The coffee shop rocks some stellar music this morning. 1901 by Phoenix blasts through the speakers as I sit in the back corner watching the locals swing through and converse around the shop. The Sit and Stay Café houses a bookshelf where patrons can exchange reading material. There are piles of old books and ironic literature. “Tears of the Giraffe” stands out as I turn to the lady next to me and she calls out, “Excuse me?” She asks me if I know which coffee is the best? I look up from The Orange County Register and lean slightly forward to suggest the one on the far right. After she fills her mug, she swings back to her seat and we begin to engage in conversation. She is a delightful older woman with a southern accent and bright blue eyes. She tells me that she is from Texas and visiting her daughter and son-in-law here in sunny California. She talks about seeing her grandchildren and how excited she is to spend time with them. I smile back, ask questions, and express admiration for the exchange that took place. I get back to my breakfast sandwich and black coffee as I sift through the newspaper. I watch as two young girls take a photo and discuss uploading it to Instagram. This leads me to immediately think of hashtags, which leads me to think of texting. Then, I am reminded of a time when passing notes was cool. In school when you wanted to elicit the attention of a friend or chat, you had to pass a note. I recall intricate folding and the rush of passing it so the teacher wouldn’t see. A thrill in its own right.
A friend and I reminisced about dial-up the other day. She recalled her parents having to get two phone lines because you could not use the internet and be on the phone at the same time. There was a time when we still had to be patient. The lady in the coffee shop was in her 60s, nearly 30 years older than me and these girls were probably around 15, so about half the age gap. I feel slightly removed from social engagement via app. What happen to conversing in the coffee shop or asking a stranger a question or engaging in a conversation? I will tell you what happen. #facebook #instagram #snapchap #socialmedia. All of this seems to be causing something more than just a lack of communication. It causes a lack of thrill, a lack of adrenaline, and a lack of excitement. We are tagging photos and selfies everywhere we go. We want to project happiness without truly understanding what it takes to grasp it. There is no grace for messes. We are gaining more control and causing more anxiety in a world where letting go and learning how to handle change are very important. We online date as a result of the downfall of present and personal communication. We become neurotic. We become impatient. The lyrics of 1901 still play. “Watch them build up a material tower. Think it’s not going to stay anyway. Think it’s overrated.” The dynamics of human relationships have not changed much in those 45 years from the teens I see to the older woman I speak with, but so much has changed in our means of communication.
I am proposing that ten years ago, we knew how to balance lack of control in life and bounce back from change. Are we creating a generation so in control that the slightest change will cause fear? We used to have to wait for a boy or girl to write back or tell the friend if they liked us back; rejection built character. Now we swipe to the left and the fear of rejection is gone. Lack of fear or other human emotions causes us to gain more control. The more control we think we have, the less we actually do. Anxieties and fears have to be dealt with. In order to be dealt with, they have to be created.
To prenup or not to prenup? That is the question. In the local coffee shop, I watch today as an older man discusses this topic with a group of friends. His sober face suggests that this topic is one of emotional passion. The man states that he would not sign a prenup and he “would rather have her take him for a ride.” From what I gather, he believes that if you really love someone, you should not have to sign an agreement of how things will be divided up if you separate. I have heard this reaction from many people; the prenuptial gives us a way out of the marriage. Doors also give us a way out, but we don’t go building houses without them.
So is he right or wrong? Now, I am not in the business of marriage legalities, in fact, as a professor of mine once put it, I am an MFT – Marriage Friendly Therapist. I work together with couples to help them happily stay together. However, that means a lot of surrendering to our faults and giving in to someone else’s needs, i.e. our partner. Most of the time when couples are ready to divorce there has been years of unheard words, unmet expectations, and lack of overall happiness. (Check out this article: When Women Divorce Long Before The Divorce by Quentin Hafner.)
In my life I have had three different views on prenuptials:
The first (early 20’s): That if you truly love someone, you don’t need to sign an “out”contract.
The second (late 20’s): After getting out of a bad business deal with a co-owned restaurant; not having any concrete contracts signed, I felt that you always need a contract no matter what. I got along with my business partner so I always thought a split would be amicable. It is true that in the mist of a fight the claws come out. Marriage is the contract and the prenup is there to protect that asset.
The last (early 30’s): Premarital therapy. By-yearly check-ups with the therapist. I would sign a reverse prenuptial (see below). In the long run I want a partner that is as happy and silly as I am; we will be adults when it comes to decisions, for better or worse.
Obviously, to make a prenup or not to make one, is up to the discretion of the couple. Consider this when thinking about the issues:
1. There is a lot of legal advice on the internet about signing prenuptials. What about other experts on relationships and how they discuss navigating this part of a marriage?
2. Discussion of a prenup needs to be gently entered into. It needs to be a conversation of understanding and compassion. Most prenuptials are entered into for protection of the property or assets that one comes into the marriage with. If you are marrying someone who believes they are owed something you had prior to meeting them, I think a prenuptial is the last of your worries.
3. If you are not willing to share certain things or benefits you accumulated while in the marriage, whatever that looks like, you should not get married. You are a selfish person. Truly selfish people will be unhappy in a marriage. When you force a kid to share and he doesn’t want to, he will likely throw a tantrum after handing over the toy. Marry the man or woman who finds joy in sharing with others. It will make a world of difference in all aspects of the marriage.
4. Over the course of the years of marriage you both make equal sacrifices and you should decide what that is going to look like prior to getting married. You may be the sole source of retirement and insurance, but your partner might bring in more money each year. Or your partner might stay at home to with three kids until school age and take care of house work. At the end of the day it isn’t all about money and assets. We have to take into consideration the acts of service and the sacrifices.
5. If your prenup has to include things like the religion that your children will be raised, well then, stop right there. You aren’t putting exacts in the prenup because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anyways. If your partner becomes Buddhist in ten years and wants to share some of that wisdom with the children, you don’t pull out the prenup and say – Right here, look this is what we agreed. People change and you should marry someone who is open to change and that is willing to meet you where you are and go places you feel a need to explore. You should marry someone who you have similar values with, but nothing in life guarantees that down that road that is going to look the same.
After Much Research on The Topic: Try These
The Reverse Prenuptial
Going back to the analogy of the door. It gives us a way out, but it also keeps us in. It is a fire escape and a barrier to keep unwanted guests out. It serves two purposes. What if our prenuptials started doing the same? Say that one partner comes into the marriage with a boat, the other does not. The prenuptial reads that if divorced in the course of the first 15 years, the boat will be sold and the sale split. However, after 15 years, the asset is given to the rightful owner in full.
Yes, therapy. You are going to be making an appointment with a lawyer to get out of the marriage. The lawyer doesn’t have an understanding of what makes marriages and relationships work. He has a law degree and an objective for divorce. Seek a therapist out to discuss why you are thinking about divorce; gain help from someone who has experience in the area of relationships, not law. Trust people who work within their scope. Your lawyer has little interest in your overall well-being.
Overall the conversation of the prenuptial should be one of grace and compassion. Be comfortable and open to the opinion of your partner.
Tonight is Friday. I am single. So I have so many options. So many options. What about setting up an online profile so these Friday’s don’t seem so lonely? I could jet out to the local bars to harness whatever small amount of luck I have left in me? I could swipe a tinder app, or upload a boyfriend? As I sit in my living room Frosty the Snowman by Beegie Adair Trio plays in the background. My roommate makes dinner for her date, herself, and myself. The Christmas tree is lit in the corner aligned with presents. My roommate loves Christmas. I could take her evening happiness away by being a bitter single. I could scoff at every couple that passes me and snuggles with hot chocolate and hand holding. However, as I sit here, I have decided to do none of that. I have a heart of compassion and understanding that has taken years to cultivate. The expectation is to be bitter after the reason for my recent break-up, but I refuse. I refuse to be angry. I also refuse to seek out filling the void through another relationship. I was offered for one of the couples this evening to bring me a date, and I kindly declined. It was time to take a break from the dating world. I look at it like switching up your routine at the gym so your results can be better. This year launched a long line of failed dating attempts. It was time to go back to the drawing board. It was time to figure out what new self-discoveries could yield a more stable and loyal relationship. Like I always say, the common denominator in our failed relationships is us. Through weeks of sadness and honesty I have gotten to this point. Here I am single, not about to mingle. I am excited to head out tonight to see the beautiful Balboa Christmas Boat Parade with two couples this evening. I am happy to be a fifth wheel.
Being single in a coupled world seems hard. It’s really all what you make it. When did it become so complicated that we had to seek out the next partner before spending some honest time with ourselves cultivating self-love? We should wait until we have an understanding of why the last relationship didn’t work out. Being the fifth wheel has it perks. No worry about that awkward end of the night kiss. No obligations to meet or expectations that could go unmet. Spending time with yourself harnessing a new passion for life and a better understanding of love. Spending time with your friends and family. It’s really all what you make it.
