Blog Archives

The real secret of staying married

I dunno….I doubt it would be for me but maybe for others… Love, Roz x0x00x0x

The real secret of staying married

September 27 2012 at 06:00pm
By Joanna Moorhead
London – Five years ago my friend (let’s call her Jane) discovered her husband (let’s call him Steve) was having an affair with a colleague.

For a few weeks, their marriage teetered on the brink. Jane was shocked at Steve’s “betrayal”, uncertain whether she could ever trust him again. Everything – including the future for the couple’s two children – hung in the balance.

This week I met Jane for lunch… and what a difference five years has made. She’s happy, fulfilled, forging ahead with an important work project.

She and Steve have just had a holiday à deux and their marriage seems unshakeable.

But Steve still sometimes sees his other lover. And what’s more, Jane now has an extramarital love interest, too. “We’ve got a new arrangement,” is how Jane explains it. “Sometimes I think it’s complicated – at other times, it seems ridiculously easy. Basically, we sat down and worked out that we’re really happy with what we’ve got together – a lovely home, gorgeous kids, fulfilling jobs. But we’ve been honest about the fact that we sometimes need a bit more.”

Rewriting the rules around marriage, as Steve and Jane have done, is catching on, and there’s a spate of new books and movies out to prove it: books that aim to unpick why we can’t be more imaginative in the ways we live out our long-term relationships and films such as Hope Springs that seek to remind us that a long-term relationship doesn’t have to dissolve into a stale and lonely old age.

Psychologist and relationship therapist Meg Barker is the author of Rewriting The Rules (Routledge), out this month. She says there are several differences in today’s long-term committed relationships that underpin the need for change. “Number one is that people are living to be a lot older – so a long-term relationship is a much longer deal,” she says. “And another thing that’s changed is expectations: we require so much more from a relationship than people did in the past.

“There’s been a huge growth in the recent past of this idea that you need one perfect relationship; that you will get everything from it – romance and children and financial stability and friendship and a great sex life. No other generation had such huge hopes invested in just one relationship and it is an enormous ask.”

An enormous ask that, more and more, is prompting people to wonder if the time has come to dismantle the scaffolding that holds marriage together and to look at whether it couldn’t be constructed in another way. Because perhaps the over-expectations we’ve come to invest in marriage have made the scaffolding too shaky: maybe the time has inevitably come to realise that, as a society, we’ve been piling too much weight onto just one frame.

That’s certainly how social scientist Catherine Hakim sees it: and her take is that it’s Anglo-Saxons who are worst at loading the weights on to marriage and then watching as it wobbles under the strain. No surprise, she argues in her new book The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs And Erotic Power (Gibson Square Books), that it’s Britons and Americans who have the highest divorce rates on the planet – because these nations are also the ones whose citizens have the highest (and, she would argue, the most unrealistic) expectations of the institution itself.

More than 90 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Britons condemn extramarital affairs as wrong, compared with just two in five people in Italy and France.

And guess what, says Hakim: in Italy and France, divorce is far less common. “There is no assumption [in these countries] that spouses must fulfil all of each other’s needs, all of the time, exclusively,” she explains.

Hakim’s take is that affairs happen – and when they do, couples (especially in Britain and America) are using sledgehammers to crack nuts. That’s what, she would say, a couple like Jane and Steve would have done if they’d ended their marriage five years ago.

At root, their relationship is fine: not perfect (but who, and what, is?), but happy enough, and friendly enough, and even sexy enough, and certainly functional enough to make a safe home for their children to grow up in. How tragic it would have been, Hakim would say, if a couple like Jane and Steve had chosen to unravel all that in the midst of what was, all said and done, a difficult chapter in their relationship – but one which, with some straight talking and broad thinking, they were able to work through.

The French perspective on affairs is very different: the attitude there is more philosophical and more tolerant.

“Affairs are not actively recommended, but they are not prohibited either,” says Hakim in her book. Contrast the UK, where (despite the fact that affairs are very common), the language around them is loaded with negativity (think “cheating”, “dishonesty”, “love rat”).

When Jane heard of Steve’s extramarital relationship, she felt “betrayed”: but why, exactly, did it have to be a betrayal? Relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall of Relate agrees with much of the logic of Hakim and Barker. Her line is that if anyone thinks there’s a safe place in a marriage, they’re kidding themselves: marriage, like everything else in life, is risky.

“Monogamy has its risks – boredom being the main one – and an open marriage has its risks, too, in the form of jealousy, feelings of rejection and so on,” she says.

“But there are real differences in the landscape of a marriage these days and they’re about the internet and opportunities for meeting people as well as in how great our individual expectations are. So we are the generation that can move the boundaries here and look again at how to draw up what a marriage is about,” she says.

