Likely Trouble Spots


Why the Human Race Is No Smarter Than It Is

You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy.

- Erica Jong

Intelligence is inherited from the mother - yet men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses.  Making the perhaps unwarranted assumption that, over all, bosses would tend to be at least somewhat sharper tools than secretaries, this means he's likely lowering the IQ of his children.  Well tough, because a new study by social psychologist Dr Stephanie Brown (University of Michigan/Ann Arbor) recently published in Evolution and Human Behaviour says that men prefer subordinate (less accomplished) women.  (However, unsurprisingly, they indicated they would have a one-night stand with just about anybody.)

I suppose it helps to keep their fragile egos intact (at least there is *someone* they can boss around!)

With the help of a grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health, Brown and coauthor Brian Lewis from the UCLA found that males, but not females, were most strongly attracted to subordinate partners for high-investment activities such as marriage and dating.  They thought that one of the reasons men favoured subordinate women was that they thought on some level that these women would be less likely to stray.

Some researchers, like Dr Ellen Berscheid, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, thought the results may have been different if the subjects were asked how they felt about someone much richer or much poorer than they.  I for one would find it impossible to believe that would not have influenced the women significantly.

Sources: 10 December 2004, The New York Times Tuesday 14 December 2004, The Jourmal Evolution and Human Behavior December 2004 and me

Compatible Or Combatable?

What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.

- George Levinger

"Muttrimony"   Source: Mundo © 2006

by Neil Rosenthal

Take the following quiz separately, then compare and discuss your answers together.  On a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), rate your relationship in the following areas:

bulletWe are good at sharing positive and negative feelings with each other.
bulletMy partner is very good at listening to me.
bulletWe let each other know our preferences and ideas.
bulletWe can easily talk about problems in our relationship.
bulletMy partner really understands me.
bulletWe tend to ignore issues that may cause conflict.
bulletWe often allow minor issues to become major problems.
bulletWe are generally able to work through issues and resolve them.
bulletA career can be equally important to a man or a woman.
bulletWe negotiate and compromise well.
bulletIf both partners are working, the husband should do the same amount of household chores as the wife.
bulletMost decisions should be made jointly.
bulletCouples should agree on how to spend their money.
bulletI am concerned about our debts and lack of savings.
bulletReligion has different meanings for each of us.
bulletI am satisfied with the amount of affection my partner gives me.
bulletWe have similar sexual interests, expectations, and appetites.
bulletFree time should be spent together.
bulletI am very committed to my partner.
bulletI feel close to my partner.
bulletWe balance separateness and togetherness well.
bulletFathers should be actively involved in child-rearing and parenting.
bulletWe're satisfied with how we discipline our child/children.
bulletWe give more attention to our children than to our marriage.
bulletWe are satisfied with how we share parenting.
bulletMy partner is supportive of my personal goals.
bulletWe have clear goals for our relationship and our family.
bulletWe have common interests and activities.
bulletWe like doing things with each other.
bulletWe love each other.
bulletWe respect each other.

Look for large differences in your answers and address those differences with each other.  Also, be sure to look for the areas where you agree.

Questions adapted from Empowering Couples by David and Amy Olson (Life Innovations 2000).

Source: The Dominion Thursday 17 August 2000

Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying

Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying.  Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:

  1. Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
  2. Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
  3. Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
  4. Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
  5. Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
  6. Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
  7. Will there be a television in the bedroom?
  8. Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
  9. Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
  10. Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
  11. Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
  12. What does my family do that annoys you?
  13. Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
  14. If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
  15. Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

Source: 17 December 2006

Questions That Should Be Asked

If you are planning on being married and would like to know your fiancé(e) better or build more intimacy into your relationship - address the following questions with each other:

