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Articles from February 2016

February 29, 2016

Paternity Surprise for Women Thinking of Leaving Their Husbands

Are you separated? Thinking of cheating on your husband? Or still living with your ex-husband but seeing someone else? There's something you ought to know.

While you're married, and even for 300 days (10 months) after your divorce is final, most U.S. states and the U.K. presume your husband is the legal father of any child you give birth to. This is true even if some other man you are sure is the father signs the birth certificate.

In most cases, your husband can contest his status as parent in court, and so can the biological father. Genetic testing will be ordered to sort it out, but it almost always requires waiting until the child is born and the court makes a decision. Until then, the man you were married to at conception has all the rights and all the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Why? To make it easier for a couple to forgive an infidelity and get their marriage back on track, and to make it harder for a husband to abandon his wife while she's pregnant. Good goals.

But in an age where women initiate 80% of all divorces, perhaps a bit of an unwelcome surprise to a woman who pronounces herself single again before a judge does.

February 19, 2016

Agreement or Impasse?

I read about some interesting research recently that relates to Finding Third Alternatives.

It showed just how much people like agreement and, even more, dislike impasse. Just labeling an option "Agreement" made people in a negotiating experiment more likely to choose it, even if it wasn't their best option. But labeling an option "Impasse" had a bigger effect, making people even more likely to avoid their best option to avoid that label.

What does this mean for your marriage? If we want to avoid an impasse with strangers, think how much more we want this with someone we love.

When we disagree on something important, like how often to have sex or whether to send a child to camp or how much to save for retirement, pretending there are only two options and trying to convince each other that ours is the better one yields a lot of frustration in the short run. And in the long run, it can yield bad choices, choices not in our best interests, simply to avoid an impasse.

When you look together for Third Alternatives, impasses are rare. You're not on opposite sides. The size of the pie isn't fixed. The only good choice is a choice that's good for both of you.

Let's say one of you is arguing for maxing out your tax-free and employer-matched retirement savings, while the other objects that this will delay owning a home (and starting to build equity in that home) by at least 7 years. If one of you runs from impasse into accepting the other's approach, what have you lost?

Well, first, the sense that the one who caved is an equal partner in your joint financial future. But second, all of the options for reaching your real goals.

Want to travel after you retire? You can do it a lot less expensively if you've spent years making friends in the places you want to visit or building a career that gives you free or low-cost airline or train tickets.

Want lots of cash when you're 66? How about investing in starting a business that exceeds tax-deferred investing rates of return?

Want to be assured of care in your later years? How about a house full of children who adore you?

Unless you go looking for Third Alternatives, unless you share with each other your real goals and your real fears driving your preference for one of those first two options, the rest of these options will never find their way to the table.

Here's the source of the research results.

February 16, 2016

Husbands' Gripes

The Huffington Post lists the big 6 complaints shared by men in marriage counseling. They are worth looking at -- not as a self-improvement checklist for wives, but as a big help when you want to Assume Love, Expect Love, and Find Third Alternatives, whether you're the husband or the wife.

1. My wife expects me to be a mind reader.
2. The late night arguments are getting out of hand.
3. She doesn't appreciate me.
4. She doesn't back me up when I discipline the kids.
5. She's not interested in sex.
6. Our marriage is no longer a priority for her.

What signs of love are you expecting that your husband has no idea you want?

How many of the things your husband does that upset you are actually ways to avoid another late night argument? And if you're looking for a Third Alternative if your husband disagrees with whatever you're proposing, is after the kids are in bed really a good time to mention it?

How many of the things your husband does that upset you are actually ways to bring your attention to the things he does for you and the things about him he thought you valued?

Is the reason you seem to be getting more and more of the child-rearing responsibilities, even though you also have a job, because your husband is trying to avoid that unpleasant situation where you don't back him up?

What Third Alternative would make sex as much of a priority for you as for your husband?

What love are you missing out on when you respond to not getting what you expect by busying yourself with something else?

February 13, 2016

On Staying in Love (Assume Love's 10th Anniversary post)

When I began writing this blog on Valentine's Day, 2006, I was afraid. Afraid to admit to my contributions to the terrible problems of my first marriage. Afraid no one would read what I had to write. Afraid I would run out of things to say. Afraid I'd get to the same point in my second marriage and discover I'd been kidding myself about what I learned from my first husband's sudden death.

