Online dating, online marriage?

It’s not unusual for spouses to have met online these days and the internet has made keeping long-distance love alive infinitely easier. I’ve heard numerous stories of long dating periods done solely online. But what about that next step: getting married digitally, via Skype?

It’s not exactly a movement, but online marriage is happening.

Is it legal to get married online?

Proxy marriage, in which one spouse is absent, is actually a very old practice. Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were technically married remotely in Marie’s home country of Austria. She later made the trek to France and they had another public ceremony. These days a proxy marriage is rare and mostly occurs among deployed soldiers who are concerned about leaving their significant other without benefits in case of death. In most other cases, U.S. law requires both parties to be physically present in order to legally wed. Continue reading Online dating, online marriage?

A brief history of marriage

The history of marriage is as old as human civilization, and just as complicated. Marriage as we know and debate it today is vastly different from marriages throughout history, involving different agreements and different purposes.

1. Tribal alliances

Early tribal communities in northern Europe and elsewhere had fewer power imbalances among their members than later societies. While there were leaders, warriors, priests, and other distinctions, the tribes were relatively egalitarian–that is, before land ownership and agriculture allowed some members to accumulate more wealth than others. In those days, marriages were either by choice within the tribe, or between tribes as a way of affirming friendly alliances, says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. “You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them,” she writes.

But this all changed with the differentiation of wealth. Continue reading A brief history of marriage

What do your marriage vows say about you

Marriage vows are an important part of the wedding ceremony. While they aren’t verbatim a contract, they set the tone for what you want to get out of and are willing to give to your marriage. Your vows should reflect who you and your spouse are as a couple, and individually. With the popularity of non-traditional ceremonies rising (it seems like everyone is trying to one-up each other with originality!) it may seem stressful planning your vows.

Take a deep breath and check out these recommendations. Continue reading What do your marriage vows say about you

Pay attention to wedding jitters for a better marriage

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

Marriage and taxes: 7 tips for newlyweds

First comes love, then comes marriage, then come taxes! If you’re one of the thousands of new couples married this spring and summer, get ready to embark on the adventure of marriage and taxes. The federal government provides many financial benefits to married couples, an it can be a little confusing how to go about getting them. Here’s a rundown of who your need to update on your new marital status and how to do it.


1. Social Security Administration  One of the most essential things for marriage and taxes is to make sure you name and social security number match. If you’ve changed your name after getting married, be sure to alert the Social Security Administration. How: File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA’s website, by calling 800-772-1213, or visiting a SSA office. Continue reading Marriage and taxes: 7 tips for newlyweds

Money and marriage: Should you keep separate checking accounts?

Marriage is the union of two lives into one–at the same time, maintaining independence and autonomy is an important part of a healthy relationship. How does money and marriage factor in? Wall Street Journal blogger Rachel Louis Ensign tackled this controversial topic last week. Her article features interviews with couples, lawyers and financial advisers who have found that sometimes not sharing everything can be the best situation for the marriage.

I was surprised to read in a follow up post that some commenters had been extremely critical of this idea, even accusing spouses who split up their assets as “definitely NOT a couple” and asking “Why even get married in the first place? Marriage is about trust and compromise, two people as one.” Continue reading Money and marriage: Should you keep separate checking accounts?

25 crazy wedding dresses

For some weddings the crazy wedding dresses are really what the event is remembered for. From haute couture to home-sewn whimsy, wedding gowns exist in an amazing array of fantastic to terrifying. For this post I’ve picked out the 20 craziest wedding dresses I could find. I hope you find them as entertaining as I do.

As much fun as it is to laugh at ridiculous fashion choices on the internet, crazy wedding dresses can be a real problem area of wedding planning. If you are close to the bride, giving feedback about a particularly ugly choice can be helpful when done tactfully and gently. Try using “I” statements and “yes…and…” instead of “but” when sharing your opinion (brush up on PO2’s skills for how to communicate in a relationship for some tips). Once she’s made her choice, no matter how trashy, ridiculous or ugly we may find that choice to be, we must keep our comments to ourselves at the wedding. Weddings are about the bride and groom and what they think is fun, not our fashion sensibilities. I may not have chosen the bikini wedding “dress” for myself, but I think it’s wonderful that the couple went and did something so outrageous and unique. They are expressing who they are. And just as the wedding is a celebration of the two betrothed taking and loving each other for who they are, so should we–their friends and family–celebrate  and accept the couple for who they are.


1. Never mind the medallion lace chest thing–this is probably my favorite of all the crazy wedding dresses just for her headpiece. I see a crab, an action figure, a bicycle…what else can you spy with your little eye?

Crazy wedding dresses--sometimes fun, sometimes terrifying!

2. Hello kitty!

Crazy wedding dresses--Hello Kitty style!

3. I actually don’t know if this counts as a wedding dress…

Crazy wedding dresses, ready for the beach.

4. The Octo-Bride!

"The Octo-bride." Crazy wedding dresses.

5. Next up: The bride is just glowing…no, literally, she’s glowing! This is a wild art project, and I think it would be quite fun to dance in later in the night at the reception.

Glowing crazy wedding dress art.

6. Another luminescent gown design made of a fabric of thousands of flat LEDs. First featured in WIRED magazine.

Another glowing wedding gown.

7. Many couples are patriotic, but this bride takes it to the next level! Perhaps she got married on the Fourth of July?

"I pledge allegiance to my husband..."

8. Wedding gown trains became popular in the 1870s and have grown to elaborate proportions. Like much else about the wedding, the overflowing and ridiculously long train symbolizes plentitude, opulence and fertility. This one may be a little overboard…

Crazy wedding dresses: the longest train.

9. The bride is a work of art!

Nature calls...

10. Nothing can extinguish their passion.

Nothing can put out their passion.

11. Real crazy wedding dresses require at least 8 helpers to move in.

Crazy wedding dresses

12. Is the groom in there somewhere?

Crazy wedding dress Cinderella

What they don’t tell you about child rearing and mental health–and why they should

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 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…

The PO2 Weekly Top 5 Stories

Helping Adult Children With Parental Alienation Syndrome

Researchers have found that when one parent alienates a child from another
parent in a divorce, parental alienation syndrome can occur, resulting

in lower achievement in adulthood, impaired relationships, and low self-esteem….


13 Sources of Inspiration When Life has You Down

Post written by Blended Family columnist Melissa Gorzelanczyk of Peace & Projects.

The highs and lows of life can feel like a roller coaster. You’ve probably experienced a day that starts out smooth, but quickly hurtles

to the bottom when a family member is cranky or stubborn or decides…



Autism and the Big Heart

by Brenda
A game of toy bowling at home has gone awry and Jack is in tears.
Really, he’s tired and hungry.  Though he doesn’t think he’s either.

When I say he is, it makes him angry.  I understand.  It would make me angry if someone said that to me while I was upset…

Before The Engagement: 7 Things Single People Should Know About Marriage

by Nicole Taylor
So you want to get married? Are you completely sure about that? Have you prepared yourself for what marriage entails? If you have …


How To Teach People Not To Marry The Wrong Person

by Pauline Gains
Using symbols to denote genders, marriage, divorce, adoption, and

relationship styles, people can map out their family’s multigenerational transmission process through an exercise known as a genogram…

Teaching the skills for saving a relationship–in high school

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?