Tag Archives: marriage trends

Do millennials want marriage without commitment?

fingers crossed morguefileMillennials are a so-called generation raised on tech, overwhelmed by choice, primarily concerned with FOMO (fear of missing out) and fearful of long-term commitment. At least that’s what a recent Time Magazine article claims, suggesting that millennials support “beta” marriages.

The magazine reported in July that 43% of the 1,000 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial period, after which the marriage can be formalized or dissolved (no divorce necessary). The researchers called this a “beta marriage.”

Interestingly, 69% of this surveyed group still want to get married, but being jittery about entering into a two-year phone contract, are they seeking ways to reduce their commitment in marriage?

The survey further reports:
*33% support the real estate approach—marriage licenses granted on a 5-, 7-, or 30-year basis, renegotiated after this
*21% support a presidential approach—marriage vows last 4 years but after 8, you can “elect” to choose a new partner
*10% support multiple partner approach—marriage can be with more than one person at a time, each of whom fulfills a need in one’s life

First, I’ll address the study. I have to question the seriousness of a study that is done by trend researchers in conjunction with a new television drama called Satisfaction. I would also question how these “researchers” phrased the questions with catchy nicknames for each category, and whether respondents were answering in gest or seriously.

If they were serious, what would be wrong with these approaches? Other than the fact that a true marriage cannot be successful under these terms, and the fact that the children born in these unions would be destined to lack any family stability, what more could be wrong?

These young people could be cheating themselves out of greatness. Out of happiness. Out of love. Out of the opportunity to give real and lasting love.
In exchange, they get to keep the focus on themselves forever—their pleasures, their desires, their wants. But research shows these are the people who never find happiness. So good luck with that.

Nothing new
The idea of “test marriages” was bandied about in the 60s, 70s and 80s; it’s not a new concept. And while some respondents claimed in this survey that the idea of “beta marriages” is not about fear of commitment but rather an opportunity to test and deglitch relationships, I think most of us married more than 10 years would scoff at that. You don’t deglitch relationships by threatening to leave your partner every 2, 7 or 10 years. On the flip side, it’s the nature of commitment itself that allows partners to trust, relax and grow together. And it’s that promise that allows us to give ourselves completely, not holding a portion of ourselves back in case the contract is not renewed.

Do you think even churches haven’t talked about these “new” ideas and how changes in marriage may affect citizens? John Paul II, one of the world’s most beloved faith leaders of our time, specifically addressed “test marriages” in 1981, calling them unacceptable and an experiment on human beings, “whose dignity demands that they should be always and solely the term of a self-giving love without limitations of time or of any other circumstance.”

If you belong to a church, I’m sure your pastor would agree. And if you don’t belong to a church, I’m sure your grandmother would agree. And I have found grandmothers are usually right about these things.

We look for the easy road and find it’s not very fulfilling. The irony is that the people who might opt for a short-term marriage would hope that their spouse would be working to “earn” that contract renewal. Instead, the spouse would be counting faults and mistakes as well, wondering if it’s worth their time and effort to stay with this partner. Forgiveness and love would be pushed to the side in favor of counting the costs. That’s not a marriage I would want. And I don’t think millennials are dumb enough to fall for it. How about you?

Related Links:
Chris Gersten has a few words to say about this study in “Note to millennials—It’s not about You.” “I think we are insulting an entire generation when we say that they need more options, including the availability of short-term marriages,” he says. Our goal must be to strengthen the institution of marriage in order to give more children a chance to be raised in stable two-parent married families.”

And here’s Greg Griffin’s “A beta marriage isn’t a better marriage” He points out some important shortcomings to beta marriages and poignantly adds, “I ask forgiveness of those younger than me because I’m part of a culture that has failed to show the great value of marriage to those who come after us, and has left them looking for better alternatives.”

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the 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, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Reasons for Boomer Divorce Spike, and How to Prevent Late-Life Divorces

This is part 2 of summarizing Wall Street Journal’s research on why we are currently seeing a spike in late-life divorces (and adding my two cents of course). I am interested in hearing your ideas and reaction as well. For background, read part 1—Is Divorce Booming for Boomers?

