Doing Life Together

ID-10035004When John dated Katie, he was attracted to how book smart she was and how much she loved to learn new things. He is the first to tell you, he’s not cut out for academics and loves to play instead of learn. As someone who needed to play more, Katie was attracted to John’s outgoing and fun personality. Now, however, she finds him shallow and longs for deeper conversation. What was once attractive to Katie, now bothers her.

Researchers call this type of shift in the relationship a “fatal attraction”.  The very thing that drew you to that person becomes unattractive. Yes, it was attractive at first, but now is a problem in the relationship. Dr. Felmlee at Penn State University coined the phrase “fatal attraction” about two decades ago. She was interested in studying both the positive and negative side of traits that attract couples. She classified these traits in 3 categories: 1) Traits that were fun but now seem foolish 2) Traits that seemed fun, but now feel dominating 3) Traits that seemed spontaneous, but now feel unpredictable. The idea here is that what may have seemed positive on the front end of a relationship can become negative over the long haul.

And Dr. Felmlee has found that the shift from loving to fatal attraction can happen as fast as 6 months with some couples.

She explains possible reasons for this:

1) Couples don’t see the dark side of a trait until they are together long enough. This is why I tell people to date for a long enough period of time to see how the person reacts and acts under a number of circumstances. Negative traits can be easily masked or missed when initial attraction hits. The opposite attraction can feel like it is completing you but in the long run, may prove to be difficult to live with in a relationship.

2) When a relationship becomes overly negative, one partner begins to see even positive traits in a negative way. This idea has been confirmed by the research of John Gottman and colleagues. When there is more negative to positive in a relationship, the relationships is perceived to be overall negative. Then, the partner discounts positives in favor of the negative view.

3) Sometimes we are attracted to a negative, but opposite qualities we found tantalizing eventually  bother us-think good girls attracted to bad boys! They may be intriguing to date but terrible to marry.

4) The positive trait can become overwhelming. Think too much of a good thing, like an accommodator who is constantly trying to please you. An overly attentive person can become suffocating.

5) The opposite attraction takes its toll. You’ve had enough and want someone more compatible.

Bottom line, if you want to avoid a fatal attraction, think about the long-term effect of living with someone who has compatibility issues. Differences do attract but when it comes to values, beliefs and attitudes, we do better with similarity.

Second, if your annoyance level is going up, talk about it now. Don’t let the negativity build. See if you can negotiate a middle ground for some of your differences. This is called accommodation and  is a useful trait in relationships.

Third, build the positivity bank of your relationship when you are not in a conflict or dealing with a difference. The more positive a relationship is overall, the better you can handle differences.

Finally, discuss ways to bring the “I” to the “we” that allow you to be you, but is also considerate of the other person. In other words, modify. For example, someone who wants to be on the go constantly, can agree to stay home a few nights a week. A little self-sacrifice is beneficial to your coupling. Being in a relationship means you don’t always do what you want to do. Sometimes, you modify your behavior because you care about the other person.



ID-100246870I can remember so many times when my kids would say to me, “I’m bored!” And they didn’t like my response, “That’s a good thing. Maybe you can listen to your thoughts or think creatively.”

Truth is, most of us don’t like to be bored. At least not in this wired age. Our typical boredom trainers are gone thanks to the cell phone. You don’t have to be bored waiting in line at the grocery store–pull out your phone. What about that hour of down time after dinner? Get on your IPAD! How about being a passenger  in the car and simply watching the scenery flash by? Nope, looking down at my phone!

Being wired 24/7 means we don’t have to be bored,… ever! And here’s a little shocker to support this idea.

Researchers were interested in studying how well people do when alone with their thoughts. You know, the archaic idea that you can actually sit with no phone, book or anything to distract you. Just you and your thoughts for 6-15 minutes.

In one of 11 experiments, the researchers gave the subjects the option to sit alone with their thoughts or shock themselves. Boredom versus pain.

Yep, you guessed it. 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose pain rather than sit alone and think! In terms of the gender difference, the researchers are guessing that men are more sensation focused than women, thus more easily bored. The researchers concluded that men especially, prefer doing to thinking. An unpleasant experience to a boring one won the day.

Hey, and if you are reading this, it might be because you don’t want to be bored!

