More couples learning how to stop divorce

A Minnesota study sited in USA today has shed new light on the way couples think about separation and how to stop divorce. While divorce rates remain high in the United States, more and more couples are pulling back from the brink of divorce and reconsidering reconciliation. Indecision and uncertainty are common in struggling marriages, even among couples that have already filed for divorce. Divorce rates have fallen 7% since 2008 and researchers found that a quarter of Minnesotan couples filing for divorce were interested in reconciliation.

Part of the reason for many marriage problems—the tough economic times—is also one of the factors in keeping couples together. While a bad marriage may seem like the worst possible situation, the consequences of divorce are often much more unpleasant. The costs of hiring a divorce lawyer, splitting up assets, and loosing combined income are making couples think harder about how to stop divorce. Divorce also has longer term consequences for your physical and mental health, and is especially hard on any children involved. Many couples view relationship counseling as “a last resort,” says Dr. Heitler. “It’s radically cheaper emotionally, as well as financially, to fix the marriage than to declare it dead,” she says.

Times are tough right now, which makes it all the more important to stick together, learn the skills to act as a strong, supportive unit, and work to help your family thrive. Know that your not alone in having doubts about your marriage. Marriage is tough! Iris Krasnow, author of The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married interviewed hundreds of women and found that “splitting up crosses people’s minds more than I imagined.” In addition, “those on second marriages were not any happier than they were in their first. Many times, you’re trading in one set of problems for another.”

All the more reason to thoroughly examine your reasons for divorce.

Marriage is a “very high-skilled activity,” Dr. Heitler advises. “If your marriage is failing, make the assumption your skill set is insufficient.” Most important is to take an open and critical look at what you yourself can do to help the marriage instead of focusing on your spouse’s shortcomings. Dr. Heitler advises couples to be creative about new ways to be a better marriage partner. If both spouses “will each take personal responsibility and focus on their own skills upgrade, the whole picture turns around. Even one person can turn the marriage around,” she says.

Check out the graph of common divorce reasons below. Do you feel any of these biting away at your relationship? Only three of those categories cannot be fixed, or at least improved, with solid marriage counseling. See our information page on “Reasons for divorce” for the low-down on when you should stay and when you should separate.

Why a silly wedding is a recipe for a happy marriage

It seems like a silly display of surprise wedding dancing is as de rigeur as the cake these days. And I think that’s fabulous! Of course, there is certainly nothing bad about a strictly traditional and solemn event. At the same time, there are a few things I love about these spontaneous dance shows that falls in line with some great marriage counseling advice. Here are my reasons for why these weddings contain the recipe for a happy marriage.

1) If the dance is planned by just the bride and groom. Ya gotta hand it to these couples, they have a great sense of humor and can work together well (and keep a secret). Planning a surprise dance during the wedding is a great way to work on a project together that doesn’t involve anyone else…no florists, no best men and bridesmaids, no event staff. It gives you an excuse to spend some lighthearted solo time with your betrothed during the stress of wedding planning. It can be a sweet, silly and very special bonding opportunity for a couple, and sets a great tone for your marriage! Holding on to that sense of being adventurous, silly “partners in crime” even during stressful events is how to make a relationship last.

2) If the surprise involves lots of people. In the video I chose below, the groom and his best men have plotted and schemed to break out into a show for the guests and bride. First, check out the huge amount of effort that went into learning the choreography. They’re pretty good! Not only does this dance show how much the groom wants to surprise, delight, and show his love for his bride, it also shows the dedication and support of the groom’s friends. Having a solid network of friends who support your partnership is a key ingredient in the recipe for a happy marriage. These guys are there to back up their friend and his marriage even if it means publicly embarrassing themselves. It is just as important to maintain your separate friendships and to spend time strengthening them as it is to spend quality time together as a couple. Again, this sweet involvement in the wedding is a great sign that the groom’s friends will be there to support him throughout the marriage.

wedding thriller

Back 2 Back: A look at funny moments in the marriage bed

This Media Monday we’re reverting to middle-school humor. Yes, both of these videos are about farting. You’re giggling already, aren’t you? Hey, this something we all have to deal with when sharing a marriage bed.