It’s even possible, she ventures, that monogamy has played out its usefulness to humankind. “Some experts argue that, from an evolutionary perspective, we simply don’t need monogamy as much as human beings did in the past,” she says.

The key thread that runs through Barker’s book and Hakim’s, through Hall’s words of wisdom and through Hope Springs, is that flexibility – always an important component of a long-term marriage – is even more essential today than in the past.

Marriage – certainly where children are concerned – is well worth fighting for: but to win the war, tactics and manoeuvres that once would have been out of the question could need to be deployed. – The Independent


Middle age starts at 55

Good news for those of us who consider ourselves young at heart – ’cause we are!

For Healthy Aging, a Late Act in the Footlights

For Healthy Aging, a Late Act in the Footlights

Link: to Roberta for sending this to me via email.

What kind of old age will you have?

Many of us look forward to spending retirement expanding our world — traveling, trying what we never had time to do, taking classes that give us new knowledge and skills. These activities are not only desirable in themselves, they help us to live longer and healthier lives.

But they are not within everyone’s reach. Absent money and a sense of possibilities, retirement can become more time to fill with television. “We see people without money, who had very hard lives, who are not aware of their own potential,” said Maureen Kellen-Taylor, the chief operating officer of EngAGE ,a program in the Los Angeles area that provides arts and other classes for some 5,000 people — the vast majority of them low-income — living in senior apartment communities. “They just had to get through life, taking care of things, and the idea of following a dream was not on their radar screens.”

That’s why the Burbank Senior Artists Colony is remarkable. Opened in 2005, it is a mix of market-rate and low-income apartments. The building looks like an upscale hotel but is built for the arts, with studios, a video editing room, a theater and classrooms.

Residents may arrive with no previous artistic experience or skill as an artist — but artists they become. The theater group that Sally Connors participates in is working with a troupe in London, via Skype, to write and perform a soap opera. Walter Hurlburt shows his oil paintings — for sale — at the colony’s periodic art exhibitions. Residents work with students from a nearby alternative high school to do improv theater, make claymation films and art from recycled items. Suzanne Knode wrote a short movie, “Bandida,” about an elderly woman who takes the bus to rob a convenience store. Then the residents filmed it — and Ira Glass’s “This American Life” television show filmed them — and submitted the film to the Sundance Film Festival. “A pistol, a plan, and sensible shoes,” says the poster.

The Burbank colony is the showpiece of EngAGE, an organization started in 1997 by Tim Carpenter. He was working for a health care company that built primary care centres for senior citizens when he met John Huskey, a Los Angeles developer of affordable housing.

Carpenter and Huskey began to talk about how to combine what each of them was doing. They had originally contemplated establishing acute-care health centres in senior apartment buildings, but now had a different idea. “We live in a society that’s very acute-care based — we wait till someone’s sick,” Carpenter said. “We decided to try to get people to take on healthy behaviors without having to go to the doctor.”

Carpenter, who had a background in the arts, started in one of the complexes built by Huskey’s company, Meta Housing, in Duarte in 1997, by teaching writing himself. The program soon expanded to more buildings. In 2005, the Burbank colony opened — the first one in which EngAGE had a say in the design.

EngAGE now brings arts training, wellness programs like an annual Senior Olympics, and computer and other classes to 27 senior apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area, and will add another eight over the next year, including two — in North Hollywood and Long Beach — that, like Burbank, will be designed for the arts. The NoHo Senior Artists Colony will open in October with a 77-seat professional theatre in the lobby. Burbank and the Piedmont Senior Apartments in North Hollywood have a mix of market rate and subsidized apartments, but the other 25 are all for low-income seniors. Most of the residents are living on less than $15,000 a year. They pay $400 to $800 a month for a one- or two-bedroom apartment.

Basil Alexander at an EngAGE annual Senior Olympics, a multi-generational event that allows seniors participate in competitions in wellness and the arts.

Gene Schklair for EngAGE  Basil Alexander at an EngAGE annual senior Olympics, a multi-generational event that allows seniors to participate in competitions in wellness and the arts.

The classes are demanding — no one is gluing macaroni to paper plates — and the teachers are pros, either laid-off schoolteachers or artists. The dance teacher at the Portofino Villas site in Pomona, for example, is Trina Parks, a dancer and actress who was the first seriously lethal and first African-American Bond girl — she played Thumper in “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Carpenter calls this approach the opposite of the assisted-living model. Assisted living centres provide whatever medical care is needed. They usually have a great dining hall. There are buses to the mall and trips to see plays. “These are things that don’t help people that much,” Carpenter said.

Everyone knows that staying physically fit is important to remaining healthy in later years. (A good summary of the evidence is here.) And we know that mental fitness is also crucial.

But certain strategies are better than others. “Doing Sudoku helps the part of the brain that does Sudoku,” said Michael C. Patterson, who used to run the Staying Sharp program at AARP and now is a principal in MindRAMP, a company that advises institutions working with senior citizens on promoting brain health in aging. “You need to exercise the full brain.”