Or maybe you have trouble controlling your thoughts. One idea is to direct your disengaged mind to pleasant thoughts and/or practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you stay present focused and can reduce stress. So try it. Put down your phone and meditate a moment. In my opinion, watching the sunset and appreciating the beauty of the moment beats the heck out of shocking myself to create pain!



Think drama! NO, think mindless drama. Now who comes to mind?

The Kardashians of course. If there is a way to keep their names in the news, they find it. And so it goes with the latest “controversy.”

Apparently, 18- year- old Kendall Jenner banned sister Kim Kardashian from attending her fashion shows. And yes, this made headlines.


Maybe because younger sister is taking the spotlight away from older sister. Kim is the one used to getting all the attention. Now that her sister has taken New York and Paris Fashion week by storm, little sis is making a few demands. First, she dropped her famous last name and simply goes by Kendall. This act of independence is supposed to make us think she is separating a little from her family. Actually it would be normal for Kendall to vie for a little independence at this age,  but this could prove difficult given the enmeshed family dynamics.

Maybe because a little sibling rivalry is normal. When younger children are born, the older children feel the attention move from them to the new child. At different ages, they want different things. Kendall is emerging as a young adult. Her focus is different than Kim’s who is a mom and a thirty something. Conflict is  normal as they negotiate their adult relationship. The important thing is not to compare siblings to each other. Each is unique and trying to find her place in life. And each needs a little personal space. However, personal space for reality TV stars is not easy to come by.

Maybe because we need mindless entertainment to take our minds off the real problems our country faces. Let’s face it, this family is a distractor from more important issues in our culture.

Maybe because we can relate to a little sibling drama. Let’s stick with this idea and look at what really happens in most families when it comes to siblings.

According to an article from Psychology Today, about a third of adult  siblings say their relationships are rivalrous or distant. So when it comes to siblings then, the majority of them stick together, differences included.

We know that siblings are impacted by their mother’s interactions with their other siblings. So mama Kris, plays a role! Her actions and inactions influence Kendall’s relationship, especially when it comes to getting along with her older sisters. In this family, it appears the siblings are competing more with their mom than each other. And we know that sisters who are close come from families in which much emphasis is placed on close relationships. The Kardashians have made careers out of this closeness. The expectation seems to be, we are family and will stick together despite our conflicts. Family is what made us famous.

Related to expectations, Judy Dunn, who studies siblings in the US and England, adds that if siblings have the desire to get along, even when they  have different goals and interests, rivalry becomes cooperation. In other words, if a sibling values the relationship and wants it to work, she can find ways to make it cooperative.

And sister-in-laws or brother-in-laws can create tension among sibling relationships. Hmm….Kanye could certainly be a factor here. Let’s just say he can be difficult.

Most clinicians will tell you, siblings, in general get along and conflict certainly arises. Sure there are personality differences, more attention giving to one child over another at times, but in the end, getting along is the norm. So I wouldn’t make too much out of this latest headline of Kendall banning Kim. After all, the media loves to stir up controversy and the Kardashians love to be in the middle of it! It’s how they stay celebrities!

ID-10047219I remember when my grandmother began to have memory loss in her early 80s. It was hard to watch because she knew she was losing it. Eventually, Alzheimer’s took its hold on her mind and she ended up in a nursing home not knowing who we were.

If you, like me, have a family member who suffers with Alzheimer’s, or know one of the 5.2. million people who have Alzheimer’s this year, you may be wondering where we are on prevention. The expectation is that the number of people with this disease will triple by the year 2050.

Right now, there is no cure or even a sound prevention program to ward off the symptoms. But we do have some promising lifestyle changes that may make a difference. Again, these behaviors are not a given for prevention. But here are a few areas being researched with promise. The Mayo Clinic is working on a long-term study designed to look at risks of getting the disease.

Some of the lifestyle changes people are making if they are risk include:

1) Playing a musical instrument. We aren’t sure why but this seems to delay the onset of cognitive and auditory decline. So if you play an instrument, keep playing. If not, consider learning one.

2) Eating and drinking: Drink coffee, eat berries and moderately consume alcohol. There is some evidence that these actions may protect against cognitive decline.

3) Other diet considerations include avoiding copper (liver, clams, oysters for example) and reducing saturated fat in your diet while increasing learn protein.

4) Exercise just seems to help everything including cognitive abilities.

The idea here is that lifestyle modifications may have an impact on our cognitive aging. Hey, it’s worth a try as these changes are good for us anyway!