There is an unspoken rule in Western society that life begins to degrade rapidly after age 30. Why? Because all of the worse parts of life happen after then. Sagging skin, balding crowns, infertility, middle management. Mediocrity.
In the dating and love realm, the message is clear: You had better figure out life and marry someone by the time you reach 30, or else no one will want you. This rule is applied much more stringently to women than to men (much of this has to do with biology, of course). After all, no one wants to be associated with a cat-loving lonely middle-aged spinster. Older brides (like Meghan Markle) are judged harshly by public, but are judged nonetheless slightly better than single and childless people over 30. In many ways, it is much more socially acceptable to marry and divorce several times than it is to be single after a certain age.
It’s been a very busy few months for all of us at Ladies Again. I joined a salsa dance team (to learn how to be more feminine, of course) and African Femininity started a fabulous new job. We’re also in the process of bringing on new writers to Ladies Again, so that is exciting!
Sometime in the last month, through the rush of all of the things going on in my life, I set aside some time to watch a short TED Talk called “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” While watching the video, I had an epiphany: So much about what we’ve written on Ladies Again has been about attracting the right person and learning to be more feminine for that person, that it never occurred to me that it was possible that we could be the cause for our own negative relationship issues. I never realized that early childhood attachment issues could re-emerge during adulthood. According to Dr. Stan Tatkin, the TED Talk speaker, attachment issues have the power to negatively influence our ability to maintain healthy functioning relationships.
Dr. Tatkin defines people as anchors, waves and islands. Those individuals who are waves and islands experienced insecure attachment relationships during their formative first years. He defines the three groups in the following ways (summarized by Clinton Power):
Characteristics of Islands
People who are islands tend to:
like to be alone, enjoy their own space
have been raised to be self-sufficient and tend to avoid people
learn early on not to depend on people
often feel crowded in intimate relationships
be in a world of their own
self-soothe and self-stimulate
not turn to others for soothing or stimulation
find it hard to shift from being alone to interacting
under express their thoughts and feelings
process a lot internally
Characteristics of Waves
People who are waves tend to:
feel a great deal with their emotions
have strong attachments in childhood, but they were inconsistent
have helped soothe a parent or both parents who were overwhelmed
have felt rejected or turned away by one or both parents
focus on external regulation: asking others to help them soothe them
find it hard to shift from interacting to being alone
over-express and like to talk about all the details
stay in close physical contact to others
often think they are too much and nobody can tolerate them
Characteristics of Anchors
People who are anchors tend to:
come from a family where there was an emphasis on relationships
have experienced justice, fairness and sensitivity in their family
love to collaborate and work with others
read faces, voices and deal with difficult people well
Do any of these descriptions sound familiar? Read more in Tatkin’s illuminating book “Wired for Dating.”
I’ve always thought of myself as a laid-back, low-maintenance chick, someone that would never give a man a lot of stress. So when I asked my ex-boyfriend years ago if he wanted to get married, and he told me that he needed more time, I gave him all the time he needed. As in, several years to figure out how he felt. In the end, we never got engaged or married, and we ended the relationship shortly after. I never got upset with him, or threw a temper tantrum when he seemed put-off by my interest in marriage. I wanted to be an understanding partner and I did not want to feel like I forced someone to marry me by giving an ultimatum.
It turns out that my laid-back nature was not healthy for my love life and aspirations for marriage. According to the groundbreaking book “Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others” by John T. Molloy, it is only the women who demand marriage that end up getting married. Those women who patiently wait for the man to set the terms of their relationship often never end of getting married.
“Our most important discovery was that the primary difference between women who marry and women who do not is Women who marry insist that the men in their lives marry them,” said Molloy. “More than 73 percent of the women coming out of marriage license bureaus with the future husbands told us they had put pressure that didn’t involve an attempt to manipulate their man into marrying them but was simply a result of their telling their man what they were feeling.”
The book makes this point clear: Women who wish to be married need to tell their spouses that it is vital to their long-term happiness if they are married. And they need to make it clear that they won’t settle for anything less.
“The idea that any woman needs a man to be happy and fulfilled today seems politically incorrect. Nevertheless, 64 percent of the brides-to-be told us they held this belief, while less than 20 percent of the women who did not think they would marry held the same belief,” said Molloy in the book. “We concluded that a woman who believed that marriage was essential to her happiness worked harder at finding a mate.”
