Category Archives: Marriage and Relationships

Lesson About Love I’ve Learned From Writing Romance

When writing, talking, or criticizing a certain topic, we often do so thinking we know enough about it to make it matter. It’s not until we actually make the effort that we realize just how inadequate our knowledge is. It can be distressing and disheartening on some levels, but it can also be revealing.

I’ve been writing romance stories since I was a teenager. I don’t deny that those first stories I wrote were awful. I’ve even gone back and deleted some of them, both from my memory and my computer. They were that bad. I made the effort because I believed I could tell a good, meaningful love story. It wasn’t until I started writing that I realized how much I had to learn.

I’ve learned quite a bit since then, but I don’t doubt for a second that I’ve a lot more to explore. The fact that I’m still single, unmarried, and not dating anyone at the moment is proof enough of that. However, after reading about and writing so many love stories, both as novels and as short stories, I’ve uncovered countless insights into love.

Writing about it, discussing it, and even observing it in people who have found it has taught me a lot. Much of those lessons have found their way into my writing over the years. In the interest of sharing those revelations, I’d like to offer a few of those insights for those still struggling to make sense of this emotion that drives so many people, both in real life and in the world of fiction.

Some may seem obvious. Others may seem corny. That’s to be expected. Love is one of those strange emotions that seems so simple on paper, yet so overwhelming in practice. That’s part of what makes it special. That’s also part of what makes it worth pursuing. Hopefully, these insights help with that.

Lesson #1: Love requires effort, but can become tedious if it turns into work.

Lesson #2: Love is often more opportunity than destiny. Fate may bring people together, but it’s through choice and effort that something comes of it.

Lesson #3: The line between lust and love is often blurred, but becomes more defined when those involved are honest with themselves and each other.

Lesson #4: It’s okay for love to be shallow on some levels, but greater depth is needed in order for it to blossom.

Lesson #5: Being in love means growing and evolving with a person. That means loving someone for who they are and who they’re trying to be.

Lesson #6: Being in love is only part of a functional relationship, but it’s a critical part that can make others work.

Lesson #7: Love isn’t always logical, but genuine love is coherent and consistent.

Lesson #8: You cannot control how, when, and where you fall in love, but you can control the situation around you.

Lesson #9: Being in love, like being in a relationship, is an ongoing feeling. Treating certain parts as endpoints only undermines both.

Lesson #10: In the same way love means different things to many people, the experience of love can be just as different. Even if others don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean the love is less sincere.

Lesson #11: Love is unpredictable, but there are often patterns that become noticeable when you’re honest with yourself and your partner.

Lesson #12: There’s no one right way to love someone, but there will always be many more wrong ways.

Lesson #13: Love build on lies is always unstable in the long run.

There are probably many more I could list or haven’t thought of. If you have some lessons in love that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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A Brief Message To My Future Wife

Every now and then, I find myself wondering what I’ll say to the love of my life when I meet her. I also wonder what I’d say to my future self if I could. I think everyone contemplates what they’d tell themselves at a certain point in their lives, past and future. Most of the time, it’s just a daydream or a thought experiment. As you get older, though, every sentiment feels more urgent.

I still believe the love of my life is out there. I doubt I’ve met her yet. I hope I meet her soon and not just because I’m getting older. There are so many things I want to say to her. Chances are, if you love someone with all your heart, you can never convey the totality of your feelings. Sometimes, you need both foresight and hindsight to keep things in perspective.

With that in mind, I’d like to share this as a simple message to my future wife, whoever and wherever she may be. I may not be able to put this into words at any point in our lives, but as someone who is still searching for that special someone, know that this sentiment is honest and true.

There will be days when I’m a pain to be around.

There will be days when I am distant and cold.

There will be days when I just don’t want to talk to anyone.

There will be days when I’m not in a romantic mood.

There will be days when I’m stressed out, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood.

There will be days when I focus only on where I’ve gone wrong and where I’ve failed.

There will be days when I blame others for things I’m responsible for.

It’s on these days, however, when your love means the most to me. I may not say it at the time, but know that it’s true. Even when I’m at my worst, I still love you. Moreover, I still need your love.

With time, I get through these days. They quickly become distant memories and I make an effort to ensure the good days outnumber the bad. Know that it’s you who helps make those good says worth waking up for, but it’s easy to acknowledge that when all is well. It’s much harder to convey when things are going wrong.

It’s easy to cherish love when all is well, but you can only know the strength of that love when things are at their worst. I believe our love is that strong. Never doubt that for a second, no matter how many bad days we face.

