Therapy That Works...

Fiscal Attraction - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fiscal Attraction: Why Opposites Attract on Money

July 30, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Frustrated by your partner’s spending habits? Well, those habits may be why you married your partner in the first place according to new research from the Wharton School of Finance and Northwestern University.

Money is a hot issue because it represents options, power, and status. Eighty four percent of American couples routinely argue about money. However, the contrast between what we say and what we do with money is stunning. For example, most singles say they are looking for someone who has similar spending habits. However they are often drawn to people with opposite financial philosophies. Tightwads seek more liberal spenders and visa versa. We are attracted to people who have opposing, but more desirable strategies with money because we may think we need to be more balanced. Unfortunately, partnering with someone who does not agree with you on money is risky and can lead to relationship disaster. The fact that opposites attract, especially on finances, explains why money is the top gridlocked issue in marriage.

  • Women Love Financial Independence: Money is highly symbolic for women. It represents our autonomy, our self-respect and our separate identity from the relationship. We will negotiate but we will not be dictated to. In one third of American households, women out earn men and we are seeing a huge shift in financial partnerships. Men are having to share decision-making.
  • Men Love Money: In a study of over forty countries, people from more affluent countries attach more importance to money and men are often more preoccupied with finances than are women. They love to accumulate it, they love to talk about it and they love to dictate how it is spent. Being a high wage earner increases the man’s social status and may even lead to more desirable partners.

Couples are terrible about communicating about money since it is so loaded with conflict. Here is where couples run into trouble with money:

  • More Similar Than You Realize: Your values and long term goals about money may be much more similar than your spending strategies. For example, a CNN Money poll found that only a quarter of men believes that their wives value investments. The reality is that fifty percent of women value putting money in investments (the same percentages as men).
  • Spouses Typecast One Another: We tend to divide financial tasks along gender lines. Men still do most of the big picture planning while women govern the everyday spending. Misunderstandings flourish with such separate roles.
  • Men Love to Discuss Money: The top topics in male conversations are about business and money. Half of men love to discuss it in social settings while only a fifth of women share that point of view. Such patterns lead to some boring conversations for women!
  • New Order of Female Independence: Leadership leads to financial decision-making and more women are getting promoted every day. Forty percent of women who are the primary breadwinner take the lead in investing. This is twice the frequency of families in which women earn less than the man.

Relax by knowing that money is difficult for just about everyone. However the following tips are essential:

  • Total Transparency: Do not sneak or hide money in a marriage. Financial infidelity is emotional devastating for a relationship.
  • Negotiate and Initiate a Shared Financial Strategy: Couples generally agree about long-term goals. The leading cause of dissention in relationships is disagreement about financial priorities.
  • Do It Together: In the new economy, most of us have fewer assets, less time and more debt. Work together as a team and compromise on finances while remaining dedicated to both partners achieving a “win.” Unresolved, chronically gridlocked issues are relationship poison.

Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt

July 23, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Although twelve million Americans live together before marriage, new research now reports that premarital cohabitation can actually increase the chances of divorce.

Let me tell you why you should care about this study:

For years, many people thought it was better to live together before marriage to confirm compatibility. This study now confirms that living together before marriage may introduce significant difficulties.

  • 1.) More Difficult Break Ups: People seem to have more difficulty breaking up when they are cohabitating than when they are dating.
  • 2.) Marriage Not Active Choice: Unfortunately, they transition into marriage more by default than by intention and complacency begins to define the relationship.
  • 3.) Routine and Habit: It is all too easy to drift into a companionable relationship and abandon the romantic aspects of relating.
  • 4.) Marital Neglect: All too often, marital neglect develops as the partners ignore the daily marital habits that are essential in maintaining romance and interest. Living together before marriage often causes partners to step past important rituals of connection.

You may be wondering how prenuptial cohabitation actually hurts a relationship.

Couples who cohabitate often live together for the wrong reasons including convenience, saving money and spending more time together. However, the chief reason most people live together is to test the relationship. However, “testing the relationship” may be based on faulty expectations since living together is fundamentally different from marriage. Knowing that there is a commitment to tomorrow shifts the relationship fundamentally. The partnership that has been formalized with marriage holds both parties accountable.

And what about the kids? Here’s how they affect these marriages.

A new study that followed couples for eight years found that ninety percent of the couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction after the birth of the first baby. Couples who lived together before marriage seem to experience more problems when the first baby is born than those who postpone cohabitation until marriage. Apparently, they may not have made the best transition from dating to marriage.

