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U.S. News Archive
August 21 - August 28, 2001



This page contains news for the period August 21, 2001 through August 28, 2001.  

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Tuesday, August 28, 2001

How to keep a successful relationship with an ex

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that a recent study on U.S. marriage, divorce and remarriage shows that 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years.

The same study also showed that an overwhelming majority of women who separated or divorced went on to marry again. 81 percent of those divorced before age 25 remarried within 10 years, and 68 percent of those divorced after 25 did so.

Karen Karbo, author of the new book Generation Ex: Tales from the Second Wives Club says that the way you relate to or bait your ex can affect your new love life, your career and the lives of your kids.

Some women choose anger. Some women choose avoidance. Some women choose transference, opting to hate their new mate's ex instead of their own.

Karbo interviewed more than 200 people for her book, and the majority had a story of what cemented their ill will.

This kind of conduct has led experts to say it is high time for some behavioral therapy. Among their decrees of divorce decorum:

– Don't expect change.

"The nature of the marriage is reflected in the divorce," Karbo says. "If you were friends beforehand, after your divorce, maybe you can be friends. If you were throwing crockery, probably not."

– Stop fighting. If you and your ex are butting heads about visitation, child support or other important issues, state your case, listen to his, and then move on.

– Keep the kids out of it. Every child psychologist and divorce attorney has said it before, but experts insist it bears repeating: Don't put your kids in the middle.

– Mind your own business. That's the single most important piece of advice Gilda Carle, a New York-based relationship expert, counselor and author, gives her patients.

Legal advice for unmarried couples

A story published today by St. Petersburg Times reports that Miami Beach attorney, Elizabeth Schwartz has written a list of recommended legal protections for unmarried couples. She recommends the following steps to ensure that couples are protected from any unexpected events:

A will: A simple way to make your intentions clear about your minor children or belongings.

Durable power of attorney: Provides a partner legal authority.

Living will: Spells out how you would want to be treated in case of a terminal illness.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate: Clarifies access and decision making.

Cohabitation agreement: Divides financial and domestic responsibilities while together and what happens in the event the relationship ends.

Properly titled deeds and accounts: Avoids delay in probate.

Designation of pre-need guardian: Specifies who makes medical and financial decisions.

Designation of pre-need guardian for minor child: Specifies who will care for a minor child should you become disabled.

Beneficiary designations: Clears up potential conflicts in your will.

Monday, August 27, 2001

In a divorce proceeding, ignorance is not bliss

A story published today by the Akron Beacon Journal reports that marriage is as much a business partnership as it is an emotional one. When it collapses, how a couple dissolves the financial aspects of their union will determine the quality of their separate lives.

Given that divorce negotiations are intertwined with raw emotions, it's really important that you have a plan and know what's achievable and what isn't.

Divorce can be financially devastating to both spouses, but the lower-earning partner -- which experts say is usually the woman -- really takes a hit.

The standard of living of the spouse who earns the least money plummets by about 27 percent because of divorce, while the higher wage earner's living standard rises over time by about 10 percent, says Carol Ann Wilson, founder of The Institute for Certified Divorce Planners in Boulder, Colo., which trains financial planners on the financial ramifications of divorce.

So if you foresee a divorce, start planning before you hire a lawyer. Also, start saving money in your name in a separate bank account.

Couples who don't have any savings run into problems during the settlement process, family law attorneys say.

``The real problem is where you have people who have had a high standard of living, but they've spent everything, and by spending everything, there's nothing for the court to divide,'' says Fred Adams Jr., a Dallas lawyer.

What's worse, some spouses don't have a clue about the family's assets and liabilities.

``Ignorance is not bliss,'' says Dallas lawyer Judy Spalding.

This is especially true for women who've delegated the financial aspects of their marriage to their husband.

``The wife needs to pick up the ball and start taking some responsibility in the financial decisions,'' says Joan Gruber, a Certified Financial Planner at Joan M. Gruber Advisors in Dallas, who's dealt with clients going through divorce. ``Understand how much life insurance he has and who are the beneficiaries. Does he have disability insurance?

