Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Apocalypse and 6 Reasons Winter is Good for Love

Hey LOVEanese! It's December 21, 2012, Gangnam Style amassed more than 1 BILLION views on YouTube today, and I'm assuming this is currently happening:


SO, you know that means! HAPPY APOCALYPSE/END OF THE WORLD!!!




Just kidding.

In reality, it also happens to be the winter solstice and the first day of winter. To celebrate the beginning of winter, I want to share a list I thought up of why winter is actually a great time for couples, relationships, and dating! Here they are, and feel free to add more in the comments:

#6. One word: Fireplaces. They're warm AND romantic! And in case they weren't good enough (or more likely that you just don't have have one), you can always make a bonfire! Just make sure you know how to do it responsibly. Winter camping with a bonfire is amazing!

#5. Since it gets darker sooner, use this as encouragement to stay out longer with each other and friends getting drinks. Or plan a fun night out, or a date emphasizing night-time activities, like stargazing, watching a meteor shower, going to a comedy or jazz club, go to the movies or go dancing, grab an nargile, or winter desserts.

#4. Lots of holidays and days off! Spend it doing something fun, plan a road trip or a vacation and head where it's warm. Go skiing/snowboarding in Faraya if you're in Lebanon, or go spend time with family and friends. Enjoy a drink or eggnog!

#3. Ample opportunities to spend quality time together: Go play in the snow, go sledding, have a snowball fight. OR if there's no snow, stay in and drink tea with cinnamon or hot chocolate, watch movies, listen to Christmas music (if that's your thing), play a board game or video game, do a jigsaw puzzle, FINGER PAINT!!! And there's some more suggestions here.

If you're in the southern hemisphere (cough, I'm talkin' to you Australia!), way to be all weird! Ok, just kidding. Even if it's not cold and/or snowy, go to the beach or otherwise, just enjoy your summer!

#2.
People get SAD, literally. It's called seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Ever notice how two of the biggest consumer holidays are conveniently located in the winter (Christmas and Valentine's Day)? Maybe its a way to capitalize on people's sadness (money buys happiness, right??). Well, forget shopping! Let love bring you up! Feelings of love and attraction releases natural chemicals like endorphins and dopamine in your brain which make you feel better (I talk about it here). And if that doesn't help, check out this list of suggestions for making yourself feel better.

#1.
Lastly, and most importantly, it's the most conducive season for cuddling! No one wants to cuddle up when it's 40 degrees C (104 F) outside! But when it's cold, it practically forces people to get closer together to keep each other warm. Awesome, right!?

What else is good about Winter? What do you like? Tell me in the comments! And may Earth live to see many more millions of years!

Spread the love, and (if you celebrate), have a merry Christmas!

-Ogie, MA

P.S. I guess they were right. Better learn to swim...


Friday, December 7, 2012

Why Are We So Afraid Of Intimacy?

I have a problem. A problem with us, with our generation.

Last night, a friend showed it to me, and I harmlessly posted it on LOVEanon's Facebook page. It garnered a lot of Likes, and even a share:




I didn't think much of it until this morning, after I'd had a weird dream critiquing this idea. I began thinking about it more, and every second spent analyzing that dream, the more I realized this isn't ok -- the misunderstanding of romance. The angrier I became, the more frustrated. The more I realized that it isn't right, it isn't right that our generation has done a complete "180" in terms of relationships. Words I used in my head to describe how I feel about this included: awful, disappointing, concerning, disgusting. What happened to us!? Why is it that, now, it's easier to sleep with someone than go on a date? Why is it that now, you're more likely to sleep with someone than go on a date? Why is it that our generation is facing the end of courtship? In the past, you took the time to get to know someone. You took the time to care, to love. It wasn't always just about me, me, me. It wasn't always just about sex, or instant self-gratification. Conquering another's trust or simply using them period, just to tick another mark into our collective black book of unfulfillment and emptiness.

What happened? What happened to us that made us so... selfish? So disregarding of others? So shallow? Why have we become emotionally impotent? Am I being harsh? Am I being judgmental? Am I just merely being unrealistically or ridiculously, foolishly nostalgic?

No.

I don't think so. Just as the title says, I think it's our problem. I think it's a very serious problem, I think that problem is that we are afraid of intimacy, and I'm not the only person who thinks this. We're afraid of getting close. We're afraid of trusting. We're afraid that we're just going to get hurt again, hurt -- that thing that we can't seem to shake. That terrible ghost that just keeps haunting us, hanging over our heads, never going away, just recycling in our lives, one person after another.

What is wrong with us? Do you feel it?


How many of you feel like this is strangely reflective of your experiences?


Surely it's a problem, a social problem at that. Hell, a world problem, a global problem. I saw it in Lebanon just as often as I see it in the United States. I see it with friends in Europe, in Australia. In fact, a March 2007 article in Time Magazine highlighted how, after a 12-week period, "fear of intimacy" was the second-most searched fear on Google. The only thing that beat it was flying, however, "fear of intimacy" beat out the fear of the dark, death, spiders, even God. Moreover, intimacy was second, but love was seventh, and "being alone" was tenth. Isn't it just a bit troubling that love in today's world has become something feared!? In an attempt to explain it, the author provides suggestions:

"Sifting through over 1,500 "fear of" searches in the last 12 weeks, there are two opposites that play out repeatedly: we're afraid of being isolated ("fear of being alone") almost as much as we are of making a connection ("fear of intimacy"). Maybe this disconnect is fueled by our "fear of rejection" or a "fear of losing a loved one," or "fear of being dumped." Or maybe we've succumbed to the overwhelming volume of sexual dysfunction spam that's driven our "fear of not performing." Or maybe the discrepancy between these two most common fears is the concern we have about discussing our weaknesses with others. As email, text, and instant messaging replace our face-to-face communication, perhaps it's become easier to disconnect. [Maybe] we're more comfortable talking with a non-judgmental search engine about our problems, or maybe we're simply afraid of what our fears reveal about ourselves..."

I think he's right about a lot of things. I sincerely think that when it comes to love, we have lost our direction. Whether it is because of conspicuous consumption, materialism, globalization, urbanization, hyper-individualism, technology and the breakdown of face-to-face communication and small social networks, economic disparity and wealth inequality, generational gaps/distance, or worse, because of personal torment: abuse, hurt, pain, cynicism, pessimism, disdain, and even hate, we as human race seem to have lost the will to love. But in losing this, we have also lost so much more including our connectivity, our empathy, and our compassion.

As someone who has spent time researching this, it's not difficult to figure out where this is coming from either. Without trying to get into feminist perspectives on sexuality and love, and without trying to critique the sexual revolution, I just want to point out that some take a more positive approach to the changing nature of intimacy. This includes British sociologist Anthony Giddens (1992) who purported there's been a "Transformation of Intimacy" that is intrinsically linked to modernity and the various revolutions -- industrial, urban, technological, sexual -- which are causing historic changes in the way our sexuality functions (and is separate from reproduction). He thinks it's a good thing for society, for freedom, and for women especially. However, what is really obvious isn't just the macro-social change, but the actors and the context in our lives: our family, our parents, our peers, our culture, the mass media, and our own experiences. These were the pillars that contextualized my thesis, but really, they establish the foundation for romantic relationship development among adolescents and young adults period.

So, why are we so afraid of intimacy? Simple: it comes down to fear.

Look at the following illustration (original link from TruthSeekerDaily). Does it resonate with you?



"To love is to be vulnerable" - C. S. Lewis. How applicable is this to your life?



When I conducted interviews for my thesis in 2011, parents/family, peers, personal experiences, the media, and culture were all mentioned either directly or indirectly as influencing the participant's perceptions of romantic love. For instance, both positive and negative experiences helped shape their perspective, whether it was learning through positive relational behavior of their parents, or through the negative behaviors or consequences that befell their parents such as a divorce, or the heartbreak of a friend or other family member. Moreover, the interviewees were aware of these consequences, and often communicated that they took conscious measures to protect themselves from the experiences of these individuals, especially their parents.


A connected recurring theme was an expression of insecurity or fear related to either losing someone they love or getting emotionally hurt. While there is much literature related to uncertainty and insecurity within a relationship (e.g., Afifi and Burgoon, 1998; Knobloch and Solomon, 2003, 2005), Polish sociologist/social theorist Zygmunt Bauman (2003, 2006, 2007) proposed a theoretical conceptualization for understanding the fear of emotional hurt. In his 2003 book Liquid Love, he discussed "Liquid Modernity," the current state of human society where there's a lack of permanent, lasting social bonds. Due to this "liquidity," individuals have frail social bonds, which, in turn, generates insecurity; through this insecurity, individuals face the conflicting paradox of desiring to tighten their social bonds, yet simultaneously keep them loose (Bauman, 2003). In a beautiful passage, Bauman (2003) articulates the importance of love in modern times:

"In every love, there are at least two beings, each of them the great unknown in the equations of the other. This is what makes love feel like a caprice of fate -- that eerie and mysterious future...to love means opening up to that fate, that most sublime of all human conditions, one in which fear blends with joy into an alloy that no longer allows its ingredients to separate. Opening up to that fate means...admission of freedom into being: that freedom which is embodied in the Other, the companion of love" (P. 7).


He also sheds light, however, on the idea that lasting human bonds/commitments have become "analogous to stocks people have to constantly manage, but can also [be] acquire[d], and let go of" (Bauman, 2003: 14). He continues by stating: "If you invest in a relationship, the profit you expect is first and foremost security [i.e., support and companionship]...but be warned: promises of commitment to the relationship, once it is entered, are "meaningless in the long-term" [because]...relationships are investments like any other, but would it ever occur to you to take an oath of loyalty to the stocks you just bought from the broker? To swear you'd remain...through thick and thin, for richer and poorer, "'till death do us part?"" (Bauman, 2003: 14).

