On Being Attractive

attrac­tive |əˈtrak­tiv|
• pleas­ing or appeal­ing to the senses
• appeal­ing to look at; sex­u­ally alluring


How impor­tant is it in a rela­tion­ship that one is attrac­tive? I’d say VERY impor­tant. But, what does it really mean – beyond the dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tion – to be attractive?

My obser­va­tions have con­vinced me (I am not aware of any sci­en­tific research) — and it is summed up in a say­ing “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” — that beauty is really the indi­vid­ual inter­pre­ta­tion of real­ity. Just look at the cou­ples you know and the ones walk­ing down the street. Don’t you often won­der how these peo­ple are together, how ANYONE can be with this “ugly and revolt­ing” per­son who you would not touch with a ten-foot-pole.

Yes, it is per­sonal, but not all of it is in the eye of the beholder. And, a per­sonal vision can change. To my eye, Cather­ine Zeta-Jones is one of the most attrac­tive women I know of. I am sure she was attrac­tive enough to Michael Dou­glas at the time they got mar­ried. What hap­pened? They are going through a very ugly divorce and attrac­tive­ness has dis­ap­peared and been replaced by repul­sive­ness. How did eyes stop see­ing beauty and see the oppo­site instead. Does beauty that we get attracted to actu­ally exist “out there?” Obvi­ously, or not so obvi­ously, NOT. The eye of the beholder is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent. But, is it only the eye, or is there more to it? Well, you guessed it: all senses are ulti­mately involved in choos­ing a part­ner: touch, smell, words said, even taste.

But, that’s not all. What about the well-known but not eas­ily describ­able sixth sense, intu­ition? What is it? In our case of attrac­tive­ness it’s often called “inner beauty.”

This inner beauty seems to be a deci­sive fac­tor, but what is it? Can we put our fin­ger on it? It is not easy to define, but it seems to be much more attrac­tive, con­sis­tent and long-lasting than the fleet­ing beauty of the prover­bial eye. After being with the per­son you love for a long period of time, looks become less and less impor­tant. And luck­ily so, because we get older and looks are very dif­fi­cult to main­tain, despite all the advance­ments of plas­tic surgery, hair trans­plants, potions, crèmes and the mil­lions of prod­ucts and pro­ce­dures of the beauty indus­try. A youth-glamorizing cul­ture com­pletely ignores inner beauty because it can­not be sold.

In a strong rela­tion­ship “outer beauty” is not nearly as impor­tant as the media would have us think. Good rela­tion­ships are strong because part­ners rec­og­nize and appre­ci­ate the inner beauty in each other.

Although outer beauty is impor­tant for an ini­tial attrac­tion, inner beauty is what keeps rela­tion­ships strong. Males and females have a some­what dif­fer­ent take on outer or exter­nal beauty. Men are attracted mostly to beauty per­ceived by the senses while women often want more than that. Women often look for a man’s abil­ity to sup­port her. That’s why men, regard­less of their looks but with a fancy car, money, a pow­er­ful posi­tion, intel­li­gence and con­fi­dence, are often more attrac­tive than a good-looking man with­out those qual­i­ties. This is one of the rea­sons that men think of women as “com­pli­cated,” and women know how to attract men just by their looks because men are “simple.”

Back to inner beauty. As with exter­nal beauty, the inter­nal one varies from per­son to per­son. Here we talk about com­pat­i­bil­ity. The inner qual­ity of a per­son is one of those inde­fin­able and highly per­sonal cat­e­gories. The elu­sive­ness of how to define “qual­ity” is beau­ti­fully demon­strated in a famous book, Zen and The Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance by Robert M. Pirsig.

Here is the link to one of the web­sites list­ing per­sonal qual­i­ties, good and bad:


It is impor­tant to under­stand that there is no such thing as “good” qual­i­ties and “bad” qual­i­ties when it comes to per­sonal attrac­tion. The choice depends on the “per­son­al­ity of the chooser” as in the eye of the beholder. And even more than that, the choice depends on the inter­pre­ta­tion of, or the mean­ing given to par­tic­u­lar qual­ity, which may depend on the con­text of the sit­u­a­tion (cul­ture, par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances, per­sonal back­ground, etc.).

As you can see, there isn’t such a thing as per­fect beauty, a per­fect rela­tion­ship, or per­fect any­thing. And at the same time (also depend­ing on how you want to inter­pret it), real­ity or “what is,” is always per­fect, because who are we to chal­lenge and ques­tion real­ity and the per­fec­tion of cre­ation of which we are only a tiny part?

In sum­mary, a per­son is not his/her qual­i­ties. A per­son has qual­i­ties. Accep­tance of your part­ner (as well as every­one and every­thing else) exactly the way they are and exactly what they are not is what is called love. If there are some qual­i­ties of the per­son that you can­not live with or accept, so be it, but it does not mean that you have to aban­don love.

Love equals hap­pi­ness, and aban­don­ing it to your inter­pre­ta­tion of the qual­i­ties that a per­son has instead of appre­ci­at­ing who a per­son is, will rob you of your hap­pi­ness whether you are in a strong rela­tion­ship, or if your rela­tion­ship is not work­ing out.

What are YOU attracted to?




How To Make Your Man Happy

After I say, “Give him sex when­ever he wants it,” I prob­a­bly have noth­ing else to add. But WAIT, there is a lit­tle more to it although not nearly as much as a woman* would require for her happiness.

The nat­ural instinct of men* is to “dom­i­nate.” That’s where it all starts. Men want to be deci­sion mak­ers and in charge, although the real­ity is that women always are. Men just don’t know it on a con­scious level. If you do not han­dle it right your man may become either openly or pas­sively aggres­sive. He is phys­i­cally stronger and his last resort is to use force. Be that as it may, you need to play a woman’s game. You are a woman; you should instinc­tively know how to do it. Play­ing a power game with a man is not a good idea.

Let him be in charge

So, to make your man happy you need to give him the illu­sion that he is in charge. This should be very easy to do because men LOVE help­ing women and solv­ing prob­lems. (Have you noticed how men are not so good at just lis­ten­ing? Men offer you solu­tions and help when you don’t even need it nor ask for it.) Start appre­ci­at­ing his enthu­si­asm and sense of respon­si­bil­ity for your prob­lems as well as his eager­ness to help you solve them. That’s how he expresses his love. He does not nec­es­sar­ily want to “fix” you. He owns your problems.

Men love and are proud of being able to pro­vide for and sup­port their woman, which can­not be said for women who really hate being the bread­win­ner of the family.

Give him his own space, phys­i­cal as well as mental

Phys­i­cally he needs his “cave,” his space where he can be undis­turbed doing his own thing. This may be a work­shop, garage, office, a den or a cor­ner in the home that he can call his own where he “reigns supreme.” He should be able to do what­ever he wants in that space: sort out his col­lec­tions, make some­thing, read, write, watch foot­ball, or just do nothing.

Men­tal space is also very impor­tant. It may come as a sur­prise to you but men often think of NOTHING. They need to do that occa­sion­ally. So do not force a con­ver­sa­tion if he does not want to have one NOW. He’ll come back to it when he is ready.

Learn to take what a man says at face value. He means what he says. Stop look­ing for hid­den mean­ings as to what comes out of his mouth. When he says that he is busy and can­not talk to you now, it does not mean that he does not love you. It means “he is busy and that he can­not talk to you now.”

Too sim­ple for you? Yes, that is the real­ity about men. They are VERY SIMPLE, for bet­ter or for worse. Also, men do not express their emo­tions as much as women do. Men can con­trol their thoughts and their feel­ings, but it does not mean that they do not have them. It is a 50,000 year-old sur­vival strat­egy. Try not to ques­tion it and make him into an overly sen­si­tive man. Do not try to turn him into a per­fect hairy woman. One, you will not suc­ceed, but if you do, he’ll change just to please you. Two, if you suc­ceed even par­tially, you will not like what you have.

