Death Us Do Part, But Only If I Know All Of Your Secrets And Lies

Every now and again, I get reminded of what a strange, strange, world we live in. Mad even. Hollywood once made a very funny (I thought it was hilarious) movie called: It’s a mad, mad world. It shows how a bunch of strangers can, through the right set of circumstances, behave completely irrationally and out of character or simply show their true nature. Take your pick. In truth it’s probably a bit of both. And once the dye is cast there is no end to the madness.

These days, social media seems to act like a full moon and make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Here are the latest pieces of insanity currently in vogue. As you might expect, it’s got a lot to do with men and women getting together. But first we must ask the leading question: How well do you know your significant other? It’s a question having a major effect on how we shape our dating experience. People are using web searches and social media to investigate a person’s history before they even go on first date. A recent survey discovered that information from Facebook is now being used in a third of all divorce cases as well. With social media we can discover all sorts of information about another person such as previous employment, old flames, school sports teams and last week’s embarrassing party photos. But getting back to the question: How well do you know your significant other? The answer is not very well at all according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the information gap is so alarming for some, that they are employing, wait for it, private investigators to look into the background of their significant other before contemplating a tying of the knot. According to the report, private investigators across the Unites States are saying that business is booming in recent years from clients who basically “ want their sweethearts investigated for potentially deal breaking habits and secrets.”

You might think it a little strange that this trend is taking off now. After all, we seem to know more about a potential spouse now than ever before. But one reason might have something to do with what I would call perverse psychology. One private investigator told the Wall Street Journal that all of this available data is actually inciting people into seeking even more information: “What they are getting is just enough information to make them curious.”

But it’s not just the availability of information about a partner’s past that is fuelling this trend. It’s also because these days, many of us seem to have more of a past worth investigating. “In a world where people are taking longer to get married, and accumulating more relationship baggage, I think many adults today are understandably nervous about going ahead with a major relationship commitment or engagement,” says Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project. He notes that given this long pathway that men and women are taking to marriage, “it’s no surprise that people are hiring private detectives or other services to look into their partner’s background.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report, while some of us may think that being choosy about who to marry and therefore trying out multiple long term relationships will help to make us as sure as we can be about the person we eventually settle down with, the opposite may be true. The more relationships we have before marriage, the more likely we are to cheat on a spouse. The report says having all these relationships (and getting to watch on Facebook the lives of the ones who got away) only makes it harder not easier to reach a decision about who to marry. It’s an interesting perspective. The report goes on to say that once we marry, it can have the effect of making us less satisfied with our choice. We crave more and more information in order to be sure we’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right, but how much is too much? Don’t we already have enough background to judge whether our partner is the one? After all, two thirds of couples who married in 2012, lived together for more than two years before they walked down the aisle. We already know our partner’s preferences when it comes to everything, especially their favourites, from brand of toothpaste to sexual positions. So what’s left? A lot, as it turns out. One relationship expert researching a book on interfaith marriage, was surprised to learn that more than half of the couples didn’t talk about how they wanted to raise their children before they sealed the deal (and that was just among the ones who already had kids).

She wrote: “ How is it possible that in all the deep, late night conversations that led you to believe this person was your soul mate you never got around to ( talking about) faith and family? “

So is it all about having the right conversation and asking the right questions of each other? The report goes on to say that the information gap is not limited to religion. It also concerns finances. In her book, The Starter Marriage And The Future of Matrimony, Pamela Paul wrote about couples who failed to reveal to each other that they had major financial debts. One woman neglected to tell her husband that, for a number of years, she earned no income and her father was paying all of her expenses. How does this kind of information, you might ask, just slip through the cracks in long term relationships? According to the experts, for one thing, we don’t often get the right input from our family and community when it comes to significant others. In her book, Pamela Paul reports, that “all the divorcees (she) interviewed said their parents gave them no direction about marriage beyond telling them upon their engagement it’s as long as you’re happy.”  And as much as we might think living together is the ultimate test for whether a relationship will succeed, the reality of the matter may be completely different. According to these experts it is very easy to live under the same roof with someone and not have any conversations about planning for the future. You can chat endlessly about who leaves dirty laundry on the floor or whether they’ve ever mopped a kitchen floor but what about having the serious chats about finances or children? Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, recently told the Atlantic magazine, that “Living together doesn’t charm or doom you; it is not whether you live with your partner as much as how you live with your partner.” She added, “I am not against living together, but I am for, young adults being more aware that it is an arrangement that has upsides and downsides.” One of the downsides is surely that cohabitation often gives people the illusion of true intimacy while at the same time allowing partners to conceal the most important pieces of information. But, is hiring a private Investigator really the solution to discovering this kind of information? You could always try being a bit more of an open book. You might also find you achieve the same result without the aggravation or the expense.

