The One Thing You Must Do If You Want Love to Last

Love has been a complicated presence in my life from the very beginning. My parents had been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby for many years. My mother was finally able to get pregnant through a procedure of collecting and injecting my father’s sperm into her womb (a procedure that was “experimental” seventy-plus years ago). Being pregnant brought both joy and fear. I still remember stories about her walking, gingerly, down 5th Avenue in New York, afraid she might lose the baby.

When I was born, both my mother and father were overjoyed, but my mother was afraid something would happen to me and rarely let my father hold me. My father felt the pressure of being out of work and the shame at not being “the family bread-winner.” He became increasingly manic and depressed. When I was five years old, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, just north of Los Angeles.

I got married shortly after graduating college, but the marriage ended after ten years. We both found it difficult to trust and were always worried that we would be left by the other. A second marriage ended badly. Well to be truthful, it started badly. The fact that she slept with a gun under her pillow should have been a tip off that she was not the best mate choice. Later in life when I became a writer I wrote a book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions that described the ways we confuse healthy love with “love” addiction. For instance: [Read more…]

The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love

For more than 40 years, I’ve been helping men better understand women so they can have more sex and love and fewer fights and tensions. It’s said that we teach what we want to learn and I’ll admit I’m still learning about the wonderful creatures we call women and how to have passionate, peaceful, and joyful relationships with them.

Like many men with absent fathers, I grew up knowing more about women than I did about men. I remember playing in the kitchen while my mother and some of the neighbor ladies talked about their concerns about the men in their lives. They all expressed some degree of disappointment. Some were disappointed that there wasn’t enough closeness in the relationship. Others complained that the men weren’t as successful as they had hoped.

My father was one of the men who wasn’t emotionally close and also had trouble keeping a job. He was a playwright and actor. He and my mother moved to California from New York where he hoped to break into the newly emerging television industry. But jobs were hard to come by and he became more irritable, agitated, and angry. He would also become more withdrawn and depressed.

I’m sure some of the reasons that I became a therapist, specializing in helping men and the women who love them, was to better understand what women want and how men could be better husbands. I also wanted to know what men wanted and how women could become better partners. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about what women want. [Read more…]

The One Thing Women Want More Than Love Is The One Thing Men Find It Hard to Give

We’ve all heard that Women need to feel loved to have sex. Men need to have sex to feel loved. There seems to be some truth to here, but what does it really mean? In my article, The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex Is The One Thing Women Find It Hard to Give, I asked if it was true that, for men, sex was the most important thing in their lives.

When I was 17 years old I was sure it was true. When I was 37 years old, I suspected it might not be true. And now that I’m 73 years old, I know it’s not true. Now don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.

In this article, I want to explore the other side of the question. Is there something that women want more than love? And a broader set of questions including these. Do women want sex as much as men? Do men want love as much as women? Are there differences between women’s desires and men’s desires? Is the battle of the sexes inevitable or can there be peace and harmony between men and women, without losing our passionate connections?

In order to answer these questions, it helps to know a little bit about the field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology seeks to reconstruct problems that our ancestors faced in their primitive environments, and the problem-solving behaviors they created to meet those challenges. Understanding our evolutionary roots helps us better understand why men and women are the way they are.

Biologists have a very simple and useful definition of what is male and what is female, whether we are fish, ferns, or human beings making our way in our African homeland. An individual can either produce many small gametes (sex cells) or fewer but larger gametes. The individuals that produce smaller gametes are called “males,” and the ones that make larger gametes are called “females.”

These obvious biological facts have huge implications for our lives. It’s easier to move the smaller gametes to the larger ones, than vice versa. As a result, males compete with other males to have access to the females. Females choose the male that she fancies the most to mate with. Female mammals, including humans, carry the baby inside their bodies, and nurse the newborn child.

To understand what women want more than love, you have to place yourself in the shoes of our female ancestors. Imagine that you live in East Africa 100,000 years ago. You are born and raised in a closely knit family and when you come of age, you hope to have a man who will be a good hunter and provider and a good protector. [Read more…]

The 5 Love Secrets Your Therapist Never Told You About

Love SecretsI’ll admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic. I cry at weddings and read Nicholas Sparks novels. I watch romantic movies and still get choked up remembering Titanic, Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, and Casablanca. I make up holidays so I can bring my wife flowers. But it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to have a romantic relationship that lasts. My first two marriages ended in divorce and Carlin and are still learning about love after being married for 36 years. Our book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, is a guide for those who still believe in love, but don’t have a lot of time to waste.

