Social media is wonderful for keeping in touch with friends and family. At the same time, there is one category of person that you should not be reconnecting with-ex flames. Facebook has made it incredibly easy to indulge in nostalgia and look up people from the past. The Australian magazine The Age recently delved into the near-epidemic of social media-inspired affairs with the article “First love, the second time around.”
Nostalgia drives social media searches
Most people do not reach out to past romantic partners consciously looking for an affair–yet this is what often happens. Old flames hold strong sway over our hearts, triggering powerful and deep-set emotions related to desire, regret and attachment. Relationships that occurred during teenage years seem to be especially powerful. Continue reading ‘The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online’
Although divorce levels have been high and rising for decades, it certainly seems like a milestone that beloved children’s program Sesame Street has finally tackled the issue of divorce and children. In a series of videos available online, character Abby Cadabby discusses her “big feelings” about her parents’ separation and receives support from Gordon and other cast members. Two other segments interview real kids–an 11 and 10-year-old–who are children of divorce.
“We’ve always had a social component where we try to address issues in kids’ lives,” Susan Scheiner of Sesame Workshop told TODAY.com. Divorce is one of the most common major life transitions children experience, with 40% of children living in a divorced household. It is impossible to address the major experiences of growing up without covering it, whether to help children through their parents divorce, or help them develop empathy for their peers. Continue reading ‘Sesame Street debuts special program to help children of divorce’
Here’s a depressing number: In a survey of over 4,000 British couples, over 50% of married individuals said they had felt regret about getting married. Why is marriage so hard? Why are couples so unhappy??
Despite the attention grabbing headline of this article in the Daily Mail, the truth isn’t as bad as it sounds. Only 6% of couples interviewed said they spent most of the time feeling that they had made a mistake. The majority (26%) felt regret about their marriage only once or twice throughout their marriage; 19% felt this way “sometimes”. The top two regrets were the lack of independence and general boredom of married life. Lower on reasons for regret were believing they had married the wrong person, being attracted to someone else or not finding their spouse attractive anymore.
Here’s why I’m not too concerned about this finding: marriage is a big and very permanent decision–it’s natural to feel a bit uncertain about it once and while, especially when times are hard. Luckily, this doesn’t mean that %50 of Brittons are stuck in an unhappy marriage.
Despite the slightly misleading introduction, the article poses some good answers to the question everybody is asking: why is marriage so hard these days? The first two reasons for regret mentioned above may hold the key to the mystery.
Why is marriage so hard? The eternal question
Lack of independence
In previous generations, marriage was part the natural progression of life, tied into an accepted social order and buyoued by strong religious faith. The fact that we even are asking the question “why is marriage so hard?” is a marker of how differently we see marriage these days. In the past, marriage and anything that came with it were natural and unquestioned–plus, it wasn’t a choice. People these days are more socially and financially mobile, and expected to make their own decisions about life. ”We’re not accustomed to settling any more, in any area of our life,” says Rosie Freeman-Jones, who initiated the survey. ’Take into account also that the majority of British people are not very religious, and have a heightened interest in constantly upgrading and improving their lives, and it’s easy to see why people regret tying themselves down.”
It’s also easy to see why, when totally in charge of your own fate, you may regret your decisions: you can never know if it is the right decision. Questioning or uncertainty is not as much of a problem when religion and cultural expectations guide your choices.
Why is marriage so hard? A more revealing question is “Why do we think marriage shouldn’t be hard?” Marriage is an analog institution in a digital age. It requires patience, time, and careful nurturing. It’s fallible and difficult. This doesn’t mesh well with a society that expects constant change, instant gratification, and perfection and considers our personal happiness and fulfilment as–if not more–important than societal and community concerns.
Many people have disregarded marriage as obsolete for this very reason. I believe this is exactly why it is relevant. Marriage provides a beautiful counterbalance to our constantly moving, hectic and self-obsessed lives. It reminds us to slow down, invest, and care about something outside ourselves. So why is marriage so hard? Because the best things in life require you to fight for them.
May is mental health awareness month, and I’m excited announce a series of guest posts from marriage experts. Each week will feature a new guest post on a certain subject of mental health in marriage.
I’m kicking off the campaign by talking about the importance of talking about mental health–specifically when it comes to child rearing. I’m using a great TED talk lecture given by Babble.com co-founders Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman.
Americans are strong, independent, creative and adventurous. At the same time, we’re not very good when it comes to talking about our feelings, our challenges, and our struggles. Child rearing is one of those areas. As any parent knows, raising kids is hard. It takes its tole on our bodies and our minds. Yet when it comes to talking about our mental health challenges as parents, there are still taboos that hold us back. This lack of communication makes us doubt our ourselves…if it seems so easy for everyone else, why is it so hard for me? What’s wrong with me? Am I a bad parent? Am I a bad person? These doubts and anxieties whirl around inside us, growing on themselves and eating away at our self esteem and happiness.