Molloy recommends that women refrain from giving “It’s marriage or me!” ultimatums. Instead, he recommends that women say something along these lines: “I love you, but I need marriage.” This is a delicate way of speaking to the man about how you feel, without making the discussion about marriage accusatory or hostile.
Here’s more interesting points from the book:
“When we asked couples about to marry which of them had first spoken about marriage, 69 percent said it was the woman, 12 percent the man. The remainder did not remember, were not sure, or disagreed. Most of the times they disagreed, the man said it was the woman, and she did not remember it that way.”
“Discussing marriage is important for a number of reasons. One of the most important is to avoid a misunderstanding that can strike a major blow to your plans to marry.”
After reviewing the data, we came to this conclusion: If the woman conveyed to the man in her life the belief that marriage was essential to her happiness, it often became a very powerful argument for marriage. Almost a third of the women who were about to marry said that they discussion or argument that convinced their fiance to propose went something like this: ‘Marriage is essential to my happiness. If you love me as you claim, you’ll do what it takes to make me happy.'”
“Interestingly, 63 percent said they would have proposed in a year or two. That’s a very revealing answer: Our research showed that when men delayed proposing by as little as three months, often they never proposed. Without such pressure, there probably wouldn’t have been a proposal at all!”
“The majority of those women also believed that their men understood if they remained a couple for a year or more and were getting along, at that point they should start seriously considering marriage. This is an extremely good idea: Left to their own devices, less than percent of their future husband a thought dating for a year and being in love meant marriage was necessarily the next step.”
So be very vocal about your feelings ladies! If you are a woman who wants to get married, you only have so much time to discuss the subject seriously with your spouse before the optimal moment passes.
Do you have any advice for speaking to a man about marriage?
I have struggled with weight for most of my life. In fact, that is the topic of a series of articles that I have been writing about here on Ladies Again. In light of this process, I research weight loss topics online a lot. Recently I found that in 2005 researchers in the United Kingdom published a study that the Body Mass Index (BMI) men find most attractive in women is 20.85. They concluded that at a BMI of 20.85 women were more likely to “find a perfect match”. I found this very significant, because 3 years ago I lost 70 pounds. In researching for the transformation, I did a photo blog about celebrities who are my height and how much they weigh. The purpose of doing so was to get an idea of what I would look like at different weights.
Now with this new revelation, I feel it is important for me to reconsider my criteria for my ideal weight. Back then, I analyzed celebrities that were extreme in their weights as well as celebrities I found beautiful or who were A-list celebrities to develop my sense of what weight looks like. Some of the women I considered were: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Meghan Fox, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce. The study identified an example of the perfect body at the time of the study belonged to Venus Williams!
This is significant, because the tennis star and her sister have often gotten a lot of flack from people (especially fellow tennis player Maria Sharapova) who say their bodies are too muscular and not feminine. In fact, BMI is calculated using your weight and height alone, and does not take into account your body fat percentage, which could dramatically change your appearance since muscle weighs more than fat! (So, a person could be heavier, but look leaner if they were more muscular than a person at the same weight whose body had more fat) This is viewed as a major flaw in this method of health measurement and has even been the basis of racial bias claims in health measures.
Using a BMI calculator I determined that at 5’6″ my ideal weight to get married would be 129.2 lbs. With this is mind, I have concluded that the women I analyzed earlier did not have ideal bodies. Surprisingly, even well-sought-after women who grace the covers of men’s magazines, such as Jessica Alba (19.4) and Scarlet Johansson (22.3), do not have ideal bodies according to this study.
As I said before, in 2010, I was going through a process of trying to change the way I thought about my body and food. For this, I started doing research into what celebrities weigh. I did this, because I (and many other young women) had ambitions to look like any of our favorite celebrities. So, I did a google search and came up with this website that revealed the heights and weights of different celebrities. I then, compiled a list of all those who were 5’6″ (like me). The following is the list that resulted in 2010 (figures are subject to change by now, I’m sure!).
Looking back, I now see that many of these women (who later became my role models) had body types that were not very consistent with what the average person even finds attractive. I suppose there are questions we should ask ourselves. Not so much about unrealistic expectations for women, but maybe those of us who are looking to the celebrities for our body inspiration, should consider what our long term goals are, because if it is attracting the perfect mate, science says that these women’s bodies are not ideal for achieving that.
