Tag Archives: couples

Marriage Isn’t for Everyone

Just because I chose marriage doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Sometimes I think we as a culture should offer more grace and kindness to those who are not coupled up. Many of the readers here are unmarried. Some of you are engaged, or dating, or even single.

Two prominent CNN articles that have been bouncing around the internet only underscore my desire to spread more compassion.  If you haven’t read them, you should. First, they’re entertaining. Second, they’re thought-provoking.

The first writer, Tracy McMillia, wrote a scathing critique called Why You’re Not Married. Her blunt explanations may cover the reasons some of your unmarried friends are not wed, but they would be offensive to most of them. The seven possible reasons she gives for a woman who wants to be married and isn’t include: She’s a bitch, shallow, a slut, a liar, selfish, or she thinks she’s not good enough. Wow, tell us what you really think. It should be noted that she has had three failed marriages, but was “born knowing how to get married.”

CNN’s Jessica Ravitz (pictured above) countered with an extremely graceful and well-written response, Why I’m Not Married (and it’s not because I’m an angry slut). In short, she says dealing with two parental divorces, the sudden death of her father, and calling off her engagement when she had serious doubts doesn’t make her a complete loser. And it doesn’t make her unhappy. It just means life got in the way of her finding her guy at the right moment. Single people can be happier than those in relationships, especially when those relationships are troubled.

Some people who really would like to get married simply haven’t met someone they want to spend their life with. Others would simply choose not to take on the commitment of marriage. I think it’s wiser than marrying without having a strong commitment, particularly when children are involved.

I remain a strong marriage advocate, and I believe children do best when they grow up with two married parents. But I also think we as a society need to be more respectful and compassionate to others who don’t make the same choices at the same life stage as we do. If we treat single people as incomplete, always trying to match them up, it demeans them as a person. Celebrate and lift up your single and married friends.

What’s your take on the issue? Are you looking to marry but haven’t found “the one” (that’s a whole new post)? Or is marriage not the right choice for you right now? If you’re happily married, how do you treat the single people around you?

Photo credit: Robert Johnson/CNN

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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?

Love-Building Exercises Part I

Is it possible to increase your closeness or feelings of love by using scientifically tested techniques? Robert Epstein, PhD, thinks so. “There is a definite fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships,” he says. The psychologist and longtime researcher is writing a book on how people can learn to love. He recently shared some proven techniques for deliberately building emotional intimacy in a January/February 2010 magazine article for Scientific American.

Epstein says so many marriages fail in large part because we have poor skills for maintaining relationships and “highly unrealistic expectations.” He warns that physical attraction is sometimes confused with love, creating unsuitable unions. So, be careful with whom you share these techniques!

Epstein studied other researchers’ results on love builders and carried out some of his own. He plans to teach others how to use what is known about how people learn to love one another. The key to many of his recommended strategies is that they increase feelings of vulnerability, and that increases intimacy levels. Other intimacy builders include sharing adventures, secrets, personal space and jokes.

Here are the first three techniques. I’ll try them if you will. Maybe plan one of these activities on a date night, and let me know how it works for you. Keep an open mind. I’ll provide some of his other suggestions in a future post.

1. Two as One. Embrace each other gently. Begin to sense your partner’s breathing and gradually try to synchronize your breathing with his or hers. Epstein says after a few minutes, you may start to feel as if you have merged.

2. Soul Gazing. He reports excellent results with this technique, even with perfect strangers. One caveat is it must be mutual gazing; staring at someone doesn’t count! Stand or sit about two feet apart. Look deeply into each other’s eyes, trying to look at the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes, and discuss what you saw.

3. Monkey Love. Sit or stand fairly close to one another, then start moving your hands, arms, and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly imitates your partner. Epstein calls this fun and challenging.

See Part II with more techniques.

Share your experience if you are brave enough to try these. What do you think about using psychological techniques to increase your love and intimacy? Do you believe they work? Have you tried them?

What Does Marriage Have To Do with Economics?

With the election only a few weeks away, many important issues are being discussed in earnest. On top of the list is the economy. The U.S. economy is unstable at best, affecting us all, especially the most vulnerable in our society. There is no magic answer and no super politician who will cure all our ills. Of course we need strong leadership, but we also need to look at how we function as individuals and communities, and how we can help strengthen society.

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching marriage lately. I know it doesn’t seem like it has much to do with our current financial situation. And I’m not one to suggest that if everyone were married our problems would be erased. However, my own marriage, as well as the research data I’ve been reading, suggests marriage has important societal benefits—economic, psychological and health benefits.

 

I plan to delve into these issues in this blog. With the economy on everyone’s mind I thought I’d begin with economic benefits. I know everyone (including me) is worried about their tanking 401K and investments. But most of us, thankfully, haven’t glimpsed real  poverty. When I feed my children at night, I am saddened by the thought of so many children without nutritious food in front of them. So many single parents work and can’t make ends meet. What does marriage have to do with poverty?

 

A report from Family Scholars explains, “Married couples build more wealth on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples, even after controlling for income.”1 This is not just because two people are bringing home a paycheck. There are economies of scale; buying for two or more costs less per person than buying for one. Many costs are shared, such as a home and utilities. Married couples tend to work together on financial goals in a different way than two people living together. And couples are more likely to receive money from their parents if they are married than if they are single or cohabiting.

 

On the flip side, the same report says research has consistently shown that divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the economic vulnerability of children and their mothers, even after controlling for race and family background. Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty after a divorce. The majority of children who grow up outside of intact married families experience at least one year of dire poverty.

 

Despite this evidence to support marriage in our society, cohabiting has become the new norm. Are you happily married? Do you think marriage is good for society or should we keep our noses out of other people’s private lives?

 

1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.