Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: divorce

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    The Impact of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing on You

    For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.

    According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and Families Northwest, divorce and unwed childbearing conservatively cost taxpayers $122 billion annually. The costs are due to:

    • Increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty,
    • Criminal justice and education programs, and
    • Lower levels of tax revenue from those negatively affected by family fragmentation and increased childhood poverty.

    “In 1970 the number of children residing in two-parent families was 85 percent,” said Dr. Ben Scafidi, principal investigator for the report. “In 2005, only 68.3 percent of children reside in two-parent families. This is a dramatic decrease over a short amount of time. Clearly we are seeing the impact.”

    Long-standing research shows the potential risks to children from broken homes include:

    • Poverty,
    • Mental illness,
    • Physical illness,
    • Infant mortality,
    • Lower educational attainment,
    • Juvenile delinquency,
    • Conduct disorders,
    • Adult criminality, and
    • Early unwed parenthood.

    “This report isn’t just about the money; we are talking about real people and real suffering,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Family Council. “The economic and human costs make family fragmentation a legitimate public concern for all of us. Historically, Americans have resisted the impulse to surrender to negative and hurtful trends. We fight problems like racism, poverty and domestic violence because we understand the stakes are high. And while we’ll never eliminate divorce and unwed childbearing entirely, we can certainly be doing more to help marriages and families succeed.”

    The 2008 report sponsors say this is not a slam toward divorced people or single parents. It is purely providing information that we have never had before, and it could be an opportunity for communities to take grassroots prevention efforts to the next level.

    So what can YOU do?

    • If you have a teen, encourage them to participate in healthy relationship skills class.
    • If you're engaged, participate in skill-building classes that teach you how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
    • If you're in a healthy, long-lasting marriage, encourage newlyweds and offer wisdom along their journey.
    • If you belong to a religious organization, look for ways to engage couples and families in ongoing programming that seeks to meet them where they are and give them skills, hope, words of encouragement and a network from which to draw strength in tough times.
    • If you're in a business setting, make sure your employees know about community resources and encourage them to take advantage what is available.
    • If your marriage is in trouble or distress, seek help.

    It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The report states that a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. This doesn’t even take into account the heartache and emotional upheaval that could potentially be prevented if this report is seen as a call to action to the people of our country.

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    5 Myths About Marriage

    Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher explore five myths about marriage in The Case for Marriage:

    Myth 1

    Divorce is usually the best answer for kids when a marriage becomes unhappy. The authors discovered that the vast majority of “bad marriages” that don’t end up in divorce eventually become good marriages. In a study of people in “bad” marriages who chose to stay together, 86 percent reported five years later that their marriages had turned around and were now happier. In fact, 60 percent said their marriages had become "very happy."

    Myth 2

    Marriage is primarily for the benefit of children. In reality, marriage has significant benefits for children and adults. Marriage is an important social institution that delivers big benefits in virtually every indicator science can measure.

    Myth 3

    Marriage is good for men but bad for women. Waite said a balanced look at the research shows that married men and women both report less anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, more financial stability, and a much higher level of general happiness. The research is compelling that people do better when they get married and stay married.

    Myth 4

    Promoting marriage puts women at risk for violence. In fact, the opposite is true: marriage seems to protect women from domestic violence and personal violence.  Married people are less likely to be victims of interpersonal violence. In studies of domestic violence between partners, married people are substantially less likely than cohabiting people to say that arguments between them became violent (4 percent married, 13 percent cohabiting).

    Myth 5

    Marriage is a private affair of the heart between two adults. Marriage is actually a public, legally binding, religiously supported promise that two people will stay together and act as a team for their entire lives. “Marriage changes the way they see themselves, and it changes the way other people see them and treat them,” Waite says. “It also strengthens the bonds between children and their father’s side of the family.”

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    Divorce vs. Conscious Uncoupling

    Gwyneth Paltrow created shock waves on many levels when she made this announcement on her website:

    It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.

    Love, Gwyneth & Chris

    Apparently conscious uncoupling, developed by a therapist, is designed to help couples divorce without drama.

    Interesting…

    “How many couples do you know who have ‘good divorces?’” says Michele Weiner-Davis, director of the Divorce Busting Center. “Even those with the best of intentions often find themselves struggling as time passes. No matter how you slice it, divorce is not an easy process.

    “In fact, in most divorces that happen in our country, one person wants it and the other desperately does not. Quite frankly, it is hard to imagine a heartbroken person being a willing participant in a program that supposedly honors the marriage and destroys it at the same time.”