We all pick our profession for a variety of reasons. I’m sure that part of the reason I wanted to become a marriage and family counselor was to better understand my family life—my parents divorced when I was five years old. My father was become increasingly more irritable, angry, and depressed. My mother was always anxious and worried and pre-occupied with death. I wanted to learn the secrets of love so that I could have a passionate, powerful, and satisfying relationship that lasted a lifetime. But to master the secrets of love, we must let go of some of our most cherished beliefs.

  • Love Secret #1: Love is not exclusive.

We all understand that we can have many “loved ones.” We can love our children, our parents, even friends and relatives we rarely see, in addition to our spouse or lover. But we believe that love is limited to a small group and that we can have only one “great love of our lives.” Often when we’re single we long for that special someone who we will fall madly in love with and love forever. [Read more…]

Third Time’s The Charm: One Man’s Love Story of His 36 Year Marriage

real-lasting-loveGrowing up I had a confused understanding of love and marriage. We had a cute little house in the San Fernando Valley, but my father was often away and my mother constantly worried. When he was home his emotions vacillated greatly (later I learned he suffered from bipolar or manic-depressive disorder). One minute he was joyful and rode me around on his shoulders. The next minute he was irritable, angry, and depressed.

I was an independent kid and during the summers I would take the bus into Hollywood and sit alone at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and watch romantic movies–Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Three Coins in a Foundation, The African Queen, and From Here to Eternity. I practiced love lines I heard in the movies like this one by Montgomery Clift to Elizabeth Taylor: “I guess I loved you before I ever saw you.”

I met my first wife at U.C. Santa Barbara. I was a senior and she was a freshman. She reminded me of Janis Joplin—Cute, wild, creative, edgy, dangerous. We went to Monterey on our honey-moon, not knowing the Monterey Pop Festival was going on. No rooms were to be had anywhere in Monterey, but we found a room in Carmel when I was able to talk the landlady into taking us in since we were newly married. She knew the organizers and was able to help get us tickets.

The music reflected our hopes, dreams, longings, craziness, and the times: [Read more…]

5 Steps to Becoming a Love Warrior

love-wariorA few days ago my friend John gave me a copy of the book, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. “I just got this,” he told me, “but you need to read it first.” I wasn’t sure why he had given it to me, but I opened the cover to these words:

 Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out—three happy children, doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list—her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed.

I thought, “Oh no, another tragic love story.” As a marriage and family therapist for more than 40 years I’ve heard more than my share. My book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, was just out and I was ready for a break from the roller-coaster we call love. But I started reading and I got hooked. This is no ordinary love story and it resonated with my own struggles with addictions, mental illness, eating disorders, infidelity, open marriage, telling the truth, and looking for love in all the wrong places.

It also resonated with me as a writer. After the success of my book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions, I was sure I’d finally made it to the big time. My next book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, had been bought by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, and I was sure it would be a world-wide best-seller. But my editor left the company before the book was published and The Warrior’s Journey Home was left in limbo. When it was finally published by a small California publisher, New Harbinger, it had missed the market and didn’t sell well.

Glennon’s book resonates with me because, at its core, it’s about becoming a spiritual warrior. At a time in our history where we seem to be on the brink of blowing ourselves up with one war after the other, we need to find a new way to become warriors and a new way to overcome the fears that keep us from having real, lasting love. [Read more…]

How to Know if It’s Time to Go: 10 Signs You Should Leave Your Relationship

I’ve been helping men and women improve their love lives for more than 40 years. Most everyone I know wants a long-term committed relationship. But most everyone finds it difficult to achieve. We know that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years. But 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Too many relationships fail when they could be saved. Most couples have a faulty love map and so get lost on their way to finding real, lasting love. In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I describe five stages for having the joyful, intimate, juicy, sexy, comfortable, adventurous, relationship most people long to have:

  1. Falling in Love
  2. Deepening Love and Making a Life Together
  3. Disillusionment and Incompatibility
  4. Real, Lasting Love
  5. Finding Your Calling as a Couple

Stage 3 is the most misunderstood stage and without guidance too many relationships falter and go under at this time. I’ve developed an on-line program to help people get through to real, lasting love. I’ve learned that most marriages can be saved, but some are beyond repair. Here are the signs that your relationship is unlikely to be healed:

  1. Love has turned to hate.

Many couples will tell me there are times they feel like killing their spouse, but they still love them. Others say love has been lost, but they still care and want love to return. But if love has turned to hate, the relationship may need to end.