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Nature Vs. Nurture: A Case Study In “The Big Bang Theory”

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What makes someone an uptight, narcissistic control freak who refuses to admit when they’re wrong and will never let anyone else sit in their spot on the couch?

What makes someone a needy, whiny, emotionally stunted man-child who is chronically insecure and in constant need of approval?

What makes someone an outgoing, overly social free spirit who is also habitually irresponsible, exercises poor judgement, and intellectually dense?

These are all personal questions that have a multitude of answers, none of which are definitive. There are entire fields of study devoted to answering such questions, none of which are perfect. It often comes down to a question of whether someone was born with certain traits or are simply a product of their environment.

It’s the classic nature versus nurture debate and, in almost every case, it’s neither one nor the other. Some people are born with certain traits or personality quirks that physically manifests in their brains. Others are heavily influenced by the people and environment they grow up around. In between all of this is a multitude of other factors that are difficult to quantify.

Figuring people out what makes them tick and how they got that way is challenging, even if you consider yourself a very insightful person. People, in general, tend to be complicated. Human beings might have basic drives to survive, reproduce, and find a tribe, but there are countless variations beyond those drives.

Many of those exaggerations are also pushed to hilarious extremes with fictional characters. Between the Hulk’s anger issues and Lex Luthor’s narcissism, fictional worlds can provide useful insights into the whole nature/nurture dynamic. Whereas someone like Lex Luthor was born with little empathy and way too much ego, the anger issues of the Hulk were a more complicated, as well as disturbing.

These characters, like real people, often have a combination of nature and nurture that helps influence who they, how they got that way, and what they eventually become. It’s often subtle and building a story around it is difficult. However, there’s one group of fictional characters that I believe embody the nature versus nurture dynamic better than most.

Those characters are the cast of “The Big Bang Theory,” a show that recently ended it’s remarkable 12-year run as one of the highest-rated sitcoms of all time. While the show has garnered plenty of criticism and outright hate, there’s no denying that the show struck a chord. No show involving the same group of characters lasts for 12 years without resonating with audiences on some personal level.

While there are certainly parts of the show that I don’t care for, I still consider myself a fan of it. I even admit that I got emotional when I saw the series finale. I thought it was incredibly well done and it marked a fitting end for the journey that Leonard, Howard, Raj, Sheldon, and Penny began 12 years ago. Many other fans of the show agreed with that sentiment.

Love it or hate it, and plenty did hate it, the show had a great deal of appeal outside its cheesy jokes and comical portrayal of geek culture. After seeing the finale and watching a few reruns, I think one of the most endearing appeals was how much the characters grew over the years. Given that it was a sitcom and character growth in sitcoms are notoriously slow, I think it’s one of the show’s biggest accomplishments.

From the beginning, the personalities of each character are established with distinct traits that were heavily exaggerated for comedic effect.

Leonard was needy, insecure, and weak-willed. He was basically the ultimate beta-male nerd from every 80s teen comedy.

Howard was obsessive, selfish, and immature. He also had some stalker-like creepiness baked into his approach towards getting women.

Raj was passive, effeminate, and quirky, but largely defined by his inability to talk to women.

Sheldon was self-centered, stubborn, and egotistical. He might have also been autistic.

Penny was a bubbly, upbeat, lovable free spirit. However, she was also irresponsible and exercised poor judgement, especially when it came to her personal life.

Like every sitcom, every major plot and iconic gag was built off these traits. From Leonard trying desperately to win Penny’s affection to Howard’s efforts to pick up women to Sheldon’s inability to keep a secret, “The Big Bang Theory” had plenty to work with in terms of eccentric personality quirks. I believe a large part of the show’s success is a direct result of how well it made use of those quirks.

As the show progressed and we learned more about these character, we also learn more about where they came from and what influences them. We find out that Leonard’s insecurities might stem from the relationship he had with his mother. He also learn how much living with his loud-mouthed mother has effected Howard. We learn where Penny came from and how that informed her personality.

We learn plenty about Sheldon too, but it would take a long time to go over his many issues. He was, by far, the most eccentric character on the show and one of the most controversial.

For each character, we get a strong sense of their nature. More than most sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory” belabors and reinforces the core personality of each character. If you watch just a few episodes, you can get a fairly decent feel for their behavior and how they would react in most situations.