Mormon Women Who Marry Gay Husbands- Guess What? No Problem

Those Mormons are at it again. But, I don’t want this to sound like I’m against religion in general and Mormons in particular. I’m not. Each to their own, I say. But surely there must be something in the water in Utah to give rise to so much random out thereness that I feel like giving all of them a good shake and saying enough is enough.

This latest escapade, is being driven by, what I would describe, as that well known suppository for mindless entertainment that masquerades as The Learning Channel. TLC, is about to screen yet another documentary blockbuster called My Husband’s Not Gay. It focuses on three Mormon couples and their ‘unconventional’ marriages. By unconventional I mean, the couples are supposedly happily married but the husbands all profess to having homosexual feelings and desires.

At one point in the documentary, we see two of the couples, on a double date, sitting in a French restaurant and enjoying animated conversation. The mood lightens considerably when a male waiter approaches the table. It’s the husbands and not the wives who start to flirt with him suggestively, joking that he must have milked the goat by hand to make the cheese for their salads. Please.

We see one of the husband’s gushing on camera, he’s such a good looking guy to which one of the wives jokingly suggests are we going home together or what? The only thing we don’t see is maybe one of the husband’s asking for the waiter’s phone number. But of course nothing of the kind happens.On camera.

The Learning Channel, as you might expect, has been the recipient of a significant backlash from gay rights groups who say the documentary “ promotes the false and dangerous idea that gay people can and choose to be straight in order to be part of the faith of the Mormon church.”

In other words, the program reflects Mormonism’s deeply rooted homophobia.

More than 73 thousand people have signed a petition calling for the documentary to be cancelled.

Let’s have a go at deconstructing this.

The husbands readily admit to being sexually attracted to men yet deny they have ever acted on their impulses. And in their own curious fashion, they term this aspect of their personalities as ‘same sex attraction’ or SSA rather than being gay or bisexual. Don’t forgot you can only be called that, according to them, if you act on your impulses and they haven’t, you’ll be pleased to know, if you choose to believe them. They claim their wives stand by them 100 percent and that their marriages have not only produced children but plenty of action in the bedroom. Too much information if you ask me. They say their marriages are stronger because they acknowledge the issue rather than sweep it under the carpet.

They also insist that their arrangement follows the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which, of course, proclaims that the ‘only acceptable expression of sexuality and romantic feelings is within a marriage between a man and woman.” According to church gospel, only heterosexual unions should lead to the birth of children.

As one of the couples, points out in the documentary, the church of the Latter Day Saints teaches that behaviour is choice. Choosing to act on these feelings is wrong within marriage but having those feelings? Not so much. As one sage like observer pointed out, as long as men in the Mormon church don’t actively seek out relationships with other guys and cheat on their wives then Jesus is cool with it.

The couples say the main foundations of their relationship is they have no secrets.

As one of the husbands said: “Other people might look at us from the outside and say: ‘That’s unusual’. But to us, it’s not a big deal and just part of the way we live our lives. My wife and I love each other and our son very much, and that’s what counts.”

One of the other couples featured in the documentary claims the husband, finally had the courage to reveal his SSA, 15 years into their 20-year marriage, but the revelation has only brought them closer.

“When he first told me, it was very upsetting and confusing, the wife said. She describes their relationship as a journey. “And I didn’t know who to talk to at the time “But because I love him so much, I never once considered divorce. I knew there was a way for us to work through it. And we did. Now I think my husband and I have a better sex life than any of our straight friends that we know.”

“I love and trust him completely,” she said although she admitted to now knowing her husband did have relationships with other men before coming clean about his sexuality. “And, depending on their ages, our kids [ages nine through 16] know about the SSA to varying degrees. They love and support their dad, and realise that people don’t have to be perfect to be loved by God.”

Many outside the Mormon SSA community might wonder how such marriages can possibly survive. Me included. But New York psychologist Dr Gilda Carle believes they can survive as long as both sides understand each other and observe certain boundaries. “It’s the year 2015 and there is no one size fits all,” says Carle, the author of 15 relationship books. “We learn to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies when we love another person. Love and marriage are not just about a penis and a vagina. It’s about a connection of souls, faith, family and children. And these couples appear to share an extraordinary trust and openness. Every study shows those are the keys to lasting human relationships.”

She does warn, however, that it’s only strong women, secure in their own identity, who can deal with the implications of a husband with SSA.