And it has to be a serious exercise, Patterson says. “Part of the process is you set a goal for yourself, and did you achieve it?” he said. “Making potholders is not going to do the trick.”

Creativity in aging is Patterson’s business, of course, but the idea is amply supported by research. (The National Center for Creative Aging is a good place to start.) One of the best all-around exercises for older adults is doing theatre. The researchers Helga and Tony Noice (she is a psychologist, he is an actor) gave nine 90-minute classes to a group of adults. Some did theatre training, some trained in visual arts and another group did nothing. After four weeks, the differences in cognitive function were astonishing. The theatre trainees scored nearly a 60 percent increase in problem-solving ability (with visual arts, that ability declined) and the gain was sustained. The Noices believe that theatre is especially good for the brain because it requires engagement on many levels — emotional, physical and intellectual.

Not inconsequential: theater is fun and social, so people stick with it. Some of the visual arts students dropped out, but none of the actors did. “When you really get involved in a creative project, it’s physical exercise, mental stimulation, socializing, your stress goes down and it’s enjoyable — something you will do,” said Patterson.

A study done at the University of Southern California found that more respondents in EngAGE programs reported that their health had improved in the past year, while in a control group, more people reported that their health had worsened. A study carried out by Century Housing, one of the top lenders to EngAGE’s communities, put a dollar figure on the gains. In the program, it found, 25 percent fewer people than in comparable groups needed expensive interventions such as nursing care. The savings came to about $9,000 per year per resident.

EngAGE gets its money in part through fund-raising, but two-thirds of its income comes as payments from the senior complexes where it works. These buildings, in turn, stay afloat mainly through federal tax credits for low-income housing, said Huskey. The program is highly competitive, and projects are more likely to win tax credits if they have a local financial contribution — for example, from the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, or from banks, which by law must invest in their communities, including in low-income areas.

EngAGE is an important selling point for these groups, Huskey said. “They would much rather have a project that has a better story of how it’s affecting people’s lives. They want to do well by doing good.” Huskey said his company was approaching Charlotte, N.C., Austin, Tex., and Minneapolis about starting senior artist colonies in those cities. “What started out as self-serving desire to get a 15-minute head start on my competitors has become a great thing,” Huskey said.

Sally Connors thinks so. She and her husband had five good years after his lung cancer diagnosis, and they used them to travel. After he died, Connors, a junior high science teacher, thought she would spend her time reading, walking and doing genealogical research. “I wouldn’t be going out and doing things,” she said. “I would be very bored.”

But she had a daughter in Burbank, and one day they drove by the colony. “Why don’t you live there, Mom?” her daughter said.

“I’m not an artist,” Connors replied.

“But you could be,” her daughter said.

That was five years ago. Since then, she has taken every single class EngAGE offers in the colony. She’s been in every theatre performance. She had dreamed as a teenager of singing with a band — now she sang “Sentimental Journey” and “Blue Moon” with a band at a Fourth of July celebration. She wrote a two-minute screenplay, cast it, directed it, produced it and showed it as part of a film festival in the building. She’s part of the theatre group working with their British counterparts, and mentors high school kids. She’s studied drawing and acrylic, watercolour and oil painting.

At 78, she does yoga twice a week and works out with a personal trainer. “I would be a lot older than I am right now if I hadn’t found this,” she said. “Definitely older mentally. I have a friend I don’t call anymore. For her everything is wrong — I can’t do this because I’m too old. That would have been me.“

“All those years I spent thinking: ‘If I only knew then what I know now,’” said Suzanne Knode, who counts “Bandida” — her first writing ever, at 63 — as the start of a new life. “But I said, ‘Wait a minute. I know now what I know now. And I’m still alive.

Comment from: confetti

This is beautiful. Maybe one of the contributions of us aging boomers will be a new take on growing old. We’ve made our mistakes and there’s a bad mood rising about the economics of our very right to exist, but damn it, we were a generation that wanted to live beautifully, consciously, joyfully and wisely, and to break down the old walls and social stereotypes and prejudices that lock humans into cruel and narrow lives. We worked hard to make changes – for women, people of colour, gays, children… and I love the idea that we might take a good chunk of ageism with us on our way out. A gift to the kids, who will also grow old in whatever world emerges next. Nothing condescending in the project described in this article. I love everyone who’s participating and I hope it catches fire everywhere.

Comment from: Karen

This is the same type of program that Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. has written about in his book “The Creative Age – Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life”. It is amazing to read his research about the surge of creativity that occurs in the sixties, seventies, eighties…it was a wonderful shock to learn just how our creative lives can turn around as we age! It is wonderful news and I’m glad to read about the success of the program written about in the column. We need these programs all over the US [World]!

%d bloggers like this: