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Are You Normal About Sex, Love, and Relationships?
By Bernice Kanner
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Bernice Kanner
All rights reserved.
The Big Picture
IS ALL FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR?
Perhaps because it's been wormed into us as an indisputable truth, four out of five people accept this cliché as the way of the world. But the rest wonder if this isn't really asking whether the end justifies the means.
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW YOUR HEAD OR YOUR HEART?
Emotion triumphs over logic. When it comes to choosing a partner, men and women believe that the road to happiness is built more on following their hearts (58 percent) than their heads (41 percent). Sixty-seven percent of women consider themselves romantic, as do the majority of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds of both sexes (72 percent vs. 54 percent of those over sixty-five).
WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY IN A S.O. (SIGNIFICANT OTHER)?
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief ... hardly matters is our belief. For 47 percent, emotional warmth and nurturing are the critical characteristics. For 23 percent, it's a sense of humor. Eighteen percent say their partners must be intelligent and 6 percent say they must have confidence and power. For 4 percent, physical appearance counts the most and 2 percent admit that love can follow money.
DEPENDABILITY OR PASSION?
Eight percent refuse to consider one without the other, insisting that both qualities are essential. But 57 percent say a considerate, dependable partner is more important in the long run than one with an unquenchable zest for life.
WHAT MAKES A MARRIAGE WORK?
A sizzling sex life can cheer you up, but in the the recipe for what makes a good marriage, it's listed very low down, below trust and companionship.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT MARRIAGE IS A LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT?
It's for keeps. Some 43 percent of women and 45 percent of men — including many who are separated, divorced, or have never been married — believe it should only be ended under extreme circumstances. On the other hand, a fourth of women and 18 percent of men believe people do change and may grow apart over time and that a covenant entered into when they were young shouldn't trap them for life. Roughly a third of both men and women straddle this fence, protesting that people should try hard to save their marriages before divorcing.
WHEN IS THE IDEAL TIME TO MARRY?
It may not be ideal, but it's very real. The average bride nowadays is just over twenty-four and her groom is going on twenty-seven. That's up from the 1980s when the average first-time newlyweds were twenty-two and twenty-six, respectively. This is largely because of a yearning to be financially stable before marrying.
IS IT OKAY FOR MARRIED PEOPLE TO FLIRT?
Theoretically we honor fidelity, but more than half of us (56 percent) don't get our feathers ruffled when our mates strut their stuff. Most feel it adds excitement to a relationship by plucking the jealousy string.
DO YOU THINK MAKING IT HARDER TO DIVORCE WOULD IMPROVE SOCIETY?
Toughening the requirements for divorce would better society, say three out of five people. But only 39 percent strongly support covenant marriages where grounds for divorce are limited to abuse or adultery. At the same time, 47 percent of young men and women say that laws should be changed to make it harder for couples to divorce. Women are likelier than men to believe this.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH?
Get with the times. The seven-year itch, it appears, is a myth or a relic of slower-paced lives. More divorces happen in the fourth year of marriage than after any other stretch.
DO YOU THINK LOVE IS AS CRITICAL IN MARRIAGE TODAY AS IT ONCE WAS?
Love still makes the world go 'round and plays the same pivotal role in marriages today that it did two decades ago, according to 47 percent of people. A third feel other considerations such as a societal fit or lust have become more important, while 16 percent say the relevance of love has grown on this scale, as women no longer marry just for economic security.
WHO IS MORE ROMANTIC: MEN OR WOMEN?
Women, say 48 percent of us. One in ten choose men, while 39 percent see no gender difference. Men and women split on the issue in like proportions.
DO YOU THINK LIVING TOGETHER BEFORE MARRIAGE BODES WELL?
It may bode well for the individual, but not for the union. Those who adopted the so-called "renter's agreement" are 50 percent likelier to divorce than those who never shared an abode before. They're less committed to weather the tough times.
CAN A COUPLE STAY IN LOVE THROUGH A LONG MARRIAGE?
Although love ebbs and flows, it hovers, say 91 percent of us. Fifty-nine percent believe that sooner or later the desperate passion gives way to a deeper kind of love. But 6 percent feel that after a time boredom erodes love, and then the marriage is pretty dull.
WHO IS MORE SUBMISSIVE IN MOST RELATIONSHIPS?
Perhaps we're just a PC culture, or perhaps equality is still very much a relative term, but 49 percent of us see couplehood as a union of equals. A quarter of people feel women are the more submissive partner and 15 percent see the male as a milquetoast.
HOW MANY PARTNERS IS "NORMAL"?
Any number is "normal" but 17 is the "average" batting average over a lifetime. Some 92 percent of sexually active folks have had ten or more partners in their lifetime. One in ten men and 4 percent of women claim they've had sex with more than 100 partners. Highly educated women seem to have had the most partners, while almost a third of all women have had only one. Closer to home, the "average" American has slept with 14.3 partners — more than the French with 13.2, Australians with 11, and Brits with 8.8 partners. For 45 percent of men and 33 percent of women there haven't been enough notches on their belts.
