Tag Archives: prevent divorce

Keep Choosing Right for Your Marriage

The truth is you already know most of what your marriage needs. You probably come here for inspiration or reminders, but deep down you know what keeps your family thriving. The hard part is making the effort, making the time and keeping your priorities straight.

So, today is a day for some simple reminders that aren’t so simple to keep in practice. I’m going to include two links—the first is from a divorced man named Dan Pearce who learned the hard way what he should have been doing all along to save his two failed marriages. It’s humorous and entertaining, yet husbands and wives alike are praising his advice as the ticket to more bliss and fewer divorces.

His feedback on what he would do with a do-over is here at 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage. Sometimes a good laugh will help us remember the message. From the serious, “Tell her what she is doing right,” to the not-so-serious, “I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible,” Dan covers a lot of ground.

For other useful reminders, check out: 10 habits to keep marriages strong from Redbook Magazine with advice from David Wilk, a couples therapist in Vancouver. I think his #10 tip spoke to me loudest—remember it’s the little, everyday behaviors that mean the most.

“When it comes to relationship satisfaction, you can’t just ride on the big things like, ‘I don’t drink, I pay the bills, I don’t beat you, we went to Hawaii last year,'” says Wilk. “This stuff is not really what keeps couples happy in their daily lives.” What really matters is all the small stuff that adds up, such as being there for each other when one needs to vent, or noticing when he needs a hug, or making him his favorite meal just because. “It’s also giving up on the idea that you have to feel in love all the time. Marriage is about trust and commitment and knowing each other,” says Wilk. “That’s what love is.”

From my own perspective, I know that family dinners and family walks help us connect, and that carving 15 minutes a day to talk to my husband is important. I also regularly have to remind myself to say out loud the things he is doing well, to express gratitude and praise. It’s all too easy to become too ships passing in the night, especially when he is traveling or working the night shift, and sometimes we have to work harder to be affectionate partners not just parents, workers and homeowners. Some days, all it takes is a longer-than-usual hug and kiss to get us back on the same page. Other days, actually scheduling a date night out is needed.

Take the reminders that help you most, and put them to use today and tomorrow, next week and next year. When you’re on the right path, surprisingly good things can happen. If you get off the right path, do what it takes to get back.

Which of these reminders speaks most to you? What do you do to keep your marriage moving on the right track on a daily basis?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo credit: Lori Lowe

Marriage Education Shows 55% Increase in Marital Satisfaction

In the nation’s largest study on the immediate and long-term impact of marriage education, surprisingly strong improvements in marital satisfaction have been shown.

Healthy Relationships California studied more than 17,000 marriage participants who took a skills-based marriage education course. Before the course, only 44 percent of the married individuals considered themselves happy with their relationship, and 56 percent were moderately or highly distressed in their marriage.

Six months following the course, 32 percent were distressed, and more than 68 percent were satisfied in their relationship. This equates to a 55 percent increase in the number of people who were satisfied in their marriage.

I believe this should convey to the average couple that learning marriage skills can be dramatically helpful in their marriage. Skills like conflict management, communication, financial skills, or any area that is difficult for you can be learned and improved. Learning how to appropriately communicate your concerns, your desires, your dreams and wishes in a way that doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive—these are important skills that can be learned even if it seems like much of your communication is filled with conflict.

You don’t have to succumb to the popular belief that all marriages decline, and that it’s all but impossible to have a successful long-term marriage. Nearly every state offers marriage education courses. Many churches and other organizations also offer classes or retreats. What skill would you and your spouse benefit from improving?

You can read more of the details here at Healthy Relationships California’s web site by Jason Krafsky.

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 Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Top 15 Reasons Romantic Partners Fight

The following list from Science of Relationships shows the top sources of conflict in order of the most common themes. Only about 100 people were surveyed for the results, so it’s not a large sampling. However, I found several things interesting. For instance, being overly self-absorbed about your appearance causes more conflict than being disheveled in your appearance.  And being condescending is number one on the list, something you would think most romantic partners would be above. I was also surprised that being jealous, possessive or dependent ranked so high on the list at number two. Read the rest of the 15 hot-button conflict issues for couples here.

Keep in mind that the degree of conflict can vary greatly on the list. For example, not factoring in your partner’s feelings is a much smaller slight than being sexually aggressive or forceful. As you read the list, think about whether there are any areas in which you have been guilty or less than loving. If so, ask yourself what the underlying reasons for your behavior might be and how you can change and improve. Then, go to your spouse and ask for forgiveness along with sharing your decision to improve that behavior. Ask for their input. If your spouse needs some time to think about your actions before discussing it or forgiving you, try not to be defensive. Sometimes it takes longer to get over slights and emotional wounds than you think. Often, your loving actions will speak louder than your promises to do better.

I don’t advise you to use the list to point out all the ways in which your partner could be a better spouse. The most effective way to improve your relationship is to focus on what you can control–your own actions and responses. Be the spouse you would like to have. Act with love and respect. Even in cases where your spouse is in the wrong, you can address the situation in a loving manner and stand up for yourself. That means loving and respecting yourself, too.  

Do you feel as if you have good conflict management skills, or that conversations quickly turn into arguments, which get heated and don’t usually get resolved? Remember that conflict management and communication are easily learned skills that are taught both online and with skills trainers at retreats or with coaches/counselors. If conflict is bringing your relationship down, invest in learning these skills. One inexpensive place to learn relationship skills online while retaining your privacy and using as much or little time as you wish is PO2.com, or Power of Two Marriage. (I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning them, I merely think they offer an innovative service.) The organization provides entertaining videos and tips to help you practice and improve various skills.

Which areas of conflict are most frequent for you?  I noticed many of the commonly mentioned topics are not on the list, such as financial conflict and conflict having to do with extended family or friends. I was also surprised that chores/childcare/division of labor wasn’t on the list. Are these biggies for you?

Lori Lowe 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, 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 David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

More on Marrying the Wong Person

I’m enjoying some much-needed family time. As a followup to the last post, check out “More on Marrying the Wrong Person.” What can you do today to be the right person for your spouse?

“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. But I do know that if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. It is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person.” — author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar

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.

Have You Ever Thought You Married the Wrong Person?

If you are married, there is a good chance you will wake up one day and ask yourself, “Did I marry the wrong person?” You may decide your spouse is lazy, insensitive, rude, inconsiderate or just not interesting. What did you ever see in him or her? At that point in time, try to remember this post: We all married the wrong person.

I was recently encouraged to run the post again, and I’m glad it has positively impacted so many people. If you are new to this blog since 2010, you may not have read the post I get the most feedback on. More than 50,000 readers in more countries than I can name have read it, and many have commented. It’s been translated in many languages and passed from friend to friend, from loved one to loved one. Is there someone you know who is struggling about whether to make a go of their marriage? Be a friend and encourager to him or her. Consider passing along “We all married the wrong person” with a friendly note, or share it on Facebook if you think it might encourage your friends.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Real Secret to Marriage: Forgiveness

When I was first married I remember people saying “communication is the key to a happy marriage.” Or even, “the three keys to a strong marriage are communication, communication and communication.” At the time, I agreed.

I do not want to discount the importance of effective communication with your spouse. Organizations like PowerofTwoMarriage offer great skill building in this area, and I continue to try to improve my own communication skills. However, I don’t think it’s the most important skill or trait in marriage. After 16 years of being married, I think forgiveness is more important. I say that being blessed to never have had anything huge to forgive. But whether big or small things get under your skin, a lack of forgiveness in marriage has the power to destroy it and lead you closer to divorce.

I wrote of a wonderful couple’s ability to forgive the big stuff in this post for Simple Marriage recently. It’s called: Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Check it out, and then let me know if you agree that forgiveness is one of the keys to your happy relationship. I write about a very difficult thing to forgive, infidelity.  The article also includes tips from Dr. Scott Haltzman on how to effectively seek forgiveness. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

When we learn to seek and give forgiveness, we can have peace and love in our homes. We can be happy to come home and happy to spend time with our spouse. What do you think is the toughest fault to forgive?

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 courtesy of  freeditigalphotos.net by Savit Keaw Tavee.