Tag Archives: Marriage Research

Researchers: Divorced friends may have good marriage advice

Some divorced individuals have learning experiences through their divorce that can help others, researchers say. The Early Years of Marriage Project, a long-term NIH-funded study on marriage divorce that began more than 25 years ago found that divorced people may have some valuable insights to share.

The study included 373 couples between the ages of 25 and 37 who were in their first year of marriage in 1986. Nearly half of them divorced, and 70 percent went on to new relationships.

Researchers also found value in asking happily married couples what makes their marriages work. But they concede that the divorced couples can tell about what they learned about marriage the hard way, and what they would do differently. More than 40 percent of the divorced individuals remarried, and they shared some of the things that they carried to their second marriages. Read the TODAY article here for details.

A couple of the points researchers found included:

Nearly half of subjects said money strained their first marriages. That’s why 60 percent didn’t share expenses in their new relationships. Instead of resolving their money issues, they felt it was better to set up a system that kept financial conflict at bay.

Researchers found that men needed “affective affirmation” –such as as compliments or physical contact that shows support from their wives as an important part of their relationship.  Men needed this non-sexual support more than women, because they don’t often hear positive feedback from others in their lives as women do.

It’s too early for the researchers to determine if these second marriages will fare better than their first in the long run. However, the point is that failure often teaches us some important lessons. If you have a divorced friend who tells you he wishes he had shown more affection to his wife, or who says she wishes she had appreciated her husband’s efforts more, those are lessons worth listening to. If they have a lot of anger about their ex, perhaps it’s best to change the subject.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is “Good Fighting” Beneficial to Marriage?

Many couples fear that frequent arguing can signal their relationship’s demise. It may be the type of arguing you do, not the frequency, that determines your fate.

Do couples that fight actually have an edge? A 2012 study found that 44 percent of married couples believe that fighting more than once a week helps keep the lines of communication open.

William Doherty, professor in the University of Minnesota’s department of family social science says although this study was done in India, it reinforces similar U.S. studies. He warns, however, that only “good fighting” can be helpful, and that “bad fighting” can be destructive.

A “good fight” would be a discussion or conflict with a soft start-up rather than a hard start-up. For example, a soft start-up may begin, “I’m feeling very overwhelmed and could really use some help.” On the other hand, a hard start-up may begin, “Why am I the only one who ever does any housework around here?”

Here are a few other tips from Doherty on “good fighting”:

  1. Dealing with an issue can be better than ignoring it, especially if resentment is building.
  2. Focus only on the topic at hand; don’t bring up old issues.
  3. Don’t bring in third parties or their opinions.
  4. Don’t compare your spouse to someone else.
  5. Don’t use “you always/never”.
  6. Remember to RESPECT one another.
  7. Apologize when it’s warranted. This shows you value the relationship.

You can check out the source article at the Chicago Tribune: Couples who argue together stay together.

Check out Lori Lowe’s book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage,  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Divorce Rates are Declining, and Why Stats are Overrated

One of the biggest myths I frequently hear reported is that half of all marriages end in divorce. Analysts at McCrindle Research report that the divorce rate is one in three, not one in two.  “Marriages are actually doing better these days and the divorce rates are declining and have been for more than 30 years,” says social analyst Mark McCrindle.

The “one in two marriages will fail” is an example of a myth perpetuated by careless reporting of statistics. McCrindle says myths become accepted because the numbers give them “an element of believability.”

What harm is there to believing incorrect facts about marriage? Plenty. Couples enter marriage with lower expectations when they hear divorce rates of 50 percent and higher. Some decide it’s not even worth the risk of marriage, because they fear divorce is inevitable. I hear many young people questioning why they would get married when they lived through a family breakdown and/or hear the difficult odds of marital success. And others decide not to fight for their marriage or commit during difficulties, because they don’t believe they will succeed “against the odds.” Incorrect stats can therefore lead to lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates.

Research was carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics-based research to disprove five commonly accepted, but incorrect assumptions often heard in daily life. Two of the assumptions related to marriage. Other than the divorce rate, the other myth relates to the “seven-year itch” when people believe most divorces occur. In fact, researchers say divorce comes after an average of 12.3 years. To read about the other myths, read the Herald Sun article here.