His perspective includes the breakdown of permanent social bonds and the reinforcement of the idea that social -- in this case, romantic -- relationships are not necessarily meant to last forever or always lead to sustained happiness. Moreover, it leads to uncertainty and severe insecurity which permeates almost every aspect of our lives. Many of the participants in my thesis reflected this through their parents’ relationships as well as many of the romantic relationships experienced by their peers.

I think it's time for some comic relief.



Intense, right? Well, we're surrounded by negativity. Call me nostalgic or romantic, but I wish we could emphasize a model like this instead:

"Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God." And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night; to know the pain of too much tenderness; to be wounded by your own understanding of love; and to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; to rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; to return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips." -- Khalil Gibran, "On Love," The Prophet.

When did we forget this? Did we ever really know it?

I remember when I was in college, I was lonely, but it wasn't just me. It seemed like almost everyone was in the same boat. In addition to them being lonely, I felt surrounded by their hurt from the burn of past experiences and their perceptions. And even with the guise of masculinity or sarcasm, that pain never seemed to heal. So, caught in-between loneliness and the complacency of non–commitment coupled with rejection, I personally lost faith in myself, in part, because I didn't love who I was and I wanted something from someone else; some kind of "completion."

What happened there?

I didn't really love myself, and I lost the courage to try and date. I lost the courage to just ask someone, "Hey, would you like to get dinner Friday night?" Call me a romantic at best, old–fashioned at worst, but when study after study validates how, at least certain Western societies, have become a "hook-up culture" (e.g., Manning, Giordano, and Longmore, 2006), it makes me wonder what happened to dating culture. What ever happened to taking someone out because you were interested in getting to know them? Because they made you laugh? Or you always smiled when you were with them? Because they understood you, or can identify with you? Are we so hurt, we don't let anyone in? Are we so jaded by the lack of romantic commitment in our lives and the lives of others that it's simply not worth it? Whatever happened to respect, and wanting to be with someone for what you could potentially share with someone, and not what they could give you?

As a long-time fan of his, Thomas Merton, evoking John Donne, once wrote a book called No Man is an Island, discussing how we can never experience true love, unselfishly, until we first love ourselves (I covered it extensively in this blog post). I realize this is a two-way street. Maybe you tried, and they rejected you. Maybe you put a lot of effort in, only to be tossed aside for someone else. Maybe they wanted something you couldn't offer. Maybe emotional fulfillment, emotional (and physical) support, and self-love manifest as a complex game of chicken and the egg. The fact is, the equation for attraction is so complex and is determined by such an infinite number of factors; it is the most advanced equation that makes quantum physics seem pale in comparison. Add to that the fact that being single is hard. As I've discussed previously in my post on monogamy and jealousy, if the added value vs. cost of pairing up were lower, we wouldn't have evolved, both biologically as well as socio-culturally, to favor it so strongly. In other words, the grass is always greener, but when it comes to the benefits of being in a loving relationship, the science speaks loud and clear (especially if you're male).

Unfortunately, this is -- or at least seems to be -- the nature of human relationships. But, in the future, what can you do differently? How about ask if true sincerity exists? Exists in such a way to look past our desire for instant gratification? How about instead, we reinvent the "date," that little event where two individuals can negotiate their attraction and chemistry, and see if things would work out? Take some time, get to know someone better. Remember that vulnerability is a powerful and beautiful thing that can lead to happiness as well. For who they are, not what they can offer. Away from social media, instant messaging, texting, college parties, university classrooms, work... somewhere special, romantic, personal. Something where you can show emotional investment, not merely exchanging time and a meal for a later reward. Dating doesn't exist so you can get something in return, it exists to understand someone better. By no means am I trying to generalize or be presumptuous, nor am I unintentionally trying to reinforce outdated gender and sexual stereotypes. But, my challenge is to have the courage to do what I often did not do enough: take the time to love yourself, so that you can love someone else. Take the time to overcome reservation with commitment and your insecurities; believe in love, trust once again, and always strive for emotional fulfillment.

I know this is contentious, and that's usually something I try to avoid. But we can't avoid this anymore. I WANT to talk about it. And if you don't, you should. We can't go on not talking about it anymore. It's your problem, it's my problem, is our problem -- we can't keep sweeping it under the rug, and pretending like it isn't happening. Don't think these problems will just go away or be fixed by either a relationship or an engagement ring. And even if you don't want to talk to me or comment on this post, that's beyond fine. But talk to yourself, be honest with yourself. Talk to a friend, a counselor, someone. We can't keep compounding our emotional hurt and relationship fears/insecurities, and burying them. They are only going to lead to more unhappiness. I refuse to back down, I will be aggressive about this! Whether you're in Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE, Europe, Japan, America, wherever, we NEED to talk about this! So, whether you start with yourself, or work on loving yourself more, just do something! Stop hiding behind your fear if you are! Stop hiding behind serial monogamy if you are!