Show respect

As much as women are about secu­rity, mostly emo­tional secu­rity that is, men are about respect. Notwith­stand­ing the fact that adults should earn respect and not be given it freely, there are some areas where your man will love you and respect you back if you show respect for his inter­ests and hob­bies, as well as sup­port him socially.

In other words, do not put down his inter­est in motor­cy­cles, his gun and knife col­lec­tion, cars, sports, or even bal­let. He loves his inter­ests and if you ask him why, he may even be eager to explain it to you at length and in detail, if you have the patience to lis­ten. If you do not respect his inter­ests he will with­draw, resent you, hide it from you etc., which obvi­ously would make him very unhappy.

If you respect him and are sup­port­ive of him in pub­lic, among friends and fam­ily, he will inter­pret it as the purest form of love on your part. “Praise in pub­lic, crit­i­cize in pri­vate,” as the adage goes.

If you want to per­pet­u­ate the attrac­tion in your rela­tion­ship, keep the gap between fem­i­nin­ity and mas­culin­ity as wide as pos­si­ble. If a woman adopts too many male char­ac­ter­is­tics and a man vice versa, the roles may reverse, attrac­tion will evap­o­rate to be replaced by either con­flict or indif­fer­ence. No one rel­ishes the prospects of this happening.

These are char­ac­ter­is­tics which apply to most men­tally healthy men. Of course, there are indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences, but do not assume that your man is so com­pletely dif­fer­ent that most of the above do not apply to him. If that is the case, he may be a woman, or he may be reluc­tant to exer­cise his “man­li­ness” with you. Con­sider that he may be try­ing to please you too much.

Good luck.

*Note: When I say a man and a woman, I mean male and female energy and nat­ural, genetic char­ac­ter­is­tics. (I talk about it at some length in The Game­less Rela­tion­ship.) Every human being has both char­ac­ter­is­tics. Men have more male and women have more female, and that can some­what vary from per­son to per­son and sit­u­a­tion to situation.


Is what you do who you are?

How many times have you called your­self and oth­ers pathetic, stu­pid? “Not good enough” are the three words that would cover all the things that are “wrong” with you and oth­ers. Maybe you have noticed that this often func­tions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. After repeat­ing to your­self that you are stu­pid, you really start doing more and more stu­pid things. Why? Because you are “stu­pid”, of course! What else can you do? That’s how things are. Only stu­pid peo­ple do stu­pid things. Right? That’s who you are, you become con­vinced. When you think that some­one is __________ (fill in the blank) you relate to him/her as who she/he “is”, in appro­pri­ate fashion.

This prac­tice becomes even more promi­nent with your (ex)partner when your rela­tion­ship is not work­ing out the way you’d want it to work.

In the case of the rela­tion­ship brake up, in order to alle­vi­ate our suf­fer­ing we engage in a blame game, e.g. name-calling. It makes no dif­fer­ence whom we blame for the sit­u­a­tion as long as it is “some­one.” This, of course, includes our very selves. We first blame oth­ers, our part­ner and all the peo­ple he/she knows, and our friends and fam­ily for all sorts of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, from not warn­ing us to not agree­ing with our side of the story.  In order to absolve our­selves from any respon­si­bil­ity of a wrong judg­ment the com­plaint is not only focused on what peo­ple did, but who they ARE (thus name-calling), because of their deeds or the lack of. Of course, he lied to me, he IS a liar. Now, here lies the most dan­ger­ous and far-reaching mis­take. Peo­ple do all sorts of things, but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily who they are. If you lie once, are you a liar? If you fall in love with some­one else, are you a cheat, not faith­ful etc.? If you say some­thing rude do you become a rude per­son for­ever and exclu­sively. If you do a stu­pid thing it does not mean that you ARE stu­pid. You just did a stu­pid thing, and … by whose judg­ment your deed was stu­pid? Many “stu­pid” things we do turn out not to be so stu­pid after all. If some­one does not love you any more it does not mean that you are not lov­able, or not good enough as a person.

Although we judge peo­ple by their behav­ior, do not for­get that we judge our­selves by our inten­tions, and so do they. Step­ping into another person’s shoes and find­ing out what his/her inten­tions are is an act of grace, love and com­pas­sion. Also, you must under­stand that other peo­ple judge you by your behav­ior and that they are not obliged to know what your inten­tions are. They may not be inter­ested in your inten­tions. Your behav­ior speaks for itself. You have no right to expect peo­ple to be lov­ing, gra­cious and com­pas­sion­ate. You can­not make them wrong for it. All that has noth­ing to do with you, any­way. You need to be respon­si­ble for your own behav­ior and how you come across for oth­ers. At the same time it does not mean that you should asso­ciate at any cost with peo­ple who exhibit per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders in their habit­ual behav­ior. Ego­cen­tric, obsessive-compulsive, depres­sive, passive-aggressive, socio­pathic, bor­der­line, nar­cis­sis­tic, histri­onic etc. are just some exam­ples of the char­ac­ters to be avoided, not to men­tion abusers and addicts.

In the case of the well-balanced men­tally healthy peo­ple, the maxim that you should “treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated” is not very help­ful. There are too many oppor­tu­ni­ties to screw up. The bet­ter one would be

“Treat oth­ers the way they want to be treated”

To do this requires a large dose of the uncon­di­tional love and trust. (Accept the fact that not every­one who is offi­cially an adult will act as one all the time.) Peo­ple do make mis­takes, but mis­takes are part of life. The prob­lem is that we con­sider mis­takes to be “bad.” Mis­takes are just that, mis­takes, and an error in judg­ment. No one has ever escaped from mak­ing mis­takes. Why we are then, so harsh in blam­ing oth­ers (and our­selves) for mak­ing mis­takes. Being more for­giv­ing of oth­ers and our own actions is a cer­tain road to hap­pi­ness and self-growth.


Selfish Feelings

Are we our feel­ings, or we just have them? Some­times it seems that we are made of them.  Feel­ings per­vade our every day lives. How do we man­age them and how we use them or abuse them? We have good feel­ings and bad feel­ings. When we feel good we appear to be a totally dif­fer­ent per­son than when we feel bad. How do we man­age them and how we use them or abuse them? This is the sub­ject of today’s article.

We feel and express our emo­tions all day long. Whether we com­mu­ni­cate them by words or behav­ior, we make sure other peo­ple know how we feel. Or do we? We also try to hide our feel­ings for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, be it fear, polite social con­duct, inap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the moment, strate­giz­ing, etc.

It has been shown that if con­nect­ing path­ways in our brain, from the lim­bic sys­tem and amyg­dala in par­tic­u­lar (the emo­tional cen­ter of the brain) are sev­ered, a per­son is com­pletely unable to make any deci­sions at all.  So, emo­tions seem to be an insep­a­ra­ble part of our every­day expe­ri­ence, and for good rea­son, as you can see.

How is it then, that these same emo­tions often make our lives mis­er­able? Can we do any­thing about it? Let’s first see how emo­tions play out in our rela­tion­ships and if there are any dif­fer­ences in their influ­ence on people’s lives.

One way to approach this issue is to make a sim­ple dis­tinc­tion between hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences as to how peo­ple man­age their emo­tions. Hor­i­zon­tal refers to peo­ple who are mostly on auto­matic, express their emo­tions with­out a sec­ond thought, or on the other hand, hide their emo­tions out of fear. There also seems to be a nat­ural and con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence between male and female feel­ing man­age­ment, with which we will be more con­cerned here.

Ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences are more con­cerned with the level of aware­ness, our abil­ity to observe our­selves objec­tively, our emo­tional intel­li­gence and level of per­sonal devel­op­ment.

