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It seems to be common wisdom that men have a stronger sexual drive then women. I feel this is not really accurate. I have seen in various studies and from my own experience that this is probably not the case—at least with the average man and woman.  Sexual desire is actually fairly equal between the genders. There are five major factors among the differences between men and women that may lead to misconceptions about sexual desire. I will place these under the following headings:

  • Adolescent Development
  • Sexual Desire Level Cycle
  • Arousal Time
  • The Menstrual Cycle
  • Emotional vs. Visual Traits

Adolescent Development

When the average male reaches puberty his sexual interest is sparked and develops quite rapidly. By age 13 or 14 he is well on his way to reaching his peak in sexual interest. By age 18 he has reached that peak and remains there pretty consistently the rest of his life, declining only slightly, until about age 60.

The average female’s sexual desire develops more gradually. Sexual interest begins at puberty, like the male, but develops comparatively slowly until about age 18 then begins to develop a little more rapidly. She does not reach the same level of sexual interest of the average male until around age 25.

Studies have shown that the average female’s sexual desire level actually exceeds, slightly, the male’s in her mid to late 30s. Her body may be telling her that her biological clock is winding down and she better start reproducing soon. Her sexual desire soon returns to the same level as the male’s.

Sexual Development Graph fixed

Figure 1

So, there is a gap or area of variance between the developmental experiences of males and females (see figure 1) where conflicts, pressures, and other divergent misconceptions about sex can be formed, particularly in females, that can be carried on and influence the rest of a person’s life and attitude toward sexual relations. The boy is fully developed and “ready to go,” so to speak, considerably earlier than the girl. He is also learning how to manage this new, and quite powerful, desire and may make some mistakes in the process. The girl, not yet at his level, may understandably develop habits of resistance if she is overexposed to sexual pressure before she has reached a coinciding interest.

Although these differences in development are eventually negated, the effects of adolescent experiences during the process, whether traumatic or benign, can have a powerful effect on adult perceptions. A woman who was continually pressured about sexual matters in her teenage years may read more into her husband’s sexual advances than is really there—thinking his sexual desire (like those gross teenage boys) far exceeds hers. Likewise, a man who had met continual resistance to physical attraction in his younger years may think all women don’t desire sex nearly as much as he does. If both are fully aware those experiences may only be a result of developmental differences, they may come to realize their sexual desire levels are probably more on a par than they thought now that they are older.

Advise to young men: It is important you understand that although your passions may be fully developed, your experience and maturity are not. You are not ready for the powerful emotions and responsibility that comes with that passion, and you will only hinder its enjoyment later on by not harnessing and channeling it towards constructive results now. Anything you try too soon will come back to haunt you, usually pretty quickly.

Advise to young women: Understand that there is a reason those boys are a little crazy right now. You must also know that you will not fully comprehend their motivations or desires right now, but you eventually will. Meanwhile, you need to beat those boys off with a stick while at the same time having compassion for their predicament and realize that with your own maturity and experience you will fully enjoy such passions in the future, when you are ready.

Sexual Desire Level Cycle

Probably the most apparent difference between the sexes is the “mood” cycle. Anyone who has been married for more than a day will understand this perfectly. Men are predicable, very predictable, when it comes to being in the mood for sex. People say the man wants sex all the time. Well that’s not quite true. There are times when he wants it, and times when he is indifferent, but these desires are pretty consistent and don’t vary much or go to any great extreme, usually.

Women, on the other hand, can change their mood almost continually. There are infinite variables that have an influence on her sexual desire level. It is not uncommon for a woman to change her clothes several times a day to match the mood she is in at the moment, whereas a man would wear the came outfit indefinitely if it didn’t start to smell bad. This cycle in women, like everything else about women, is multifaceted and complex. The woman is capable of reaching much higher highs and much lower lows than a typical man on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even seasonal basis. The female mind is more adept at processing variable data than the male’s; she therefore may have many more sources of influence having an effect on her mood and desire level. These influences and moods can change rapidly or slowly and can overlap on many levels. She may be in a “funk” for several weeks, with periods of excitement, or she may be energetic and happy overall for a time, but have occasional episodes of melancholy. It is all typically more extreme than men’s emotions, and is almost completely unpredictable.

