Tag Archives: causes of divorce

Choose Exciting over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage

Exciting activities improve marital satisfaction much more than pleasant activities. A new study by the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory of New York State University showed that a group of couples who spent two hours each week engaging in a new, exciting activity gave a dramatic boost to their marital satisfaction. A second group who engaged in highly pleasant, but only moderately exciting, activities, showed no significant change in their perceived marriage quality.

I found the results interesting, because I would have expected at least some reported improvement in both groups. However, I’m not surprised the first group with their novel experiences created stronger results. This is because previous research has focused on the hormone oxytocin that is released when a couple falls in love, has sex, or shares novel, exciting experiences together. This hormone helps a couple bond and feel all lovey-dovey. In addition, if you are learning about or experiencing something new together, you are united in your goal of accomplishment. It can be exhilarating to enjoy a new experience or learn something challenging together.

As many married couples find it difficult to keep their passion alive, the study is a great reminder to focus at least some of our attention on how to keep things exciting. It can be a bit daunting, however, for those of us who don’t spend much time climbing mountains or exploring underwater caves. So, it’s important to find something you both would find enjoyable, new and exciting.

The study authors had couples make a list of things they would like to do that are exciting. This is a perfect starting point for you. Make a list, and rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale.

You might consider:
• Travel to a new, exciting destination
• Learning a new language together
• An outdoor activity, such as zip lining, biking in a challenging terrain, training together for a mini marathon.
• Taking a cooking or dancing class
• Getting a couples massage
• Talking about, and experimenting with new techniques in the bedroom (or buying an enticing, sexy new garment)
• Going to a rock concert or venue you wouldn’t normally attend
• Surprise each other occasionally with a gift or a date night
• Go on a marriage retreat or a weekend getaway
• Brainstorm ideas that fit your interests and area of the world—scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, skiing, camping—but only activities that are NEW for you, not what you find yourself doing over and over again.
• Learning a new skill together—photography, pottery making (remember that scene in Ghost?!), a musical instrument, race car driving, flying an airplane

Married life doesn’t have to be dull. What makes affairs exciting is the notion of getting to know someone attractive and new, going to new places, trying new activities, and having new sexual experiences. Have an affair with your own spouse, and experience these exhilarating feelings in the safety of your own marriage. Maybe you do your hair differently, or put at attractive outfit together. Then, go do something really fun together, and enjoy the boost in your marriage. There’s no excuse for saying married life is boring.

What’s the most exciting thing you have done lately as a couple?

Interesting Links:

Bikinis or briefs? Read a new study that proves bad underwear can ruin your day. Really. So, choose your panties carefully, and it may improve your life and make you feel sexier and more confident. Your hubby may also appreciate this.

Divorce’s Impact on Teens. More than half of American teens (55%) do NOT live with their married mother and father. Using United States Census Bureau data from 2008, a study revealed that 62 percent of Asian-American teens live in two-parent households, compared to 54 percent of whites, 41 percent of multiracial background, 40 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 17 percent of African-Americans.

Walk through effects of Divorce. A new program in Britain—the country with the highest divorce rates in Europe—suggests that couples on the brink of divorce confront the realities how divorce would impact their family before taking the next step. It’s based on an educational program in Norway that has been effective at keeping families together.

Do you believe in soul mates? This marital therapist at Psychology Today does not, and says the idea alone contributes to relationship failures. She says too many people leave their marriage then they decide they have finally met their “true” soul mate, who ends up not being so ideal in the end.

Photo credit: © Maxim Petrichuk/PhotoXpress.com

Alcohol Use Related to Shorter and Later Marriages

It’s not just alcoholics whose relationships may be affected by drinking. A new study by the Indiana University School of Education found that individuals who frequently drink alcohol are more likely to marry later in life and are less likely to have a successful, long-lasting marriage.

Researchers recruited more than 4,000 Australian twins in the early 1980s and followed their alcohol use and marriages or separations. They found a strong association between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage, as well as between alcohol dependence and early marital separation.

The study’s author made a surprisingly strong statement to young people about the consequences of alcohol in their lives:

“Young adults who drink alcohol may want to consider the longer-term consequences for marriage,” says Mary Waldron, assistant professor at IU. “If drinking continues or increases to levels of problem use, likelihood of marriage, or of having a lasting marriage, may decrease.”

The results were reported in Science Daily and are to be released in the April 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Early drinking is one of the best predictors of later alcohol dependence, according to researchers. They also found genetic influences contributed to the associations between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage or early separation.