I would like also to dis­tin­guish the dif­fer­ence between feel­ings and emo­tions, i.e., between feel­ing some­thing and emot­ing it. This dis­tinc­tion may not be com­pletely accu­rate, but it cer­tainly is very use­ful: feel­ings are an inter­nal affair while emo­tions are a behav­ioral issue. Our feel­ings are “felt” in our bod­ies as an energy field, in our plexus area, our throat, our limbs, our head, etc. Feel­ings are con­strained within the para­me­ters of our body; they are ours. When, on the other hand, we act upon our feel­ings, we show emo­tions, we emote, we cry, laugh, smash things in anger, show love, etc. In other words, emo­tions are the expres­sions of our feelings.

Men and women are pro­grammed dif­fer­ently the way they process their feel­ings. (By ‘man’ I mean mas­cu­line and by ‘woman’ I mean fem­i­nine; both gen­ders have a mix­ture of both to dif­fer­ent degrees in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, so do not take this per­son­ally, and at the same time it may be use­ful if you indeed do so.)

One of the major gen­der dif­fer­ences in the realm of feel­ings is that women are feel­ing crea­tures and men are ratio­nal crea­tures. This comes from the appar­ent inabil­ity of women to con­trol what thoughts come into their mind. Since thoughts in most cases are trig­gers for feel­ings, women seem to not have con­trol of what they may feel at any moment. Since feel­ings are heav­ily involved in the deci­sion mak­ing process, women’s emo­tions may seem erratic to a man, incon­sis­tent, illog­i­cal, inap­pro­pri­ate, thought­less, etc, (add your own if you are a man.) That’s why it is thought that it is in a woman’s nature to change her mind often! No won­der this dri­ves men insane, but to a woman it is quite “log­i­cal and reasonable”.

If you were to pay atten­tion to the dif­fer­ence between a man and a woman’s vocab­u­lary, you may notice that women use the verb “to feel” and “a feel­ing” as a noun much more often then men. Guess why: Because feel­ings are much more impor­tant for women than for men. That does not mean that men do not have feel­ings, as many women pre­sume that men are defi­cient in the feel­ing depart­ment. In fact, men have just as many feel­ings as women; they just man­age them dif­fer­ently. Men, being hunters by nature, can­not afford to have emo­tions freely expressed while stalk­ing a deer, because the deer will escape, thus no food for that week. Men are much bet­ter at keep­ing a sin­gle focus and not allow­ing unwanted thoughts to enter their minds. (See The Game­less Rela­tion­ship.) On the other hand, a con­stant broad view and dif­fused focus allow­ing every­thing to come into the sphere of a woman’s aware­ness was a means of sur­vival in a hos­tile envi­ron­ment mil­len­nia ago. Thus, a man’s rela­tion­ship to feel­ings is dif­fer­ent than a woman’s, and although largely incom­pre­hen­si­ble to the oppo­site sex, is equally use­ful as a sur­vival tool. This is one of the rea­sons why a couple’s chance of sur­vival is much higher than a sin­gle person’s (not to men­tion repro­duc­tion opportunities).

In our rela­tion­ships, our roles have been deter­mined by thou­sands of years of evo­lu­tion. Just because we have lived in “mod­ern times” for rel­a­tively few years does not free us from our genet­i­cally pro­grammed roles. We, for instance, often hear of late that women want a ‘sen­si­tive man’. The moment a man becomes ‘sen­si­tive’ a woman does not like him any more because he is not ‘man enough’. I see it too often in my prac­tice. A whole new lan­guage has devel­oped about this, like “we are preg­nant”, not uttered by two women, but by a man in a mar­riage. Many ques­tions come to my mind such as, “How did these men get pregnant?”

What a woman means by want­ing a sen­si­tive man is one who is able to per­ceive what she is feel­ing. Men are prac­ti­cal. They want to solve prob­lems, not lis­ten to someone’s out­pour­ing of feel­ings about an issue. It is impor­tant for both sexes to edu­cate them­selves on the gen­der dif­fer­ences. Many rela­tion­ships could be saved if only we knew some of these secrets. Why they are still secrets, beats me. After all the knowl­edge we have accu­mu­lated, most peo­ple seem to be igno­rant about this subject.

So, why did I title this arti­cle Self­ish Feel­ings? It is about the ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences of emo­tional man­age­ment.  Feel­ings are very per­sonal and par­tic­u­lar to every­one and for every sit­u­a­tion, yet we use and abuse our feel­ings to express our emo­tions in order to manip­u­late, blame, credit, cre­ate guilt in oth­ers, etc. Granted, we often do it with­out even being aware of it. Two year olds may be for­given for doing it uncon­sciously (although I’m not sure that it always uncon­scious even at that age) but with adults it is a sign of being irre­spon­si­ble and unaware or mind­less. Not being respon­si­ble for your emo­tions can be very destruc­tive for a rela­tion­ship. You can­not have your emo­tions run ram­pant and dump your feel­ings onto oth­ers when­ever you “feel like it”. It is a sign of infan­tile behav­ior not suited to fully devel­oped adults. I hope you real­ize that to be only con­cerned about how you feel, how oth­ers feel about you, or how you want them to feel or not to feel about any­thing or any­body else, includ­ing them­selves, is sim­ply self­ish. This world does not revolve around you although it may seem like it to you. Such ego­cen­tric behav­ior is nat­ural for chil­dren at a cer­tain devel­op­men­tal level. It is time to real­ize that a human being can go through higher lev­els of devel­op­ment past the ego­cen­tric, namely ethno-centric, world-centric, cosmo-centric and fur­ther, which we are yet to discover.

So, whether you are a man or a woman, it may be time to start work­ing, if you already haven’t, on becom­ing self-aware instead of being self­ishly self-conscious and notice where your self­ish feel­ings are at work and are inappropriate.

Feel­ings are such a huge sub­ject that I’m sure we will return to it. In the mean­time please post your com­ments, thoughts and ques­tions so that we can learn from each other.

Happy feel­ings!





Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

When I was about 17, my par­ents strongly objected to some of my friends. Yes, they were my friends and my par­ents didn’t know them nearly as well as I did oth­er­wise they would have agreed with my point of view. The more they protested about my spend­ing time with them the more time I invested into our friend­ship. To tell the truth – and after all these years I can – even then I intu­itively knew that they were right, but there was no way that I would ever do what they told me to do. My eager­ness and need to be right and the power of mak­ing my own deci­sions was sim­ply over­whelm­ing. Sure enough, most of those friends turned out either not to be such good friends as I imag­ined. Sev­eral of them became alco­holics, or ended up in jail. And, yes, I admit my par­ents were right. They knew what was good for me and they acted as respon­si­ble par­ents to the best of their abilities.

No-one-tells-me-what-to-do atti­tude is per­fectly nor­mal for teenagers any­where. Their need to break away from their par­ents’ influ­ence and prove them­selves as able to be suc­cess­ful and respon­si­ble in the “real world”, is healthy and nec­es­sary behav­ior for the devel­op­ment of a healthy psy­che. But as we mature this atti­tude may present a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to healthy rela­tion­ships and a happy life.

First, this kind of rebel behav­ior may result in push­ing away any­one who comes close to you. This is how it usu­ally works: You know from your own expe­ri­ence that it is very easy for you to see when oth­ers are about to do some­thing that will not serve them well. If that per­son is a stranger or just an acquain­tance you most likely will not open your mouth to stop them. But, if it is some­one you care about, you will do your utmost to point out the fal­lacy of his/her intended actions. So, when­ever you become resis­tant to the sug­ges­tions of the peo­ple who care about you, you are jump­ing into don’t-tell-me-what-to-do modus operandi. In other words, you are digress­ing into a teenager. I cer­tainly do not pro­pose that you should accept all rec­om­men­da­tions from every­one who cares about you. What I am sug­gest­ing is open­ness to the pos­si­bil­ity and will­ing­ness to con­sider other points of view.

