Archive | Relationships

Tips For Adulthood: Five Facts About Siblings

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Earlier this summer, my daughter began reading the Harry Potter series. Like most kids who discover these amazing books, she was instantly drawn to both the plot and the characters. As a result, she now spends most of her imaginary play in the role of Hermione Granger uttering “Oculus Reparus!

But no sooner had she completed Chapter One of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, my son (who read all seven of the books – more than once – two summers earlier) promptly turned around and read the entire series back to back. While I’m sure that her enthusiasm for these stories reminded him of how much he enjoyed them himself, I’m fairly certain that there was also an element of sibling rivalry at play.

It’s not the first time that I’ve witnessed this sort of dynamic between my kids. And there’s a wealth of literature out there backing up the idea that sibling relationships are vitally important in shaping who we are and how we behave.

Still, I find that I can’t read enough about the precise ways in which sibling dynamics (or the lack thereof) affect our development into adulthood.

To wit, here are five recent findings about siblings:

1. Close sibling relationships are good for your health. At least, so says a Harvard University study showing that being close to one’s siblings at college age was a crucial determinant of emotional well-being at 65. I’d read about this study a couple of years ago when it came out. What I hadn’t realized is that the purported benefits of close sibling relationships extend not only to mental health, but to physical health as well. According to relationship researcher Mark Morman of Baylor University, siblings who maintain close relationships in adulthood are less at risk for depression and they maintain lower heart rates as well.

2. But only one third of siblings remain close into adulthood. According to scholars in Europe, another third remain relatively close. And while few adult siblings sever ties completely, about 33 percent drift apart entirely, sometimes describing their relationship as distant or rivalrous. (Earlier studies based in the United States offer more favorable percentages.)

3. Despite sharing similar genes, sibling personalities often differ. This is perhaps not all that surprising, given that in an environment of limited resources (read: parental attention and affection), you would expect siblings to differentiate themselves in order to get noticed. Still, siblings who share the same gene pool do tend to resemble one another markedly both physically and intellectually. And yet, their personalities diverge 80% of the time.

4. The effects of maternal favoritism persist into adulthood. According to one recent study in the United States, recollections of maternal favoritism in childhood were more important than perceptions of current favoritism in predicting tension among adult siblings, regardless of age. And children of mothers who favor or reject one child are also more likely to suffer depressive symptoms as middle-aged adults. (Whether and how this extends to paternal favoritism strikes me as an avenue ripe for research.)

5. Being an only child confers some real benefits. There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of birth order  in shaping personality. I also feel like I keep reading essays by only children who want to give their own children siblings, whether to shoulder the burden of caring for an ailing parent or to relieve the burden of being the only one left when one parent dies. But despite the bad rap being an only child sometimes gets, new research suggests that only children tend to exceed other kids in terms of academic accomplishments, sophistication, vocabulary, and even social skills. Precisely because they have to learn skills outside the home – whether at school or day care and the like, they tend to have a greater ability to make and maintain friends and to resolve conflict. Hmmm. Wouldn’t have expected that.

 

Image: Sibling rivalry by esther gibbons via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

 

Tips For Adulthood: Five Smart Posts About Divorce

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Talk of divorce is in the air this week.

It all began with an article in last Sunday’s New York Times Styles section by Pamela Paul entitled How Divorce Lost Its Groove. The thrust of the article is that, at least among a sub-set of affluent, well-educated couples, divorce is not only less prevalent, but also more stigmatized.

And the blogosphere has been alight with discussion of divorce ever since.

I enjoy reading about divorce. Not because my own marriage is jeopardized (at least at the moment!). But because I have so many close friends and family members who are divorced. So I’m always heartened when people are open and honest about divorce, rather than treating it like cancer. Which is why – among other reasons – I was so pleased when Nora Ephron opened up a divorce vertical at Huffington Post.