The results aren’t terribly surprising when you consider how significant alcohol use could cause a great deal of conflict in a relationship and deaden one’s ability to become intimate with a partner. But the articles I’ve seen don’t specify an amount of alcohol. I’d be curious whether “frequent drinking” includes a nightly glass of wine, or if heavier drinking was involved in these associations.

Do you know any frequent drinkers who delayed marriage to continue their partying lifestyle? Are you surprised at the associations made with alcohol use? Do you think those living the lifestyle of frequent drinking will even care about this research?

Interesting links:

Understanding Your Relationship’s Problems–Michele Weiner-Davis, author of the book and blog Divorce Busting, provides a fascinating analogy to help couples understand the interdependence of their actions and reactions on their relationships. There’s a circular causality that is hard for individuals to see, particularly when they believe their mate is to blame for the marriage’s problems. Read The Foxes and the Rabbits for some great explanation and examples that can open your eyes to new solutions in conflict resolution.

Financial Fidelity–We’ve talked about financial infidelity here before, and why it’s important to be trustworthy with one another about money. Nearly 1/3 of spouses admit to deceiving their partner about financial matters. Thanks to Paul Byerly for pointing me to an excellent article in Forbes, Is Your Partner Cheating on You Financially. There’s also a link to signs your spouse is lying about money. It serves as a reminder to have open, honest discussions about finances.

Photo credit: ©Galina Barshaya/PhotoXpress.com

We All Married the Wrong Person

Couples in crisis often reach the point where they decide they are just two poorly matched people. This precedes the decision to leave the relationship and go in search of that “right person.” Unfortunately, the odds of a successful marriage go down for each attempt at a new marriage. Psychiatrist and author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men and The Secrets of Happily Married Women and The Secrets of Happy Families, Scott Haltzman, MD, says in truth, they are correct; we all married the wrong person. I found his comments from TV interviews so intriguing that I requested an interview with him to delve into the topic.

Dr. Haltzman says even if we think we know a person well when we marry them, we are temporarily blinded by our love, which tends to minimize or ignore attributes that would make the relationship complicated or downright difficult. In addition, both individuals bring different expectations to the marriage, and we change individually and as a couple over time. No one gets a guarantee of marrying the right person, says Dr. Haltzman, so you should assume you married the wrong person. That doesn’t mean your marriage can’t be successful, however.

“Most of us spend a lot of time filtering through possible mates in hopes that we will end up with the right match. Some people believe it’s an issue of finding a soul mate … the one true partner. Whether or not you enter into marriage believing your partner is THE one, you certainly believe he or she is A right person for you,” says Dr. Haltzman.

He explains that if the success of a marriage were based on making the right choice, then those who carefully chose a good match would continue to sustain positive feelings the majority of the time, and over a long period. The theory would be proven correct that choosing well leads to success.  “But the divorce rate in and of itself stands as a great testament to the fallacy of that theory,” says Dr. Haltzman. Even the couples who remain married don’t describe themselves as completely happy with each other, he adds, but rather committed to one another.

“If we believe we must find the right person to marry, then the course of our marriage becomes a constant test to see if we were correct in that choice,” says Dr. Haltzman, adding that today’s culture does not support standing by our promises. Instead, he says we receive the repeated message, “You deserve the best.” These attitudes contribute to marital dissatisfaction, he says.

Dr.  Haltzman shared some research with me about the negative effects in our consumer society of having too many choices—which may lead to increased expectations and lower satisfaction. A book called The Choice Paradox by Barry Schwartz shares research that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. (I will have another post about this topic soon, because there is much insight to glean.) I’ll cut to the chase and reveal that people are happier with the choices they make when there are relatively few choices from which to choose. With too many choices, we can become overburdened and regretful and constantly question our decision. Today, individuals may feel they have many choices of mates, and fear lost opportunities with potential “right” partners. This may happen even after a person is married, as he or she questions the decision to marry with each bump in the road.

“My basic philosophy is we have to start with the premise when we choose our partner that we aren’t choosing with all the knowledge and information about them,” says Dr. Haltzman. “However, outside of the extreme scenarios of domestic violence, chronic substance abuse, or the inability to remain sexually faithful—which are good arguments for marrying the wrong person on a huge scale, and where it is unhealthy or unsafe to remain married—we need to say, ‘This is the person I chose, and I need to find a way to develop a sense of closeness with this person for who he or she really is and not how I fantasize them to be.’”