If you think you may be afraid of intimacy, it's ok, there's nothing you can't overcome. A counseling website offers this quick test/assessment to help you if you're interested, and I suggest also reading this article that I linked to above with an interview with a sexual therapist.

I want to conclude by re-posting the transcript of what I attempted to write on Facebook after I had my 4 wisdom teeth extracted last Friday (and edited for grammar). I don't really remember writing it, but I think I was just voicing my -- otherwise, diplomatic -- opinion about people who don't care about anyone other than themselves. It seems like I just wasn't afraid to speak my mind (in my opinion, quite a vindicating feeling):

"In lieu of the wisdom teeth surgery (which was a great success), I just want to candidly state my disdain for selfish assholes who really don't care about how their actions ultimately lead to greater insecurity in both themselves, but more importantly, their relationship partners -- and fuck up people. Just love each other because they are a gift, not because of your own personal insecurities. It's not fair. And it not right. Treat people how they deserve to be treated: with dignity and respect."

I sincerely think we have a problem, and we NEED to fix it. Do you think I'm being too harsh? Am I being presumptuous or judgmental? What DO YOU think? I'm eager to hear. In the meantime, listen to this impassioned plea for why intimacy isn't just important, but it is ingrained into humanity's existence -- both historically and currently:






Have courage, love yourself, do not fear intimacy, face your insecurities, and spread the love,

-Ogie, MA

Update: Please see the comments section below for some updates/clarification, and some great additional points by others.

P.S. This video may shed more light on why we're afraid of intimacy:





References:

Afifi, Walid A., and Judee K. Burgoon. 1998. ""We Never Talk About That:" A Comparison of Cross-sex Friendships and Dating Relationships on Uncertainty and Topic Avoidance." Personal Relationships, 5: 255-272.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2007. Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

----. 2006. Liquid Fear. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 

----. 2003. Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Giddens, Anthony. 1992. The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love, and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Knobloch, Leanne K., and Denise Haunani Solomon. 2005. "Relational Uncertainty and  Relational Information Processing: Questions Without Answers?". Communication Research, 32(3): 349-388.

----. 2003. "Responses to Changes in Relational Uncertainty Within Dating Relationships:  Emotions and Communication Strategies." Communication Studies, 54(3): 282-305.

Manning, Wendy D., Peggy C. Giordano, and Monica A. Longmore. 2006. "Hooking Up: The Relationship Contexts of "Nonrelationship" Sex." Journal of Adolescent Research, 21(5): 459-483.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Featured article on Babel Together Magazine's Website

Saba7o LOVEanese (mess el kheir for all those in Lebanon)! And happy Lebanese Independence Day/Thanksgiving! (for those in the U.S. and elsewhere that celebrates today).

This is not a usual post, in that I won't be covering a topic, but I want to post a couple links that I want to bring to your attention.

Pretty cool story actually. Yesterday, a friend asked if I would contribute to her online magazine, Babel Together Magazine, and write about love, dating, and Lebanon. The magazine was originally dedicated to cross-cultural exchange, and although I love this topic, I wasn't sure what exactly to write about because the parameters seemed kind of vague, ambiguous, and unstructured. So, after talking more, I offered that I write about dating in Lebanon from my point-of-view, discussing why it's so complicated and reflecting on my thesis. We both got really excited about it, and she even offered to think up an interview about love and dating, and ask me questions after I wrote it.

Well, I sat down, and somehow it all just flowed onto a Word document. Everything I wanted to say came out perfectly. And a few hours later, it was sent off, and then published the same day along with an interview. It's pretty much my thesis condensed into two-and-a-half pages!

21 April 2013 UPDATE:
In the past few weeks, my changed the theme of her magazine, though, and had to remove all of the previous content. I didn't want that content to be lost, so I uploaded the piece I wrote along with an interview into my Google Drive, and reposted them here. Sadly, they are no longer published, but the content is still located at the links below. Some great news, though, is that the post got the attention of a communications professor who specializes in intercultural communication. She loved the article so much, that she asked me to convert it into an academic article (all content stemming from my thesis of course) so that she could include it in her forthcoming book, Intercultural Communication with Arabs (which has been published and is now available from Springer). Per a Gulf Today article, "A new academic book edited by an American University of Sharjah faculty member [Dr. Rana Raddawi, PhD.] will be the first addressing intercultural communication (IC) in the Arab world...there is no single book until today about intercultural communication with Arabs in different settings."


Needless to say, it's really exciting! Check it out, and feel free to voice your opinions about what I talk about! Do you agree? Disagree? Can you identify? Tell me what you think and about your experiences!

With that said, here are the links:


1. The post entitled: "Two Cultures, Different Ideas, One Love"


2. The interview

I'm really looking forward to your insights and comments!


Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Hitched"

"Basic principles: no woman wakes up saying, "God, I hope I don't get swept off my feet today!" Now, she might say, "This is a really bad time for me," or something like, "I just need some space," or my personal favorite, "I'm really into my career right now." You believe that? Neither does she. You know why? Because she's lying to you, that's why. You understand me? Lying! It's not a bad time for her. She doesn't need any space. And she may be into her career, but what she's really saying is, "Uh, get away from me now," or possibly, "Try harder, stupid." But which one is it? Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal, body language; 30 percent is your tone. So, that means that ninety percent of what you're saying ain't coming out of your mouth. Of course she's going to lie to you! She's a nice person. She doesn't want to hurt your feelings. What else she going to say? She doesn't even know you... yet. Luckily, the fact is that just like the rest of us, even a beautiful woman doesn't know what she wants until she sees it, and that's where I come in. My job is to open her eyes. Basic principles: no matter what, no matter when, no matter who... any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom."

Saba7o LOVEanense! I feel like I spend every new post apologizing for not updating sooner, but I assure you... finding a job is really tough. Some good news though is that this is my 35th post! It's been really hard to find the energy to write, but last week I watched something for the first time, and felt compelled to write about it. Although I usually spend the first paragraph of a post giving updates, there's nothing really to update this time around.

I do want to draw your attention, though, to a couple articles I found recently that are really important. The first is about the common causes of divorce. If you've ever wanted to see a pretty comprehensive list, it's here. Dr. Terri Orbush covers some important lessons that were actually learned from couples who did divorce. Moreover, she has some great advice for dealing with the number one cause: money.

With that said, if you have not seen the 2005 movie Hitch, you really need to watch it.



It's got Will Smith in it, OF COURSE it's gonna be good!

Now, I know this movie isn't exactly new, and most people whom I've told that I just NOW watched it were wondering which rock I've been living under (I mean, for a guy who wrote a thesis about love, how did I not see Hitch!?). Well, to be honest, I was impressed. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but as I watched, I kept making notes. It hit on what I think are so many important themes, and, in my opinion, even though it was "Hollywood," shied away from some of the typical motifs and themes.

Well... not ALL of them. The quote at the beginning was actually the opening lines of the movie. I was a little skeptical of the theme of the movie based on what he was saying, because it sounded a little too good to be true. First of all, although nonverbal communication is incredibly important in communicating, some are critical of the 90% of all communication is nonverbal. Regardless, it's still an important point, and I was definitely interested in seeing what else Hitch had to say, but I hope it goes without saying that you should just be careful when you hear a statistic floated around in mainstream media (and always question it's accuracy).


The more I watched, the more subtleties I began to pick-up on, and the more I realized it was actually a very positive film. One of these was what I considered the difference between methods and intentions. For example, just watch this short clip I recorded of what I think is the most important part of the movie (just watching it gives me goosebumps):


video


Isn't that so intense!? Especially when he says, "This is why falling in love is so goddamn hard!" and "It's because of jerks like that that even have a job!" I just really loved the interaction between him and everyone else, but especially, the dialogue. I think that it's easy at first glance to call what he was saying sexist, and perhaps I just identified with it as a man, but I think there was some very interesting points here that really sums up the whole movie. Moreover, he's not vilifying women, nor is he unintentionally criticizing them. He's criticizing society at large, the plethora of norms, expectations, and pressures that often leave most men (and I'm sure many women) frustrated, timid, self-conscious, or feeling like they are not good enough. As I mentioned with the "methods vs. intentions" dichotomy, I think it sheds light on the way that a lot of people feel (regardless of gender) with approaching the opposite gender. As men are typically expected to approach women, it's understandable that he is speaking on behalf of men. But if you listen to what he's saying, it's really more about how his job is based on overcoming the societal pressures/expectations that come with dating and courtship--to which gender roles and socialization are a huge part. It isn't about hooking up at all, and really, sex isn't part of the movie at all either. In fact, when someone wanted to just get with a woman because he wanted sex, Hitch rejected him. I really liked that.



FYI: DO NOT date.

Another point that I wanted to discuss that I think many of you in Lebanon/with an Arab background experience a lot (and that IS a typical Hollywood motif) is the emphasis on love--verses compatibility. Even from the get-go, Hitch never once talked about the importance of compatibility. There's just the assumption that if someone "likes" someone, they can just fall in love, and live "happily ever after." As multiple studies show, one aspect of compatibility--social support and involvement--is incredibly important (Felmlee, 2001; Bryant and Conger, 1999; Sprecher and Felmlee, 1992; Leslie, Huston, and Johnson, 1986). Moreover, other scholars have found that it is typical for individuals to seek out a mate who is similar to themselves in terms of personality (Dijkstra and Barelds, 2008).