The following list are among the women I once looked up to for weight inspiration. All celebrities are 5’6″ unless otherwise indicated:
And just for the hell of it…
What do you think? Do you feel that celebrities are realistic role models for women trying to lose weight?
We talk a lot here on Ladies Again about tapping into your femininity to get what you really want out of life as a woman. Recently, I was watching various videos that feature men detailing what attracts them to women and what makes them fall in love. The interesting thing is that many of them were saying the exact same things. One thing that kept popping up was “confidence” and “connection” or “compassion”.
I decided to share some of these videos with our readers to demonstrate what we have been saying. That men are not distressed or intimidated by femininity. What they need is a woman that has embraced her femininity to the point of comfort and confidence in it. That’s when they begin to lean in, and even crave you. Check out the videos below to hear it straight from the men themselves!
How to Seduce a Man – 15 Tips by New Era Pros
What Men Find Beautiful In Women by GuyTellsAll
How to make a man fell cray about you by Bernardo Mendez
How to Be an Adorable Woman – An Insight Into Male Psychology by TopReviews4All
How Men Fall In Love (Mat Boggs creator of Cracking The Man Code) by Matthew Boggs
The Art of Feminine Presence – a quick, easy exercise for you by Rachael Jane Groover
Did you know that couples who live together before marrying are less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce than couples who do not live together? And yet, nearly half of twenty-somethings surveyed say (pdf) that they would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together first, so that they could find out whether they really got along. And two-thirds of twentsomethings believe that cohabitating before marriage is a good way to avoid divorce, Meg Jay writes in her book “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter—and how to make the most of them now.”
Living together before marriage, or at least the promise to commit to marriage, is a terrible idea. It’s such as bad idea that sociologists have a name for this broken phenomenon: it’s called the “cohabitation effect.” First, couples who cohabitate are usually moving in for conflicting reasons—women think of moving in together as a step up in their relationships, while men think of moving in together as a way to get easy access to sex. Oh, and yes, let’s state the obvious: cohabitation is also cheaper and convenient….because that’s what solid relationships should be based on, am I right?
Yes, living together is cheaper…at first. Cohabitation actually becomes expensive when you want to get out of it. “Cohabitation is loaded with setup and switching costs,” Jay writes in the New York Times. “Living together can be fun and economical, and the setup costs are subtly woven in. After years of living among roommates’ junky old stuff, couples happily split the rent on a nice one-bedroom apartment. They share wireless and pets and enjoy shopping for new furniture together. Later, these setup and switching costs have an impact on how likely they are to leave.”
Moving in with someone without first being engaged is a deal-breaker for women who are serious about getting married. Jay explores the long-term effects of this phenomenon in her book, writing:
“It is the couples who live together before an engagement who are more likely to experience poorer communication, lower levels of commitment to the relationship, and greater marital instability down the road. Multiple studies have shown that those who live with their partners before an engagement are less dedicated before, and even after, marriage. A life built on top of a “Maybe We Will” simply may not feel as consciously committed as a life build on top of the ‘I Do’ of marriage or the ‘We Are’ of engagement.”
If you really want to test your spouse’s personality and see if you two would be a good fit for one another, there is a much better way to get the job done. I recommend that you travel abroad (preferably, to a developing country) with your spouse to see how you both respond to unpredictable situations. When you are overseas together as a couple, you will have wonderful new experiences together for sure, but you may also lose your credit card, get robbed, have trouble speaking fluently to the locals or experience less-than-stellar hotels. Those experiences will help you see your spouse at their best and worst moments.
Jay agrees with this idea in her book. “Traveling in a third-world country is the closest thing there is to being married and raising kids. You have glorious hikes and perfect days on the beach. You go on adventures you would never try, or enjoy, alone. But you also can’t get away from each other. Everything is unfamiliar. Money is tight or you get robbed. Someone gets sick or sunburned. You get bored. It is harder than you expected, but you are glad you didn’t just sit at home.”
So plan to have an experience with your significant other, and make it a long vacation—the trip should last 20 days at a minimum. Pay attention to how your partner handles budgeting/spending, cleanliness, conflict and sudden changes.