Obviously, these kinds of issues come up in my practice all the time. Here’s a quick strategy I give people who want to make a successful transition from dating to marriage.

Expectations shift dramatically from dating to marriage and it is vital to keep two points in mind:

  • Moving Forward: For dating couples, the relationship revolves around whether things are moving forward. Happiness with the relationship depends on the belief that the relationship will develop and that the partner will support our dreams.
  • Fulfilling Obligations: After marriage, satisfaction is based more on the partner actually fulfilling responsibilities and obligations (which can include equality in childcare). Follow through is essential. The interwoven lives of today’s couples are based on “real time” strategies of mutual support rather than the theoretical hopes and dreams that are more typical of dating.

If you are determined to live together before marriage, here is some parting wisdom for you.

  • Reconsider that Decision: Protect the mystery of your relationship. Although it is prudent to be as certain as possible about marriage, there are better ways to assess marital potential. All too often cohabitation creates complacency, boredom and companionable relating too early.
  • Do Not Confuse Passion with Potential: Passion may lead you into decisions that feel good short term but may not be the best relationship sustaining decision.
  • Self Understanding is Key: The more self-understanding you can master, the better your assessment skills of a partner and the potential of the relationship. Give your relationship the time it needs to prove itself.

Who's The Fairest of Them All? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?

July 2, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Looks have inspired love affairs for centuries. Now a new study of over 4000 people reports that most men agree on what makes women “hot” while women have a much broader view of what makes a guy attractive. But the question remains, why are there such dramatic differences between the genders in how they perceive attractiveness?

According to this study, men have a much more narrow view of attractiveness than women do. They rate thin, seductive and confident women as the most attractive and almost always agree on the criteria. In general, men love the visual and a beautiful face framed by flowing glossy hair coupled with a curvaceous figure that catches their attention.

In contrast, women seem to disagree about male attractiveness across the board. Some guys are rated high in “hotness” while others are relegated to the non-preferred status. Over all, women emphasize romance, connection, stability and commitment. They are twice as likely to consider their partner’s emotional characteristics when choosing a mate. The bottom line is that men may have a tendency to narrow the number of women maintaining a broader array of choices for romance.

Psychologists account for these differences in men and women in the following ways:

Worldwide Trends: In a study of over 10,000 people in thirty-seven different societies, men were more interested than women in a partner’s physical appearance -- particularly youth and beauty. When men seek a partner online, they are three times more likely to seek a good looking partner rather than valuing other assets.

Socialized Differently: Men and women are socialized to view the opposite sex in vastly different ways. Men are rewarded for having an array of beautiful women around them and multiple partners are not always discouraged. On the other hand, society actively discourages women from promiscuity and we are encouraged to forge intense, long lasting, romantic relationships with men. Even with the inroads we have made in gender equality, women are consistently held to a much stricter standard of moral behavior.

Men Fall Faster: There is a downside to the male’s attentiveness to the visual. They generally fall in love faster due to their admiration for female looks. Women are more measured in their attachment decisions and are more likely to consider character, earning potential and loyalty as desirable attributes. Women are more likely to break up with men with up to 70% of divorces instigated by women.

Many people ask me in my practice if women are becoming more selective about men as our power in the world increases. Here’s usually what I reply:

Although we cannot seem to agree on the exact criteria of male attractiveness, women are much more vocal in their preferences and now consider relationships as optional, not required. Since we spend half of our adult lives outside of marriage, we are now partnering more for the sheer desire to be with our man rather than for either money or procreation. In fact 13 million American couples have declared their intention to not have kids.

As we have acquired more economic power, we also have more choices in acquiring younger mates who enjoy our power and seasoning. Although looks are not at the top of our lists, many women say that looks in a man are also important and they prefer men with a strong jaw (a sign of high testosterone), and tall men with a strong, well developed torso. Most importantly, we also prefer men who will talk to us about our feelings, our relationships and our children. Basically, our expectations of marriage and partnership are increasing along with our paycheck.

Here’s the elephant in the room and the answer that everybody wants to know: Are the standards of attractiveness shifting for both genders as the expectations of marriage are rising?

