Is Volunteer Childlessness Becoming Commonly Accepted

Women with No Children by Race and Ethnicity Pew Research CenterMillennials are waiting longer to get married and start a family.  In the meantime, they are more educated than any other generation and making more conscious lifestyle decisions.  Cameron Diaz recent announcement opens the doorway for an important discussion on the implications of choosing to have children or not.

Diaz recently declared she is not having children

Cameron Diaz announced that she has decided not to have children.  It stirred a huge public debate regarding the issue and how her life is easier without children.  She claimed, “To have lives besides your own that you are responsible for — I didn’t take that on. A baby, that’s all day, every day for 18 years. Not having a baby might really make things easier, but that doesn’t make it an easy decision. I like protecting people, but I was never drawn to being a mother.”

Cultural norms redefining femininity

Diaz’s comments generated a lot of buzz around a bigger and very complex cultural question about how we view women, what their purpose is, and the larger issue of making a conscious choice whether to have children or not.  It is no longer the default and women like Cameron Diaz are not only giving us the opportunity to discuss the topic but be a role model for being confident in a choice of not having children.

Diaz says, “I think (the reaction) comes from people wanting to feel good about their own decisions. Just because I don’t have children now, they might look at their life and think, ‘Oh, you have a choice? I didn’t have to do this yet?’

It’s about choice and choosing happiness

The most important thing is being happy in the moment and in our choices.  According to a 2007 University of Michigan study, women’s happiness later in life is more correlated to being married or having a partner than whether or not she has children (Science Daily, 2007).

Society is evolving.  In 1988, sixty-one percent of Americans agreed with the notion that being childless is means an unhappy life. Times have changed.  In 2010, forty-one percent say childlessness implies you’re unfulfilled (Slate, 2010).

Testing those norms

Diaz isn’t setting the trend.  She is just one of the first to make a public declaration.  Decline in births have been steadily going down and are at the lowest in recorded American history.  From 2007 to 2011, birthrates have declined nine percent and have spawned across all racial and ethnic populations.  Today one in five American women remains childless versus one in ten in the 70s (Time Magazine, 2013).

Choosing personal femininity

Even though Diaz chose to speak out about her decision, it is a private choice.  In a culture where womanhood is defined by motherhood, Diaz is offering an opportunity to redefine womanhood in the modern world.  Women are often scolded by American culture for being childless as was Diaz.  There is more to femininity than paternity.   Just as women have a choice in deciding to have children or not, women have a choice in deciding how to define their femininity.

Choosing reasons to have or not have children

It is still expected to provide a good reason why not to have children.  On the other hand, it is not required to have a reason good or bad when having kids.  Upon the decision not to have children, it is automatically assumed, she is infertile, she must be lesbian, she is selfish, or she is too career-oriented.  Whatever the reasoning, an explanation is owed.

The rules change upon parents of a newborn.  They are not asked, “Why did you give birth” or “What were your reasons behind having a child?”   Double standards permeate the choice to procreate.  No thought or justification is needed for having children but there better be a good reason why you chose against birth (New York Times June 2012).

It is time for a discussion

People are changing societal norms.  Gen Y is of childbearing years but deciding not to have children at least for now.  Americans are becoming more educated, self aware, and consciously thinking about the pros and cons of lifestyle choices.  Either way a discussion is necessary.   It’s not a matter of right or wrong.  It’s a matter of being happy in our choices and in our lives.

I would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on childlessness?

Design Your Ideal Partner with this Game

doves_heartDo you have a partner with a habit or flaw you’d like to eliminate, tweak or fix? Let’s play a game about that.

Part One

You can now design your ideal mate. Pick from any of the traits described below and even add a lot more. Go wild. Create a list of all the positive traits you wish for in your mate. Your dream partner can now be assembled like ordering a new car.

It might be easiest to print this list so you can circle your favorites and add others.

  • Intelligent
  • Sensitive
  • Interesting
  • Fun loving
  • Wants as many kids as I do
  • Great parent
  • Has many exciting interests
  • Attractive
  • Values good health
  • Enjoys their work
  • Likes animals
  • Honest
  • Loves me for who I am
  • Great sense of humor
  • Enjoys sex about as often as I do
  • Loves taking care of others
  • Gives me all the space I want when I want it
  • Sparkling conversationalist
  • Loves cooking for me
  • Enjoys the same foods, movies, music and sports
  • Manages money well and is a great investor
  • Extroverted and fun in social situations
  • Introverted and likes quiet, serene romantic settings
  • Likes to exercise
  • Great travel companion
  • Has the same sense of adventure
  • Loves what they do professionally and the sky is the limit
  • Knows just how much to tease me
  • Trustworthy
  • Wants to talk when I do
  • Is interested in my day if I want to talk about it
  • Is willing to go to therapy (just in case)

Wow, what an ideal partner. And he or she is all yours. Just keep reading.