In addition to some of the risk factors discussed in the above post, professor and sociologist Susan Brown, the author of The Gray Divorce Revolution, says boomers had different marriage expectations than previous generations. The 70s began a period during which, for the first time, marriage was about “needing to make individuals happy,” explains Brown. Previous generations viewed marriage as an economic union, and then in the 1950s and 1960s as a companionate marriage, which was defined by how each spouse fulfilled his or her role. Individualized marriage became more about using marriage to meet personal needs.

For me, that sets up a red flag, because marriage isn’t intended to “make people happy” or to help them “meet their needs.” Individuals are responsible for their personal and spiritual journey towards joy. We can make that journey with our loved ones, but our loved ones can’t bring happiness to us or force us down a particular path. In addition, we’ve chatted here numerous times about how a spouse cannot be responsible for meeting all of our needs. Having that expectation is rather a recipe for disaster, in my humble opinion. (Read Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Meet All Your  Needs.)

Baby boomers were also focused on achieving self-fulfillment, rather than role fulfillment. “For boomers who have had trouble maintaining commitments in the past, hitting the empty nest phase seems to trigger thoughts of mortality—and of vanishing possibility for self-fulfillment,” according to the WSJ’s Susan Gregory Thomas.

They see their last phase of life as an opportunity to achieve self-fulfillment, but often don’t consider the disastrous economic financial implications (which hit women harder) and the consequences of child custody (which impact men harder).  In other words, they don’t anticipate a change in lifestyle or the loss of their children.

So, how do you avoid getting to this point? Marriage advice from The Gottman Institute is similar for this generation as for younger couples. Spouses need to actively respond to each other’s bids for reconnection and avoid criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. (Read that sentence again, please.) Turn toward one another, even if you’re busy. Make your spouse a priority. Don’t start over with someone new; start over with your spouse and bring your relationship to a higher level. Instead of looking to someone else to meet your needs, figure out what makes you excited and pursue that. Then share your excitement and positivity with your spouse.

I can empathize that adults in their 50s and 60s are looking at what kind of legacy they may be leaving this world. But honestly, what better legacy could there be than adding to the love in the world, leaving an unfractured family filled with love for you and for one another?  

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Is Divorce Rate Booming for Boomers?

While overall U.S. divorce rates have declined in recent years, the divorce rates have spiked for baby boomers who are in the 50 to 60 age group. The Wall Street Journal calls this trend “gray divorce” and recently analyzed some of the factors contributing to the trend. (Read “The Gray Divorcés” for full details.)

Late in life divorces used to be unusual, but are now more common. In 1990, only one in ten people who got divorced were 50 or older. By 2009, the number was about one in four. More than 600,000 people aged 50 and older got divorced in 1009, according to the WSJ. Divorces in middle age can be financially devastating, says the paper, and those who remarry have to address issues over estates, inheritances, and children from previous marriages.

The WSJ reported on some of the risk factors behind these gray divorces, and says one of the best explanations for the rise in divorce rates for this age group is that more of them have already been divorced once. “Second and subsequent marriages have a 150 percent greater chance of ending in divorce than do first marriages.”

Another risk factor is a more recent marriage. Nearly half of divorced individuals were married fewer than 20 years, while three-fifths of those married more than 30 years stayed together.

Race also impacted boomer divorce rates, with blacks being 75 percent more likely to divorce after age 50, and Hispanics being 21 percent more likely than whites.

Those with a college education had a 17 percent lower probability of divorce than those with only a high school diploma.

In an AARP study asking older individuals about their reasons for divorce, 29 percent cited marital infidelity as a cause, which is similar to the rate in other age groups. Women also initiated 66 percent of the divorces, which is also similar to other age groups.

There have not been comprehensive national studies about other reasons for late divorces. “If there’s a silver lining to the rise in gray divorces, it’s that the rate may fall for subsequent generations,” says the WSJ article. The reason is that with divorce rates declining for those in their 20s, 30s or 40s, the biggest risk factor for divorce (a previous divorce) will be lessened. In addition, the newspaper cited GenXers as having “relatively stable marriages so far” and states they could stay married longer than generations before them.