“Any wife who is wishy-washy about her own sexuality, or ability to understand a guy with these urges, does not belong in one of these relationships,” Carle says.

On the show, one couple turns out to be the most forthcoming about their sex life, revealing: “There have been periods in our marriage where I knew that the attraction wasn’t there. But thankfully, we’ve moved beyond that.”

The wife admits that after they wed and when their relationship finally became physical, she was the most concerned about intimacy issues.

“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Will he be attracted to me?

“At the same time, though, it was, ‘Well, at least he doesn’t have anybody else to compare me to!’” During their nine-year marriage and with the help of counselling, she says she has become increasingly secure in herself and the lifestyle they lead as a couple. “I feel frustrated when people don’t understand ….and when they question whether he is living up to his identity. “I know that he has made the choice that is most true to himself.” Yeah right.

Sorry but I don’t believe a single word of it. There is only one way this is going to end. Everybody in tears.You can live in denial but it is not a river in Egypt and  I wouldn’t recommend it. I just wish people could accept that love is love irrespective of gender, race or creed. What a pity I won’t have the chance to sign that petition.

You Might Be Surprised To Know Facebook Doesn’t Like Talking about D-I-V-O-R-C-E

I happened upon an interesting published observation the other day, about the social media landscape in general and Facebook in particular.

Just as an aside, I really do believe the jury is out on whether Facebook is a good thing. I, for one, am decidedly uncomfortable with how much intelligence gathering Facebook does on each and every one of its users. It garners a lot of information particularly about what we like and don’t like and uses it to bombard us with ads and marketing pitches. Nothing wrong with that you might say. What I object to is the sneaky way they go about it. But in any case, that is a topic for another day.

Most of the time I am intrigued and at times horrified by what is posted on Facebook. It is fairly pathetic that a number of Facebook users seem to think that there is no such thing as privacy. Every time they burp or fart, it’s worth sharing with the world. Call me old-fashioned but some things are just better left unsaid.

Getting back to the interesting observation, (well, I think it is) if the experience of others is anything to go by, then Facebook is somewhat adverse to the harsher realities of life, like divorce.

For example, a well-known author, blogger and public speaker, called Michael Ellsberg, posted what was described as something truly subversive on his Facebook page. Ellsberg has 25 thousand Facebook followers so pretty much anything he was going to say could be described as a big deal to those that follow him. Ellsberg announced that he and his equally famous wife, a woman with the remarkable name of Jena La Flamme, were splitting up. Her claim to fame is being a weight loss expert and the author of a book called Pleasurable Weight Loss. Apparently such a thing exists.

The observation was that Ellsberg had peeled off the social face that many Facebook users maintain when it comes to their relationships. A social face illustrated by a smorgasbord of photographs that make marriage look like a constant holiday or make people look like they are auditioning for a dating website. Just to reiterate. I am saying this is a published observation and something, I thought, worth reporting on. The thrust of what is being said is that marital discord is an untouchable topic on Facebook. In fact, if you were to go looking, you will struggle to find any documentation of strife, anxiety, discord or discontent, of the marital kind, among the one billion Facebook users. I guess it all boils down to what is socially acceptable and what is not. There is far more social acceptability to whining about your job or even seeking advice about missteps in people’s careers or complaining about the sleep deprivation that goes with rearing children than there is in talking about the rupture of a marriage.

In breaking the news about his bust up, Ellsberg said it was a significant departure from the ‘smiling photos and professions of love’ he had previously published about his relationship with La Flamme. Believe it or not the couple spent months carefully crafting their Facebook announcement, which they say has been met with a largely positive response. What I find extraordinary is their need to announce it on Facebook in the first place. Anyone would think that theirs wasn’t a marriage but a marital brand, which after its dissolution needed the message to be spun much like a corporate media release.

But if you are going to place that much importance in a Facebook announcement it can also go pear shaped just as easily. Take the case of Penney Berryman who looked at her Facebook newsfeed to discover that her husband, at the time, had changed his status from married to single. It was an announcement of their separation that came as a complete shock to Penney Berryman. “I was still married to someone who made a public statement about our relationship that I wasn’t ready for,” Berryman said. She responded by revising her own marital status, leaving it blank and opting not to have the change show up on her public newsfeed. In the transition to divorce, Berryman also altered other aspects of her public digital life, starting by deleting timeline photos of her wedding and other marital milestones. “It was tough to figure out how I represent this part of my life that doesn’t exist anymore but used to be such a big part,” she said.

So what? I hear you saying and you are right. Who cares? Well we don’t and we do. We care ( I think we do) that life has changed to such a degree that Facebook has become so important to people because it clearly has.

