A lot of first marriages break when people reach 40, unfortunately. In your late 30’s and early 40’s most people who were married in their 20’s and early to mid-30’s have children. There are many family obligations when your cuhildren are dependent on you. You still interact with your ex, and sometimes that is a source of conflict for the new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Merging familes is not a piece of cake. It is much easier when one of you do not have children and are willing to become a step-parent figure; as long as you don’t demand exclusive attention from your partner. If both have children, it is easier to understand the demands that parenthood entails. It is easier to arrange your routine around the children. However, it can also create a whole slew of problems, namely because you are trying to integrate two families with different values and habits into one. There is also interference from the other parent. No easy task, and I don’t envy couples in that situation.
When you become single in your 50’s though, a lot of the complications with children are generally gone. They may still be in College, but they are not dependent on their parents on a daily basis anymore. That is a great phase for dating again: you both have time, freedom to travel when you wish and lot’s of energy-you are still young. I see the greatest harmony in couples that age.
Finally, the maturity they have achieved make the petty stuff not so important; jealousy is not so much an element any longer, a sense of calm and understanding prevails, a sense of “we don’t have that many decades ahead so let’s make the best of life”, a sense of accomplishment, may it be professional or having successfully raised your children, an interest in causes and other bigger things than worries about money and kids, less need to impress, more personal confidence, less attachment to material things and less sexual addiction-relationships are more based in common interests and companionship than lust. Hopefully, 50 plus folks get to find someone who they want to spend their old age with, since being single and isolated in your later years is one of the biggest causes of early death.
What are dinks? That is how you call couples who have double incomes, no kids. Obviously childless couples that make a choice not to have children fit into that category, but I want to discuss the ones who are now empty nesters and middle aged. If you happen to have a good marriage and your kids are grown, living on their own and financially independent, you can have the best of lives.
When does middle age start and end? Somewhere from 45 to 65. Some say middle age starts at 40, some say at 50. Anyhow, since we are all living longer and looking a lot better at 50, I think that age group has been pushed forward.
This phase of your life can be the best in many ways. Your health should be good, provided you take care of it. Your finances are usually more secure, provided you have not been a victim of the job loss and economic upheaval of the 2008 recession former President Bush left us with. Having two incomes, sharing a house and not having any financial or time obligations with your kids does allow you to travel more, invest more, remodel more, enjoy hobbies, eat better, exercise more…the list of benefits is long. Not everyone though is lucky to have a companion at this phase of their lives, especially with the high divorce rate. And some people do very well on their own, financially and emotionally. For people like myself though, for whom having a loving relationship rates as a priority, being part of a DINK is just the ideal situation to be.
An interesting experience to share: see the meme on the left about women in Saudi Arabia not being able to go to a library alone? Well, I had the chance of listening to a Muslim woman in a party I went to last Friday. This woman said that even though we see Muslim women as victims of oppressive men, THEY are the ones who want to maintain the status quo, in particular the ones from rich families. The system that keeps women from enjoying the freedom that we have here also “protects” them in her view. They don’t have to work and they sometimes have a beautiful home and everything material they need. They like to take care of their husbands because they are the providers. They are scared of being homeless, live in poverty or become single mothers. So they like their golden cage.
Which makes me think that women have not yet found power, and never will until they have money. Money rules. A woman who can support herself and well doesn’t need to subjugate to anyone. There are many who have achieved this in the western world, but overall women continue to have the simplest positions and the lowest paying jobs. Therefore, they turn to men to save them. We all know that a man can be fat, old and bald that he can still find a younger woman who is attractive as long as she sees him as a good provider. Money has an interesting way to create “love”. Obviously, she will move on to a better provider if she has the chance.
It’s a vicious circle. Education is the route to financial independence; so it entrepreneurship. Many women feel they can’t compete so they lag behind. A man is the only way to feel safe and secure, especially when children are involved. That is one of the reasons women stay in bad relationships and “fall in love” for men with money. In third world countries that is very common. So I was presented with this other angle of the “poor Middle Eastern oppressed women”. This lady also said the mothers raise their own sons that way, to feel more important and more valuable than a woman, and have sisters cater to their brothers since a young age.
I say education is key, but women’s desire to be protected keeps them from achieving.
A myth that is perpetuated by many Brazilians is that there are many mentally ill people in America compared to other countries. Mental illness is a condition that can affect any human being, anywhere.
America has a higher number of serial killers, although the crime du jour seems to be senseless shootings of as many people as possible. Brazilians like to say that in Brazil there are more crimes of passion while America has more crimes of hate. In reality, there is a lot more crime per capta in Brazil, fueled by money and goods (cell phones, watches, cars..).
When it comes to the urban myth that Americans are crazier than other nationalities -which can encompass from slightly nerdy to violently murderous-here are some possibilities:
1) The nuclear family is less prevalent in America. Many single parents, higher divorce rates, more lonely seniors, more never-married folks.
2) The decentralized cities, the far-out suburbs, higher dependency on individual cars instead of walking and public transportation; less human contact overall.
