Divorce rates for couples over 50 are rising. The culprit? Marriage and retirement. Retirement represents one of the biggest life changes since graduating college or having children. This complete rearrangement of your daily routine, social status, and perceived purpose in life has the potential to put untold stress on your marriage. Here are some tips for navigating the waters of marriage and retirement in a way that preserves your strength as a couple and steers you clear from the turbulence of divorce.
1. Marriage and Retirement Planning
One of the biggest problems starts with pre-retirement planning. As we prepare for retirement, we often make lots of mental plans about what and how to do it. When these develop in our minds and don’t share them with our spouses, we are setting our marriage and retirement up for miscommunication, disappointment and conflict. Continue reading 4 things you need to know to navigate marriage and retirement
Coping with divorce is a difficult process. Here are three steps that will help recover, learn and grow from your experience.
1. Give yourself time to heal
Nobody expects someone who’s just had surgery to be back to work the next week. Emotional injuries need time and nurturing to recover, too. You may feel exhausted, disoriented, sad, stressed and angry from your divorce. It may even be hard to identify what you are feeling. Use this time–weeks, months, whatever seems right to you–to explore your emotions and simply be with them. This is time for you–not your ex-spouse. Avoid contacting him/her and instead work on building up your personal strength. Continue reading Coping with divorce: steps for moving on
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
Divorce is tough, and life after divorce may seem daunting when you’re in the thick of it. Here are three steps that will allow you to recover, learn and grow from your experience.
1. Give yourself time to heal
Nobody expects someone who’s just had heart surgery to be back to work the next week. Your heart, too, has been injured and it needs time to recover. Divorce is an emotionally and mentally draining process. Use this initial time–weeks, months, whatever seems right to you–to react to what has happened. Explore your emotions and let them flow through and away from you.Continue reading Navigating life after divorce
It’s natural to feel nervous before your wedding day. After all, it’s one of the biggest events of your life. At the same time, it pays to listen to your gut.
While we traditionally joke about and brush off nervousness before marriage, a new study by UCLA psychologists have found a link between wedding jitters and rates of divorce. Out of the 232 new couples enrolled in the study, 64% of individuals reported feelings of hesitation or doubt before tying the knot. Over all more men than women tended to have premarital doubts. At the same time, women’s worries were a better predictor of divorce. Continue reading Pay attention to wedding jitters for a better marriage
Unexpected conflicts, anger, illness and change…some marriages have a lot to deal with. This week I’m featuring the best articles I’ve read recently on overcoming various causes of an unhappy marriage. We’ve got everything from new studies on emotion regulation to a blog dedicated to helping spouses with chronic illness. I hope you find the articles as interesting as I did!
Did Scientology Destroy Tom and Katie’s Marriage? via the Daily Beast
The biggest news of the past week has to be the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce. Gossip abounds about their unhappy marriage and Scientology’s potential role in their break up. This article from the Daily Beast is the most well-written one I’ve read about the split. It poses lots of interesting questions and delves into important issues. The conclusion: this is one marriage with very valid reasons for divorce.
Showing Fake Love Leads to Real Romance, via Jagran Post
Not that you should fake emotions, especially during an unhappy marriage. At the same time, we fall into patterns of being out of love that involve body language cues like eye rolling or turning away when we speak to our spouses. These reinforce our negative feelings about our partner. This British study shows that you can put the spark back in your relationshipby using the body first and the mind will follow. Take the effort to make loving gestures, even if you don’t geel all the way there yet, can help you redirect the negative emotions into positive and eventually loving ones.
Self-Distancing May Help Deal with Anger, via Counsel & Heal
Anger and negativity is the cause of many an unhappy marriage. Counsel and Heal provides advice from two new studies on regulating emotion with self-distancing. Self-distancing is the practice of removing yourself mentally from the emotional situation–imagining it objectively as if it were happening to someone else. “The self-distancing approach helped people regulate their angry feelings and also reduced their aggressive thoughts,” say the researchers of one study.
Warning: Your Spouse Has Changed! via Alisa Bowman
Alisa offers a thoughtful and smart response to a reader who laments “My wife is just not the person I married 14 years ago.” Life is change. You will change, your spouse will change, your world will change–and it won’t change back. “Forget about who your spouse used to be,” Alisa writes. “Think about who you need your spouse to become. Then think about how you might change to enable that spouse to follow your lead.” A great, philosophical read.
Helena Madsen runs the Chronic Marriage blog to provide support and advice to marriages where a spouse is dealing with a chronic illness. In this introductory post she outlines the qualities of maturity couples need to survive and thrive in a chronic disease situation. I look forward to reading more from Helena!
When your spouse insists on separation, is that the end, or is there a way you can win your marriage back? How to get your ex back is the subject of Dr. Heitler’s recent post on Psychology Today. In it she explains five essential steps to recovering from a separation and reconciling with your spouse. She follows the story of Peter, a real patient who allowed her to publish his writings to her in order for others to learn from his experience.
Step #1: Get back on your feet.
“Human experience has not yet devised anything,” Peter writes, “that can shield us from the pain of a broken love, the pain of feeling thrown out of your own world and out into the cold.” A separation–perhaps being thrown out of your own home–is a devastating experience. Allow yourself to feel pain, disappointment, loneliness, and anger. These are part of your grieving process. At the same time, don’t act on these feelings. Know that they are your body’s reaction to an emotionally painful event, acknowledge them, and let them pass through you over time.
A healthy marriage is made from two healthy individuals. Now is the time for you to rebuild your emotional and physical health so you can focus on how to get your ex back from a place of strength. Reach out to friends and counselors, get active, and try new social and spiritual activities. Don’t move forward with the other steps of how to get your ex back until you are truly back on your feet.
