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I remember when I was in the awkward teen stage of life. It was so difficult to navigate my way through high school. Unfortunately, the internal criticism didn’t stop when I turned 18; it followed me into adulthood.

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There’s been a steady decline in marriage rates over the past few decades. While some studies blame the decline on gender ratio discrepancies and millennials just not being interested in marriage, a 2019 Cornell University study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) says the root cause might be that there aren’t as many men who are economically stable and therefore are not attractive to women looking for a mate.

The study notes that ethnic minorities, especially African American women, are dealing with very low numbers of economically attractive potential mates.

Researchers found that attractive potential husbands had an average income approximately 58% higher than the current unmarried men.

“Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs,” said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, Ph.D., of Cornell University in their media release. “Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.”

A 2016 study, also published in the JMF, found that women have made greater educational gains than men during the past few decades in the U.S. Among newlyweds:

  • The percentage of couples in which the husband had more education than the wife declined from 24 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2008–2012.
  • The share of couples in which the wife had more education than the husband increased from 22 percent to 29 percent during the same period.
  • If two spouses differed in their level of education, in 1980 the husband was more likely be more educated, but from 2008 to 2012, the wife was more likely to have more education.

Less than a decade ago, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and Kay Hymowitz, fellow at the Manhattan Institute, expressed their concerns about what is happening to boys. Each made comments similar to “pre-adult men often seem like children, filling their leisure time with video games, Adam Sandler movies, indie bands, beer pong and the company of inebriated women.”

Along with them, others were raising voices of concern, stating these 2011 statistics:

  • Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out or flunk out of school than girls.
  • Girls now outperform guys at every level from elementary to graduate school.
  • Two-thirds of all students in special education are boys.
  • Boys are five times more likely to be labeled ADHD.
  • By the time boys are 21, they have played more than 10,000 video games, mostly in isolation.
  • The average boy watches 50 porn clips a week.

Zimbardo noted that one of the most interesting things he was seeing in his research is what he refers to as the “social intensity syndrome” where guys prefer the asynchronistic internet world over the spontaneous interaction in social relationships.

Many studies show that boys continue to lag behind girls. Additional studies show that the gap is widening as women continue to make educational and financial gains and are seeking to marry men who are also educated and financially secure. Both of these studies published in the JMF indicate that women want to marry, but can’t find a partner they consider to at least be their educational and financial equal.

None of this means that a woman (or a man) should marry for money instead of love or that they should believe that who makes the money or how much each person makes won’t impact their relationship. There is plenty of research indicating that money impacts marital stability and is often the source of much stress in marriage, especially when expectations around money go unspoken, which isn’t helpful to the relationship. It is important for couples to be on the same page when it comes to money, education and expectations.

Instead, the question for us is, “Why are boys lagging behind?” and what can we do about it? What will we do about it? We will continue to fail our boys and our girls if we sit back and do nothing, but the results of that would seemingly be disastrous for men, women and children.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 27, 2019.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Work, carpool, laundry, grocery shopping, menu planning, PTA meeting, dinner with the in-laws, school festival, clean the house… the list of things that need time and attention seems endless.

Do you ever lie awake at night because your mind won’t shut down from thinking about all you have to do?

Have you ever felt like trying to keep everything in your life together is like trying to hold a beach ball under water, and if you let go things are going to explode?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are in the boat with many other women. Unfortunately, this isn’t a healthy place to be.

“I am seeing more and more women in my office who are experiencing stress at work and at home, relationship issues, peer pressure and a battle in their own mind about what it means to be healthy,” says psychologist Jan Sherbak.

“Unfortunately, many of them are not handling the stress well. They find themselves depressed, feeling anxious, unable to quiet their mind and in general, miserable. In order to cope or dull the pain they use substances, food, obsessive focus on their body or simply withdraw from life, all of which interferes with the quality of their life.”

When one area of life is out of balance, it impacts other areas such as physical and spiritual health.

“In spite of feeling like things are out of our control, the truth is there really is a lot women can do to feel more in control of their lives,” says counselor Jessica Jollie, owner of Yoga Landing. “Studies show that when we exercise and have quiet time, whether it’s meditation or prayer, it impacts how we feel physically and how we respond mentally to all that we encounter throughout the day.”

If your life feels like it is reeling out of control, here are three tips you might find helpful:

  • Take five minutes to just breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths can be very calming.
  • Instead of leaving your “to do” list whirling around in your mind, write it down. Some women have a pad of paper on their nightstand so they can write down something that comes to them in the middle of the night instead of fretting about forgetting it by morning.
  • Take a technology break and go for a short, brisk walk. Just getting out in the fresh air can make a huge difference in your attitude and your ability to tackle a problem.