``I would insist on keeping your own records of tax returns and copies of checkbook registers and copies of every single asset you buy together. Go to the meetings when he meets with his CPA or financial planner and get knowledgeable.''

Being informed can pay off during a divorce.

``If both spouses know what they've got, it makes the lawyer's job so much easier,'' Adams says. ``The less we have to work, the easier and cheaper it's going to be, and the quicker the lawyer can figure out what a fair division is and be able to negotiate with the other lawyer.''

Sunday, August 26, 2001

Singles' columnist says we're wedded to cohabiting

A newspaper article written by columnist Teresa Strasser for The Los Angeles Times talks about the recent census reports on unmarried cohabitation. The full text of her article appears below:

If that whole "women over 40 have a better chance of getting killed by a terrorist than finding a husband" thing didn't make us question the media's ability to interpret statistics, we'd be 82% crazy.

The latest statistical soup being served up is data from the 2000 census, heralding either the disintegration of the American family or the resurgence of traditional values, depending on how you read the numbers.

Last week, it was widely reported that the number of U.S. unmarried-partner households spiked 72% in the 1990s. That is a striking number. Too bad it seems to strike different people different ways. Some say cohabitation is replacing marriage, an institution that provides increased health, longevity and family stability. Others say living together before marriage enhances a couple's ability to forge a long-term union.

What no one seems to dispute is that the divorce rate is hovering around 60% in this country, a number that strikes fear into the commitment-phobic hearts of those of us plodding through our late 20s and early 30s. Cohabitation starts to look very appealing.

To my generation, marriage is a boogeyman. It lurks in the shadows threatening to jump out and attack us with a lifetime of early bird specials and minivans, or worse, joint custody and the carnival of humiliation that we'd face being middle-aged divorcees hitting the dating scene.

"Can we hurry up this dinner, my sitter is costing me," isn't the way we want our dates to end later in life. "Crazy little thing called divorce" just doesn't sound right when you hum it.

Speaking unscientifically for a statistical sample as flawed as any other--every contemporary in my world--I don't know, have never known and will probably never know a couple who moved in together only after marriage. Not since seeing a high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof" has it even crossed our minds. According to University of Washington researchers, 50% of couples cohabitate before marriage. This doesn't suggest singles cryogenically freeze their relationships in the "my stuff is in storage and I could leave any minute" stage. In fact, 95% of such couples either end the relationship or marry within five years.

Living together requires a couple to examine their compatibility on such major life issues as money, sex, family and whether to invest in basic or deluxe cable. Tomato seeds encrusted on the cutting board become a reflection of her terminal selfishness. The way the laundry comes out shrunken and purple is a sign of his passive-aggressive rage. You've just learned a cheap lesson. You can still get out without involving lawyers.

My generation has seen parents divorce and grandparents who should have. We don't need marriage as much as we used to, either financially or societally, so why risk the emotional carnage? Odds are, today's soulmate is tomorrow's plaintiff. We've seen the most loving couples crumble, even after years of marital bliss. In the words of poet William Butler Yeats, "Things fall apart." Just ask Tom and Nicole. Who wants to put up with a Gary I'm-not-a-perfect-man Condit, anyway?

As for encouraging marriage with government financial incentives, this plan seems foolhardy. If Drs. Phil and Oprah and vast armies of therapists and clergymen can't fix the problem, are a few shekels going to do it?

Juggle the numbers any way you want, we're not good at marriage. We can transplant a kidney, smash an atom, map the human genome, but we can't figure out how to make marriage stick. Until we do, expect trepidation and cohabitation to rise.

Traveling solo can be empowering

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that according to the Census Bureau, one-person households in the U.S. has increased  to 26 % from 17% in the last three decades. Yet, solo travel is still not considered the norm. In fact, travel agents will tell you that the big trend now is family travel with extended families reuniting to vacation together. Still solo travelers today are trudging forward to enjoy the single travel life.

