples out there they inspired? What about all the straight mothers and fathers and siblings they enlisted to fight for marriage equality with their once-selfless act? What about the other celebs like Charlize Theron and Kristen Bell who have taken a similar pledge? Well, they don’t have to stick by their word either anymore. In 2013, a year after Brad and Angelina announced their engagement, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard got hitched too. Now that the biggest celebrities in the Hollywood firmament aren’t keeping their pledge, looks like no one else has to either.

I’m sure their choice to walk down the aisle was a difficult decision that required plenty of discussion, but, to the masses not able to penetrate their very closed doors, it appears as though the couple suddenly thought, “Hey, what they heck, let’s get married.” Well, there are still millions of people who don’t even have that option. What are they supposed to do? Are their rights not worth fighting for anymore? Apparently not. Gay Americans won’t have full equality until we can get married on a whim too, like a drunk Britney Spears in Las Vegas.

Maybe they thought that we’ve come far enough in our fight for marriage equality that they don’t need to be spokespeople anymore. After all, gay marriage is legal in 19 states in the country and the constitutional bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down in Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin,and Indiana. Heck, the Supreme Court even said the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It’s only a matter of time before Neil Patrick Harris and his partner will have the same status as Angelina and Brad from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. And when that day comes, we’ll remember who stood with us not just when it was convenient or trendy, but for the entire fight to secure full marriage rights for all Americans.

Now, I recognize that with these two we’re talking about a couple of literal good-doers. Brangelina has always put their money where their beautiful mouths are, even donating $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, the California law that blocked gay marriage in the state. If they’re going to break their pledge and get married, the least they can do is make a sizable donation to the cause. What do you get the couple that literally has everything, including a chateau in France where they can get married anytime they feel like? Better yet, take the $529 million that the tabloids are sure to offer for exclusive wedding pictures and donate that to help fight for gay marriage. Leading by example is what gay and lesbian Americans really need, but since they’ve failed at that, we’ll at least take their money.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications. His boyfriend does not want to get married…yet.

TIME psychology

These 4 Things Kill Relationships

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John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce.

He was featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides.

His book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is excellent and rich with information.

In it he debunks a lot of myths about marriage, explains why marriages go bad and what can be done about it.

The Four Horsemen

How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are ” The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

  • Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
  • Contempt“…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
  • Defensiveness“…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
  • Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.

What was the biggest insight about marriage?

What surprised me the most? Gottman’s research reveals that major differences of opinion don’t destroy marriages, it’s how a couple deals with them.

69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

How do good marriages deal with issues that can’t be resolved? They accept one another as-is:

These couples intuitively understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his bookAfter the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.

What makes a marriage flourish?

The book is loaded with powerful information, anecdotes and advice. I’ll cover three useful elements here.

1) Really knowing each other is vital:

…emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world… these couples have made plenty of cognitive room for their marriage. They remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change.

2) When fighting, do your best to avoid using the word you and try to use the word I. This makes it much easier to express feelings and much harder to attack the other person.

3) What’s the most powerful little exercise to improve a marriage? “Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.” The goal is to bleed off stress from the day so it can’t negatively affect your relationship.

A few other interesting bits:

  • “…an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35% and even shorten your life by an average of four years.”
  • “96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen minute interaction…”
  • “I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help.”

There’s too much information in the book for me to really do it justice here.

If the subject is of interest to you, check it out: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

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Related posts:

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

What are the 5 things that make love last?

What should you look for in a marriage partner?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Egypt

Egyptian Preacher Says Men Can Peep on Future Wives in the Shower

Peeping "is acceptable as long as your intentions are pure," the cleric said

An Egyptian preacher is getting blowback this week after he said a man should be allowed to peep on his future wife “while she is showering” before they are married.

“If you were really honest and wanted to marry that woman, and you were able to hide and watch her in secret, see the things that she wouldn’t usually let you see before marrying her, then it is acceptable as long as your intentions are pure,” Salamist preacher Usama al-Qawsi said in a video posted on Al Arabiya.