Part Two

Now that you have described your dream partner, let’s do part two. For every four positive traits, you now need to include one irritant. Because we are all flawed creatures, we have to balance the picture.

Look at the list below and choose one characteristic for every four on your original list. What are you willing to live with in order to have all those juicy positives? In this scenario, the negatives are fixed and pretty permanent. Remember the ratio is 4:1. Count your list of positive traits and divide by 4 to see how many traits you need to select from the list below.

  • Insecure
  • Bi-polar
  • Narcissistic
  • Passive aggressive
  • Conflict avoidant
  • Hairy back
  • Lazy
  • Not interested in sex when I am
  • Addicted to TV or video games
  • Doesn’t want the same number of kids I do
  • Poor kisser
  • Loves eating junk foods
  • Messy
  • Forgets birthdays and anniversaries
  • Unmotivated
  • Stingy
  • Jealous
  • Insecure
  • Really embarrassing fashion style
  • Nags
  • Chews with mouth open
  • Snores loud enough to scare small animals
  • No sense of humor
  • Watches way too much T.V
  • Rarely expresses emotions
  • Trapped in go nowhere job and doesn’t mind it
  • Spends way over the budget
  • Interrupts and doesn’t listen well
  • Swears a lot
  • Tendency toward chronic depression
  • Too much overweight or underweight
  • No common activities
  • Has unpleasant friends
  • Bad health

There you have it – a real live human being who is complex, annoying, loving, and full of contradictions.

Part Three

Make a Valentine’s Day Commitment. For the day before, the day of and the day after, experiment with accepting your partner’s irritating traits. Increase your positive recognition of your partner’s pluses and overlook their negatives.

Valentine’s Day has become way too commercial. Isn’t this better than any box of candy?

Also, do your best to evaluate yourself against these lists and look at the ratio you bring to your relationship. Do you see the same plusses and minuses as your partner sees in you?

If you do part three, congratulations. Please share any discoveries or how hard it is to resist blaming and criticizing for those 3 days.

Please share what you discover.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Written by The Couple’s Institute

The Secret of Love (Spoiler Alert)

journey by Deepak Chopra, MD

The Internet has taken up the slack from print media by offering tips on love and relationships, which pop up on home pages, in tweets and in news teasers many times a day. If the secret to lasting romance could be shared like a recipe for cinnamon buns, our problems would be over. But love isn’t a fact, formula, or definable in words.

Love is a process, perhaps the most mysterious one in human psychology. No one knows what creates love as a powerful bond that is so full of meaning. If romance was only a heady brew of hormones, genetic inheritance and sex drive, all we’d need is better data to explain it. But love is transporting. It carries us beyond our everyday selves and makes reality shine with an inner light. The reverse can also happen. We crash to earth when the wear and tear of relationships makes love fade.

The process of love is kept alive by evolving and not getting stuck. Infatuation is an early stage of the process. You bond with another person as if by alchemy, but in time the ego returns with the claims of “I, me, and mine.” At that point love must change. Two people must negotiate how much to share, how much to surrender and how much to stand their ground. It would be tragic if romance faded into everyday familiarity, but it doesn’t have to.

Beyond the stage of two egos negotiating for their own interests, there is deepening love. It doesn’t try to turn the present into the past. A married couple of twenty years isn’t still infatuated with one other. So what keeps the process alive? For me, the answer was revealed by reading a startling sentence from the Upanishads, which are like a textbook of spiritual understanding. The sentence says, “You do not love a spouse for the sake of the spouse but for the sake of the self.”

At first glance this seems like a horrible sentiment: We all love on a personal basis and we expect to be loved the same way, for ourselves. But if “self” means your everyday personality, there is much that isn’t very lovable about each of us and as a marriage or relationship unfolds, there’s a guarantee that our partners will see those unlovable things more clearly. Even a knight in shining armor might want to save more than one damsel, and even saint must use deodorant once in a while.

In the world’s wisdom tradition, “love” and “self” are both universal. They exist beyond the individual personality. The secret of love is to expand beyond the personal. When people say that they want unconditional love, they often imply that they want to be loved despite their shortcomings, issues and quirks. But that’s nearly impossible if love remains at the personal level. At a certain point, if you begin to see love itself as your goal, universal love is more powerful and secure than personal love.