While the first solo trip is probably the most difficult, experts say that traveling alone can not only be habit-forming but empowering, producing a new awareness of your capabilities. Mental health experts agree; they say that while there are downsides to solo travel, there definitely are benefits when it comes to relaxation, stress reduction and getting away from it all--that is, if you travel on your own for the right reasons. "You might decide to take a solo vacation to rediscover who you are, what you like and what really matters in life," suggests Dr. Mark Goulston, a Los Angeles psychiatrist.

"Don't expect the people in your family to be great fans of the idea," Goulston says. "And as the trip gets closer, you may find them [even] less enamored" of it. You can deflect some of this negative attitude, he says, by arranging for someone else to take over the chores you are normally responsible for, even hiring somebody to handle them if necessary.

If you begin to have second thoughts or fears, you have company. "Just about everyone who thinks about taking a solo vacation does have some trepidation," says Karen Shanor, a Washington, D.C., psychologist who specializes in travel issues and has traveled solo extensively, including a stint as a Peace Corps psychologist. Traveling solo is very much a challenge as well as an opportunity for growth, says Shanor. Some people are more likely to be good at it, she says. Those who are uncomfortable being home alone without television, music or phone conversations are likely to have more trouble traveling solo than are people who are content without these distractions.

What solo travelers probably fear most is loneliness, Shanor says. Some worry that they will have no one to talk to. Their fears are almost always groundless. "People you meet are so available and open to talking to you," she says solo travelers report to her. "Families will almost adopt you."

Traveling alone can provide a time of renewal, she adds. Think of it as taking yourself out for an adventure. An adventure, she reminds people, isn't always comfortable. But you almost always learn from it, and it generally makes for fascinating stories later on.

As for those quizzical looks and nosy questions that solo travelers are bound to get, Shanor says they shouldn't be taken as criticism. Rather, the idea of independent travel may be novel to the person who asks, "You're by yourself?" Chances are, the idea of going it alone also plays into the fears of those who question the solo traveler. They may not themselves be brave enough to do it. At least not yet.

Commentary on 'abstinence only' sex education policy of USA

A newspaper article written by Sara Seims, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that does sexual and reproductive research, policy analysis and public education, talks about the America's policy on 'abstinence only' sex education. The full text of her article which was published today in the Los Angeles Times appears below:

Every country struggles with issues concerning sexual relationships and their consequences. Yet, because of the complexities of U.S. politics and its culture of sexuality and reproduction, the situation here is dramatically different. No other country has enshrined "abstinence until marriage" as official national policy to placate moralistic conservatives. As a result, the reality of people's lives is ignored and the benefits of contraception misrepresented.

The occasion for the latest attack on family planning and reproductive rights was the release of a new report on condom effectiveness by the National Institutes of Health. The report acknowledges what has long been known: Condoms will never be 100% effective in preventing the spread of every sexually transmitted disease. It did not say that condoms are ineffective; rather, the report recognizes both their benefits and limitations. Yet, the abstinence-until-marriage crowd seized upon the results as proof of their views.

Another example of America's moralistic approach to sexuality and reproduction was evident in the backlash to Surgeon General David Satcher's report in June on the nation's sexual health and the need for sex education. One pro-abstinence group called the report "an affront to the values of people of faith." Most parents work hard to communicate their values to their children. But as the Satcher report pointed out, while they are their children's primary sex educators, many parents acknowledge that there is a role for schools to play in educating youth about sex. His report concluded that comprehensive sex education in schools--education that includes strong messages about abstinence and the use of contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancy and disease--does not increase sexual activity among youth.

There is no question that a primary role for educators should be to help younger teens abstain from sexual activity. Yet virtually all people will become sexually active at some point in their lives, and most do so when teenagers. Research shows that at age 19, four of five teens have had sexual intercourse. With the typical age of marriage being about 25 for women and 27 for men, the reality is that people are becoming sexually active, on average, nine years before they marry.

Those who believe in an abstinence-until-marriage approach have no patience with this reality and the needs it implies. They keep saying that abstinence "is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy and disease." True enough. But just like any other contraceptive method, abstinence "works" only when it is used--every single time. The fact is, few people are so disciplined. Nevertheless, the federal government, especially the Bush administration, is placing more and more emphasis on abstinence-only education, committing nearly $100 million annually to these programs, despite the lack of evidence that they are effective in postponing sexual activity or preventing unintended pregnancy and disease.