“One of the Prophet’s companions did that. Some disapproved and told him: ‘How do you do that when you’re one of the Prophet’s companions?’ The Prophet answered: ‘If you can see something that would make you want to marry her then go ahead and do it,’” he said, according to the Al Arabiya translation.

This fatwah (religious edict) goes against other Islamic traditions that prohibit women from showing their bodies to males other than their husbands and close family members. Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Mohammad Mukhtar rejected al-Qawsi’s fatwah, saying “where is the glory and masculinity in watching a woman shower?”

“Islam preaches that modesty should be in our nature and all religions concur,” Mukhtar said.

[Al-Arabiya]

 

TIME Sex

Don’t Be Afraid of Housework, Guys. It Won’t Lead to Less Sex

That’s what the latest research shows, calling into question earlier work that suggested that more equal roles in the home contributed to less fun in bed

Housework can be a downer, but when husbands pitch in to cook, clean and keep the abode tidy, it could also put a damper on their sex lives. So said researchers from the University of Washington in 2013. If husbands left the meals and toilet cleaning to their wives, they had sex nearly twice as much as husbands who performed these chores.

But Daniel Carlson, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University, and his colleagues say that study used data from the 1980s and 1990s, before more egalitarian roles in both in and outside of the home became the norm. Plus, other work suggested the opposite, and hinted that women often used sex as a reward for their husbands who performed chores, leading to more sex among men who picked up the laundry detergent. So he and his team looked at more recent data involving 487 couples enrolled in the 2006 Marital and Relationship Survey to see if housework continued to have a chilling effect on sex.

To a certain extent, it did. Among couples where men shouldered most of the daily household chores, the sex was less frequent and less satisfactory, just as the 2013 study found. But in Carlson’s study, couples who shared housework more equally also reported having a healthy and happy sex life, as did couples in which women di most of the cooking and cleaning. “Where previous research said egalitarianism was the problem, and that couples with a more traditional division of labor seemed to be doing better, our study shows that egalitarian couples have in some respects caught up,” says Carlson. “Both [groups] are leading sex lives that are satisfying.”

The reason, he says, may have to do with the broader effect that sharing responsibilities have on a relationship. Couples who feel they are sharing the duties of raising a family and managing a household are more likely to be happy in their relationship, and that leads to more affection.

MORE: Chore Wars: How the Division of Domestic Duties Really Affects a Couple’s Sex Life

The results, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, won’t likely be the last word on understanding how gender roles within relationships affect sexual attraction, not to mention the strength of the bond between couples. But the research does hint that as evolved as we like to think we are about how equal men and women are when it comes to raising a family and running a household, we still have a ways to go before doing the dishes and scrubbing toilets are truly gender-blind tasks.

While more couples are accepting of situations when the husband and wife share in these duties, among couples in which the husband is bearing most of the burden of managing the home, social and cultural hurdles still exist. “When couples end up in an arrangement where the male is doing the majority of the housework, it’s not something that the couples tend to choose,” says Carlson. “They end up in the arrangements due to unforeseen circumstances such as the male partner losing his job, or the female getting a big raise that makes her the primary bread winner.” While these couples are relatively rare, making up only 5% of the study population, they may represent the final barrier to making housework not just a woman’s job.

MORE: Why Husbands Who Share Household Chores Miss Out on Sex

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.

TIME Marriage

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin Get Marriage License

Omega Le Jardin Secret
Actor George Clooney arrives for the red carpet of Omega Le Jardin Secret dinner party on May 16, 2014 in Shanghai, China. Feng Li—Getty Images

The couple will likely wed in Italy

All signs point to an impending wedding for George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin: the couple have secured their marriage license in London where Alamuddin, a human rights attorney, is based.

A public notice announcing the nuptials was posted outside Chelsea Old Town Hall, as per U.K. law. The bulletin stated that the wedding would take place in Italy, People reports. The Oscar winning actor also owns a villa in Italy on Lake Como.