Figure 2

Thinking of men as some sort of “Steady Eddie” while women are “Wacky Wanda” can be misleading when forming ideas about sexual desire levels. Yes, men seem to want sex a lot, but if you look at the graph (see figure 2), you may notice that he typically does not have very far to go to change his mood from indifference to wanting sex. But, there is a trade off. You will notice that his desire level usually does not exceed a certain level. Women, on the other hand, are capable of reaching much higher planes of sexual enjoyment than men, but they can also have periods where the very idea of sex is abhorrent.

Arousal Time

Another factor in the misconception of sexual drives is the difference in the time it takes for men and women to “get in the mood.” Women usually need 15 to 20 minutes—sometimes more, sometimes less—of romantic and emotional stimuli before they are ready for a sexual or even sometimes just a physical experience. The typical man, on the other hand, can be ready in as little as 30 seconds. (If he is over 40 years old, 32 seconds. Sigh…)

Simply because men can be easily aroused does not mean their level of interest is necessarily greater than a typical woman’s. Likewise a woman’s sexual drive may be just as powerful as a man’s, but simply needs more effort to be aroused.

Menstrual Cycle Influence

A major influence in the woman’s sexual interest level is her monthly “period.” This may have a wide range of different effects on different women and may not always have the same influence every month. In addition to the 4 or 5 days where sexual intercourse is not reasonably practical, there is the period of time just before menstruation begins and the couple days after it has ended that can have a strong effect on the woman’s mood. Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, can have a profound influence in attitudes towards sex and can be quite negative. When someone is experiencing cramps and hormonally-induced mood swings, sex is usually the furthest thing from their minds, and in fact they can even get hostile to the very idea. PMS is not an issue with some women, and some may experience it only infrequently, but it still may have some effect. On the plus side, though, there is a period of about 3 days or so about 14 days before menstruation begins when the woman’s body is ovulating (an egg cell within her ovary is ready to be fertilized) where she may be particularly interested in sex. An observant and caring husband can be aware of his wife’s cycle and be conscience of her body’s needs. Knowing when, and when not to suggest intimacy will go a long way in dispelling misconceptions about sexual drive.

Emotional vs. Visual

Women focus on the emotional

Men focus on the… well… visual

Finally, there is one major disparity between the sexual motivations for men and women. Men are primarily influenced by visual stimuli whereas women tend to enjoy the emotional and romantic side of sex more. In one study, men and women were shown a picture of a couple making love and then asked a series of questions about what they thought when they saw the image. Almost all the men described how they thought it would be like to have sex with the woman in the picture, and almost all women described how they thought it would be like to be the woman in the picture.

Now, this does not mean men are necessarily more “shallow” than women, or even have stronger or more “depraved” sexual needs. It is only a matter of emphasis. Women, of course, care about a man’s appearance and can be “turned on” by the sight of a handsome man, but it is a much less important factor to her than the emotional. These emotional factors include the man’s ability to provide for her and protect her; to give her security, comfort and peace of mind. Romance and seduction are much more powerful in the woman’s sexual experience than for the man. However, men need the romance as well. Both desires are there in both sexes—it is just a matter of what is emphasized more and what is emphasized less.

Because women desire the romance and “seduction” of intimate relations more than men, it is generally up to the man to creatively initiate sexual experiences. Likewise, the woman should do her best to be physically appealing to her husband. Both desires are also present in the other partner, however, so the needs go both ways—just to a lesser or greater extent. Taking these differences in emphasis into account, as a general rule men should be expected to initiate sexual experiences about 2/3 of the time, and women about 1/3.