Some of the consequences of such misguided politics are clear. American adolescents--and adults--have higher rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion than their counterparts in any other industrialized country, except those in the former Soviet bloc. In France, where condom vending machines share sidewalks with pay phones, 15-to 17-year-olds have one-tenth the birthrate and one-third the abortion rate of their American peers.

It may surprise some to know that there has been a federally assisted family-planning program in place in the United States for 30 years. Despite its demonstrated record of success in helping women avoid more than 1 million unplanned pregnancies each year, the program remains plagued by political controversy and chronic underfunding. As a result, family-planning clinics in communities across the country are struggling to meet new challenges, including added costs associated with new contraceptive methods and diagnostic technologies, rapid and sometimes radical changes in health-care delivery and financing, and a growing uninsured population.

Family planning has been so vilified in some parts of the United States that family-planning workers feel they are on the front lines of a battle. During a recent visit I made to the Midwest, some mid-level state employees working with federally funded family-planning programs were afraid to meet with me in their offices. One said her supervisors made her "feel like a leper." Such negative attitudes filter down to affect front-line service providers. Many family-planning workers cannot countenance turning women away without services, so they end up paying for their patients' contraceptives out of their own pockets.

Many international family-planning services supported by the U.S. government are similarly at risk because of the Bush administration's gag-rule policy. The policy requires that, in exchange for U.S. family-planning assistance, health professionals abroad withhold information from pregnant women about the option of legal abortion, abstain from engaging in any public debate on the availability of abortion and refuse to provide legal abortion services, all activities that would be supported with non-U.S. funds.

While many developing countries struggle to improve their family-planning programs in environments of extreme hardship, in the United States, one of the richest and presumably most enlightened countries in the world, we are spending far too much time, energy and money just to protect the progress already made. In other countries, family planning is viewed as a matter of public health rather than politics. There is absolutely no reason why American women, particularly our youth, should not have the same high levels of reproductive health as other women worldwide.

Saturday, August 25, 2001

Marine base focuses it's concern on single marines

A story published today by the San Diego Union Tribune reports that single marines of Camp Pendleton recently attended a Single Marines Are Tops (SMART) council meeting hosted by the Marine Corps' Single Marine Program which addressed issues faced by single marines in the camp.

The monthly meetings are a place where bachelors and single-parent Marines can gather to discuss their quality-of-life issues with representatives from the appropriate group on base.

At the August council meeting, the new base commanding general, Maj. Gen. David Bice, was the guest speaker. He urged the Marines to "be in charge of their own destinies" by being more involved with the Single Marine Program.

"It can't be a question-and-answer meeting where nothing gets done, so it's not a volleyball game between Marines and representatives from various base places," Bice said. "I want you to take charge of this council and take ownership of the issues here."

Another guest at the meeting, Sgt. Maj. Michael Markiewicz, the base sergeant major, told the single Marines, "When you actually have to roll up your sleeves and get in the weeds, you will see results. The new concept will work if you have your own meetings, do your homework and research an issue so you can bring it up at monthly meetings."

Marine Corps Community Services representatives said that more than 50 percent of the Corps is comprised of single men and women and that more needs to be done to support them, especially those who live on Camp Pendleton. The Corps believes that the more single Marines feel supported, the more prepared the Marines will be to do their jobs

To go to AASP's link on singles in the military please click below:

Friday, August 24, 2001

Hormone levels can predict the future of a relationship

A story published today by WebMD reports that a new a study looking at newlyweds, suggests that levels of stress hormones in those who have just tied the knot can predict whether they're likely to still be hitched a decade later.

Among 90 couples who had undergone an intensive 24-hour assessment of their relationship in the early days of marriage, those who had the highest levels of three out of four key stress hormones during initial interviews were the most likely to be divorced 10 years later.

The participants agreed to have blood drawn hourly for a 24-hour period during the initial assessment so that the researchers could record levels of certain hormones known to be elevated during times of stress. The hormones included epinephrine (better known as adrenaline, or the "fight-or-flight" hormone), norepinephrine, ACTH, and cortisol.