I'm not trying to say that love is the opposite of compatibility, but I think we complicate relationships, and for many reasons. One of which is the confusion between love and compatibility.
I just think that love and compatibility are BOTH important components of a happy relationship, and are in many ways, apples and oranges. Consider love, for instance, as an emotional element (the apple), while compatibility is more of a logical component (the orange). I've talked a bit about compatibility before (e.g., here), but I want to take the concept further as well as connect it to the movie. I want to argue that there are multiple tiers of compatibility (without applied value necessarily), where one tier could hold religious beliefs, social background, cultural similarity, class, and level of education (if that sounds strangely familiar, it's because that's what's generally considered the most important among Arab parents/families). However, there's the next tier that holds personality traits, experiences, similar tastes in music/movies, etc. And then another that pertains to values, beliefs, life goals, energy levels, perception of the world (are you positive and optimistic and they negative and pessimistic?), and especially, conflict styles and how to manage conflict (How do you deal with conflict, disagreements, etc.?). I think all of these are important. However, the fact is, the equation for attraction is so complex and is determined by an infinite number of factors; it is the most advanced equation that makes quantum physics seem pale in comparison. So, it may be hard to determine exactly what aspect of someone's personality or worldview or habits are the most attractive. I'm sure we all know people that, perhaps on the outside, they may not seem to be a suitable match, but the more you get to know them, the more you realize they are perfect for each other--because they are compatible in deeper ways.

Putting thi
s in the context of the movie, however, is more complicated. In the U.S. and the "West" in general, we overemphasize the "love" aspect of a relationship. In the Arab world, we overemphasize the "compatibility" aspect of a relationship. So, as I alluded to, you see that reflected in the movie. But, actually, in one of the last scenes, Allegra emphasizes how Albert's "quirks" such as being clumsy or a bad dancer are actually really attractive to her (hinting at compatibility). For Allegra, she liked Albert just the way he was, even though they seem like a completely different couple based on their social status (she's famous, he's not). Moreover, Eva Mendes' character, Sarah, and Hitch both have a pretty interesting thing in common: a history of fear; fear of loss for Sarah, and a fear of rejection for Hitch. Both communicate intimate anecdotes of past experiences which left them jaded, cynical, and cautious. And I think that is incredibly reflective of most people. They had bad experiences, and in turn, those bad experiences prevented them from getting close to others. Instead, they kept people at a distance. I'm SURE that every single person reading this can relate, either themselves personally, or through the experience of a friend or family member. I mean, it makes sense: as you get older, all of those experiences prior add up, and affect you, they influence your behavior, your actions, and your perceptions; they add to your insecurities, and sometimes, make you shut down. But remember the 5th leading cause of divorce according to the article I posted at the beginning of this post? It's important to let go of the past, not forget it per se, but live in the present. Be yourself, be natural, love who you are, and be with someone who makes your life happier BECAUSE you can be yourself. We all have to impress at point or another, but being comfortable with someone is an amazing feeling.

Overall, it was a great movie, I definitely recommend it. I know I always say that I'll try and blog more, but I really will. I'm really looking forward to your comments: did you like the movie? Where there other themes you picked up on that I missed? Do you have a perception that is based on your gender? Let me know! And just remember the last line of the movie, one that sums up pretty much everything about dating, love, relationships, and attraction:

"Basic rules: there are none." - Hitch

Spread the love,

-Ogie, MA

References:

Bryant, Chalandra M., and Rand D. Conger. "Marital Success and Domains of Social Support in Long-Term Relationships: Does the Influence of Network Members Ever End?"
Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(2): 437-450.

Dijkstra, Pieternel, and Barelds, Dick P. H. 2008. "Do People Know What They Want: A Similar or Complementary Partner?" Evolutionary Psychology, 6(4): 595-602.

Felmlee, Diane H. 2001. "No Couple Is an Island: A Social Network Perspective on Dyadic Stability." Social Forces, 79(4): 1259-1287.

Leslie, Leigh A., Ted L. Huston, and Michael P. Johnson. 1986. "Parental Reactions to Dating Relationships: Do They Make a Difference?" Journal of Marriage and Family, 48(1): 57-66.

Sprecher Susan, and Diane H. Felmlee. 1992. "The Influence of Parents and Friends on the Quality and Stability of Romantic Relationships: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Investigation." Journal of Marriage and Family, 54(4): 888-900.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Intention vs. Opportunity

Good evening/afternoon LOVEanese! I'm really excited that I'm blogging again. Stay tuned for more posts to come over the next few weeks, and also even my own article on the Science of Relationships that I mentioned last week!

What I want to do in this post is share a little anecdote of something that recently happened to me, and the lesson that came out of it. Perhaps it's something you experienced/learned a long time ago, but I'm a late bloomer, so go figure, I just figured it out haha.

What exactly was I doing in college?

Anyway, Remember how I talked about "finding your habibi" a few months ago? And even going online to do so? What if the opportunity was there, but you actually accidentally passed it up? Multiple times even? And no I don’t mean your best friend or something like that, or not going out one Friday night when you were tired. What I mean is an opportunity missed because you didn't realize the opportunity was there to begin with.

