Mar 22, 2007

Infidelity American Style

Is infidelity the end-of-the-road or just a bump-in-the-road for married couples?

According to an article posted on Msn, it all depends where you live.

Americans tend to be the most idealistic (unrealistic) when it comes to issues of love and romance, while the rest of the world tends to take a more lazie faire approach (get the pun?).

According to the article:

  • Russians treat infidelity as a benign vice - like cigars and scotch (scotch? I would have said vodka).
  • Japanese commercialize affairs through sex clubs.
  • The French prize discretion over fidelity.
It's a great article and it reinforces the idea that perhaps our expectations about love and romance have gotten out of line.

Anyway, a big thanks to my online friend, and fellow blogger, at Eyes for Lies for sending this one my way!


Mar 20, 2007

Principle of Least Interest

A friend of mine is in trouble…

She is terribly in love with her boyfriend, but he is less in love with her.

And this sets up a terrible dynamic in their relationship.

Because he doesn’t care as much as she does, he has tremendous power over her. He dictates most of what happens in her life… She willingly submits to this because she wants his love more than he wants hers in return.

And the more she tries to please him, the more of herself she loses to the relationship, and the less happy she becomes because she gets so little in return, so she tries harder to please him.

Of course, from his perspective, things are great. The less he gives, the more she tries to make him happy. What a deal.

The principle of least interest at work: The person who cares the least about a relationship has considerable power over the person who cares the most.

Ironic and sad.

We Never Escape The Past

The New York Times published a great article today on the similarities between human moral reasoning and chimpanzee behavior.

Our ability to empathize, give care, and our desire for fairness can also be found in our closest living relative.

To me, this illustrates how patterns of social interaction have a deep evolutionary history.

If you are interested in reading more about how evolution has shaped the way we think, reason and behave, the following website is a great place to start - Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer.

Looking at the world this way, helps me realize that my own thoughts, feelings and actions, especially when it comes to love and romance, aren't very novel - people have been behaving this way for millions of years (see, Do Things Ever Change?).

There is something comforting in the realization that my feelings are not really my own. My thoughts and feelings have been around for a long time and they will continue to exist when I'm gone.

It's just cool that I get to experience them for a little while right now.

Preventative Relationship Maintenance Workshops

This one made me laugh out loud!

Several counties in Florida are starting relationship classes, costing 5.5 million dollars, to help build healthy marriages. These programs are being billed as a preventative measure to help couples succeed - a modern approach to love.

What's so funny about trying to teach people about relationships with the hope that couples will get along better?

I admire the goal, but I question how effective these workshops will be.

Our close relationships are enormously complex, emotionally driven, and much of our behavior has been shaped by millions of years of human evolution.

Will sitting in a relationship class have much of a lasting impact?

Of course, knowledge helps solve problems. But knowledge isn't the answer, it's only part of the answer.

Romantic relationships are influenced by our early, childhood experiences with our caregivers, personality characteristics, cultural backgrounds, and our innate, instinctual responses to situations (e.g., jealousy, love, attachment), just to name a few.

Many couples struggle to get along, even after extensive, hands-on counseling. And it is quite possible that some relationships are just not meant to be.

Personally, I think these workshops will help couples who are already headed for success... but, I doubt that they will have much of an impact on couples who are headed for trouble.

Want to know why I really don't think that these workshops will be of much help?

Just spend a little time around "relationship experts" - people who have their PhDs on the topic (like me). It can be an eye-opening experience... kinda of like discovering a plumber who has leaky faucets throughout his (or her) house.

The relationship between "knowing something" and "doing it" is never very straightforward, but especially so when it comes to love.

Mar 17, 2007

Too Much Infidelity?

It looks like 2007 is shaping up to be the "Year of Infidelity."

An article was just published in the Christian Science Monitor about how the upcoming Presidential Race will focus on family issues, including allegations of infidelity. A quote from the article:

"Journalists get very, very tired of hearing the issue speeches over and over again," says Bruce Gronbeck, a professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa. Covering candidates' divorces and marriages and children "fits into the great American political culture, where the personal is political."
Two new movies have just been released which have infidelity as underlying themes:
And Warner Brothers recently announced that they bought the movie rights for the following book:
  • The Infidelity Diet - a story about a couple of overweight husbands who go on a diet. The incentive? Whoever loses the most weight has his wife's permission to sleep with a prostitute. How charming.
Personally, I think the subject of infidelity is fascinating.