Dr. William B. Malarkey, researcher and professor of medicine at Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues found that participants who scored high on hostility had higher blood pressures and pulse rates, as well as higher levels of stress hormones, and lower immune system functioning, indicating that stress can make people sick.

The researchers also found that hormone levels were a good predictor of satisfaction with a relationship and marital stability. Women who later divorced had much higher levels of the hormone ACTH during the initial conflict-discussion session than did women who were still married at follow-up.

"We found that the stress hormones that we looked at -- ACTH, epinephrine, and norepinephrine -- throughout the argument and as well as throughout the day and night were higher in that group that eventually ended up being divorced," Malarkey says.

The study suggests that when it comes to stressful life events, the body may be doing things the mind is completely unaware of said Malarkey. "We are compartmentalizing all the bad vibes that we don't want to consciously think about." The study's findings are being presented at the 16th World Congress on Psychosomatic Medicine underway in Goteberg, Sweden.

"It would make sense that the most toxic, most stressful kinds of conflict interactions are going to be another indicator of problems in the marriage," says Sybil Carrere, PhD, a research psychologist and assistant professor of family and child nursing at the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle.

Carrere adds that there is evidence to show that men are more likely than women to be conscious of changes in heart rhythm brought on by stress, and that "under those conditions where men get very [overstimulated], they tend to withdraw from the conflict and do what has been termed 'stonewalling.' Presumably, it's an effort to try and calm themselves down, but what happens, unfortunately, ... is that when the wife sees the husband withdrawing from the conflict -- which he's doing for self-preservation -- it's sends her through the roof."

Thursday, August 23, 2001

Census reveals number of seniors living together increasing

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that according to the recent census figures, a small but growing number of Americans over age 65 now live as cohabiting couples, almost twice as many as a decade ago.

The 2000 census data released so far shows that unmarried-partner households have increased overall by 72% in the last decade. Age-specific data will come later, but a clutch of other census surveys suggests that seniors, though constituting only a drop in the pool of cohabitants, may have met or outpaced that growth rate.

According to the Census Bureau's annual Current Population Survey, households made up of opposite-sex senior couples rose 46% between 1996 and 2000. Other reports fold in same-sex couples, showing the number of senior cohabitants rising 73% between 1990 and 1999, from 127,000 to 220,000.

Though couples' reasons for living together can be as idiosyncratic as relationships themselves, researchers link the shift to other social changes.

Higher divorce rates and longer life expectancies, especially for women, mean the population of single seniors is growing rapidly, sociologists said. For younger couples, marriage is often linked to the prospect of parenthood; older couples typically are beyond this stage in life. Though eager for love and companionship, they may be skittish about formal ties.

Researchers say older women, too, can be reluctant to re-up for marriage if they associate it with traditional gender roles played out in earlier relationships. 

Cohabitation, like marriage, allows older couples to share expenses, a crucial concern to those living on fixed incomes as life spans extend.

Not marrying, however, means couples do not take on the financial obligations of each other's long-term medical care or intermingle their retirement benefits. Such practicalities have kept American Association for Single People member, Darlene Davis, 61, from marrying her partner of 17 years, Cary Cohen, 63. If the Norfolk, Va., pair wed, she would lose military benefits and insurance from her second marriage, which ended long ago with her husband's death. "We were not brought up to live in this position, but with our lives such as they are, we just can't afford to give up my medical coverage," Davis said.

While cohabiting seniors can--and often do--expressly provide for each other in their wills, unmarried partners do not have the same claims as spouses in many states. Many couples say they have left late-in-life relationships unofficial to avert conflict between the surviving partner and relatives.

In California, where domestic partners have substantial rights, attorneys recommend that older couples with such concerns put property agreements in writing.

"It sets out a road map," said Stuart D. Zimring, an elder-law specialist in Los Angeles. Zimring recommends that unmarried seniors execute powers of attorney designating their partners to make health-care decisions if they are incapacitated. "There's nothing worse, if something happens, for there to be World War III," he said.