Keep in mind that “on average” means that many last longer, and many don’t last as long. If many couples divorce in the first year, that brings the average marriage length way down. If a “median” is reported, that means half of the cases fall above this time period, and half fall below it. It doesn’t mean that time period for divorce is the most frequent.

 The U.S. Census reports that roughly one in five adults has ever been divorced.

What’s the point?

The takeaway is read/share your data with a skeptical eye, and to not perpetuate myths like “half of all marriages end in divorce.” Plenty of people complain about the difficulties of marriage, but if you have a strong marriage, don’t be shy about encouraging others. Be a positive voice for marriage where you work, in your church, in your home, and your words will have a ripple effect. Share blog posts with a couple who might find them helpful, along with a short email. Or consider mentoring a younger couple if you have a strong marriage.

If you know a couple who is planning to get married, realize that they are hearing many negative comments about the odds of their eventual success. Counter that with loving comments and positivity. No couple wants to be a part of a statistic; they want to know their union is unique and celebrated.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other. Available from Amazon.com or at your favorite e-book retailer.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Which Kind of Commitment Do You Have in Your Marriage?

A group of UCLA psychologists went about determining what it means to be committed to your marriage. They found there are two kinds of commitment spouses tend to have, and only one of them predicts lower divorce rates and slower rates of deterioration in the relationship. Which type do you have?

This long-term study assessed 172 couples during the first 11 years of their marriages. After 11 years, 78.5 percent remained married, and 21.5 percent divorced. How they defined commitment early in their relationship helped predict whether the marriage lasted.

Study co-author Benjamin Karney, co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, reports two definitions of relationship commitment. The first level of commitment means to the partners, “I really like this relationship and want it to continue.”  It’s easier to be committed when things are going well, and this is the first kind of commitment.

However, the psychologists said there was a deeper level of commitment that predicted fewer marital problems and lower divorce rates. The deeper level of commitment relates to when the relationship is not going as well or is experiencing problems. It is defined more like, “I’m committed to this relationship, but it’s not going very well—I need to have some resolve, make some sacrifices and take the steps I need to take to keep this relationship moving forward.” In other words, the partner is willing to take active steps to maintain the relationship, even if sacrifices are needed. He or she says, “I’m committed to making this relationship work.”

Study co-author Thomas Bradbury says this second level means that when you are struggling, you are willing to do what is difficult, even when you don’t want to. These more sacrificial spouses are more effective in solving problems, have lower divorce rates, and slower rates of relationship deterioration, say the psychologists.

This is consistent with the results of interviews I have done with happily married couples, many of whom have experience very difficult periods. In fact, one of the 12 key lessons shared in my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, by couples who have overcome adversity, is that love is sacrificial. I address how to create a cycle of giving in which both partners look out for the other’s needs, and both are rewarded.

When both partners were willing to make sacrifices for the marriage, they were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages, say the researchers, who studied the couples as newlyweds then followed up with them every six months for four years, then later in their marriages.

Bradbury says relationships are vulnerable when under a great deal of stress or when there’s a “high-stakes decision” about which you disagree. “Those are the defining moments in a relationship,” he says. “What our data indicate is that committing to the relationship rather than committing to your own agenda and your own immediate needs is a far better strategy. We’re not saying it’s easy.”  He adds that successful couples are able to shift the focus away from who is “winning” to how to keep the relationship preserved. Read more about the study in this article, “Here is What Real Commitment to Your Marriage Means.”

Another strategy the psychologists recommend against is “bank-account relationships” in which each person keeps score of how often they compromise or get their way. This is not effective in lasting, happy relationships, they say. If you’re keeping score, your focus is still on winning, not on strengthening the relationship.

So, how would you define your level of commitment to your marriage on the day you married? And how would you define it today? Are you willing to communicate effectively, to sacrifice for the good of the relationship when necessary, and to not keep score when things are tough?

If you missed the previous post, read other findings in the study about the hidden forces in your marriage–genes that may affect how you interact with your spouse.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other.

Photo by salvatore vuony courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Does Your Marriage Have Areas for Improvement?

If you are hoping to improve or even maintain your relationship in 2012, it may help to know what the major sources of conflict are. What do couples fight most about, and can you assess your personal behavior in these areas to ensure you are not contributing to that conflict?