At the same time, however, the show also demonstrates how new influences change these characters over time. In fact, the foundation for this change is established in the pilot episode when Penny first moves in to the apartment across from Sheldon and Leonard. She is a very different kind of influence on these two and vice versa. You could even argue that it’s the most important catalyst for the entire show.

It’s only after we learn about the nature of each characters that we appreciate what a critical moment that was in the context of each character’s journey. Before Penny’s arrival, Sheldon and Leonard didn’t have many disrupting influences. They were surrounded in familiar territory. They had nothing prompting them to change or grow in new directions.

The same goes for Penny. Before she arrived, she was just a simple girl from the mid-west who had never lived around hardcore geeks and accomplished scientists. She never even showed much interest in science, geek culture, or anything of the sort. While it didn’t seem to affect her at first, there were signs of their influence as the show progressed.

Both Howard and Raj went through similar transformations. In the early seasons, there were many sub-plots built around both of them trying to get the attention of women, despite Raj not being able to talk to them without being drunk. Most of them fail spectacularly. Some were downright pathetic at times and not in a funny way.

 

Then, new influences came into their lives. Howard met Bernadette, who underwent her own transformation as she became a bigger part of the group. While their relationship had its upheavals, it did more than anything to humanize Howard. It still didn’t fundamentally change him. He was still immature and obnoxious at times, but he also showed that he could be a respectable family man.

Raj’s growth wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he did eventually learn to talk to women without the aid of alcohol. He also went from just wanting to get the attention of women to seeking love, marriage, and family. He even gains more self-confidence and assertiveness as the show went on, some of which was a result of interacting with Penny and the rest of the group.

Then, there’s the growth of Sheldon Cooper. More than any other character, Sheldon demonstrated the value of having quality influences.

His nature is, by far, the most eccentric and extreme. It’s the nurturing forces, however, that I think had the greatest impact on both his character development and the overall progression of the of the show.

There’s no getting around it. In the first few seasons, Sheldon was a stubborn, selfish egotist. For a time, it was even a popular refrain to note that Sheldon was just one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain. Given that most supervillains tend to be petty, eccentric, and self-centered, I think that’s an accurate statement disguised as a joke.

Thankfully, that accident never happened. Instead, Sheldon was frequently nudged and, in a few cases, shoved into being less insufferable. Penny was usually the one to get him out of his comfort zone in the early seasons. Then, Amy Farrah Fowler came along and gave him a nurturing force that seemed almost impossible in the earlier seasons.

Amy brought issues of her own to the table, but like Bernadette did with Howard, she proved to be a stabilizing presence for Sheldon. She didn’t fundamentally change him, nor did she even demand it. She simply provided new influences. Granted, he stubbornly fought them, at first. He fought harder than anyone else in the group. In the end, though, he still embraced these changes and was better because of it.

It was that change that made his Nobel Prize acceptance speech at the end of the show so perfect. In that moment, he achieved something he’d been hoping to achieve since the earliest season. It was the ultimate affirmation of his genius and his abilities, which he’d bragged and boasted about to no end. It could’ve been the ultimate ego trip for him.

Instead, he thanked his friends. He demonstrated humility on a stage in front of a huge crowed of people. For someone who started the show seeming incapable of empathy and nuance, it was a powerful moment. It showed that this weird, colorful character that we loved and hated at times had really grown. He even acknowledged the source of that growth in a genuine, heartfelt gesture.

When you look at that moment in the context of the entire show, you can see just how powerful those influences can be. These chaLracters, all of which were set in their ways to some extent, showed just how much those influences can change. Even for characters with idiosyncrasies like Sheldon Cooper, people can change in positive ways.

Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Penny wouldn’t have undergone those changes without nurturing one another to some stent. At times, that nurturing took the form of annoyance and frustration. That only makes the change more fitting because most people resist that change. Even in the real world, our default reaction is to keep doing what we’re doing and make every excuse along the way.

While many sitcoms have their characters undergo plenty of upheavals, “The Big Bang Theory” goes the extra mile in showing how people can be changed by the people and influences around them. They’ll still stay true to their nature.

Sheldon will always have that distinct Sheldon-like persona, as will Penny, Leonard, Raj, and Howard. However, with the right kind of nurture, they can become endearing characters in their own right. Say what you will about the quality of the show, but its place in TV history has been secured.

Bazinga!

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How I Would Propose To The Love Of My Life

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We all like to think we know exactly what we’ll say to the love of our life when we first meet them. We also like to think we’ll know exactly what we’ll say when we propose, along with where and how we’ll go about it. Whether you’re a romantic or not, we all entertain those perfect moments, even if the prospect of realizing them seems so distant.