It takes a lot of guts to get up and talk about your own difficulties with child rearing. Luckily, we’re seeing more and more of this as mental health taboos are broken and the “strong and silent” expectations of our culture shift towards one of sharing and mutual support. Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman are two brave pioneers. In December 2010, the couple gave a TED talk about the parenting-discussion taboos they’ve faced versus the realities of child rearing. They break the silence and tell us why it is so important to talk about these things with each other.
Taboo #1: You can’t say you didn’t fall in love with your baby the moment you saw him.
While this may be true for some parents, it should not be the expectation. Rufus points out he felt deep affection and awe for the little newborn in his arms, but not deep, enduring love like the love he felt for his wife at that moment. Love is what has grown over time and is the way he feels about his son now. The problem, Rufus says, is that we tend to think about love in binary: we are either in love or not in love. The truth is, love is a process; it grows and fluctuates constantly. This is as true for your spouse as for your children. You are not going to feel blissful, all-encompassing love at all times.
Taboo #2: You can’t talk about how lonely having a baby can be.
Alisa loved being pregnant. During this time, she notes, women are doted over with visits and wishes and love. Same for the moments in the hospital and right after the birth of the new baby. Then, all of a sudden, it’s just you and the infant. No one had mentioned that she would feel isolated and lonely. Why didn’t her sister–who had three children of her own–warn her? “I’ll never forget this–she said: ‘It’s just not something you want to say to a woman who’s having a baby for the first time.’” Postpartum depression and general loneliness is a huge and common burden for new moms. And it’s not “weakness”: it’s because what you are going through is hard! Knowing this can help mothers prepare and safeguard their mental health. After all, the baby is important, and so are you.
Taboo #3: You can’t talk about your miscarriage.
Having a miscarriage can be a devastating experience. During the talk, Alisa bravely shares the story of her miscarriage. Miscarriage is an invisible loss, she observes, there’s not much community support or closure that comes from any other kind of death. In addition to depression, she felt shame and embarrassment at “failing to do what she was genetically engineered to do,” and worried about the future of her marriage. After talking a bit with other women, she found that miscarriages were amazingly common in her community. Stories from friends and co-workers came out of the woodwork. In reality, miscarriage is not uncommon at all: 15-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Tragically, 74% of women believe that the miscarriage was “partly their fault.” This silent suffering and sense of shame prevents women from reaching out and receiving the mental health support they need.
Taboo #4: You can’t say your “average happiness” has declined since having a child.
Child rearing is amazing and magical and every bit of it is an utter joy. My children are my greatest joy. They are bundles of joy. Yet studies interviewing parents show that average happiness does indeed plummet with the birth of a child. Somehow, it’s not OK for us to admit that. Alisa and Rufus give a possible compromise explanation: before having children–in our late 20s–we settle into a nice, comfortable way of life with little that jars us our of our routine. At this point our average happiness is mellow and steady. After children, it runs up and down like a roller coaster. Yes, child rearing brings some of the most difficult and challenging times of your life–at moments, you will certainly be less happy that you were without children. And it’s OK to admit that! At the same time, parenting also rockets you into amazing moments of pure bliss and joy that you also wouldn’t have experienced without children. It’s just…different than pre-baby. It’s up and down and all over the place. It’s life.
As they conclude “Candor and brutal honesty is important for making us all better parents.” Sharing your difficulties as well as joys is key to airing out and addressing problems before they take a toll on your mental health (and marriage). This week, I challenge you to share a secret about your child rearing experience with a friend–something you feel you are alone in or slightly ashamed of as a parent. You might be surprised to hear that he/she feels the exact same way…
Funny marriage quotes are great for all sorts of occasions, from making toasts to giving advice, to simply making us laugh. They also open our eyes to the essentials of things like communication in marriage and balancing individual desires with your spouse’s needs. Talking about marriage and love is as old as…well, talking! So there’s lots of good material out there.
If you follow @po2marriage on twitter you probably know I love to tweet funny marriage quotes. They tend to get to the heart of marriage problems and blessings in only 140 characters. One thing I’ve noticed while researching quotes for sharing is that there are a lot of really bad funny marriage quotes. I mean quotes that get their humor from playing on stereotypes and bad assumptions about married life, in-laws, wives, children and husbands. When we retell these jokes and quotes, we subtly reenforce the logic behind them–logic that is actually destructive to marriage. Take this quote, for example:
Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.