The first video is a hilarious advertisement for an amazing sounding product. If this blanket does what it’s supposed to do, I’m buying one ASAP.

It also gives room for reflection. It makes us giggle partly because it addresses something rather taboo in our culture: the fact that our bodies do some crazy stuff. And, at the same time it brings up the fact that these bodily goings-on can have a negative impact on your marriage, preventing sleep, decreasing sexual desire, and causing, guilt, embarrassment and withdrawal. Like the advertisement says, this is a real problem. Since we aren’t used to talking about bodily functions (in fact, we mostly pretend that they don’t happen) they tend to go undiscussed and can spend years wrecking subtle havoc on our relationships. The key is to air out these issues before they make our whole marriage toxic (pun fully intended). Tune in Thursday to part 2 of this series for Dr. Heitler’s tips on how to discuss sensitive issues like body odor and weight with your spouse.

The second video is a little humor dreamed up by our main media man, Daniel (staring him and his wife). The event depicted is not as pungent as the one in the first video. Daniel wrote this short clip after thinking about intimacy and boundaries in marriage. You know you’ve gotten to a sweet place in your relationship when something potentially embarrassing can instead be a funny bonding moment. You can see more PO2 videos on YouTube.

Enjoy!

P.S. If you’d like to see more of Daniel’s funny work, check out his account page at Funny or Die. I highly recommend watching “Fan of Kim Yu-Na practices gold metal winning routine.”

Making marriage work by doing the dishes

For most of human history, people have lived in societies where what you do and how you do it was largely determined by your birth. One of the most enduring roles has been gender. No matter what your status (peasant or royalty) In almost every culture, women have been the managers of the interior world, while men work outside the home to provide it with resources. Making marriage work was less about happiness and more about the ability to fend of starvation, keep a roof over your head, and have lots and lots of babies. Luckily, times have changed, the business of staying alive is easier, and both men and women have many options for what to do with their lives and how to order their home life.

Women who take advantage of this and pursue careers in addition to having a family often find themselves between a rock and hard place. Managing a household alone is tough! After all, there are professionals—nannies, accountants, designers, plumbers, and personal assistants—who keep full time jobs doing just one fraction of what it takes to run a home. Plus, this whole women working thing has been uncharted territory. There are no guidelines on how to divvy up housework between spouses. This has lead to frustration, exhaustion and all sorts of marriage problems.

The good news is it seems like we’re entering a new phase where, slowly, couples are making marriage work by redefining household roles. Dan Seaborn of the Dover Post has written about a new study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor. According to this 2010 survey, husbands and wives are spending about the same amount of time doing chores, especially in marriages where both work full time. That’s pretty darn impressive!

“In another study by the Pew Research Center in 2007, 62 percent of couples surveyed said sharing household chores was the third most important ingredient in a successful marriage after faithfulness and sex ––  I’m glad sex rates higher than chores!”

I agree.

Seaborn also has a lot of great advice on making marriage work with smart chore sharing. First off, setting good patterns of behavior is always easier than changing old ones. “Couples really need to make a plan for how this gets done, instead of making assumptions. It should be one of the first things a newly married couple discusses before patterns are established.”

Second, he suggests setting mutual definitions of what a chore means. Is clearing the table just putting the dishes on the counter, or is it putting them in the dishwasher and wiping down the table? Does doing the laundry involve folding and putting the clothes away? How much time should be spent on which activity? Communicate clearly about your expectations, and don’t hesitate to speak up about your frustrations in a tactful manner.

Part of the joys of marriage is knowing that you have someone there for you, a partner to go through life with and to give you the help and support you need. I have a hunch that taking care of the house together will be good for marriage. When you work together on a project, you feel closer and more intimate. It may seem like a mess at times, but make sure you take moments to step back and appreciate all you have created together.