To that end, here are five smart posts about divorce for all of us  – divorced, married, single and “to be determined”:

1. Over on Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams endorses Paul’s main thesis, arguing that at least in her own nominally progressive, helicopterish-parenting social circle, divorce does lead to social ostracism. As she writes: “There’s great — and by that I mean terrible — irony in the way that the most supposedly enlightened and liberal of parenting enclaves can feel suffocatingly like a meeting of the Harper Valley PTA.” Williams concludes that we’d all be better off if we treated divorce as a messy reality of contemporary life, instead of as a personal achievement. And it would be better for our kids too.

2. And speaking of kids, over on the Huffington Post, recently-separated Stephanie Dolgoff (of Formerly Hot fame) talks about why, sometimes, you really do need to “put your kids second.” In the aftermath of her own separation, Dolgoff, too, was subjected to the stares and idle gossip of her close-knit neighborhood. She was aghast at how few people could actually hold back from implying that by divorcing, she had completely ruined her children’s lives. In the long run, however, she firmly believes that in securing her own happiness, she will secure her daughters’ as well.

3. Over at Slate’s XX Blog, K.J. Dell’Antonia disagrees with the premise that our attitudes towards divorce have fundamentally altered. Harkening back to her own childhood in the 1970s, she speculates that divorce was always difficult and always stigmatizing for those going through it. She encourages us to think of divorce as a phenomenon that’s still finding its groove, rather than one that’s lost it.

4. Some of the most thoughtful blogging on divorce can be found at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy. Here’s an earlier post that Big Little Wolf wrote called Something Like Marriage, in which she explains how, despite being married, her husband never really “showed up.” This post goes to the heart of the sort of disillusionment with marriage that can drive one to divorce, even absent an affair.

5. Finally, to end on a positive note, I really liked this essay by Katie Brandi in the New York Times Modern Love column last year. In it, Brandi recounts her own disillusionment with marriage, and how she rose out of it – despite the tears, the disappointment and the new-born – to fashion a new, happier life for herself.

As I read these over, I realize that it might sound like I’m pro-divorce. As these essays recount, however, I don’t think anyone is pro-divorce, least of all those who go through it. But divorce is a painful reality of modern marriage and the sooner we face up to its myriad complexities – emotional and practical – the better.

 

Image: divorce by jcoterhals via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

The Etiquette Of Friendship

I got an email from a friend a few weeks back. It read something like this:

Dear Delia: I wanted to let you know that I invited X and her husband over to dinner. I feel terribly as I realize that I did this without ever having you guys over first and I’ve known you longer than X. So I wanted to tell you myself in case you heard it from X. I realize that this may sound silly, but I just felt like I needed to tell you. [Husband] and I would love to have you guys over as well…”

I loved this note on so many levels. First, I loved my friend for being so honest and forthright about such a small – but (potentially) awkward – situation. Second, she even gave me (unsolicited) permission to go ahead and blog about it (suggesting that we really are quite compatible as friends.)

Finally, I loved the way that she put her finger on one of those intangible, and yet instantly recognizable, aspects of adulthood: the etiquette of friendship.

When you’re a kid, you don’t worry too much about the spillover effects of your individual friendships. You’re best friends with Suzi one day; the next day, it’s Bonnie. Suzi gets jealous and may even hold it against you, but probably only for an hour or so because she’s now best friends with Gloria. Until, of course, you guys are best friends with each other again. And so on.

As you grow older, however, you come to realize not only most things happen within a wider social context, but that there are certain codes governing such interactions – and they are often unspoken.

Take, for example, the “return” playdate. If one of my kids gets invited to the house of a child that they don’t particularly like and/or they don’t enjoy themselves on a given playdate, they have no real comprehension of the idea that whether or not they had a good time, we’re going to need to have that child over to our house.

But I don’t like Sophia/Johnny/Fill In the Blank..,” they’ll utter in dismay. “Why do I have to have them over to my house?”

As grown-ups, however, we do feel this obligation. We know that it’s the *right* thing to do, whether or not we’ve enjoyed our dinner party/coffee/drink/whatever. It’s just the way things are.

In the case of my friend’s email, there’s certainly no law stating that just because you’ve known one friend longer than another (mutual) friend, or that the third party (in this case, me) introduced the two of you, you are obligated to socialize with these people in order of acquaintance.

