Question: Should I change my name when I marry? I'm a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we've said no. We have thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn't want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we've talked about planning a family in the future, it's occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I've been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don't mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I didn't. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?
Question: When is delegation in a marriage irresponsible or unwise? There are some parts of normal adult life that I'm really bad at, in part due to social anxiety. Examples include calling or meeting with companies (airlines, banks, etc) to make changes, writing emails that involve stress or conflict, scheduling events that we'll both attend, budgeting and finance, driving and navigating, and dealing with mechanical stuff. Should I ask my husband to do those chores? If I ask for help, I worry that I'm being weak, lazy, and avoiding my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I try to do the hard things on my own, I often mess up. Where's the line between delegating and shirking?
Question: When is a person responsible for an unexpected and unwanted child? Sex sometimes results in an unexpected and perhaps unwanted pregnancy. What are the moral responsibilities of each party in this situation? Do a person's obligations depend on prior agreements about what would be done in such a case? Do they depend on whether contraception was used or not? If the man said that he didn't want children and used contraception, yet a pregnancy occurs, does he have any moral or legal obligation to pay for an abortion, support the child, or act as a father? Does the answer change if the woman agreed to have an abortion in advance, then changes her mind? Should couples talk explicitly about these matters before sex?
Question: Should spouses always share activities? A friend of mine is loathe to pursue any hobbies or interests that her husband doesn't share. He's not controlling: she's the same way. Although I know that they want to spend time together, that seems really limiting to me. Is that a reasonable policy in a marriage – or does it lead to self-sacrifice and mutual resentment?
Question: Should people who merely like and respect each other ever marry? Imagine that a person doesn't think that he'll ever find true and deep love – perhaps for good reason. In that case, is it wrong to marry someone you enjoy, value, like, and respect – even if you don't love that person? What factors might make a decision reasonable, if any? Should the other person know about the lack of depth in your feelings?
Summary: What are the traditional ideas about love and sex in Chinese culture? How did those ideas change in Mao's time? How do Chinese men and women approach romantic and sexual relationships today? Is homosexuality accepted? What is the place of mistresses and prostitutes? Moreover, Robert Garmong told us of the pitfalls of marrying a Chinese woman – and explained why he did exactly that anyway.
Question: Are the promises of marriage binding when a spouse becomes self-destructive? When couples marry, they often promise to stay together "for better or for worse" and "in sickness and in health." But imagine that a wife chooses a self-destructive course of action – say, abusing drugs, profligate spending, or gambling. She refuses to listen to reason or change her behavior. Does the husband have an obligation to stay in the marriage or support her financially due to his past promise? Basically, what do the promises of marriage oblige a person to do?
Question: Should a woman give back her engagement ring if the relationship goes sour? A friend of mine asked his girlfriend to marry him, and she accepted. However, they broke off the engagement – and the relationship – a few months later. Is she morally or legally obliged to give back the ring? Is the answer different if they married, then split?
Question: Are spouses entitled to privacy with each other? My wife thinks that she should have access to all my online accounts, including my email. I don't have any secrets from her, and my email doesn't contain anything scandalous. Still, I don't want her prying into my conversations, and I don't see that she has any reason to do so. I've never given her any reason to distrust me. Aren't I entitled to some privacy in my marriage?
Summary: As the cause of gay marriage gains ever-more traction, many have wondered whether marriage really matters. Attorney Tom Varik argues that it does. In this interview, he discussed the legal status and importance of gay marriage, including the recent Supreme Court cases, as well as the history and limits of spousal privilege.
Question: Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians? In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person's life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person's intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?
Question: Should marital infidelity be illegal? Many states, including Colorado, have laws against marital infidelity on the books. These laws are rarely if ever enforced. Politicians often attempt to repeal them, but those attempts are often unsuccessful. Many people think that the government ought to "take a moral stand" even if the law isn't enforced. Does that view have any merit? Should these laws be repealed? Why or why not?
Question: Should alimony payments upon divorce be abolished? Traditionally, a man was obliged to financially support his ex-wife upon divorce. Recent reforms have decreased the amount and duration of alimony in some states, as well as made it gender neutral (in theory). But are such payments ever justifiable? If so, under what conditions?
Question: Are arranged marriages legally and socially valid? A coworker of mine in his early 20s grew up in India. His parents have arranged his marriage to a young woman who also now lives in the US. He appreciates that his parents selected a wife for him: he doesn't want to spend the time or take the risk of finding a wife himself. Should such a marriage be considered legally valid? Is it just a marriage of convenience? Is the practice of arranged marriages immoral and/or impractical?
Question: Can marriage be self-interested? Most people describe marriage as requiring compromise, sacrifice, and concession. Is that right? Is a happy and fulfilling marriage possible where each person pursues his or her own values, without such compromise, sacrifice, or concession? Is some different approach to marriage required?
Question: Is "gay marriage" a valid form of marriage? Many people oppose gay marriage on the grounds that marriage is essentially religious, that procreation is central to marriage, or "traditional marriage" should be respected. Should gay unions be considered a valid form of marriage, legally or socially? Might civil unions be an acceptable alternative?
Question: How might social conservatives be convinced to support gay marriage? Rob Portman, a Republican Senator from Ohio, recently decided to openly support gay marriage after his son came out to him and his wife. What can be done to help other conservatives see gay marriage in a new light – as a matter of liberty and individual identity?
Question: What is the value of marriage? How is it different from living with a romantic partner in a committed relationship? Is marriage only a legal matter? Or does it have some personal or social benefit?
Question: Are materialistic couples less likely to have a lasting relationship? A recent study by Brigham Young University claims to show that concern for money causes stress in a relationship and that people who love money tend to be more impersonal and less passionate towards their loved ones. Is that right? Does it reveal some defect with a morality of worldly values?
Question: If a married couple wouldn't marry again, should they split? Many married couples seem to stay together due to inertia, not because they truly value each other. My view is that if a couple wouldn't marry again, they should get divorced. Is that too high a bar in marriage?
Question: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter?
Question: Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancée is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?
Question: Should I spend time with a friend and her husband if I can't stand him? A friend of mine is married to a man with the same views of love and marriage as Jim Taggart. He is of no value to me, and I hate being in his presence. My friend invites me to spend time with the two of them and other friends of hers. Should I decline the invitations so that I do not grant her husband any undeserved attention or friendliness? Or should I accept so that I can see my friend? To do the latter feels like insulting my friend and betraying my own values.
Question: How should I respond to an unwanted gift given to me by my in-laws? My in-laws often give me presents that I don't much like – like frumpy boring sweaters and books I'll never read. I thank them kindly for the present, but I'm not effusive in my praise. Recently, they gave me something really pretty inappropriate for me – on par with giving a bacon cookbook to a vegetarian. I wasn't sure whether it was just clueless or hostile. How should I respond?
Summary: Is your romantic relationship and sex life hampered by wrong ideas and bad habits? Are you inadvertently sabotaging your relationships? Find out how to stop holding yourself back with some simple tips.
Question: What do you think of the "Five Love Languages"? The basic idea of the "Five Love Languages" is that every person has "a primary way of expressing and interpreting love," and that "we all identify primarily with one of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch." What do you think of this concept? Do you think that a person's "love language" might be connected to his personality traits?
Summary: Most couples know the joy of sharing loving "extras" with their partner. In fact, making those efforts to do something special isn't really "extra," it's part of a vibrant romantic relationship. The challenge is figuring out what actions to take in practice.
Summary: DiSC is a personality profile system that uses four basic profiles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness. A person can use DiSC to understand himself more deeply, capitalize on his strengths, compensate for his weaknesses, and communicate and collaborate with others better. How so?
Question: Is it true that, "if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner"? A few months ago, a Republican presidential candidate said of Newt Gingrich, "if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner." Leaving aside the specifics of any particular politician's personal life, is the broader principle accurate? If you knew that someone cheated on his wife, does that mean he should be regarded as an untrustworthy for a business partnership? Or as morally unfit to be your doctor? Or as unfit to be an elected official?
Question: How can I stop my spouse from sabotaging my self-improvement? Over the course of my 15 years of marriage, I'd gained over 100 pounds. After feeling disgusted with myself for too long, I decided to change my habits. So I switched to a paleo-type diet and started lifting weights. So far, I've lost 40 pounds, as well as shed some health problems. My husband still eats what he pleases, and I don't pester him about that, although he needs to eat better too. However, he's constantly attempting to undermine my efforts – for example, by bringing home and encouraging me to eat doughnuts. I want him to celebrate and support my new-found success, but he seems to want me to be fat, unhealthy, and miserable. What should I do?
Question: Is sex without love or romance irrational? Is it wrong to have sex with someone that you don't love – or don't love yet? (Here, assume that the person isn't unworthy, but just that you're not in love.) Couldn't that be the start of romance? What if you don't have any intentions of pursuing a romantic relationship with this person?
Question: How are evasion, rationalization, and context-dropping similar and different? When thinking over a problem I notice that these terms can often be applied simultaneously. So what do they mean – and how are they similar and different?
Question: Is it moral to marry someone just to obtain a green card? Given the difficulties of immigrating to the United States, is it immoral to circumvent those bad laws by marrying someone solely to obtain a green card? Would it matter if the person were a good friend?
Question: Should women adopt the last names of their husbands? In today's culture, some newly-married women adopt the family name of their husbands. Some keep their own last name. Some hyphenate their names together. Some use their maiden name for work, but their married name in their personal life. Some couples adopt a wholly new name for themselves. What do you think of these various options? Should the possibility of divorce affect a woman's decision? Should the husband have a say in the woman's decision? Should men be more willing to change their own last name to that of their new wife?
Question: Should the state be involved in marriage contracts? Many people say that gay marriage shouldn't be a political issue, because the state shouldn't be involved in defining marriage at all. Is that right? Why or why not?
Question: Is it racist to refuse to date people of a certain ethnic background? Recently, black singer Jill Scott said that she felt her soul "wince" whenever a black man married a white woman. Many people have denounced that as racism, and I agree with that. However, I was shocked to see a black man (known to me only via Facebook) say that he'd never date a white woman due to the history of slavery in America. He even suggested that Tiger Woods was some kind of traitor to his race for marrying blonde beauty Ellen Nordegren. Is that racist?
Question: Is it moral to stay in an abusive marriage for the sake of the children? Should a woman stay in a marriage where the husband is abusive toward her because she has kids with the husband and wants her kids to have some sort of future? Does it matter if the man in question has some – or even all – the financial capability?
Question: What do you think of a couple living together outside marriage? Do you think that a romantic couple living together without being married is moral and/or wise? Does the stage of the relationship matter, including whether they plan to marry or not? Does living together before marriage result in a happier or more enduring marriage?
Question: Should a married couple ever separate temporarily for the sake of their respective careers? In your 1 May 2011 webcast, you said that long-distance relationships are inherently problematic because the people are living separate lives due to the physical distance between them. Does that mean that committed couples should never separate temporarily for career reasons? If they do, how can they manage that better so as to preserve the relationship?
Question: Should age matter in romance? Is it in your rational best interest to date someone who is significantly older or younger than you? Assuming that both individuals are mature, is there anything wrong with an 18 year old dating someone who is 38? Or a 40 year old dating someone who is 60? Or a 70 year old dating someone in their 20s? Does age matter?
Question: Should you tell someone else's secret to a spouse? I know a lot of times when I share personal information with my best friend, I assume that she will (and am okay with) her sharing some or all of that information with her significant other. I think she makes the same assumption, that I will share some of what she tells me with my husband. If (hypothetically) there was something I didn't want her significant other to know about, would I be right in asking that she keep a secret from him? On one hand, the information I'm sharing is personal and I might like to keep it between us. On the other, is it right to ask her to keep something from him?
Question: What's the difference between a close friendship and an "emotional affair"? Where do you draw the line between them? What's the essential wrong of emotional affairs, if any?
Question: Is it moral to have a sugarmomma or sugardaddy? My fiancee and I both have demanding careers, but she earns several times more than I. How should a married couple with very different incomes share income and/or expenses? If we agree to split household expenses evenly, my lower income is a significant constraint on her enjoyment, e.g., she can't buy an expensive house because I can't afford half of it. On the other hand, if we split expenses unevenly or if we treat all income as pooled, it seems that I'm benefiting lavishly from things I didn't produce. Is it moral for me to enjoy an expensive hobby which I couldn't have afforded on my own? I'd love to hear more about how you and Paul manage income and expenses, and especially what ethical principles apply.
Question: If a woman, for example, has cheated on her husband, should she always tell him afterward? So if a woman cheats on her husband, then regrets doing so, and decides to re-commit herself to the marriage. Should she tell her husband about that infidelity? What if the cheating was a short fling rather than a serious affair? What if the revelation would seriously damage or even destroy the marriage?
Question: If a husband cheated on his wife, and she never knew about it, he never got anyone pregnant, and he never got any STDs, would she be harmed? If so, how?
Question: Should people call their parents-in-law "Mom" and "Dad"? My brother in law started calling my parents "mom" and "dad" – and in turn my sister now calls his parents "mom" and "dad". This seriously offends me. My parents earned the title of mom and dad. They RAISED us – they cared for us, educated us, taught us values, loved us, and corrected us when we were wrong. My relationship with my parents is one of the most important relationships of my life and one I don't take lightly. I would never think to call anyone else "mom" and "dad" because no one else has even remotely earned it. It would only cheapen the relationship for me. I think my brother in law is being too familiar with my parents, and disrespectful to his own (and vice versa for my sister). Are my feelings valid? And what can I do about them if they are not?
Question: A friend (we were once close, but have grown apart in recent years) confides that she is cheating on her husband and has no plans to tell him. I have no idea what to do – I neither wanted this secret nor want to help keep it from the husband. I'm angry.
Summary: Many people lament the difficulty of finding good prospects for a lasting, deep, and happy romance. Others have trouble finding worthwhile friends. Yet most people who bemoan the lack of prospects could be doing much more than they are to increase their odds of success. Too many people don't adopt a purposeful approach but instead wait passively... and complain.
This 90-minute podcast discusses how to make yourself a good prospect – and how to find good prospects – for romance and friendship.
This 90-minute podcast discusses how to make yourself a good prospect – and how to find good prospects – for romance and friendship.
Summary: I answer three questions on romantic relationships concerning (1) friendship after a failed romance, (2) romance between people of very different philosophies, and (3) managing finances in marriage.