Being a self-proclaimed romantic who writes erotica romance novels and sexy short stories, I suspect I contemplate those moments more than most. I know it’s somewhat taboo for straight men to admit they think about such things, let alone act on them, but I believe men are more romantically inclined than most people think. There are plenty real-life stories of heartfelt romantic gestures that prove that.

I sincerely hope that one day, I’ll find someone with which I can share such gestures. As corny as it may sound, I believe in love. I watch it in my favorite movies and read about it in my favorite comics. I also see it in real life with friends and family members who have met the love of their lives. The way they describe their love is greater than anything I could ever put into a story.

Even if that kind of love is the exception rather than the norm, it’s still something I want to pursue. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever achieve it, but I intend to leave my heart open and ready for when it comes. Should that love come along, I’ve already contemplated how I would go about proposing to her. Since it involves the holidays, I thought this would be a great time to share this sentiment.

Before I do, just know that this is going to be cheesy. It’s going to be dramatic and full of romantic fluff, inspired by someone who watched more romance movies than any straight man will admit to seeing. I don’t care either way. This is how I would go about forging the perfect moment to propose to the love of my life.

The setting begins under the guise of a trip. I tell my love that I’d like to go to the annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York City. I intend to purchase two VIP access tickets and reserve a hotel suite in the heart of the city. If she agrees, I then organize the next part of the spectacle.

I initially present it as a romantic getaway to get us in the holiday spirit. Perhaps it’s not even the first time we’ve made the trip. The idea is to make sure she doesn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary. Before we even fly out to New York, however, I secretly coordinate with the necessary personnel to ensure there’s a private area for us to share at some point during our visit.

While this area is prepared, we make the trip. We enjoy the sights and spectacles of New York, taking in the holiday festivities. I make sure we’ve got the best seats we can get for the lighting. We cheer with the crowds as the ceremony unfolds. Afterwards, we take advantage of the VIP tickets I bought to take a private tour of Rockefeller Center.

We proceed with the tour like any ordinary couple. Then, once we get to the tree, the rest of the VIPs disperse, as I’ve secretly organized with the tour guide. From there, I guide my love to a private area in front of the tree. Then, while looking up at its beautiful lights and marvelous decorations, I take her hand and tell her how much she means to me.

I try my best to put into words the breadth of my love for her. When words finally fail me, I get down on one knee, present her with a velvet box containing a beautiful diamond ring, and ask her to merry me. When she joyously accepts, I make it a point to memorize every aspect of her reaction.

From there, I place the ring on her finger. We kiss under the light of the tree and seal our love in a way that makes every holiday even more special.

I know it’s cheesy as hell. It might not even be that practical, given how crowded it gets at Rockefeller Center during the Christmas Tree lighting. I’d have to sell a lot of novels to make something like this happen, but if I really do meet a woman that I love with all my heart, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

That kind of love is worth it. On top of that, it would make the holidays even more memorable than they already are. In terms of romantic moments, I can’t think of anything more fitting. I just hope I have a chance to share it with that special someone.

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Jack Fisher’s Guide To (Awesome) Gift Giving

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It’s official now. Thanksgiving is over. The leftovers are mostly gone. That means for the next few weeks, the holiday spirit will revolve entirely around Christmas and Christmas-like festivities. There’s no more complaining about seeing holiday decorations too early. At this point, the time is right to get into the swing of things.

Whether you celebrate it or not, there’s no avoiding it. The season is upon us. We see it in commercials, holiday specials, holiday-themed food, and holiday music. By now, we’ve all probably heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at least a dozen times on the radio.

Without a doubt, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It always has been. As a kid, my family always did so many wonderful things around Christmas. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place around Christmas. As an adult, I found entirely new ways to make it memorable. I’ve every intention of keeping that tradition, especially once I find the love of my life.

Chief among those traditions is my approach to gift giving. Talk to anyone in my family and they’ll tell you the same thing. When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, I go above and beyond. I’m not the kind of guy who will be cheap or thoughtless. I’m also not the kind of guy who puts in minimal effort, stuffing cheap crap into bags and slapping tags on it. I am willing to put extra time and money into holiday gift giving.

It doesn’t matter if I’m buying for my parents, my siblings, my friends, or my nieces and nephews, who are all still kids. I make it a point to give them gifts that are special, memorable, and meaningful. From what I get into how I wrap them, I make sure every gift I give on the holidays conveys a sense of love and sincerity.

