TIME relationships

Why It’s So Hard to Make New Friends

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This article originally appeared on Refinery 29.

So, you’re an adult now (even if you don’t always feel like one). Maybe you eat popcorn and fro-yo for dinner on the regular, but you’ve also learned — we hope — how to keep both your plant and pet alive and kicking. If you’re lucky, you might have an actual love life, as well as a decent job, maybe even in a city you like.

But, despite all that good stuff, if you’re like lots of 20- and 30-somethings today, there might be one area of life that feels a bit lacking: your platonic friendships. At 37, I’ve noticed a trend: As more and more of my friends — both guys and girls — have gotten married and had kids, I, in turn, have started feeling more and more alone. I’ve often found myself wracking my brain to find people to hang out with on weekends. It’s been even tougher since I moved back to my hometown last winter, to be closer to my mom. I hadn’t lived here since I was 18, so it truly felt like starting from scratch.

Rachel, 36, a writer and also single, can commiserate. Naturally shy and still adjusting after a move of her own, Rachel doesn’t just have a hard time reaching out to form new friendships; she also feels “less likely to make an effort to connect with women who seem to be in different [life] places than me.” Understandably, she has started gravitating toward younger friends because she finds it somewhat difficult to relate to most locals (South Carolina folks) her age, who tend to be married with kids.As Rachel and I can both tell you, gone are the days when scoring a new BFF was as simple as walking up to that cool misfit in your math class and demanding to be his or her buddy. Oh, how times have changed. Until now, explains Andrea Bonior, PhD, author of The Friendship Fix, “we spent our lives being around people our age. In school [and] in college, [we had] natural proximity to an immense amount of people to choose to befriend.” As grown-ups, though, we’re so busy muddling through the daily grind of managing our lives — landing jobs, booking as many vacations as possible, navigating in and out of relationships, fitting in exercise, moving to new cities. It may feel easiest to keep in touch primarily through texting, Facebook, and Instagram instead of actually catching up face-to-face.

(MORE: How Not to Be a Toxic Friend)

See People in Person

But, if you’re mainly relying on virtual avenues to sustain your friendships, you could be doing yourself a disservice. “We may feel like we know a lot of people [online],” Dr. Bonior says. “[But,]… typing ‘LOL’ under someone’s Facebook status [is not] connection. You feel too busy to go out and see friends, but you have time to spend three hours a night looking at people’s Facebook vacation photos?”

No one’s suggesting you jump up and close shop on your social accounts right this second. But, if you’re feeling lonely in your real life, you might want to try using those avenues solely for what they are: networking hubs to help you keep track of old school rivals and camp friends. Random Facebook acquaintances won’t be there to hold your hand through a family meltdown or when you’re laid off from a job you love.

Skimping on in-person social time can also be detrimental to both your soul andyour body. Experts claim that up to one-fifth of Americans currently define themselves as “lonely” (and, according to AARP, that number rises to about 35% for people over age 45). Approximately 20% of adults lament having only one buddy to talk to, and depressingly, another 25% say they have no one at all.

That kind of isolation can cause lasting damage. Dr. Bonior notes that “having good, quality friendships improves your longevity [and] your mood, puts you less at risk for depression, helps you get over trauma, and helps your blood pressure.” The problem is that most of us don’t adequately prioritize our friendships; heading out to meet a pal at happy hour can start to feel more like a luxury than a necessity. Instead, Dr. Bonior urges that we treat our friendships as a healthy part of our routine, “like going to the gym.”

Using Tech as an Asset

But, what if you’re one of those people who honestly feel they have no one to hit happy hour with? We daresay it’s time to get out there and find yourself more friends. We know the idea might sound overwhelming (you couldn’t pay me to approach a stranger in Starbucks, whether male, female, or monkey), but isn’t your health enough of an incentive to nudge you beyond your comfort zone?

Janis Kupferer had to do just that after moving to Denver a few years back. While scoping out men on a dating site, she decided to check out some of her straight-female “competition.” Kupferer realized that some of the site’s female members seemed, well, cool — like the kind of people she’d want to be friends with. Inspired, Janis decided to launch a new social networking site, SocialJane, which is devoted to helping women meet like-minded buddies. The site looks like your average dating site, with boxes to add a profile headline, photos, your favorite activities, and more. “[It has] all the same features and benefits that [can make] looking for love online a success (ease, convenience, and community)…but for platonic friendships,” she explains.