That choice to work on the relationship can lead to a more profound, meaningful experience together. Dr. Haltzman offers the following tips to help us reconnect or improve our bond:

  • Respect your mate for his/her positive qualities, even when they have some important negative ones.
  • Be the right person, instead of looking for the right person.
  • Be a loving person, instead of waiting to get love.
  • Be considerate instead of waiting to receive consideration.

To underscore the last couple of points, Dr. Haltzman says many people will put only so much effort into a relationship, then say, “I’ve done enough.” But very few of us will do that with our children. “Instead, we say despite their flaws, we wouldn’t want anyone else; yet, our kids can be much more of a pain in the ass than our spouses.”

Finally, he advises, “Have the attitude that this is the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, so you must find a way to make it work instead of always looking for the back door.”

For more information on Dr. Haltzman or his books, visit DrScott.com or 365Reasons.com. Many thanks to Dr. Haltzman for sharing his time, wisdom and advice.

Read More on Marrying the Wrong Person. (A new post to continue the discussion and share insights.)

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage.  Find it on Amazon.com or in your favorite e-book format.

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Photo Credit: ©Aliaksandr Zabudzko/PhotoXpress.com

Can Social Networking Lead to Divorce?

Divorce lawyers are reporting this month that 20 percent of divorce petitions cite Facebook as a contributor in the marriage’s demise. It’s unclear whether the numbers are accurate, but social networking can pose a new kind of threat to relationships if not used appropriately.

Facebook’s 350 million+ users find the site allows them to easily connect with friends and relatives, people they once knew, or new people with common interests. For some people, these connections can lead to curiosity, online flirting, wandering eyes, and the opportunity to rekindle old relationships or begin new ones.

The increasing use of mobile devices to communicate on social networking sites can make  posts seem more private. However, nothing posted to the Internet is private, and these communications frequently become public knowledge.

Lack of trust by the offended spouse can result, and marriages may be splintered. Once relationships have been sparked, users may be tempted to cheat on their spouses, or may leave their marriages for a new or old flame. Temptation is as old as time, but some people may find this new type of temptation too alluring.

Some couples are opting to avoid social networks for these reasons. Others are putting in place guidelines for communicating with the opposite gender.

A helpful article at the Marriage Junkie gives 5 ways to protect your marriage if you use social networking.

A few tidbits they share include not sharing negative information about your spouse, choosing your “friends” wisely, discussing with your spouse what topics or people should be out of bounds, and avoiding private chats or the development of close relationships with members of the opposite sex. When in doubt, “unfriend” someone who is offensive or who sparks inappropriate feelings.

One tip I would add is to “friend” your spouse, or if they are not a member, provide your spouse access to your page at any time—not to “check on you” but so that you can chat about common friends and activities and have an air of openness.

A previous post details why emotional affairs can be just as deadly to a marriage as physical ones. Guard your mind and heart, and keep your focus and attention on your beloved spouse.

Do you use Facebook? Do you have any safeguards in place or do you see no need for them?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

What are the Best Divorce Predictors?

Take five seconds to think about what you think are the most common events or reasons people divorce. During which years of marriage do you think couples most likely to divorce? Let’s see if you’re right.

Most people mistakenly think the most common events that precipitate a divorce are illness, infidelity, job loss or death of a child. Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE), says the event most likely to precede divorce is the birth of a child and the three months following. People also mistakenly think year seven has the highest divorce rate, but she says the highest divorce rates are during first two years and years 14 to 16, leading to the average marriage length of seven years.

Couples may believe that conflict causes divorce, but actually the opposite is true. Smart Marriages, the educational organization run by CMFCE, reports that “the number-one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.” Early in a marriage, couples may feel that to stay in love they need to agree, be quiet, not fight. In a more mature marriage, couples may avoid conflict because it quickly gets out of hand, either leading to blow-ups or at least one partner shutting down. “Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences in ways that actually strengthen their relationship and improve intimacy,” says Sollee. She adds that they know how to keep the disagreement confined so that they don’t contaminate the rest of the relationship.

In other words, don’t let a disagreement stop you from having fun together and making time to enjoy what brought you together in the first place.

Are you thinking that healthy, happy relationships shouldn’t have these areas of disagreement? That would be an incorrect and unrealistic expectation. According to Sollee, marriage researchers have found that “every happy, successful couple has approximately ten areas of incompatibility or disagreement that they will never resolve.” That’s right, Never. So focusing on these areas may just keep you from enjoying the best parts of your relationship. And leaving your partner because you can’t agree on everything will likely lead to you being stuck with another partner who has ten different areas of incompatibility. (For second marriages, the biggest areas of disagreement are about children from earlier relationships.)