“This is a huge issue for women to tackle,” says Meg Brasel, a nurse midwife. “I see so much of this in my practice – women not thriving because they are overwhelmed. This doesn’t just impact the woman, it impacts everybody around her. Our goal is to give women tools to help them thrive at home and in the workplace.”

When Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office, she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization.

“I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace. “He paused, looked at me and said, ‘Susan, do you want to run a company some day?’ I replied yes. He proceeded to tell me why I did not want to take that particular position and educated me on the types of jobs that would best position me for my future aspirations.”

That was the first of many educational moments for Packard as she began her ascent to the C-suite. She went on to be founder of Scripps Network Interactive and co-founder of HGTV.

“A few years ago, a friend of mine said she thought my story was interesting and I ought to consider writing a book for women on navigating the workplace,” Packard says. “The more I thought about it and the more time I spent mentoring women in the workplace, I realized my friend was right. There are many lessons I have learned through the years that could be beneficial for other working women.”

Packard’s book serves as a toolkit of behaviors and strategies to help women advance in the workplace. She refers to the behaviors and strategies as gamesmanship. 

“I talk about why it is a bad idea for women to act like men, the importance of composure, why women need to create a network around them of people they trust, how to dress and why competition isn’t a bad thing,” Packard says.

Another strategy in Packard’s book is the art of brinksmanship to gain an advantage without clearly stating your goal. In poker, this is the art of reading “the tell.”

For example, Packard recalls taking her HGTV CEO to meet with the head of Tele-Communications, the cable industry’s leader at the time. They arrived for the meeting and had to wait two hours. When the meeting finally began, the guy stated his company’s position. Packard believed it was ridiculous. About fifteen minutes into the meeting, Packard stood up and declared the meeting over. When her CEO asked why the meeting went so badly, Packard replied, “It did not go badly. We actually won that round. They wanted us to beg. We needed to tilt the power in our favor.”

It took two years, but they eventually closed the deal. Packard contends it is that kind of dealmaking that helps perfect the art of business brinkmanship.

The book cover has a queen chess piece with a king chess piece in the shadows. Packard explains that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is the only one who can move any direction on the board. Similarly, women in the workplace are adaptable, mentally fluid, and typically can juggle a lot of balls simultaneously. Women have unique opportunities to shine powerfully and positively. There’s no need to hide behind the shadows of men in the workplace.

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-educated analyst who wants to enable men and women to have healthy, long-lasting marriages.

“I travel a lot,” says Feldhahn. “People frequently ask me what I do, and my usual response is: ‘I help women understand men.’ The men usually laugh and say, ‘You know, we really aren’t that complicated.'”

Feldhahn’s research found that in most cases, relationship problems happen when a husband and wife care deeply for each other and are trying really hard, but often in the wrong areas.

“I ended up writing For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men to help open people’s eyes so they start trying hard in the areas that will help them avoid hurting each other unnecessarily,” Feldhahn says. “We asked men and women ages 15-75 to tell us: ‘What are your fears, what are the things that light you up, and what makes you feel really bad?'”

Women wanted to know: Am I lovable? Am I special? Am I worth loving for who I am on the inside? 

Guys wanted to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside?

“These responses were significant,” Feldhahn says. “‘Am I adequate?’ leads to an entirely different set of primary needs than, ‘Am I lovable?’ A solid three-quarters of the men surveyed said, if they were forced to choose, they would choose giving up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.”

Feldhahn realized that women could tell their husbands they love them and be critical at the same time. It happens by questioning his decision-making skills and constantly telling him what to do and how to do it.

“Trying to gain a greater understanding of this, I was speaking with a friend who made the statement to me, ‘I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough,'” Feldhahn says. “I asked what he meant. He told me that they recently had friends over for dinner. When the friends left, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. When she returned home she kissed his cheek and looked over his shoulder into the kitchen and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. I asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, ‘Yes, she could have said thanks.'”

Feldhahn contends that many women make men feel that what they do isn’t good enough and that they are idiots. In fact, women often say it is their job to keep their husband humble. In reality, underneath the mask of confidence, most men want to do a good job in whatever role, but they aren’t sure they know what they are doing. And they hope nobody finds out.

“When we as women are thinking about something you know it because we process out loud,” Feldhahn says. “When men are thinking, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Our research showed that in most cases, if you see a decision, instead of asking ‘Why did you do that?’ if you will ask, ‘Help me understand,’ in most cases you will hear a long explanation.”

For example, a wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

“I asked the husband to help us understand. He said, ‘I went to the fridge to get the milk and realized if I gave them milk for dinner there wouldn’t be enough for breakfast. I was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep, and we’ve been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so I didn’t want to wake her up just to go get milk. I decided to give the kids juice, which I diluted by half with water so they wouldn’t have as much sugar.’ The look on his wife’s face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.”

Feldhahn believes it’s important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn’t measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

 

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***