And yet, somehow it feels as if you’ve violated a norm when you entertain out of order.

Other times, the underlying social code is murky and you’re caught off guard trying to interpret a situation. Have you ever invited someone to coffee and had them show up with a third party, unannounced? It’s really hard to interpret that, isn’t it? Do they not want to hang out with you…are they trying to be “efficient” with their coffees…or did they just genuinely think that the two of you would hit it off?

 I’m endlessly fascinated by these tacit codes of adulthood that weave our society together.

So, tell me. What have I missed? What social norms have you found yourself obeying/violating/noticing as you go through adult life? Which ones would you readily dispense with? Which ones are useful?

Image: dinner party picture by daralibrarian via flickr under a creative commons license

Adulthood Quiz: How Diverse Are Your Friends Politically?

MSP: Rebublican National Convention by jpellgen

There’s an interesting post over on Salon by Taffy Brodesser-Akner this week. It’s called “I can’t believe my best friend is a Republican.”

Great title.

The author goes on to explain how she – an avowed public radio-listening, pro-Planned Parenthood, California liberal – has a best friend who actually *likes* Fox News, admires Sarah Palin and – gasp – approves of cutting off funding for NPR. Her daughter’s names are Liberty, Honor and Victory. For reals.

The two women met at a weight-loss group. But, really, it could have been anywhere: a  playground…a writing group…a knitting club. The point is that they met because of a common interest and went on to forge a close personal relationship that transcended politics.

I still remember my own “first.” (Er…Republican that is.)

I went to one of those super-progressive, liberal artsy colleges in New England – you know, the kind where people erected shanty towns on the college green to protest the University’s investment in South Africa. (This was back when apartheid was still in place. Yes, I am *that* old.)  While I’d known one or two Republicans during my college years, they certainly weren’t a close or frequent part of my social circle.

Then I moved to Washington, D.C. where I lived for two years with a group of women from another liberal, progressive Northeastern University. And guess what? One of them was a Republican.

I still remember the shock I registered the first time she mentioned, in passing, that she voted Republican.

“Really?” I asked, incredulously.”Really?

“Of course I do,” she explained, shrugging her shoulders. “I grew up in [quintessential Midwestern state]. Everybody I knew was Republican:  my family, my friends, all the politicians. It’s just how it was.”

I remained shocked for several more months. And the shock, of course, had nothing to do with my friend’s politics, but everything to do with my own assumptions about who I was and the kind of people that surrounded me.

And, of course, it’s not really about whether someone votes Republican or Democrat (or Labour or Conservative). Brodesser-Akner’s article might just as easily have been titled “I can’t believe my best friend is an Atheist…Mormon…Jew…Body-Builder.

The point is that it’s about difference.

Since my post-college ideological awakening, I’m pleased to report that I’ve evolved. I’ve added many Republican friends (and family!) to the roster. With some, we avoid topics like health care and Islam in America (or Israel in the U.K.). With others, we engage in spirited debate.

Over the years – and much like the author – I’ve come to see this diversity in political views as a good thing. As my cousin, who lives in Colorado, pointed out to me during the mid-term elections last autumn, “There are real advantages to living in a ‘Purple state.’ It forces you to be more tolerant.”

I learned to appreciate the value of ideological diversity again when I went to work at Politics Daily. When I started writing there, I just assumed that most – if not all – of the women I’d be writing with would be card-carrying, pro-choicers like myself. I was wrong. From the editors on down, there were plenty of pro-Lifers to be found on the staff, and the median writer was – at least on this issue – a good deal more centrist than I.

One of my former colleagues recently observed on Facebook that working at Politics Daily had made her a bit less liberal (by virtue of being exposed to more conservative ideas.) I don’t feel that way at all. If anything, the experience made me more liberal, because I’m that much more aware of what’s at stake in debates over things like universal health care and the funding of Planned Parenthood.

