Tag Archives: commitment

Tips for Adulthood: Five Tips For Staying Monogamous

sandy ring

sandy ringhave a friend who is thinking about having an affair. He loves his wife, and they have two lovely kids. But in an ideal world, he would like to conduct his sex life outside of the marriage. Needless to say, he’s torn about this impulse, and has yet to take any concrete steps, but he has verbalized his desires to me and a couple of other close friends.

Whatever you think about that arrangement – or more importantly, whatever his wife thinks (!) – his very honest and open attempt to grapple with his feelings reminded me, once again, why monogamy is such a difficult ideal to uphold, even in the best of circumstances.

For those of you who recognize this as a real problem – in your own marriages or among those you are close to – here are five tips for maintaining a monogamous relationship:

Read the rest of this post over on Better After 50:

Image: Sandy ring by Derek Gavey via Flickr

Renting Or Buying: Which Is More Grown Up?

We’re about to move.

We just got notice from our landlord that we have 60 days to vacate our home. And among the many things we’ve had to contemplate on short notice is whether or not we want to continue to rent or go ahead and buy.

I’ll cut to the chase and reveal that it looks like we’re going to be renting our next flat (which – in an act I can only attribute to God or Karma or both – we may have miraculously already found, the very day that we got kicked out!) But for a brief moment over the weekend- 48 hours or so – we thought seriously about buying.

I’ve written before in this space about how I find safety in movement. For me, buying a house falls into a long list of things – jobs…careers…continents – which make me feel trapped, and from which I instinctively flee.

So I was heartened when renowned Yale economist Robert Shiller gave me an out from forcing myself to confront my commitment-phobia in a column that he wrote for the New York Times last week. Shiller points out that the United States government has been subsidizing home ownership for decades. And it has done so largely for cultural reasons:  for many Americans, owning a home is intimately bound up with our notions of citizenship. Home ownership is the very embodiment of individual liberty, whereas renting has been linked (culturally) with the oppression of the landlord.

Shiller wants to suggest that this American attachment to owning a home needs to end. Financial theory tells us that people should diversify their assets, rather than dumping them all in one place (a home). And by encouraging people to take a leveraged position in the real estate market at all costs, mortgage institutions have encouraged this culturally rational – but economically irrational – practice. And we all know where that got us. (Thank you, sub-prime mortgage crisis.) (For an interesting perspective that argues the exact opposite, see this article in Forbes.)

Shiller’s bottom line, then, is that we should re-think the idea of renting because it might make more sense for the majority of Americans. He gives Switzerland as an example of a country that has re-jiggered its housing finance institutions in the direction of rentals without sacrificing national pride.

Shiller isn’t framing it this way, but another way to put what he’s saying is that in the present economic climate, it may actually be more grown-up to rent, rather than to buy. Which is the exact opposite of how we normally think about this issue.

To which I say: Amen. When can I sign the lease?

*****

Yesterday, I was over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the never-ending War In Iraq and its ongoing political and cultural legacy.Have a look.

Image: For Rent – Reduced??!! by Kelly Sims 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 Up In The Air Is For Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

My husband and I went to see Up In The Air last weekend, which has just been released in the U.K. We really liked it (even if one of us didn’t think Vera Farmiga was all that hot…ahem.) And yet, when we came home and talked about the film with our 17 year-old sitter, I didn’t advise her to go see it. In fact, I’m not sure I’d advise anyone under the age of 30 to see this movie.

Why is this, you ask? It’s not the sex (of which there’s none, and only one shot of nudity) or the violence (ditto). It’s just that for my mind, this is a really grown-up movie that can’t be well appreciated by someone who’s not…well…middle-aged.

So despite the PG-15 rating, here are five reasons why I think this is a movie for grown-ups (Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t yet seen the movie yet, this post contains some revealing information!):

1. It’s about the economy. As my former colleague Michelle Brafman notes, this is a movie where the recession plays a starring role. It’s a movie about downsizing, lay-offs and the way in which technological advances affect office life. I’m not saying that someone in their 20s can’t appreciate those things, but they won’t have quite the bite that they do for people who’ve lived through a few economic booms and busts. Evidence in support of this theory: the most moving parts of the film are all shots of real-life middle-aged or older people whose entire lives have been turned upside down by getting fired.