The Science of Relationships provides the Top 15 Sources of Conflict in Relationships with a brief explanation of each that I think is very helpful. It includes everything from being inconsiderate to poor grooming. First, ask yourself what the most common conflict topics are in your relationship, then check the list. Be honest about an area in which you might be able to improve. This isn’t the time to blame your partner, but rather to look a way you might take some responsibility for a bit of self-improvement. Personally, I hope to improve my daily efforts toward generosity this year.

For some additional helpful reading, The Generous Husband’s Paul Byerly has done a good job dissecting The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2011—research completed by the National Marriage Project. This is the research I wrote about recently in which generosity in marriage is said to be the best indicator of a very happy marriage. There’s much more to the study. Paul explains the findings on Money and Housework, which show happier husbands and wives are part of couples for which household chores are shared equally. In addition, the study showed that financial pressure and debt decrease our marital happiness. No matter what our income, increased consumer debt is a hindrance to a happy marriage, particularly for women. He also reports on the impact of family and friends in marriage, which reminds us we should be connecting with those who support our marriage, and preferably spend time with others who have strong marriages. Finally, this is an interesting bit about the importance of shared faith within a marriage. If these reports are interesting to you, check out the full study results. (See link at beginning of paragraph.)

What area of your marriage could use some tweaking—or a complete overhaul—this coming year? Perhaps how you communicate, how you manage your finances, how you share your faith, how you share housework or raise your children, how you manage your time or your home, how you show affection, your sexual satisfaction with one another, making time to spend each day with each other? The options are nearly endless, but discuss one area with your partner in which you both will make an effort to improve, will seek out tools for improvement, and will provide honest and productive feedback with each other. If you have particular topics you would like more information about, please message me or leave it in the comments and I will provide expert insights and research-based tips for you.

For all those who celebrate the Christmas holiday this coming week, I wish you all the blessings and joy of the season. I hope for you a holiday with minimal stress and abounding love. And I wish peace and joy to all of you and to your families and friends. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Arvydas Kriuksta courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Want a Happier Marriage? Be Generous.

Happier couples report more generosity in their marriages. A recent study, part of the National Marriage Project, surveyed more than 1,400 couples between the ages of 18 and 46. All the couples had children. Researchers found couples who said they had a high amount of marital generosity were five times more likely to have “very happy” marriages. The acts of generosity conveyed importance to their partner.

What does it mean to be generous? It can mean any small act of kindness. Happy couples I interviewed for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, reported many small, generous acts, such as getting a cup of tea each morning or a back rub each night. It boils down to giving something to your spouse that he or she likes—showing that you know their likes/desires and that you value them.

And the most important way to be generous? Sexually. Researchers found that spouses who reported above-average sexual satisfaction were 10 to 13 times more likely to be “very happy” in their marriage, compared with those who were less satisfied sexually. This is consistent with other research: Read Want a better marriage? Have more Sex.  Since sexual satisfaction was by far the most important indicator of a “happy marriage” for this study, it really should have been the headline, but if you consider it as part of an overall generous marriage, you can even take your marriage to a higher level.

Remember that marriage researcher John Gottman, PhD, has long advocated at least five positive interactions for every one negative interaction in a marriage as a predictor of long-term success. (Read Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio.) Acts of generosity certainly help increase the number of positive interactions and encourage you and your spouse to think positively toward one another.

I think one of the biggest obstacles toward completing more generous acts is time. So, think ahead when you are shopping and grab a few small things your partner would enjoy. Stock up on their favorite drinks or treats. And try to be sensitive to their day. For example, is there an errand you could help with or something needed at home you could pick up on your way from work? And schedule time for intimacy when you won’t be exhausted.

Other factors that were important to having a very happy marriage according to the study included:

  • Level of commitment
  • Generosity and a positive attitude toward raising children
  • Social support from friends and family
  • Spirituality within a marriage

Read the story from MSNBC: Generous couples have happier marriages.

What is one generous act that you or your spouse try to do on a regular basis? (That is, outside the bedroom!)

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available–just in time for Christmas. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Sweat the Small Stuff in Your Marriage to Prevent Divorce

Most divorces are not the result of major conflicts, but rather the slow erosion of your marriage. You think your marriage is fine because nothing major has happened, but you’re drifting apart. Wake up, and turn the tide.

