media love: modern family

Modern Family is a new show that premiered last Wednesday on ABC. Let me just start by saying that it's ridiculously hilarious. It follows three unique families (who are all related): Ed O'Neill's (aka Al-freakin-Bundy!) character Jay is the patriarch of the family. He is married to a much younger and more attractive Latin woman, Gloria, who has an 11 year old boy. Jay has two grown kids of his own. His daughter, Claire, is married to her husband, Phil, and they have 3 children ranging in age from pre-preteen to teen. His son, Mitchell, is in a same sex relationship with his life partner, Cameron, and they have just adopted a child from Vietnam. While the emphasis of the show is about the dynamics of a modern family, the three romantic relationships within this family each have their own significant value and important message about love.

So, if you're looking for a new show to become addicted to this fall, try watching Modern Family tomorrow night at 9pm. Until then, check out this preview...
(FYI: if you'd like to watch the pilot yourself, don't watch this preview--it basically shows most of the first episode in 3 minutes. If you're ready to watch the second episode tomorrow night, go ahead and watch this clip.)

wise love words: some break-ups need celebration

Below is a reprint of an article about why some break-ups may require a little celebration. The author of this article, Laura Dave, is also the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party and London Is the Best City in America. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, The New York Observer, and now on Jens Love Lessons. In August, Cosmopolitan magazine named her as one of the eight "Fun and Fearless Phenoms" of 2008. For more information about Laura Dave, visit


5 Reasons to Celebrate a Break-Up
By Laura Dave
Author of The Divorce Party: A Novel

This weekend, I am going to my favorite place on earth: Big Sur, California (pop: 1,049) -- a beautiful town on the Monterey Peninsula. In anticipation, I pulled out my books by Henry Miller, a writer closely associated with the area. As I flipped through the pages, I came across a saying from Miller's lover, the author Anais Nin, that I had handwritten into the margin. Nin wrote: Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing.

Running my fingers over these words, I started thinking of my most recent novel, The Divorce Party, in which two women find themselves fighting not to let love die. And I recalled all of the people I spoke with over the course of working on The Divorce Party who found themselves fighting that same fight -- and sometimes deciding it was better to let it go. These are five reasons that they shared with me, and to which I return when someone close to me is struggling with a break-up.

1. Some Relationships Are Meant To Be Seasonal

Ty, a man I spoke with in Cleveland, was devastated when his first relationship after his divorce ended badly. He wanted to marry his new partner. But after closer inspection of their relationship -- she was only recently separated herself, they had conflicting ideas about marriage and family, they had different values -- he acknowledged that what he liked best about their relationship was that it provided distraction and comfort during a mutually difficult time. "We have passion, but, when I'm honest with myself, I don't know what we have in common on the other side of all of our drama," Ty said.

In Ty's candor, he has hit on something that is important to remember: some relationships are meant to be seasonal. They get us through a tricky period, they make us feel alive again. But that doesn't necessarily translate into two people being compatible for longer commitment. A psychologist, who I spoke with after Ty, said it eloquently: "Feeling love or passion is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship. Liking your partner is just as important. Ask yourself: do you enjoy spending time together? If you do, find a way through the inevitable problems. If you don't, ask yourself if your relationship has served its purpose."

2. The Wrong Person Can Make Us Feel Wrong

A couple in New Mexico, Cassie and Jason, met and married in three months. It was a whirlwind. Sadly, after the dust settled, Cassie realized that her husband liked the whirlwind more than being married. "As much as I bend myself into a pretzel to make him happy," Cassie said. "He criticizes me and makes me feel like I'm failing him."

It is human to feel that it's your fault when a relationship goes awry, especially if you have a partner who is more interested in finger-pointing than getting to the crux of what is ailing the two of you. But there is a difference between working hard on a relationship and working too hard. If someone is constantly meeting your efforts with endless negativity, it may be time to consider changing the conversation.

3. The Rope Gets Awfully Heavy . . .

When I spoke with a book club in New Jersey last year, we ended up discussing what makes relationships work. We came to an image of two people on either side of a long rope, holding their ends up. The key is that both people don't drop the rope at the same time -- that if the rope stays raised, even on one side, the relationship stays safe. I like this image because it suggests the mutual caretaking inherent to a good relationship. Which led to one of the book club members confessing the flipside: "My first marriage was over when I realized I was the only one holding up that rope. I never got a chance to rest, to reboot. It became too much."

No one can be the only one to hold the rope, not all of the time. We all -- at the end of the day -- need someone to help. If we find ourselves moving on from someone who wasn't, that -- in the end of a new day -- can be a big relief.