bulletWhat are some of your life's dreams?
bulletHow did your parents treat you when you were young?
bulletHow well did you get along with your parents?
bulletGrowing up, how would you describe your relationship with your brothers and sisters?
bulletHow was love expressed in your home when you were growing up?
bulletDid your father ever cheat on your mother?
bulletHow would you describe your current relationship with your parents?
bulletWas there a lot of confrontation and/or anger in your family?  About what?
bulletWhat kind of behaviours justify divorce?
bulletDo you see yourself ever going back to school?
bulletDid you make many friends throughout your years in school?
bulletAre you still in contact with any of these friends?
bulletWhat is your greatest accomplishment or triumph?
bulletIf you could change one event in your past, what would it be?
bulletWhat is the greatest lesson you've learned in life?
bulletWhat are you most proud of in your life?
bulletWhat is your philosophy of life?  Where does your happiness come from?
bulletHow many hours a week do you anticipate working?
bulletWhat do you expect of me in terms of support, encouragement and relationships with your co-workers?
bulletCan you let go of work when you come home?  On weekends?  On vacations?
bulletWhat place do our jobs have in our home life?  Will we have home offices?
bulletHow well-liked are you at work?
bulletDo you have any secrets you would like to tell me?
bulletWhat makes you angry?
bulletHave you ever been cruel to an animal?
bulletAre you primarily a saver or a spender?
bulletAre you in debt?  Do you have any disputes or enemies I should know about?
bulletWho will be in charge of budgeting?
bulletCan we agree on a budget before we get married?
bulletHow will we handle our property (cars, houses, furniture, etc)?
bulletHow do you see us dividing the household chores?
bulletWhat are the biggest stresses you currently face?
bulletWhat's your driving record?
bulletWhat do you like best about me?
bulletIf you could change one thing about me, what would it be?
bulletHow would you describe me (and my personality) to someone else?
bulletWhy do you think we are a good match?
bulletWho has the best marriage you've ever seen?  Why is it a good marriage?
bulletWhat is the best present you've ever given?  And received?
bulletWhat subjects do you tend to avoid?
bulletWhat subjects do you think we have been avoiding?
bulletWho are your best friends?
bulletWhat do your family and friends think about me?
bulletHow would you describe our relationship to a good friend?
bulletWhat kinds of problems do you see us having in marriage?
bulletWhat will you not sacrifice for your marriage?
bulletWill you be upset if I look at the messages on your pager when you aren't around?
bulletHow do you feel about your ex?

If you perceive something in your fiancé(e)'s attitude or manner that disturbs you, bring this into the open after this exercise.  You should be able to talk about everything.

Many of these questions came from the book Before You Say "I Do" by Todd Outcalt

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist specialising in intimate relationships.  His website is at or you may write him c/o The Editor, The Dominion PO Box 1297 Wellington

Source: The Dominion Thursday 16 September 1999

For couples who can, and will, invest their time in talking (to each other, even!) as a means of personal development, I recommend a movie - Before Sunrise - which does a superb job of showing how two individuals can reach out to express their most intimate feelings through conversation.  Three brief reviews:

Before Sunrise

by Roger Ebert

They meet on a train in Austria.  They start talking.  There is a meeting of the minds (our most erotic organs) and they like each other.  They're in their early 20s.  He's an American with a Eurail pass, on his way to Vienna to catch a cheap flight home.  She's French, a student at the Sorbonne, on her way back to Paris.  They go to the buffet car, drink some coffee, keep talking, and he has this crazy idea: why doesn't she get off the train with him in Vienna, and they can be together until he catches his plane?

This sort of scenario has happened, I imagine, millions of times.  It has rarely happened in a nicer, sweeter, more gentle way than in Richard Linklater's movie - a "love affair" for Generation X, except that Jesse and Celine stand outside their generation, and especially outside its boring insistence on being bored.

There is no hidden agenda in this movie.  There will be no betrayals, melodrama, phony violence, or fancy choreography in sex scenes.  It's mostly conversation, as they wander the city of Vienna from mid-afternoon until the following dawn.  Nobody hassles them.  Before Sunrise is so much like real life - like a documentary with an invisible camera - that I found myself remembering real conversations I had experienced with more or less the same words.

What do they talk about?  Nothing spectacular.  Parents, death, former boyfriends and girlfriends, music, and the problem with reincarnation when there are more people alive now than in all previous times put together (if there is a finite number of souls, are we living in a period of a 5-to-1 split?).  Linklater's dialogue is weirdly amusing, as when Jesse suggests they should think of their time together as a sort of "time travel," and envisions a future in which she is with her boring husband and wonders, "what would some of those guys be like that I knew when I was young," and wishes she could travel back in time to see - and so here she is, back in time, seeing.