This kind of resis­tance to do what peo­ple ask you to do (or not to do) is a sign of inse­cu­rity, low self-esteem, infe­ri­or­ity com­plex and such. The more often you exer­cise your “right” to do what you want, the more you alien­ate peo­ple around you and more you push your­self in the direc­tion of inse­cu­rity and low self-esteem. Choos­ing not to do what peo­ple ask you to do is just as much a free choice as accept­ing other people’s requests and sug­ges­tions. You have right to change your mind. The choice is always yours. Be respon­si­ble for it. By refus­ing other people’s requests because you did not gen­er­ate the idea, and think­ing that some­how by accept­ing it you will lose power, is a vic­tim behav­ior. The choice is always yours no mat­ter which way you go. In fact, by accept­ing, or at least con­sid­er­ing and being will­ing to dis­cuss it in order to learn more about other people’s point of view, you show gen­eros­ity, trust, respect, under­stand­ing and secu­rity in your own beliefs. Para­dox­i­cally, the more you are open to the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing your mind the more you gain self-esteem. Most cul­tures teach us that chang­ing your mind under any cir­cum­stances makes you a per­son of a weak char­ac­ter, wishy-washy and less respected by oth­ers. Con­sider the fol­low­ing: you decide to do some­thing against other’s rec­om­men­da­tion, and you fail. Who do you blame? Your­self, of course (low esteem). Do you learn from the expe­ri­ence? No, you don’t. You vow that you’ll do it bet­ter the next time using the same strat­egy of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do vari­ety. Do you give credit to the per­son who sug­gested oth­er­wise? No, you resent him/her even more. What hap­pens if you suc­ceed? Do you give your­self credit? Rarely. It’s just you. You just made a good choice. That’s it. You were lucky this time (low self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son worsens.

Now con­sider that you take some­one else’s advice. If you fail, what do you think? You see, I told you so. I should have done it my way. (Higher opin­ion of your­self.) If you suc­ceed, you will be grate­ful to him/her and you will praise your­self for mak­ing a good choice of accept­ing the sug­ges­tion and exe­cut­ing it (high self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son will become stronger.

So, yes, just as you have right do to what you want to do, no mat­ter what advice you get, you also absolutely have right to change your mind to your ben­e­fit and take other people’s advice. These are the two equal sides of the same coin.

Again, by all means, you should NOT go around doing what every­one tells you to do (low self-esteem), but being able to make a sound choice free of the bag­gage from the past, or emo­tions that may pop up unbid­den at those moments of deci­sion. Some­times even “blind trust”, although nor­mally regarded as irre­spon­si­ble, is accept­able. Think of pro­fes­sional advi­sors, teacher, friends and oth­ers that you trusted blindly, maybe with mixed results, which, by the way, will always be mixed, i.e., we will always make occa­sional mis­takes whether we do what we want, or if we lis­ten to other’s advice. Mis­takes are a part of life. Learn to live with them. But at least with the absence of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do atti­tude you will have hap­pier life, bet­ter rela­tion­ships and open end for self-growth and being a respon­si­ble wise adult instead of a per­pet­ual teenager.

Doing what oth­ers request from you, being a “yes” per­son, will pro­vide you with an oppor­tu­nity for ser­vice, whether it is gladly bring­ing your part­ner a cup of cof­fee*, or car­ing for the sick and elderly, or any­thing in between. We grow by serv­ing oth­ers. We serve our­selves by serv­ing oth­ers. We are social ani­mals. “Doing onto oth­ers what they want done to them­selves” is a higher motto for peace­ful rela­tion­ships and peace the world. It is an atti­tude of peace, not con­fronta­tion. It is about care, con­tri­bu­tion, pros­per­ity, effi­ciency, effec­tive­ness and self-growth from teenage-hood to adult­hood. Remem­ber the choice is always yours.

To be bound by our choices is not to have lost our freedom

but to have exer­cised it.”

Robert Brault


*See The Rela­tion­ship Saver: “Reverse the process”




Facts vs. Feelings

The more I learn about dif­fer­ences between men and women (or I should rather say fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line) the more I dis­cover the causes of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions that that are per­va­sive in man/woman rela­tion­ships. The fol­low­ing is a per­fect exam­ple how mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine per­ceive and inter­pret real­ity, which if under­stood and han­dled prop­erly can solve most of the rela­tionship prob­lems, but if unat­tended can eas­ily esca­late to a break-up or divorce.

Here is the exam­ple in the two cor­re­spon­dences that I received from Ali­son Arm­strong, a rela­tion­ship expert who I respect very much. (Her books, courses and CDs you can find in the right col­umn on this website.)

After read­ing this exam­ple try to see other occur­rences where gen­der dif­fer­ences, if under­stood prop­erly can save you a lot of grief in your relationship.

What doy think about this? Let us know.

Best regards,


Dear Radomir,

One of the things we dis­cov­ered years ago is that the Mas­cu­line mea­sures real­ity by trusted FACTs while the Fem­i­nine real­ity is cre­ated by her FEEL­INGs.  Both of these are com­pletely valid ways of see­ing the world.

An inter­est­ing and haz­ardous side effect, how­ever, is when you put these two real­i­ties in an auto­mo­bile together.  Let’s call the Mas­cu­line a “Man,” although this is not always true, and the Fem­i­nine a “Woman,” also not always true ~ but eas­ier to repeat over and over again.  He’s going to pay atten­tion to being Fac­tu­ally safe, while she can’t help but notice if she Feels safe.

Add to this the dif­fer­ence in eye­sight for men and women: He can track mov­ing objects way bet­ter than she can; she has a periph­eral vision that’s more sen­si­tive and prey-like than preda­tor ~ mean­ing she sees more threats.

This is how you have a woman full of ten­sion and poten­tially freak­ing out because he keeps chang­ing lanes.  Every time he moves the car to a lane on her side, it will look to her like cars on her side might hit her.  So she doesn’t Feel safe.  He may know fac­tu­ally that he hasn’t had an acci­dent in decades, that the car over on the other side wasn’t going to move, that the speed with which he slipped in that spot missed the other car by a mile… and so on.

Unfor­tu­nately, the Fact of her being safe will not make her Feel safe.  And a man’s great­est chal­lenge with women is mak­ing them FEEL SAFE.  Because every­thing good from a woman begins with her feel­ing safe ~ and every­thing nasty begins with her feel­ing unsafe.

I would love your com­ments and ques­tions related to this topic.  It’s worth exploring!



Thank you for your pro­found response to “Chang­ing Lanes.”  I’m thrilled that so many of you found insight, inspi­ra­tion, relief and, even, heal­ing, in a seem­ingly small thing that effects our time with the oppo­site sex in such a big way.

To con­tinue the dia­log: Since learn­ing about the effect of chang­ing lanes on my feel­ings of safety, Greg has mod­i­fied the way he dri­ves.  On a recent trip back from Ore­gon, he apol­o­gized for get­ting close to a semi-truck as he nego­ti­ated the hol­i­day traf­fic.  His apol­ogy was sweet but unnec­es­sary.  As I said to him, “Honey, chillin’ the cave­woman is a part­ner­ship.  I just reminded myself that, as a hunter, you track mov­ing objects much bet­ter than I do and the fact is you’ve never plowed me into the back of a truck!  So I calmed myself down.”

I tell you this because under­stand­ing our instincts and hav­ing a vic­tory of human spirit is some­thing we can all do.  On one end, it’s mak­ing an accom­mo­da­tion to not antag­o­nize another’s most prim­i­tive reac­tions.  On the other, it’s being respon­si­ble for hav­ing them and talk­ing your­self back down off the cliff edge.  Being will­ing to act from whichever end you’re on is a gift to our part­ners — and just plain smart.  Using the infor­ma­tion about our great­est weak­nesses and demand­ing solely the accom­mo­da­tion from our part­ners isn’t fair or in true partnership.