The 2000 census count may serve as merely a preview of sorts for what demographers expect to be faster growth in senior cohabitation 10 or 20 years from now.

About 40% of Americans currently in their 40s have cohabited at least once, said Larry Bumpass, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin and co-director of the National Survey of Families and Households, which tracks cohabitation. "I expect a very rapid transformation in the behavior of the elderly as those who grew up in the age of rapid acceptance of cohabitation reach old age," he said.

Single dads on the rise on the Mississippi coast

A story published today by the Sun Herald reports that according to the recently released U.S. Census report, single dads on the Mississippi coast has jumped by 89 percent from 1990 to 2000, even faster than the state, at 66 percent, and the nation, at 62 percent.

This phenomenon, however, does not dethrone single mothers, who on the Coast increased 29 percent, to a total of 12,056. In comparison, custodial dads number 3,492. That may not seem like many, but watchers of social change point out the whopping 89 percent rise.

The new statistics show that judges, when deciding custody cases, no longer automatically choose a woman. They also show that societal makeup is changing.

"We have gone through a couple of decades of critique and breakdown of traditional roles," said Dr. Michael Forster, director of University of Southern Mississippi's School of Social Work. "As women have more workplace parity, there's a massive rethinking of roles."

"For many men, this is a welcome change, to be able to accept more parenting roles that were previously denied."

Forster lists three possible reasons for the single dad trend. The first is welfare reform, which he says is forcing women into the workplace so they can't be home to take care of the children.

The second, Forster suspects, is the increasing number of incarcerated women, which forces fathers to take over parenting. His third reason, the one addressed the most nationally, is the continuing change in parenting roles.

"More men are actually battling for custody," Forster said. "That is a long-term result of the revolution of the role of the sexes, a readjustment with fathers willing to take on more nurturing roles, as well as more women saying, 'Why should I be saddled with all the role of taking care of the children?' These are progressive changes, but we have a certain element of social disruption with them."

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Dining alone can be a comfortable experience

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that having to dine alone once carried a social stigma, especially for women. But a growing number of women today are seeking solo-friendly dining options. Whether it is because they are traveling on business, working late hours, or single and hungering for a decent dining experience instead of fast food, women are looking for more options to make eating alone a comfortable experience.

"I remember a friend asking me if I could go to a restaurant by myself, and me shrieking in response, 'Are you out of your mind?' The idea [of dining alone] was so threatening to me," recalls Attorney Marya Charles Alexander who dubs herself the "solo-dining maven" and has launched a Web site (www.solodining.com) from which she dispenses advice for those eating alone. But she gave it a shot, she says, though on her first attempt fled the restaurant just after the waiter had brought her a glass of wine.

"I've since learned that one of the nicest things a woman can do for herself is to treat herself to a good meal without feeling she has to be asked by a man or to wait for a friend," she says.

Alexander's dining-alone anxiety gave birth to her Web site and a newsletter. Both are filled with information such as tipping tactics, how to find solo-friendly restaurants, the most effective ways to endear yourself to a restaurant and the steps of reservation making.  Alexander also includes on her Web site a list of dining-friendly options by city.

Here are some of Alexander's tips to make the most of your solo-dining experience:

- Make reservations ahead of time. Making a reservation alerts a restaurant that you look forward to its staff looking out for your best interests, and that you are a patron who considers this paramount.

- Become a pampered regular at a specific restaurant. Get to know the names of the chef, waiters and other staff. 

- Bring something to read or to write on. 

How perceptions affect commitment

A story published today by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that according to the latest census figures, while marriage remains popular, the numbers are falling off a bit. Meanwhile, unmarried couples are flourishing. Some view this as an alarming trend.

The Gallup organization talked with just over 1,000 people in their 20s and found they have an overly romanticized view of marriage. Ninety-four percent of the single respondents in their 20s agreed that a spouse should be a soulmate, first and foremost.

As part of its National Marriage Project, Rutgers University also conducted a study earlier this year. Their findings showed that many people in their 20s intend to stay single until they find a soulmate.