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Walter Williams

Dr. Walter Williams

In my post on my review of the book Red River (Unfulfilled Potential) I included a link to a speech given by Walter Williams, an African-American professor who takes issue with some of the assumptions I attributed to the author of Red River. How strongly the author holds to such assumptions, I don’t know, but I made some assumptions of my own based on her comments in the back matter of the book. Looking over my post, I thought it might be helpful to take Professor Williams’ speech and condense it to what I was getting at in my book review. Williams fundamentally “gets it” when we white people express frustration in dealing with race relations of the sort I mentioned in my earlier post. So, below are my notes on his revealing speech:

According to Walter Williams, there are three basic assumptions we take for granted when we look at race discrimination in America. They are: (1) Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race; (2) statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination; and (3) statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.

Dr. Williams then takes each of these assumptions in turn and explains them.

Assumption One: Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race (and blacks in particular).

Race Relations GraphicThrough the centuries Jews have faced great discrimination and yet they have achieved a higher average income than the general population and have a higher-than-average education. Now, you might say that the Jew is at an advantage because he could simply change is name from “Goldstein” to “Smith” and simply melt into the population. However, most have not and are in fact generally known to be Jewish or we wouldn’t have their stats to look at.

The Japanese and Chinese have also faced horrible discrimination, and they cannot simply change their name to melt into the general population. About 15% of the general population in America are professional workers; however, among Japanese Americans 25% of their population are professionals. 24% of Chinese Americans are professionals. Both these groups have a higher income then the national median and have the lowest crime rate, lowest alcoholism rate and highest marital stability.

But, you might say, people have a “special dislike” for African Americans. Well, West Indian blacks in America also have a higher income than the national average and have a slightly higher average of professionals in their workforce. Now, will a potential employer take the time to find out if the black he is interviewing comes from the West Indies? Probably not. (These West Indian blacks have a similar heritage of slavery as the American-born blacks.)

Lest you think discrimination only has effects in America, consider that 60% of GNP in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma and Malaysia is owned my Chinese citizens, even though they are only 13% of the population. In fact, there are Affirmative Action programs for the natives in some Southeast Asia countries.

Also, Armenians in Turkey have a higher average income than the Turks who discriminate against them.

Assumption Two: Statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination.

“But for the fact of discrimination we would all be alike,” is the argument made by many racial reform activists. Statistical differences exist, no one denies that, but they do not usually have anything to do with “discrimination.”

Black Americans are 13% of the population, yet they make up 75% of the NBA basketball players. They are also the highest paid in the NBA. Does the NBA “have it out” for white players?

There is only one black in the national hockey league—is the national hockey league racist? No one contends that it is. In addition, more than 50% of American hockey players are from Minnesota. What kind of conspiracy is Minnesota conducting?

Jews are no more than 3% of the American population, yet 33% of all American Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. Are the Jews hiding the books from the rest of us?

Statistical disparities do not imply negative discrimination. Equally productive females only earn 59% of the salary of their male counterparts on average. Unmarried men earn only 62% of what married men earn (when adjusted for age). Why don’t companies hire more of the “cheaper” females and unmarried men? Companies often fail when their costs are only 2% higher than the competition. They would be able to outbid other companies out of the market my hiring more women and unmarried men! Why don’t they? Do the vast majority of businesses in America “have it out” for women or single men? That would be the easy answer, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if companies are trying to be competitive.

Now for the hard-truth answer: First you must ask, “Are all women ‘equally productive’?”  Females who remain unmarried and work continuously from age 18 to 37 actually have a slightly higher income than their exact male (never married) counterparts. Female professors who never married also have a slightly higher income than a male professor who has never been married. Apparently, marriage exacts a high cost on women. Because of the traditional roles in marriage, and let us not forget actual biology, women usually become a greater burden on employers once they have married. Their “workforce capital” decreases. Not only do they need time off for pregnancy and maternity leave, they are the ones who are usually called when their child has problems at school, is sick, or needs to be taken to soccer practice. Women traditionally take care of the household needs, such as shopping and cleaning. In other words, their attention is divided; their priority may not, and in some cases cannot (such as childbearing), be with their employment. Also, for whatever reason, women tend to visit the doctor more often then men, costing employers more in health insurance. This is undeniable: health insurance policies on women are slightly higher than on men. Taking all this into account, although married women may be “equally productive” while actually doing the work at their jobs, their costs to employers in time off, divided attention, and other inconveniences brings their “workforce capital” down.