So, does it work? I tested it for myself: I joined the site, created a profile, and messaged some women who seemed to share my interests. It’s been a few weeks and, as of now, none of the women have written back to me (sadface). I do realize that a lack of response is par for the course on dating sites, but I guess I was hoping for a change of pace in the friendship zone. Still, it’s a cool idea, and one of a handful of similar sites that are springing up, promising to help with the ever-difficult friend search.

(MORE: An Ode to the Best Kind of Friends)

Make an Effort to Engage

When it comes to real-life strategies for meeting people, though, Dr. Bonior says you needn’t look much farther than your corner cafe, record shop, yoga studio, or coworking space: “Frequenting the same places over time [is a good approach]… You’ll [eventually] feel like member of a community.”

You can also try volunteering, attending spiritual services (meditation clubs, support groups, or 12-Step groups work, too), joining clubs based on your interests (check out Meetup.com — there’s a meetup for EVERYTHING), taking classes, traveling alone, wine- and beer-tasting, joining adult athletic leagues (bocce! kickball! roller derby!), professional and special-interest conferences (gaming, writing, you get the picture), getting a new job…the list is long. Dr. Bonior also recommends joining “listservs for your apartment building, [commenting] on a blog you like…lots of people meet some of their best friends on the Internet” — provided you vow to take those budding buddies off your laptop and into the real world.

As for me, I’ve been in my new home base of DC for eight months and I’m still trying to pin down more solid friendships. I made one local writer-friend via Twitter, but the tactic that’s worked best for me has been asking friends in other cities if they happen to know any cool people in my re-adopted hometown — i.e., getting set up on blind, but pre-vetted, friend-dates.

The takeaway? Some folks are natural introverts who may be content hanging out alone, or with just one close friend or two. If that’s you, that’s great; you keep doing you. But, if you’re unhappy with your present social-support structure — as lots of people are — it’s up to you to push yourself to do things differently. As Dr. Kupferer notes, you’ve “got to stick your neck out.” Think of it as the first day of kindergarten all over again, and strike up a conversation with a stranger — over coffee, perhaps, instead of crayons.

(MORE: 6 Relationship Talks Made Less Awkward)

TIME relationships

Your Facebook Habits Can Help Predict If You’ll Get a Divorce

Couple arguing on sofa
Couple arguing on sofa Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc&—Getty Images/Brand X

Because Facebook and other social media may not be harmless time-killers after all. Your love life may be on the line

This post originally appeared on Ozy.com.

Your wife comes to bed late — again — after spending hours on Facebook. Maybe you feel like your husband is more focused on Twitter than you. Here’s a pro tip: You’re not imagining it. Your relationship really could be headed for rocky shores, if not splitsville, according to a new study from Boston University.

Researchers found that, in general, 32 percent of heavy Facebook users consider leaving their spouse. Facebook in particular is “a positive, significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles,” it notes.

(MORE: You’re Probably Never Going to Marry Your Soulmate. Here’s Why.)

Of course, there are some limits to this finding — it’s all about correlation. But the study’s authors feel they’re noticing something that’s genuinely statistically significant. As usage of the social media site rose across 43 states, they found that a 20 percent bump in Facebook use equated with a greater-than-2 percent bump in divorce rates between 2008 and 2010.

The authors of the study suggest men and women troubled by their marriage may turn to social media for emotional support.

Researchers looked at numbers from Texas, specifically, and found the larger correlation was true there, too. Among non-social media users, about 16 percent pondered leaving their mates at some point. Social media users doubled that number.

(MORE: When Flooded Basements Are a Good Thing)

While previous studies suggested that Facebook and its ilk make it easier for people to cheat on their spouses, the authors of the new study suggest that men and women troubled by their marriage may turn to social media for emotional support (as opposed to just looking for a little somethin’ on the side).

Data aside, the message is to trust your gut: If your sweetheart seems more attached to Instagram than to you, it’s probably time to take stock of your relationship — before one of you is tweeting that it’s over.

(MORE: Dip Your Toes In the American Dream)

TIME Sexual Assault

3 Apps That Will Help Women Stay Safe on Campus

Circle 6

It’s back-to-school time for college students. Yet with all of the stresses of college life piling on — class, extracurricular activities, internships and active social schedules — most students aren’t thinking about how to protect themselves from sexual assault, even though they’re at a greater risk. That’s why the first six weeks of school, when freshmen are getting acclimated with campus life, including partying and being away from home for the first time, is often called the “Red Zone.”

