Archives for July, 2011
If you have ever wondered about the differences between men and women, check out their driving. I taught my sons to drive – They drive like their father, their uncle who lives 3,000 miles away and most other men I know. Research findings, insurance statistics and possibly your own experience highlight gender differences in driving caused by a mix of biological, psychological, social and even evolutionary factors. Who Drives Better? Actually the answer to the question of who drives better depends on the criteria and reflects the differences. According Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, some research suggests that men do show more technical proficiency in driving as well as a greater tendency to declare themselves “above average drivers.”
With increasing longevity we have become very concerned about the impact of old age on memory. Notwithstanding the importance of this focus, it is worth remembering that we have been forgetting all kinds of things throughout our lifespan - our violin in fourth grade, the due date for the final paper in High School, and the time of our first job interview. Understanding and enhancing memory is actually a life-long process. A particularly interesting area is the way in which memory operates between partners. Research findings remind us of the potential that couples have for maximizing mutual use of this precious resource. Research Findings A recent study in Science of “Google Effect on Memory” reports that our brains are adapting to technology such that we remember less information when we expect to have access to it on the computer. What we do remember is where to find it. What the authors suggest is that we have come to use the computer as an external source of stored memory much like the transactive memory used between partners.
Some things need clarification. One is the of the impact of infidelity on marriage; which is brought to the forefront by a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, the cover of which reads “ Infidelity Keeps Us Together.” The article by Mark Oppenheimer considers the proposition by sex columnist Dan Savage that the solution to a deadened monogamous bond may be infidelity. From years of working with couples, I suggest that this is not so simple. Whereas most would agree that monogamy alone does not make a marriage, the leap to infidelity as solution to a struggling or even lifeless relationship is a big one - one that misses all the partner possibilities for working within their relationship. It’s Not Just About Sex While the author of the article examines Savage’s point in an open-minded way, the perspective is a narrow one. Central to the thesis is that sexual satisfaction, specifically meeting the specific sexual request of a partner is crucial to the stability of the relationship. Savage suggests that if partners expect to be monogamous, they must be up for anything. They must be G.G.G., good, giving and game with game meaning going along with a partner’s need or going along with letting him/her meet their need outside the marriage.
Katie and Rob, a couple in a second marriage for both, never planned to have a pet. They cautiously agreed to take Penny, a little terrier, when a relative became sick. Of course, they fell in love with her. When I asked them how Penny had impacted their relationship, their answer surprised me. “Penny is our peacemaker. Before Penny we would stonewall each other and not speak for days after an argument. It is funny what happens now - after an argument one of us will start talking about Penny to the other to break the ice. We never planned it – we just do it and it works. The concept of the “Third” comes from relational psychology, specifically the work of psychologist, Lewis Aron who drew upon Jessica Benjamin’s work and applied the concept to couples. Aron offered the conceptualization of the see-saw. He considered that often two partners are stuck at opposite ends, moving up and down in terms of their own perspective, needs or opinions, but actually going nowhere and locked into a pattern that can't bring them together. In terms of couple's therapy, Aron identified the therapist as the “third” to open the space. A closer look at partners and their pets invites us to consider that in an unexpected and uncanny way - pets also serve in that role.