Not so for men—their “workforce capital” actually increases with marriage. In the traditional marriage where the woman assumes the primary role in child-rearing (someone has to), the man gets a “helper.” By becoming married the male can devote more to work because, again, in the traditional marriage, the woman now takes care of the majority of household upkeep, freeing the man from those distractions. The woman simply cannot efficiently develop her “workforce capital” in a traditional marriage. Married men therefore earn an average of 38% more by being married—an advantage of having a “helper.” The woman thus owns 38% of her husband’s income without question. If a woman wants to make the same income or better, she simply should not get married. This is simply one of those “hard facts” in life (if you chose to see it that way) that cannot be overcome without sacrificing valued (and most would probably argue “natural”) roles in marriage and family culture.

Assumption Three: Statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.

Hotel On FireYou may say a specific hotel fire was caused my oxygen. That is true, but does it explain why another hotel, also surrounded by oxygen, did not burn down? Oxygen is so pervasive that it alone cannot explain the fire. Likewise with discrimination—it alone cannot explain any single case of “racial discrimination”—other causes must contribute to each case of “racial discrimination.”

Discrimination is everywhere. For instance, we use it in selecting a wife or husband. We always have criteria for our decisions and we don’t give all an equal chance based on our varied criteria. We eliminate opportunity with every choice we make and discrimination is solely the act of choice. When choosing a husband or wife, we all systematically eliminate vast categories of potential mates. Either they’re the wrong gender (there goes one-half of the pool), are not athletic, don’t make adequate income, don’t share the right religion or beliefs, are not physically attractive to us, and so on. In other words we discriminate. Like oxygen, discrimination is everywhere and cannot be eliminated. Claiming you didn’t get a job because of discrimination is true. It is true in every single case of someone not getting a job. Scarcity requires us to choose (there is only one job opening for many applicants). Someone will always be injured by our choice.

Scary TigerPrejudice literally means “pre-judge” or to use a stereotype. We all use prejudices out of necessity to survive. When you unexpectantly see a tiger sitting on your front porch you will probably “stereotype” it by running away. Why is that? Is it based on any specific knowledge of that particular tiger, or is it based on tiger folklore, what your mother has told you about tigers, videos of tigers acting aggressively, or so forth? Now, that particular tiger may be tame as a kitten; nevertheless, a quick calculation is being made: The expected benefit of additional information about that particular tiger is less than the expected cost, so we discriminate against that tiger without further searching. In other words, cheaply acquired observations are of greater benefit than more costly acquired observations.

If offered a million dollars if they win a basketball game, and given 5 white males, 5 black males, 5 white females, and 5 black females, (and you are unable to watch them play beforehand) most people would pick the 5 black males. They could be labeled sexist or racist for doing so, but they would have a much better chance of getting the million dollars. Can you assume everyone doesn’t like white men or females? Even the Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan would pick the 5 black males—it’s a million dollars!

Simply watching someone’s behavior will give you very little information about their preferences. A known bigot and the most open-minded person will make the exact same choice in the above example if their objective is to maximize the winnings from the basketball game.

If you are an employer and you are looking for a high school graduate with a high SAT score for a particularly challenging internship and it costs you $100 for every person you interview, would you send your recruiters to a Newark, New Jersey inner-city school or to a more affluent suburban school? Where would you have a higher probability of finding a successful candidate at the lowest cost? You may or may not dislike blacks, but it would probably not affect your decision.