Next time, I’ll follow up with a final post on this gray divorce trend, including what boomers’ focus on self-fulfillment–as opposed to previous generations’ focus on role fulfillment—may have to do with the increase in the divorce rate.

What do you think are the biggest reasons for the boomers’ booming divorce rate?

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Link:

Check out this thought-provoking post from Corey Allan, PhD, called “Marriage is Easy.” He says, “If you want your marriage to keep getting better over time and lighten your load rather than add to your burden, you must take responsibility for both how you behave and for what behaviors you accept from your spouse.” Yes, I agree. Working through this kind of conflict may help you get to a better place.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Acceptance of Interracial Marriage Growing in U.S.

Brandy (left) and Chris (right) Barnes were profiled in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss. Pictured here with their daughter, Summer, in 2007, when they renewed their wedding vows.

Today’s topic is an important marital trend here in the states:  The number of interracial marriages in the U.S. is on the rise, and acceptance of these marriages is also increasing.

CNN reported on a new PEW Study that shows approximately 15 percent of new marriages in the U.S. in 2010 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities. This is double the number from 1980. As a percentage of all marriages, interracial marriages (also called intermarriages) accounted for 8.4 percent in 2010.

About 43 percent of Americans said they believe more intermarriages is a change for the better within society, while only 10 percent believe it is a change for the worse.  More than one-third of American adults reported an immediate family member of close relative is married to someone of a different race. And 63 percent said they would have no problem with a family member marrying outside their racial or ethnic group.  This is in stark contrast to the 1986 study that reported only one-third of the public thought intermarriages were acceptable for everyone.

This issue has some personal significance to me, since my husband is half Chinese (and my children are, therefore, one-quarter Chinese). Thankfully, we haven’t experienced any overt negative comments or hostility during our marriage based on ethnicities. In fact, people tend to be very welcoming of that fact.

However, I interviewed an interracial couple—Chris and Brandy Barnes—for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, who faced a great deal of hostility from family, friends, and sometimes strangers. As an African-American man and a fair-skinned, blond Caucasian living in North Carolina, the couple faced criticism from friends prior to their marriage, even though they dated through college and grad school. They also faced a lack of acceptance from his family, which caused stress and conflict in the marriage. They worked through the conflicts and have had to distance themselves from his family as a means of creating boundaries around their new family. They are a happy family, and they have also created standard positive responses they give to individuals (mostly Black women) who make negative comments in public about them or their biracial daughter. Living in the south may contribute to the racism they sometimes see.

Despite negative attitudes that still exit, we have come a long way in this country, where forty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban in interracial marriages.

The PEW Study shows the number of intermarriages and the approval of such marriages vary by region, educational levels and ethnicities. For instance, in Western states, one in five people married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010. In the south, that number drops to 14 percent. Even lower numbers are reported in the Northeast (13 percent) and the Midwest (11 percent).  Hawaii had the most intermarriages with 42 percent.

Higher educational status was sometimes linked to higher rates of intermarriages, with White/Asian unions among the most educated and the highest median combined annual earnings.

The study is primarily based on the PEW Center’s analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Service in 2008-2010 and on three nationwide telephone surveys. For more details, see the CNN report.  If you want to read more about Chris and Brandy’s story and how they created their happily ever after, check out the book here.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

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

Is the Happy Marriage the ‘Me’ Marriage?

New research suggests a happy marriage is more about focusing on “me” than “we.” I want to share the findings and see if you agree. The gist of the research is that while many couples stay together out of obligation or commitment, they may not find their marriages satisfying and enjoyable. To make the relationship meaningful, we have to grow and expand ourselves as a result of what we learn from our partner.

Arthur Aron, professor and director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, studied how people use their relationships to expand themselves by accumulating knowledge and experiences. The more self-expansion individuals experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are, say researchers. They developed a questionnaire to measure self-expansion and satisfaction in relationships. For example, respondents chose higher ratings if their spouse introduced them to new experiences or taught them new things. Thus, the relationship was deemed more rewarding or satisfying.

The researchers say that focusing on improving ourselves may sound self-serving, but it enhances the relationship. Your partner becomes more important in your life as he or she helps you grow and learn, or even meet new people. By broadening our horizons, our spouse can help us broaden the way we look at ourselves, they say. Read Tara Parker-Pope’s summary of the research in the New York Times.

I’ve shared research in the past about how thinking in terms of “we” rather than “me” is beneficial to the marriage.  (Read The Power of “We” in Relationships. )There’s also a large consensus that says putting your spouse and marriage first is the way to find a lasting marriage. So, how do these apparently disparate results jibe with one another?

I don’t believe they are so disparate after all. When I heard one of the researchers describe the study during a TV interview, he said the basics of a relationship—love, commitment—are primary and need to be met first. Helping one another expand our horizons does improve our satisfaction levels. However, I don’t believe it means we should focus only on ourselves. If I’m only concerned with what I’m getting from my partner, and not what I am bringing to the relationship, I don’t believe it will be very satisfying, meaningful and sustainable. When both partners are eager to share new ideas, new friends, new experiences and knowledge, the relationship will become more exciting and rewarding. In fact, we’ve long known that trying new things together keeps the love hormones (oxytocin) flowing in our relationship.

Further research found couples who were involved in new and interesting experiences together were less likely to report boredom in the relationship, and they were more likely to see their lives as overlapping rather than separate. Dr. Lewandowsky says, “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”

The helpful part of the research is that it reminds us we need to maintain individual interests and individual growth, and that sharing our thoughts, feelings and experiences should be an important part of our lives as a couple. It’s important to retain our own identify and not lose ourselves while trying to meet another person’s every need. However, by focusing only on our own needs, I think we negate the purpose of marriage and reduce our opportunity for intimacy. It also may lead to the harmful conclusion that our partner is not “doing enough to make us happy.” Instead, we can ask ourselves what are we doing to make our own lives fulfilling and meaningful, and how are we sharing our lives more fully with our spouse.

How are you focusing on your own growth this year? How are you supporting your spouse in his or her efforts to grow and expand this year? How are you sharing your experiences in a meaningful way?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Risky Business: Woman Marrying Younger Man

File this one under “unfair for women.” You may have heard previous studies that show marriage extends life expectancy for both men and women. That still holds true. Studies have also shown men who marry younger wives live longer. (Also, still true.) It was assumed that women who marry younger men would receive a similar boost in life expectancy. But a new study reveals a surprise result: the opposite is true. Women who have a significant age gap with their spouses—either older or younger—experience a decline in life expectancy.

The study was done by Sven Drefahl of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and included two million Danish couples. The results were published in the May 12 issue of the journal Demography. (A study based on American couples might yield different results.) Drefahl found:

• Women who marry men seven to nine years younger than they are increase their mortality risk by a whopping 20 percent.
• A husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife reduces his mortality risk by 11 percent, compared to couples of the same age. (He lives longer.)
• For women, the greater the age difference with her husband (whether older or younger), the lower her life expectancy.
• Women live longest when they marry a spouse of the same age. An older husband shortens her life, but a younger husband does even more so.

Why is life expectancy reduced for these women?
Women worldwide live a few years longer on average than men, and being married increases life expectancy for both. So all married women have these two advantages. However, Drefahl suggests women who marry men who are significantly different in age have increased life stresses and reduced social support, as a result of the perception of having violated social norms.

His conclusion (thankfully) was much different from my hypothesis of the older wives engaging in dangerous adventures (i.e. skydiving and mountain climbing) and youthful activities in hopes of keeping up with their younger men. If social mores truly impact life expectancy, the question is, will this result change as society becomes more accepting of couples who are different in age? With celebrity couples like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, and popular shows like Cougar Town, maybe it’s even becoming glamorous for older women to be with younger men? (I haven’t seen the show, so feel free to comment about cultural influences on the issue.)

I have lots of friends and family who differ in age with their spouses. It doesn’t seem to impact their lives very much. Do you think society still holds negative perceptions when spouses are different ages? Are you surprised by this study’s result?