Rather than a major tipping point that causes a rift in the marriage, many couples simply lose touch with each other, says Edward M. Hallowell, co-author of Married to Distraction: How to Restore Intimacy and Strenghten Your Partnership in an Age of Interruption. “The ambient noise of life takes over,” he says, adding that couples lose the fun and moments of sustained attention because they are surrounded by stimuli.

Research shows two-thirds of divorces result from low-conflict marriages. In other words, it’s the small stuff that can destroy your relationship and get between you and a great life together.

What stimuli might be causing chaos or interruptions in your life? Is it the hectic pace of life? The intrusion of technology? Is it the sometimes overwhelming nature of child-rearing or over-involvement in extracurricular activities? Is it unfulfilled dreams?

The good news, say the experts, is that low-conflict problems are “highly solveable” compared with affairs, addictions or huge financial debt. However, if ignored, the drudgery of life can be very damaging to your relationship.

“There are a lot of marriages of quiet desperation that just drag on and on until they end in divorce,” says Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential. However, she adds that many marriages can survive if the partners are willing to be flexible and sometimes imaginative with solutions.

“The first step is to have the difficult conversation and actually hazard some honesty with your partner,” she explains. Rather than focusing on how to “stick it out” in marriage, determine how you can change your lives so that you can thrive in your marriage.

Source: Miami Herald

Note: I’m excited to announce that First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be released December 8, 2011. Please follow the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss and check out details at www.LoriDLowe.com. Thank you.

LINK:
Divorce Rate Linked to Education & Race

Photo by Suat Eman courtesty of www.Freedigitalphotos.net.

Why are Women Less Happy than Men in Marriage?

Men are generally happier in their marriages than women are. A survey of men taken by the Chicago Sun-Times showed 78 percent of men would remarry their wives. Another survey by Women’s Day Magazine showed only half of women would choose to remarry their husbands.

Why do you there is such a wide disparity? Some may say it’s because women do more of the work at home and increasingly bring in a second income for the family. Some experts believe that men experience fulfillment more easily than women. Women, on the other hand, have high expectations and romantic inclinations.

Mark Gungor, speaker and author of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage writes that he used to put the blame on men’s shoulders for thoughtless or insensitive. However, he says women file for 80 percent of all divorces and are usually the ones frustrated with the relationship, the disappointed ones. He writes that women’s unrealistic expectations are often responsible for divorce, not inept men.

I’ll say I agree up to a point. Just because a man is happy with the situation doesn’t mean that it’s a positive environment for his wife. However, I will agree that I as a wife have struggled with having unrealistic expectations, and I know other wives do as well. Despite having excellent husbands, we sometimes wish life were a little more romantic. And, truth be told, we wish our husbands could read our minds and know (and fulfill) our deepest longings.

I also agree that women look to their husband to meet too many of their needs, especially with family often living at a distance. While generations ago, women lived and worked together and supported one another, today’s families are much more isolated. So, we expect our husbands to be our confidants, our lovers, our best friends, our emotional supports, and more. We also want them to be good providers and share the workload at home.

Our spouse shouldn’t be expected to meet all of our needs, and he or she cannot be our source of hope or happiness.

“A successful marriage is possible only when two complete and happy people get together for the purpose of building a life together. They do not need the other to be truly happy, complete or emotionally whole,” says Gungor.

This is where I wholeheartedly agree. Yes, men need to feel respected, and women need to feel loved. We need to express our needs and our feelings to our spouse, but we also need to be responsible for creating our own fulfilled and joy-filled lives.

For a better perspective on this, read What if Today Were Your Last Day With Your Spouse; Patty Newbold learns the hard way about dropping unnecessary expectations. Also, check out What Do You Expect From Your Marriage and Mate, especially if you feel life and marriage for you hasn’t been entirely fair lately for you.

LINKS:
Read from the Washington Post about how delaying divorce can save marriages, and how new legislation may be coming to your state. It’s a very interesting proposal by two well-qualified individuals.

Photo by Photostock courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net

Do You Love Your Phone More Than Your Spouse?

Before you answer too quickly, check out the surprising research. Today is the day the highly anticipated iPhone 4S comes out, and I’m hankering for one as much as the next person. It’s a good time for all of us to read how our phones may be affecting our brains, feelings, and love lives.