And even as institutions — often with the help of the federal governmentroll out regulations aimed at combatting the issue of sexual assault on campus, a lot of power still rests in the hands of students. But thanks to the following apps, that power can be supported by technology and smartphone applications.

Though they aren’t perfect — because let’s face it, applications alone likely will not prevent terrible things from happening — the following tools were clearly created with modern women in mind.

Circle of 6

Circle of 6 can be a young person’s first line of defense against an assault. The application — one of two winners of 2011 White House challenge — allows users to let a select group of people know they are in trouble so they can get help right away, whether they need advice on health relationships, a ride home or a call to interrupt a risky situation. Through the application, users can even send directions to their exact location to provide for a seamless pick up. The application can also connect users to hotlines and emergency numbers if they’re ever in a bind. This application is likely best used if and when a person feels like he or she is heading into a risky situation— although it’s easy to use, who knows how much time you’ll have to access your phone if and when things go awry. The application is free and available on both iPhone and Android devices.

Bsafe

BSafe isn’t just an application: this all-in-one safety tool essentially creates a community of people working together to keep each other safe. It allows any user to have a group of guardians tagging along with them everywhere they go. It’s all encompassing, too. From the application you can share your location with friends, activate a fake phone call to break up an awkward (or potentially dangerous) moment and send alerts to your safety network if you need immediate assistance. It even has a flashlight. Bsafe is a free application available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Kitestring

Kitestring is probably the most practical tool for young women, though using it will require some advance planning. It’s not an application, but a web-based tool that you set to check-in on you over a certain period of time. Walking home alone from a bar? Meeting a new guy for the first time? Go online, tell Kitestring how long you’re going to be out (or how often you want to be checked up on) and the site will text you to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, an alert is sent to your designated emergency contacts letting them know to reach out. Kitestring is available here; sign up is free, but free users can only designate one emergency contact and are only allowed to activate the service eight times per month. Unlimited usage is $3 per month.

 

 

 

 

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 relationships

This Video Perfectly Describes How People Feel About Online Dating

To lie or not to lie?

Just because you’ve found a great relationship through online dating doesn’t mean you’re comfortable with admitting how you met. This video (which is actually made by underwear company Me Undies, so go figure) perfectly nails the embarrassment surrounding online dating, even if you’ve met someone great.

And even if you did meet online, do you tell your friends and family the real story of how you met? Or do you make up a “meet cute” story that resembles something out of an ’80s romantic comedy? Watch this underwear-clad couple duke it out over whether they should be embarrassed that they met online:

TIME Dating

The Trick to Finding Your Soul Mate? Change Your Expectations

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Young couple ride bikes in neighborhood. Pamela Moore—Getty Images

Sometimes finding the mate of our dreams requires a more realistic view of our prospects

This post originally appeared on Ozy.com.

In case you missed the buzz on Facebook, scientists recently determined that “beer goggles” do in fact exist, though not precisely in the way we thought. Consuming alcohol, it seems, tends to elevate desire and reduce inhibitions more than alter our actual perception of another person’s attractiveness.

But there’s another type of virtual eyewear that many of us spend even more time donning — one that has the opposite effect of beer goggles. Call them “expectancy spectacles” if you’d like, because wearing them causes us to raise our standards and expectations, often unrealistically, of everything from potential mates to job prospects.

The primary culprit behind this altered vision is not booze but a potent concoction of Hollywood movies, social conditioning and wishful thinking. And fortunately, there are a few scientists on the case.

(MORE: If You Use Facebook, You’re 32 Percent More Likely to Leave Your Spouse)

One is Ty Tashiro, a psychologist and relationship expert at Discovery Health, whose recent book, The Science of Happily Ever After, explores what “advances in relationship science” can teach us about the partners we choose. Almost 9 in 10 Americans believe they have a soul mate, says Tashiro, but only 3 in 10 find enduring partnerships that do not end in divorce, separation or chronic unhappiness. Clearly something is going wrong — and it starts with our expectations.

That’s because in real life the pool of potential partners looks rather different from the cast of The Bachelorette something Tashiro hopes to address by putting some cold figures to the mating game, employing an approach similar to the one used by scientists who calculate the chances of life on other planets.