But because that publication required me to listen to and engage with a diverse set of political views that I didn’t necessarily share, I’m also that much more informed. And I’ve had to work harder to defend my views on things like abortion, rather than taking them for granted

How about you? Do you find that you mostly hang out with like-minded folks or get outside your ideological comfort zone?

Image: MSP: Republican National Convention by jpellgen via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

PD–

Breaking Up With Friends Online…and In Life

I broke up with a fellow blogger recently.

She doesn’t know it, of course. Because I don’t know her. In that curious Online way in which we now Friend and Follow and Subscribe to many of our “friends,” you can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unsubscribe to someone’s RSS feed and they won’t necessarily even know that it happened.

It was a weird experience for me, nonetheless – the end of this relationship. She was one of the very first bloggers that I began to follow, long before I launched my own blog. I followed her because she seemed wise and funny and edgy. Most of all, she had super-insightful tips on an array of topics that interested me concerning blogging and career change and work/life balance.

Over time, however, she began to blog less and less about these professional topics and more and more about her personal life. That didn’t bother me, at first. For starters, she has a super-interesting personal life. And she’s also got a terrific voice. And, let’s be honest, blogging is an inherently narcissistic activity. So if you don’t have a strong voice, it really doesn’t work. (Thank goodness for all of us that narcissism is no longer in the DSM…)

Still, the more I read her blog, the more I came to feel that I was going there out of some voyeuristic impulse, rather than than because I was getting all that much out of it. In other words, somewhere along the way, our relationship had changed and I didn’t feel that it was particularly healthy for me anymore.

And that was when I knew that it was time to break up.

Once she was gone from my life, I found that I didn’t really miss her. To the contrary, I felt a sense of relief. It was just like ending a long-standing romantic relationship that’s become unhealthy and unproductive, one where you can no longer remember why – exactly – it was that you first hit it off but, regardless, the chemistry simply isn’t there any more.

Which got me thinking that my Online breakup with this blogger was a bit like breaking up with friends in real life.

We’ve all been there:

*The childhood friend with whom you shared everything – even your chewing gum – but is now embracing social and political causes you can’t quite stomach.

*The co-worker whose banter was fine at the office, but slipped into something more inappropriate after hours.

*Or simply the person you befriended because he seemed cool at the time, but, upon closer inspection, turned out to have several bodies hanging on a meat cleaver in his basement refrigerator.

Sometimes those break-ups can be painful, especially if you didn’t initiate them.

Sometimes they enable you to find a new equilibrium. I wrote not long ago about a semi-unhealthy best-friend relationship my daughter got into – and out of  – last year. Once she severed that tie, I was sure that particular friendship was dead and gone. But now she and her old Bestie are friends again – albeit of a much more casual sort.

A big part of growing up is figuring out what’s important to us in a friend. But equally, it’s about realizing when it’s time to move on.

Image: The Broken Hearts Club by Chrissy Ferguson via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

A Virtual Toast To My Community Of Women Writers

Apologies if you’ve been trying to access the blog and had trouble. The blog is shortly to undergo a re-design and we have hit a few speed bumps along the way. Thanks for your patience. Stay tuned for RealDelia 2.0, coming soon to a theatre near you!

Yesterday I posted on the changes afoot over at Politics Daily and their practical implications for freelance writers like myself in forcing us to be more enterprising.

Today I wanted to address the emotional side of that equation.

As I think I’ve mentioned at several points over the past couple of years, I’ve had an absolute blast working at Politics Daily. When I started there, I’d taken a few years off from journalism to write a novel and launch this blog. So it felt great to roll up my sleeves and dive back into the brainstorming, research and reporting that goes into being a journalist. It was also a lot of fun to return to the sorts of international topics that I once taught and wrote about as a scholar.

And because the website was starting from scratch as a player in Online political journalism, I got to learn by doing about this thing we call ” new journalism” and all of the social media tools and 24/7 news frenzy that goes with it.

In short, it has been – and continues to be – a great learning and growth experience for me professionally.

Above all, however, the main reason that I have loved working at Politics Daily has been the community that grew up around it. It’s true of the publication as a whole and its top-notch columnists and editors. What a super crew. And it’s especially true of my little corner of the world there: Woman Up.