    Except for extremely dysfunctional marriages involving violence, chronic affairs and/or substance abuse, research indicates that even if the parents are better off after the divorce, children do not fare better.

    Paltrow stated that even though they were going through the uncoupling process, they would always be a family. And first and foremost, she said they had two incredibly wonderful children.

    “Many couples believe if they divorce well they will still be a family,” Weiner-Davis says. “Based on many years of experience working with couples, I can tell you flat out that is the exception to the rule. Divorce ends marriages and dissolves families. Life will never be the same for your children no matter how hard you try. They will know that you and their dad are not together. Over time other adults will enter the picture which can’t help but make life more complicated for the kids.”

    Many have speculated that even though Paltrow didn’t coin the phrase “conscious uncoupling,” it softens the blow for children. It might sound softer and kinder than the word "divorce," but children have a way of cutting to the chase. Call it what you want, but don’t kid yourself, the children know exactly what is happening.

    If you are considering conscious uncoupling, divorce or separation, think about its long-term impact on you and your family.

    Research indicates that 70 percent of marriages that end in divorce are perfectly good ones. And, with help, those good marriages could get back on track and thrive. Are you making a long-term decision based on a short-term problem?

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    Good News About Marriage and the Divorce Rate

    Shaunti Feldhahn, Harvard grad and ground-breaking social researcher, has worked on Capitol Hill and Wall Street. She currently uses her analytical skills to investigate changes impacting family and workplace relationships.

    “For the last eight years, I have been analyzing what the numbers say about marriage, divorce and remarriage in America,” says Feldhahn. “This started by accident as I was working on a newspaper column and wanted to correctly cite the divorce rate. But I found numbers that didn’t match the discouraging conventional wisdom at all. This piqued my curiosity and sent me down a totally different research path.”

    What Feldhahn found was shocking. Although researchers continue to project that half of marriages will end in divorce (relying in part on a government study that primarily focused on a high-risk group), we have never come close to hitting that average for society as a whole.

    Instead, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 SIPP report, 71 percent of women are still married to their first spouse. The 29 percent who aren’t includes those widowed, not just divorced. Feldhahn estimates that roughly 20-25 percent of first marriages have ended in divorce. Even among baby boomers who have the highest divorce rate, seven in 10 marriages are still intact!

    “This is huge,” Feldhahn says. “We have a culture-wide feeling of futility about marriage because for years all of us - including me - have said that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But that sense of discouragement makes it so easy to give up. We have to change the conventional wisdom so people know that most marriages last a lifetime.”

    Additional findings from Feldhahn’s research indicate:

    • Most marriages are happy – on average, 80 percent are happy.

    • The vast majority of remarriages survive.

    • The divorce rate is not the same in the church – among those who attend church regularly, divorce drops by 25-50 percent.

    • Marriage isn’t as complicated as people think – small changes can make a big difference.

    “I’ve done seven nationally representative studies of men, women and marriage. The common denominator in whether a marriage survives or fails is whether the couple has a sense of hope or futility,” Feldhahn says. “Feeling ‘We’re going to make it’ leads to a different outcome than, ‘This is never going to get better.’ So instead of believing it is futile to try, couples need to know that millions of marriages in our country are thriving. And that is the norm.”

    Feldhahn acknowledges that plenty of marriage problems still exist. But her surveys also show that the big ticket items, such as addiction, abuse or affairs, do not cause most marriage problems. Instead, most of the time husbands and wives care about each other and try hard, but in the wrong areas. They end up sabotaging a perfectly good marriage.

    “This means that it is less complicated than people think to get it right; it’s not rocket science,” Feldhahn says. “The most important thing couples can do is commit to making their marriage work, believe the best of their spouse’s intentions toward them, and make sure they have the right tools in their tool belt as they go through their marriage.” 


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    Does Divorce Lead to Happiness?

    It was a turning point in the fictional marriage of Katie and Ben in the movie The Story of Us, starring Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Katie tells Ben that she doesn’t want to end their marriage.

    “…You always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly,” she says to him. “That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up.”

    Many couples in America today find themselves at the same turning point in their marriage. Many who choose to separate often find out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Research has shown that if a person is unhappy, divorce is not necessarily the road to happiness.

    A national study in 2002 of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). The couples were interviewed twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years.

    Following this study, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wanted to know what makes marriages miserable and discover how they can become happy.

    “We often talk about marriage like a piece of fruit – it went bad, as if it is out of our control,” says Waite. “I was interested in determining if the couples who divorced were happier following the divorce than those who chose to stay together in spite of their unhappiness.”

    Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as "life in hell." Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

    Waite interviewed couples, asking them to tell their stories about how their bad marriage got better.

    Alcoholism, infidelity, overly-critical spouses, chronic miscommunication, irrational jealousy, and emotional neglect all fit into the equation, but the four most common issues that made marriages unhappy were: bad things happening to good spouses, job reversals, the kids and illness. Examples included: a spouse losing their job creating financial strain in the marriage, the challenges of raising children which left no time to be together as a couple, or a spouse making a poor decision during a weak moment.

    In response to the question, “How did things get better?” couples described what Waite calls the “marital endurance ethic.”

    “Couples shared something like, ‘Mostly we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and things began to get better,’” Waite says. “Many of them were influenced by friends’ advice to hang in there, that they were headed in the right direction.”

    A passage of time often has a positive effect on problems, according to Waite. Just because couples are unhappy now doesn’t mean they will be unhappy forever.

    Katie and Ben understood that fact. “There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight,” Katie said.

    Katie was able to see past their present moment and look at the big picture. She realized that her husband was a good friend, and good friends are hard to find.

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    Does Marriage Get Better Over Time?

    Does marriage, like a good bottle of wine, really get better over time? That’s the question Dr. Paul Amato and his co-author, Spencer James, set out to answer. Amato serves as the Arnold and Bette Hoffman Emeritus Professor of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University. 

    There’s lots of evidence that many people are cynical about marriage these days. In fact, many are choosing not to marry because they have seen so many marriages end in bitter divorces and they figure, “What’s the point of putting yourself through that?”

    What if there is something we are missing from the bigger picture? Most would agree that anything worth having usually takes work, grit and a long-term view. So, are people throwing away perfectly good marriages in the earlier years because the going gets tough?

    In a recent conversation with Alysse ElHage, Dr. Amato shared the findings from his research, Changes in Spousal Relationships Over the Marital Life Course.

    Amato’s study was based on a unique 20-year longitudinal sample of 1,617 spouses. The study ran from 1980 to 2000. While not recent, it is the longest-running, most-detailed study of marriage available. According to Amato, there is no reason to assume that trajectories of relationship quality are different today than they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

    In reviewing the data, Amato measured how three common characteristics of marital quality (happiness, shared activities and discord) changed over time. He split the sample in several ways, but the most important one separated the divorced couples from those who remained together. Amato believes this is key, because past studies have led many researchers to conclude that marital quality inevitably deteriorates over time. If you focus on couples who remain together however, which is the majority, then average levels of marital quality do not decline. In reality, marital happiness remains moderately high and marital discord lessens substantially. 

    While plenty of studies have focused on the first five years of marriage, little research exists on couples who have been married for decades. Amato was very interested in focusing on the 205 long-term marriages in the study. It turns out that most of the couples who had been married 40 years or more are happy. 

    One of the biggest takeaways from Amato’s study is that for some deeply-troubled marriages, divorce is the best outcome. But based on previous work, he found that many divorces are not preceded by a serious relationship problem. Sometimes boredom, rather than misery, characterizes many unstable marriages. In these cases, infidelity is often the trigger that leads one partner to leave the union. When couples stick together through difficult times, remain faithful to one another and actively work to resolve problems, positive long-term outcomes are common. 

    Amato’s research shows that positive outcomes for couples in long-term marriages are the norm. And contrary to what many people think, marital quality is not destined to decline. It tends to remain high or even improve over the decades, which should encourage most couples.

    The big question is, how did these couples help their marriages endure over time? Although Amato’s study didn’t measure for relationship education, previous research indicates that couples who use relationship education services tend to have better relationship quality and more stable marriages than do other couples. 

    “What we can say from our study is that being happy, frequently sharing activities with your spouse, and having a peaceful marriage after 20, 30, or 40 years is quite common,” says Amato.

    For couples who find themselves in a lackluster marriage, wondering if it’s worth it to stick around, Amato’s research is good news. It shows that although rough spots happen in relationships, there is hope that in many instances, nurturing a marriage can help things get better as the years go by.

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    How to Select a Marriage Counselor

    It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

    “After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was."

    According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

    During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage - simply love gone cold.

    “People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. "Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

    “How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

    This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

    “Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

    Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

    • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.

    • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.

    • During the interview, ask about the following:

    What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).

    What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).

    This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).

    • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

    Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce. Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

    If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family's life.

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    Money and Stress in Marriage

    It's the one thing most people never get enough of. Many believe it is the key to happiness. People still argue over it, whether they have a lot of it or not enough of it to make ends meet. What is IT? It's MONEY, of course.

    Less than a month into his marriage, Roger Gibson, author of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money, found himself in a very precarious situation. He bought a truck without telling his wife.

    He thought she would love his brand new green truck. But the moment he saw the look on her face as he pulled in the driveway, he knew “love” was not the word to describe her feelings. As he saw his wife speechless for the very first time, he began to realize exactly what he had done.

    He thought to himself, “She is probably thinking, ‘How can anyone go out and buy a brand new truck without first talking with his wife?’” Gibson managed to create a financial situation in a few short minutes that put terrible stress on their relationship. In hindsight, he describes this as one of the most painful and embarrassing moments of his life.

    Money is the number one reason for stress in many marriages. And according to 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, financial issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces. This makes it the third leading cause of divorce.

    “The money marathon in marriage often takes on the character of a race,” says Gibson. “At times, the pressure can become too intense and many couples want to throw in the towel and quit before the finish line. Many young couples break all the rules ‘to get it all’ in the beginning. Instead of experiencing happiness in their marriage, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills. They overload themselves with debt, which can cause the ‘ties that bind’ to snap and knock you off balance.”

    Just as in a marathon, you can’t start out full blast or you'll never make it. Instead, get a map of the route and learn to pace yourself so you can make it to the finish line.

    Creating a spending plan is key for couples. Spending money is always more fun than saving. A plan’s purpose, however, is to strike a balance between the two.

    Believe it or not, intimacy can be driven by personal finances. Budgeting your money helps you think about your dreams for the future. It's also a reflection of where you want to go. Instead of fighting because you don’t know where you want to go, the plan provides security and brings you together.

    If you want to get a handle on your finances, Gibson suggests that you:

    • Eliminate unnecessary debt.

    • Actively manage your finances.

    • Build an emergency account, a savings fund for short-term needs and a long-term savings plan.

    • Spend less than you make.

    • Stop impulsive spending.

    “Prestige, people, possessions and pleasure: these are the things that drive us because that is how our culture drives us,” Gibson says. “Everything we do is a reflection of these four things. People who are fighting about money don’t have a proper perspective of what money is.

    “Instead of viewing money as a means to accomplish a goal, they see it as a way to satisfy their immediate desires. Usually the result is that finances control us versus us controlling our finances. The way that you gain control is to make a plan and stick to it.”

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    Facebook and Divorce

    From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, "Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces."

    “When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” says Jason Krafsky. Krafsky co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife, Kelli. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”

    To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members. They claimed that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys saw an increase in cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. Despite the media hype, you didn't hear the whole truth there, either. In reality, not all divorce attorneys completed the survey - just AAML members.

    “There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky says. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”

    Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds. Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. For others, unexpected feelings and emotions when friending or interacting with an old flame catches them off guard. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.

    “I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.'

    "There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong," Krafsky shares. "I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book.”

    The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, social networking sites are dangerous places to hang out.

    “Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky says. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently.

    "Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”

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    There is Hope for Your Marriage

    Margery D. Rosen, author of Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, Can this Marriage be Saved? interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

    “The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

    Rosen found something very interesting when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

    “The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

    When Rosen completed her research, she found that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics: trust, communication, fighting fair, power struggles, money, sex and balancing parenthood. Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to a lasting marriage.

    Below is a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

    • Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate's expense.

    • Communicate. Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

    • Fight fair. People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

    • Defuse power struggles. Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

    • Be money-smart. Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want, how they can best attain these goals, and how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

    • Make love. A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

    • Team up. Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

    “It takes courage to face marital problems head on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

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    6 Tips for a 'Til Death Do Us Part' Marriage

    Have you ever thought or said these words?

    I just can’t take it anymore... We’ve grown apart... I love you as a friend, but I’m not in love with you anymore... You aren’t the person I married... Things change.

    The crazy thing is, many happily married people also experience some of these feelings. It's true. Sometimes you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Other times you may feel distant to your spouse. Over time, mates do change.

    But do all these things have to shake the very foundation of your marriage? The answer is NO.

    What makes it possible for first-time marriages to survive?

    Marriage experts have found that couples who make their marriage work decide up front that divorce is not an option. Although many couples who choose to divorce have challenges, their marriage probably could have been saved and in the long run been a happy one. Their fatal error in the relationship was leaving their options open. If the going got too tough, in their mind, divorce was always a way out.

    You might be surprised to find this out, but research shows that divorce does not make you happier.

    Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages, conducted by the Institute for American Values, found that:

    • Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.

    • Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses.

    • Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.

    • 2 out of 3 unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.

    The bottom line is, you have to make a decision to stay at the table and be committed to making the marriage work. Here are some things to help you keep the vow: "until death do us part.”

    • Learn skills to help keep your marriage on track. Research continues to show that couples who learn how to talk to each other, resolve conflict, manage their money, have appropriate expectations of the marriage, and build intimacy are significantly more likely to keep their marriage on track over time.

    • Understand that the grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it. On the surface someone may look better than the one you are with, but in truth, even beautiful sod eventually has onions, crabgrass and clover if you don't properly care for it. In most cases, people who have jumped the fence will testify that the grass is not greener, just different.

    • Learn how to resolve conflict without threatening to leave the marriage. All couples have spats. Some yell; others talk things through. The common denominator for couples who keep their marriage on track is learning how to disagree with the best of them, but leaving the marriage is never an option.

    • Stop using divorce as a crutch. Instead of throwing in the towel when the going gets tough, consider it a challenge to learn as much as you can about your mate and how you can effectively deal with adversity. Intentionally choose to love the one you're with.

    • Keep the big picture perspective. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. One woman described her 65-year marriage to a group of young people. She shared about seven years throughout the 65-year span that were really bad due to work conditions, children, lack of time together, the husband's out of town job for a couple of years, etc. In the end, she asked herself, “Would I really want to trade 58 good years for seven bad years?” The answer was a resounding "No!" All marriages experience trials and tough moments. Don’t trade years of history for a couple of bad months or tough years.

    • Make a plan for your marriage. Going into marriage without a plan is like playing a football game without memorizing the playbook. If you want to win, you'll have team meetings, set goals, learn and relearn skills, learn how to lead and follow, and share responsibilities. And, you both need a copy of the playbook.

    If you want a “til death do us part” marriage, you must learn the plays so you can execute them correctly and prepare to adapt in different situations. That takes time. When you understanding that there will be occasional setbacks, you can move toward the goal line and even score a few touchdowns. Teammates block for each other, throw the ball to one another, help each other up, and encourage perseverance when the going gets tough.

    It has been said that individuals win games, but teamwork wins championships. So, make it your goal to have a championship marriage.

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    Keys to Avoiding Empty Nest Divorce

    Why do some couples embrace the empty nest while others end up in divorce court?

    “There are lots of sides to the empty nest that are complicated,” says psychologist, Dr. Susan Hickman. “Many experience depression, feelings of sadness, anxiety, identity crisis and significant grief. I remember when our daughter loaded up the van and headed to Oregon. I sat on the curb and sobbed - I was inconsolable for several days.”

    There are various responses to the empty nest varies from couple to couple. Women and couples with an only child, however, seem to experience the loss more intensely.

    “A huge part of dealing with the transition to the empty nest comes down to how strongly a person identifies with their parenting role to the exclusion of their own self-identity,” Hickman shares. “When things come to an abrupt end, if all you have done for 18 years is focus on your child’s needs, many parents struggle to remember the kinds of things they enjoyed before children came into the picture.”

    Additionally, it's normal for each person to experience the empty nest with differing emotions within the couple relationship. One person may openly grieve the loss. Others may throw themselves more into work or a project as a distraction. This has created significant conflict in many marriages.

    So what is the key to transitioning to the empty nest with your marriage strong and ready for the next phase of life?

    “First and foremost, avoid focusing on your children’s needs to the exclusion of your own needs and the needs of your marriage,” Hickman says. “Having children does not mean you give up your friends and the best interests of your marriage. When parents put children at the center of their world, they send the message that their children's needs trump everybody else’s needs in this community.”

    When your children are older, you may want to prepare for launching a new career when they launch. There's nothing wrong with taking a class or two, which in turn requires the kids to step up and help with chores and dinner preparation.

    Remember, you are modeling how to do marriage well. If it is always about the children and never about the relationship, what message are you sending your children?

    Anything you don’t cultivate will die. Children demand a lot, but you don’t want to ignore your marriage relationship. It is the foundation for a stable home which research shows children need to thrive. Many parents complain they can’t go anywhere because their children just keep calling them and driving them crazy. Hickman contends that parents train their children how to treat them. Setting clear boundaries and expectations is essential.

    “Preparing for the empty nest starts when your child is born,” Hickman asserts. “Your well-being and the well-being of your marriage are as important as the well-being of your child. Recognizing from the moment you find out you are pregnant that you have 18 years with this child, but you have the rest of your life with your spouse can help you cast a vision for keeping your marriage a priority.”