For example, say a bachelorette enters a room of 100 male bachelors who represent the broader U.S population. If she prefers a partner who’s tall (at least 6-foot), then her pool of possible prospects immediately shrinks to 20. If she would like him to be fairly attractive and earn a comfortable income (over $87,000 annually), then she’s down to a single prospect out of 100.

If you choose to specify further traits, such as kindness, intelligence or a particular religious or political affiliation, well, let’s just say we’re going to need a much bigger room. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of whether he actually likes you back.

(MORE: The Future of Sex Looks Awesome/Terrifying)

Such long odds are the product of misplaced priorities, says Tashiro, but it’s not strictly our fault. Our mate preferences have been shaped by natural selection’s obsession with physical attractiveness and resources as well as the messages our friends, families and favorite shows transmit about sweethearts and soul mates. And it is at the start of relationships, when we need to make smart long-term decisions, that we are least likely to do so because we’re in the throes of lust, passion and romance.

Or, as Tashiro puts it, returning to our alcohol analogy: “It would seem wise to hand off the keys to someone with more lucidity until your better sensibilities return.”

Which is why Tashiro advocates a new approach to dating, one that is not so much about lowering standards as giving yourself better ones. Call it “Moneyballing” relationships (Tashiro does); it’s all about finding undervalued traits and assets in the dating market. And, just like with baseball, it starts with trying to ignore the superficial indices of value — attractiveness, wealth — in favor of hidden attributes with a stronger correlation to long-term relationship success.

Citing research that finds no reliable link between income level or physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction, Tashiro steers his readers towards traits such as agreeableness. With married couples, he points out, “liking declines at a rate of 3 percent a year, whereas lust declines at a rate of 8 percent per year,” so the smarter long-term investment is finding someone you genuinely like. Plus, he adds, studies also suggest that agreeable partners are in fact “better in bed” and less likely to cheat over the long haul.

But can nice guys and gals really finish first? And is it possible to make thoughtful, strategic choices when it comes to relationships?

Perhaps you agree with Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham, who doesn’t “believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.” But that shouldn’t mean you ignore the science altogether, especially when it can improve your chances of hitting a home run.

(MORE: Three Tips to Improve Your Love Life)

TIME Television

See What’s Next For Jennifer Lopez’s Love Life

The 45-year-old actress told Chelsea Handler, "I need to plan better"

+ READ ARTICLE

Jennifer Lopez opened up about her relationship life on Chelsea Lately Thursday. Lopez told outgoing E! host Chelsea Handler, “I don’t really plan things out” when referring to her love life. Lopez also confirmed her status as being single, despite the rumors that she may be back together with her actor ex-boyfriend Casper Smart.

Prior to her relationship with Smart, Lopez was married to musical artist and television producer Marc Anthony. Lopez told People in May in an article about her divorce that she “went through a tremendous low, but I wouldn’t change anything [about my past] because it made me who I am.”

TIME Sex

Here’s What a 100-Year-Old Sex Therapist Thinks is Wrong With Sex Today

She says our hectic work lives are killing our sex lives

+ READ ARTICLE

She was born before the invention of the stop sign, but sex therapist Shirley Zussman has some thoughts on ‘hooking up.’ “I don’t think it’s as frantic as casual sex was in the sixties,” she says, noting that modern ‘hooking up’ isn’t as exciting without the context of a sexual revolution. Besides, she adds: “In the long run, sexual pleasure is just one part of what men and women want from each other.”

At 100, Dr. Zussman is still a practicing sex therapist in New York City. In the 50-plus years since she began counseling people about all things related to sex, Dr. Zussman has witnessed everything from the legalization of the contraceptive birth control pill in 1960 (she started in sex therapy shortly afterwards) to the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s to the rise of internet porn in the new millennium.

She’s one of the oldest sex therapists in the world, but that might be the least extraordinary thing about her life and career. Born at the beginning of World War I, she graduated from Smith college in 1934, in the same class as Julia Child. Zussman was mentored through her graduate dissertation by Margaret Mead, and in the 1960s learned about sex therapy from Masters and Johnson, the inspiration for the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Her husband, a gynecologist, performed one of the first legal abortions in New York.

Here’s what she has to say about casual sex, cell phones, and how our hectic work lives are changing our attitudes toward sex.