The poet Rabindranath Tagore described the spiritual side of love in a single expression” “Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.” The gift of human awareness is that we can locate the source of creation in ourselves. By going deeper into the self, asking “Who am I?” without settling for a superficial answer, the ego-personality fades. A sense of the true self begins to dawn, and it is this self that exists in contact with love as the only reality.

The journey becomes more fascinating if someone else travels with you. Life isn’t about abstractions; it’s about experience. If you have a beloved who stands for the feeling of love, bonding, and affection, your journey has a focus that can’t be supplied merely by thinking. The experiences that love bring include surrender, devotion, selflessness, giving, gratitude, appreciation, kindness and bliss. So if the phrase “universal love” seems daunting or improbable to you, break it down into these smaller experiences. Pursue them, and you will be traveling in the direction of your source, where the true self and true love merge.

That’s where my spoiler alert comes in. Announcing the secret of love cuts short the actual experience. It doesn’t always help to know what’s coming, because you might fall into exaggerated expectations and fall short. It’s better and more realistic to become aware that love is now your personal project. Show kindness and gratitude. Speak about what your beloved means to you. Every step on this journey works on behalf of the two of you but also on behalf of the self that unites you at the deepest level.

Healthy Relationship Habits: Communication

1.    Communicate daily.  Communicating daily ensure you are in tune to your partners latest interests, ideas, thoughts, and emotions which give greater opportunity for connection and intimacy.

2.    Learn to listen. By listening, you are able to summarize what your partner said and how they feel in about two sentences when they have completely stopped speaking.

3.    Check in.  Randomly inquiry about your partner.  Showing interest in unexpected way, shows you care, are curious, and want to included in your partner’s daily life whether mundane or not.

4.    “I” statements – I think, I feel, I prefer.  By taking ownership of your wants, needs, and emotions, your partner is less likely to become defensive.

5.     Express emotions.  Use specific feelings and actions that instilled the anger, hurt, sadness, joy, or happiness.

6.     Don’t blame. Take a moment to declare what your role may have been in the situation. No matter the situation, everyone involved played a part.  Taking responsibility for your function creates an atmosphere for safety and expression.

7.    Share, get to know each other, ask questions, be curious, and unleash childhood experiences, share pictures, memories, and stories.  Sharing small bits of you ensures safety and trust over time.

8.    Speak what is true to you. Stop, reflect for a moment, determine what is true for you in the situation and speak your truth kindly.  Identify a specific event or topic and use “When this happened, I feel/ felt, because I, and I (clarifying your requests, what you’d like to see in the future, actions you plan to take, and when, and what you will do to take care of yourself), and I appreciate.  Finish with kindness.

9.    Never go to bed angry!  Clear up the argument before hitting the sheets.  Come to a

Couple_sitting_outdoor_table_talking

compromise or determine a time and place to reconvene the discussion.  Make-up sex just may be the perfect way to move past an argument.

10.   Be Specific in your communication.  Discuss one topic at a time and don’t move on to the next until the first one is resolved.

11.   Remind your partner why you fell in love with them.  Describe specific things you love about them.

12.   Show appreciation for who they are and what they do.  Again be specific in sharing your appreciation. “I appreciate it when you….”

13.   No Yelling.  The louder you yell, the less the other person listens to you! Speak in a warm and loving tone calmly and respectfully and more likely your partner will listen.

14.   Use preferences – avoid demands. Ex: Instead of “You need to clean the scattered newspaper in the living room tonight” try “I feel anxious because the large stack of newspaper in the living room is distracting.  I would really appreciate it if you could find a secluded place to store the newspapers tonight.”

15.   Use eye contact. Think how it feels to be spoken to while someone is looking at you versus looking at the newspaper.

16.   Do not give unsolicited advice. When you know you partner is having a rough day, just listen and don’t try to solve their problem.  They are fully capable of solving their own issues.  A good listening ear may be all the help that is required.

Keeping Marital Secrets Closeted

By JANE ISAYEstranged Marriage

THIS summer, soon after gay marriage became legal in New York, my sons held a wedding for my former husband and his partner of over 30 years. The grandchildren were flower girl and ring bearers. The wedding thrust me back to the time when we faced a terrible choice and decided to stay married for the children. That’s what motivated my then husband and me to carry on our incomplete marriage for its last nine years, and that’s how we explained our actions after the divorce. It was a convenient truth, and also a self-serving one.