There are a lot of quotes and jokes like this out there. They are funny, but negative. They all have the same message: that marriage is the end of any happiness you have, that it is endless and inevitable suffering and that smart people don’t get married. In this way, a disturbing worldview is embedded in these jokes. Mindset is a large predictor of what will indeed happen in your life (Dr. Heitler wrote a great article about it). Sometimes I wonder if our high divorce rate is partly due to these negative expectations–they becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you are choosing some funny marriage quotes to say during a wedding toast, stay away from these kinds of jokes. Not because the bride and groom will take them seriously and be offended, or because they aren’t funny (the “suffer-ring” line is clever!); but because the best wedding gift you can give the couple is a message of a positive and loving future.
Here are my top 25 funny marriage quotes and wedding sayings (not ranked):
“A happy marriage has in it all the pleasures of friendships, all the enjoyment of sense and reason – and indeed all the sweets of life.” ~ Joseph Addison
“A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he marries.” ~ anonymous
“You don’t need to be on the same wavelength to succeed in marriage. You just need to be able to ride each other’s waves.” ~ Toni Sciarra Poynter
“Spouse: someone who’ll stand by you through all the trouble you wouldn’t have had if you’d stayed single.” ~ Anonymous
“We don’t love qualities, we love persons; sometimes by reason of their defects as well as of their qualities.” ~ Jacques Maritain
“Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.” – Samuel Johnson
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin
“The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds – they mature slowly.” ~Peter De Vries
“To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart – about a finger’s breadth – for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.” ~Marnie Reed Crowell
“A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop words when speech becomes superfluous.” ~ Ingrid Bergmen
“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” ~Simone Signoret
“A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.” ~ Anne Taylor Fleming
“Woke up in bed with a gorgeous woman, who I’m going to have lunch and the rest of my life with.” ~ Jason Barmer
“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” ~ Albert Einstein
“One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again.” ~ Judith Viorst
“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” ~ Robert Anderson, Solitaire & Double Solitaire
“In the opinion of the world, marriage ends all, as it does in a comedy. The truth is precisely the opposite: it begins all.” ~ Anne Sophie Swetchine
“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” ~ Paul Sweeney
“Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage.” ~ Finnish Proverb
“A dress that zips up the back will bring a husband and wife together.” ~ James H. Boren
“Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” ~ Mark Twain
“Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day.” ~ Gene Perret
“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” ~ Andre Maurois
“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” ~ Martin Luther
“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.” ~ Robert Fulghum, True Love
Do you have those days when you and your spouse get dressed, roll out of the house and realize that you’ve put on almost the exact same outfit? You do it without communication in relationships–it’s subconscious. And it leads to some pretty funny couples photos. When I was a teenager, this would happen quite often with my mom, which embarrassed me to no end. Now when matching outfits happens with my significant, other we usually just shrug and keep going. We are too lazy to go back home to change. What do you think of matching outfits? Fun or tacky? Cute or creepy? An inevitable part of married life?
Here are some funny couples photos of those who have gone out of their way to coordinate with each other–the good, the bad, and the hilarious. Happy Monday, and happy MLK day (I know this post has nothing to do with MLK…I’m saving that for Thursday).
First, the unintentionally hilarious matching outfits:
An autistic child can be a huge stressor for a family. An average of 1 out of 110 American children are diagnosed with some form autism, usually around the time social skills normally develop, from ages 3-5 (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html). On the low end of the autism spectrum, a child may have only mild social withdrawal and can function relatively normally in social situations. A severely autistic child may be completely unresponsive to human contact, not speak, and also have an intellectual disability. Autistic children and their families face tremendous challenges, especially in making marriage work. As parents, you may feel frustrated and powerless to penetrate into the world of your child who you love so much.
While looking for a video this week and perusing ones with dogs and babies (the ultimate cute overload) I came across this heartwarming documentary clip about an family all the way in Scotland. Dale is an autistic boy who suffered violent tantrums and was completely cut off from the world as a young child. His parents agonized over how to help him lead a happy, normal life for a little boy. Nothing seemed to get through to him. Then along came Henry, a golden retreiver puppy. Henry and Dale slowly bonded as Henry’s playful, always-cheerful presence helped Dale learn how to socialize. This wonderful dog turned their life around. Check out this video and prepare to feel moved and, perhaps, inspired!
If your family is touched by autism, you might also want to check out the book based on Dale’s journey, “A Friend Like Henry.” In addition to relationship counseling, when we are faced with challenges, it can be helpful to hear from others who have gone through the same situations. Some of my blogger friends run specific blogs dealing with the trials and joys of life with an autistic child. I highly recommend for everyone to check them out. They are fantastic writers and storytellers.
This weekend my house almost burned down. It was a big wakeup call for family safety.