On how being busy hurts your sex life:

“The use of time is very different in our society today. People are busy all the time. That was not true when I was growing up. At this stage of our development, we want to cover everything, we want to know everything, we want to do everything, and there’s also [our personal] economy which requires an immense amount of time and effort…There is a limit to how much energy and desire and time you can give to one person when there is all this pressure make more money, to be the CEO, to buy a summer house, people want more and more and more. Desire requires a certain amount of energy.

It’s a consequence of being exhausted…The most common problem I see is a lack of desire, a lack of interest. I had a patient say to me, ‘ I love my husband, I love making love to him, but I come home from work, I’ve been with people all day, I just want to crash.’”

On an increased openness about sex:

“I don’t think that the stigma around sex therapy exists like it was in the early years. People were ashamed they had to go to a psychiatrist or a social worker, because it means they needed help. Many people resist the idea that somebody needs to tell them how to have sex.”

“There were changes in the culture, too, there was the sexual revolution. There was the development of the pill, women were freer to let not worry so much about getting pregnant, there was every magazine and TV program talking about sex, there was every advertisement using sex to sell their product. There was an overwhelming immersion in the whole idea of getting more pleasure out of sex. It was not just about having babies.”

On what she learned from Masters and Johnson:

“They were recognizing that it was not all just glamorous and wonderful to be sexual, but that one almost had to learn to be a good partner…Their way of communicating was one of their greatest contributions, and that was not to talk so much about it, but to start with touching and caressing and stroking and kissing, and not rush for that golden bell in the middle of the carousel. It doesn’t start with the man having an erection and then you have intercourse, 1,2,3.”

And what she thinks of the TV show:

“I went to the preview party and met some of the actors in it. I was introduced to Michael Sheen, and he knew that I had known Masters and Johnson, so he said ‘tell me, how do you think I’m representing him?’ I said, ‘I think youre doing a pretty good job, but there’s a major difference.’ He said, ‘whats that?’ I said, ‘you’re handsome.’”

On her weirdest experience in 50 years of sex therapy:

“Someone called me and said he needed some help. He said ‘I’m a bad boy and I’m looking for someone for spankings.’ I had to make it clear that that’s not within my range of expertise.”

On the difference between casual sex in the 60s and ‘hooking up’ today:

“I think there’s a big change in the way we view casual sex. In the 60s it wasn’t just casual—it was frantic. It was something you expected to happen to you, you wanted it to happen, it was sort of a mad pursuit of sexual pleasure. But I think over time the disadvantages of that kind of behavior began to become apparent. There was the emotional crash– the intimacy was not there in the way that people need and want. There was a concern about sexual diseases, and then eventually AIDS made a major impact on calming that excitement.”

I think what was expected of casual sex – frantic sex– was something that didn’t deliver. Because in the long run, sexual pleasure is just one part of what men and women want from each other. They want intimacy, they want closeness, they want understanding, they want fun, and they want someone who really cares about them beyond just going to bed with them.”

I think hooking up includes some aspect of the kind of sex we were just talking about, but in a very much modified, and limited way. It’s not as frantic.”

On the popularity of oral sex:

“Oral sex was always part of the picture. I think primitive people learned how to get pleasure from oral sex, we just didn’t know about it. Oral sex was never talked about in your mother’s generation or my mother’s generation or my generation in the early days.”

On internet pornography:

“There’s nothing new about pornography. It’s been around since prehistoric days…I think that’s a healthy thing that people have the ability and the freedom to allow themselves to fantasize. But I have a number of patients who sit in front of the computer and watch pornography online, and somehow lose interest in seeking a partner. I see that a lot in some single men who don’t make the effort to go out in the world to face the issues, face the possible rejection—they satisfy their sexual needs sitting in front of the computer and masturbating.”

On living to be 100:

“We’ve been brainwashed to think that we all become couch potatoes when we’re old. You have to have expectations of yourself! You can make friends in many different ways, but you have to make the effort. You can’t say ‘oh , all my friends died,’ or ‘they’re sick,’ or ‘they don’t want to do what I want to do.’ You have to make an effort to find those new people. They don’t just come running to your door the way they might have when you were growing up.”

On the evils of cell phones:

“I’m shocked at the lack of connection between people because of iPhones. There is so much less of actual physical connection. There’s less touching, there’s less talking, there’s less holding, there’s less looking. People get pleasure from looking at each other. From a smile, and touching. We need touching to make us feel wanted and loved. That’s lacking so much in this generation. Lack of looking, lack of touching, lack of smiling. I don’t get it. I don’t get how people aren’t missing that, and don’t seem to think they are.”