As you might expect, a lot of ‘experts’ have pontificated on this sociological shift, like Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. She wrote a book called: Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other. “If you complain about your pet, your job, even your children, there is a sense in which these are external to you – the complaint is about what life has dealt you,” Turkle said “When you complain about your marriage, the boundary between marriage and self is much less firm.” By that I think she means fragile.

According to Turkle, we see our partners as a reflection of ourselves. Any hint of weakness, insecurity, or conflict isn’t good for our personal brand, which is essentially what social media has reduced us to.  Turkle says it might also be understandable that people have been reluctant to post their marital woes on Facebook and attack their spouse in a public forum, because, of course, it can’t be achieved without creating further problems.

Which gets us back to the Ellsberg divorce announcement. He genuinely thinks that Facebook could be helpful to couples breaking up (as only Facebook can) if the parties posted in a way that didn’t blame or finger point. It would be along the lines of a question: Does anyone have any advice about how I can deal with anger in a way that isn’t destructive to our marriage?

Turkle, the psychologist, doesn’t agree with Ellsberg. She thinks Facebook is not the forum for those types of announcements. Facebook she says is a place for good news and certainly not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self.

Well, here’s my definition of good news. How about NO news at all about the really personal stuff, especially when it comes to Facebook? It works for me. It might even work for you. And in any case isn’t that what they really say about good news?

Five Ways Women Destroy Their Husband And Kill Their Marriage. But Am I Being Serious?

This is my first blogpost for 2015. But given what I am about to discuss here, we could easily be talking about 1815.

It’s a topic racking up millions of views and shares on social media. Seven point five million to be exact, at the time of writing. You guessed right, Sex and Marriage.

At the centre of this firestorm is an article published on a website called FamilyShare.com and written by a woman called Katelyn Carmen. Now I can’t tell you much about Katelyn Carmen. She is a graduate from the University of Utah and a Mormon, which might explain some of her antiquated views on sex, relationships, and a woman’s ‘duties’ as a wife. By now you might be getting a bit of an idea on where this is going.

Katelyn called her piece, 5 Ways You Are Unknowlingly Destroying Your Husband and Killing Your Marriage. Clearly, it is directed at women, who she thinks should know better but they don’t. Now, personally I think the safest thing for me to do is to include this disclaimer.

  • I offer all of this without prejudice.
  • I don’t endorse any of the ideas suggested
  • I deny any responsibility for the moral outrage it might engender.

Ok. So now we’ve got that out of the way, lets deal with the nitty-gritty. Katelyn writes: “When I got married, I was amazed at the instant, overwhelming sense of responsibility I felt to love and care for my husband. Suddenly, a huge part of someone else’s wellbeing and happiness was largely affected by my choices and actions. Women, we need to be careful about how we are caring for our husbands and marriages. Don’t let the small stuff ruin the things that will bring you the greatest happiness in life.”

Now at this point you might be already saying surely this applies equally to husbands and how they should treat their wives. And to be fair to Katelyn, she does point that out but the problem she has, as I see it, no one believes her when she says it applies to men. On the issue of living within your means, Katelyn writes: “A wise old woman from my church congregation once advised: “The best thing you can do as a wife is to live within your husband’s means.” Constantly complaining about not having enough to fulfill your lavish desires or racking up astronomical amounts of debt on your credit card is a poor way of saying “thank you” to a faithful spouse who works hard every day to provide for the family. Yes, you may not have enough to buy that Kate Spade bag you’ve had your eyes on for months, but your husband will love and appreciate the fact that you honor him and are grateful for what he provides.”

Yes. She is being serious. Wait. There’s more.

Wives are apparently too negative. Katelyn writes: “Negativity is draining. Men like to fix things, and constantly being hounded with complaints makes it difficult for him to help solve your pains. If there is one thing I’ve learned from marriage is that a good man wants you to be happy, and if he can’t help you do that, it makes him unhappy. It’s okay to have a bad day once in a while, that’s totally understandable, but don’t make it a way of life.” (Wives might want to start drinking wine early in the afternoon if they want to accomplish this: my advice)

But Katelyn saves the very best until last: “Men crave and need physical affection with their wives. When you constantly decline intimacy, it wears on them. Sex should not be used as a tool to control your spouse; it should be viewed as a sacred tool to draw you closer to one another and to God. It is a great blessing to be wanted and needed by a loving, romantic husband who wants to share something so beautiful and important with you — and you only. Even though you might not always be in the mood, it’s worth it to give in (when you can) and spend that time bonding.”

Hang on Katelyn I need to pick you up on the “you only” reference. Doesn’t your religion actively promote men having more than one wife? So strictly speaking it’s going to be ok if he’s shagging more than just you according to the Mormon religion.