We returned from a movie date with my parents to find half the power out. Some lights worked, some didn’t, and there was no heat. After checking the fuses were fine we went outside to look at the breaker. This is the box that contains the connection from the street power lines into the house. Everything seemed fine, but there was a strange metallic and warm plastic smell hovering around the box.
Luckily it wasn’t too late and our neighbor who is an ex-electrician came over to check the situation. He turned off the breaker and unplugged it. Behind it, one of the nodes was completely burnt out. Clearly something was failing with the whole thing. Our neighbor moved the breaker into one of the plugs next to it to see if that was working. He switched it on and off; nothing happened. Thinking we might as well have sporadic power than none at all, he moved it back into its original position.
As he switched the breaker back on a huge arch of raw electricity leapt up and the whole box burst into a football-sized orb of fire. All the power in the house flared for a second and the lights of the houses down the street flickered. There was a horrible loud rushing sound. The breaker had failed in exactly what it was meant to do: be a safety catch to prevent the raw electricity from the power lines from blowing up. Because it was an electrical fire of enormous power, there would be no stopping the fire from catching the house and quickly starting to burn. My father, in a flash of genius instinct, struck his rubber booted foot into the blaze and amazingly managed to catch the “off” latch of the breaker. The arch stopped and the fire went out.
We stood in shock for a while. The fire had been so intense that the breaker—metal and hard plastic—had melted.
It was a sobering night. My father and our neighbor had an electrical explosion right in their faces. We could have lost them, and our house could be gone. The kindness of the rest of our neighbors was heart warming. They offered us blankets, hot showers, computer access, and food while we waited out the next three days without electricity. Sitting wrapped up at night by the light of candles made me think of the Connecticut families who have been without power for weeks. I live in California where the winter is chilly but mild. We’re pretty lucky. At the same time, we’ve been having a string of little earthquakes here that remind me that the “Big One” could be coming any time.
This is a bit of a deviation from my normal online marriage counseling posts, at the same time it is so important. Accidents and some disasters happen with no warning. At the same time, all healthy relationships should be prepared. I visited Fema’s Emergency preparedness site to get the low down on what we can do to keep our family safe in an emergency. The easiest thing you can do for your family safety is to make and Emergency Kit. We definitely used ours this weekend. Be sure to keep your kit updated and replace any items that may expire. Make sure everyone in your family knows where it is. It’s also a good idea to have another version in all your cars, including blankets and extra clothes.
BASIC DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit (included at end)
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Special supplies needed for baby or elderly people
Cash or traveler’s checks and change
Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF - 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
Matches in a waterproof container
Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
Paper and pencil
Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Spending time with our kids is good parenting. I mean, spending quality time with our kids, that is the best thing we can do for our families, right? But what if it isn’t? What if the best thing we can do for our family is to leave our kids with a reliable sitter so we can go out and have fun without them?
Dating is actually hard to do for most couples. The kids complain about being left out or being left at home. Dating often costs cold, hard cash. There are so many other things that need to be done. Maybe the most compelling argument is our own guilt: how can I take some of the precious free time we have as parents to spend away from our kids? We need more family togetherness, not less!
There are three important reasons why dating your child’s other parent is the best thing you can do for your child.
Your marriage is the trunk of your family tree. Keeping that trunk healthy is absolutely necessary for kids to be able to branch out healthy and strong. Did you (or anyone you know well) grow up in a family with a shaky trunk? That shakiness effects every day, every relationship those kids enter into. When children feel the strength of the trunk, they feel safe and connected and more able to succeed.
Happiness is a key ingredient to solid parenting, and relying on your children for all your happiness is risky. Our kids did not take a vow to cherish us or think of our wellbeing each day. That is the role of married people to one another. Spending fun, free time with your spouse should recharge your batteries, improve your communication, spice up your sex life. All of these will help you separate from your kids just a little so that you can have more of a sense of humor with them. Want to take your kids’ moods a little less personally? Enjoy your spouse, feel more like a team and you will have less of an urge to be a friend of your child’s.
If neither of these arguments is compelling to you, if you feel that your role as parent is more important than your role as spouse, then here is the best reason of all to date your spouse: Your child will look for a marriage that looks like yours. Since we want our kids to be happy in their marriage someday, we need to teach them by example how to enjoy being married! Show them how much fun it is to flirt, joke around with and appreciate your spouse.
Plan dates and talk to your kids about why you are doing this. Let them know how much you value your spouse. They will feel loved when they see how much you love their other parent!
About the author:
Dr. G is a Board Certified family physician, mother of four, and a professional parenting speaker and writer. Her signature individualized workshop, “How to Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate” captivates parents through her humorous straight talk, which lifts the guilt out of parenting. Her mission is to help parents raise children they can respect and admire. You can check her out at: www.AskDoctorG.com
Twitter: #AskDocG Facebook: facebook.com/AskDoctorG