The soulmate requirement trumps former favorites such as wealth, religion and even good parenting potential. Eighty percent of the female respondents agreed that a man who can share his deepest feelings is more appealing than one who earns a good living. 

The paradox is that while we have these sky-high expectations for prospective partners, we have very low expectations for our actual relationships. We seem to assume that marriage is too hard, too flawed, too restrictive.

Where did this puzzling package come from? A recent story in the Miami Herald blames ... television. The Herald article also quotes the president of a Pennsylvania matchmaking company as saying, "They all want the person with the perfect body, the perfect personality, people with no flaws. They see these people on TV in 'Sex and the City,' and they actually believe this stuff exists."

Unrealistic expectations and the straight-faced use of words like "ideal," "soulmate" and "perfect" didn't just boil up with the current crop of TV shows. Movies like "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle" asserts that there is one ideal person for you. How can people consume a steady diet of Meg Ryan, Indiana Jones and "The Princess Bride" without pining for the kind of people they are astronomically unlikely to bump into in the produce section -- or anywhere? 

Fairy tales never presented marriage in a truthful manner. Prince Charming didn't have kids from a previous relationship. Snow White didn't have cellulite, and Cinderella never had control issues.

Not to mention the warnings about wedlock. Look at the popularity of "The Bridges of Madison County", which raised the chilling question, "What if you marry somebody who's just OK and then meet your true love?"

The answer: Don't get married. Keep your options open. Hold out for perfection.

Tuesday, August 21,2001

Singles discrimination: a workplace reality

A story published today by MSN.com reports that while other forms of discrimination dominate headlines--those relating to gender, race, and religion--unmarried people are often silent victims themselves. They may not get jobs at 'family-oriented' companies. Or, they get the job, but are asked to do more work because colleagues with spouses and/or children aren't expected to work long hours. The married parent, of course, can always say they have to go home and take care of the kids. What can a single person possibly say that would be justifiable or sound good to the boss?

Experts say that single people actually make less money and work longer hours because employers decide that they don't need as much to support a household. Although statistics on this kind of discrimination are rare, a recent Purdue University study found that unmarried men in general make 14.1 percent less than their married counterparts. "We find a marriage premium," says study co-author Michelle Arthur, assistant professor of management at Purdue. "That is, married men are rewarded for qualities people think come with marriage, i.e., being breadwinners or being responsible and stable."

And men aren't the only victims. In some instances, discrimination surfaces in the form of reduced responsibilities. "The single mother or single woman who works is often looked upon with suspicion," says John Rapoport, an employment rights attorney and author of The Employee Strikes Back. "They question whether she can travel when needed or work long hours. Those questions often lead companies to tailor the work assignments that single women with children receive. Those assignments keep the single mom from her rightful place on the promotion, raise, and bonus lists. The hard-working single person may also be made to cover for his or her married counterparts only to find that raises, promotions, and bonuses are feeding a married employee's wife and kids."

Joan Williams is director of the Gender, Work, and Family Project and professor of law at American University's Washington College of Law. She thinks it's a common mistake for single employees to stir up us against them sentiments when addressing this issue. Instead, she suggests convincing married and/or parent co-workers to conquer the problem together; this will make for a better overall workplace environment. "You need to say, We're all in this together," Williams argues. "We all need a balanced life. Then you need to talk to the employer as a united group and present this as an attrition/recruitment issue."

Rapoport suggests quietly documenting patterns of abuse and presenting them in a non-threatening manner. Note if married colleagues constantly get better accounts or projects, even when your work seems just as good.  Approach senior staffers to improve the situation--but only if you're confident in your position and feel that management will reasonably discuss such concerns. "Don't go in with guns blazing," Rapoport says, "but with the facts in hand."

Setting up a trust fund to protect yourself after a divorce

A story released today by the Scripps Howard News Service reports that many divorcing parents want to be reassured their children will continue to receive support payments. A simple solution is by creating a trust fund for your children. Without one, the children may be runners-up in a race for assets with a new spouse or a new offspring.

The funds could be available for the child's support or limited to his education. After he completes his education or reaches a certain age, the remaining assets could be distributed to him or to either spouse. 