A sexual attraction is obviously present between them, handled gently, with patience.  There is a wonderful scene in the listening booth of a music store, where each one looks at the other, and then looks away, so as not to be caught.  The way they do this - the timing, the slight embarrassment - is delicate and true to life.  And I liked their first kiss, on the same ferris wheel used in The Third Man, so much I didn't mind that they didn't know Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten had been there before them.

The city of Vienna is presented as a series of meetings and not as a travelogue.  They meet amateur actors, fortune tellers, street poets, friendly bartenders.  They spend some time in a church at midnight.  They drink wine in a park.  They find a way to exchange personal information by holding imaginary phone calls with imaginary best friends.  They talk about making love.  There are good arguments for, and against.

This is Linklater's third film.  He's onto something.  He likes the way ordinary time unfolds for people, as they cross paths, start talking, share their thoughts and uncertain philosophies.  His first movie, set in Austin, Texas, followed one character until he met a second, then the second until he met a third, and so on, eavesdropping on one life and conversation after another.  The second film was a long night at the end of a high school year, as the students regarded their futures.  Now there's Before Sunrise, about two nice kids, literate, sensitive, tentative, intoxicated by the fact that their lives stretch out before them, filled with mystery and hope, and maybe love.

NOTE: The R rating for this film, based on a few four-letter words, is entirely unjustified.  It is an ideal film for teenagers.

So Much Like Real Life

by James Berardinelli

One of the first things to notice about Before Sunrise is how completely natural it all seems.  Credit both the director and his two leads.  The rapport between Jesse and Celine is so lacking in artifice that at times the viewer feels like a voyeur.  We are privy to everything, including the sort of "unimportant" dialogue that most films shy away from.  Here, its inclusion is just one of many fresh elements.

Ethan Hawke (the American grunge actor who starred opposite Winona Ryder in Reality Bites) and Julie Delpy (the French actress from Europa Europa, White, and Killing Zoe) are nothing short of perfect.  For this film to work, they have a threefold task: embrace their characters, attract each other, and connect with the audience.  All are accomplished flawlessly.  From the first stolen glance, there's never any question about their chemistry, and it takes no more time for the audience to be enraptured than it does for them to fall for each other.

Before Sunrise is about life, romance, and love.  It magnifies the little things, paying scrupulous attention to the subtleties and mannerisms of body language.  There's one scene where Jesse has to restrain himself from brushing away a stray lock of Celine's hair.  This film is an amalgamation of memorable scenes, yet, as they saying goes, the whole is more than a sum of its parts.  Questions about fate and the transitory nature of relationships are raised, then left open for the audience to ponder.  There are moments of unforced humour and times of bittersweet poignancy.  It speaks as much to the mind as to the heart, and much of what it says is likely to strike a responsive chord - a rare and special accomplishment for any motion picture.

Beautiful "Sunrise" Over Vienna

by Mick LaSalle

Before Sunrise is about a young American man and a young French woman who meet on a train, get off together, and spend 14 hours walking around a city before separating, probably forever.  It's about the sights and sounds of Vienna and two people talking - and that's all, if judged coldly in terms of screen action.  But the film captures much more.  It's a lovely and wistful celebration of youth, time and moments of connection - and about the experience of living in the midst of a simple, perfect day that you know you'll remember for the rest of your life.

The film eases viewers into a unique participation.  It succeeds by fulfilling the audience's one demand: that it be honest every second.

The young American and the French student meet on a train from Budapest heading toward France.  Their first conversation, in the lounge car, plays as completely off the cuff, yet it introduces some of the film's ideas, among them that life is dull and much too short.  The rest of the movie depicts an attempt by two people to hold the moment, to have a single day that's fully lived.  It maintains dramatic interest by keeping the two from ever feeling completely safe.  They test, observe and ask questions of each other.  There are moments of awkwardness - what will they do to amuse themselves?  There is also sexual tension.  The relationship never finds a relaxed equilibrium.  Each takes chances and retreats, and each looks for permission to reveal and feel more.

Hawke and Delpy are superb.  They bring off pages and pages of scripted conversation with a naturalness that might wrongly make you suspect they they were improvising.  Before Sunrise puts the two under merciless scrutiny, but throughout they remain charming and wonderfully true.

When the romantic and goofy Jesse and the pragmatically pessimistic Celine decide that this should be their one and only night, that they shouldn't screw up a good thing with a dwindling correspondence and unkept promises, the film becomes surprisingly powerful.

Source: all reviews are from © 1995

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