There may not be a causal relationship between race and SAT scores, but there surely is an associative one. Likewise with the basketball players—there is no specific reason to not choose the white males, but out there in the real world there is certainly an associative one. Same goes with the tiger. We have no direct cause to run when we see one, but we have ample associative reasons to do so.

Physical characteristics can serve as proxies for other characteristics that are more costly to observe. (We could choose the white females for the basketball game but that would likely be more costly by not winning the game, even though we can say we gave them a “fair” chance. We’re not saying they could not win or even do better than the black males, it’s just with a million dollars on the line, it is not worth the risk.)

It is important to change the characteristics associated with a race or gender to eliminate this kind of “cheap” pre-judging. If we tame a majority of all tigers in the world and actively market and promote the knowledge that most of them are tame, then we may have fewer kitties with hurt feelings as people no longer so readily run away at the sight of one.

The use of the word “minority” is misleading when used in the context of race. The largest identifiable ethnic group in America are people with English ancestry, they are slightly more than 15% of the population. Next are those of German ancestry who are 14% of the population. Next are those of African ancestry who make up 13% of the population. Every other ethnic group is in the single-digit minorities.

Whites are not all alike. White people in their European homelands have been trying to slaughter each other for centuries. The longest period of peace in Europe has been only since the end of the Second World War. You can’t lump all white people into one bag.

How much of what we see in African-American relations can be attributed to discrimination?

African-American and GradesMuch of it is fraudulent education. The average black will score between 100 and 150 points below the average white on the SAT and still have the same high school diploma in hand. This is not made up in college. The GRE scores of blacks are slightly over 125 points lower than the national norm. 12 years of fraudulent education in primary and secondary schools cannot be corrected in 4 years of college. If diplomas or degrees cannot be trusted as proof of the same level of learning, one is forced to look at other criteria for making good choices.

The saddest aspect of this education fraud, in which employers are forced to compensate for by using the “cheaper” race discrimination, is that it need not be. In private schools 85% of blacks read at or up to three grade levels above their own grade level. The majority of these black children come from low or middle income families. It is not generally a question of capability, but culture.

Throwing money at the problem is not the solution: In Philadelphia, the cost for tuition to one private school with the above success rate is $1,200 whereas the per capita cost for a child in Philadelphia’s public schools is $5,000 with only the national average results. Blacks don’t need to capture a white kid to sit by. These private schools with successful black students, most notably the black muslim schools, are not into bussing and integration programs. In these schools you observe utter quite. The kids have pencils in their hands and their eyes on their teachers. This is all black kids need: Parents who make sure he does his homework, gets him to bed early on school nights, feeds him a breakfast in the morning, and makes sure he gets to school in a business-like fashion ready to learn. There is no mystery.

Black White HandshakeThere is a huge reserve of racial goodwill in America which we are needlessly wasting. Racial incidents and resentment have increased in traditionally black-accepting colleges where affirmative action has been in effect. People know that disregarding behavior is being dishonest. Many colleges either have or are considering such things as black economics courses simply because some dishonest person suggested it. What if someone suggested a course on Polish economics, or Japanese-American economics? They would be thrown out. We need to have courage.

Recognizing the truth is only half the battle, now we need to correct the negative discrimination by first “taming the tigers”—getting rid of the fraudulent education by strengthening the family culture and stop using blame as an excuse—and publicizing this fact after it has taken effect. Affirmative Action and like policies—when based on a lie or fraud—will only exacerbate the problem as all people (blacks included) naturally react to being lied to.

Discrimination is everywhere. We use it in selecting a wife or husband. We always have criteria for our decisions.
We don’t give all an equal chance based on our varied criteria.
We eliminate opportunity with every choice we make.
Discrimination is solely the act of choice.
Scarcity requires us to choose. Someone will always be injured by your choice.

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The following notes are from a fireside given by our Stake President Chuck Lawrence and his wife back in November. I happened across it while going through my journal entries. Think it might be helpful for someone out there. The topic was on strengthening our marriages.

• If we take care of our marriages first everything else will work out—even children.