4. The Universe Sometimes Has More Interesting Plans For Us Than We Have For Ourselves

A woman I spoke with in Oregon took me on a tour of her home. It was her dream home, and she proudly explained that she wakes up there with the feeling that she's exactly where she's supposed to be. But she only found this peacefulness on the other side of a devastating heartbreak. "I fought like cats and dogs to stay with someone who was wrong for me," she said. "Thankfully, I lost that fight and ended up in the right life."

This reminds me of something crucial: we're not always wise witnesses to our own lives. Sometimes, in spite of tightly clinging to an idea of how we want our life to be, the universe has a plan for us that is braver and better than the one we had for ourselves. The good news is, when we stay open to it, the universe often finds a way to deliver us there.

5. You Get To Bring You Wherever You Go Next

I was surprised when a male book club member in California announced proudly that Sleepless In Seattle was his favorite movie. He loved the sentiment expressed by the radio host who brings the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan characters together. She said: people who truly loved once are far more likely to love again.

I stand by this sentiment, and believe in its truth. The kindness and goodness and joy -- the ability to love -- that you give to a partner lives inside you. If the person sitting across the table from you can't accept those gifts, be excited. As hard as it may feel, be excited to give the best pieces of yourself to someone who is able to accept them. As the man in California wisely said: "happy endings don't always come in the form that we hope for. But, for those of us who believe in them, and work for them, they do come."

©2009 Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party: A Novel

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wise love words: openness creates a climate of security and trust

Being open with your partner is one of the best ways to maintain your relationship, according to relationship researchers Stafford & Canary (1991). Steven McCornack, the author of the textbook entitled "Reflect & relate: An introduction to interpersonal communication," summarizes the importance of being open in your relationship in a relatable and easy-to-understand manner. Below is a reprint of Steven's wise love words:

The second most commonly reported maintenance tactic is openness. Through openness, you create a climate of security and trust within your relationship. openness in a romance doesn't just happen; it emerges when each person behaves in ways that are predictable, trustworthy, and ethical. Over time, consistency in behavior fosters mutual respect and the perception that feelings and concerns can be discussed honestly and without fear of repercussion.

You use openness when:
  • You take time to talk periodically with your partner about your relationship
  • You encourage your partner to disclose his or her thoughts and feelings, and offer empathy in return
  • You regularly share (in a constructive fashion) you relationship feelings, wants, and needs with your partner

You undermine openness when:
  • You avoid or refuse to have "relationship talks" with your partner
  • You react defensively when your partner shares his or her feelings, attacking and disparaging your partner's perspective
  • You routinely keep things hidden from your partner or betray your partner by sharing confidential information about him or her with others
(McCornack, 2007, p. 356)

Related Love Lesson Posts:

  • McCornack, S. (2007). Reflect & relate: An introduction to interpersonal communication. Bedford/ St. Martins: Boston.

Click HERE to all of my "wise love words" posts.

from hello to i do: the five stages of relationship development

I recently taught my students about the five stages of romantic coupling created by relationship researcher Mark Knapp. Later that week, Hus and I went shopping at the almighty Walmart. As we walked up and down the aisles, I began to notice the different pairs of individuals we passed. I started to try and classify each couple into one of the five stages. For instance, there was this one couple that was holding hands, smiling, and talking about what they wanted to eat that night. Neither person had a ring on his or her finger, so I figured that they weren't married. They kept saying things like, "do we need dish soap?" and "do we need lunch meat?" To me, this implied that they lived together. Based on this brief interaction, I concluded that they were likely in the fourth stage of development.

Have you ever wondered what stage your relationship is in? Read each description below and you be the judge.

Stage 1: Initiating
This stage is characterized by individuals sizing each other up. You are in this stage with someone you have just recently met. Maybe you're checking him out from across the room or maybe you're standing right next to her and thinking about starting up a conversation. However you meet, you haven't spoken to one another yet. You're examining his or her physical appearance to determine if this is someone you want to chat with. You may rely on their clothing, physical attractiveness, gender, ethnicity, age, body type, and/or posture to make this evaluation. If you are interested, you will likely develop some sort of greeting and initiate a conversation.
Stage 2: Experimenting
Once you've gotten past the initiating stage and you've decided to talk to this new potential mate, you will enter the experimenting stage where you begin to disclose superficial information (like your name, hometown, age, favorite hobby) about yourself to this person. Based on what you learn about your potential future sweetie, especially what the two of you have in common with each other, you'll decide whether or not to see him or her again and move on to the next stage. So, in the initiating stage, you're deciding whether to start a conversation with this new person and the experimenting stage results in a decision about whether you're ready to begin a relationship with him or her. You and your prospective partner could be in the experimenting stage for a day, a week, or even a few weeks, depending on how often you see him or her. Individuals who move towards creating a relationship then move onto the intensifying stage.

Stage 3: Intensifying
When in this stage, you and your partner are likely experiencing strong feelings of attraction and liking. The breadth and depth of your disclosures increase and your use of pet names will also likely increase. This is additionally where you increase your physical expressions of affection like cuddling, kissing, hugging, hand-holding, and/or sexual activity. In this stage, couples may also want to test their relationship to see where it is going. Last, but certainly not least, this stage is characterized by expressions of commitment. Couples could be in the intensifying stage for a few weeks to a few years.
Stage 4: Integrating
The fourth stage of relationship development is called the integrating stage. This is where you begin to combine your lives, physically, emotionally, communicatively. You may begin to spend a lot of time with each other, leaving personal items at each other's homes or even moving-in together. You may also find that you are able to finish each other's sentences or that you have developed a secret "insider" language together. In addition, you will begin to develop joint attitudes and beliefs (ex: "we like that show"), while also creating shared activities and interests (ex: "our favorite restaurant" or "our song"). Using "we" language instead of "I" language is also a characteristic of this stage. Again, this stage could be long or short.

Stage 5: Bonding
If you're lucky, you and your partner might make it to the final stage of relationship development: bonding. Bonding is distinct from the other stages in that you will likely only make it to this stage with a few select people in your lifetime; maybe even just one. In this stage, couples publicly express their commitment to each other, usually through marriage.

So, what stage are you in?

Related Love Lesson Posts:

just for the love of it: top 10 romantic hotels on the east coast

Are you in need of a romantic weekend with the one you love? Maybe you're planning your honeymoon or maybe you want to take your new partner somewhere special or maybe you just need a weekend away from the kids. Whatever the reason, below is a great list of ten wonderfully romantic inns, hotels, and resorts found all up and down the east coast.

Location: Washington D.C.
Description: "Red is the focus at Washington's Hotel Rouge, with guest rooms and a cozy lounge all celebrating the color. Guests can take part in the Rouge's complimentary evening "red wine and red beer" hour on weekdays, or complimentary Bloody Mary bar on weekends."
Romance: "The nightclub-style decor focuses on the sensual, and the hotel offers "Soiree Rouge" packages featuring stone massages, cocktails, truffles, and feather boas."
Cost: $169/night and up

Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Description: "The Planters Inn is the heart and soul of Charleston. The beauty of Charleston architecture and the convenience of being located in the heart of Old Market, the Planters Inn is the place for you."
Romance: Sip champagne and take a private carriage ride through historic Charleston.
Cost: $225/night and up

Location: Jackson, New Hampshire
Description: "Located in the timeless town of Jackson, NH the Nestlenook Estate & Resort offers the most elegant and luxurious accommodations available in the Mount Washington valley."
Romance: You can enjoy champagne while taking a horse-drawn carriage to a romantic dinner for two at a local restaurant. Or you could take a romantic walk around the gorgeous gardens.
Cost: $169/night and up

Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Description: "Private and Peaceful setting for every Log Cabin Rental in a Secluded Smoky Mountain Resort with all the amenities and close to all the attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Townsend, and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
Romance: You're staying in a private cabin in the woods... enough said.
Cost: The resort has a wide variety of private log cabins like 1 BR private log cabins from $129-$189/night and 4BR private log cabins starting at $325.

Location: New York City
Description: "An eclectic luxury New York City hotel where the unexpected is commonplace. Savor the minimalist aesthetic, fashionably attired staff, and lavish extravagances. Marvel at the two-story aquarium and the whimsy of a portrait gallery where all the art is mounted on the ceiling..."
Romance: This hotel's luxurious rooms and placement in the heart of the city will put you in the mood for love.
Cost: $197/night and up

Location: Cresent Beach, Maine
Description: "The Inn is one of Maine's premier luxury beach destinations. All 57 guest rooms, suites and cottages have been designed to pamper you with comfort in a sophisticated palette of deep red, cognac and charcoal with maple furnishings and locally commissioned artwork."
Romance: You can "wrap yourself in romance" at this luxury Inn by indulging in the amazing ocean views, the couples room at their spa, a walk on the beach, and a room with a fireplace.
Cost: $400 and up