The question isn’t, “Are you addicted to your phone?” (Which is what many have been asking in recent years.)  Instead, researchers say they have concluded that you “love” your phone in a similar way that you love your partner or your religion.

Branding consulting and researcher Martin Lindstrom explains in the New York Times, “A recent experiment that I carried out using neuroimaging technology suggests that drug-related terms like ‘addiction’ and ‘fix’ aren’t as scientifically accurate as a word we use to describe our most cherished personal relationships. That word is ‘love.’

“Come on,” you say, “I don’t love my phone that much.” But think back to the quiet meals with your spouse, or the times you sat in front of the fire, when you either pulled out your phone or wished you could. Lindstrom says those who leave their phones at home feel stressed-out, cut off and “somehow un-whole.” I know even when I go out to dinner with my husband, my phone comes with, and so does his.

Lindstrom carried out an experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine if iPhones were addictive (as in cocaine, shopping, or video games). Eighteen people (half men, half women) were exposed separately to audio and video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. Whenever they were exposed to either the audio OR the visual, the participants’ brains activated BOTH the audio and the visual cortices.

“In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia. But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member. In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.”

So, we respond to our phones in a similar way that we respond to our spouses. (And, I’m guessing sometimes, the response to the spouse may be more negative.) Have you considered how this response may affect your marriage? I’m sure many of us can share how an “important” call or text disrupted our alone time or family time. Do you love your spouse enough to turn your phone off for a few hours a day? One hour a day? Half a day on the weekend? Half an hour before bedtime? Do you have any structure or limits on how and when you use technology?

Lindstrom suggests, “As we embrace new technology that does everything but kiss us on the mouth, we risk cutting ourselves off from human interaction. For many, the iPhone has become a best friend, partner, lifeline, companion and, yes, even a Valentine. The man or woman we love most may be seated across from us in a romantic Paris bistro, but his or her 8GB, 16GB or 32GB rival lies in wait inside our pockets and purses. My best advice? Shut off your iPhone, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way.”

If you answered that you love your spouse more than your phone, here’s your chance to prove it. Set limits that you both agree upon, then stick to them. (Try 30 to 60 minutes a day if the idea makes you sweaty with nervousness. No, sleep time doesn’t count.) If you find you cannot stick to the limits, then you’ve proven that your feelings for your phone are stronger than your feelings for your partner.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

How much do you love your phone? Why do you think that is?

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Conflict Levels Mostly Unchanged During Marriage

The amount of conflict you have in your marriage today is not likely to change during the course of your marriage, says a brand new study that followed 1,000 couples over 20 years. This level of stability is positive for the 16 percent of couples who have low levels of conflict, and perhaps not bad news for the 60 percent of couples who have moderate levels of conflict. However, 22 percent of couples had high conflict levels, with lots of fighting and arguing, and that wasn’t likely to change over the years.

Claire Kamp Dush, assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University was the lead author of the study. “There wasn’t much change in conflict over time,” she said.

Many of the couples were interviewed five times during the duration of the study from 1980 to 2000. Conflict was measured based on how often respondents said they disagreed with their spouse.

Learn to make decisions jointly

One tip learned from the low-conflict couples is that they were more likely than the moderate- or high-conflict couples to say they shared decision-making with their spouses. “That’s interesting because you might think that making decisions jointly would create more opportunities for conflict, but that’s not what we found,” said Kamp Dush.  “It may be that if both spouses have a say in decision making, they are more satisfied with their relationship and less likely to fight.”

Researchers also found the low-conflict couples were more likely than others to say they believed in traditional, lifelong marriage. Because of this belief, they may be more apt to let disagreements go, say researchers.

The healthiest marriage types were those in which spouses validated one another, were engaged with one another and were happy. About 54 percent of couples had lower conflict levels, equal decision making and high and middle levels of conflict. They had low levels of divorce.

Less healthy types were those who were in avoider marriages; 6 percent of couples studied included this type in which husbands were not involved in housework. They had traditional gender roles, and avoided conflict because of their belief in lifelong marriage. And 20 percent were in volatile marriages. Those in hostile marriages were most likely to divorce.  For more details on the study, read the article provided by Ohio State University at PhysOrg.com.

If your marriage has high levels of conflict or hostility, you may need professional help to change these patterns, which are clearly very difficult to break.

Photo courtesty of PhotoXpress.com