As a relationship blogger I’ve come to realize the masses of material around me. I sit in a coffee shop that I frequent to get a bite to eat before work and most of what I overhear from the wait staff has to do with relationships. One was a blossoming romance that included a child from a previous marriage, and yet another was about who would take the kids for the weekend. I had an unfortunate heavy heart that most of the chatter included breakdowns and break-ups. It included devastation and divorce. I wondered how we could all get back to a place where relationships and partnerships provided us with the sense of support and strength they were meant for. Where we grew together and genuinely appreciated one another, even if we get pissed off from time to time.
Not to offend, but it’s my personal opinion that no one is in the mood to work really hard for anything anymore. When I sit and read about dating and relationships it appears apparent why we have shifted into a culture of divorce rather than long unions. Article after article on what you are doing wrong with your new relationship and tips or “how-tos” on anything from keeping him guessing to 12 ways to have a happy marriage. But is it really that simple? And if it were that simple why are we in an epic fail? We learn Why Men Love Bitches or how to Get Married This Year, 365 Days to I Do or how to Get the Guy, but we forget that this mainstream culture of self-help and fast fixes just sheds light on the problem. These are just outlines to a very long syllabus. Relationships take work, dedication, and lots of commitment through the years.
I am not suggesting that every divorce should be stopped. There are several reasons divorce takes place and the hurt and pain can not be overcome. Sadness or unhappiness can sometimes be a reason to split. However, all I am suggesting is that when you take the vow to commit to someone for the rest of your life, that you remember just how much work, patience, perseverance, work, humor, work, respect, and did I mention- work, that it is going to take. Get angry with me, get really angry with me and explain yourself to death about why your divorce was reasonable. Many times over I am going to disagree with you. You get to choose who you marry. That’s right, it’s a choice. You get to choose who you will be able to run the business of marriage with for the rest of your life.
The percentage of divorce gets higher with the number of divorces you have. So you have a 40-50 percent chance of getting divorced the first time and a 70 percent chance of divorcing again. The common denominator of that statistic is you.
I first heard of conscious uncoupling when Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, as I am sure, most of us did. Thank goodness the Wall Street Journal took the time to write an article on what was meant by conscious uncoupling. According to the article the term could, “be new language that could frame the end of a marriage or relationship in my positive light.” I was happy to hear that definition because basically what we are saying is that we are going to put a pretty frame on a shitty picture. Break-ups and divorces suck. Make no mistake about it that they leave people jaded and discouraged. Society has become a mecca of pretty frames on all sorts of false pictures (Facebook facades). Now we sit in a society that is ready to approach the hurtful parts of life by being consciously fanciful and politically incorrect. Distorting the truth doesn’t make it any easier. Conscious uncoupling is a sham.
Isn’t dating suppose to be a way for us to test the efficacy of marriage? But if we are a break-up culture, is the desired effect to separate or to sustain the marriage? And we are a break up culture. A culture that wants more, faster and easier. What it took for our grandparents and parents to sustain a marriage, we are just not interested in putting in that kind of effort. A recent article in Shape magazine discussed that treating your relationship like your job could have positive effects on the happiness and teamwork in your relationship. The article simply suggests that if we put in as much effort for our relationships as we do in our jobs, we would be in a better position with a better attitude. I mean when was the last time you neglected your job or just walked in late? You make an attentive effort to be on time, to dress accordingly, to follow the employee handbook. Maybe you can establish a relationship handbook and overcome the complacency and inflexibility you seem to have in regards to your relationship. Sorry Gwen, but remarking on your divorce as conscious uncoupling is bullshit. Talk is cheap. Cheesy wording is even cheaper.
Let’s talk about relationship expectations. The expectations you have of your partner may lead to disappointment and brokenness when it comes to your romantic relationships. But don’t worry, I am not just going to sit here and tell you that your expectations are bullshit and that you are ridiculous for wanting your partner to call, to help with the dishes, or to split the bill. I am going to assist you in understanding how to alleviate the communication barriers of expectations. How are we ever going to find a resolution if we can not communicate effectively about the problem?
