5 keys to effective communication

Effective communication skills are some of the most useful life skills you can learn. In marriage, effective communication skills ensure that you and your spouse understand each other’s needs and desires, argue less frequently, and avoid misunderstandings. These skills set the foundation for joint decision-making, collaborative dialog, and warm, positive sharing.

Want better communication in your marriage? Take a quiz to see how solid your communication skills are now or read this guide to communication marriage problems. Then brush up on these five key elements of effective communication that you can use every day. Continue reading 5 keys to effective communication

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In-laws can boost or break your marriage

This may come as no surprise to some people: new research has shown a link between how you get a long with your in-laws and chances for divorce. University of Michigan researcher Terri Orbuch began the study in 1986 when she recruited 373 newlywed couples. She had each spouse rate his and her “closeness” with the in-laws and then followed the couples for the next 26 years.

Orbuch found that when a man reported having a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20%. Yet women who said they had a close relationship with their husbands’ parents saw their risk of divorce rise by 20%. Continue reading In-laws can boost or break your marriage

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25 Happy mothers day quotes!

Mothers Day is a great idea – although, of course, every day should be mother’s day! Being a mom is tough work and it is a beautiful thing to recognize that. Sometimes it can be hard to put your feelings into words, and that’s where these Happy Mothers Day quotes come in. Enjoy these 25 happy Mothers Day quotes. Try hand writing one down on a nice piece of paper and leaving on her pillow or on the breakfast table. Continue reading 25 Happy mothers day quotes!

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The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online

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

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Sesame Street debuts special program to help children of divorce

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

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Why is marriage so hard? Half of Brittons regret getting married.

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?
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.

Boredom

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.

 

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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 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…

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The 25 best funny marriage quotes

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.funny marriage quotes

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):

  1. “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
  2. “A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he marries.” ~ anonymous
  3. “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
  4. “Spouse: someone who’ll stand by you through all the trouble you wouldn’t have had if you’d stayed single.” ~ Anonymous
  5. “We don’t love qualities, we love persons; sometimes by reason of their defects as well as of their qualities.” ~ Jacques Maritain
  6. “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.” – Samuel Johnson
  7. “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin
  8. “The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds – they mature slowly.”  ~Peter De Vries
  9. “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
  10. “A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop words when speech becomes superfluous.” ~ Ingrid Bergmen
  11. “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.”  ~Simone Signoret
  12. “A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.” ~ Anne Taylor Fleming
  13. “Woke up in bed with a gorgeous woman, who I’m going to have lunch and the rest of my life with.” ~ Jason Barmer
  14. “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” ~ Albert Einstein
  15. “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
  16. “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
  17. “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
  18. “A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year.” ~ Paul Sweeney
  19. “Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage.” ~ Finnish Proverb
  20. “A dress that zips up the back will bring a husband and wife together.” ~ James H. Boren
  21. “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
  22. “Our wedding was many years ago.  The celebration continues to this day.” ~ Gene Perret
  23. “A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” ~ Andre Maurois
  24. “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” ~ Martin Luther
  25. “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

How is your marriage doing? Take this quiz to find out where you stand strong and what needs work. You may be surprised! Take the quiz now.

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Funny Couples Photos: The Matching Outfits Edition

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).

Enjoy!

 

First, the unintentionally hilarious matching outfits:

Next, the intentionally funny!

And lastly, darn cute matching outfits:

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