Clooney, 53, asked Alamuddin, 36, to marry him in April. “I’m marrying up,” he said of his fiancée in an interview with Variety.

[People]

TIME Opinion

Stop Telling Women Their Most Valuable Asset Is Their Youth

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MmeEmil—Getty Images/Vetta

Why, in an era when we are succeeding in so many ways, do we buy into sexist tropes about aging?

Last week, I wrote a column about​ millennials and​ beta-marriages: ​young people, like me, who want to beta-test their relationships before they commit to “forever” — by way of temporary marriage contracts. It led to an interesting response,​ in particular,​ from a five-times married, ​71-year-old ​television host who posts semi-nude selfies on the internet.

Appearing on FOX to discuss the piece, Geraldo Rivera noted, to stunned female hosts, that what a woman brings to a marriage “more than anything else” is “her youth.”

Her youth?

Yes, “her youth,​” ​Geraldo continued. Because a woman’s youth, he explained, “is a fragile and diminishing resource.”

Geraldo’s logic went like this: If a woman were to invest two precious years into ​a beta-marriage, and then, God forbid, have her man reject her (his words, not mine), she’ll have wasted her most valuable asset. The thing that is, obviously, going to determine not just whether a woman will have a family, but whether she’ll have a husband, and live happily ever after, at all.

I spent all week trying to ignore that comment. Honestly, who gives a ​sh-t about Geraldo Rivera? And yet I couldn’t get it out of my head. Like the ticking of that clock, I kept hearing it, reading about it, stumbling on it everywhere I turned: Your youth. Your youth. Your youth.

Women have been hearing this argument since the dawn of time. And since the dawn of time, part of it has been true (youth means fertility). But Geraldo’s sin was not simply that what he said was impolitic. It’s that he put bluntly one of the most insidious and persistent smears: that women come with an expiration date.

​It’s a concept that is still pounded into us at every turn, from media to pop culture–and not just by septuagenarian TV personalities. It is there, almost tauntingly, in a recent article in Esquire, which seemed to bask in its own generosity by proclaiming that a woman could still be hot at 42–as if that were a reason to reconsider their value. It’s there in the endless media blitz by Susan Patton, the “Princeton Mom,” who’s managed to create a “mini empire,“as Salon recently put it, from “one crazy op-ed” about how women need to hurry up and find a man.

I’m 32 (though I’m always tempted to shave a year or two from that number). I’m surrounded by other unmarried women in their 30s ​who are ambitious, career-driven, attractive.Intellectually, we know that the longer we wait to ​settle down, the more likely our relationships will be successful. (We’ve read the studies.) And we know that when we do decide to tie the knot, we’re going to bring a whole lot ​of benefits to ​the relationships – things like ​advanced ​education and ​money-earning​ potential​ — ​that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago.

​We also know we’re going to do all of this while slathering our faces with anti-aging cream. Pricking our smile-lines with Botox. Lying about our ages.​ ​And cleaning up after everyone in the house (even ​breadwinning wives still do the majority of chores).​ And on some strange level, we’ve accepted it.

The thing is, reality no longer conforms to those old tropes. Women now get the majority of college degrees. We have careers. We are living longer than ever. We can freeze our eggs to buy us biological time.

And yet our conception of what makes a woman desirable and valuable in society hasn’t caught up. From every angle, we continue to hear that we need to “rush.” That we should make it easier and more comfortable for the men around us. That our youth — not necessarily even our fertility — is our most valuable asset.

And as if that wasn’t already our worst fear, we have people like Geraldo hammering that home.

On Tuesday, while this story went viral, my 33-year-old friend was having her eggs frozen, then tearfully coming over to my house, bloated and emotional, worried she hadn’t bought herself enough time.

On Wednesday, I had a half-hour conversation with another friend, about how many years she was allowed to shave off of an online dating profile​ — because, she feared, nobody would want to date a woman over 30.