Couples should discuss the expectation that they have. They need to be able to communicate this early on in the relationship. Some expectations are derived from each individual. They may have come from pressures our parents put on us or from past dating experiences. However, some expectations are created within the relationship. When a couple first gets together they are excited to be sharing in one another. They might talk on the phone every day and this expectation is one that is created by the couple in the process of engaging in the relationship. If this stops suddenly, there may be some discrepancies in how both parties feel about it. It is important to know and understand which expectations were mutually created and which are individually brought into the relationship. This way you can get a better idea of how to properly handle each expectation.
I will utilize an example so we can process the helpful responses we will discuss later. Sally wants Harry to text her on Tuesday because he is out of town for work. Harry called her when he arrived to his hotel on Monday night; they chatted, said goodnight, and went to bed. On Tuesday, Harry got busy with work and had dinner with colleagues, so he called Sally late in the evening around ten p.m. Harry did not text or call during the day. Now they are on the phone and at this point Sally is already irritated because she was hoping to hear from him during the day since he is away on a business trip. Harry is unable to understand why if he spoke with Sally on Monday night and again tonight why it is such a big deal? So Sally goes on about how Harry doesn’t care and Harry tries to explain that he does. He gets defensive and she came into the conversation angry. Inside he feels like he failed and inside she feels like she isn’t cared about.
It becomes a dance that we see all too often; and honestly, it is normal in the context of a relationship. Especially in the beginning when we are learning about one another’s needs. If this type of behavior continues as the length of the relationship progresses and the parties are unable to communicate about it, we have to ask ourselves, why? We have to consciously make the decision to do something about it and not just blow off the other person.
Not to make it a battle of the sexes, but woman often verbalize and hold onto their expectations more. Men are like, Meh. They can passively get through the small expectations. The woman handles it with anger or sadness which makes the man feel like he let her down. There is nothing worse for a man than the feeling of failure or disappointment. It is ingrained in the man to be able to care for the needs of others in specific ways. If he feels like he failed, withdrawing is often the easiest response to an angry woman. The easiest response for the woman is anger when hurt is what she really feels.
In the story of Sally and Harry here are some helpful examples of alternative responses:
1. Sally could have sent a text to Harry and said “Hey sweetie, How is your day going?” If we have an expectation for someone else to do something, the easiest solution is to do it ourselves. (Starting with a pet name always creates positive energy.)
2. Sally could call and leave a message or verbalize to Harry that it was her fault that she is upset since she had the expectation for him to call. But maybe in the future he can make sure to have some form of contact during the day when away? (This is formed as a question because it is important that our partner have a say in the resolution and that we are not just demanding something.) Sally is openly communicating a need and placing the burden on herself rather than her partner. This can help the partner to feel empathetic rather than defensive.
3. Sally can self-reflect. Understanding why we need a certain behavior out of our partner is important. Sally may have had a negative past dating experience with a previous partner while away on a trip. It is important to discuss this with our partner, but also to take additional time to ourselves to reflect on how we might be able to change this expectation since it was not created in the current relationship.
If these don’t work because there is still defensiveness and anger even when just trying to communicate a problem, it might be time to look into couple’s therapy and have a third-party reflect with you on some good solutions and tools. We get our cars serviced. Relationships are no different. If you want it to “run well” you have to take care of it.
When is an expectation reasonable or unreasonable? How is this even decided? This type of reflection and answer is a process. I believe that I personally didn’t understand the expectations that I had for partners until I had personal therapy combined with experiences in dating. There has to be some self-reflection and self-awareness that takes place if we are going to change patterns that sabotage our relationships. Expectations can disrupt a relationship if not handled correctly.
If you are the type of person that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, you might find it difficult to self-reflect. You will be more defensive at the thought of changing something about yourself instead of being humbled by the opportunity. I urge you to do the same type of reflection and allow yourself to let that self-critic go. It is beneficial to be able to change difficult or unwelcoming patterns so you can have successful romantic relationships. Ultimately in successful relationships, partners need to be able to meet one another’s needs or expectations to a reasonable level. The environment of the relationship should feel like teamwork. When it doesn’t feel like teamwork bitterness and frustration come in. It is only fair that we partner for the long-haul with someone who is similar in nature. Specifically when this nature has to do with work-ethic which directly correlates with some expectations. I have yet to see anyone do a relationship perfectly, so we are all in this together. Relationships are hard work, but they yield the most rewarding happiness.
In fifth grade I had a crush on Daniel Johns. The lead singer of Australian rock band Silverchair had just released Frogstomp which yielded the famous song Tomorrow. A year later I fell in love with Stephan Jenkins. Anyone who knew me in middle school knew that Third Eye Blind was a staple in my musical life. I fell in love with every album that they created after the first. As my music and dating life both expand, I understand the arts of both music notes and commitment.