Let me explain through example:

A few weeks ago, I was sitting with some good friends at a bar in the city where I did my undergrad (Louisville, KY). I was about three beers deep when something happened. As I was talking to my friends, a girl from another table randomly came over, and asked us if she could take an extra chair from our table. Of course we said yes, but then she looked right at me and asked, "Do I know you from somewhere? You look really familiar." Bear in mind a few things:

1. I wasn't exactly in my "going out" clothes. I had just driven there that day.

2. I was already a bit slow because of the beer (I'm kind of a light-weight, ok?)

3. I'm a really social person, and I used to know a lot of people in Louisville and at the university.

So, I'm thinking to myself, "Well, maybe she does know me..." So, I say, "Umm, I don't know. Did we have class together? What's your name?" And she tells me, but I'm still drawing a blank. At that point, my friend whispers to me, "Michael, what are you doing? Go talk to her!" And I'm just so confused, I'm still trying to figure out where she'd know me from! At that point she thanks us for the chair, and goes back to her table.

Now... my friend is kind of disappointed in me: "Dude, what was that!? You should have talked to her!" And this is where the lesson begins:

Me: (I'm still confused, and was flashing a puzzled look) "Why? She just wanted to know if she knew me. And she obviously didn't, what's the big deal?"

Him: "Well, she was obviously interested in you."

Me: "What are you talking about? She was just asking if she knew me" (which to me, in my naivety, was a reasonable conclusion).

Him: "But that's the point. It doesn't really matter if she was interested or not. The fact is, the opportunity presented itself just now, and you completely blew it.

Me: "What!? How!?"

Him: "Simple. When she came over and asked for the chair and if she knew you, what you should have done is gotten up, gone over to her, said something like, "no I don't think we've met, but my name's Michael," and then offered to take the chair back to her table."

At this point I was just amazed.

"Obviously you've never read The Game..."

Me: "How in the world should I have known that?? I thought she really might just know me."

Him:
"Ok fine, but you still missed an opportunity."

And that's when it dawned on me. Up until this point, I had never understood the difference between intention and opportunity when it comes to meeting someone. Intention, in this sense, being that she wanted to talk to me. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. To me, I always thought that the intention had to be there in order to talk to a girl (quite contrary to practically every movie, ever made, ever). But what I realized is that the opportunity to meet/get-to-know someone is really always there.

Now, you may be thinking, "Come on Ogie, that's like the oldest trick in the book." But analyzing that isn't the point of this post. It's that you may be missing good opportunities all the time because you're not reading the language of the interaction, or as I demonstrated, even realizing that the opportunity is there. As I said, it didn't matter if she came over just to talk to me or not. What mattered is that I should have stood up, introduced myself, talked to her, and offered to help; made something out of that interaction, and maybe meet someone new.

Does this happen to you? Has anything similar ever happened? In Lebanon? Outside Lebanon? Is it cultural? Just to clarify, my friend's girlfriend was sitting next to him, and not only affirmed what he was saying, but also said I should have talked to her, in part, because the "road for interaction" was clear so to speak.

Do you think there's a difference between how men and women perceive this? Ladies, men always say that they want a woman to approach them, but what happens if and when that happens? Do we kinda freeze up because it challenges all of our existing social and relational scripts of how to behave and what to do/say? Is it disrespectful or disingenuous if I assume that there is an "opportunity" to get to know someone there?

Let me know. I'm really looking forward to your comments on this one!

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

Monday, August 6, 2012

Updates and More Relationship Resources

Hello LOVEanese! Listen, I know it's been a long time since my last post, but A LOT has changed since then. For one, since I finished my thesis/defended, I graduated with an MA in sociology on June 22, and I moved from Beirut back to Kentucky in early July to see friends, spend time with family, and look for a job. So, not only am I coming to you live from the United States now, but I'm also in a different timezone (just an FYI). As you can imagine, it's been a really busy time. I also had the chance to present my thesis at the 2012 International Conference of the International Association of Relationship Research (IARR) in Chicago. It was great! I got to network and connect with many other relationship researchers, meet some of those people whose names appear in academic publications you read, and listen to a lot of presentations on really cool topics. My presentation went great, and I was even so fortunate to have my parents and a friend attend (so I could finally prove that I WAS doing something worth my time haha).

Transitioning back to "American life" has definitely been more difficult than I imagined. Finding a job has been incredibly tough, it seems like I apply to jobs everyday, only to never hear back. Typical I hear. Not exactly the best time, but whatever. Something will work out eventually. There's also been other things that have been on my mind as I transition back. The first is the loss of possession. Not in material things, but, for instance, the other day I told someone, "Oh, you should see my apartment!......well, my old apartment..." Little realizations like that make things difficult, and remind you of loss: loss of your routine, your living space, your independence, your bed, your living room, your kitchen, your routine, your city, your lifestyle, your friends, your family, your dekaneh owner, your life. But, that's also part of life: moving on, and moving forward. The other issue has been with this weird transitional in-between stage I feel between college students and recent/not-so-recent college grads. As someone who kind if fits into the middle, I'm finding it hard to identify with both groups.