Step #2: List your spouse’s complaints.
Listening to complaints about ourselves is one of the hardest things to do. Many times our spouse’s criticisms touch on habits and behaviors we are well aware of and bring up feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt. To protect our ego from this pain, we practice avoidance, defensiveness and anger.
Many of your marriage problems may have come from avoiding confronting complaints. Well, no more! Make a list of each specific complaint that your spouse has, each reason that he or she has for divorce. Remember, “information is power,” Dr. Heitler writes, “even information you don’t like.”
Step #3: Clean up your act.
Neither of you bear the full blame for the collapse of your relationship; each of you contribute your own part. Your job is not to change your partner–you can only change yourself. Now that you have an honest list of areas to work on, it’s time to do just that! Make a game plan of clear, doable steps towards how you can address and solve your problem areas.
For example, Peter had once cheated during a business trip. To make sure this would never happen again, he made certain rules: he would never hang out after work with co-ed coworkers; he would go back to his hotel room by 10pm, call home and watch a movie; he wouldn’t drink.
Peter also knew that his dislike of his job had caused him to fall into a self-obsessed depression. This had lead to further distancing from his wife, increased his loneliness, and partly contributed to his infidelity. He promised himself to attend regular therapy, avoid thought patterns of “victimizing” himself, and immediately started looking for a new job.
Step #4: Agree to divorce the old marriage.
An essential part of how to get your ex back is acknowledging that your old marriage is done for, finished, kaput. And that’s a good thing! It was toxic. Let your spouse know that you agree with him/her: you want a divorce from your old marriage. You want a new marriage but still with the same person. This is possible! Our thoughts, behaviors and habits are actually quite maleable. At the same time, they require practice and discipline to change. Learning the skills for a great marriage will take time and dedication, and is achievable for practically every couple.
Step #5: Reconnect from a position of strength.
Now that you are stable, healthy, and have a clear plan for how to do your part to build a new marriage, it’s time to meet with your ex. Get together in a neutral space that doesn’t provoke emotion or appears too intimate, such as a cafe or park. Again, how to get your ex back does not mean changing or controlling him or her in any way. All you can do is show your commitment and capacity to change by the steps that you have already taken. Avoid reacting to his or her comments with emotion, accusations, or criticism. Be prepared to take things slow. Know that you have the strength and love for yourself to weather this.
These five steps for how to get your ex back are no guarantee that your marriage will be saved. That depends on your level of commitment, your spouse, and the unique circumstances of your relationship. You will, however, find that these steps will help you find strength, clarity, and calm in a very emotional and painful time. Whatever the ultimate outcome, Dr. Heitler writes, “the panic of a devastating waterfall ahead [will be] replaced by anticipation of a safe and sunny future.”
Last November I wrote about the Divorce Reform Coalition. The aim of this movement is to revamp our no-fault divorce laws. Before divorcing, couples would be required to undergo marriage counseling (funded by the state) and wait for an 8-month “cooling off” period. This is in hopes of saving a relationship that doesn’t have any major dangers and could benefit from therapy. The movement has been picking up steam lately, and publicity.
Last week, Huffington Post contributor Pauline Gains wrote an article criticizing the Divorce Reform Movement’s proposal. Gains’ complaint is that mandating therapy won’t do any good in saving a relationship that is done for.
To [mandatory counseling], I say: Really? Making it harder to divorce will convince those who have fallen head over heels with the secretary, who can’t agree on anything, or who are just plain incompatible, that they should stay married?
And to that argument, I say: You’re right. There are some situations where a couple is better off divorced (read “should I get a divorce?” to find out more). Some relationships are, for better of for worse, over. Counseling will not make these people love each other again, stop abusing each other, or repair the deep emotional wounds that have broken their union.
Gains’ mistake is that these marriages are not the ones that marriage reform advocates are targeting. In fact, extreme and irreconcilable marital problems make up only a small fraction of all reported reasons for divorce.
It’s the little things that make a great marriage, and it’s the little things that are the leading cause of divorce. The most commonly cited reasons for divorce are: lack of communication, difficulty resolving conflicts, feeling distant or “out of love”, and disagreement over finances. Of course when you’re marriage is experiencing these problems, it can feel like it’s the end. At the same time, all these issues have the potential to be resolved via counseling.
Contrary to Gains’ belief, saving a relationship is possible in most situations. You can learn the skills to communicate, increase positivity and make mutually satisfying decisions. This is the foundation for Power of Two online program. It’s supported by numerous studies and years of data that show counseling has a significant impact in marital happiness (a new study just came out Tuesday!).
Of course, instead of having to work on saving a relationship, it’s always better to learn solid marriage skills before you start having problems! In the second half of her article, Gains makes this very proposal: “Instead of trying to fix miserable marriages, why not try to teach people how not to be miserably married in the first place?” She proposes that all high school students take a course in Family Systems as a graduation requirement. Family Systems is a college class taught by psychiatrist and family therapist Murray Bowen. The ideal curriculum would teach students psychology of relationships, problem-solving and common pitfalls, and how to navigate their own thoughts and feelings with those of others.
I think this is a great idea. We teach elementary students “life skills” classes where they learn how to be active listeners, share and get along with each other. The goal is to prepare them to be functional members of their class. Why does this formal social education end there? Childhood through teenagerdom is where we learn the foundations of how to interact with others. Teaching a course on psychology, relationships, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence would be invaluable for young adults for all their future relationships, romantic and otherwise.
I think we should take this idea very seriously. What do you think?