Break out the champagne! I've kept writing about marriage for a decade, I've now been married to Ed longer than I was married to Rod, and I can tell you this stuff works.

More than 300,000 people visited Assume Love last year, many of them more than once. More than 15% of all visits to the site lasted 15 minutes or longer. Several people a day post comments reporting success or requesting advice, and I answer as many of them as I can.

There's also been a great weight off my shoulders for the ten years since I publicly owned my mistakes.

The three most popular posts of 2015 (after the RSS feed) were from 2012 and 2014, and even the titles tell a story:

How to Get Your Wife or Husband to Love You Again

If Your Husband is Oblivious to How Unhappy You Are

One Last Stand Before Divorce

And that brings us to today's topic, staying in love.

Would you say you're basically happy, sad, angry, or anxious? All four of these are basic emotions. They come in a variety of flavors and intensities (amusement, joy, disappointment, depression, annoyance, rage, fear for your life, fear of appearing inept, etc.), and they don't hang around forever. Emotions are brief and fleeting, lasting just seconds or minutes. All of them come and go, but at any given point in your live, one affects you more than the others. It sets the tone. It's who you are.

You know you're experiencing an emotion because of the signals and chemicals your autonomic nervous system sends to the rest of your body: your blood flow increases thanks to a pounding heart, your jaw and fists clench, you lose your appetite and crave sleep, tears fall, your face turns red, your heart rate or blood pressure drop, you sweat, you sigh.

Love is also an emotion. When it occurs, there are measurable bodily changes as oxytocin is released and the vagus nerve lowers your heart rate.

Feeling "in love" is no different from feeling happy, anxious, sad, or angry even when you're not currently experiencing that emotion. You feel it because it's the most frequent emotion or the one with the most noticeable effect on your body. It's a specific type of feeling happy.

If you want to feel "in love," you need to feel the emotion of love pretty often. And like all the other emotions, what anyone else does has a lot less influence on whether you feel it than what's going on in your head does.

That's because your brain is what triggers those bodily feelings that you interpret as emotions. And it's mostly comparing what happens to what you believe.

Sure, if there's a speeding car coming your way, your amygdala knows you're in danger and you need the boost of fear to prepare your body to prevent bodily harm.

But if you read that someone's manuscript got rejected, your brain's going to check further, to see if you know this person and, if so, how likely this is to affect him or her. Maybe you'll feel sad. Maybe not.

If your spouse kisses you on the way out the door, your brain's going to check whether this is expected or not. If not, does it fit with other hints of infidelity or with recently hearing a friend's regret over so casually saying goodbye the day his wife died? It might induce love, a special form of happiness. Or it might induce suspicion, a mild form of fear. And for all you know, your spouse actually did it for good luck before asking for a raise.

As long as what happens isn't obviously unloving, what you believe, what you expect, determines the emotion you'll feel.

And this takes us right back to the core of what I have been sharing wth you on Assume Love for the last ten years:

  • When you're upset by your spouse, Assume Love. Ask yourself how a good person who loves you fiercely might do the thing that upset you. Our human default assumption is that others can hurt us, and it affects what we think about unpleasant surprises. But when someone has promised to love us until death do us part and done us no harm, "might hurt me" is not a valid assumption. And this invalid assumption is leading us to false conclusions that drive our emotions.
  • When you're disappointed by your spouse, Expect Love. There is an infinite variety of loving acts, marvelous in their diversity. But when we decide all humans must show love by purchasing gifts on Valentine's Day, we set ourselves up for the emotion of anger ("how dare you treat me so shabbily!") or fear ("am I living with someone who has no love for me?").
  • When you disagree with your spouse, Find Third Alternatives. Disagreeing sometimes about which option to choose is perfectly normal, even for identical twins. The mistake lies in thinking any two options are the only ones available or even the ones we'll like best. It feels great to find the one that gives you what you need while doing the same for the most important person in your world.

Wishing you a fantastic Valentine's Day. Try to treat it like Easter, not Christmas. Hunt for the Easter eggs: look hard for all the signs of love on this special day. Don't expect a mind-reading Santa to put the exact love sign you long for under your tree.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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