As expectations for relationships have become more stringent, both genders are relaxing on the physical standards of attractiveness. Having a beautiful persona may win attention initially, but the sustainability of a relationship depends on more substantial skills. Instead we are seeing these trends:

  • Emotional Intelligence: Ninety four percent of Americans will marry at some point and we are entering marriage later and we are demanding an emotional compatibility that is unprecedented in our history. Women no longer value the “strong silent type” but often prefer a man who at least has good listening skills. His ability to manage his moods successfully, respond empathically and help with the kids counts more than his ability to produce tons of money. Men are also growing tired of the pretty women who are emotional divas.
  • Rise of the Power Bride: We are seeing men value a woman’s brains as much as they value her beauty. Many men date highly educated, successful women after becoming bored with women with fewer interests and narrower experiences. Since the majority of bachelor and master’s degrees are awarded to women, men have access to the most highly educated, disciplined and dynamic group of women in the history of the world.

Here are some tips for the real secrets of attraction and getting the on you want.

Looks are just a small dimension of attraction and they fade with the years. It is important to remember that the real key to sustained attraction is similarity. People prefer mates who are similar in values, attractiveness, education and earning potential. Even if you different personalities and backgrounds, sharing the same experiences over the years can create a shared and similar understanding of life that is relationship sustaining.

Sources include:

"The Social Psychology of Gender" by Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick

David Buss’s work on Gender Politics

Woman Sense Rules by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The Power of Loving Words - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Power of Loving Words In Relationships

June 25, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The level of relationship conflict and tension has long been the best predictor of who breaks up. Now a new study suggests that the real secret to staying together may rely on how well you get along during the good times.

This study by Shelly Gable is a direct contradiction of what we’ve been telling millions of people for years. The level of fighting, anger, contempt and frustration have been the best predictors of break ups in almost every study done since the 1980s. Literally, entire careers in psychology have been built on the study of arguments and conflict. However, this new study redefines what is most important in the sustainability of love—the positive powers of loving words and gestures in everyday communication. Showering your partner in support is relationship gold.

You may be asking yourself, “Why are the positives so powerful?”

Although responses to negative words and actions are important, how you relate in the good times is much more indicative of where the relationship will ultimately go. Here are a few new facts:

  • Memorable Moments: Essentially, positive reactions are much more likely to be remembered by each partner. If you are lukewarm when triumph is announced, your partner will be deflated. Such rejection is remembered in startling detail and withdrawal from the relationship is a natural outcome. They will tell someone else their good news next time!
  • Trust and Vulnerability: Trust originates in the daily details of living between partners. Kindness, compassion and consistent interest are powerful elixirs of love. Positive reactions reduce self-protection and fortify a cohesive couple identity that is rock solid.
  • Celebrate Good Times: Feeling close to your partner flourishes in an atmosphere of shared joy. People replay these shared triumphs repeatedly and these memories are on constant replay.

Wondering where you fit in? Dr. Gable has defined the top four response patterns as:

  • Active--Constructive: Being enthusiastic and warm is the best way to go in loving language. Celebrating, endorsing and cheerleading are central tenants of this approach.
  • Passive-Constructive: Very understated, underwhelming support resulting in marginal benefits. Examples include “That’s great!” or “I am sure you’re pleased.”
  • Active—Destructive: This approach introduces doubt, anxiety and distrust by being actively undermining of the partner. Examples include “Why did you make that decision?” or “What were you thinking when you said that?”
  • Passive-Destructive: Relationship neglect is one of the cardinal sins of marriage. Ignoring and turning away from your partner is the most destructive relationship response. Silence and withdrawal are key examples of this pattern.

Finally, here are some tips to keep the fires burning in your romantic relationships:

  • Focus on Loving: Pay strict attention to how you respond to your partner. Watch your words, but most of all what your actions. Make it your mission to provide full and total attention when he or she is talking. Mute the television, turn off the computer and put your cell phone on vibrate. Focus like your love affair depends on it (because it does!).
  • Create Loving Language/ Plan Ahead: Pick one or two enthusiastic comments and “work them.” Do not ever feign affection but do reach out with your words and your gestures. Establish an array of loving, endorsing comments such as “Honey, I am so proud” or “You are amazing.”
  • Belief in One Another: Your belief about your relationship determines how you frame interactions. Watch what you think since it determines both feelings and behavior. When you practice positive and endorsing habits in your thinking, you create loving communications as a result. When you choose to believe in your relationship you inoculate your love affair against future conflict, disagreement and most of all, from the intrusion of third parties. Love one another deeply from the heart!

Sources include:

Dr. Martin Seligman

Dr. Shelly Gable and the World Congress on Positive Psychology

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