Articles for Married Couples

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    How to Deal with Meddling Parents

    “We love his parents, but they have a way of creating chaos between the two of us that has gotten to the point that we are seriously considering divorce,” says Karen.

    “I see this scenario in my office frequently,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Hickman. “In most instances, the parents of the now adult child didn’t have good boundaries when they were raising their child. Now that their child is grown and has a family of their own, the parents believe they have the right to be involved at this same level with their grandchildren and the parents.”

    Think helicopter parents who seek to control all aspects of their child’s life. Now fast forward to what this looks like when their child marries and attempts to raise children in a healthy environment.

    “I’m watching what his parents are doing, thinking this is insane,” Karen says. “They have a key to our home and will show up unannounced, which I think is rude. They talk about me to my husband and seem to constantly be trying to pit us against each other. When I tried to talk with my husband about this, he became angry and felt like I was dishonoring his parents.”

    “Being raised in this type of environment is like being emotionally blackmailed,” Hickman says. “The terror you felt as a child who is vulnerable to the parent stays the same over time. As an adult, when you're dealing with your parents you still feel that same terror you felt when you were 4. This is why so many young adults have difficulty breaking free. Only by violating these assumptions can this unhealthy chain be broken.”

    Karen and Bob are struggling with next steps. However, many young adults actually recognize the problem and seek help, which can create even more friction between the couple and parents. And, boundaries and limits often anger parents. Then they can become even more difficult.

    “As adults start breaking free from this toxic family dynamic they should expect resistance from the parents,” Hickman says. “In the process of creating a new dynamic you will probably experience pressure to get back in line. This is a sign that you are moving in the right direction.”

    Here are Hickman's suggestions for breaking free:

    • Set boundaries and stick with them – Your marriage and family are your first priority.

    • Be patient – Things will not change overnight.

    • Learn to disengage – Don’t participate in manipulative behavior. This is not as much about you as you might think.

    • If your parents choose not to have a relationship with you because of the boundaries set, that is their choice. Don’t feel guilty about it.

    • Don’t be afraid to seek help – An objective party who can encourage you and help you keep perspective.

    “Many couples have successfully walked this road and eventually developed a healthy relationship with parents,” Hickman says. “Don’t give up!”

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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.”

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    4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries

    Just say the word boundaries and watch what happens to people’s faces. Some immediately become suspicious and negative while others believe they are a good thing. Why does this word elicit such opposing responses?

    “Many people view boundaries as a way to restrain them,” says relationship coach, Dr. David Banks. “They say they want to be free to do whatever, whenever they want to do it. This is not a healthy way of thinking. Living with no boundaries may sound exciting, but it can actually destroy you. The sad thing is, most of the time people don’t experience the negative impact of 'no boundaries' until after the fact, and then it is often too late.”

    For example, take the person whose goal is to make a million dollars in a year. He basically puts his marriage and children on hold while putting his nose to the grindstone to make his million. At year’s end, he realizes he reached his monetary goal, but sacrificed his relationship with his family in the process.

    “Setting boundaries starts early,” Banks says. “As parents, we model this for our children. Consider the fact that when children are born, parents usually place the child between the two of them and the marriage takes a back seat to childrearing. In reality, the child should be positioned in front with the parents standing firmly behind the child. The boundary is set from an early age that you don’t come between mom and dad. As parents, your job is to receive your child, raise your child and release your child.”

    Without firm boundaries in place, life can become chaotic and miserable. If you have never established boundaries, it is never too late to start.

    “Many people are afraid of the backlash of setting boundaries,” Banks shares. “While it is true that things could be a little challenging for a while, keep your eyes on the goal. Ultimately, people are looking for healthy relationships – at work, in their marriage, with their children and in friendships. Healthy boundaries help you establish priorities, manage your time better and have fulfilling relationships with people.

    “When you are spending time with your spouse and your phone rings or your teenager comes in wanting to talk about changing curfew, you see these for what they are – distractions from your priority at the moment. The phone can wait and so can your teen. Boundaries are actually very freeing.”

    Dr. Banks suggests the following steps for setting healthy boundaries:

    • Understand your purpose – Who are you? What is important to you? What are your priorities in life?

    • Focus on yourself, not on others – The only person you can change is you. You can’t control other people’s behavior. If your goal is to stay healthy and connected, boundaries help.