2. It’s about feminism. This is also a movie about feminism – as I define it – by which I mean women making independent – and sometimes shocking – choices about their lives. In this case, that amounts to having an affair (not so shocking) and not wanting to ditch everything for your apparent soul-mate, even if he’s George Clooney (a bit more  shocking). There’s a point in the film where the 20-something, tightly wound, overly professional and overly idealistic colleague of the Clooney character thanks Farmiga’s character for “all her generation has done for feminism.” We’re meant to laugh, because there’s only about 10 years between them. But later on in the film – when Farmiga tells Clooney that she’s a grown-up and that he should call her when he’s ready to play with the big kids (i.e. to accept a sexual friendship with no strings attached) –  we understand that the last laugh’s on us. This lady *is* liberated.

3. It’s about commitment. As many people have already observed, this is also a film about loyalty and commitment. In my own view – and as I’ve written in this space many times before – it’s incredibly hard to stay committed to the same person over the long haul. And that’s just not something young people worry about. They’re off experimenting and having fun and aren’t terribly bothered by what’s coming next or how long anything lasts. And that’s just as it should be.

4. The romantic leads are middle-aged. At one point in the movie, the script (foolishly, IMHO) suggests that Farmiga’s character is 34. She looks more like 38 or 40 but whatever. The point is that while she’s no Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated – (and despite what my husband thinks, Vera Farmiga *is* hot) – nor is she the young, naïve 23 year-old who also co-stars in this film. At one point, I thought they’d write the ending so that Clooney ends up with the younger woman. Thank goodness they didn’t. The whole point of this film is that it’s about what it’s like to fall in love – or “in like” as the case may be – when you’ve already been around the block a few times.

5. It doesn’t have a happy ending. I’ll fess up to having a preference for dark movies and sad endings. This film has neither. But – other than for the 23 year old – nor do things end on a particularly tidy note. Which is – dare I say it – a tad more realistic. And also comforting for those of us who’ve also been around the block.

*****

For those who are interested, please do have a look at my post in PoliticsDaily.com yesterday on whether universities breed terror.

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

Middle Marriage: What's Your Ziplock Conflict?

“I wish someone would write a novel about middle marriage,” a friend of mine bemoaned recently.

I knew what she meant: a novel that would address 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, etc.

And so when I read this article in the New York Times Modern Love column a few weeks back, I thought: Eureka! I’ve found it! Not a novel, but an essay that speaks perfectly to this phase of married life.

If you haven’t already read the article, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice to say that it’s about a couple that’s been married for quite some time and then, one day – in an airport security line – the wife totally loses it over (ostensibly) a ziplock bag.

I think we all have our version of the “ziplock bag” conflict with our significant others. As my cousin (who first sent me this piece) put it: “The writer is describing a basic and (Western) universal marriage reaction.”

In my own case, while not exactly ziplock material, all of my fights with my husband boil down to some version of: I go too fast, he goes too slow. Everything. From how we load dishes into the dishwasher…to the various career choices we’ve made…to the very act of walking down the street. We probably have 742 versions of this conflict, but they all reduce to this.

And that’s why I loved this essay. Because it acknowledges what most people aren’t willing to say about “middle marriage”:  how very hard it is to stay committed to the same person over the long haul (which is probably why half of all marriages end in divorce, at least in America). It’s really hard work.

And even when you do stay married, the recidivism rate is still high (as the author, Jane Hamilton, puts it so nicely). By which she means that even when you’re aware of the inappropriate reactions you have to the things in your spouse/partner/whatever which drive you nuts (pickle picker, anyone?), you invariably fall back into those inappropriate reactions before too long.

Which is why – like Jane Hamilton – one of the things that keeps my own marriage going is a sense of humor.

In our case, when things get rough (and when I decide not to throw something against a wall or curse very loudly), we play a version of  “Anything else?”

We learned about this game from some friends of ours who did a pre-Cana course with the Catholic Church before getting married. The priest sat them down and had them both list all the things that drove them crazy about each other. After hearing each item, the other partner was only allowed to respond: “Is there anything else?” The idea was to teach them how to both express – and tolerate – each other’s foibles.

Sometimes, when my husband and I start bickering, one of us will look at the other person and ask: “Is there anything else?”

To which, invariably, the answer is something along the lines of:  “Well, since you asked, actually there is…”

It’s a great ice breaker. Try it sometime.

Oh. I forgot to ask: Is there anything else?

*****

One of my favorite tongue-in-cheek blogs is Stuff White People Like. Laugh-out-loud funny and so on point.

Image: Garlicky Dill Pickles by Kern.Justin 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