Speak­ing of part­ner­ship, I’m off to Col­orado for three weeks of bliss with some of my favorite two and four-legged part­ners.  PAX World News will return in Sep­tem­ber renewed.  Mean­while, Patrice will give you ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to lis­ten and watch the lat­est inter­views shar­ing my most recent trea­sures from the adven­tures of study­ing men, women and part­ner­ship.  Look for those emails from her in August.

Many bless­ings,






How To Make Your Woman Happy

Note: What fol­lows does not apply to ALL the women ALL the time, but in major­ity sit­u­a­tions it could be very use­ful and right on the mark.

I shall attempt to lay out as suc­cinctly as I can a guide to most com­mon issues we, men, need to deal with in our rela­tion­ships with our women. Too often we for­get that we are deal­ing with a “dif­fer­ent species” i.e. female Homo Sapi­ens and by default, if we want to be nice, we treat them the way we want to be treated. That’s what we have been told: “Do unto the oth­ers as you would have them do unto you.” Wrong! When deal­ing with the oppo­site sex, in fact with oth­ers in gen­eral, we should use the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of this rule:  “Do unto oth­ers as they would have it done to them­selves”. In other word treat oth­ers as they want to be treated.

Well, the prob­lem arises when you have no idea how oth­ers (women) want to be treated. Espe­cially when it changes all the time depend­ing on cir­cum­stances and on con­stantly chang­ing feel­ings that women are so good at. Men are cer­tainly dis­ad­van­taged in this area. The best we can do is to become good at a guess­ing game. So often we find our­selves with a foot in our mouth not under­stand­ing what hap­pened and how we got there, although we treated our very much loved woman exactly the way we would want to be treated.

Here I will try to out­line some “rules” that will keep your foot where it belongs, on the floor.

Since this arti­cle is aimed at men I will deal with this issue in bul­let points. Here are some of the basic rules when deal­ing with a woman we love:

• First and fore­most: take full respon­si­bil­ity for what comes out of your mouth as well as how you choose to inter­pret what you hear.

• Reas­sur­ance. Our women need to be told that we love them. We erro­neously think that our actions like work­ing and pro­vid­ing for the fam­ily clearly com­mu­ni­cates our love for her. We often think that the more we work the stronger is the mes­sage of our love. Wrong again. Noth­ing can sub­sti­tute look­ing in her eyes and telling her: “I love you.”

• Emo­tions. Women emote very dif­fer­ently then we do. A woman hav­ing a dif­fused focus as opposed to single-focus of us, men, can­not con­trol what thoughts come into their head. Thoughts trig­ger emo­tions and we men find our­selves in trou­ble, not know­ing what hit us. There is no logic and no con­nec­tion to the present sit­u­a­tion. We can­not con­nect dots and We start ask­ing our­selves what did we do wrong. Most likely noth­ing. Feel­ings some­times go ram­pant in a woman. She can­not con­trol it. She can­not choose  what to think about. Say­ing “Don’t think about it”  does not help. Try to close the issue by resolv­ing the con­cern. Of course you need to find out what the real con­cern is and that may take some doing.

• Secu­rity. Again we think that the most impor­tant thing for a woman is that she feels finan­cially secure. That’s why, as I men­tioned before, you do your best to pro­vide for her. That’s awfully nice of you, but you may be bark­ing up a wrong tree. What she really wants much more than “money and things” is emo­tional secu­rity. This means that she can count on you to always be there for her and that she can count on you to be her best friend.

• Lis­ten­ing. We men lis­ten for a prob­lems and look for solu­tions. We also lis­ten for the point of the con­ver­sa­tion. We have no patience to lis­ten to a chrono­log­i­cal unfold­ing of a story with­out know­ing were it is going. As soon as our loved one tells us that she has a prob­lem, we are think­ing how to fix it. Wrong! Your women is quite able most of the time to fix the prob­lem her­self. If she can­not she will ask you for help. You need to trust that. What she wants from you is to lis­ten to her and acknowl­edge how she feels about it, because her feel­ings are the prob­lem that she needs to com­mu­ni­cate to you. Once you know that, it becomes easy (or not) to just lis­ten and not offer your solu­tions because there are none. She is deal­ing with her feel­ings which she has no con­trol over. So, next time she comes to you with a prob­lem, do not lis­ten to her prob­lem, lis­ten for her feel­ings. Do not offer help, wait to be asked for it, or ask if she wants your help.

• Sex. We men are very vain. When our woman does not want to have sex with us, we take it per­son­ally. Sex is our pri­mary drive in rela­tion­ship with a woman. Not so for them. In fact once you under­stand that woman’s “warm-up time” is much longer than ours and that she needs to be fore­warned so that she can antic­i­pate it, things become much eas­ier. It’s not about you. Women are wired dif­fer­ently and for a good rea­son. (I’m not going to go into it here.) Very often she just wants to be close to you, to snug­gle and be cud­dled. Of course, when­ever that hap­pens you think about sex. Hold your horses, not so fast! It DOES NOT mean that she wants sex. If you insist on it every time she comes close to you, she will start avoid­ing you. You scare her off. Take it easy, take your time. Once she gets into it, she WILL enjoy it as much, or maybe even more than you do, but patience is an oper­a­tive word.

• Beauty. A woman asks a man: “Does this dress make me look fat?” Man: “No, your fat makes you look fat.” Baaaaad move. That’s how you can talk to other man friends and not to a woman, because women are dif­fer­ent species. They will never inter­pret it as a joke, or just take it as plain truth. Remem­ber, it’s all about feel­ings. Her inter­pre­ta­tion would be …. well, make up your own. Women want us to find them attrac­tive. They want to be looked at and we, men want to look. Per­fect match! She has a deep need to know that she is beau­ti­ful for YOU. When she asks you how she looks do not say, just fine. Cul­tural pres­sure to look beau­ti­ful is great and it can hardly be avoided. So, tell her often and hon­estly that she is beau­ti­ful. You do not have to use exactly that word, but there are so many oth­ers and other ways to say the same thing. Be cre­ative.
These are just some of the points that we men often are not aware of, or sim­ply do not bother to prac­tice them. Try them, they work. Ask your women.

(Next arti­cle will be for women about men)

Let us know your thoughts and expe­ri­ences about this from both men and women.






Is It Fear, Or Is It Love?

We talk a lot about love in rela­tion­ships as being the most impor­tant ingre­di­ent with­out which a rela­tion­ship can­not be sus­tained. So, we always talk about how we want to be loved more, how the love was lost, how to regain love and put the “spark” back in our rela­tion­ship. We think that some­how that feel­ing of love or a lov­ing feel­ing should always be present and only then we would know that our rela­tion­ship is OK. When a rela­tion­ship is break­ing up there seems to be a simul­ta­ne­ous loss of love, or loss of love pre­cedes the break up. We treat love as a “thing” that can some­how be lost. If it can be lost, then we think it can be gained as well. Peo­ple who use The Rela­tion­ship Saver are always on the side where their partner’s love for them was lost and they want their part­ner to regain it. They live in a state of fear that they will not be able to get their part­ner to regain their love for them although they “love“ them “with all their hart.” No one notices the con­tra­dic­tion and impos­si­bil­i­ties in this kind of rea­son­ing, or rather wish­ful think­ing: love and fear don’t mix, like oil and water.

First we must under­stand that that elu­sive “love” is a state of mind and it is much big­ger than a sim­ple feel­ing. You can only receive love if you are able to give it. There is no such a thing as a lim­ited sup­ply of love. You can­not share love. Love is not a pie so when you give two slices to one per­son there is none left for another. When you love, every­one and every­thing receives all your love all the time. You do not have to with­hold love for one per­son in order to have “enough love” for another per­son that you love. Love has no bounds. You are either in a state of love or in the state of fear.

