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Volume 2, Issue 12: December 2018

Welcome to the latest issue of the Relationships Newsletter. We hope you enjoy the Quote of the Month, Finkel’s Five, and Thibaut’s Tidbits.

But First, A Holiday Note
It’s been a fun year for the Relationships Newsletter. I’ll be taking a hiatus as I work on a proposal for my second book, which explores whether the wisdom of relationship science can ameliorate the toxic partisanship of our current political climate. More soon….

The All-Or-Nothing Marriage


Are you interested in how marriage has changed over time, why those changes have made some marriages better and others worse, and how we can improve our own marriage? Check out my bestselling book.



Quote of the Month

Timeless insights from scientists, philosophers, novelists, and other wise souls

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai

"You’ll never know anyone’s marriage but your own. And even then, you’ll only know half of it."

Finkel's Five

Five things I'm thinking about this month


1. We’re in a golden era of sardonic relationship comedy from women. One of my favorite articles this month comes from Devorah Blachor, who clarifies the terms and conditions surrounding a husband telling his wife about his day. For example: “If it is Tuesday or Thursday, the day when WIFE has driven to the other side of town to drop Charlotte off at her Mini Movers class, then circled back to get Jacob to his Gangnam Capoeira hybrid class on time, and then spent the rest of the evening in rush-hour traffic collecting them, HUSBAND is prohibited from telling WIFE about his day and is further required to acknowledge the 1950s cosplay patterns he and WIFE have regrettably fallen into since having children.” Another of my favorites comes from Brooke Preston, Caitlin Kunkel, Carrie Wittner, and Fiona Taylor, who have written new erotica for feminists. For example: “‘Why don’t we invite your friend over?’ he suggests, testing the waters. ‘There’s nothing I love more than watching two women in sweatpants engaging in hot political discourse. I love to watch … how you always let each other finish speaking without interrupting. I’ll also make nachos.’” Do yourself a favor: Read these articles in their entirety. (While doing so, please don’t consider the fact my awareness of these articles comes from the fact that my wife sent them to me—an ominous sign.)

2. On a less amusing note, it looks like the rise in political polarization is converging with the growing gender divide between Democrats and Republicans to create significant marital strife in America. In an article titled “Donald Trump Is Destroying My Marriage,” Molly Langmuir offers a succinct summary of the situation: “By now it’s a truism to point out that the election of Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement have prompted a wholesale realignment of American politics. But it’s also sent shock waves through heterosexual romance.” The article provides a handful of first-person accounts of the challenges of love and relationships in a toxic political climate.

3. Speaking of politics, its intersection with sexuality is often fraught. When it comes to issues that animate the political left, much of the recent emphasis has been on the dangers of unrestrained sexual assertion, especially when powerful men assert themselves against less powerful women. This emphasis, ground zero for #MeToo, is essential, and its broader cultural reckoning is long overdue. But alongside it is a second emphasis—usually part of an entirely separate conversation—about sexual pleasure, especially the orgasm gap between heterosexual men and women. (Take a guess—is it men or women or have fewer orgasms?) Into this conversation comes a compelling new article, “The Pleasure Revolution,” in which Sharon Walker reports on five women, from five walks of life, working to enhance women’s sexual pleasure. “The first sexual revolution,” observes Stephanie Theobald, author of Sex Drive, “was about male desire. Back in the 1970s men were still asking if women had orgasms and if they did, who cares? #MeToo was about men imposing their pleasure on women. The pleasure revolution is about women asserting their own pleasure.”

4. The idea that an individual might “need space” in a relationship strikes me as a self-evident truth. But, as with many self-evident truths, this one is entirely dependent on the cultural and historical context. In a new Atlantic article, Julie Beck discusses how and why this idea—that people need space in a relationship—emerged in the 1970s. With the rising influence of the self-expressive marriage—a model in which spouses look to each other not only for love, but also to help them growth as individuals and live more authentic lives—people increasingly lived in accord with Fritz Perls’s “Gestalt Prayer” (1969): “I do my thing and you do your thing. / I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, / And you are not in this world to live up to mine. / You are you, and I am I, / and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. / If not, it can’t be helped.” This idea was a radical departure from all mainstream views from earlier eras, but it has become dominant. Keeping this context in mind can help us navigate challenges, and leverage opportunities, without our own romantic relationships.

5. As I sign off from “Finkel’s Five” for my book-proposal hiatus, I leave you with a love story for the ages. Writing in the Washington Post, Rachel Siegel reports on the 73-year marriage that developed after Barbara Pierce, 16, met the recently deceased George H. W. Bush, 17. There are many ways to build a happy romantic life: Both of my parents have been happily remarried for several decades, and I didn’t marry until was 33. And marriage certainly isn’t necessary to live a good life. But still, there’s something beautiful about those special cases in which teenage lovebirds grow into nonagenarian lovebirds.


Thibaut's Tidbits

A dispatch from the mascot of the Relationships And Motivation Lab (RAMLAB)

Thibaut (RAMLAB mascot)

Thibaut (RAMLAB mascot)

All is well in the RAMLAB this month. I’m worried I’ll get a bit bored during the newsletter hiatus, so I just joined SheepBumble. Wish me luck!


Do you know other folks who like to think seriously about relationships? Please let them know about this newsletter. :)

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