“Successful couples learn how to manage the disagreements and live life ‘around’ them—to love in spite of their areas of difference, and to at least develop understanding and empathy for their partner’s positions,” explains Sollee. They also learn to welcome and embrace change, and to lovingly negotiate with one another.

Sollee says the skills for handling disagreement and conflict and for integrating change and expressing love, intimacy, sex, and appreciation can all be learned, for example through educational courses. Gaining or improving these skills will not only improve your marriage, it will allow you to provide a positive model for your family and friends, and particularly your children, who learn most through your example.

What Factors Make Your Marriage Less Likely to Last?

Love isn’t enough for a marriage to succeed, say researchers from the Australian National University, who followed 2,500 couples for six years to learn which couples stayed together and which did not.

First, the factors which do NOT seem to impact a marriage’s success rate:

  • How many children a couple has
  • Whether or not the wife works
  • The number of years the couple is employed

The factors that played a significant part in whether marriages lasted were:

  • Second/third marriages—90% are likely to separate or divorce.
  • Age—If a man is under 25 when he marries, or is nine or more years older than his wife, the marriage is twice as likely to fail as if the man is older than 25 or closer to his wife’s age.
  • Blended families—Of those who marry with children from prior relationships, 20% end up divorced.
  • Desire for children—If the woman’s desire for children is much stronger than a man’s, the marriage is unlikely to succeed.
  • Parents’ relationships—Children of divorce had a 17% divorce rate, versus 10% divorce rate for those from intact families.
  • Smoking—Having one smoker in a marriage increases the likelihood of divorce.
  • Money—16% of self-reported poor couples in which the man was unemployed broke up, while 9% of those with comfortable bank accounts divorced.

If one or more of these factors is a concern for your marriage, don’t be pessimistic about your relationship. Instead, discuss it with your partner and seek tools or support for any areas of concern. But if you haven’t married yet, and your fiancé is a 22-year-old unemployed smoker, he has two children from a previous marriage, and he doesn’t want any more children (and you do), think long and hard about it.

What do you think about marriage statistics? Do you give them any credence or do you feel your relationship is unique and not impacted by outside trends?

Protect Your Marriage from an Emotional Affair

While you may be confident that your marriage isn’t at risk for a sexual affair, you may be blind to the very real and harmful risks of an emotional affair. A recent article posted by CNN.com and Oprah.com describes emotional affairs, which lack physical intimacy but do involve some secrecy, deception and betrayal.

Often an emotional affair can begin very innocently with a friendship from work, church or the neighborhood. A flirtatious online relationship can also develop into an emotional affair. Couples who are not emotionally connecting are at greatest risk of falling into an emotional affair with another person. This new connection brings about a fresh excitement, a spark, especially when someone you find attractive shows a sincere interest in you as a person and “gets” you even more than you feel your spouse does.

Emotional affairs may be on the rise. In the CNN article, psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “Though emotional affairs have always been around, I’m seeing more of them among my clients than ever before. We’ve all grown so used to watching, reading, and hearing sexually suggestive material that there’s no longer an obvious verbal or physical line we think we’re crossing.”

She says a man and woman can be friends, but once they stop telling their partners how much time they’re spending together (including texting, phone calls or other communication), it becomes deceptive. Other signs of an emotional affair include making sure you look your best when you’re together and confiding more in this person than you do your spouse, or sharing that you are unhappy in your marriage or with your spouse.

Saltz says this kind of affair can be as harmful and difficult to overcome as a sexual affair. She advises that all contact with the “friend” needs to end, and the difficult marriage rebuilding needs to occur, ideally with professional help. The betrayal can be extremely difficult on the spouse, and cause a huge fracture in the marriage. The reasons for the affair (disconnect in the marriage) need to be addressed.

Preventing these inappropriate relationships is the best course, starting with maintaining open, honest communication with your spouse. “When a couple can’t express their feelings, concerns, and dreams, they’re both at risk for betrayal,” says Saltz. Secondly, avoid sharing too much personal information, especially with a member of the opposite sex. If you find someone attractive, keep some distance or engage with them only when your spouse is present.

“Any good marriage takes time, effort and emotional energy,” says Saltz, who says any marriage can fall into this trap. Would you risk your marriage with an emotional affair? Is there a relationship in your life that causes your heart to beat a little faster? Beware.