If you are sav­ing “your love” for one per­son or thing, you are being in a state of fear, which elim­i­nates love. Love is much big­ger than a feel­ing for one per­son. Love starts with the accep­tance of real­ity itself. Accept­ing real­ity for what it is and not what you think it “should” be is the first step to expe­ri­enc­ing the state of love. You can­not love one per­son and not love other peo­ple and the world itself. So, by now you might have noticed that the kind of love I am talk­ing about is uncon­di­tional love. And, yes, that is the only love there is. When­ever you have a rea­son for lov­ing you may be sure that it is not love. It most likely is a need. Ask your­self why you love your part­ner. Is it because he is good to you, strong, hand­some, good father, or is it because she is beau­ti­ful, sup­port­ive, good mother? Now ask your­self what would hap­pen if your part­ner loses those qual­i­ties or stops doing thinks that you love him for. Your love will most cer­tainly dis­ap­pear. We can safely con­clude that your love is not uncon­di­tional, but you were get­ting what you needed and you were grate­ful to your part­ner for it.  Your part­ner sat­is­fied your needs and that’s why you “loved” him. And, fear of los­ing it was always present, or you just took it for granted. You did not love your part­ner for who he is, as a per­son, but for what he does, or what need of yours she could sat­isfy. So when your part­ner says he is not in love with you any more, or that she does not love you any more, he/she prob­a­bly never really did in the first place. You were only sat­is­fy­ing one or more of your partner’s needs and now you don’t.

Fear of los­ing a per­son is often trans­lated into “I love him so much”. Con­sider that you don’t. If you did, you’d let him go. You do not need him. I know that it may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but life does not con­form to what you think life should be. Life just is. You were born alone and being an adult, you do not need any­one to tell you that they love you. You are the one who is capa­ble of lov­ing and that’s the only way to receive love. You can­not extract love from any­one. Love is liv­ing with­out fear. Love dis­perses fear like light dis­perses dark­ness. Liv­ing in fear is like liv­ing in dark. Turn the light on and be fearless.

•    Love is not a thing.
•    Love is not a feel­ing.
•    Love is a state of mind.
•    Love is choice.
•    The oppo­site of love is not hate, it is fear.
•    Love is pos­si­ble only where there is no fear.
•    When there is fear there is no love.
•    Where there is love there is NO fear, no mat­ter what.
•    Love is free.
•    Love is fear­less.
•    When you love you can­not be afraid.
•    Jesus was not afraid of dying. He loved.
•    Love is oppo­site of fear. One can­not love and be fear­ful at the same time.

Prac­tic­ing uncon­di­tional love requires fear­less­ness. You must be brave, con­scious, com­mit­ted, in touch of and respect­ful of real­ity and counter your knee-jerk reac­tions. When being in a state of uncon­di­tional love you will expe­ri­ence free­dom like you’ve never known before, peace, tran­quil­ity, and feel­ing of invin­ci­bil­ity and sense of per­fec­tion. You know that every­thing is just the way it should be. Expe­ri­enc­ing uncon­di­tional love is not the same as liv­ing in an illu­sion­ary la-la land. Liv­ing an illu­sion is liv­ing in you own imag­ined world that does not rep­re­sent real­ity.  On the other hand, liv­ing in uncon­di­tional love you are keenly aware of, and accept­ing of real­ity, know­ing full well that shoulds, and coulds will not change it. You real­ize that com­plain­ing about what already is, makes no sense and so you are free to take action now to have your future be dif­fer­ent than present and what it was in the past, fully aware that you can­not change the past itself. Liv­ing in uncon­di­tional love is THE most pow­er­ful and fear free place you can pos­si­bly be in.

Do you have enough guts to do it? Go ahead make my day!






Gender Equality in A Relationship

I real­ize that this is too big a sub­ject to cram into one arti­cle, so I am going to raise some ques­tions about what it means to be equal in an adult man/woman (or gay) rela­tion­ship. I have many women friends and I do my best to treat them as equals, but some­times by treat­ing them as an “equal” I tend to pre­sume that they will react as men do to what I say. WRONG! A female friend of mine once jok­ingly said that she was leav­ing my party because there was no cake and I jok­ingly, of course with­out think­ing, replied: ”But didn’t you put some weight on lately?”
That was a bad mis­take. She got really upset, and no mat­ter how much I apol­o­gized and said that I loved and cher­ished her as a friend, she kept cry­ing and say­ing that if I loved her I wouldn’t have said such a thing to her. Need­less to say the sit­u­a­tion became very seri­ous.  Had I said that to a man, he most likely would have laughed.
The ques­tion I have for you is this: can a man and a woman be equal, and what are the con­di­tions and rules of behav­ior in treat­ing each other given that men and women are so very dif­fer­ent? One of the rules we hear often is to treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated your­self. In the above exam­ple it cer­tainly did not work. Men would cer­tainly not react the same way to my com­ment. So, a bet­ter rule would be to treat oth­ers the way THEY want to be treated. Great, but how do we know what oth­ers think? What comes to mind first is just ask them, but even ask­ing them may pro­voke unwanted feel­ings and reac­tions.
Men and women ARE dif­fer­ent. In fact, we are so dif­fer­ent that it jus­ti­fies the phrase “oppo­site sex”. Where does equal­ity come in then? These are some of the fun­da­men­tal differences:

Men / Women

Big­ger                                             Smaller

Stronger                                          Weaker

Aggres­sive                                       Defensive

Pro­tec­tors                                        Protected

Fathers (can­not bear chil­dren)           Mothers

Ratio­nal                                           Emotional

Hunters                                            Gath­er­ers

Want sex                                          Want security

Want free­dom                                   Want relationship

Please add your own….

The whole issue about equal­ity was ini­tially raised by women. The Women’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment started because women felt sub­ju­gated and wanted to be equal to men. And there is no denial that in many cases  women are not treated the same as men, such as not get­ting equal pay for equal work. But in gen­eral, isn’t it just a nat­ural out­come of our genetic dif­fer­ences?
Do women really want to be the same as men, or do they want to be as pow­er­ful as men? The con­text seems to be deci­sive here. Which area are we talk­ing about: inti­mate rela­tion­ships, social inter­ac­tions or busi­ness envi­ron­ment? This is a ques­tion espe­cially for a woman in a fem­i­nist move­ment to answer because a woman would have to be adopt­ing a chameleon behav­ior in dif­fer­ent con­texts. Is that healthy, or even pos­si­ble? Do women have to pre­tend to be more like men in a busi­ness envi­ron­ments? If they do, does it come eas­ier for some then for oth­ers to adopt these mas­cu­line traits? Can women be just as nat­u­rally and authen­ti­cally fem­i­nine at work? It cer­tainly seems to be an unwel­come behav­ior in this “man-made world.” If a woman is forced to take on some mas­cu­line traits in order to suc­ceed at work, how does that reflect on her rela­tion­ships towards men. I think she can get pretty resent­ful about the whole affair and put the blame on men.
On the other hand, when it comes to the ques­tion of hav­ing good sex, part­ners have to take on their authen­tic mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine role.  Oppo­sites cre­ate energy flow. The big­ger the dif­fer­ence between cou­ples’ respec­tive roles, the stronger the sex­ual attrac­tion. In order to main­tain “equal­ity” in a social arena and the work­place, can they and should they main­tain that dif­fer­ence, or do they  have to drift closer to each other, i.e., men adopt more of women char­ac­ter­is­tics — such as being more sen­si­tive and express­ing their feel­ings — and should women adopt more mas­cu­line traits, such as com­pet­i­tive­ness, being more sin­gle focused and tougher alto­gether? This cer­tainly seems to be hap­pen­ing in the work­place and, sadly, in inti­mate rela­tion­ships as well.
Many “lib­er­ated” women insist on being treated as an equal in a rela­tion­ship. Is that what they really want? Instead of a woman being an equal part­ner in the sense that she is self-aware, respon­si­ble, and wants to know her man as a per­son, fem­i­nism seem to have pro­duced a dou­bly defen­sive woman who is on guard about her rights, but insis­tent that men be roman­tic and “make her feel like a woman” by act­ing like a real man. A lib­er­ated woman insists on changes in her atti­tude and ide­ol­ogy but not in her deeper fem­i­nine process; she has tra­di­tional long­ings and needs, is attracted to men who are win­ners and avoids weaker, less ambi­tious men, and she wants a man to play the lead role unless she decides oth­er­wise. For the man there is often a con­fus­ing sense that what­ever he does he will be made wrong and blamed. If he treats her as an equal, it does not feel roman­tic to her. If he treats her in tra­di­tional ways, he is often con­sid­ered to be a chau­vin­ist and sex­ist. He is expected to be a man and yet to not act as a man at the same time. When a man can­not achieve this dichotomy, a lib­er­ated woman becomes angry and blames him for not being able to ful­fill this impos­si­ble dream.
From my per­sonal point of view, in a rela­tion­ship, if a woman’s issue is power in a rela­tion­ship then she has noth­ing to com­plain about, or be lib­er­ated from. Her power is just as promi­nent as the man’s. The only rea­son that this is not so obvi­ous is that the “lib­er­ated” woman is look­ing for power in the wrong place, a man’s place. As I said above, it all depends on the con­text, and in the con­text of a rela­tion­ship a woman’s power is enor­mous, start­ing with the abil­ity to bear chil­dren and her ulti­mate choice of men to share par­ent­hood with, to a say­ing that behind a great man there always stands a great or pow­er­ful woman.
To my mind, equal­ity in a rela­tion­ship con­sists of uncon­di­tional respect, accep­tance and love for who the per­son is as a human and a spir­i­tual being. If a woman is objec­ti­fied (as men often do, espe­cially regard­ing sex) respect for a woman is often absent. On the other hand, there is con­di­tional respect for what the per­son does, which really applies to all peo­ple regard­less of gen­der or their posi­tion in soci­ety.
Let us know what do you think.