HAS SEX BECOME TOO SOCIALLY CAVALIER?
It has, if your criteria is knowing all your partners well. Half (5l percent) of people can't recall the first and last name of every person with whom they've slept. The average Joe spends 730 hours a year musing about sex — and 22 hours a year having it. Half of us admit that at least once in our lives we've had sex with someone for whom we had no feelings.
IS SEX OVERRATED?
Compared to work it is, say 62 percent of people. Only 20 percent of men say they have sex as a way to unwind after a tough day. Fifty-two percent would rather play soccer or go to the gym. Eleven percent can even imagine going through life without ever experiencing sex — and not regretting it.
HOW ABOUT FALLING IN LOVE?
Over the course of a lifetime, we fall in love, on average, six times — starting with puppy love at thirteen and then the first serious relationship four years later. One out of four of us falls in love at least ten times, with women prone to more episodes than men. In a lifetime, 12 percent of us have had at least three unrequited loves.
DO YOU THINK THERE'S ONLY ONE PERSON OUT THERE FOR YOU?
Nearly three out of four Americans believe there is "one true love" out there to fulfill their destiny. This belief is strongest among those married a long time, (79 percent), very recently (76 percent), or the poor.
DOES ABSENCE MAKE THE HEART GROW FONDER?
Two-thirds of us (69 percent) think separation fans the flames but 31 percent figure out of sight, out of mind. Statistically, long distance relationships fail three hundred times more often than those couples who see each other daily or even weekly.
IF LOVE HAS FLED, SHOULD THE PAIR PART AND START NEW LIVES?
Once again it's a cultural divide. Just over a third of Americans (35 percent) believe that if the marriage has gone asunder for lack of love, it's best to seek amour elsewhere. In contrast, 78 percent of Brazilians feel that way. The English, Indians, and Chinese are somewhere in the middle, averaging about 46 percent.
THINK SEXUAL EQUALITY HAS DAMPENED ROMANCE?
Nearly half of us (49 percent) feel the movement toward equal rights and opportunities for women has thrown cold water on romance. Thirteen percent feel it has stimulated arousal. Even the gloomiest, however, think romance is still rampant, feminism or not.
CAN WE HELP WHO WE FALL IN LOVE WITH?
Sixty-three percent of us say "you betcha," and that you can direct and govern who you fall for.
DO YOU THINK GREAT SEX CAN TRIGGER LOVE?
Men and women think differently here. Sixty-nine percent of women say if they didn't love their partner before sex, no matter how great it was, they won't love him after. But 46 percent of men say a magic sexual experience can induce emotional feelings that weren't apparent before — that people's behavior during sex says a lot about their character that would make them appealing, or disturbing. Indeed, 40 percent of men and 35 percent of women believe that great sex with their partners was instrumental in triggering the relationship.
DO THE WORDS "NICE" OR "SWEET" TURN YOU OFF?
Nice and sweet are not the words we want to hear. More than two times as many people (41 percent vs. 16 percent) translate them as "boring" and "wimpy" and dial down the subject's sexual allure. The rest view the words as neutral.
HOW MUCH DOES FALLING IN LOVE AFFECT HAPPINESS?
Big surprise: it does a lot more for men than women. One in five men compared to just 14 percent of women list falling in love as a key factor affecting their happiness levels, according to Thomson Holidays. For women, spending time with friends is higher up the happiness chart.
IF A RELATIONSHIP NEEDS WORK, IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT?
That depends on what kind of relationship it is ... and what they will get out of it ... and what they have already invested in it and gotten out of it ... and what it will cost them to work on it. If there's a lot of emotional capital on the table, 81 percent of women and 89 percent of men think it justifies investing more. The rest feel that if it's broken, best to throw it away, without tossing good money after bad.
IS LOVE BLIND?
Most people — especially younger folks — certainly believe that some things in life simply can't be understood and who we love and why are two of them. But older people with more life experience say that love is eyes wide open, appreciating and recognizing who the other person is and what the attraction is.
WHAT CONSTITUTES SEX AND WHAT'S JUST FOOLIN' AROUND?
Blame it on the Bill Clinton — Monica Lewinsky scandal for introducing the "just foolin'" concept into the mainstream. Technically "sex" refers to stimulation of sex organs, but most people talk about it to mean only intercourse. More than one in ten high school students who called themselves virgins admitted they'd had oral sex and more than one in three had petted heavily or had "outercourse." Seventy percent of the boys had gone down on girls and 57 percent of the girls had performed fellatio at least once before they had "sex."
WHICH CARRIES MORE WEIGHT: FIREWORKS OR FRIENDSHIP?
More than two out of three say that the excitement fizzles but the qualities that establish a friendship grow in a romance.
WHAT'S MOST SOUGHT AFTER: MODEST OR MOSTEST?
That depends on whether the seeker is inner or outer directed. Extroverts tend to look for busty, nude Playboy models, while introverts, overwhelmed by the flash, incline toward less busty, fully-dressed, pale, thin English-rose types.
