Tag Archives: dating

Are you truly compatible? Does it matter?

“There is no correlation between being happily married and how compatible you are,” says marital therapist Mary Jo Rapini. I thought her article “A Good Marriage May or May Not Be Compatible” was spot on, and I encourage you to read it. Rapini calls this compatibility issue another myth that couples strive for.

Couples who become unhappy often blame “incompatibility,” when in fact couples can’t be compatible at all times and may argue about budgets, sex, child rearing, chores, etc. Rapini cites a study that shows a telltale sign of an unhappy marriage is when one spouse begins to worry about being compatible or overstate the importance of compatibility for a good marriage. “Unfortunately, due to the lack of healthy marriage mentors, couples don’t understand that it is normal to go up and down,” she explains.

Instead of blaming our newfound incompatibility, we need to work through challenges and narrow down our differences. We also need to realize when our own personal issues are to blame, or when we have different visions for the future.

I recall seeing this happen with a friend who had decided to divorce her husband. “We really never had that much in common; we’re just too different,” said the mother of two about their father. It’s a similar kind of justification.

I probably have many more differences with my husband than similarities. I think that respecting and even admiring our differences is key, even encouraging growth in different areas. On the other hand, I think that having similar values and life goals is very helpful.

Rapini adds that when we walk away from challenging times in our marriage saying, “We aren’t compatible,” we lose an opportunity for growth not only in our marriage but also within ourselves.

Are you currently testing your relationship to see how compatible you are? Do you sometimes wonder if you and your mate are truly compatible? Narrow down the specific areas that are bothering you, and check out Rapini’s tips.

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com by Edward Bartel

Marriage Isn’t for Everyone

Just because I chose marriage doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Sometimes I think we as a culture should offer more grace and kindness to those who are not coupled up. Many of the readers here are unmarried. Some of you are engaged, or dating, or even single.

Two prominent CNN articles that have been bouncing around the internet only underscore my desire to spread more compassion.  If you haven’t read them, you should. First, they’re entertaining. Second, they’re thought-provoking.

The first writer, Tracy McMillia, wrote a scathing critique called Why You’re Not Married. Her blunt explanations may cover the reasons some of your unmarried friends are not wed, but they would be offensive to most of them. The seven possible reasons she gives for a woman who wants to be married and isn’t include: She’s a bitch, shallow, a slut, a liar, selfish, or she thinks she’s not good enough. Wow, tell us what you really think. It should be noted that she has had three failed marriages, but was “born knowing how to get married.”

CNN’s Jessica Ravitz (pictured above) countered with an extremely graceful and well-written response, Why I’m Not Married (and it’s not because I’m an angry slut). In short, she says dealing with two parental divorces, the sudden death of her father, and calling off her engagement when she had serious doubts doesn’t make her a complete loser. And it doesn’t make her unhappy. It just means life got in the way of her finding her guy at the right moment. Single people can be happier than those in relationships, especially when those relationships are troubled.

Some people who really would like to get married simply haven’t met someone they want to spend their life with. Others would simply choose not to take on the commitment of marriage. I think it’s wiser than marrying without having a strong commitment, particularly when children are involved.

I remain a strong marriage advocate, and I believe children do best when they grow up with two married parents. But I also think we as a society need to be more respectful and compassionate to others who don’t make the same choices at the same life stage as we do. If we treat single people as incomplete, always trying to match them up, it demeans them as a person. Celebrate and lift up your single and married friends.

What’s your take on the issue? Are you looking to marry but haven’t found “the one” (that’s a whole new post)? Or is marriage not the right choice for you right now? If you’re happily married, how do you treat the single people around you?

Photo credit: Robert Johnson/CNN

Men More Vulnerable to Relationship Ups & Downs

Women are often thought to have more intense emotional feelings in their love lives than men. At least this is how we are often portrayed in movies and on television. Meanwhile, men are often shown to be insensitive or less feeling with regard to their romantic partners. But a study featured in HealthDay News says men’s emotions are more vulnerable to love’s ups and downs.

The study was conducted by Robin Simon, sociology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Anne Barrett, associate professor of sociology at Florida State University in Tallahassee. It was published in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior. Researchers found men benefit more than women from the good parts of the relationship, and they are more harmed by the bad parts.

Women were found to experience depression when a relationship ended and benefited more from being a couple. But regarding the mental health benefits, men received greater emotional benefits and were more disturbed emotionally during rocky patches in the relationship. The reason may be because women tend to have other important sources of emotional connection and support, while men are more dependent on their girlfriends and wives for emotional support.

The findings are important to both men and women, because it helps us understand that we are both emotionally invested in our relationships, albeit in slightly different ways. It does little good to define women in our culture as emotional basket cases, or men as stoic sex hounds. We should also remember that emotions are positive for both sexes.

It’s also a healthy reminder to men that they should have a broader network of social support, including friends or relatives with whom they feel a strong connection. When men and women have dependable friends who support their marriage, it benefits the relationship.

Do you agree with the findings that men are more vulnerable to the roller coaster of relationship ups and downs?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Is There a Case for Settling in Marriage?

Single women say finding a man with 80% of what they want would be “settling,” but single men say finding a woman with 80% of what they seek would be “a catch.” I’ve heard these statements before, but author Lori Gottlieb backed them up with a scientific survey. Her controversial book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough is not really about settling at all. It’s about women needing to have more realistic expectations of Mr. Right.

Gottlieb was a woman with ultra-high standards. She thought women should have it all and shouldn’t settle for anything less; compromise was not a part of her vocabulary. She had many prospects in her 20s and 30s, but none was good enough. Then, she found herself single and 40, the mother of a donor-conceived baby, when she realized she would have made very different choices about marriage and family if she had know what truly would make her happy. She realized the loneliness she felt was not assuaged with a child. “It was different and perhaps even compounded. It’s both single-person loneliness and the loneliness of not sharing the little moments of my son’s life with someone who cares about him as profoundly as I do.”

She realizes she hadn’t been picky about the important stuff, but rather about the trivial stuff that doesn’t matter a decade or two into marriage “when you’re more concerned about child care and contented companionship than you are about height or hairlines.”

For those of us who are married, Gottlieb seems to make a lot of sense. But when you see her interviewed on national TV, they always pair her with a young professional woman who still believes there is one perfect man out there who will make her every dream come true, or with a woman who believes a marital partner is not necessary to make a woman happy. They get hung up on the word “settle” and feel doing so would be compromising their integrity. Gottlieb has been called “an affront to the entire woman’s movement.” She’s been called desperate, but she says she is only wiser. She has a better picture of who Mr. Right is, and his name is Mr. Good Enough.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not as perfect a wife as I thought I’d be, and my dear husband has one or two flaws as well. If we looked for perfection, we wouldn’t find it. I agreed with the wife in a Washington Post article about Gottlieb’s book who said “if I had made a list of what I wanted in a husband, I would not have had the wisdom, creativity and self-awareness to create a husband as wonderfully quirky and perfect for me as my husband is.”

Still, one can argue that a woman should know what she wants in a husband. I’ve known several women who have listed out their priorities and found great men to match them. The key is to know what your deal breakers are, and to know that they are not superficial. Physical attributes can’t be counted on. Job status is not permanent. However, certain character traits, common values and goals, and similarities in faith may be important to your long-term happiness.

Gottlieb says that recognizing both she and a potential Mr. Good Enough have less-than-ideal qualities is not settling—it’s maturity. It’s the kind of maturity that admits companionship and compatibility are as important as passion. “Nothing about good enough implies that you haven’t found a true love—or in fact, a much deeper kind of love.”

If you’re married, did you have a list of must-haves before you wed? If so, were they met? Do you think women are too picky in dating? Or do you think women shouldn’t feel pressure to “settle” in such an important relationship?

Are 20-Somethings in a Relational Wasteland With No Courtship?

Chances are you met your mate, dated for a while, fell in love, got engaged, then got married. It’s the “courtship narrative” we were brought up with. But it’s not the case anymore. For many, “this narrative has been disrupted, without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a ‘relational wasteland.’” Sadly, in this super-connected society, true emotional connections are becoming more difficult.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project a the University of Virginia, writes in The Washington Post about young people who are Lost in a World Without Courtship.

Why the change? Sexual activity is starting much earlier than in previous generations, but the average age at which people marry is later. This leaves a hormone-filled gap—during which our culture (including parents and churches, according to Wilcox) provides little guidance. Casual sex generally fills the gap, with no discussion of love, and often no dating or courtship. (It’s not uncommon to hear about “sexual favors” being performed casually in elementary and middle school.) Even after graduating from college, many 20-somethings go out in groups and “hook up” as they wish, rather than go out on dates. Occasionally, a couple creates a “relationship,” but marriage is not the next step in their narrative.

Wilcox says young people have evolved their own narrative, and the next step is cohabitation. “For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage.” From 1960 to 2007, cohabitation increased forteenfold. “Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce…and can poison one’s view of the opposite sex,” says Wilcox, adding that engaged couples who cohabit are generally not adversely affected.

The bigger problem for society is when cohabiting couples decide to procreate. “Cohabitation is no place for children,” says Wilcox. Three-fourths of children in such unions see their parents split by age 16, while one-third of children with married parents see them divorce. He says marriage is society’s best tool for binding the parents together in the common interests of the child. Children in single-parent homes are considerably more disadvantaged—financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Wilcox suggests the ideal age to marry seems to be in the early to mid-20s. Teen marriages have a much higher divorce rate, and those marrying after 27 are at risk of being too set in their ways or having unrealistically high standards. (Kathleen Quiring has just written a series on why early marriage can be a positive trend in her opinion. Read the series at Project M.)

What’s your story? How did you meet your mate and fall in love? Do you think courtship, romance, dating and love are dying out with the young? How do you think marriage will be affected for the next generation? What do you teach your children about love and sex?