For that reason, and in hopes of inspiring others to go the extra mile this Christmas, I’d like to share my unofficial guide, of sorts, to gift giving on the holidays. It’s not a science, but it’s not some wild crap shoot either. You can give awesome gifts without being rich, psychic, or possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus.

These are simple tips and tricks that I’ve learned from years of successful gift giving. I sincerely hope they help enhance your holiday experience, both with respect to giving gifts and inspiring the right spirit for this time of year.


Tip #1: Be Proactive And Listen Along The Way

This may seem too obvious, but I’ll say it anyways. When it comes to Christmas shopping, you don’t want to procrastinate. I know that’s easier said than done. I know there’s a reason why people feel inclined to procrastinate. Given everything that goes on during the holidays, people have even more excuses.

However, this is one effort for which you really want to be proactive. That means planning or at least contemplating your gift giving schedule around Halloween. It may sound too early, but trust me. It pays off.

This past year, I began browsing Amazon, Ebay, and all the usual retail outlets around mid-October, putting together lists of potential gifts for loved ones. I didn’t buy anything at that point. The idea wasn’t to buy it all at once. That’s actually not a good strategy. The best recourse, in my experience, is to have a long list of possible gifts. It’s just a matter of selecting the right gift for the right person.

You won’t always know that in mid-October. You might not even know that until mid-December. That’s where the listening part comes in. As early as Labor Day, start listening to your friends and family. Get a sense for what they want or need. You don’t have to be obvious. A little tact goes a long way.

Then, once Thanksgiving comes around and every major outlet starts throwing big sales, you already have a list of gifts to work with. Take advantage of those sales and you’ll even save money in the process. There is literally no downside to being proactive during the holidays, which is why it’s probably the most important tip I can give for the holidays.


Tip #2: Be Transparent With Loved Ones For Their Gifts (And Yours)

This tactic is a bit more subtle, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, in order to glean what your loved ones want for Christmas, you have to start by letting them know what you want. Most of my friends and relatives agree. I’m very easy to shop for on the holidays.

That’s not just because I maintain an Amazon Wish List and that most of my requests involve comics, video games, and accessories that rarely cost more than $50. I’m hope and honest about what I want them to get me. I’ll go so far as to text them multiple links to items I want. When you’re that easy to shop for, people are more willing to return the favor.

This has helped a great deal with loved ones who rarely give me any clues about what to get them. Some are just difficult to shop for because they claim to not want anything. Some are genuinely sincere about that. However, they know I’m still getting them something. It can either be just some random thing I guess on or something they can help make meaningful.

Sometimes, it takes a few years to get that sort of rapport with a loved one, but it’s worth doing. Trust me. When you find that right gift for that someone and see their reaction, it makes the holidays that much more special.


Tip #3: Find Meaningful Gifts (Which Need Not Be Expensive)

This is another tip that seems logical, but is easier said than done. That whole notion that it’s the thought that counts isn’t completely wrong, but it still has some merit. Meaningful gifts are the best kind of gifts to get someone. It can have both sentimental and material value. If you really care about someone, you want this gift to send a message. Giving it meaning always helps.

Years ago, a friend of mine got his girlfriend an iPod mini. It was simple. It didn’t seem that meaningful at first. Then, I found out he engraved a quote from his girlfriend’s mother on the back. That quote made that gift more meaningful than anything else he could’ve given her. Needless to say, that was a memorable Christmas and my friend is still with that same woman.

Giving a gift greater meaning also doesn’t mean buying something expensive. Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given cost less than $20, but they were extremely personal and they sent a message to the person I gave it to. They got that message loud and clear. Our Christmas was better because of it. You can put a price on a lot of things during the holidays, but you can’t put a dollar value on genuine sentiment.


Tip #4: Know When (And How) A Gift Card Is Appropriate

This is a somewhat controversial topic among gift-giving circles. There’s this notion that if you really care about someone, you never give them a gift card. Gift cards are great for birthdays or for people you can’t always see very often, but there’s a taboo with respect to giving them as a Christmas gift. I don’t entirely agree with that.

In general, I don’t give gift cards. I treat it as a last resort, but it’s still an option. I just try to make it more than just a socking stuffer. You can give greater meaning to a gift card. One year, I included a gift card with a Christmas card that has a poem I wrote in it. That poem helped give greater value to the gift card. It made the gesture personal. It showed that I cared and it got the point across.