• Share the load at home. Remember you both have had hard days at times.

• Avoid pin-pricking. Little things don’t matter.

• 89% of divorces tied to money—quarrels and accusations over money. This is a big problem in our stake, says the Stake President.

• Remember the beauty within. Remember the beautiful times when we age.

• How to receive revelation: Ask your wife how you can be a better husband.

• Listen: Give each other attention.

• We must say “I’m sorry.” Readily accept personal mistakes to each other.

• Sleep on it. You will feel clearer in the morning.

• When we are with others how do we talk about our spouses?

• Write notes to each other. Better than material gifts.

• Pray for success in your marriage. Pray to love the one you marry, not just to marry the one you love (from Spencer W. Kimball).

• Elders of the church (G.A.’s) have never seen a marriage in serious trouble when the couple didn’t pray together daily.

• Foundation of everything is in the home. Prayer and scripture study will help us find balance in everything else.

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lasting-marriageThis was given to me by a coworker, David Bern, who found it on Todayshow.com. I thought it very interesting.

Matthew Boggs, whose parents divorced, was jaded about marriage. But he noticed his grandmother and grandfather, who had been married for 63 years, were still madly in love. To find out what was the secret to a long and happy marriage, Boggs and his friend, Jason Miller, traveled 12,000 miles around the U.S. to talk to what they call the “Marriage Masters,” couples who have been married 40 years or more. In their new book, “Project Everlasting,” Boggs and Miller share advice from the happy couples. TODAYshow.com asked the two bachelors to tell us what are the top seven secrets to a successful marriage. Here they are:

1. “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often!”

Entering matrimony with the mindset that “divorce is not an option” is vital for the long-term success of marriage, say the Marriage Masters (a term we gave couples who have been happily married over 40 years). They went on to explain that this kind of mindset allows a couple to see solutions to marriage’s boiling points — and trust us, not one of our interviewee couples avoided such periods of relational strife — which would have otherwise been overlooked simply because one eye was too busy examining exit strategies.

Marriage Masters simplify this into one word: Commitment. And they’re quick to point out that commitment is the virtue sorely missing from today’s marriages. That said, there are deal breakers that very few of our interviewed couples advocated working through. These are known as the three A’s — addiction, adultery, and abuse. A marriage overwhelmed by any of these three issues is unhealthy, plain and simple, and the Marriage Masters suggest that if you find yourself overwhelmed with any of the three A’s, take care of yourself (and your safety) first, and the marriage second.

In the end, the old saying holds true: where your attention goes, energy flows. So the next time you’re facing a mountain in your marriage, focus on the next foothold and soon enough you’ll find yourself over the top.

2. “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, only perfect
moments.”

We were shocked to discover how much work went into creating a great marriage. We’d always figured, “Hey, I’ll just find my soul mate and things will naturally fall into place after that … we’ll live happily ever after.” Um, not so fast, one Marriage Master wife said with a certain look that meant business. “Whoever said being soul mates was going to be easy?”  Her husband of 52 years nodded, then added, “Marriage is a bed of roses, thorns and all.”

Any time two individuals live together (especially over 40 years) there are bound to be annoying, irritating, and frustrating experiences. But whether it’s the toothpaste cap, toilet seat, snoring, or the last-minute pull-the-car-over-to-check-the-score-of-the-game-at-the-local-bar move, one thing is for sure: the best marriages are served with an extra helping of acceptance for one another’s peccadilloes. “And that’s the beauty of marriage,” said Maurice, another Marriage Master. “All of our individualities, all of our wonderful differences. You gotta have friction. You can’t get any heat without friction.”

We would do well, they say, to expect non-perfection; practice patience and give the acceptance we want in return. There’s no doubt that this is hard work, but judging by the end result, it’s well worth the effort.

3. Unpack the Gunnysack

“People ask us our secret to marriage,” said John, married 48 years. “I tell them it’s the boxing gloves. We aren’t afraid to say what’s on our minds.”