Anyway, I’ve digressed when I shouldn’t.

Now, as you might expect, not everyone was thrilled with what Katelyn had to say. For example one blogger said: “It turns out that while I’ve spent all these years trying to make us happy, I should have been worried about making him happy. Why? I don’t know. Because (of his) penis, I guess.”

Another blogger mockingly rephrased Katelyn’s words: “Men, susceptible creatures that they are, need lots and lots of physical affection. They cannot live without it and if you neglect your wifely duties, then he’s just going to go elsewhere, and you’ll be a bad, bad wife. Seriously, they’ll give you a trophy. Never mind if you don’t feel well, or you’re tired, or just not in the mood, your husband’s needs surmount yours and it is your duty to give him all the pleasure he wants and needs.”

According to Katelyn, one of the main relationship problems is that husbands and wives don’t speak the same language. Or should I say, wives don’t understand their husbands, and it’s all their fault. She writes: “Don’t waste your time giving subtle hints that he won’t understand: Speak plainly to him. Be honest about your feelings, and don’t bottle things up until you burst. If he asks you what’s wrong, don’t respond with “nothing” and then expect him to read your mind and emotions.”

But can you imagine my surprise, not to mention my amusement, when I came across another study which suggests the way to really improve a marriage is for a husband to spend more time at work and less time with his wife. The more overtime he does, the healthier his wife will become because the extra income means they can afford cleaners and the wife can spend more time on herself pursuing such things as vigorous exercise or playing sport.

Getting back to Katelyn, she says she is genuinely mystified by the strong reaction her article has caused. “The advice I gave in this article was influenced by a variety of sources, including my college studies and research — I minored in marriage and family studies — family therapists who contribute content to the site, my own marriage and advice from couples I know who’ve have had long, successful marriages.

“Marriage is a partnership. My advice is just as important and relevant to men –- and we publish advice for both men and women on the site,” she said. “As spouses, we should be willing to help one another as equal partners as we honor and serve one another. That, in turn, will bring the greatest likelihood of a successful marriage.”

I know I should be gracious, and acknowledge that Katelyn is talking about both sides in the relationship. And most people would agree with her on that point but call me cynical, I just don’t believe she really means it.

Bring Us Some Men

There’s a remote village in southeast Brazil about 500 km from Rio De Janeiro called Noiva do Cordeiro. It sits in a valley called Belo Vale, which literally translates as beautiful Valley and it’s a place that lives up to its name. The village has groves with row upon row of thick skinned and sweet tangerines, banana plants and trees covered with bright yellow flowers.

But if you go to Noiva do Codeiro the landscape is not the only view to catch your eye. There are also its inhabitants. To be more specific, I’m talking about the village women. But that is also Noiva do Codeiro’s curse as much as it is a blessing.

Apparently this area is famous in Brazil for producing more women than men. But right now too many of them are single and looking for love and there just aren’t enough men around to go round if you get my meaning. And the women of Noiva do Codeiro are determined to do something about it. They’ve launched a nationwide and an international appeal for eligible men to come to their village.

As one of the young village women explained: The only men that single girls meet in the village are either married or a relative. Everyone is a cousin. She says: we all dream of falling in love and getting married. But that is not to say they need a man. They don’t. The village women do very well and are quite happy the way they are. They manage the village finances, they work the fields, they run the show in the absence of men. In fact what makes the place so special is the sense of community that exists here. People work together, and because they work so hard it makes them want to look out for one another. The village has a saying: Life is good because we are always with friends.

Now at this point you might be wondering why there is such a lopsided gender balance. It has to do with Noiva do Codeiro’s history. The village was first settled in the late 19th century. Its founder was a woman called Maria Senhorinha de Lima who arrived after she was accused of adultery and exiled from her church and home in 1891. That stigma has never left the place. The villagers say it has meant that Novia do Codeiro has been isolated because of prejudice and they have also been fighting a campaign to ensure that the authorities don’t continue to ignore the community.

Clearly, there are men who live in Noiva do Codeiro but they spend the week away working either as miners or in the nearest big city. The village women acknowledge they are an unusual group in rural Brazil. But the times they are a changing in Brazil. The country has a female President. A woman heads up the country’s oil company and women make up more than a quarter of the senior management of Brazil’s leading companies.

This latest publicity has helped to spread Noiva do Codeiro’s notoriety far and wide. The place has a history of male visitors falling for the inhabitants of the village. And that is what the women of Noiva do Codeiro are hoping for. It is now on the tourist trail for some French travellers. If only the village women could speak French.