In the right circumstances, gift cards can totally work. When someone can’t be there for the holidays or is still new to the family, as is often the case with in laws and extended family, a gift card can go a long way towards establishing a rapport. I find that it’s a useful starting point with someone, but it shouldn’t be the endpoint.

Personally, I hope the taboo surrounding gift cards fades in the coming years. With more and more shopping being done online, I think gift cards are a lot more practical today than they were when I was a kid. The rules surrounding them may change, but for now, a gift card should remain a last resort when shopping for a loved one.


Tip #5: Make A List (And Check It More Than Twice)

That old adage about Santa having a list and checking it twice isn’t just a memorable song lyric. It’s a very practical tool for keeping track of your holiday gift giving. I maintain a list on my phone that has everyone I buy a gift for, as well as some ideas on what to get them. I constantly update that list over the course of the year and I let people know when they’re on it.

When the time comes to start buying, I use that list to track what I buy, who I buy it for, and how they react to it. This list, which can get a little bloated at times, acts as both a reference and a guide onto how I perform every Christmas. Given the size of my family and the amount of gifts I buy, it helps to keep track of who gets what. It also helps to identify a certain trend in terms of what certain loved ones like.

Over the years, those trends have helped me refine my gift giving skills for certain people. I learn their tastes. I learn what makes a gift meaningful to them. Most importantly, I keep track of it. Don’t expect to remember all these little quirks over the course of a year.

Keep a list. Check it constantly, especially around mid-November. It’ll ensure you know what to look for and who to get it for when the time comes. It also acts as a way of noting ideas that come to you for certain people. On more than one occasion, I’ll randomly see something online or in a store that I know someone would love for Christmas. I make a note of it and it pays off in the long run.


I hope this helps everyone in their gift giving efforts this season. As I write this, I’m proud to say my shopping is done. I have my presents ready and wrapped for my loved ones. I look forward to seeing their reactions on Christmas morning. I hope everyone else can enjoy a similar holiday experience.

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Answering (And Understanding) Where The “Good” Men Have Gone

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Human beings are social creatures. We’re biologically wired to pursue social and emotional bonds. It’s one of the most fundamental traits for being human. Being a fan of romance, I certainly appreciate it. For that same reason, though, I think it’s telling when people encounter barriers in seeking those bonds.

In recent years, one particular question has been asked any number of ways. It’s often asked in many different contexts, which in turn inspires many different answers. The implications are still the same.

Where have all the “good” men gone?

Now, I put “good” in quotation marks for a reason. I hope that reason becomes apparent soon enough because adding that qualifier to the question frames it as a blanket statement about an entire gender. As a man, who sees himself as “good” by most standards, I feel I have a personal stake in addressing this question. However, I suspect the answers I provide won’t go over well with certain women and even a few men.

Before I answer, it’s important to add a specific context to what makes a man “good.” When the question is often asked, it’s often done from the perspective of women seeking men for marriage. We no longer live in an era where women have their spouses chosen for them or must seek marriage as a means of survival. Despite what some regressive individuals may say, I believe that’s an objectively good thing.

The complications arise when we start to establish the criteria of what makes a “good” man worthy of marriage. Most people, regardless of gender, understand there’s a difference between the person you hook up with and the one you marry. Ideally, this is a person you want to share your life with, for better or for worse. This is someone you genuinely love and go out of your way for.

The primary reason why this question is being asked, namely by women seeking a male spouse, is because they’re having an increasingly difficult time finding someone who meets that criteria. It shows in the data. According to Pew Research, about half of the adult population in America is married, which marks significant decline compared to what it was 50 years ago.

There are many theories as to why this is occurring, some more offensively absurd than others. Even the not-so-absurd theories have become mired in gender politics, which has a tendency to denigrate everyone in the grand scheme of things. I certainly have mine and I don’t think the answers are simple. Every person is different. People are complicated, in general, and so are the societies they live in.

However, this question about “good” men frames the issue a problem ascribed to men. It implies that the issue has nothing to do with a the overall desire to seek long-term romantic bonds. Like I said before, humans are emotional creatures wired to seek romantic bonds. The problem is that the men worthy of such bonds just aren’t there anymore. That’s why women are asking the question to begin with.

As a man, who hopes to one day find someone to marry and love with all my heart, I can offer my take on the answer. Simply put, those good men exist. They’re just not where you’re looking to find them. Even if you are, you might not even realize that those men are good because you don’t give them a chance.