Marriage advice from funny baby videos

We love funny baby videos. Babies are fascinating, partly because of how fascinated they are with the world! As this video shows, the sound of a simple sneeze will seem the most amazing, captivating new experience to a baby. The little guy looks terrified, but it’s actually an expression of awe and surprise. We can tell because after the shock of the sound passes, he bubbles with laughter every time. (Hopefully if he were really scared, we wouldn’t count this among funny baby videos. Other people’s terror is not something to laugh at).

Amazingly, a newborn has just as good hearing and eyesight as a grown adult. They seem helpless and confused only because they have a tremendous amount of information to process every second. The world is completely new to them and they are learning at an astounding rate. This is why baby’s only focus about 15 inches away maximum even though their eyes are very developed. They couldn’t handle all that new information at once.

Since our long term memories only start around age 2-3, we can only imagine what it must be like to be a newborn and to encounter the word for the first time. Seeing the world as a baby can be a great exercise for helping your marriage. One common marriage complaint is that the novelty and excitement of the relationship fades. Just as we get used to the world as we grow up, we become desensitized to and take for granted the little things about our spouse that once were so thrilling. In other words, the magic fades.

Try an experiment. Watch this best of funny baby videos a few times. First, just have a great laugh at the comedy of the little guy. His expressions are priceless. Later, watch it again and pay attention to how he pays attention. His whole being is focused on taking in this new sound. You can do this too! Pick something you tend to gloss over in your daily life. It could be a tomato, your couch, your spouse’s arms or hands or face…really, anything. Then take a good, long time to appreciate it. Try to quiet your mind and focus all your attention on this one thing. How does it feel? Taste? Weigh? Sound? Use all your senses to explore and  examine it until you’ve turned it inside out into something completely new. You might find yourself newly fascinated with something old, and newly excited about your partner.

There’s a whole new world underneath the one we are used to. You can use this trick anytime you are feeling stressed or bored. It’s a great way to add spark and excitement to you marriage. Find and appreciate something new about your spouse every day.

On inspiration and saving marriage

I recently came across an interesting blog post by psychologist Jim Taylor for the San Francisco chronicle. The article isn’t directly about saving marriage, but bear with me—it will tie in later!

Jim takes a good, hard, fresh look at inspiration. What inspires us? Where does inspiration come from? How do we hold on to it?

Americans idolize inspirational thinkers, teachers, leaders and gurus. We look for inspiration everywhere but are often hoodwinked by the multi-billion dollar “Inspirational-industrial complex.” Yep, there’s a whole industry focused on making money by making you feel good for a little while. Inspiration speakers, books and movies…they leave us feeling charged with positive energy and ready to take on our challenges. At the same time, we are “hoodwinked” because this feeling is fleeting. As Jim points out, we often wake up the next day feeling empty and frustrated. Where did that glowing sense of inspiration go? We may even feel guilty for not acting on that sense of indignation or drive. We end up feeling worse, not better, and far from actually acting on the inspiration.

 

Jim then makes a great point: effective, lasting inspiration can only come from inside us. Outside forces cannot inject real inspiration into you. It doesn’t belong to you. Like a candle, it provides warmth and clarity from the outside, but as soon as that outside influence is gone, it’s warmth fades.

This doesn’t mean that all inspiration figures are bunk. Jim writes, “what makes the great inspirations so, well, inspirational is their ability to help others find their own personal inspiration every day.” A truly inspirational figure is someone who ignites the tinder of ideas, beliefs, and desires that are already inside you. This internal fire is self-sustaining and drives real action.

So what does this all have to do with saving marriage? Part of that multi-billion dollar “inspiration-industrial complex” is focused on broken relationships. Self-help gurus each claim that their workshops hold the key to saving marriage. Books claim to change your life and inspire you to new love. Maybe you just saw a movie that depicts a couple’s reconciliation, and you feel inspired to work on your own marriage.

