XX Factor Bloglove

On May 9th, 2009

Hanna Rosin, Slate XX Factor blogger and Atlantic writer, picked up our Mother’s Day research and gave it some props here.

To all you mother’s out there, thanks for your love, support and positive socialization effects!

Globe & Mail Mother's Day Press and Iowa Public Radio

On May 7th, 2009

As we pay tribute to our mother’s this Sunday, good old Freud usually pops to mind pretty fast: Our mother’s are our first love object… so for men, when it comes to picking a partner, are they looking for a younger version of Mom?

Last Mother’s Day I released some research on that — and this Mother’s Day, I spoke with Micah Toub of the Globe and Mail about mate preferences. Mother’s are primary socializers, and many are great role models. So yeah, go ahead guys, marry someone like Mom. Just remember to say thanks to Mom on Sunday, too.

Also, tomorrow, Iowa Public Radio will be re-airing the interview I did with Ben Kieffer last year from the Java House in downtown Iowa City. We talked about mother’s and mate preferences — and both Ben’s mother and my mother-in-law were in the audience. Awww.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do Men Really Marry Their Mothers?

On May 4th, 2009 1 Comment

This mother’s day, many working moms worry if they’re doing right by their children. It’s the perpetual tug between making ends meet and quality time with the family. Does a mother’s work decisions while her children are young impact the attitudes of those young adults later in life?

Recently, Christie Boxer and I released preliminary findings of our research of seven decades of changing mate preferences among young adults. Men, it turns out, are increasingly interested in an educated woman who is a good financial prospect and less interested in chastity. Women are increasingly interested in a man who wants a family and less picky about whether he’s always Mr. Nice Guy. To read more about our findings, click here or see our recent press in U.S. News & World Reports, ABCNews.com and The Des Moines Register. Email me at christine-whelan@uiowa.edu for the abstract of our findings.

Along with the 18-characteristic mate preferences instrument, we also asked some demographic questions, including a section on mother’s employment history. “When you were growing up, which of the following best describes how your mother spent her time?” We included various options for part-time and full time work, before school-age and after school age.

We hypothesized that there would be some differences in mate preferences depending on mother’s work history. Parents are primary socializers – role models who we emulate later in life. So do men really “marry their mothers” when they are choosing what they want in a spouse?

Turns out that whether your mother worked for pay outside the home or not has little impact on your mate preferences as a young-adult. The rankings stay pretty much the same. But there are some slight differences:


Guys, If Your Mom Worked, You’re More Likely to Rank Education in the Top 5

• Men whose mothers worked for pay outside the home while they were young ranked education/intelligence at #4, behind mutual attraction/love, dependable character and emotional stability, while men whose mothers as homemakers ranked it #6, with pleasing disposition and desire for home and children outranking smarts.

Good Looks More Important, Shared Faith Less Important?

• Good looks were slightly more important for men whose mothers worked for pay outside the home while they were young, while college-aged men whose mothers worked within the home ranked similar religious background at #13, compared with #16 for men whose mothers worked for pay outside the home.

Ladies, Not Much Change

• Women’s attitudes didn’t change ranking depending on mother’s employment history, but examining the means for each variable, women whose mothers worked within the home ranked chastity as a slightly more important characteristic in a man than women whose mothers worked for pay outside the home.

Take Home Message

We’re still dissecting the research, but it seems to us that we’re looking at the difference between more socially conservative and liberal families – which might explain the increased importance that men in particular place on similar religious background if their mother was a homemaker during their childhood. Children who grew up with a mother as a homemaker and a father as a breadwinner are more likely to espouse similarly traditional views themselves when it comes to a spouse, and seem more likely to prioritize religion.

Bottom line: Whether you work outside the home or within the home, for pay or not, mothers are primary socializers and role models for children. Moms, you’re leading the way – and you should be proud of all your accomplishments this Mother’s Day.

Success is Sexy – Iowa Women's Leadership Conference Video 4/17/09

On April 28th, 2009 3 Comments

On April 17, I had 500 women on their feet yelling “Success is Sexy!” at the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference. Watch this 45-minute video — including lots of Q&A — to shatter the myth that men are intimidated by smart, successful women, and learn how you can proclaim that your accomplishments are attractive, too!