Susccess & Hapiness

Great arti­cle.

What is your expe­ri­ence of a relationship

between suc­cess and happiness?

The San­dra Bul­lok Trade

By David Brooks
The New York Times
March 30, 2010

Two things hap­pened to San­dra Bul­lock this month. First, she won an Acad­emy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claim­ing that her hus­band is an adul­ter­ous jerk. So the philo­sophic ques­tion of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremen­dous pro­fes­sional tri­umph for a severe per­sonal blow?

On the one hand, an Acad­emy Award is noth­ing to sneeze at. Bul­lock has earned the admi­ra­tion of her peers in a way very few expe­ri­ence. She’ll make more money for years to come. She may even live longer. Research by Don­ald A. Redelmeier and Shel­don M. Singh has found that, on aver­age, Oscar win­ners live nearly four years longer than nom­i­nees that don’t win.

Nonethe­less, if you had to take more than three sec­onds to think about this ques­tion, you are absolutely crazy. Mar­i­tal hap­pi­ness is far more impor­tant than any­thing else in deter­min­ing per­sonal well-being. If you have a suc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many pro­fes­sional set­backs you endure, you will be rea­son­ably happy. If you have an unsuc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many career tri­umphs you record, you will remain sig­nif­i­cantly unfulfilled.

This isn’t just ser­mo­niz­ing. This is the age of research, so there’s data to back this up. Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been study­ing hap­pi­ness. Their work, which seemed flimsy at first, has devel­oped an impres­sive rigor, and one of the key find­ings is that, just as the old sages pre­dicted, worldly suc­cess has shal­low roots while inter­per­sonal bonds per­me­ate through and through.

For exam­ple, the rela­tion­ship between hap­pi­ness and income is com­pli­cated, and after a point, ten­u­ous. It is true that poor nations become hap­pier as they become middle-class nations. But once the basic neces­si­ties have been achieved, future income is lightly con­nected to well-being. Grow­ing coun­tries are slightly less happy than coun­tries with slower growth rates, accord­ing to Carol Gra­ham of the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion and Eduardo Lora. The United States is much richer than it was 50 years ago, but this has pro­duced no mea­sur­able increase in over­all hap­pi­ness. On the other hand, it has become a much more unequal coun­try, but this inequal­ity doesn’t seem to have reduced national happiness.

On a per­sonal scale, win­ning the lot­tery doesn’t seem to pro­duce last­ing gains in well-being. Peo­ple aren’t hap­pi­est dur­ing the years when they are win­ning the most pro­mo­tions. Instead, peo­ple are happy in their 20’s, dip in mid­dle age and then, on aver­age, hit peak hap­pi­ness just after retire­ment at age 65.

Peo­ple get slightly hap­pier as they climb the income scale, but this depends on how they expe­ri­ence growth. Does wealth inflame unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions? Does it desta­bi­lize set­tled rela­tion­ships? Or does it flow from a vir­tu­ous cycle in which an inter­est­ing job pro­duces hard work that in turn leads to more inter­est­ing opportunities?

If the rela­tion­ship between money and well-being is com­pli­cated, the cor­re­spon­dence between per­sonal rela­tion­ships and hap­pi­ness is not. The daily activ­i­ties most asso­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness are sex, social­iz­ing after work and hav­ing din­ner with oth­ers. The daily activ­ity most inju­ri­ous to hap­pi­ness is com­mut­ing. Accord­ing to one study, join­ing a group that meets even just once a month pro­duces the same hap­pi­ness gain as dou­bling your income. Accord­ing to another, being mar­ried pro­duces a psy­chic gain equiv­a­lent to more than $100,000 a year.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask peo­ple if they trust their neigh­bors. Lev­els of social trust vary enor­mously, but coun­tries with high social trust have hap­pier peo­ple, bet­ter health, more effi­cient gov­ern­ment, more eco­nomic growth, and less fear of crime (regard­less of whether actual crime rates are increas­ing or decreasing).

The over­all impres­sion from this research is that eco­nomic and pro­fes­sional suc­cess exists on the sur­face of life, and that they emerge out of inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships, which are much deeper and more important.

The sec­ond impres­sion is that most of us pay atten­tion to the wrong things. Most peo­ple vastly over­es­ti­mate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and col­leges spend too much time prepar­ing stu­dents for careers and not enough prepar­ing them to make social deci­sions. Most gov­ern­ments release a ton of data on eco­nomic trends but not enough on trust and other social con­di­tions. In short, mod­ern soci­eties have devel­oped vast insti­tu­tions ori­ented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that mat­ter most. They have an affin­ity for mate­r­ial con­cerns and a pri­mor­dial fear of moral and social ones.

This may be chang­ing. There is a rash of com­pelling books — includ­ing “The Hid­den Wealth of Nations” by David Halpern and “The Pol­i­tics of Hap­pi­ness” by Derek Bok — that argue that pub­lic insti­tu­tions should pay atten­tion to well-being and not just mate­r­ial growth nar­rowly conceived.

Gov­ern­ments keep ini­ti­at­ing poli­cies they think will pro­duce pros­per­ity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spir­i­tual blind side.




Monogamy isn’t easy, naturally.

Right-wing pro-marriage advo­cates are cor­rect: Monogamy is def­i­nitely under siege. But not from unclos­eted polyamor­ists, ado­les­cent “hook-up” advo­cates, rad­i­cal fem­i­nists, God­less com­mu­nists or some vast homo­sex­ual con­spir­acy. The cul­prit is our own biology.

Researchers in ani­mal behav­ior have long known that monogamy is uncom­mon in the nat­ural world, but only with the advent of DNA “fin­ger­print­ing” have we come to appre­ci­ate how truly rare it is. Genetic test­ing has recently shown that even among many bird species — long touted as the epit­ome of monog­a­mous fidelity — it is not uncom­mon for 6% to 60% of the young to be fathered by some­one other than the mother’s social part­ner. As a result, we now know sci­en­tif­i­cally what most peo­ple have long known pri­vately: that social monogamy does not nec­es­sar­ily imply sex­ual monogamy.