You’ve seen a lot of the work I’ve done for them over the past two years on this very page:  stories about the economics of abortion and the reality of socialized medicine as well as why I think it’s time to life the Cuba embargo and the connection between universities and terrorism.

But what you don’t see is the lovely and supportive community of women that’s grown up behind that space along the way. Most of us didn’t know each other before Woman Up began. Now we chat constantly with each other On line. We share story ideas. We laugh. We argue. We write.

I wrote a  post a few weeks back on this blog about the importance of making real-life friends. Woman Up has by in large been a virtual community of friends for me (although I did have the enormous pleasure of meeting many of the ladies in person at a cocktail party in Washington, D.C. over the holidays.) But even as a virtual coffee clutch, it’s been a vital part of my social and intellectual life for the past few years.

This virtual cocktail party (did you notice how I just seamlessly escalated us from coffee to vodka?) may now come to an end, at least in its present incarnation. We’ll know for sure soon. But even if it carries on under a different banner, it will likely be different.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like change, after all. And the only thing that’s constant in life is change, so they say. But regardless of how things shape up in the future, I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of this fine group of female journalists.

As I live in London, we  normally “raise a glass” on occasions like this and say “Cheers.”

But my Irish grandmother always said it in Gaelic: “Slainte.”

So Slainte, ladies. It’s been a great ride.

May it continue.

Image: Laura at Computer by panguy100 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Friendship In Adulthood: What Do You Look For?

I saw an old friend over the holidays while I was back in the States. She moved to a new town a few years back and has slowly sunk roots there, buying a house…putting her kids in school…joining a synagogue. You know, the usual.

When I asked her if she’d made any close friends in her new town, she answered matter-of-factly: “I click about 85% with four or five women I’ve met. And I think that’s pretty good.”

She went on: “And I’ve finally realized what I look for in a friend: ‘Negativity.'”

I laughed out loud. But I knew exactly what she meant, both about the “85%” figure and about the negativity.

The fact is, it’s really hard to find people you connect with. I once wrote a commentary for Chicago Public Radio about the elusive search for female friends in adulthood. The thrust of the piece was to illustrate – by example – what a nightmare it is to have to “date” for friends once you grow up and have kids. So if you’re batting at 75% or over, like my friend is, I’d say that’s a pretty good average.

I can also relate to the negativity point. Despite my penchant for dark films about family dysfunction and self-destructive behavior, I don’t actually look for negativity in fellow friends. But I do look for some combination of intelligence coupled with a sense of humor, preferably on the self-deprecating side (which is actually what I think my friend meant by “negativity.”)

The problem is – even if you know what you’re looking for in a friend – how do you find those friends when you’re starting from scratch? And even if they’re out there…will you take the time and effort out of your busy life to “date” them?

In the hyper-connected world which we all inhabit these days, it’s easy to fall back on virtual friends. Women, in particular, are drawn to Online networking and community-building. I, myself, have made loads of friends Online in the past two years, of all different shapes and sizes.

But you can’t have coffee with a computer. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) And the internet can’t yield the sort of benefits that derive from close, real-life female friendships.

In case you’re wondering whether this entire discussion is academic, it isn’t. I myself, had to dip my toe back into the friendship-dating waters recently.

For months, I’d been trying to have coffee with a close friend of one of my cousins back in New Jersey, who moved to London last summer. My cousin spoke really highly of this guy, but between his schedule and mine, there just wasn’t a ton of overlap, despite the fact that we live about 10 minutes from one another.

And let’s face it. I knew that the probability that we’d hit it off was close to zero. So while I was happy to get together with this guy, I figured that this would be more of a “getting him oriented” in London kind of coffee, not the start of something beautiful.

Well, needless to say I LOVED him. Absolutely adored. He was cool and funny and smart. And we had tons of stuff in common. Not just the surface demographic-y type stuff, but a deeper appreciation for the same jokes, the same cultural references, the same reactions to British education. He was, in short, my people.