Stop Searching for Your Soul Mate

On April 22nd, 2009

soulmatenew-copyWednesday is the day for your Weekly Relationship Tip
Stop Searching for Your Soul Mate
Some 20% of American couples file for divorce before their fifth anniversary. While the overall divorce rate has decreased in the last few decades, the number of marriages dissolved in those early years has increased. Why?
According to nationwide surveys, 94% of never-married Americans age 20-29 agree that “when you marry, you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost.” It’s very romantic, really, and the stuff love songs are made of: You live your life as best you can alone, and then one day you meet your other half, the person who completes you in every way. This person always knows how to make you laugh, how to make you feel cherished and will never hurt you.

But looking for a soul mate—and believing your significant other or spouse is your soul mate—can be a recipe for disaster in modern relationships because we are setting ourselves up for disappointment after the first blush of passion fades.

Yes, finding a true friend—someone you ‘click’ with, someone who you can share your emotions with and with whom you communicate well—is central to making a good match. But the idea that there is one person who will fulfill all our needs, one soul mate out there for each of us, is a childish idea that should be put aside with the Tooth Fairy.

The fact that we want to marry our soul mates is an indication of how much importance—and how much pressure—we’re putting on marriage. If our spouse is our soul mate, he or she should be perfect for us, unable to hurt us, and certainly not someone who will reduce us to tears or screams of frustration, right?

But most relationships have some tearful moments and screaming matches, so what then? When we tell ourselves that our spouse must be our soul mate, we’re asking for an element of perfect understanding that’s hard (if not impossible) to achieve, and setting ourselves up to be disappointed.

Here’s Why

In this search for our supposed soul mate, we don’t know what to look for. Are you looking for someone who has similar taste in music? Who makes you go weak-kneed? Are you looking for the opposite-sex version of yourself? What does a soul mate really mean—and are we sure we are prioritizing the right things on our list of characteristics for Mr. or Ms. Perfect?

If we are confused about what a “perfect match” should look like, we’re likely to overlook some perfectly wonderful people for very silly reasons—and are inclined to prioritize more superficial aspects of someone’s personality or interests more than issues of shared faith.

We’ve put far too much emphasis on one person to provide all our happiness and fulfillment. It’s wonderful to share you life with someone, and the closeness a couple can foster through marriage is a powerful and precious bond. But few successful relationships exist in a vacuum: Our individual happiness and fulfillment comes from all sorts of interpersonal interactions, with friends, family, coworkers and community.

We’re setting the bar too high when we say that a spouse must be your soul mate, meeting your every emotional need. It’s perfectly healthy to shop with your girlfriends, watch sports with the guys and complain about your parents to your best friend from high-school – not your spouse.

In fact, a strong social network is crucial to keeping your intimate relationship working order past that first blush of love. If you have isolated yourself with your soul mate to the exclusion of your friends and family, to whom will you turn when you have a fight with your spouse? Disagreements and hard times are normal—and often necessary—within a growing relationship, and since a marriage is made up of two fallible human begins, we all need some help along the way.

Mature love is more valuable – and more enduring. The search for a soul mate is a symptom of the consumer culture, says William J. Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota: We are looking to acquire a person who will complete us in the same way we acquire an iPhone to make us feel cool. “Of course, once inevitable tension and conflict arises, I might conclude that in fact this was not my soul mate–and I can justify leaving and setting out on a new quest.”

Just because two people may not complete each other in the romantic way we perceive a soul mate should, doesn’t mean they can’t have a fulfilling relationship. “When the soul mate glow wears off, the real marriage can start—based on mature love that is sustained by daily practices of kindness and connection and tested by conflict and struggle,” says Prof. Doherty.

Nancy Slotnick, a New York City matchmaker, warns that it’s impossible to speak for all couples. “I do believe in soul mates. I just don’t believe everyone gets lucky enough to find that person, but for those that do, I’d tell them to go for it, embrace it.”

She cautions, however, that if years go by and friends tell you that you’re too picky, or that you are constantly drawn to the wrong guy, it’s time to reevaluate your search for a partner. Perhaps your idea of a “perfect” match is holding you back from finding true and lasting love.

Want more? Check out my articles in The Wall Street Journal and U.S. Catholic on this subject.

Erica Jong, Naomi Wolf & Christine Whelan

On April 16th, 2009

Tonight at the Iowa Women’s Conference, I sat beside Naomi Wolf and Erica Jong to sign books… what a thrill! In fact, Naomi Wolf bought a copy of Marry Smart and says she looks forward to reading it.

Take Control of Your Love Life!