But you know, with the opportunity for change also comes the opportunity for great growth and a lot of introspection. Of course, many Lebanese/Arab individuals are accustomed to moving around, so that definitely isn't a feeling that's hard to identify with. And I have been thinking about things often, including life and where to go next, and how to meet new people, etc. Before I get to one of the new revelations I had about dating that I wanted to share with you in the next post, I wanted to remind you of some great relationship resources that exist (I'll also be putting these on the LOVEanon Facebook Page. Remember, avoid places like Cosmo and Men's Health, and look for resources where research is cited! Don't merely take advice because they say an "expert" is writing about it):

1. The first is probably the best one because it is a hub for many different relationship bloggers, and has a ton of resources in general. It's called The Science of Relationships (http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/). It has information related to dating, relationships, sexuality, friendship, marriage, courtship, engagement, breaking up, compatibility, and a host of other topics, resources, and featured columns. The best part is that they write like me: including social scientific relationship research in their posts. The head editors were also present at the IARR event, and all of them/the contributing authors all have a background in relationship research (either with an MA, PhD, or other degree/experience). Definitely a relevant and credible website (you can also check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites).

2. The second is a website by Dr. Terri Orbuch ("The Love Doctor"). I also had the opportunity (and privilege if I may add) to meet her at the IARR event. She's a media-friendly relationship researcher from Michigan who writes articles related to relationship research for media outlets (she was interviewed for the story about "5 Secrets to a Happy Marriage: Revealed by Divorce" (A better overview here)). She also does a weekly segment on a local Michigan news outlet (Saturday morning between 8 and 8:30 AM on WJBK Fox 2 News-Detroit). You can find her columns on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today (Psychology Today is also a great resource!). She can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

3. The third is a bunch of resources hosted by Dr. Bjarn Holmes (who I am convinced is the real-life Thor). Also a media-friendly researcher, he blogs on Science of Relationships and Psychology Today. He also hosts a monthly podcast series called Relationship Matters,  which features an interview (or more) with a knowledgeable expert on some aspect of relationship research and relationship maintenance. He is available on Twitter.

4. When it comes to sexual concerns related to relationships, sexual health, and everything in-between, Kinsey Confidential out of the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University is my go-to guide (Kinsey sound familiar? It was established by pioneering human sexuality researcher Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey). Anyway, this site has it all, from relationship resources to information about STIs, sexual health, sexuality and relationships, answers to questions about sex, reading lists to check out, and much more. I strongly suggest you check them out, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

5. Another sexual health and relationship resource (and another that I heard about at IARR) is a blog authored by Dr. Justin Lehmiller called "The Psychology of Human Sexuality." It has a lot of great topics on it. I suggest you check it out as well, and follow him/the blog on Facebook.

6. The last resource I want to link you to today is the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. It's a non-partisan, government-sponsored project that compiles information, statistics, marital resources, and other information together. It's really interesting, and gives more numerical information based on various surveys and other research methods. So, from attitudes toward marriage, marital trends, demographics, divorce patterns, etc., this site has it covered.

There is also two academic journals that are dedicated to relationship research: Personal Relationships (Wiley), and The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (SAGE), both through the IARR. They both contain additional resources as well.

Now, I know what many of you who live in Lebanon, Europe, or elsewhere may be thinking: "But this is all written for Americans, by Americans." And honestly, you're right. A lot of this research is American/Western-focused, and there's a shortage of cross-cultural relationship research. This isn't to say it doesn't exist, just when compared to studies conducted on American samples, however, it just, well... doesn't compare. BUT, although culture does have much to do with romantic relationships, much of the research conducted can be applied to many different populations, especially at the individual level. So, definitely take everything with a grain of both salt and common sense/critical thinking, and if you have any questions, discuss it! Either in the comments section of my blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, or simply just write the author! Even if they don't know the answer, they have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to connect you to other resources or find the answer for you.

This is also a great point to reiterate exactly what I'm doing here. I know I'm writing to you from the US now, but remember what I always say (and have said since I wrote my very first post almost a year ago): I want to help connect individuals to relationship research and resources in an easy-to-digest way that is informative, fun, and educational. Also, MA or not, I AM NOT AN EXPERT, nor do I ever intend to come off as one. I will always cite my sources, and I will strive to make this blog objective and value neutral. However, I will  write it in such a way that it focuses on Lebanese/Arab culture, but still be applicable to a general population and especially those who come from cultures that  emphasize family and social collectivity. If you ever need a reminder of this or the purpose, vision, or mission of this blog, just re-read the first post. I have tried to not deviate from my original purpose.

With that all said, I just want to give a teaser of some topics to expect in the coming few weeks in no specific order:

1. Can you really be friends after a break-up?
2. When in doubt, follow your nose
3. Understanding the difference between intention and opportunity
4. How to read a scientific article
5. A case for and against marriage
6. Dating at work: pros and cons

7. Are men REALLY from Mars, and women REALLY from Venus?
8. The pros and cons of pornography within a relationship context
9. Attraction and birth order
10. The benefits of selfless sexuality

As always, thank you all so much for reading! I really appreciate all of your support, no matter what country you're in, continent you're on, or culture you were raised in.

Stay cool, peaceful, and lit-up Lebanon. And spread the love,
-Ogie, MA