If you’re reading this, are you a young woman in high school or your early twenties? Then we can guess that you must also feel empowered to pursue your independence, life goals and career aspirations. The whole world is your oyster! You want to travel, date around, drink til your heart’s content and dance til your feet hurt. Eventually you want to get married and have a family, but you want to leave those heavy topics for much, much later, like maybe for your late thirties or forties when the timing is just right. Life is for living now!
If you agree with any of the above, you have been misled. You have sipped from the reality-rejecting, feminist-propaganda-swindling sippie cup. And, unfortunately, you will not understand that you are confused until you are older and it is often too late to go back. I know this because I used to have the same thoughts. Women in developed nations across the world just like you have been told by older generations of women to pursue own their dreams and goals before getting married, and to avoid settling down at all costs. Feminists have encouraged women through books, lectures and public policies to build their own lives before getting married.
Popular culture shows and films, such as Sex and the City, Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy and Foxy Brown, have glorified the joys of being young, fun and independent women. Every year, the music industry pushes out feel-good “empowered” pop songs, which usually end up being mega hits. For instance, the Destiny’s Child song “Independent Women” held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for eleven consecutive weeks in 2000. And I don’t think I can list all of the Pitbull-esque “live like there’s no tomorrow” hit songs that have been released in the past few decades.
But for all of the cheers for “strong and empowered” working women, nothing seems to soothe the concerns of middle-aged women who have just realized that they no longer have the option to conceive a child. Women are now waking up to the reality that they made a mistake by prioritizing work (and their independence) ahead of their family goals. In an NPR interview, Barbara Collura, president/CEO of Resolve, the National Infertility Association, sums up the misguided sentiments shared by career women nicely:
“Let’s be honest, women don’t want to hear that they can’t have it all. We can have a great job, we can have a master’s degree, we don’t need to worry about child-bearing because that’s something that will come. And when it doesn’t happen, women are really angry.”
Collura says the first thing (infertile) women say is “Why didn’t anybody tell me this?” That’s a good question. One study (pdf) found that women think that the chance of a 30-year-old getting pregnant in one try is 80 percent, while in reality it’s less than 30 percent. For a 40-year-old, many assumed up to a 40 percent success rate. It’s actually less than 10 percent.
Why are so many women confused about fertility? I have a few ideas:
Fertility discussions go against two feminist ideals: First, feminists believe men and women are completely equal androgynous beings (ugh), so any discussion about biological differences is considered disruptive. Second, feminists want to prove that women can and should be as successful as men, and any talk of women slowing down their careers for their families is forbidden.
Any attempt to teach women about fertility has been silenced. Sex education classes in schools only talk about preventing pregnancies, but say nothing about the reality that women will not always be able to get pregnant (and must plan their lives accordingly). Collura says “A decade ago, a campaign by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine sparked a vicious backlash. Ads on public buses in several big cities featured a baby bottle shaped like an hourglass, to warn women their time was running out. But women’s rights groups called it a scare tactic that left women feeling pressured and guilty.”
The media has made the single life look all too good. Shows about single working women are cool, flashy and fashion-forward, while shows about married life are glum and depressing. Husbands are made to look like bumbling idiots on every family TV show.
Thinking about fertility early is important for several reasons. First, women have only so much time to have children. If you wait too long, you may get lucky enough to have one child, but any more than that is unlikely to happen. Second, if you desire to have children, you need to plan for the physical and emotional commitments that go into raising a child (six months of maternity leave will not usually be enough time—plan for taking off several years to bond with your child. This means that you need to select the right spouse). Third, you want to think about fertility because you want to have healthy children. The most common risk factor for Down syndrome is maternal age (read this chart). Fourth, if you wait too long, you might have to face taking care of your teenage children at the same time as you have to care for your aging parents. Yikes. Finally, fertility treatments are expensive (the average cost of a fertility intervention is $25,000) and sometimes unsuccessful.
Second, plan your own life carefully. If you are considering pursuing a new career or starting a new relationship, ask yourself: How many hours will I need to work per week at the peak of my career? If I had to, could I work part-time in my current career field? Does the person I’m dating have the same family goals as me?
It might be helpful for a woman who is switching careers to draw a timeline of the life she wants for herself. For instance, if a woman who is 24 years old, single and wants children is considering going to college, how will she balance graduating from school, getting hired, finding a husband, marrying and giving birth within the next few years? Especially if her goal is to have several children before her fertility sharply declines at 30? Developing a timeline will help young women live the lives they want to live in the future.