What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. That’s especially true when it comes to premarital experiences and future marital quality among young adults.

The relationship sequence these days goes something like – sex, cohabitation and sometimes children before marriage. With 80 percent of young adults reporting that marriage is an important part of their plans, Drs. Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley wanted to examine whether premarital experiences, both with others and a future spouse, affect marital happiness and stability down the line. (Before “I Do”: What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults?)

For five years, Rhoades and Stanley examined this issue. They looked at 418 married individuals, the history of their spouses’ relationships, their prior romantic experience and the quality of their marriages. Their data revealed three significant findings.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are linked to future marital quality. 

Sex with many different partners may be risky for those who hope for a high-quality future marriage. Research conducted by Finer in 2007 indicates about 90 percent of Americans have sex before marriage. Rhoades and Stanley found that the number of sexual partners one has prior to marriage directly impacts future marital quality. Those with 10 or more partners experienced the lowest marital quality.

“Starting the relationship by having sex may make a person feel constrained to the relationship sooner because the emphasis is on the physical relationship, which trumps getting to know each other,” says Dr. Rhoades. “I often refer to this as DUI: dating under the influence.”

Some couples slide through major relationship transitions while others make intentional decisions about moving through them. 

Decisions matter. 

For example, many couples believe they should confirm they are right for each other by living together first. However, research shows that living together before committing to marriage can negatively affect marital quality because cohabitation may make it harder for a couple to break up. 

Cohabiting couples buy furniture, adopt pets and sign leases together. These are all constraints that may keep people in a relationship even when they’re not sure they want to stay. Rhoades and Stanley found that couples who slide through relationship transitions have poorer marital quality than those who make intentional decisions about major milestones. Making time to talk clearly about potential transitions may contribute to better marriages.

Choices about weddings also seem to say something important about the quality of marriages. 

Most of the individuals who married over the course of the study (89 percent) had a formal wedding. Those couples reported higher marital quality than those who did not have a formal wedding. It could be that making a clear, deliberate commitment to one option strengthens a person’s tendency to follow through on it.

Clearly the relationship sequencing of the past no longer guides most young adults today. To help ensure high marital quality in the future, it is crucial that young adults recognize a few things. They need to understand the importance of their past, avoid sliding through major relationship milestones and maintain important friendships and family connections. These can all enhance a couple’s relationship, and lead to a more fulfilling marriage.

When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene, they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they knew that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out.

“I used to make fun of people who went online to find a date,” says Kate. “Once I got to the point that regular dating wasn’t successful, I decided to give it a try. For me, it made the whole process so much easier.”

A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago indicated that 33 percent of couples who married met online. And, a Pew Research study in 2013 revealed that 59 percent of Americans believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.

When Kate and Kyle met online, they initially communicated by email. After sending emails back and forth, Kyle asked for permission to call Kate. They talked by phone for several weeks and when both felt comfortable, they decided to meet in person.

“I went to her house where her roommates were present and then we went out on our date,” says Kyle. “We made sure everyone knew where we were.”

Kate and Kyle met on Valentine’s Day 2008 and dated for a year before getting engaged on Valentine’s Day 2009. They wonder if their paths would have ever crossed without the online dating site.

If you are considering dating online, keeping yourself safe is a concern. These tips from Online Dating Magazine can help you safely navigate the world of online dating:

  • Arrange to meet in a public place – Never allow your date to pick you up from your home, and do not give out your home address. Consider going out with a group or on a double date when you first meet.
  • Go Dutch – This way you won’t feel any obligation to “return” the favor.
  • Realize that alcohol affects your judgment – Not only does it affect your judgment, but alcohol also lessens your inhibitions. Try to avoid alcohol on your first date.
  • Use your own mode of transportation – If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t have to rely on your date to get you home.
  • Don’t assume that your date is safe – Never let your guard down on a first date.
  • Avoid secluded areas – Stay in a public place for your first date and avoid secluded areas such as parks.
  • Listen to your gut – If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so leave immediately.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going – You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in.
  • Give your cell phone number – It’s safer to give out a cell phone number instead of your landline (if you still have one).
  • Always remain alert – Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.

No matter how you meet, taking your time can help you make wiser choices when it comes to choosing a mate.

The bride-to-be shared that it was only two weeks, four days and six hours until the wedding. Her eyes sparkled as she talked, and everyone could tell she was head over heels in love.

Many brides who have gone before her know that feeling so well. They also know that starry-eyed love is not all you need to carry you through the marriage journey.

What kind of advice would newlyweds give to engaged couples?

One bride shared that she and her husband didn’t talk about finances before walking down the aisle. Even though they were set up for automatic deposit and bill payment, she was clueless about what was in their checking account.

“Not too long after we married, I decided to spend a little extra on payday,” said the bride. “I almost caused us to bounce checks because it was the first of the month, when many of our largest bills are paid. To this day, we still haven’t established a budget.”

Research shows that money is one of the least important factors couples consider when preparing for marriage. However, it is the number one thing that creates distress in marriage. Many newlyweds create massive debt furnishing their home, driving nice cars, and generally “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead of trying to immediately have what your parents accumulated over many years, attend a money management seminar to learn how to budget your money. Most money experts agree there are three cardinal rules to follow when it comes to managing your money: Spend less than you make, avoid going into long-term debt, and put away a little bit for a rainy day.

One couple shared that even though they love each other, adjusting to having someone else around and having to consider their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes is a huge change. Everything from getting ready with only one bathroom and bedtime when one person is a night owl and the other isn’t – to spending habits, how to do the laundry, a clean bathroom, in-laws/extended family, visitors and time for date nights – are now up for discussion and negotiation.

Learning how to do the marriage dance without stepping on each other’s toes is a skill that takes time to master. The best thing you can do is talk about all of these issues as they arise. Keeping your frustration to yourself will only create friction in your relationship. This is where you learn it isn’t all about you and your wants and desires. It is learning how to let another person be a part of your life. You have to figure out how to give and receive and compromise.

One bride said she wished she had known she’d have to sacrifice who she was for the sake of her marriage. Healthy marriage isn’t about sacrificing who you are when you come together as one. Coming together should make you better as an individual and better as a team. Talking about career expectations, children, individual and collective goals before you marry will be helpful. There are seasons in marriage when you choose to make sacrifices because it honors your relationship. This doesn’t mean that only one person makes sacrifices.

Finally, keep expectations realistic. The person you marry cannot meet your every need, make you happy and always be perfect. You will disagree. You will make mistakes. And believe it or not, there will be times when you don’t feel head over heels in love. That doesn’t mean you married the wrong person – nobody is perfect. We all have needs and growth opportunities. Don’t focus on your needs and your mate’s weaknesses. Instead, focus on their needs and strengths, and on your own opportunities for growth.

A great start for your marriage takes at least as much prep time as you put into your wedding day. These couples have high hopes for a long lasting, healthy marriage. If that is your goal, make it a point to start investing now in your relationship.

The return on your investment will be worth it!

For more information on becoming a Newlywed, get our E-Book “10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know” Download Here

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

When it comes to romancing your mate for special holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays, some couples have a head start on the celebration. Why? They’ve discovered that making regular time for each other is linked to lots of relationship benefits.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a 2012 report released by the National Marriage Project, couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week:

  • Are markedly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another;
  • Are about three times more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • State that they have a highly satisfying sexual relationship compared to couples who spend less couple time together; and
  • Take that time as a chance to de-stress and engage in novel activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing – from hiking or dancing to cooking together or playing cards.

Regular date nights probably benefit couples most when they do more than dinner and a movie. Doing fun things together feels good, and your brain associates these times with pleasure.

Report co-author W. Bradford Wilcox states that:

  • The couples who find date night particularly valuable are those who are less integrated into the local civic or religious fabric of their communities and those who are less committed to one another; and
  • Couples with a more fragile foundation for their marriage need to devote more time to one another to keep their marriage strong.

It is always a good time to celebrate your own marriage and/or the marriages of those around you. Marriage is like anything else in life… cars, plants, or your body. If you don’t do preventive maintenance, a major overhaul could be on the horizon.

Most marriages begin with romantic love that is linked to passion, excitement and an overwhelming attraction to each other. Over time the passion fades, but date nights have the potential to take your ho-hum marriage and make it spicy and meaningful again.

If couple time hasn’t been a part of your regular routine, here’s a challenge:

  • Start by making a 6-week commitment to set aside an hour or two each week for a date night.
  • Agree that you won’t talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Just play together.
  • At the end of the six weeks, take time to discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

Who knows? “Couple time” might surprise you with the difference it makes in your relationship.

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In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman tells about the frustration he and his wife felt in the early years of their marriage. At one point, he shares that they went for weeks without cleaning the toilet. 

He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was something his mom always did. Carolyn couldn’t understand why Gary wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was her father’s chore in her childhood home. Unfortunately, neither told the other about their expectation.

When Chapman worked up enough nerve to ask his wife why she hadn’t cleaned their toilet, he finally learned she was waiting for him to do it. Needless to say, that became an interesting and eye-opening moment in their marriage.

Truth be told, every married couple probably has a similar story. They walked into marriage thinking they knew and understood each other only to discover there were numerous unspoken expectations that each person assumed the other understood – little things like how to spend money, how many children to have (if any), where to spend the holidays, whether to buy new or used cars and how much to spend on them, who cleans the house and who handles yard work.

Looking back, even the happiest of couples will acknowledge that these “little” unspoken expectations have created tension in their marriage. And, if they had it to do over again, they would discuss them ahead of time.

So, what are some of the most common unspoken expectations? You can probably guess many of them. Many expectations revolve around: house cleaning and maintenance, money management, frequency of lovemaking, boundaries with the in-laws, work and marriage, childcare responsibilities, punctuality, celebrations, conflict management, meal prep and meal times. The list could go on, but you get the gist. There is lots of room for hurt feelings, misunderstandings and assumptions with unspoken expectations.

Whether you are preparing for marriage or already married, having a conversation about unspoken expectations could be very enlightening.

Where do you begin? 

First, it’s helpful to write down your expectations, even if you think you have shared them before. Then ask yourself, where did these expectations come from? Many unspoken expectations are based on family traditions and values, past relationships, life experience and friends. 

Next, share your unspoken expectations. As you walk through them, keep an open mind. Differing opinions don’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. The question is, how can you make that expectation work for your relationship? If you aren’t married yet, it is important to know your non-negotiables when it comes to expectations for your marriage. 

If you are clearly on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to managing money, whether or not to have children, what a career path looks like, etc., do not expect things to change once you walk down the aisle. Many have led themselves to believe things will be different after marriage, thinking they would be able to change the other person’s mind. Not only did they not change their mind, each person can end up feeling angry and empty.

Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of relationships. Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they are realistic. Just because your family did it that way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way in your marriage. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

For more information on becoming a Newlywed, get our E-Book, “10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know.” Download Here

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***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.***

Perhaps you believe that you or someone you love is addicted to pornography. While the temptation may be great to keep it quiet, there are lots of resources to help with recovery.

In her book, An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Hall says that, from her experience and research, there is no easy answer. As the spouse of a porn addict, she learned she had to disengage from trying to fix him and, instead, take care of herself.

“You have to build your own personal foundations under you – boundaries, standards, tolerations and requirements,” says Hall. “It was not an option to tolerate this in my home. I learned that one of the first steps toward recovery, whether you are the person addicted or the spouse, is to seek help from a trained counselor.”

Hall learned that some counselors empower those dealing with the difficulty of having a spouse who is a sex addict, while others simply don’t understand the nature of sexual addiction.

“Working with a counselor who doesn’t get it can leave you feeling shredded,” Hall says. “I have hundreds of letters that bear out this point.”

When looking for a counselor, Hall suggests asking these questions:

  • Where did they get their counseling training?

  • Have they had specific training in dealing with sex addiction? Where? When?

  • What is their approach in dealing with this subject?

  • Does the counselor network with national groups who deal with this subject?

  • How many people have they counseled on this issue?

After the session, ask yourself:

  • Did the counselor treat me with respect?

  • Does this person view me as a partner in my own healing or as a project?

  • Did the counselor hear me or lecture me?

  • Does the counselor encourage or discount my intuition?

  • Is this person’s belief system compatible with mine?

  • Did I feel safe?

  • Did they offer any resources – books, pamphlets, websites and/or support groups for more information about sexual addiction?

If you suspect a problem, but aren’t sure, you can take a sex addiction screening test. Dr. Patrick Carnes, an expert on sexual addiction and recovery, developed it, and you can take it online at faithfulandtrue.com under the self-assessment tab.

If you know you have a porn addiction, Dr. Mark Laaser, author of The Pornography Trap and Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction, suggests you begin by admitting the problem. Talk with an accountability partner and seek help. Put blocks on your computer and put the computer in a public place. Be straightforward about what would tempt you. Porn is in the mind of the beholder; certain things are universally considered porn, but other things like catalogs and magazines could be pornographic to an addict.

“With help from a trained counselor, we are seeing evidence that people can successfully recalibrate their brain,” says Laaser. “By demonstrating sexually pure behavior, you can rewire your brain to be satisfied with sexual purity in your marriage. Though it is not an easy process, there are people who have been successful.”

You can find additional secular and faith-based resources on these websites:

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***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.***

Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about boundaries within your relationship.

For example, when a couple considered purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, “I am OK with you living close to me, but you will call before you come to visit and I will do the same.” That was one smart mother-in-law!

Things To Consider

  • If your in-laws have a key to your home, how will they use that? Are you OK with them dropping in whenever or is the key for emergencies only? AND, how do you define an emergency?

  • Is there an unspoken expectation that you would come over for dinner once a week?

  • How do you feel about your spouse talking with his/her parents about issues within your marriage?

  • Do they expect to talk with you every day?

  • How will you handle unsolicited advice?

  • What are your in-laws’ expectations surrounding holidays?

For more information on becoming a Newlywed, get our E-Book “10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know.” Download Here

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

Each year, more than 2 million couples marry in the U.S. While most couples say they are madly in love, some really wonder if they have what it takes to build a strong marriage that lasts over time.

Whether you’re married now or planning to, you’ll want to know about a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. It identified not only the top 10 strengths of happy marriages, but also the top 10 problems in marriage.

The top 10 strengths are as follows:

  • Partners are satisfied with communication.
  • Partners handle their differences creatively.
  • They feel very close to each other.
  • Spouses are not controlling.
  • Partners discuss their problems well.
  • They are satisfied with the affection they show and receive.
  • There is a good balance of time alone and together.
  • Family and friends rarely interfere.
  • Partners agree on how to spend money.
  • Partners agree on spiritual beliefs.

Additionally, the research found that the strongest couples have strong communication skills, a clear sense of closeness as a couple, flexibility, personal compatibility and good conflict resolution skills.

Strong marriages have a balance between separateness and togetherness. These couples prioritize togetherness, ask each other for help, enjoy doing things together and spend most of their free time together.

Also, some of the common factors in the relationship roles in strong marriages include both parties:

  • Are equally willing to make necessary adjustments in their roles,
  • Reporting satisfaction with the division of housework,
  • Working hard to have an equal relationship, and
  • Making most decisions jointly.

The happiest couples said they were happy with the way they communicate. They said that they found their partner to be a good listener, which made it easy to express their feelings. They especially noted that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

Obviously, conflict management/resolution skills are crucial. In strong marriages, both partners say that their partner understands their positions. They feel free to share their feelings and ideas; they take disagreements seriously and they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

According to the survey, the top 10 problems in marriage are:

  • Problems sharing leadership.
  • One partner is too stubborn.
  • Stress created by child-rearing differences.
  • One partner is too negative or critical.
  • Feeling responsible for issues.
  • One partner wishes the other had more time.
  • Avoiding conflict with partner.
  • One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings.
  • Difficulty completing tasks.
  • Differences don’t ever get resolved.

For example, some common stumbling blocks are when one person feels most responsible for the problem, avoiding conflict and having serious disputes over minor issues. Sadly, relationships with unresolved differences can get into trouble. As a result, stumbling blocks become walls instead of stepping stones to build up the marriage.

Finally, no matter how in love you feel, bringing two personalities and their families together and learning how to dance can be challenging.

So don’t just prepare for your wedding – take time to prepare for your marriage. Learn how to build on your strengths, creatively address differences and work together for the best interests of your marriage. It will probably be the best wedding present you can give to each other.

For more information on becoming a newlywed, get our E-Book, 10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know.

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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

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How Porn Impacts the Brain warns about some of the dangers of porn addiction.

There is no question that pornography impacts the brain. Research says it’s more addictive than cocaine and it’s a habit harder to break than heroin.

The U.S. Justice Department believes that 9 out of 10 children see online porn between the ages of 8 and 16. The porn industry preys on young people, understanding the brain’s power and the challenges of forgetting these images once they seem them.

Many men understand that porn is costing them all they have – in many instances their career and their marriage – but they can’t quit. One man told his counselor he spent $75,000 in one month viewing porn.

Laurie Hall, author of An Affair of the Mind, found herself married to a porn addict. Like many others, she asked herself a million times, “What did I miss? How could I be so stupid? What is wrong with me?

“I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” says Hall. “My husband was respected in the community, very intelligent and a hard worker.”

Their marriage did not survive. Now Hall educates others about the impact of pornography.

“The idea that porn is victimless is a cruel joke,” Hall says. “Forty percent of professional men who are involved with pornography are going to lose their jobs due to their involvement with porn.

“When you are engaged in fantasy, you lose your ability to connect between action and reaction. You no longer follow cause and effect. The more you fantasize, the more you become disconnected from what I call common sense. It affects your business judgment and it affects your ability to interact properly with other employees. It affects your ability to be intimate with your wife. The reality is most people don’t realize how pornography reaches out and grabs people.”

While anyone can struggle with porn addiction, the overwhelming majority of porn users are men. These questions can help you identify red flags indicating involvement in this highly addictive activity:

  • Is his body language open and does he respond appropriately to questions? Does your husband look you in the eyes when speaking?
  • One lie often leads to another. People may give very complicated answers or different answers to simple questions than the day before.
  • Does your mate have appropriate boundaries or seem to live in constant drama and chaos? He may ask you to do strange things like videotape or take pictures of yourself getting out of the shower or at intimate moments.
  • Does your spouse excessively use inappropriate sexual humor and innuendos in conversation?
  • Is your spouse preoccupied with sexual behaviors or constantly wanting to push the boundaries and experiment sexually in questionable ways?
  • Does he exhibit inappropriate anger that appears to come from nowhere? For example, if you ask him about household cash flow or what time he will be home, he explodes.
  • Has he lost interest in you sexually or has his demand for sexual activity increased, but he is obviously not engaged emotionally during sex? Sex at this point is not about intimacy, but about control, power and what he can get you to do.
  • Do you seem to constantly have money problems regardless of how much money comes in?

***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.***

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