Now, I understand that answer is basic and simplistic. It’s the sentiment of one person who just happens to contemplate romance than most straight men are likely to admit. Everyone’s situation is different, but there is a bigger forest to see and my opinion is only one of those trees. To see that forest, it’s necessary to understand the question better.

Thankfully, there has been research done on this topic. According to a study done in the Journal of Marriage and Family, a major factor driving this question could be a combination of demographics and math. To understand how, this is how they compiled the data.

Focusing their analyses on single heterosexual women, the researchers used data from the American Community Survey (2008-2012; 2013-2017) to predict the likely characteristics of these women’s husbands if they had husbands and then compared those characteristics to what’s actually available in these single women’s dating pool. More specifically, the researchers generated “synthetic spouses” for the single women in their sample by first matching them with demographically similar women (e.g., same race, education, military status, income) who happened to be married. The “synthetic spouses” were designed to reflect the characteristics of the husbands of the similar-married women. Thus, assuming women of similar demographics are looking for similar characteristics in their partners, this method offers a starting point for documenting the characteristics single women might be looking for in a partner.

The long and short of it is simple. The women in the study had criteria for the kind of man they want to marry. However, when that criteria was applied to the male population, there was a significant disparity. Over half the male population was eliminated on the basis of income alone. Essentially, the supply of men who meet this standard for marriage is not sufficient to meet demand.

That’s not to say that it’s the fault of women for having standards that are too high, although I know some have made that argument. While I agree that there are some women who make wholly unreasonable expectations of men, I think they’re the minority. I would argue those changing standards have less to do with gender politics and more to do social and economic factors.

Both women and men are able to be more independent today than they were 50 to 100 years ago. A basic consequence of independence is that you can afford to elevate your standards. When you have the money, time, and resources, you’re less likely to settle for less. It’s the same reason why you willingly pay extra for a better phone or faster internet if you have the means.

A much bigger factor, in my opinion, has to do with the economics and imbalances in marriage. Over the past several decades, the wealth gap has grown and the ability to make a comfortable living, which the women in the study prioritize, is getting considerably difficult. For a man, especially if he doesn’t have a college degree, it’s getting harder and harder to meet those criteria.

At the same time, the investment in relationships has only grown. It’s no longer enough to be a steady, dependable partner. Along with our newfound independence, men and women alike seek something greater from their spouse. That something often requires money, time, and resources. Between student loan debt and the rising cost of living, those assets have become increasingly scarce.

On top of that, the price of failure has gone up considerably as well. While both parties suffer significant loss when a relationship or marriage fails, men tend to take a bigger hit from a material standpoint. Between alimony laws and child custody, men stand to lose a lot if they don’t measure up to the woman’s ideals of a good spouse.

None of this even attempts to factor in the effects of other trends in gender politics, such as the anti-harassment movement. The criteria for a “good” man doesn’t even matter if it becomes overly difficult to be intimate with someone without fear of being accused of something. Even without such complications, the underlying question still evokes troubling answers.

Those answers still aren’t complete. There are still going to be women out there who cannot find a suitable partner for reasons beyond her control. There will also be genuinely good men out there who struggle just as much to find a partner of their own. As a romantic, I believe love does inspire people to make these connections, even when we insist on making it more difficult.

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Purpose, Value, And The Suicide Gender Gap

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There are few subjects more depressing and tragic than suicide. It’s not a topic people like to talk about. When people take their own lives, either out of sorrow or desperation, it’s terrible. It leaves deep, painful scars on friends and loved ones.

However, it’s because suicide is such a difficult subject that people should talk about it. Before I go any further, I want to urge anyone who might be feeling deeply depressed or suicidal to seek help. The suicide hotline is always available. Please, if you’re feeling that hopeless, call 1-800-273-8255. As someone who has had depressing stretches in life, I urge others in a crisis to seek connection.

Unfortunately, it’s not a connection that people are making these days. According to the American Psychological Association, there was a 30 percent increase in death by suicides from 2000 to 2016. It was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2016. By the numbers, we haven’t seen rates like this since the Great Depression.

There are a great many depressing and tragic factors behind this rise. The ongoing opioid crisis is certainly a factor. A few researchers have cited the influence of social media as contributing to self-destructive behavior. Like mass shootings, everyone has their theories, criticisms, and solutions to the crisis. I’m of the opinion that human beings are too complex to boil it down to something simple.

I agree that in certain cases, opioid addiction can factor into someone committing suicide.

I agree that in certain cases, the use and influence of social media can factor into someone committing suicide.