3) Winter. Long months of short days, grey skies, uninviting cold temperatures that make people cocoon. It is well known that people get more depressed in the winter and rainy days.
4) The Protestant work ethic. More work, less play. Long hours, 3 jobs, long commutes. Less time for family, friends and community.
5) A more materialistic society. Acquiring goods only promotes temporary happiness. There are many poor folks in developing countries that claim to be very happy with very little.
6) The gun culture. The “cowboy and war movie” culture. The glorification of violence instead of diplomacy and negotiation.
7) Lifestyle. More processed foods, less fresh fruit and vegetables. Less walking and biking compared to other countries. Low nutrition diets and lack of exercise do not promote mental health.
8) Extreme individuality. The idea that everyone can “pull themselves through their bootstraps” makes people not look for help and suffer alone. Selfishness in intimate relationships that makes people never commit because they are waiting for the bigger better deal.
9) The cost of therapy. Mental health was not included in many health plans. Now, under the ACA, it will be. Nevertheless, most people cannot pay their share of the cost. Free services are few and sometimes not quality based, and people do not know where to find it. Clergy do not have the qualifications to help mentally ill people and sometimes only make it worse with religious prejudice.
Here are some staggering statistics about mental health in the US vs the rest of the world (from 2004): http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040601/rate-of-mental-illness-is-staggering
The nature of work as we know it has dramatically changed since the middle ages. Work had no regulation, no limitation, no protection and consumed every waking hour of humans’ lives. In the farming era the whole family would physically work from dawn to dusk. In the industrial era children and adults would work long hours with little to no breaks in terrible conditions.
Thanks to the labor movement and to “Das Kapital”, we now have regulations in place to have a balance between our work lives and our personal lives.
However, a bigger change is happening while we breathe: work-the way we work now-is becoming less and less physical and more pleasurable. How can work become more pleasurable? Simple: menial and repetitive tasks are increasingly being taken over by machines-automation and computers, so we even while at work, people have more time to chat with co-workers, go online or just sit back and relax-we are becoming more and more supervisors of our own work.
You may be thinking: how come cooks and servers are still working so hard? Yes, they do, and the nature of their work might also improve with time-it has certainly gotten easier with microwave ovens, electronic kitchenware and computers that calculate the bill.
Working from home and teleworking are also two big trends that improve our quality of life. We can do the same we do in an office cubicle and be more present for our families, friends and communities. Computers have made many administrative tasks completely viable of being performed from anywhere in the world. Doctors can more easily make diagnosis and see patients less. Robotics will improve and eliminate dangerous and risky jobs. War will use less human effort. I foresee “work becoming play” to be more and more pronounced over the decades.
Brazilians want free public healthcare of the best quality. They also want plenty of qualified doctors.
That costs a lot of money
Brazilians want dirt cheap reliable public transportation.
That costs a lot of money
Brazilians want free elementary, middle and high school education with first world standards. They also want free universities.
That costs a lot of money
Brazilians complain about corruption, but elected back into office the same corrupt former president that had been impeached by the people (Fernando Collor). Brazilians call all politicians corrupt (which is true), but they vote for them! They are in denial about the fact that they voted for notoriously corrupt people.
Brazilians complain about having one of the highest tax rates in the world (40%) and not having good services back. While that has merit, the demands on the government to provide everything free and of the best quality require a lot of taxes! And if the money is not being well used (example, full pensions until death for government workers, bribes upon construction of bridges and highways and schools), it is because Brazilians don’t know how to vote.
Brazilians love soccer and want to attend all the games. They wanted the World Cup to be in Brazil. The stadiums had to be built on FIFA standards of safety. Now they complain about them. However, Brazil won the Confederations Cup and everybody cheered and celebrated. They brag about how mnay foreigners attended that cup.
Brazilians complain about not having any money for important social issues, but spend millions on a papal visit when the Vatican has billions! As well as promoting an institution based on lies, corruption and the protection of tons of pedophile priests!
Make up your mind Brazilians!
I don’t need to repeat that the number one criticism Brazilians make of Americans is that everyone here is obese. While the US is probably the fattest country in the world, it doesn’t mean that there is not a portion of Americans who are health conscious, try to eat less and right and frequently exercise.
Other notions Brazilians spread of Americans:
1) American parents let their kids do whatever they want. In this case, we do have overworked parents who do not control their kids or impose rules, but there are many parents who do! Quite a gross generalization.
2) Americans kids leave their homes at the age of 17 and lose their sense of family. First off, not every child goes to school out of town. Many kids stay at home until they get a good paying job now, and even kids who go to College out of town continue living at home during breaks and holidays. Furthermore, the fact a kid spends 4 years of his life in College and never returns to his parents’ home does not mean they love their parents less or lose their “family” values. Most kids keep in regular touch with their parents and visit them often.
3) Americans are cold and only think about money. Another generalization probably stemming from the fact America was founded with puritan values and the Anglo-Saxon work ethic as well as the perception that Anglos, Germanics and Scandinavians have less emotions. Truth is, many Americans are very giving, help others, volunteer, are good friends and are there for you-sometimes more than the “warm Brazilians” who are all talk.