All these outlets make money off of making you feel better. Of course, feeling better is a good thing! At the same time, you want to make sure that the change is permanent and sustainable—in Jim’s words, “truly inspirational.” A good resource for saving marriage should not just throw information, happy examples, and advice at you. It should work within you to make solid, recognizable changes in your behavior and outlook. When seeking out couples counseling, make sure that your therapist or program inspires and gives you clear steps for real change in your life. The power to change your marriage has to come from within—from a determination to change old habits and transform your relationship.

Motherhood: The Musical

The daily realities of caring for a family can be far from glamorous… diaper changing, cleaning, scheduling, transporting, owie bandaging. Luckily, this Mother’s Day feature (from Church on the Move. The video is not religious.) turns the daily grind into musical wonderment. The new lyrics are very clever and spot on, and the whole thing is just delightful. What a production! My only critique would be that they didn’t show fathers sharing responsibilities…then again, is was made for Mothers Day! All parents deserve a big pat on the back for the amazing work they do to raise new generations. It may be difficult to put on a resume, but it’s one of the worlds biggest, most challenging, and most rewarding jobs. Cheers!

Weight, women, men and relationships

Dr. Susan Heitler recently appeared on ABC News with Diane Sawyer to discuss a new study from Ohio State University.  The study found that changes in your relationship—specifically, marriage and divorce—can cause unhealthy changes in your weight. Previous studies on women, men and relationships have shown that marriage causes weight gain, and divorce causes weight loss. This new research reveals details about the effects and shows that divorce actually leads to weight gain.

Women tend to gain weight after marriage, while the combination of men and relationships is more complicated. Men gain less weight than women, and sometimes become healthier. This may be because women start taking on the responsibilities of running the household, including raising children, and find less time to take care of their health. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to participate in healthful behaviors such as doctors’ check-ups and better eating once they are no longer bachelors.

Divorce also leads to increased Body Bass Index (BMI). For men and relationships, divorce means the undoing of the health benefits of marriage and they may fall into old bad habits of singledom.

marriage and divorce can lead to weight gain
marriage and divorce can lead to weight gain

Dr. Heitler noted for the abcNews.com article that both events are times of immense life change and extreme emotions. Emotional exhaustion and stress may make it difficult to muster up the energy to be physically active. In addition, emotional eating may kick in. Depression, for example, is common after divorce. “There’s an impulse to self-soothe with food combined with a drop in self-control that comes with depression or grieving,” Heitler said. “People will think, ‘Not only do I feel like eating a candy bar, but I just don’t have the will power to say no.'”

Eating out of joy is also emotional eating. Newlywed couples may find themselves celebrating, sharing more meals together, and reflecting the happiness of their union in food. Men and relationships may also influence women to eat more like their husbands in terms of quantity and kind.

The solution? Pay attention to your body. Don’t let your focus on your health slip during emotional times of transition, says dietitian Keri Glassman. “Be aware and be mindful of all the different lifestyle factors going on for you at the time.”

Forgiving infidelity and moving on—for your health

Dr. Martin Luther King advised us to “never succumb to the temptation of bitterness,” and boy, was he right. Forgiving infidelity and other wrongs is one of the hardest things to do, and at the same time, it may just help you live longer. A new book, “Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives,” reviews years of research on bitterness that shows not only is it unproductive from a social, emotional and spiritual perspective, but takes a devastating toll on our physical health.

Today’s CNN article opens with the story of a young college student who was tormented because of his race. The stress and bitterness he held towards the injustice eventually led to sleeping problems and panic attacks. Finally, he landed in the hospital and was found to have a dangerous condition of thickened heart muscles—one of the leading causes of heart-related sudden death in people under 30. It wasn’t until this young man was able to move on and release his bitterness that he recovered physically.

How can a mental state have so much impact on our bodies?

When we feel negatively towards another person, our brains trigger the release of stress hormones. This is a very effective mechanism for dealing with real danger situations. It prepares our bodies to attack, defend or flee from a potential threat. However, when these hormones flood the body for a long period of time, the stress begins to do some real damage. Heightened blood pressure endangers the heart, and chemicals such as C-reactive protein further weaken the heart and other body systems. Irritability, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression also often occur.