    • Stay strong – If you have operated without boundaries, suddenly putting them in place could initially create chaos in your relationships. Stay the course.

    • Surround yourself with a strong support system – These aren’t necessarily your best friends, but they will speak the truth to you, encourage you, and hold you accountable for the change you seek to create.

    Ultimately, boundaries set the standard for expectations in relationships at home, at work and in the community. They protect you and allow you to function at your highest level of productivity.

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    Resources for Dealing with Porn Addiction

    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 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 resources on these websites:

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    Getting Past the Affair

    "Life is Short... Have an Affair!" - That's the tagline for Ashley Madison, a website encouraging married people to have an affair. When hackers exposed more than 300,000 people connected to Ashley Madison, the media went crazy. Many reporters ended their story saying that divorce lawyers need to prepare for a steep increase in business.

    "If we could speak to those 300,000, we would tell them to push the pause button and don't automatically head to divorce court," says Carrie, whose husband Greg (not their real names) utilized social media to initiate more than one affair.

    "Infidelity rocked my world. It was embarrassing. I asked myself a million times, 'How could my world look one way and have such a dark underside I had no clue existed?'" Carrie says. "I am a CEO and have been a policy advisor. I am a smart woman. You would think being married for 29 years, I would have a clue something was going on, but I didn't."

    Greg describes himself as "that guy nobody could believe would do this." He was a family man, active with his children and various church activities.

    "For 27 of our 29 years of marriage I was in and out of affairs and dabbled in porn," says Greg. "I had decided my marriage would not survive when I engaged in my most recent affair. When the affair was exposed, I found myself confronted by what I had become. All these years I was oblivious to the destruction I was sowing. I know it's hard to believe, but it is true. Looking back, I can't believe I operated like that."

    Initially, Greg told his wife what he thought was just enough. He described a battle going on in his head over telling her everything or keeping her in the dark.

    "At some point I couldn't take the hiding, lying and deceit anymore and decided to tell my wife everything," Greg says. "That is when things started to change. I had no idea whether my marriage was going to survive, but I knew I was moving away from something that had had a stronghold on me for a very long time."

    Greg and Carrie entered counseling with someone who understood the traumatic impact of marital infidelity. Additionally, they attended a weekend intensive for hurting marriages.

    "When I first found out about the affairs I was devastated, in shock and then furious," Carrie says. "I curled up in a fetal position for a couple of days. I journaled hundreds of pages as I walked through grieving what I thought had been my marriage.

    "When we entered into counseling, I remember the counselor asking me why I wanted to stay married. I responded that I honestly didn't know that I wanted to stay married. He said, 'OK, let's explore that.' It was through counseling and the weekend experience that we learned we had no idea how to talk to each other or care for each other. We learned how to stop doing things that were hurting our marriage and utilize tools to help us communicate better. We learned a path to intimacy in our marriage we had never known before."

    Greg and Carrie began this journey 15 months before sharing their story. Though it hasn't been easy, they've been able to bury their old marriage and build a new, 100% different marriage.

    "We have worked hard to rebuild trust," Greg says. "I have accepted responsibility for my behavior and Carrie, while she is not to blame for the affair, has been able to look at her behavior as well. We have set healthy boundaries and put safeguards in place and we attend support groups both individually and as a couple. What we have found is an amazing marriage we didn't know was possible."

    "With every crisis there is an opportunity," says Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair. "What Greg and Carrie have described is not just luck on their part as a couple. It is not uncommon for couples who have experienced infidelity to believe that their marriage is over. However, based on 20 years of research and clinical experience, we have found that at least 65-70 percent of couples who choose to work on their relationship survive the affair."

    If you are reeling from infidelity in your marriage, you might find these resources helpful:, and the book, Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help you Cope, Heal and Move On --Together or Apart by Kristina Coop Gordon.

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    Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

    Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling "The Thanksgiving from Hell."

    It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That's why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

    There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

    If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there's a little flexibility.

    For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

    • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families - and they are going to act how they act.

    • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

    • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

    • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won't take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you'll have some great stories to tell your friends.

    • It's just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening - and that soon you'll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) - can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

    • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay - and then leave at the predetermined time. If you're traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

    Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning, along with a good attitude, can make for a pleasant holiday season.