In the movie “Heart­burn,” the lead char­ac­ter com­plains about her husband’s phi­lan­der­ing and gets this response: “You want monogamy? Marry a swan!” But now, sci­en­tists have found that even swans aren’t monog­a­mous. (Nor are those widely admired emperor pen­guins, whose sup­posed march to monogamy was mis­con­strued from another pop­u­lar movie; their domes­tic­ity lasts only for the cur­rent breed­ing sea­son — next year, they’ll find new mates.)

For some, find­ings of this sort may mit­i­gate a bit of the out­rage vis­ited on the cur­rent and future crop of adul­ter­ers du jour, recently includ­ing but assuredly not lim­ited to Eliot Spitzer, Mark San­ford, John Ensign and John Edwards. For oth­ers, it sim­ply shows that men are clue­less, irre­spon­si­ble oafs. The sci­en­tific realty, how­ever, is more nuanced, and more inter­est­ing, espe­cially for those look­ing to their own mat­ri­mo­nial future.

First, there can be no seri­ous debate about whether monogamy is nat­ural for human beings. It isn’t. A Mar­t­ian zool­o­gist vis­it­ing planet Earth would have no doubt: Homo sapi­ens car­ries all the evo­lu­tion­ary stig­mata of a mildly polyg­a­mous mam­mal in which both sexes have a pen­chant for occa­sional “extra-pair copulations.”

But nat­ural isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good. Think about earth­quakes, tsunamis, gan­grene or pneu­mo­nia. Nor is unnat­ural bad, or beyond human poten­tial. Con­sider writ­ing a poem, learn­ing a sec­ond lan­guage or mas­ter­ing a musi­cal instru­ment. Few peo­ple would argue that learn­ing to play the vio­lin is nat­ural; after all, it takes years of ded­i­ca­tion and hard work. A case can be made, in fact, that peo­ple are being max­i­mally human when they do things that con­tra­dict their biol­ogy. “Doing what comes nat­u­rally” is easy. It’s what non­hu­man ani­mals do. Per­haps only human beings can will them­selves to do things that go against their “nature.”

And finally, even though any­one aspir­ing to gen­uine monogamy will, on bal­ance, have to swim upstream against the cur­rent of his or her evo­lu­tion­ar­ily bequeathed incli­na­tions, there are also con­sid­er­able bio­log­i­cal forces sup­port­ing such efforts. Some ani­mals man­age to be monog­a­mous. Cal­i­for­nia mice (Per­omyscus cal­i­for­ni­cus), for exam­ple, pair up and remain paired, for­sak­ing all oth­ers, largely because of the pay­off derived from hav­ing two par­ents to care for off­spring. Beavers estab­lish last­ing pair-bonds that enable them to coop­er­ate in build­ing a valu­able, com­plex home site. The Mala­gasy giant jump­ing rat has evi­dently made the jump to monogamy because of the predator-fighting ben­e­fits thereby pro­vided. And among pygmy mar­mosets, monogamy gives males uncon­scious con­fi­dence of their pater­nity, which in turn sup­ports their incli­na­tion to be unusu­ally paternal.

And human beings? Our species ben­e­fits greatly from bi-parental care. We can profit from shared, rec­i­p­ro­cated effort, espe­cially when we’re con­fi­dent both part­ners will be around for the long term. In addi­tion, human beings are endowed with an array of hard-wired traits that can be used to strengthen monogamy, among them a pen­chant (per­haps even a need) to attach and con­nect so-called mir­ror neu­rons that under­lie empa­thy; hor­monal sys­tems, such as those involv­ing oxy­tocin and vaso­pressin, that relate sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion to pair-bonding; and neural plas­tic­ity that pro­motes the strength­en­ing of brain cir­cuits asso­ci­ated with repeated reward mech­a­nisms — includ­ing, in all like­li­hood, those acti­vated via inter­ac­tions with the same individual.

Add to this the fact that peo­ple have big brains, and hence, an abil­ity to res­cue monogamy from monot­ony, as well as the capac­ity to imag­ine the future and a vis­ceral dis­like of dis­hon­esty, and the effect of biol­ogy on monogamy becomes com­plex indeed. Not to men­tion the adap­tive sig­nif­i­cance of that thing called love.

To be sure, monogamy isn’t easy; nor is it for every­one. But any­one who claims that he or she sim­ply isn’t cut out for monogamy misses the point: No one is. At the same time, no one’s biol­ogy pre­cludes monogamy either.

As Jean-Paul Sartre famously advised (albeit in a dif­fer­ent con­text): “You are free; choose.”

David P. Barash, an evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist, is a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. His most recent book — coau­thored with Judith Eve Lip­ton — is “Strange Bed­fel­lows: The Sur­pris­ing Con­nec­tion Between Sex, Evo­lu­tion and Monogamy.”


Save Relationships By Giving Up

wave-goodbyeIn our cul­ture to give up means to sur­ren­der your hope, to stop pur­su­ing your dream to stop doing what you want to do due to obsta­cles and so on. In other words “giv­ing up” has a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion which some­how defines our char­ac­ter as weak, not trust­wor­thy, unre­li­able etc. In the con­text of giv­ing up what we want to do, what we promised, or what is expected of us to do in order to pre­serve our integrity (see “ON INTEGRITY”), to give up does not obvi­ously serve us. What I would like to draw your atten­tion to is a dif­fer­ent con­text in which “giv­ing up” may be very ben­e­fi­cial to our san­ity, good rela­tion­ships, and the rate of our growth as human beings.

You’ve prob­a­bly already guessed: giv­ing up what does not serve us indeed may be ben­e­fi­cial to the hap­pi­ness we expe­ri­ence in our lives. The ques­tion is how do we know what to give up. If it is so obvi­ous that I am repeat­edly doing what does not make me, or oth­ers around me happy, how come that I still keep doing those things that I “know” do not work. Let me sug­gest that that you may very well NOT know that what you keep doing does not work. It is very hard to see. For exam­ple think about your insis­tence of being right, or jus­ti­fy­ing your actions although you know that you made a mis­take. Surely you gain some­thing by:

•    Being right /making oth­ers wrong
•    Jus­ti­fy­ing your­self / inval­i­dat­ing oth­ers
•    Dom­i­nat­ing oth­ers / avoid being dom­i­nated
•    Avoid tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for some­thing
•    Avoid being at risks (I do not mean a saber-tooth tiger, but some­thing like a conversation)

This is what we call a “pay-off”.

Now I want to think about what your pay of costs you. Let me sug­gest. How about:

•    Love / inti­macy
•    Health / vital­ity
•    Your self-expression
•    Your rela­tion­ship
•    Your participation

Are you will­ing to pay the price of the COST in order to get your PAY-OFF?

Giv­ing up your pay-offs in order to avoid the cost is “good” and use­ful as you might have noticed, but you may ask, how do I do it. The key is to be aware of what comes out of your mouth. Observe your­self, observe the oth­ers and how they react to you and observe, like a fly on the wall, your­self and oth­ers being in con­ver­sa­tion. What do you see? This is the time to be bru­tally hon­est with your­self. Be care­ful, though, do not cross the limit and start blam­ing your­self and mak­ing your­self “wrong” and being at the same time “right” about it. No one can fool us as we can fool our­selves. We are sim­ply mas­ters at it.

If there is un UPSET, FRUSTRATION, or FAMILIARITY in your actions then you can be cer­tain that you are about to, or that you re get­ting your pay-off. Give it up!

•    Exam­ples of what to give up:
•    Com­plain­ing about some­thing to a per­son who can­not do any­thing about it.
•    Gos­sip­ing, i.e. talk­ing about some­one who is not present.
•    Resis­tance to apol­o­giz­ing
•    Giv­ing rea­sons and excuses
•    Being dom­i­nated by your promises, etc.

Please share with us your insights. Since this is some­times so hard to see, your sto­ries may be a big con­tri­bu­tion to others.

Thank you


The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship

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