The journey of marriage is wonderful and opens the doors to some of life’s greatest joys. At the same time, bitterness is one of the biggest marriage problems couples have. Unspoken tensions, jealousies, pet peeves, family drama… all of us experience some kind of event in our relationship that could spark bitterness. Suspected or acknowledged cheating often puts the greatest strain on a marriage. So how do we move beyond bitterness and get to forgiving infidelity?

1. Grieve
Give yourself the time to grieve your loss. An infidelity is a huge blow to the foundations of your reality, and it is painful. Acknowledge that you feel this pain, that you are hurt, and that things are going to be difficult. Recognizing your feelings helps to soften them eventually and will get you ready for forgiving infidelity.

2. Seek solidarity
Read the news, talk to a friend, or find a support group. Realize that many people are going through what you are right now, and many experience worse. This in no way delegitimizes the pain you are feeling—it should give you a sense of strength and perspective to your emotions.

3. Talk it out
It is essential to talk to the person that hurt you if you are going down the path of forgiving infidelity. Communicate with your spouse openly and honestly about how you feel. At the same time, try to understand the other person’s underlying concerns and mental state. This isn’t an excuse—it is an explanation. Understanding will help you to reach a calm common ground.

4. Think of your health
Keep this article in mind. Realize how much damage you are doing to your body and mind by not forgiving infidelity. You have a right to your feelings…you also have the right to have a long, healthy, happy life regardless of other’s unjust activities. After all, “living well is the best revenge,” (George Herbert).

I also suggest calming activities such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or other mindful activity. These can reverse the effects of stress.

How about it? Do you find bitterness (and it’s ugly siblings, Regret and Envy) dominating your life? How do you deal with it? Share your tips and stories about forgiving infidelity and more!

Things you DON’T say to your wife

There are many jokes about the different ways in which we can potentially insult the women in our lives…don’t tell her she’s gained weight it usually #1. These may be stereotypes about women’s sensitivities, but they bring up a good point about how to communicate with your spouse (male or female). Sharing and honesty is always a number 1 key in any relationship, and at the same time, tact is equally important. PO2 has a nice segment about how to say things tactfully, and you can check that out here.

It’s easy to be blunt with people who we know intimately; after all, you spend your lives together and have very few boundaries between you.  At the same time, our marriages often start to run on automatic after so many years, and this can be fertile ground for unintentional negative slip ups and hurt feelings. Here’s a good mental exercise for communication: step outside your marriage for a moment. Would you say this thing to your wife if she wasn’t your wife, but a close friend? Would you do (or not do) this certain thing to your husband if you were just married? Try using this to get a little distance to your relationship and get a good long look at your spouse as a unique individual.

Also try making note of how you spouse reacts to personal comments you make about him or her. When you talk, you should be fully present and listening to what your spouse has to say and other non-verbal forms of communication. If something feels off, ask if you said something that upset them.

Ok, seriousness over! Enjoy this funny video by comedian Tim Hawkins about the things you don’t say to your wife (or husband, for that matter!).

Lyrics:

Things You Don’t Say To Your Wife Lyrics
Tim Hawkins

Hey honey have you gained some weight in your rear-end?
That dress you wear reminds me of my old girlfriend
And where’d you get those shoes? I think they’re pretty lame
Would you stop talking ’cause I’m trying to watch the game

If you’re a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don’t say to your wife

I planned a hunting trip next week on your birthday
I didn’t ask you ’cause I knew it’d be OK
Go make some dinner while I watch this fishing show
I taped it over our old wedding video

If you’re a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don’t say to your wife

Your cooking is OK but not like mother makes
The diamond in the ring I bought you is a fake
Your eyes look puffy dear, are you feeling ill?
Happy anniversary I bought you a treadmill

If you’re a man who wants to live a long and happy life
These are the things you don’t say to your wife
If your a man who doesn’t want to get killed with a knife
These are the things you don’t say to your wife