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    7 Tips for Setting Healthy Holiday Boundaries

    Whether it's your first holiday as a married couple or not, it's helpful to have a plan for how you're going to handle the holidays together.

    • Set a specific time to talk about how you want to spend the holidays. Remember that you are on the same team and your spouse is your first priority… not your family.

    • As negotiations proceed, keep in mind that it isn’t your job to please everybody. You may make some decisions that disappoint one family or the other. That’s okay. People will adjust.

    • Before making any decisions, make sure all your options are on the table.

    • Once the decision has been made, each spouse should call their family to pass along the information. Be sure to say, “We have decided that…” instead of, “We can’t be with you Christmas day because he/she wants to be with his/her family." That will do nothing but create problems for you.

    • Avoid committing to any invitations before checking with your spouse, even if you are certain he/she will want to go.

    • Be respectful of each other as you navigate this territory.

    • Finally, entertain the idea of starting your own traditions and consider including the in-laws. 

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    Dealing with Difficult In-Laws

    If you have in-laws who seem cross the line a lot, here are some constructive strategies for dealing with them.

    Don't assume they are intentionally trying to be difficult. In many instances, people think they are being helpful. They don't realize that dropping by unannounced or giving unsolicited marital or parenting advice is not appreciated. Get with your spouse and brainstorm things that your in-laws could do that would be helpful. Then sit down with your in-laws and talk about what you would appreciate them doing. Also discuss things that you would like them to stop.

    What if you believe it is truly unhealthy for your family to be around your in-laws? Your first responsibility is to your spouse and family. If being around your in-laws creates safety issues or requires you to put your family in an unhealthy environment, you'll want to set limits. When you know you'll be with your in-laws, decide as a team how much time you will spend there. Perhaps a code word or signal that the tension is mounting and it is time to wrap up the visit would be helpful.

    Be careful about anticipating how things will be. In many instances, anticipating being around difficult in-laws can increase tension and actually make the situation worse.

    Stand your ground. Many couples experience marital distress because one spouse doesn't want to hurt his/her parents' feelings and doesn't see how them "investing" in the marriage is harmful. If your spouse is uncomfortable with how the in-laws relate to you and your family, it is important to realize that the two of you are a team - not the two of you plus the in-laws.

    Focus on those things over which you have control. You may try to do an extreme makeover on your in-laws' behavior, but in the end you will probably feel frustrated and discouraged. It might be better to focus on your own behavior and the things you do have control over, like:

    • How much time you spend with them

    • Topics that are off limits for discussion

    • How you allow their behavior to impact you

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    Marriage Benefits Children

    In an article published by the Brookings Institute, Richard Reeves wrote about the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton became a father on Christmas Eve 2015.

    So what’s the big deal, you ask? Cam is single. He and his girlfriend, along with many others, didn't see the importance of tying the knot before having a child.

    Before you stop reading in disgust and think this is just old-fashioned rhetoric, please take a deep breath and try to read all the way to the end.

    There is no question marriage is on the decline. Some believe it really doesn’t matter anymore. However, some compelling findings indicate it might matter more than you think - especially when it comes to a child’s well-being.

    Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University, says family instability is the consistent and negative implication for child health in both cohabiting and married-parent families.

    Moreover, a study on child well-being and family structure by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 shows that children growing up in homes with their two married parents did better in every category.

    Children ages 12-17 living with cohabiting parents instead of married parents are:

    • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems;

    • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school; and

    • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

    Additional studies indicate that children born to cohabiting couples are much more likely to see their parents break up. In fact, two-thirds will split up before their child is 12, most splitting up before their child is five. Compare that to only one-quarter of married parents who split up. Cohabiting relationships seem to be more fragile than married relationships.

    Economic indicators show that 21 percent of children with cohabiting parents live below the poverty line. Only one in 10 children with married parents lives in poverty.

    Statistics also show that as of early 2016, half of all children born to women under 30 were born out of wedlock.

    Pew Research and other studies find that the majority of Americans would like to marry someday. So why are so many young people choosing cohabitation over marriage? What explains the increase in women under 30 choosing to have children outside of marriage? Well, it's complicated.

    For starters, many young people don't want the kind of marriage their parents had, nor are they confident that they can actually do marriage well. Others say there are no marriageable men or women. Still others see no benefit in a “formal” arrangement for themselves and for their children.