The year was 1980. I was waiting for my husband of 15 years to return from the last party of a psychiatry convention. I could hear voices from down the hall, happy men enjoying their time together. When he came in, his face was grave. He sat down on the bed and said, “I have something I need to tell you.” He took a deep breath. “I’m homosexual.” At that moment I saw my future collapse before my eyes. I got the chills and ran to take a hot bath. It gave me time to think and warmed me, but not for long. We spent the night talking and lamenting. On the plane home, we held each other and sobbed and planned. By the time we landed, we had decided to keep his sexual orientation a secret and stay married for the sake of the children.

Of course we both wanted to protect our sons, who were 10 and 14. Divorce was not uncommon then, but the circumstances surrounding our relationship were controversial and would have created a scandal in our small university town, so staying married for the children helped us both feel better about ourselves and our lies. We thought they didn’t notice any change, and we were mistaken. Secrets have a way of seeping into the atmosphere. Kids are natural observers. They watch parents like hawks, and they know when something is wrong, even if they don’t know what. I desperately wanted the charade to work at home — we were doing this for the children. So covering for my husband on his two nights a week out, and his two vacations a year became second nature — he was a busy man with many meetings.

I paid a price for my silence with my closest friends, because a secret of this magnitude builds barriers. I just couldn’t bear to show them the spot I was in. And I was leery of advice. When I felt so alone, I could always remind myself what a good person I was being, sacrificing for the children.

The other reasons for staying married were not so charming. If I had thought, I’m staying for the money, I might have questioned the lies I told my sons about where their father was on the nights he spent with his future husband. Or if he had thought, I’m staying to promote my career as a psychoanalyst, he might have felt a little heavy on the ambition scale. Or if we both had realized that we were just too scared to face the world alone, I might have given up some of the pretending, and he might have realized the gravity of his original secret.

But never mind. We had an explanation that made people admire us when we finally went public. Other truths might have evoked pity or suspicion: what’s the matter with her radar? How could she accept a half a marriage instead of a whole one? Who is she, really? To say we stayed married for the children put an end to uncomfortable questions.

If I had faced the other reasons to stay in the marriage, the burden of our lies would probably have been harder to bear. But the burden on our sons might also have been lightened. It’s not so great for kids to be told they are the cause of their parents’ behavior, especially when that’s only part of the story. When they finally learned the truth, our sons were more disturbed by our deception than by the facts. Our reasons didn’t seem to matter anymore. Truth trumps lies every time.

The phrase “we stayed married for the children” is like a silk duvet on a complicated and imperfect marriage bed. Nobody really wants to turn back the covers, the unhappy spouses least of all.

Building Blocks for a Successful Relationship from Meeting to Marriage

I came up with an eight step system for individuals looking for a long and lasting relationship.  After much personal experience, observation and research, I have discovered these steps provide a greater chance for a lifelong partner versus just a one night stand.  These steps are not ingrained in stone and there are certainly rare and wonderful cases where a one night stand can turn into a successful marriage.  However to increase your chances, I have determined these steps provide the proper criteria and mind set for marriage.

Building Blocks for a Successful Relationship from Meeting to Marriage

First Three to Six Months

1.  Meet

  • Encounter at work, school, gym, grocery store, running/ walking club, art/ writing class, workshop, or any personal interest group.

2.  Establish a Friendship

  • Treat each other as buddies.  No pressure for sex and truly get to know the person without expectations for the future or external demands.  In this type of relationship, you are permitted to be yourself and learn each other’s character, values and beliefs.

3.  Set Boundaries and Stand-up for your principles and viewpoint

  • Be willing to end the relationship if they aren’t met.   You may be surprised how the relationship turns for the better after someone takes a stance if there is something special brewing between the two of you.

Six to Nine Months

4.  Continue to build boundaries; working on polite yet assertive communication.

5.  Respect

  • Respect naturally forms if there is admiration and deference toward each other.  Appreciate signs of mutual respect such as thoughtfulness, consideration, politeness and respect of privacy.  Small considerate actions mean the most.

Nine Months to a Year

6.  Love is revealed

  • Revel in your love, tender affection and romantic desires and longing for each other.

Year to Two Years

7.  Persevere the relationship

  • Steadily persist in consistent thoughtful actions toward each other despite problems or difficulties if they exist.

8.  Marriage

  • Make a 100% Commitment.  Be willing to work and give the relationship hundred percent; through thick and thin; the good and the bad times. During difficult times, look for the positives and enjoy your spouse more each day. You may be pleasantly surprised how your spouse responds; naturally reacting nicer.  An amazing transformation will eventually occur, illuminating happier times together.
  • There is a remarkable difference between a commitment of 99% and 100%. At 100%, you are seeing your problems all the way through to their solutions. At 99% we can still find a way to take the path of least resistance…and usually do.