My taste in music developed much like our relationships do. We check out different albums and listen to new tunes. We learn what we can enjoy long-term as we go through dating. It is by these experiences that we better understand ourselves and our relationship needs. I learned along that way that what makes a great musician and what makes a great band are not created equal. The musician is the single part in the collaborative effort of the band. Much like a single person is a part of the collaborative effort in a relationship. Successful bands that stay together for years work hard to foster the relationships of its members. Bands break up and so do people. Bands succeed and so do relationships.
It is easy to be single. When you are a solo musician you have no one whose chords or lines you have to be in sync with. It takes less effort to be single than to be in an active healthy relationship. However, the rewards are said to have significant positive impacts on your health and your life. A relationship where you whole-heartedly learn the different music style of your partner and they learn yours. Where if you work together well enough those two different songs make much better music. I am not assuming it doesn’t take work to be a solo musician, but my argument is that you learn much more about yourself in the context of collaborative relationships with others. You develop the craft to be a better self when you are among others. Our culture is praising differences and independence; which leads to negative connotations when in a relationship. Some classics are “ball and chain”, “tied down” or “locked in.” It’s as if we forget that no one forced us into an exclusive relationship in the first place, but hey, we have to fight something or someone to regain control.
There is a mentality of individuality in our culture. There is a collaborative lack of commitment. I recall hearing a friend say this about not including her boyfriend in a recent decision, “It’s my body and I’ll get a tattoo if I want.” I thought to myself for a second. That is like the band that set up the play list and one member just decides that they want to begin with another song. Why are we so afraid to make collaborative decisions? You don’t loose your individuality by respecting the opinion of your partner. However, we seem to have become a society that believes the opposite.
Are we purposely becoming a society where individualism trumps hard work and collaboration? It is time we didn’t distinguish between the two. Relationships are complicated. They might be complicated because of the different ways people communicate. Maybe they are difficult because of differences in personality. But the most predominant reason that relationships are hard is because human behavior is difficult to understand. We have a ridiculous sense of having to be right and in control instead of understanding the work relationships take and humbly accepting that we can’t always be in control; that we must consider our partners opinion and needs.
One day at the gym I overheard a man and woman chatting with one another. The woman was talking about her upcoming celebration for 23 years of marriage and he was discussing that his 40 year marriage anniversary had just passed. I remain in awe about how these couples manage to give support and love throughout the years. I also can’t help but wonder how couples today will connect and survive in today’s technology driven society.
The digital age brought around a huge evolution for business and educational styles. Our daily lives have changed significantly due to search engines and social sites. But have our dating lives and our self-development increased at the same pace? Smart phones have become a great technological advance to cellphones. Have humans evolved in their dating styles or are we still T9 dating?
The release of smart phones and social dating sites has left us no more savvy consumers in the dating world than we are in the public arena. If you are hoping to get out of bad dating patterns, hiding online won’t help. Give a girl who dates jerks 5 guys and she is likely to pick the 1 jerk out of the bunch. Give her 100 guys and she is still likely to pick the jerk. The real question is if your mental aptitude for dating has enough ram to keep up with the current technology. Maybe it is time to upgrade ourselves before we go fishing, get on ok cupid, download the tinder app or pay for sites like match and e-harmony.
The first smart phone came out in 1993. In the last ten years smart phones are the new norm. But what has happen to our dating lives? What are the advances to our human development that are making dating better today then it was ten years ago? In a world where you have 1,009 Facebook friends and 876 Instagram followers, the only human evolution has happened to our egos. That doesn’t equate with making us more responsible dating partners. Bigger egos may make approaching another person easier as we become more aggressive, but it isn’t helping us develop compassion for being thoughtful in romantic relationships.
Society might be on the cusp of social explosion. I can not tell you how many photos I have seen where guys have their pants unbuttoned and I can almost see their junk. This isn’t what I signed on for. This type of dating has allowed the douches to get even douchier (as if it was possible). I find myself erasing more messages than actually connecting on a real human level. What is socially appropriate publically weeds out that kind of behavior and nonsense. But online, anything goes.
You are what you are online and offline. Whatever attitude, defenses, lifestyles, or energy that you have as a person, you will have on a computer. It is important to develop yourself with other people in mind. Sorry, Selfies, it’s not all about you.