HAVE MEN BECOME TOO SOFT AND SENSITIVE?
They've still got a ways to go before that becomes a problem, say 73 percent of women.
IS A ROMANTIC CHASE AND CHALLENGE STILL EXCITING?
Even in an age of sexual equality, 60 percent of both men and women confess that the idea of a sexual chase is more of a turn-on than equal willingness on both sides.
DID YOU WATCH JOE MILLIONAIRE PICK ZORA?
Drawn by the question whether it was money or love, 40 million viewers watched the romantic payoff of the reality dating drama — as Evan Marriott admitted to Zora that he wasn't rich.
FOR A WOMAN, WHO SHOULD COME FIRST, HUSBAND OR KIDS?
Twice as many say the marriage is more important than its progeny (13 percent vs. 6 percent). But 72 percent insist that husband, children, and self are all equally important.
SHOULD COHABITANTS GET THE SAME BENEFITS AS MARRIEDS?
Nearly half of us — 45 percent — feel the government should provide cohabiting and same-sex couples with the same benefits — and tax penalties — as married couples.
IS IT OKAY FOR A WOMAN TO HAVE A CHILD ON HER OWN?
A majority of people (62 percent) think that while it's far from ideal, it's all right for an unwed adult woman to have a child on her own.
IS MARRIAGE AN ANTIQUATED CONCEPT?
The knot may have its faults, but for 88 percent of us, marriage is still relevant and the best system that we've got or can envision.CHAPTER 2
State of Your Union
DO YOU EXPECT YOUR SPOUSE TO BE YOUR SOUL MATE?
If you've never been married and are young, chances are you do. Ninety-four percent of teens and Gen Xers anticipate that their spouse will be the yin to their yang. Older folks take into account that marriage may also be an economic, logistics, and parenthood partnership.
ARE YOU AFRAID OF COMMITMENT?
Thirty-seven percent of women and 17 percent of men confess that the fear of commitment is why they call their significant other, their "semi" significant other.
DO YOU FEAR BEING ON YOUR OWN?
Twenty-nine percent of people are sufficiently unsettled by the prospect of being by themselves that they stay in relationships that may not scratch their every itch. But almost half say they are not at all afraid to be on their own.
WHAT'S MOST ENDEARING ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE? MOST IRRITATING?
For a third of us hearing him or her murmur "I love you" every day is worth the price of admission. On the other hand, a third find their partners' propensity to not listen to be most infuriating. And 18 percent of women and 13 percent of men hate their partners' cooking. Fifty-seven percent of us say having a resident best friend is the nicest part of being married. Four percent take a less chivalrous — or more practical — stance, claiming they can get sex whenever they want.
WHAT'S THE NICEST PART OF MARRIED SEX?
Its intimacy, say 58 percent of men and women. Another 22 percent claim that marriage has freed them of inhibitions, making their sex hot and explosive. Twelve percent are enraptured by the coziness.
DO YOU ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR SPOUSE BEFORE BUYING SOMETHING BIG?
"Big" is the operative word here. For the most part, couples say they seek consensus on purchases that cost an average of $134. But 62 percent buy their own clothes without consulting their S.O. regardless of the price and just over half purchase jewelry for themselves without prior (or subsequent) approval.
WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO INITIATE A "RELATIONSHIP" DISCUSSION?
Eighty-three percent of women say they are the ones most likely to begin the discussion that starts with "Let's talk about us ..." Only 57 percent of men, though, agree that it's the women who speak first.
WHAT DO YOU MOST WANT FROM YOUR WIFE THAT YOU'RE NOT GETTING?
We know that women want to be listened to, but what men want has always been something of a mystery. Mystery solved: 38 percent of men want their women to show them more affection and 30 percent want their spouses to be more open spiritually. Twenty-six percent of men and women wish their partners would ask them more about themselves and their day.
HAVE YOU EVER WISHED TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND SUDDENLY BE SINGLE?
A third of women said they thought about getting the whole bed for themselves, while just one in four suppose their husbands had ever considered seeking a divorce. Almost four out of every five couples who have been miserable at one point in their marriage but didn't follow through on their impulses to divorce found themselves happy five years later after sticking it out. Researchers have dubbed this the "marital endurance ethic."
HOW OFTEN DO YOU AND YOUR PARTNER FIGHT?
First let's define terms: an argument is not a fight. A fight is when you call in the artillery and aim to flatten your partner emotionally. This, it seems, we're not doing all that much. Sixty-two percent of women and 43 percent of men say they hardly ever go at it with each other and 22 percent of men and 16 percent of women say they do so perhaps once a month. One in five men and 15 percent of women guestimate that they brawl once a week and 15 percent of men and 6 percent of women say they wrangle more often. Then again, some researchers suggest that bickering may actually be the key to marital bliss and preferable to sweeping problems under the rug.
Excerpted from Are You Normal About Sex, Love, and Relationships? by Bernice Kanner. Copyright © 2004 Bernice Kanner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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