 

 

 

TIME psychology

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Friendships

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Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified friends as one of the biggest sources of joy in our lives. Seeing friends and family regularly is worth an extra $97,265 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Good relationships are more important to a long life than exercise.

Not spending more time with friends and family is one of the things people regret the most.

So what does the research tell us about how to strengthen and improve our friendships?

The Basics

Want to improve any relationship? The first step is try. Yeah, so easy you forgot to do it.

Simple things can have the most profound impact, like actively showing interest in the other person. Listen to what they have to say and ask them to tell you more.

Enthusiastically respond when they share good news with you. The best responses are active and constructive. What’s that mean?

It is engaged, enthusiastic, curious and has supportive nonverbal action. Ask questions. Be excited. Ask for details. Smile. Touch. Laugh.

Share your own good news when you have some:

…sharing good news with others increases the perceived value of those events, especially when others respond enthusiastically, and that enthusiastic responses to shared good news promote the development of trust and a prosocial orientation toward the other. These studies found consistent support for these effects across both interactions with strangers and in everyday close relationships.

Show gratitude. Gratitude is a miracle drug:

Stay in touch. Communicating every two weeks keeps friendships alive:

…“the leading cause of persistent relationships is reciprocity — returning a friend’s call.” Further, they said friends ’til the end tend to touch base at least once every 15 days.

Leverage technology to improve your relationships, don’t let it replace them.

Technology can increase happiness and improve relationships if you leverage it to connect with other people:

The results were unequivocal. “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” he says. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.” Surely, I suggest to Cacioppo, this means that Facebook and the like inevitably make people lonelier. He disagrees. Facebook is merely a tool, he says, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user. “If you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact,” he says, “it increases social capital.” So if social media let you organize a game of football among your friends, that’s healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that’s unhealthy.

The typical reaction to all of the above statements is: That’s obvious. I know that. And then guess what?

People don’t do them for six months and wonder what happened. Knowing and doing are two different things.

Work On Yourself

Improve your self control. People more in control of themselves have better relationships.

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

How do you strengthen those self-control muscles? Go here.

Trust beats out not trusting. Expecting others to be selfish can be a self-fulfliing prophecy:

The expectations people have about how others will behave play a large role in determining whether people cooperate with each other or not… One’s own expectation thereby becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: those who expect people to act selfishly, actually experience uncooperative behaviour from others more often.

Don’t be a conversational narcissist. What’s that? “Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.

Here‘s how to be a better listener.

Scientific Insights

Keep the 5 to 1 ratio in mind. Five good experiences for every bad one.

Via The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

And:

What’s even scarier is that Losada’s five-to-one ratio also appears to be essential when you get home and try to muster the energy for a successful marriage. John Gottmann at the University of Washington has found that couples with a ratio of fewer than five positive interactions for every negative one are destined for divorce.

Also:

Curiously, the magic number also seems to have a close parallel in the ratio of positive behaviors…and negative behaviors…among monkeys and apes.Thus the five-to-one ratio begins to look suspiciously like a basic primate need.

Don’t take that to mean you always have to be positive: Sharing negative feelings about a third party can increase closeness between two people.

We all value warmth over competence in friends but we often forget this:

  1. When assessing someone else, warmth plays a more important role than competence.
  2. When assessing ourselves, we believe that competence (the capability of someone to carry out intentions) is more important.

So stop trying to be useful and just be kind.

What’s the best way to give a friend advice? You need to provide a suggestion without it feeling like you’re telling them what to do:

Say “When I’ve had that problem in the past what I’ve done is…” instead of “You should do this…

And you’re gonna screw up. We all screw up. Know the keys to a good apology.

Turning Enemies Into Friends

Similarity is very powerful. Always always always always always be thinking about things you have in common.

How can you win over someone who already doesn’t like you? Compliment them or ask their advice.

Even fierce enemies can be turned into friends by working together to achieve a common goal. Robert Cialdini’s must-read book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion references this study:

…superordinate goals (goals so large that it requires more than one group to achieve the goal) reduced conflict significantly more effectively than other strategies (e.g., communication, contact).

Trying To Make New Friends?

Here are 4 things to keep in mind:

Want to improve your relationships right now? Share this post with a friend. :)

 

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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