Better marriage on your TO-DO list? Start in the bedroom.

Have you ever wished for a better marriage? If the answer is YES, then you are not alone! Marriage is for better and worse, it’s pretty easy to imagine what the better part will look like; hand in hand walks on the beach, a glass of wine after a tough day, Netflix and chill anyone? The part that is hard to imagine is the worse; the fights, the toxic talk mumbled under your breath while your partner does something annoying in the next room. Even more troubling is a lack of intimacy, lying and a breach of trust or infidelity. Many couples wait until the the eleventh hour to reach out for help. By that time the thought of a light hearted roll in the hay may seem like a galaxy far, far away.

Traditional couples counseling often focuses on other concerns first. How is the communication? Do you fight? What are the critical conflicts that surface again and again?

better marriageHow is your sex life may only enter the conversation (or be addressed in a significant way) later on down the line. Is that the right approach? A new breed of therapists are tackling these issues in a different order. In a recent New York Times article the author reported on and interesting new convergence of therapist focusing on sex first.

So, is figuring out the sex puzzle going to give you a better marriage?

Continue reading Better marriage on your TO-DO list? Start in the bedroom.

Should you get married?

should you get married

Marriage is in decline, no new news there. The question seems to have shifted from when and to whom should you get married to should you get married at all? Certainly there is no one simple answer to this questions. Looking at a brief history of marriage reveals that the societal and relational view of marriage has certainly changed over time. During several recent conversations about marriage and relationships I have found myself wondering if marriage is really necessary for today’s couple? Some of these conversations involved my spouse and I chatting with happily married couples and others with contemporaries who are as of yet foregoing marriage.  In essence, these conversations have been an effort to interpret general beliefs about marriage and to try to understand why the institution still has value.

It seems to me that there is no argument about the practical benefits.  In our society marriage gives you legal, medical, taxation and many other rights that unmarried counterparts may not have.  There doesn’t even seem to be an argument about the commitment part.  It seems those opting out don’t particularly like the word marriage.  So what is it about the word that leaves a bad taste? Continue reading Should you get married?

Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

fight with your spouse
Daylight savings can wreak havoc on your week.

Did you fight with your spouse this week? Hopefully not. If you did, maybe it is out of the ordinary for you to fight.  You may be wondering why? What’s different? Of course there are many reasons couples fight, and there may not always be a singular cause. One possible cause is your emotional state. The physical environment and choices we make including what we eat and how much exercise we get contribute to both physical health as well as emotional health. Another key factor is sleep.  An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday argued a link between the Daylight Savings time change and marital discord.  Specifically that when you lose sleep you are more likely to fight with your spouse. “They found that people were more likely to have conflict on days when they slept poorly the night before.”

“If you sleep poorly, you’re prone to being self-centered,” and “You focus on me, me, me, and is it any wonder that you are getting into fights with your partner?”

You many not always be able to avoid having a fight with your spouse. You can however keep in mind the many outside factors that are contributing.

The key here is to pay attention to your physical state.  When you feel yourself falling into those communication traps; snarky comments, negativity and self-centered behaviors or thoughts, STOP, ask yourself… Continue reading Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

marriage problems
Put the phones down to connect with your partner

What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships.  One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story  “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of  the devices in our lives is causing several problems.  Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.

There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life.  If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship.  Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships.  If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance?  Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!

So here are a few tips for curbing the potential marriage problems caused by technoference… Continue reading Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

Why I believe in marriage.

If there is a trend in marriage for the latest generation to come of age it’s this… marriage is out. In fact marriage has been steadily declining since 1960. The other trend I have noticed lately in the world of marriage news is that people care about the habits of millennials. In recent weeks I have seen articles about why millennials aren’t marrying. The racial gap in the statistics about millennial marriage and many more trying to understand the millennial experience.

Millennials have a less favorable view of marriage and the value of saying I-do.  The number of millennials co-habitating is on the rise and marriage as a necessity is not a strong view point.  Parenting often falls higher on the bucket list than marriage. So what gives?  Why has marriage fallen off the proverbial map? If I had to guess, I suppose I would say it’s because millennials just don’t see the point.  Gone are the days of marriage being the only route to financial stability or even children.  Those things can be easily achieved outside of marriage.

believe in marriage
“Dear young people, don’t be afraid to marry. A faithful and fruitful marriage will bring you happiness.”

I am myself on the crisp edge of being a millennial (Born 1980).  I do not often see myself in the descriptions, I do not own anything that says “keep calm and carry on” I don’t take “selfies” and I consider text messaging a secondary method of communication to calling or emailing.  I have no inflated feelings about my specialness and I believe in marriage!

I wholeheartedly believe marriage is a path to a more fulfilling, generous, financially stable and satisfying, secure life.  I have been married for 7 years.  I was 27 when I got hitched.

Here’s why I believe in marriage. Continue reading Why I believe in marriage.

Positive images of marriage in media.

I am in the midst of reading Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl.  The movie Gone Girl, based on the book was recently released  in theaters nationwide.  The story is a sinister mystery centered around the disappearance of the wife.  The book is a delicately woven tale of a marriage unravelling over time. Aside form being totally engrossed in this wonderful book, it has also prompted me to look for positive images of marriage in media.

Tabloid magazines frequently douse us with tales of celebrity woe and marital un-satisfaction.  Reports of infidelity and other indiscretions top headlines in the media. Culturally we seem to have an unending thirst for news and images of relationships gone bad.  On the flip side there are wonderful examples of skillful, warm, loving and supportive relationships on TV, in books and the media.  Here are a two television couples worth paying attention to… Continue reading Positive images of marriage in media.

Why marriage matters for the kids.

We often hear the phrase marriage matters.  In a recent article written by Kimberly Howard and Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute interesting new research takes a look at the question why?  Why does marriage matter?  Can it be broke down into a few simple factors or is there bigger meaning infused in the experience of marriage that offers advantages to children? The article, titled “The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting” puts in simple terms what the researchers were looking at.  Is money the determinant factor or the additional parenting resources and energy provided by a two-parent household?

marriage matters

According to the authors the two key take aways from the research are…

1) Children from married households do much better and are more likely to thrive.

“Children raised by married parents do better at school, develop stronger cognitive and non-cognitive skills, are more likely to go to college, earn more, and are more likely to go on to form stable marriages themselves.”

2) The research shows that some of the “marriage effect” can be attributed to the “parenting effect” and the “money effect.”

“The benefits of marriage in terms of children’s outcomes and life chances seem clear. The difficulty is teasing out the key factors. Our analysis suggests that both the higher incomes and the more engaged parenting of married parents count for a good deal. If anything, parenting may matter a little more.”

The article claims that the two key factors, more money and more engaged parenting are the most dominant factors affecting the outcome for kids.  While it is easy to understand how those two things have a positive effect on kids it isn’t entirely easy to understand if there is an additional benefit of the experience kids have living in a household with married parents.  Is it possible that there is a concrete benefit to kids witnessing the day to day experience of a marriage. There are certainly myriad factors involved not the least of which is the kind of marriage children grow up in. It would certainly be of benefit for children to witness good communication in marriage . On the flip side is a toxic marriage going to have a negative effect on a child’s well being and health? In addition, will more money and resources for parents who aren’t married result in the same outcome?  There may be no easy answer to that question, it is though an important question for couples, communities and larger institutions to look at in an attempt to understand why marriage matters.

 

Spouse won’t go to counseling? Watch a RomCom instead.

As helpful as counseling can be in how to save a marriage, many spouses are still reluctant to attend sessions. Therapy can be intimidating. Airing all your dirty laundry to a complete stranger can sound less than appealing. (This is why there are alternatives like Power of Two!). While getting help from a trained professional is the best way to get over marriage problems and improve your relationship, there are some ways to engage your spouse if he or she refuses to go. Continue reading Spouse won’t go to counseling? Watch a RomCom instead.

Can a marriage boot camp really help your marriage?

Next year WE tv is launching a celebrity Marriage Boot Camp featuring five couples who are desperate to repair their relationships. These celebrities include spouses from other reality TV shows such as Real Housewives of Orange County‘s Gretchen Rossi and her partner Slade Smiley. Will attending a marriage boot camp (recorded and televised, on top of that), really help these marriages? Could marriage boot camp help save your marriage?

Continue reading Can a marriage boot camp really help your marriage?

Is it OK for kids to see parents fighting?

Common wisdom holds that it is not good for children to see their parents fighting.  Witnessing marital conflict sets a bad example for young minds and reduces a child’s respect for his parents. Yet psychologists are divided about this subject. While all agree that witnessing abuse is damaging for any child, what about the occasional argument? Is it ever okay to have a disagreement in front of the kids?

Proponents of exposing kids to parents fighting argue that conflict is a part of life and hiding it from children does them a disservice. Children not exposed to conflict may grow up with an unrealistic view of human relationships and unprepared for the chaos of social life. Letting kids watch a marital spat shows them that it is possible to have disagreements and still love the people close to you. Witnessing arguments is also an opportunity to model healthy conflict resolution habits

.parents fighting

Professor Mark Cummings of Notre Dame University and his team have conducted several studies on children’s reactions to parents fighting. One study followed 235 families over the course of 7 years. At the beginning of the study researchers asked parents and their young children about conflict in the home and recorded indicators of emotional health. They then asked parents to discuss a touchy topic while recording how aggressively the couples argued. They followed up with surveys of the children and parents seven years later when the children were adolescents. Predictably, children from high conflict homes were less emotionally secure and more likely to act out than their peers. Continue reading Is it OK for kids to see parents fighting?