Unexpressed frustrations in a marriage can pile up and weigh us down like an overloaded gunnysack. These accumulated frustrations can quickly turn into resentments. “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” said Sally, married 50 years. “Resentment will eat away at your marriage.” The Marriage Masters encourage us to unpack the “gunnysacks” by opening the communication lines as frequently as possible.

But guess what? If we haven’t created and nurtured an environment where open, honest communication is welcomed and treated with diligent respect, then we can wave these crucial “clearing the air” moments goodbye. So where did some Marriage Masters go to build that trusting, open environment? Weekend marriage retreats! These powerful getaways stood out in many of our interviewees’ minds as the one experience that turned their faltering marriage into a flourishing one. The trick, of course, is convincing the husband to attend.

4. Never Stop Dating

It has been said that it’s the quality of time, not the quantity of time that matters. But now we know, thanks to the Marriage Masters, that it’s the quantity of quality time spent together that leads to a wonderful marriage. Whether it’s a vacation in the Bahamas, or simply spending a night at a local motel once a week, keeping the romance burning is easy: all you have to do is keep stoking the fire.

One woman, married 47 years before her husband passed away, disclosed her secret to lifelong love. Every night, when her husband came home from work, they went up to their bedroom and hung a sign on the door that read “Do Not Disturb: Marriage In Progress.” For the following fifteen minutes they’d focus all their attention on one another. No phones, no pets, no distractions; even the kids knew that mom and dad were not to be bothered. When asked what they did in their bedroom, she laughed and said she’d leave that to our imaginations.  That was probably best anyway.

5. “Love is a four-letter word spelled G-I-V-E”

Marriage Masters have a high degree of selflessness. “I’ll never forget what my mentor told my wife and me before we got married 42 years ago,” said a Marriage Master named Walter. “He looked at us and said, ‘Most people think marriage is 50/50.  It’s not. It’s 60/40. You give 60.  You take 40. And that goes for both of you.’”

It’s always super-apparent in the best of the best marriages that both spouses have followed this philosophy. Though it’s not a difficult concept to understand — putting one another first —it’s surely a bit more difficult to practice consistently, especially with the prevailing “Me first (and second)” mentality today. “The younger generations seem to have a sort of me-me-me mentality,” says Donna Lee, married 45 years. “The great part is that the me gets everything it needs when it puts the we first.”

6. Join the CMAT Club

Grandma Dorothy Manin, the inspiration for Project Everlasting with her 63 years of beautiful matrimony, formed an informal club when she turned 70 years old. She called it the CMAT club. The CMAT club stands for Can’t Miss A Thing and represents the idea that life is short, so make sure to enjoy as much as you can. The death rate for human beings hovers right around 100 percent, and is expected to remain there for … well, forever. Consider this: if the average life span is 77 years, then that means we only have 77 summers … 77 winters … 77 Christmas mornings … 77 New Years, and that’s it. The Marriage Masters know this all too well. It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day craziness of life and, in the process, take our spouses for granted. A widow named Betty, married 54 years, says, “Now that he’s gone I wish I hadn’t had so many headaches.”

The Marriage Masters are here to remind us that this adventure we call life goes by in the blink of an eye; relish your sweetheart’s presence while he or she is still here.

7. The Discipline of Respect

“You can have respect without love,” said Tom, married 42 years, “but you can’t have love without respect.” His sentiments were not uncommon in our 250-plus interviews around the nation. By and large, the number one secret to a thriving, everlasting marriage, as declared by the Marriage Masters, is respect. It is the catalyst for all things beautiful in a relationship: trust, connection, authenticity, and love. Unfortunately, respect — in all its seeming simplicity — is too easily overlooked, leading to criticism and all the ugliness that eventually causes both spouses to wonder (and vehemently): How in the heck did I ever fall in love with this person?

“You are the master of your words until they are spoken,” a Marriage Master of 65 years pointed out. “Then they become the master of you … so choose your words carefully.”

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