    There is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts children and society. There is also evidence that, in spite of people growing up in homes where they witnessed unhealthy marriages, experienced divorce and perhaps had other adverse childhood experiences, it's possible to heal from the past and go on to have healthy relationships and even healthy marriage.

    But the research is clear. The social, economic, health and emotional benefits of marriage extend to everyone, but are especially crucial for children.

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    Marriage and Our Economy

    The word “economics” comes from the Greek word “oikonomia.” It means “management of the household.” Unfortunately, few people seem to notice the relationship between household family structure and economic outcomes for states or society at-large.

    According to a study commissioned by The American Enterprise Institute, shifts in marriage and family structure significantly affect a state’s economy. This includes its economic growth and mobility, child poverty and median family income.

    The Strong Families, Prosperous States research documents four key sets of facts about the links between families and the economic welfare of states nationwide.

    Higher levels of marriage, and especially higher levels of married-parent families, are strongly associated with greater economic growth statewide. Marriage also contributes to more economic mobility, less child poverty and higher median family income in each state.

    The share of married parents in a state is a top predictor of the economic outcomes studied in this report. The family factor is generally a stronger predictor of economic mobility, child poverty and median family income. It's actually a stronger indicator than the educational, racial and age compositions of each state.

    The state-level link between marriage and economic growth is stronger for younger adults (ages 25–35) than for older ones. This suggests that marriage plays a particularly important role in fostering a positive labor market orientation among young men.

    Violent crime is much less common in states with more married-parent families, even after controlling for several socio-demographic factors. The average violent crime rate sits at 343 per 100,000 for states with high numbers of married parents. That's compared to an average rate of 563 per 100,000 for states with low levels of married parents. High crime rates lower the quality of life and real living standards. Crime is also associated with lower levels of economic growth and mobility.

    Based on these findings, the study recommends four things:

    • End the marriage penalty in means-tested welfare programs. Many low-income couples with children face substantial penalties for marrying. Various social benefits (food stamps, housing assistance, child care subsidies and welfare payments) decline as income rises, so a single or cohabiting mother is more likely to benefit from not marrying a partner with a steady income.

    • Strengthen vocational education and apprenticeships. One reason marriage is fragile in many poor and working-class communities is that job prospects and income are inadequate, especially for young adults without college degrees. Vocational education and apprenticeship programs can partially remedy this economic reality.

    • Give couples a second chance. Research suggests that in about one-third of couples exploring divorce, one or both spouses are willing to reconcile. States can consider three steps to reduce unnecessary divorce: Extend the divorce waiting period to one year in cases when abuse, abandonment and drugs or alcohol are absent; provide high-quality reconciliation education for interested couples; and create centers of excellence to improve the education opportunities for couples at risk for divorce.

    • Launch civic efforts to strengthen marriage. National, state and local relationship education initiatives and pro-marriage social marketing could be helpful. Campaigns against smoking and teenage pregnancy have taught us that sustained efforts to change behavior can work. Brookings Institution scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill promote the “success sequence.” It encourages young adults to pursue education, work, marriage and parenthood - in that order. With widespread support from educational, media, pop cultural, business and civic institutions, this movement might match the success of the nation’s previous teen pregnancy prevention efforts. That campaign has helped reduce the teen pregnancy rate by more than 50 percent since the 1990s.

    The economic advantages, this research suggests, don't just persist across the parents’ lifetime. The advantages also transfer across generations with greater economic gains for African-American families and families with less formal education.

    To read the entire report, go to:

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    Considering Divorce

    If you're married, it's likely that the thought of divorce has crossed your mind at some point. The question is, what did you do with that thought? That’s exactly what researchers with the National Divorce Decision-Making Project wanted to know.

    While research exists about what leads to marital breakdown, we know very little about what actually causes people to consider divorce. The project surveyed 3,000 married people in order to better understand thought processes concerning divorce.

    Researchers wanted to know things such as:

    • How long have they had these thoughts?

    • Who do they talk to about their thoughts and feelings?

    • What marital problems are they facing?

    • What do they do to address their problems and how helpful are these efforts?

    • How do they make the decision about divorce and whether or not to stay together?

    The findings, listed below, might surprise you.

    • Thoughts about divorce are common. More than half of married individuals (ages 25-50) report thoughts about divorce, either in the past or currently. Those thoughts occur well into the second decade of marriage.

    • Many in the study thought about divorce in the past, but decided to stay. Almost all of them are glad they did. They are not only surviving, but thriving. Thoughts about divorce don’t have to be a sign that separation is imminent.

    • Recent thoughts about divorce are common. One in four spouses surveyed had thoughts about divorce in the last six months. While more than half have ever had thoughts- that’s exactly what they are, thoughts – they are not necessarily a prelude to marital dissolution. They may even be a spur toward relationship repair strategies.

    • More-recent thinkers of divorce want to stay, not leave. They want to fix their problems, and they are not cavalier about divorce.

    • People appear to rely on tools like patience, changed attitudes and commitment to resolve or simply outlast their marital problems. Fixing problems through counseling, while helpful for some, doesn’t seem to be the primary path for repairing relationships.

    Based on their findings, the researchers developed practical recommendations for anyone who might be thinking about divorce. There are also tips for their friends and family.

    • If you’re married: Those thoughts don’t necessarily mean you are heading for divorce court. Many people experience serious marital difficulties, but with patience and commitment, you can work through or outlast your problems and have a thriving marriage.

    • If you’re a friend or family member: Realize that just because someone says they are thinking about divorce does not necessarily mean they will pursue one. Listen, give emotional support and offer an outside perspective. Those are the top three most helpful responses a confidant can give to someone who is distressed about their marriage.

    • A word of caution: Abuse, affairs and addiction are serious. Encouraging individuals to seek help from a qualified professional who can assess the severity of the problem is a good thing.

    Based on this study, we know that people may entertain occasional thoughts about divorce when the going gets tough. But, those thoughts don’t necessarily mean they are really ready to call it quits. Perhaps in many instances the old adage, “This too shall pass” is a good thing to remember.

    Survey responses also indicate that couples who hunker down, commit to working on problems and seek help when needed eventually reach a much more satisfying place in their marriage. And, they're actually thankful they did not throw in the towel.

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    3 Tips for Satisfaction in Love and Marriage

    Before marriage, engaged couples usually have a few expectations about their day-to-day roles. Who will manage the money? Who should initiate romance? What will the arrangements be if or when children arrive? Who will be responsible for housework, laundry and such?

    If someone warned you before marriage or in its early stages about some real tension-causing issues most couples face, you may have dismissed any such idea. You probably thought your relationship was different than any other.

    After the wedding, things do change, but not always the way anyone thinks it will. When conflict arises, some couples may even question whether they have what it takes to keep the marriage afloat. Add unmet expectations, misunderstandings and hurt feelings to the mix and things can get messy. What can couples do when this happens?

    “Though people are trained from an early age to analyze problems and create solutions, we must be careful to remember that marriage is a relationship to be nurtured, not a project to complete or a problem to be solved,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, relationship counselor and author of The Five Love Languages.

    Chapman wants couples to understand that love is not the only foundation for marriage. “The tingles,” as he calls it, is that early-stage feeling of euphoric love which only lasts for about two years. When that feeling is gone, couples enter the stage of marriage where they must intentionally nurture their love and grow together as a couple. Additionally, they must be prepared for common stumbling blocks that occur.

    Chapman offers some guidance to help all couples intentionally move toward a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

    • Understand that allegiances change after marriage, even as you are marrying into a family. When two people become one, they become each other’s priority. Let the in-laws know this as you make your own decisions together, but honor them in the process. And in-laws – it’s best not to give advice unless someone asks you.

    • Learn your mate’s love language and speak it often. If you don’t know if their love language is gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time or words of affirmation, watch them around others or listen to their complaints and their requests for some clues. Complaining about something or asking for something repeatedly can usually indicate what they need from you.

    • Realize that all couples have conflict and struggle with selfishness. Make sure you understand what you expect from each other, before marriage if possible. Be a good listener. Try to understand your mate when you disagree, then affirm what your mate says and share with one another. Don't try to prove you are right and he/she is wrong. The relationship loses when one person has to win. “Two people arguing goes downhill fast,” Chapman says, “But two listeners build each other up.”

    According to Chapman, two selfish, demanding people cannot have a good marriage. It takes time to master the art of loving each other well and learn how to give each other pleasure in a relationship. In the end, the most satisfied couples make an effort to serve each other, not themselves.

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