On April 15th, 2009

How can a SWANS® take control of her love life? Where do you meet a guy who will be attracted to smart, successful woman? Why do certain women seem to transfix men… while others just don’t?

teleseminarCurious? Well, so were more than 120 other SWANS® just like you. Last week, Dr. Alex Benzer hosted me as his guest in a national teleseminar featuring dating tips for smart, successful women. I answered questions, laid out no-nonsense advice and shattered myths left and right.
Missed the show? That’s OK–you can download it here.
This is a must-listen for all your SWANS® out there. And… after you listen, if you want more, email me at swans (at) christinewhelan.com to receive a free BONUS REPORT full of great tips on how to date smart in an economic downturn.

And while you’re at it, check out Dr. Benzer’s new book, The Tao of Dating, on his website: http://taoofdating.com/

Brad Wilcox on Andrew Cherlin's new book

On April 14th, 2009

41pcbiqo9ql_ss500_My colleague, W. Brad Wilcox, had an excellent review of Andrew Cherlin’s book, The Marriage-Go-Round, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Americans love the institution of marriage — and they like to do it over and over again, as the joke goes. This rise of contingent commitment in the U.S. has been the focus of family research for decades, and Andrew Cherlin is one of the leaders in the field when it comes to describing the changing trend.
Here’s an excerpt from Prof. Wilcox’s review:

How did the U.S. reach this state of affairs — in which marriage is almost universally desired and yet more fragile than ever before, with almost half of all first marriages ending in divorce court and a series of hybrid family forms adding confusion and instability to children’s lives? Mr. Cherlin points to competing “models” or ideas of marriage. On the one hand, he notes, most Americans believe that marriage is the best social institution for bearing and rearing children and that marriage should be grounded in a permanent, faithful and loving relationship. On the other hand, Americans celebrate individualism more than people in other Western societies and so believe that they are entitled to make choices that maximize their personal happiness. When a marriage becomes unsatisfying, difficult or burdensome, according to this model, it can be dissolved — it even should be dissolved.

Such contradictory impulses push the vast majority of Americans into marriage and then push a large minority out again when their dreams of marital bliss go unrealized. It does not help that Americans in recent years have come to see marriage as a symbol more than a covenant — as a kind of “capstone” signaling that they have arrived at a certain position in the world, with a good job, a good résumé and now, it is hoped, a soulmate who will make them happy. Meanwhile, poor and working-class adults — especially men — lack the cushioning financial assets of their privileged counterparts, so they are even less likely to get married or stay married.

It’s a fascinating book — and very readable. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the changing relationship landscape.

PLUS: Watch this space for more: This weekend I’ll be at the Council on Contemporary Families conference in Chicago — along with both Andrew Cherlin and Brad Wilcox.

Weekly Relationship Tip: Dating in a Downturn & Beyond

On April 8th, 2009

SWANS, I’ve got two related tips for you this week:

1) Check out my HuffingtonPost column on Dating in a Downturn — It’s packed with 8 tips for recession romance.

2) Sign up for my FREE teleseminar TONIGHT — at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific to hear me talk with Dr. Alex Benzer about dating advice for smart women. If you sign up, you’ll get a bonus link to a Special Report on finding the best match for you in these tough economic times. And it’s TOTALLY FREE.

Have a great week!

Naomi Wolf, Erica Jong … and Christine Whelan?

On April 7th, 2009

Next Friday, April 17, I’ll be speaking at the Iowa Women’s Conference from 8:30-9:20. Other conference speakers include Marian Wright Edelman, Ann Bancroft, Naomi Wolf and Erica Jong.


The title of my talk is: Success is Sexy: Shattering Myths About Women, Power & Love

And a few of my key takeaway points include:

Myth: Men are intimidated by smart, successful women
Reality: 3/4 of men said a woman’s career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife, according to a nationally representative 2006 Harris Interactive survey

Myth: Working women aren’t good mothers
Reality: Mothers are role models for their daughters and sons: Men whose mothers worked outside the home were much more likely to seek out a similarly smart, successful woman as a wife themselves

Myth: Powerful women aren’t attractive to men
Reality: Being the boss is sexy:  High-status and powerful women were consistently rated as more attractive, according to a 2005 national survey.

But perhaps the most exciting (or hilarious) part of this event is that on Thursday April 16 at 5:15 p.m. I’ll be at the Coralville Marriott doing a joint book signing with Erica Jong and Naomi Wolf.

Which one of these is not like the other? ;-)

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