That’s not to say they’re the cause of it. They’re just small trees in a much larger forest that’s difficult to see, given the heavy emotions involved in this topic. However, I do believe it’s possible to see that bigger picture. To do so, it’s necessary to highlight one particular trend in suicide that also happens to be tied with gender politics.

While suicide is tragic, regardless of gender, there exists an unusual paradox within the data. Women have been shown to attempt and contemplate suicide more than men, but men are still the ones dying at greater rates. It’s not a trivial gap, either. Men are more than three times as likely to commit suicide compared to women.

This indicates there are factors beyond depression, stress, and mental illness. There are other forces at work here and they’re affecting men more than women. What that is and how it works is difficult to surmise. However, speaking as a man who has seen other men endure depressing situations, I believe there are certain factors that gender politics compounds.

At the core of these factors are an individual’s sense of purpose and value. There are many terrible things running through the mind of someone who is suicidal, but it’s not unreasonable to suspect that people who feel suicidal often feel their lives lack purpose and value. There’s nothing left for them to contribute. There’s no value for them to provide. Without that, what’s the point?

It sounds like the kind of sentiment that should affect men and women equally. Depression and despair, after all, know no gender. However, there are a few confounding factors for men. For one, there’s still a significant taboo for men who admit to even having such feelings. It stems from the same taboo about men showing emotions, in general. It’s seen as a form of weakness and men aren’t allowed to be weak.

To understand the implications of that taboo, consider the following scenario.

A man is sitting by himself. He’s crying uncontrollably. He’s sad, depressed, and lonely. He feels like he has nothing to live for. Someone walks by and shows concern. They listen to him lament about his sorrow. They offer sympathy, but tell him he needs to toughen up and get his act together. He just needs to grit his teeth and push forward with his life.

For most people, this scenario isn’t that unrealistic. Most decent human beings will show sympathy when they see someone suffering, male or female. However, the gender of the person suffering does have an impact. I’ve explained before how and why society places a greater emphasis on protecting women’s bodies over those of men.

Even if you discount the extent of that influence, the implications are still clear. We see a depressed man and tell him to fight through it. If he needs to be coddled or treated, then that’s a failure on his part. If he’s that weak, then he has little value to offer. Without value, he has little purpose as well. In essence, he has to prove he’s somehow useful to warrant not killing himself.

Now, consider this scenario.

A woman is sitting by herself. She’s crying uncontrollably. She’s sad, depressed, and lonely. She feels like she has nothing to live for. Someone walks by and shows concern. They listen to her about her sorrow. They offer sympathy and encourage her to find professional help. They even offer contacts and connections. She’s suffering and there are people willing to help her.

Take note of the different approach in this scenario. The person still show sympathy and compassion, as most human beings are wired to do. Where they diverge is in the assumptions surrounding the woman’s distress.

For her, it’s not something she can tough her way through. She’s not expected to just grit her teeth, pull herself out of this deep pit, and move beyond whatever is making her so upset. She’s suffering and the first instinct is to get her some meaningful help. Her life has inherent value. Her just being alive is sufficient to give her purpose.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of that assumption. It’s an assumption that many men feel like they don’t get. Their suffering is seen as a personal failure. A woman’s suffering is seen as a systemic failure that needs fixing. It perfectly reflects one of Chris Rock’s most memorable quotes.

“Only women, children, and dogs get loved unconditionally. A man is only loved under the condition that he provides something.”

In the context of suicide, men who don’t provide anything have no value. Absent that value, they have no purpose for existing. The source of this disparity is difficult to pin down. Some of it is cultural. Most data shows that when people live in a society with high social cohesion and abundant career opportunities, suicide is low.

That makes intuitive sense. Those social bonds provide purpose. Those opportunities provide value. When people have both, they’re less likely to be depressed. Even if they are, they have a support system that’s there to help them, regardless of their gender or disposition. These bonds are harder to maintain for men because they have to provide something.

Even though women may contemplate or attempt suicide more frequently, the current makeup of society and gender norms provides them with any number of affirmations to remind them of their value. If nothing else, it gives women a moment of pause. Most men don’t get that moment. It’s truly tragic, but it’s a tragedy that gender politics does plenty to compound.

Again, if you are feeling suicidal, regardless of your gender, please take this as my personal plea to seek help. It’s okay to do so. Your life has value. Your life has purpose. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need to talk. People will listen. People will give you a chance. Whatever the disparities may be, let’s not add to the tragedy.

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Filed under gender issues, Marriage and Relationships, men's issues, psychology, sexuality, women's issues