4) Americans only take two showers a week. Hmmm, maybe in Alaska. It really varies from individual to individual, but most people I know take a daily shower.
5) American women are “loose”. This is based on the fact it was in America that the women’s lib, the hippie movement of the late 60’s and the drug and rock n’ roll culture started. Actually, the average urban woman usually waits about 4 dates to have sex with a new potential boyfriend. STD’s and “The Rules” have made women a bit more self-conscious about having one night stands.
6) Americans are blond and blue eyed. Amazingly, some Brazilians still think America is mostly white. They have no idea how diverse the urban areas have become.
7) Americans love war and love to invade other countries. While this can be true of some more radical right wingers, nobody “loves” wars and would prefer not to be in one. Also, many people, especially liberals, are against pre-emptively invading a foreign country.
Many of these myths are based on accounts of people who have visited and lived in the United States, but many do not have the necessary exposure to American culture to understand it deeply. Many Brazilians do not learn good English skills or live surrounded by their Brazilian family or friends. And many myths are similar to the perception other countries have of Americans, many based on Hollywood and TV shows, which have shaped this perception since the advent of the motion picture.
When I arrived in America in 1997, very few people would kiss their friends on their cheeks to say hello or goodbye. I remember that at my first job, there was a co-worker who moving to another state and we had a little farewell party for her. I shook her hand and gave her the 2 kiss treatment, which is very popular in Brazil. She froze for a second, puzzled with my audacity and invasion of her personal space. Even though I knew some Americans felt uncomfortable with that gesture, I kept it going with everyone I met. After a few years, I noticed that more and more Americans were adopting this habit. Now everyone is kissing! Did I start a trend? I don’t think I was the only one of course. I think the wave of more recent immigrants from South and Central America brought on the habit.
Besides kissing, people are hugging more. Notice how people who were just introduced or who work together take pictures now: everyone has their arms around each other. If you look at group pictures from only 20 years ago, people usually stood side by side without touching any body part.
Nowadays, you don’t know who is a couple and who isn’t based on pictures. Hugging and having your arms around someone from the opposite sex was reserved for couples. They say people from Germanic, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon origin have more issues with public displays of affection. I still think White Americans are not so passionate with their lovers in public, but they seem to have adopted the 2 kisses and the hugging people you hardly know in pictures quite well.
Talking to some Brazilian friends who are in the dating market, we compared notes about dating in Brazil vs. dating in the US, and came to the conclusion that dating in America is much more confusing. In Brazil, once you start going out with someone, there is an implicit understanding that you are a couple. That means you readily tell your family and friends you have a significant other. You keep in touch daily. You see each other also almost daily. You start sharing your friends and activities. You know where you stand. You don’t question the relationship so much: “are we dating?”, “are we serious”? Brazilians also display much more public affection, like holding hands and kissing. It is an affectionate country.
In America, especially with the multitude of options online dating has created, it seems people have become flakier and that often translates into an on and off relationship. Don’t get me wrong: in Brazil, online dating is also popular, but the essence of what couplehood means remains the same as before. That is, once you start a romance, you don’t look for others. You see each other almost on a daily basis and starting behaving as a couple.
In the US nowadays it seems everyone is looking for the bigger better deal. You go out with someone but you don’t show much commitment. You have “back up” plans. The guy or girl you call on Sundays when you are bored, because your Friday and Saturday nights are reserved for searching for the BBD (bigger better deal). You keep your back up plan happy with a few dates far and between and a few phone calls. You keep your backups a bit hidden since you don’t want your social circles to think you are a couple. God forbid a BBD shows up in a party and you are with the back up!
If it doesn’t work out with your partner in Brazil, you end things properly. In America, many people are acting so passive agressively nowadays that they seem unable to break things up with someone or tell them right in the beginning they are not interested in the other romantically. So relationships drag in that sea of doubt. People forget their manners and disrespect each other by not answering the phone, text or emails. Again, they are so unsure of what they want while they leave you hanging, just in case it doesn’t work with the BBD…
Our society has made us believe that we deserve perfection. Nobody wants to work in a relationship anymore nor put up with normal issues people have. Men want women who look perfect like the photoshopped world they grew up seeing. Women dream of Don Draper types without the womanizing. Selfishness and materialism has subverted the family values we once had and that are still strong in countries like Brazil.
Brazil has a lower divorce rate than America. Families stay together for longer (most kids only leave home when they get married), and people tend to live near their families. This family atmosphere also makes couples take their relationship more seriously. Once you both meet each other’s family, the pressure to stay together is stronger.
This lack of commitment and constant search for the perfect companion (or soul mate like many like to call) is one of the strongest reasons for this lack of commitment we are seeing in the American dating scene. Couple that with all the supermarket choices of online dating, the “I want it now” mentality of high speed internet/life that has produced instant gratification, the easy access to porn (which banalizes sex) and the disintegration of the nuclear family and you can understand why so many people are complaining about the dating world nowadays.
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