I was lucky that I happened upon my new BFF through my cousin. But close friends can just as easily sneak up on you at a book club, or that school function you dreaded going to, or that wine tasting that was so much better than you expected.

The point is to get out there. And experiment.

Who knows?

You might just find your soul mate.

Image: Making Friends by behang via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Are Women Too Naive About Marriage – And Divorce?

There’s a sobering article in last week’s Salon that bears reading by all mothers near and far. Titled “Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom,” it depicts the mindset of a recently divorced, partially-employed mother of two who — after being out of the workforce for 14 years — discovers it ain’t so easy getting back into the game when she needs a full-time job.

The author, Katy Read, only partly blames the current economic crisis for her job-hunting woes. Rather, she places most of it on her decision 14 years ago to invest first and foremost in her children (“sliding . . . skating . . . supervising art projects . . . helping them with their homework”) over and above things like securing a retirement fund or a sufficiently well-cushioned savings account.

As she writes: “I did what the experts advised: developed my skills, undertook new challenges, expanded my professional contacts. I advanced creatively if not financially, published essays in respected literary journals that often paid (cue ominous music) in copies of the magazine.” Fast forward 14 years and Read finds that “My income — freelance writing, child support, a couple of menial part-time jobs — doesn’t cover my current expenses, let alone my retirement or the kids’ tuition.”

Her conclusion? Much like Sandra Tsing Loh — who, in a much-hyped article in The Atlantic a few years back urged women not to marry lest they end up, like her, in a workable but loveless “companionate marriage” — Read does the same. She counsels new mothers to forget all that stuff they hear about having “quality time” with their kids. They should go get a job so that they don’t end up broke and bereft like her.

Read the rest of this post at www.PoliticsDaily.com

 

Image: 50% Dissolution by Donna 62 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Manage Conflict Effectively

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I think we’ve all been in a situation where something goes wrong – with a colleague, with a friend, with a family member – and our first inclination is to kick or scream or throw things, or just open the window and yell “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (Oh, sorry. Is that just me?)

But then cooler heads prevail and we realize that we actually need to manage the conflict, rather than just vent.

Here are five suggestions for how to manage conflict effectively:

1. Call, don’t write. A friend of mine who works in corporate America once told me that one of the very first things she learned at her job was that the minute you have a professional conflict with someone, you pick up the phone. Never, ever email. And that’s because – according to her at least – there’s greater room for misinterpretation when you write something, whereas in speech you can be more direct. As a writer, my instinct is *always* to write to people when there’s potential discord because I feel I can control the message better. But ever since she told me that, I’ve reconsidered. The other reason, of course – and pace the recent WikiLeaks scandal – is that once you put something in writing, it lives on ad infinitum. And then it can come back to haunt you.

2. If you must write, assume everyone is reading it. Which brings me to point two. For me, the potential perils of email were really brought home this past summer, when my Politics Daily colleague Andrew Cohen wrote a much-trafficked love letter to his ex on our news site entitled “On Her Wedding Day: Saying Things Left Unsaid.” My colleague Lizzie Skurnick then published a response to Andrew’s post entitled “How Not To Congratulate Your Ex On Her Wedding Day.” And then some emails ensued between the two of them which led to this and this. (If you aren’t cringing by now, you should be.)

3. Write an email, but don’t send it. I was once offered a job when I was first on the academic job market which I turned down – albeit with some remorse. And I felt so badly about turning it down that I compose this incredibly long, heartfelt explanation to the Department Chair. And then I threw it away. Because when I woke up the next morning, I realized that the letter was really written for me, rather than for him. In a similar vein, I’ve taken lately to writing out long emails to people I’m angry with and then not publishing them. As a writer, putting my thoughts down on the page helps me to express and even clarify my feelings, but without experiencing any of the blowback discussed in point #2.