On Thursday, I cried to my therapist, about the clock that was ticking in my head. “​But is it really even your clock?” she asked. “Or is it just the pressure you feel from everybody else?”

The youthfulness we’re chasing is not about biology, and it’s not solvable by science. It’s a cultural message. And we need to stop listening to it.

So thanks for the reminder, Geraldo — but I’d rather not listen. Here’s hoping that the fifth time’s the charm.

If not, there’s always the beta-marriage.

 

MONEY Careers

How to Change Your Name Without Hurting Your Career

"Just Married" car
What to do if you're driving away with a new last name. Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Kim K. is now Mrs. West, she says. For the not-so-famous, though, adopting your spouse's name can create confusion in your professional life. Follow these eight strategies to keep your career running smoothly under your new handle.

When you accept the proposal, do you also take the name? Kim Kardashian, or should we say Mrs. West, has. The celebrity revealed her legal name change on Tuesday when she shared a new passport photo on Instagram.

That kind of change can be a bold career move when your name is your livelihood. The same is true for any bride switching names after exchanging vows, though on a much, much smaller scale.

Altering your professional identity can pose a problem if you’re established in your career and have built a reputation around your name—something that’s more likely as couples marry at a later age. Last year the median age at first marriage was 29 for men, and 26.6 for women, the Census Bureau reports. Plus, those with bachelor’s degrees—and therefore better career prospects—are more likely to wed than less educated Americans are, according to the Pew Research Center.

If you plan on adopting a new moniker in both your personal and professional lives, follow these simple steps to make the transition less disruptive at the office.

1. Hedge Your Bets

Think about how costly it would be to cut off your connection to the body of work or marketing that’s tied to your maiden name. If that worries you, opt for a more moderate approach. “The easy out is to keep your maiden name at work and in professional contexts, but use your spouse’s last name socially,” says Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs.com, a site that helps women change their legal name.

Another compromise is to use both surnames, either by making your maiden name your middle name, using both last names, or creating a hyphenated last name. Kim took this approach initially. Shortly after exchanging vows with Kayne, she changed the name on her social media accounts to Kim Kardashian West. And just as Kim has done, you can use both surnames for a brief transition period to help people get used to your new identity before dropping your maiden name.

2. Get Help From Your Company

If you plan on making a complete switch, reach out for advice. “You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. You’re not the only who has gotten married or changed your name,” says Michelle Friedman, a career coach who specializes in women’s career advancement.

A good first move is to check in with your HR department, which may have policies in place outlining exactly what changes you need to make to your beneficiary designations, insurance benefits, company email and directory listing, and tax and Social Security forms. Aside from offering help with name-change paperwork, HR may be able to offer advice about managing contacts, as well as insights into how others in your industry have handled the change successfully (ask co-workers too).

3. Don’t Make It a Surprise

Give co-workers and clients ample notice about your name change to avoid confusion, especially if contact info such as your email address will be updated. Sandra Green, a U.K.-based executive coach, recommends reaching out a week to ten days before the wedding.

One easy way: Put a small note in your email signature in advance, says Julie Cohen, a Philadelphia career and personal coach. It’s an unobtrusive reminder and a good way to get people familiar with the change.

Not everyone in your email contact list needs to know. Run through your list of clients and sort them into groups based on the closeness of your working relationship. Some you’ll just need to include in a quick email blast, while others you should talk to directly.

“Obviously you don’t want to get on the phone with everyone, but in certain important client relationships this may be good to do,” says Friedman.

4. Stay on Top of the Technology

After you’ve made the switch, set up forwarding on your previous email account, or write an automatic reply that includes your new contact info. This way you don’t miss any important messages, and people have a longer grace period to update their contact info and adjust to your new name.

5. Go Back in History

Give former employers and references a heads-up about this change as well. This way if you’re applying for a new job, your background check will go smoothly, and you won’t run the risk of having people mistakenly deny that you worked for their company.

6. Use This as an Excuse to Network

Send an email to everyone in your work circle. “Whenever someone changes jobs or retires, they send these emails about good news,” says Cohen. “Do the same with this.”