Location: Little Torch Key, Florida
Description: "Tucked offshore of Little Torch Key and accessible only by boat or seaplane, the resort is a world unto itself, alive with hidden pleasures. Crushed seashell paths wind through lush gardens to thatched-roof bungalows, which serve as your guest quarters. Extra spacious, each suite and grand suite has romantic touches such as a king-size bed draped in butterfly netting, verandahs with ocean views and, in some rooms, private outdoor showers and jetted tubs."
Romance: This resort offers six different and incredibly amazing romance packages. For instance, here is the description of the "You Had Me At Hello" package: "What better way to start your life of eternal bliss together, than returning from a delectable dining experience to a gently candle-lit boudoir enhanced by one dozen gracefully arranged roses. Here, amongst silky rose-petals, is a chilled bottle of champagne, complemented with two custom etched Little Palm Island champagne glasses. Top off your ultimate day entwined in satin sheets sprinkled with rose petals to make memories that will last a lifetime. No goodbyes will be heard here!"
Cost: doubles from $1,670 including meals

Location: Duck, North Carolina
Description: "The Sanderling Resort & Spa on North Carolina 's Outer Banks touches the shores of both the majestic Atlantic Ocean and the serene Currituck Sound. Located near, Duck, N.C., this North Carolina resort, The Sanderling, with its luxurious spa overlooking the sound, is the Outer Banks only true resort."
Romance: This resort offers romance packages that include couples massages, couples tub soaks, a daily morning bakery basket, gourmet chocolates, & champagne.
Cost: $325 and up

Location: Marshall Creek, Pennsylvania
Description: "With its beautiful country club atmosphere, Pocono Palace combines an endless array of activities and sports with the ultimate accommodations. Pocono Palace is also home to The Arena - a 32,000 square-foot sports and entertainment center that delivers year-round fun and excitement, including racquetball, basketball, roller-skating, miniature golf, tennis, billiards and arcade games. Winter offers snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and many other activities and sports to keep you active throughout your stay. Escaping in the summer? Serve it up on the tennis courts, or head down to the lake for a speedboat or paddleboat ride, waterskiing or fishing."
Romance: A full-service spa, delicious food, and live entertainment. Specifically, this resort offers a wide array of spa services, free hors d'oeuvres and weekday midnight snacks in their Gladiator Lounge, and nightly entertainment in their Gladiator Nightclub. During the week, they even have Theme Nights.
Cost: $300 and up

Location: Located on the Georgia Coast Cumberland Island, Georgia
Description: "A grand and graceful mansion located on Georgia's Golden Isles on the state's southernmost coastal island, Cumberland Island. It's an unplugged retreat (no Internet or cell service) with an 18-mile white-sand beach."
Romance: This hotel offers private nature tours and therapeutic massages.
Cost: rooms starting at $475 a night with all meals included

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wise love words: there are specific ingredients for a healthy relationship

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I teach an undergraduate interpersonal communication course at a midwestern university. And, in this course, we talk about love and relationships quite a bit. Each semester, I ask my students to finish the simile "Relationships are like..." After we discussed this year's responses, which were mostly filled with baked goods references, I decided to take this activity a bit further than I have in years past. Since the theme this semester happened to be baking, I asked my students to developed a list of ingredients for relationships. "If a healthy relationship was a delicious cake, what would be the ingredients?" They ran with it. Students yelled out their opinions, they discussed each option, and they all agreed on the following list:

Then, I had them all discuss and create a list of ingredients found in unhealthy relationships. Here's what they came up with:

I thought they did a pretty good job. What do you think? If you were making relationship cookies, what would you include?

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book i love: intercourses

I love this book! It's well organized, has delicious recipe ideas, has many creative photos, and is just all-around interesting.

Here's the book description from the InterCourses website:

"The New InterCourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook includes more than 145 aphrodisiac recipes for love and romance. Couples everywhere love this book for its romantic results, not to mention its sensual images of food set on the backdrop of the human body, tasty recipes home-tested by couples across the country, and thorough appendix with recommended aphrodisiac vendors, recipes for edible massage oils and bath salts, and charts for choosing the right aphrodisiac for the season of year, time of day, or even stage of the relationship. InterCourses is organized by foods that have been considered aphrodisiac ingredients throughout history—chocolate, asparagus, chiles, coffee, basil, grapes, strawberries, honey, artichokes, black beans, oysters, rosemary, edible flowers, pine nuts, avocados, libations/alcohol, and figs. Each chapter begins with a photograph of food on the body—an asparagus skirt, a maillot of pine nuts, a tribal necklace of figs. The images bring the food to life in a fresh light, transforming ordinary foods into extraordinary aphrodisiacs."

Make a sexy meal for your partner and watch the aphrodisiac ingredients go to work!

Related Love Lesson post

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