4. Try to see it through their eyes. I got an email the other day that really irritated me. It was condescending. It was territorial. And it was bitchy. Or at least so I thought the first time I read it through. And I spent a good deal of the night composing a response (in my head) that I seriously debated sending to this person, despite my advice in #3. But when I came downstairs the next morning, I re-read the email and decided that – even though I was pretty sure that my initial reaction was justified – there was conceivably another way to read said email that put it in a more favorable light. And so – taking Gretchen Rubin’s maxim – “act the way we want to feel”  – to heart, I willed myself to reinterpret the original email as more benign so that I, too, could feel more positively towards this person. And then I just ignored it.

5. Write a letter. This may sound like it contradicts point #1 – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it in a professional setting. But sometimes I think that writing a good, old-fashioned letter can go a long way towards smoothing over differences between friends and family. For starters, in an internet age, everyone appreciates that letter-writing has gone the way of the horse and buggy. So when people take the time to actually write down their thoughts – with a pen! – it shows how much they matter to you. Second, while most people like their emails short and digestible, it’s O.K. to write a long letter and to really elaborate on what you’re feeling. I once did this with a friend and it really saved our friendship.

How about you? What strategies do you employ to manage conflict?

Image: Writing Samples: Parker 75 by churl via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To See The Kids Are All Right

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

OK, folks, I’ve got another movie recommendation for you.

It’s a small-ish, Indie film by Director Lisa Cholodenko called The Kids Are All Right which has been out in the States for a while now, but only recently opened over here in the land of the free and the brave. (Whoops! That’s the U.S.! I meant, the land that spawned the land of the free and the brave…must get my history straight.)

As always, when I recommend movies or books on this site, it’s because I think that they have something profound to say about adulthood.

So, too, with this film. Here are five reasons you should rush out to see it if you haven’t done so already:

1. It’s about marriage. The film centers around two women – played with just the right mix of pluck and vulnerability by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore – who’ve been married to each other for 18 plus years. And though it’s sort of a film about gay marriage (see #4), I wouldn’t say that’s the central theme. Rather, this film is about what I’ve referred to before as middle marriage – that particular stage of life when you’ve been married for a while and the kids are no longer babies and maybe you’ve had a career change or a move or two, and you’re trying to figure out what it’s all about. And Cholodenko (who also co-wrote the script) gets that stage of life perfectly: the yearnings, the frustrations, the mis-communications, the boredom, the anxiety and, most importantly, the weary and imperfect love that underlies it. I guarantee that if you’ve been married or in a long-term committed relationship for more than five years you will watch this movie and find yourself nodding in recognition.

2. It’s about infidelity. I give nothing away by revealing that the movie’s central drama concerns what happens when the man who donated sperm to this couple many years earlier so that they could have kids re-appears and completely upends their family life. Lots of movies have treated the topic of marital infidelity, which is – as I’ve noted before – not only wide-spread, but in some ways, entirely predictable. (I always feel like I need to justify that claim, so here’s some scientific evidence about why monogamy isn’t natural.) What I liked about this film was the way that the topic was broached. The cheating didn’t stem primarily from feelings of boredom or revenge or even idle sexual attraction. It stemmed from the desire to be recognized and appreciated. Which struck me as so…honest.

3. It’s about parenting teens. Again, there are loads of movies about parenting. What sets this one apart is that it focuses very specifically on parenting teenagers which – in light of our cultural obsession with babies (thank you, Erika Jong!) – can sometimes go missing. The movie not only addresses the classic theme of “letting go” ( the couples’ eldest child is about to go off to college), but also how difficult it can be when you don’t approve of the company your kids are keeping. And Lord knows I could relate to that.

4. It’s about gay marriage. OK, I realize that I just said that this movie wasn’t primarily about gay marriage. And it isn’t. But I very much liked that rather than seeing another film exploring some aspect of a long-term heterosexual relationship, this one brought us inside a homosexual one. In a country where we are still – improbably – trying to figure out if everyone should have the right to marry whoever the heck they want, having a mainstream picture focus in on a lesbian couple with kids who look (gasp) just like every other couple with kids is culturally important.

5. It also stars Mark Ruffalo. ‘Nuff said.

*****

I was over on Politics Daily yesterday talking about the latest chapter in the harrowing Elizabeth Smart story.

Image: Minhas mães e meu pai by Universo Produção via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl