Romantic relationships are full of big decisions. One decision that’s gonna present itself is A) Do we move in together? and/or B) Do we get married? 59% of adults under the age of 45 have decided to move in together at some point. Then there’s the question: What would change if we got married? Is there a difference between living together and marriage?

Yes.

You want to be on one page about what your relationship is and where it’s going, especially when making big decisions. Understanding the differences between living together and marriage can help you decide what best helps you reach the relationship goals you’re hoping for. Ignoring the differences can lead to lifelong, complicated heartbreak. 

What are some differences between living together and marriage? Why do they matter? 

While some states recognize cohabitation agreements, they don’t provide the same protection as marriage. 

Married partners:

  • Can make medical decisions on their spouse’s behalf 
  • Have legal rights to inherit their spouse’s estate
  • Don’t pay taxes on the financial inheritance they receive from their spouse

Unmarried partners:

  • Need a general power of attorney to make medical decisions for their partner. Otherwise, they may have to defer to immediate family members. 
  • Must be a beneficiary in the will to have inheritance rights (income is taxable)

Health and finances affect almost every couple. You definitely want to clarify what you can and can’t do before you face major decisions. Drama, resentment, and pain can add severe stress if you find out you have less power and control than you thought during traumatic situations. This is especially true if the extended family gets involved. 

Clarity on Relationship Status

There’s a greater chance that couples who live together have different relationship goals. 

One may think they’re testing the relationship to see if they want to marry. The other might say, “Why marry? We’ll just live together.” Another might say, “It’s just convenient for us to live together since we spend so much time together.”

Married couples get a license. This is a formal declaration about the status of the relationship. Marriage locks in legal benefits and lessens potential misunderstandings about the relationship’s direction.

70% percent of married couples say making a formal commitment was a major reason they decided to marry. Though some marriages do end, research shows that married couples report greater relationship satisfaction.

Whether you live together or are married, you make tons of decisions: bills, home purchases, insurance, etc. If one of you thinks the relationship is one thing while the other thinks it’s something else, you have a recipe for disaster. Being on the same page about the relationship’s direction can decrease the chances of a painful break-up. 

Effects of A Break-Up

Divorcing and moving out can both be painful. The path out of marriage is quite different, though. It may seem that you can just walk away if you’re living together. But, what if you’re both on the lease, you’re sharing bills, or you’ve jointly bought furniture? When you’ve essentially joined your finances and lives together, separating it all is difficult. Not to mention that couples often don’t end on good terms. Without a formal agreement, one person can easily end up holding an unfair share of the risks. 

Divorces can be complicated, messy, and, unfortunately, nasty. However, the process works toward fairly dividing everything from finances and property to time with kids. And, it can provide closure: the ability to make decisions final.

How Break-ups Affect Children

You can’t tear kids down the middle and divide them in half. Married couples are the presumed parents when there is a divorce. Custody, visitation, and child support are set as part of the divorce. It can get ugly, but in the end, it can be resolved. 

According to Brookings Research, U.S. children of cohabiting parents are twice as likely to see their parents’ relationship end by age 12. If and when that happens, the child is only presumed to be the birth mother’s child. The father must walk through the process of establishing paternity. This can get even messier given the nature in which many couples end their relationships.

Thinking of living together and marriage as the same can lead to disappointment. Reminds me of the time I ate a sweet potato, thinking it was a regular baked potato. Ignoring the differences can increase the likelihood of a future break-up or divorce and complicated messiness related to finances, possessions, and kids. 

Researcher Scott Stanley encourages couples to make clear decisions on their relationship path instead of simply sliding into relationship situations. It’s important to keep your desired goals in mind — then doing the proper research to make the best decision for you.

Other helpful resources:

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together

Preparing for Marriage Online | Everything You Need Before “I Do!”

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

Do your homework on the topic and move forward from there.

You may be trying to decide: Should we move in together? Or perhaps you already live together and have some questions. Is living together bad for your relationship? Is this going to be good or bad for us? 

You’ve probably heard lots of strong opinions. Let me be straight-up with you; there’s no simple answer. 

I hope to give you information that you may not have known before and let you come to your own conclusions. That’s how we make wise decisions about relationships, right? Find out all you can, weigh the arguments on both sides (even if you lean to one side at first), and go from there. That’s what I hope you’ll do. 

Some of what makes this question not-so-simple is that you’re dealing with likelihoods. What are the odds that living together will be good or bad? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gambler. I don’t like betting against the odds. Life turns out much better when you know what’s most likely to happen. 

Here’s what we can gather about likelihoods: 

  • It seems reasonable (or likely) that living together should improve the odds of doing well later in marriage. Not only is there little research supporting this belief, but the evidence isn’t that strong. 
  • As a matter of fact, living together before marriage has been most strongly associated with poorer marital outcomes. Experts call this the “premarital cohabitation effect.” Those who have lived together before marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage. And these marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
  • As living together before marriage became more accepted in society, people thought the association with divorce would decrease, making it less likely. This also has not been the case. 
  • In fact, couples who lived together tend to report having very little struggle in the first year of their marriage. (It makes sense: They’ve already negotiated the initial shock of all the changes that come with moving in.) But in the years after, the cohabitation effect comes into much greater play, making divorce much more likely after their first year of marriage.
  • If you want to compare living together with what marriage may look like, you could be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. There are fundamental differences in trust levels and relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples. Couples who live together are much less likely to trust in their partner’s faithfulness, truthfulness, and responsibility than married couples. 

I realize this might paint a bleak picture of living together. I don’t mean for it to; this isn’t my opinion nor anyone else’s. It’s simply the likelihood that research shows us. 

Here’s another thought: There’s a theory out there that says moving in together makes it much harder to break up if the relationship goes south. The evidence tends to back this up. When you share bills, furniture, living space, a pet, and a bed, splitting up isn’t so cut-and-dry. (This is ironic because almost a quarter of people living together report they are testing the relationship.) Even if you feel you’re beyond the testing phase of your relationship, research shows the commitment level of couples living together is typically different than married couples. All this needs to be weighed very carefully before making a major decision. 

Some final questions to consider: If you decide not to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter either of you from considering marriage later on? If it would, what does it say about your relationship? 

And if you decide to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter you from breaking up if you needed to? If so, what would that say about your relationship? 

At the end of the day, you have to come to your own conclusions. Again, I encourage you to step back and consider what’s at stake. Do plenty of homework and move forward from there. Be careful to discern between facts and mere opinions or personal perspectives. The health of your relationship and future marriage just may well depend on it. 

You may also like:

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move in Together

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together

Find out if living together will help you accomplish what you want.

Living together is pretty common these days. For many, living together is a natural progression in the evolution of their relationship, which may or may not lead to marriage. But it has its own set of complications, and there are things every couple should know before they move in together. I’m not trying to convince or dissuade you. Instead, I want to give you food for thought so you can make healthy decisions for your life. 

This blog is for you if: 

1. You are not seriously dating.

2. You’re seriously dating and thinking about moving in together.

3. You live together but recognize there are more things you need to discuss. 

No matter your relationship status, talking about significant issues can create the healthiest connections. 

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s my long-term plan? Our long-term plan?
  • What’s my level of commitment? My partner’s commitment level?

Here are FIVE essential topics every couple should know about and consider before they move in together.

1. Your reason: Why should we live together? 

Be honest with yourselves and each other. Is it about:

  • Money? 
  • Moving out of your parents’ house or away from that annoying roommate? 
  • The next step toward marriage? 

Continuing blindly down this path can lead to disappointment. Additionally, you should know your partner’s reason for living together. A Pew Research study offers many couples’ reasons, which include:

  • Love 
  • Companionship
  • Convenience
  • Natural next step 
  • Learn more about each other
  • Want to test the relationship

Share your reasons. It’s natural to be hesitant about having this conversation, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free relationship. Talking about it allows you both to be vulnerable and transparent.   

2. Your expectations: What will you (or won’t you) share? 

Now that you’ve shared your reasons, communicate your expectations with your partner. Assuming things can damage your relationship, especially if you think you agree, but you don’t. Your expectations should be realistic. If you have different expectations, you each may have to compromise. Now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty. 

Discuss things like: 

  • Who’s cooking and/or cleaning? 
  • Who will shop and/or do the laundry? 
  • Who does the yard? 
  • Are we having meals together every night? 
  • What are your long-term expectations (house, marriage, kids)? 

Talking about this isn’t sexy, but it’ll help your relationship in the long run.

3. Your finances: What’ll it cost you? 

Many couples think living together is cheaper than living apart. This may or may not be true, but they often don’t communicate about finances. 

Talk about: 

  • Who will move in where? 
  • How much will we pay for rent? 
  • Will we get a new place? Will we both be on the lease? 
  • Who pays for what (groceries, car payment, car insurance, rent, cable, electricity, water, internet, phone, etc.)? 
  • What’s our personal debt (credit card, student loan, etc.)? 
  • What will it cost you if you break up? (You may want to talk about a cohabitation agreement. )

(psssst… Want a fun, lighthearted way to start the conversation? Check out this Financial Would You Rather from Annuity.org!)

4. Your habits: How will they impact your relationship? 

When living together, you become well acquainted with the habits and behaviors of your partner in a whole new way. Knowing that they exercise at 4:00 AM is one thing. Experiencing them exercising at 4:00 AM is something totally different. 

Discuss:

  • Are they a night owl or an early bird? Neat or messy? 
  • Are they an exercise, sports, home improvement, or cooking fanatic? 
  • How do they handle stress? Express emotions? 
  • What’s their work life like? Working remotely, hybrid, or in the office? 
  • Do they bring work home every night? 

5. Your other relationships: How will you interact with your village?  

While focusing on each other and excluding friends and family may be tempting, living together won’t mean you’re on an island. You each have friends and family in your lives that matter; they support and challenge you to be better versions of yourselves. Nurturing those relationships can benefit your growth as an individual and as a couple. 

Living together is not something to do without some considerations. 

Remember to think about: 

  • What do I want out of this relationship? 
  • What’s the end goal? 
  • Do I want to get married? 
  • Do I want to have children who are healthy and stable? 

However you answer these questions, you’ll want to find out if living together will help you accomplish what you desire or if it will hinder you. It’s up to you to decide.

You might also like:

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

Your wedding was not the most important day in your marriage. Today is.

What if I could tell you about the future of your marriage? For the moment, let’s say I can. (Because I can.) Brace yourself, my newlywed friend. I come from over 25 years in the future of your marriage. What do you want to know?

This isn’t some Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or The Time Traveler’s Wife kinda stuff. This is way better. See, I’ve been married for over 27 years, and I’m neck-deep in marriage research. I stuffed all that in my time machine and set the coordinates for your present.

I’ve got five bold reveals about what your future marriage holds. Ready?

5. You’ll begin to take your spouse for granted.

This is a human nature thing. The newness wears off. You’ll settle into routines. The ordinariness of life inevitably sets in. You’ll start to expect your spouse to know and do things. 

I don’t wanna get into time travel paradoxes and whatnot, but you can avoid this future. One researcher advises three ways to NOT take your spouse for granted:

  • Reunite well after being apart. (Big hug and kiss. I missed you! How was your day?
  • Have a few minutes of focused communication each day. (How are you doing? Anything I can do for you? Anything you want to talk about?
  • Practice gratitude and thankfulness for your spouse daily. (And not just for what they do, but for who they are as a person and how they demonstrate love to you.)

4. You’ll discover that you (and your spouse) need individual time alone.

It may be difficult to believe right now, but in the future, you and your spouse are gonna need some time alone to take care of yourselves. This time recharges your batteries and helps your mind, heart, and body stay healthy. You’re gonna need to hang out with quality friends that encourage you and refresh you. Your spouse needs the same. This will have to be a priority that you plan, or it probably won’t happen. This individual alone time will enrich your time together as a couple and deepen your marriage.

3. You’ll have sex less frequently, but it’ll be more satisfying.

There will be seasons in your marriage when you’ll have more sex, and sometimes, less. This is totally normal and lines up with a lot of research. The flip side is that sex itself will be way more fulfilling. Sex with someone who is committed and works to nurture intimacy with your mind, heart, AND body is GREAT SEX. Put your focus there. Ultimately, you and your spouse should have as much sex as you both want and need to have. You’ll understand that sex is one of your ongoing conversations in your marriage.

2. You’ll fight a lot (especially the first few years), but you’ll learn to fight better. 

Living with someone is hard, even someone you love dearly. You and your spouse are two different individuals. Yes, you got married and formed a team, but that didn’t make your individual differences evaporate. Living together, you’ll see each other’s “real” self more clearly. You’ll hit a season when that cute thing they do isn’t so cute anymore. You’ll face decisions and have different perspectives and priorities. And you’ll find out some of your goals don’t quite line up. This is the stuff of marriage. Arguments, fights, and debates will ensue. All. Perfectly. Normal.

You can totally learn how to fight more effectively. Take turns speaking and listening. Don’t escalate with volume, tone, body language, or sarcasm and mean-spirited comments. No bringing up past healed wounds. Make sure you keep the problem, the problem—not the person. Fight for your spouse, not about your spouse. Fight for your marriage, not about it.

Work toward compromise, not winning. Now your future looks so bright!

1. Your wedding was not the most important day in your marriage. Today is.

Time looped full circle from the first line! It’s that important. Learn lessons from the past. Maybe forgive and let go of it. Let it inspire trust and security. The future? Plan for it. Look forward to it. But realize today is all you’ve got. Be in the moment with your spouse. There’s no time travel. There’s just today.

I’ve gotta scoot. There’s a newlywed in Boise who thinks her new husband will never pick his friends over her. Gotta hurry!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Do I Have Post-Wedding Blues?

Don’t beat yourself up over the blues; just beat ‘em.

“Post-Wedding Blues” are absolutely a thing. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. And definitely don’t feel bad for feeling them. You don’t need to be worried or secretly guilt-ridden. 

“Blues” are totally understandable. And you can get your head around your heart. Check this out… 

Which of these television couples were you just hoping could make it happen?

  • Ross & Rachel – Friends (“We were on a break!”) 
  • Summer & Seth – The O.C. (That upside-down Spider-Man kiss!)
  • Luke & Lorelai – Gilmore Girls (We knew they loved more than coffee.)
  • Cory & Topanga – Boy Meets World (Aww… Thank goodness for Mr. Feeny!)
  • Jim & Pam – The Office (Rooting. From. Episode. One.)

This is the old “will they or won’t they” television trope. And we eat it up! Two characters that we, the viewers, just know in our hearts should be together forever, but they just can’t. As we hope, they circle each other across episodes and seasons. We’re rooting for them as they overcome obstacles, differences, rivals, or wait on Fate, Destiny… or the series finale. You can slice the chemistry and sexual tension with an iPad. Then, finally! They get to be together! Or don’t. (Lookin’ at you Dawson’s Creek.) 

★ But here’s the thing, sometimes after our favorite couple finally gets together, the big huge buildup leaves us feeling a weird combo of relief and sadness. We’re happy, but we miss the anticipation. If their relationship isn’t all fireworks afterward, we can feel disappointed. With some shows, after the couple finally makes it happen and the big buildup has evaporated, we wonder if we should have binge-watched four seasons, and we feel some regret.

Sounds kinda like “Post-Wedding Blues.” (Please revisit that last paragraph with that in mind.)

Just like you can catch some Post-Favorite-Television-Couple-Finally-Got-Together Blues, it’s normal to catch some unexpected emotions in the weeks and months after the wedding. Your real-life favorite couple finally got together! But you’re feeling some… stuff. It’s as common as Ross not being able to get out of his own way.

Honest Question:

Is it possible you were consumed by months (years) of buildup? You’re busy planning your wedding, riding the rush from checking things off your list, and drenched in anticipation—you just weren’t quite prepared for the marriage after the wedding

You might have created sitcom “happily ever after” expectations, and then “Reality TV” busts in with jobs, bills, routines, and the averageness of everyday life. Settling in can feel like settling.

How To Beat The Blues:

  1. Talk to your spouse. They could be feeling some similar things. Normalizing it helps neutralize it. This is an excellent opportunity to grow together as you work together.
  2. Look back. Remind yourself of what first attracted you to your spouse. What made you think your relationship could be special? Scroll through those pics and videos.
  3. Look ahead. Start planning date nights and your own traditions. Now is the time to think about the marital legacy you’re working toward.
  4. Look around. Rethink your routines. The “average, ordinary” stuff is lowkey the best part of being married. How can you seize “everyday” moments and soak them in as you connect with your spouse?

Don’t beat yourself up over the blues; just beat ‘em. Your marriage will be its own Netflix-worthy dramedy streaming ahead of you in Hi-Res glory. Binge it up. Or, as Pam puts it in the final line of the last episode of The Office, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” (That’s what she said.)

Check these out:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Make their heart happy with these out-of-the-box ideas!

Valentine’s Day is a great time to get outside the heart-shaped chocolate box and celebrate love and romance in a BIG way! If you want a hand in making this day unique for your Valentine, you’ve come to the right place.

These 10 creative ideas will help you connect and play as you set this Valentine’s Day apart from any other date night. 

  1. Alternate notes every hour. Be creative. Chat via text, video, over the phone, face to face, on a mirror, with chalk on the driveway. Use different categories for the notes: sexy, flirty, romantic, funny, silly, memorable, thankful, adoring, etc.
  2. Homemade Couple’s Selfie Photo Shoot. Jazz it up with the wardrobe. Have multiple wardrobe changes: nightwear, 70s wear, athletic wear, beachwear, warrior outfits, superheroes, etc.
  3. As a couple, shower someone with love who may not be feelin’ it right now. Write a letter, send flowers, spend time with them, tell stories, and listen to their stories. Your love for each other will grow as you share it with others. 
  4. Re-enact some of your favorite romantic movie scenes. Think Titanic, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing, Jerry Maguire:You complete me!” Check out YouTube’s Top 20 Most Rewatched Scenes in Romance Movies for ideas. You can even find the screenplay for some of your favorite movies. (Pics or it didn’t happen!)
  5. Stick romantic Post-it notes on candy that your special someone likes and hide them all over the place. Put them in drawers, cars, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms—anywhere your Valentine might go. They’ll be finding them for days. (Hershey Nuggets work great for chocolate-lovers.)
  6. Dinner and a Trip Around the World…Virtually. Create a themed meal. Decide “where” you want to go to celebrate, then enjoy the sights and sounds from all over the world without leaving your living room.
  7. Re-create a meaningful meal you’ve had, or create a new experience. For instance, remember what you ate on your first date? What would you want if you were in Italy? With the internet, you can look up any recipe and make it happen. Share the meal by candlelight or lay out a blanket and make it a picnic.
  8. Create anticipation. The day before, choose not to see each other. Use that time to create suspense for the next day. Leave notes in unexpected places. Send cryptic messages or deliver a message through a friend. Put a note on their windshield or surprise them with a video/audio message teaser. See how much excitement you can build for each other.
  9. Write a romantic love story about your relationship (fact or fiction). It may be full of fantasy against the backdrop of common interests like Game of Thrones or Star Wars. Write it, tell it, or record it—but have FUN with it!
  10. Pick from First Things First’s Do It Yourself (DIY) date nights for a fun, unexpected adventure that’s already planned out for you. It’s. So. Easy!

Though you love your significant other every day (DUH!), go the extra mile this Valentine’s Day and show your special someone how much you love, respect, and value them with these creative ways to celebrate. With just a tiny bit of prep, you can take your relationship up a notch and grow the love you feel for each other.

If you’re dating, in a long-term relationship, or engaged, you may be wondering what marriage is like. You probably have friends with good marriages and those who have so-so marriages. Perhaps you’ve got questions, but you don’t know exactly how to ask. Questions like: Is it hard? Is it worth it? Why get married? 

Well, there’s a lot to learn! Here are 10 things you need to know about marriage that will give you some food for thought.

1. Marriage is hard work (but it’s the best kind of hard).

Marriage requires intentional time and attention from both partners. You’ll have times that seem easy and effortless. Other times require more energy.

2. Marriage takes compromise and respect on both sides.

People often say marriage is a two-way street. I like to think of it as a one-way street where you and your spouse are walking together in the same direction. Finding common ground and respect for each other, especially if you disagree on the path, is vital.

3. Marriage: You + Me = We. 

Marriage is two individuals who know themselves (likes, dislikes, stressors, etc.) and continue to grow. When you grow as individuals and learn more about caring for each other, your marriage thrives. 

4. Marriage requires rearranging your priorities.

Life is busy, and you’re probably juggling all kinds of priorities, including work, family, friends, community service, self-care, etc. After you get married, you may have to rearrange some of those priorities. Friends may be a little lower on your list. There are special considerations if you’re already a parent thinking about getting remarried or married for the first time. Preparing for Marriage is a great, FREE course to help you make sure you’re ready!

5. Marriage has seasons.

Marriage changes, like all relationships do. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, smooth and rough times. These seasons are natural and sometimes predictable. It doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with your relationship. Seasons can be times of change and growth instead of trouble, depending on how you handle them. 

6. Marriage has benefits.

Not just that one (wink, wink)! Research shows that married people are healthier, happier, and wealthier. They’re less likely to be depressed. And guess what? Healthy marriages also lead to healthier communities with better schools and lower crime rates.

7. Marriage requires skills.

For a marriage to flourish over time, you’ll need a variety of skills. Communication helps you understand your partner, know when to listen and when to speak. Problem-solving skills help you work together to manage complicated situations. If these tools aren’t your strong points, we’ve got some great resources to help you fill that toolbox! (Check out The Magic of Communication in Marriage, 5 Days to Better Communication in Your Marriage, or do a quick search for communication here.)

8. Be aware of unrealistic expectations.

Many couples enter marriage with unrealistic and/or unspoken expectations on topics like sex, money, and how they’ll spend their alone and together time. Talking with your spouse goes a long way toward minimizing issues that come from unrealistic expectations

9. Marriage is impacted by your family.

No matter where you live, your families affect your marriage, for better or for worse. They raised you and influenced who you are. Some of the things that’ll get on your nerves will probably be habits that started in the homes you grew up in. Remember, this isn’t about blaming anyone, but it’s just so you can be AWARE.

10. Marriage is a daily choice.

After you get married, you get to choose every day to stay married. You get to show your spouse how much you value and love them daily through words and actions. Even if you have a hard day, remembering that you get to start over and choose each other again can give you hope and strength.

I hope this list does not deter you. Marriage is all of these things, but it’s so much more. Marriage is fun. It’s exciting. And it’s an opportunity to grow as a person while you’re part of a couple. More than anything, “Marriage is choosing someone, again and again, to love and to cherish with each new dawn.”

How gritty are you? 

Is your marriage gritty

Do you teach your kids to be gritty

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Harvard-trained psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth examines what it takes to stick things out and accomplish long-term goals. 

Grit has everything to do with how we do family relationships. 

Don’t mistake grit with talent (which Duckworth describes as the rate at which a person improves a skill). Grit isn’t how intensely you want something. Instead, grit is an attitude. It is a relentless, determined work ethic—despite setbacks, defeats, and hard days

It’s a “never-give-up” attitude.

Who do you know that is truly gritty? Grit is what drove Thomas Edison to succeed as an inventor. As a boy, teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Edison was  fired from his first two jobs for being “unproductive.” He reportedly experienced 1,000 failed attempts before successfully inventing the lightbulb. (Edison reported that, rather than failing 1,000 times, the lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps. Now that’s grit.)  

Great things are achievable in ordinary people through gritty determination.

Duckworth quotes sociologist Dan Chambliss, “…the main thing is greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.

Grit is more than just a trait for inventors, athletes, or business leaders; grit is a significant family value. 

Duckworth’s research points to a high correlation between grit and marital longevity. People with a gritty determination have a can-do attitude toward building a healthy, strong marriage—despite struggles, conflict, and tension. Gritty couples say, “No matter what we have to do, we’re going to make this work. We’re committed to this marriage.”  [Note: There are some situations in marriage that are unhealthy and unsafe. “Grit” is NOT enduring a dangerous relationship. See the note at the bottom of the article.]

For parents, the nagging question is, how do you teach grit to your children? Duckworth offers some great answers. 

First, grit is best taught with a balanced parenting style. In other words, parents who connect through affection and encouragement, while also creating structure and appropriate expectations, have a parenting style that fosters grit. 

It’s a balance between love and support with accountability and parental toughness.

Second, gritty kids want to take after gritty parents. Duckworth explains that “if you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals.” 

Third, Duckworth suggests that extracurricular activities are especially beneficial in developing grit in kids. An organized activity requiring a child to overcome challenges or criticism from peers, coaches, or teachers fosters grit. Bad days, lack of energy or motivation can help teach kids to push through and be gritty. 

Let’s get practical. Do hard things.

Duckworth shares a very practical strategy for developing grit in her teenage children called the “Hard Thing Rule.” There are three parts: 

  1. Everyone in the family, including the parents, has to do a Hard Thing. A “Hard Thing” is anything that requires deliberate practice. For a parent, in addition to the skills they use at work, it might be yoga, running, or completing a degree. For kids, it might be ballet, piano, or soccer. 
  2. You can quit your Hard Thing. But there’s a catch. You can’t quit until “your season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other ‘natural’ stopping point has arrived.” In other words, you can’t quit on the day your coach yells at you, or you have to miss a party because you have practice. 
  3. You get to pick your Hard Thing. 

As a family and relationship educator, it makes me wonder: if grit was a more common character quality, would we see more successful marriages, healthier parenting styles, and overall relationship satisfaction? 

Perhaps it starts with you.

Maybe it means you are more intentional about pressing through your small, doable feats even when you’re not motivated. Maybe you model more grit for your family and lead by example. Perhaps this week, you and your family can pick your Hard Thing to practice. 

Don’t be afraid to get your hands gritty.

I’m convinced—and I hope you are, too—grit is a good thing and something we all can use in our family. 

Related: 

10 Things Healthy, Happy Families Do

How To Encourage A Growth Mindset In Kids

The Blessing Of The Skinned Knee

Got some gritty thoughts on grit? Share them in the comments below!


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***