  1. Blame and shame rule the relationship.

Care and respect are key components of a good marriage. Troubled relationships often fall into blaming the other partner and putting them down or calling them names. [Read more…]

How to Save Your Mid-Life Marriage: Learn the 5 Stages of Relationships and Heal Old Wounds

9689251625_d47e548942_zGrowing up watching romantic movies it all seemed so simple. Find your true love, win their heart, and live happily ever after. But in practice it never seems to work out like it does in the movies. My first marriage ended in divorce after ten years. My second marriage lasted less than three years. As a practicing marriage and family counselor I didn’t feel I was a very good role model for what I was trying to teach people who were coming to me for help.

The statistics were not heartening. Somewhere around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 60% of second marriages end badly. Even marriages that stay together are not always happy and many people deal with emotional problems as a result. I know during both my marriages I suffered from anxiety and depression.

What’s more, mid-life stresses make marriage for those over 40 an even bigger gamble. In my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, coming out in August, 2016, I cite research that shows that mid-life couples are particularly susceptible to divorce.

A recent research study found that the divorce rate among adults aged fifty and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. In 1990, one in ten people who got divorced were over fifty. Roughly one in four divorces in 2010 occurred to persons aged fifty and older. The study found that over 600,000 people aged fifty and older got divorced in 2010 and this trend of mid-life divorces is expected to increase each year.

I find this a great tragedy since mid-life is often the time when couples look forward to more time together. The children may be grown or demand less day-to-day care, and the couple longs to having time, “just for us.” But then, things start to unravel for many and the couple finds themselves in trouble. Here are a few comments I received from people who read my earlier article, 5 Secrets for Saving Your Mid-Life Marriage – Even When Only One of You is Trying to Keep It Alive:

One man wrote: “I am in a 42 year marriage, and have been going through a rough patch for the last few years. Things just seem to keep getting worse, and I wonder if they can ever get better.”

A concerned woman wrote: “I don’t know how to save a marriage when my husband spends hours in the gym trying to get buff, runs off with another woman, quits his job of twenty years, and is pushing for a divorce. I’m 18 months into this nightmare and the push for divorce is stronger than ever.” [Read more…]

The 7 Secrets of Real Lasting Love

2591958811_6cb1d05d8b_zI’ve been a sex, love, and relationship counselor for more than 40 years. I’ll admit that I’ve been following the advice to “teach what you want to learn.” Like most everyone I know, we’ve all got a lot to learn about love. Our love maps are ingrained in our psyches based on our parent’s experiences with sex, love, and relationships. If our parent’s love lives were wonderful, every cell in our body will resonate to healthy love messages. However, if our parent’s love lives were less than wonderful, we will grow up with a distorted love map that will often lead us astray.

My parent’s love lives were not all that great. My mother married my Dad on the rebound when her true love was called away to war (he was a correspondent for the New York Times). My parents thought that having a child would bring them closer together. Instead it put more pressure on their already shaky marriage. My mother became increasingly anxious and worried that I would die. My father became increasingly depressed when he couldn’t find a job to support the family.

Since our love maps are generally subconscious, most of us are not aware that they can lead us astray or that our family’s love lives can have such a profound influence on our own. I married my college girlfriend, sure we would “live happily ever after.” We lasted less than ten years. After a short time of grieving the loss, I was sure I had simply married the wrong person. I fell in love again to a woman who seemed very different, but was in fact very similar to my first wife (and yes, similar to my mother emotionally). My new love slept with a gun under her pillow to “protect her from men.” We lasted less than three years.

I didn’t want to make a third mistake, so I decided to take a break, do some serious therapy and find a love map that would bring me real, lasting love. The new map led me to Carlin. We have been together now for 36 years. Here are some of the important secrets we learned. [Read more…]

Sex Talk: Knowing How Males and Females Communicate Can Save Your Relationship

9724845490_02e74c4cb4_zEven after 37 years together my wife and I often have difficulty communicating. She sometimes accuses me of not letting her finish her thought before I interrupt with my own ideas. I accuse her of talking so long I can’t figure out what point she’s trying to make. Although I don’t believe that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our communication styles often feel like they are from different planets. We all remember Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady asking his friend Pickering, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” No one would really want the sexes to be more alike. What fun would that be? We would, though, like it if the other sex would communicate more clearly (i.e. more like the way we communicate).

There are reasons men and women communicate the way they do. Understanding how and why our communications differ can go a long way to helping us become better listeners and better speakers. What’s at stake? Just the survival of our relationships.  We know that approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce and later marriages do even worse. Even in marriages that remain intact, communication often is miserable and can lead to irritability and anger, as well as depression and despair. [Read more…]