To me at least, the subject of infidelity reveals a lot about the complexity of our emotions, how we don't always understand our intentions, how people manage the tension between intimacy and individuality, how our beliefs do not always correspond to our behavior...

For someone like me, who studies relationships, infidelity provides a very unique opportunity to see how things work (see, Rules About Love).

I know most people don't approach the subject this way. Most people approach infidelity as the victim of it, which is anything but fascinating.

Given my interest in the topic as an academic, I don't know if I'm alone on this - but I don't want to spend my downtime watching political debates, or going to movies, or reading books where infidelity is the underlying theme...

Do people really want to spend their free time this way?

Mar 14, 2007

Test Your Knowledge About Lying

Here is a really quick quiz to see how much you know about lying and deception.

For the most part, I thought the answers provided were right on the mark, although I probably would have framed two of the answers differently.

If you want to take the quiz, do so now before reading my comments.

My Comments:

When it comes to the difference between children and adults, there are some similarities and differences. Yes, young children have a more difficult time distinguishing between imagination and reality. But, adults and children are both likely to lie to avoid punishment. However, adults are better at lying to avoid hurting other people's feelings, whereas young children tend to be much more honest.

And with respect to sex differences and lying - yes, men and women are much more similar than different. But, when it comes to relationships, men are more likely to lie than women. Men are much more likely to lie because men tend to be higher risk-takers. People, who are risk-aversive, tend to lie less often. Risk-aversive individuals are more cautious and, therefore, they have a lot less things to lie about. Risk-aversive individuals are also much more fearful about telling lies.

Mar 10, 2007


Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, recently admitted he was having an affair while also leading the effort to impeach President Clinton for lying under oath about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Newt was quick to point out the difference between President Clinton's and his situation: Newt was committing infidelity, not perjury.

Regardless of how one feels about this situation, I think that there is something to learn from it. Despite being wonderfully rational, we are still creatures of our emotions. When thinking about human behavior, the power of emotion tends to trump logic.

Infidelity is rarely a wise and rational choice, but it is often driven by one's emotions: sexual desire and/or feelings of love.

And hypocrisy, by definition, is always illogical - applying standards, but not in a consistent manner.

But, hypocrisy makes much more sense when you look at the emotions that drive such behavior: The desire for control and power, often mixed with the desire to avoid punishment. These emotions are directly related to one of the most basic distinctions underlying life: reward and punishment.

When viewed this way, it's no wonder that hypocritical behavior is so common and widespread. Not everyone has been unfaith to a spouse, but who hasn't been a hypocrite recently?

In this light, is it any wonder that Newt took the stance that he did? Did people assume that Newt would forego a chance at power, but seek out punishment instead? I'm not trying to justify Newt's behavior, just frame it in a different light.

And this leads me to a question that a viewer asked me this week: She caught her husband cheating, but she doesn't understand why he won't admit to it. The answer is often very simple. If admitting the truth is tied directly to punishment, there can be a strong emotional desire to create confusion and doubt.

Telling the truth is easy when there is nothing to lose.

Mar 8, 2007

More on Love, Sexual Desire and Attachment

Fantastic interview with Helen Fisher, a scholar noted for studying the biology of love, was published yesterday in the Orange County Register.

The article focuses on the experience of falling in love and why people cheat, highlighting the differences between sexual desire, romantic love and attachment.

You can find a link to the article here.

Mar 4, 2007

Time to Separate?

An article in the Montgomery Advisory does a good job of highlighting the issues couples should consider as they decide to stay together or separate. The advise given is based on well-supported research.

Some of the issues couples should consider:

  • The amount of negativity couples express toward each other.
  • Equity when it comes to doing the work that needs to get done.
  • Mutual respect and consideration each other's point of view.
  • A lack of fun or enjoyment in being together.
The entire article can be found here... And for more articles on the same topic - Questions Couples Should Consider...

Mar 3, 2007