This also gives you a perfect excuse to remind your network what you’re up to. “You always want to remain in contact,” says Friedman. “But sometimes it’s hard to think of a natural reason for reaching out. This gives you a celebratory excuse.”

You could even send this blast twice, says Green. First a few days before the wedding and again after you return from your honeymoon, when the change is in place.

7. Make Yourself Easy to Find

Think about how people locate you and your business. Is it through search, a review website, social media, or all of them? Update all your bios.

When you add your new name on sites like LinkedIn, keep a vestige of your old name. That can help people find you during the transition period. “Include your maiden name on social,” says Cohen. “If people are finding you by search it will serve you best to keep connected to both names.”

If you had a more common name or are making the switch to a more popular surname, adds Tate, having both names online could even help you come up higher in search results.

8. Update Your Memberships

To further help your new name show up high in search results and build up credibility for your new moniker, Friedman recommends having any professional organizations, alumni associations, company or community boards, or other groups you belong to change your name on their membership roles.

If you hold a leadership position or are listed elsewhere on an association website, perhaps for winning an award, request that the name change appear throughout. Ask to have any older content that can easily be altered, such as a post listing you as a guest speaker at a conference, updated too.

Of course, should things not end up “happily ever after,” you can follow the same steps to smoothly insert your maiden name back into your career.

 

 

TIME Family

When Couples Fight, It Affects Fathers More

Markus Haefke—Getty Images

Husbands and fathers, take note

Men, it is frequently said, are very good at compartmentalizing—usually when they’ve done something wrong. But new research suggests women can compartmentalize too, especially around family.

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology looked at the effect marital squabbling had on parents’ relationships with kids. The researchers found, not surprisingly, that when a couple fights, that spills over to the relationship each parent has with his or her offspring. But, interestingly, this effect does not last very long for moms.

By the next day, most mother-child relationships were back on an even keel, while the fathers still reported things were tense. “In fact, in that situation, moms appeared to compensate for their marital tension,” said the study’s lead author, assistant psychology professor at Southern Methodist University Chrystyna D. Kouros. “Poor marital quality actually predicted an improvement in the relationship between the mom and the child.”

Are the moms compensating for their lousy relationship with dad by looking for human bonds elsewhere? Are they making a pre-emptive strike, even subconsciously, in case there’s a custody battle? Do they not care so much about fights with their spouses? Or do they just need someone to talk to? Kouros says it’s not clear why the women are more able to isolate the relationship with their kids from the tension they feel toward their spouse, but there are several theories.

It could be that because women’s parenting role is more clearly defined, they don’t allow their marital woes to negatively affect other relationships in the family. Or it could be that the women are compensating and seeking support from their kids that they would normally get from their husband. “If the first theory is true, then the fact that moms don’t show the same “spillover” between their marital relationship and relationship with their child is a good thing, ” says Kouros. “However, if the second theory is true, then leaning on your child for support is not a good thing for the long-term.” In psychology this is called “parentification,” and has been linked to depression and other mental health problems in kids.

The data was gathered by asking more than 200 families to make daily diary entries for about two weeks, in which they rated how the marriage was going and how the relationship with their kids was going at the end of each day. It’s possible that what was causing the marital tension and the grumpiness with the kids was something that only affected the fathers. A bad day for a guy at work, for example, might be the source of stress in all his relationships. Kouros admits this third variable is possible, but says the study has some specific data that suggests that’s not always the cause.

“The findings of our study show that it’s men who have marital tension and their wife shows symptoms of depression that are the ones that carry over that marital tension to their relationship with their child on the next day, whereas all men appear to do this on the same day,” she says. “This is consistent with some other studies showing that when men have marital stress and some other stress, like work stress, that’s when they are more likely to compromise their relationship with their child.” The wife’s depression points to the marital tension as being the source of the man’s inability to communicate effectively with his kids.

In other words, if you have to fight with your spouse, keep it quick and fair. For the children.

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