Sometimes a wife who will receive alimony is mainly concerned about her husband's future illness or death or that his creditors will take his assets. A trust funded by the husband could alleviate these fears. The document would say when the alimony payments end and where the remaining assets go.

In the case of a lump-sum payment by a husband, he may prefer a trust rather than paying his wife outright. He might be concerned about her potential creditors or her inability to manage the funds. Also with a trust, he decides who gets the assets upon her death or remarriage.

Usually during deliberations and deals that accompany a divorce, trusts are an underused resource and taxes a forgotten problem. 

In setting up a trust, four points must be taken into consideration:

a.) Who will be taxed on its income: the creating spouse, the receiving spouse, the child or the trust?

b.) Will the spouse setting up a trust be subject to capital gains tax or gift tax on the transfer of cash or other assets?

c.) Can the instrument be drafted to reduce gift tax to the generous spouse?

d.) Will trust assets be subject to estate taxes on the death of either spouse? 

Keeping the flames of passion alive in your relationship

A story published by the Express reports that married life is often dominated by the daily routine that it is sometimes difficult to find time for each other. After a long day at work, ferrying the children to and fro and trying to dash round the supermarket, most of us are more likely to want to put our feet up with a cup of tea than have a night of passion in the bedroom.

Tracey Cox, author, broadcaster and psychologist writes in her guide to sex in the 21st century on how one can keep the passion alive, even after years of marriage

Luck has little to do with it. It's hard work, communication and compromise that gets couples to the state of relationship bliss. The trick is to manage to live, work, raise a family together and not get so bogged down in the day-to-day routine that you forget sex.

Couples who stay married today do so for different reasons than in the past. You no longer need a wedding to be accepted as a couple by society. There's no stigma attached to "living in sin" and you're not an "old maid" if you've not been down the aisle by the time you're 30.

So how do we manage to shoulder the burdens, sort out all the differences and still curl up satisfied together at night? Cox spoke to a selection of longterm, happy couples to find out the secrets of their success. It came down to the following five points:

Communication: Talking openly and honestly with their partner was listed as being of primary importance in every single case. Being able to reveal all, without fear of being judged, is the secret of long-lasting love. If you get that right, the rest is easy.

Commitment and trust: Commitment is defined as, "I know he or she's in it for a long time, not just the good times", while trust is defined as "he or she will do the right thing by me", rather than faithfulness.

Freedom: All couples gave each other space to see friends and pursue interests separately, but also made an effort to do lots together. They made time for their relationship and consciously planned pleasurable "dates" away from work and chores.

Support and friendship: When asked what they most liked about their relationship, almost all the couples listed support as one of their top three reasons. Most had got over that initial "in love" stage, and while they still loved each other, companionship and the joys of having a "live-in best friend" were as important as sex. "Because I love her so much, I'd rate my sex life as 10 out of 10, though I've probably had better sex in a technical or lusty sense with other people, " said one happily involved man.

Working at it: Not one of the couples expected their relationship to coast happily along - all were prepared to put the effort in to get through the rough patches. 

Making love isn't a luxury, it's essential for your relationship to survive. According to research, we get about a quarter of our total enjoyment of a relationship from sex.

That's if you're having good, regular sex and the rest of your relationship's in pretty good shape. If you're having bad sex, or none at all, the other threequarters of the relationship that is good, is cancelled out.

Why? Because if your sex life is in dire straits, it spills over into everything else and ends up poisoning everything.

Good sex builds an intimate relationship - and it does a lot to smooth over the rough parts.

Sex is good for us, physically and mentally. It decreases stress, boosts the immune system and gives us a sense of well-being. We feel loved and nurtured when we're having satisfying, regular sex, more relaxed with each other and prepared to put up with more.

Stop having good sex, and you stop feeling connected to your partner. If someone doesn't want to make love to you, you don't feel sexy or attractive.

Put the relationship first and sex last and you lose the most effective way of nourishing yourself and each other. Give it the same importance as the relationship itself and everything falls into place.

Sometimes, career and children take priority, and all couples go through phases when sex isn't as good. Just don't ever give up trying to make it as good as possible.


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