Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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    What People Are Thinking About Marriage

    What people believe about marriage may surprise you.

    At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people really think about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

    If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers - the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today - their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

    Before you get too excited about the divorce rate decrease though, it would be important to know that the marriage rate has also decreased. 

    WHAT MARRIAGE LOOKS LIKE TODAY

    According to Stanley, demographers and sociologists wonder whether people are marrying later or if a historic number of younger people just won’t marry. Some think marriage will bounce back, while others think the younger generations are afraid of or disinterested in marriage. 

    This is quite perplexing when research, including the U.S. General Social Survey, indicates that around 95% of people say they are “pretty happy” or “very happy” in their marriage. Stanley says it’s possible that people are happy, but that when things go south, they may do so very quickly.

    The average age of first marriage is currently 30 for men and 28 for women, but many who have young adult children or grandchildren are often puzzled by this delay in marriage. Boomers and Gen Xers reflect on their own young adulthood and realize that not only were they married in their early to mid-20s, but they also had children and jobs.

    So what’s up with the delay? Stanley likens it to people milling around the airport who aren’t all there for the same reason. 

    THREE TYPES OF SINGLES

    1. Seekers: Some are there seeking the one perfect person who will be perfectly attuned to them. Stanley cautions these seekers to examine if they are unrealistically seeking perfection from someone when they aren’t perfect themselves.
    2. Determined Delayers: The “determined delayers” at the airport might eventually be seeking “the one,” but are uninterested in finding them, at least for now. They say they want to get married - but maybe in five years or so. These delayers are either having fun trying out several relationships or are enjoying being uninvolved romantically.
    3. Wanderers: Then there are the wanderers, who aren’t looking for a relationship or preventing one either. If they get into a relationship and it works, they could easily end up married.

    It’s when a seeker starts dating a determined delayer and doesn’t know it that things can get complicated. Stanley says ambiguity can lead one person in the dating relationship to believe that the other is more interested in marriage than they really are.

    THE COMPETITION TO COMMITMENT

    According to Stanley, the number one competitor to commitment in a relationship is how good your alternatives are and your awareness of them. People who carry a lot of relationship experience into marriage tend to think, “I hope this works, but if it doesn’t, there are other fish in the sea.”

    “Marriage for many people has moved from being a cornerstone to your life to a capstone,” Stanley shares. “Instead of being foundational, it is a major achievement as a status symbol.”

    Yet, the 2018 American Family Survey (AFS) indicates that 64 percent of us believe that marriage makes families and children better off financially. A large majority believes that marriage is needed to create strong families, and that society is better off when more people are married. The percentage of people who believe marriage is old-fashioned and outdated hovers in the mid-teens.

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    • If there is a benefit in delaying marriage, Stanley believes that perhaps people are self-insuring to protect themselves from potential loss. However, the downside of that means they are doubling down on individualism versus interdependence.
    • Friends used to connect their friends to their future mate, but the data shows that more people are meeting online instead. If people wisely use these online systems to look for someone who is a better fit instead of being limited to only the people in their community, this is good news for relationships. Stanley says people need to think about what they are looking for and intentionally surround themselves with people who share their values.
    • People are wrestling with the idea of marriage for various reasons. When the AFS asked what was essential to living a fulfilled life, marriage was the lowest thing on the list. A good living, education and a rewarding job were at the top. It could be that people are thinking if they have those three things, their chances of making marriage work are greater, but no one knows for sure.

    In The Atlantic piece, What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse, Mandy Len Catron contends that marriage is socially isolating, marriage is no longer what many want, there is too much emphasis on marriage and commitment is really the main thing, not marriage.  

    Research does indicate singles are more socially connected than marrieds, and they tend to have a broader community. When people marry, they do tend to invest their time and energy into their marriage. However, couples who know that marriage could become socially isolating can be intentional about building social connectedness and community.

    THREE QUESTIONS TO CLARIFY COMMITMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE

    For those who align with Mandy Len Catron, Stanley offers three questions that are important to ask.

    1. Have you both agreed to a lifetime of commitment to each other?
    2. Have you publicly declared the depth of your commitment to those who matter most in your lives?
    3. Have you agreed to be faithful to each other for the rest of your lives?

    The answers to these questions can help determine the trajectory of the relationship, for better or for worse.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 9, 2019.

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    How Technology Use Impacts Faithfulness

    In July 2019, the 2019 State of our Unions: iFidelity: Interactive Technology and Relationship Faithfulness report revealed some interesting findings about marital health and relationship attitudes/behaviors, both online and in real life, in America.  

    According to the report, the internet has impacted our personal and professional lives in such a way that our definitions of romantic and sexual loyalty and commitment are changing. While most Americans still clearly oppose sexual unfaithfulness in marriage, younger adults are significantly more likely to engage in internet infidelity than older generations. 

    Researchers believe the weakening of marital and relationship boundaries matters, and the data in this report shows a generational divide in both behaviors and attitudes, with younger generations having weaker boundaries. Younger Americans are more likely to be unfaithful online, and it’s clear that relationship outcomes are markedly worse when iFidelity becomes i-Infidelity. 

    The report offers three key findings across all age groups.

    First, a majority of Americans in all generations express support for sexual fidelity in their relationships and report they are sexually faithful in real life. However, today’s young adults are more likely to cross online boundaries related to sex and romance. 

    Additionally, many online behaviors are rated by most Americans (70% or more) as “unfaithful” or “cheating.” This would include having a secret emotional relationship or sexting with someone other than a partner/spouse without the partner’s/spouse’s knowledge and consent. 

    The third finding can have a major impact on relationships if couples were to set and enforce online boundaries: Married and cohabiting couples who maintain strong online boundaries against potential sexual and romantic alternatives are more likely to be happy in their relationships. Currently married or cohabiting couples who blur those boundaries are significantly less happy, less committed and more likely to break up. On the other hand, couples who take a more careful stance online are happier, more committed and less likely to separate. 

    Here are some of the numbers:

    • 18% of millennial participants engaged in sexual talk online with someone besides their partner; only 3% of Greatest/Silent Generation participants (ages 75 and older), 6% of baby boomers and 16% of Gen Xers did so.
    • Only 18% of millennials think that electronic behaviors that blur romantic and sexual lines with others are inappropriate, compared to 26% of baby boomers.
    • Married and cohabiting people who did not follow a former girlfriend/boyfriend online had a 62% likelihood of reporting that they were “very happy” in their relationship, while only 46% of those who followed an old flame online reported being very happy.
    • Married and cohabiting Americans who break three or more romantic or sexual boundaries online are 26 percentage points less likely to be “very happy” in their real life relationship, compared to those who push none of those boundaries.

    The General Social Survey, a key source for the report, regularly gauges American attitudes and has asked the same questions regarding marital fidelity from 1998 to 2018. 

    For example, “What about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her husband or wife, is it …?” The percentage of people responding, “Always wrong” dropped 8 points over a 20-year span to 75%. This indicates an increase in more permissive attitudes, but statistical tests confirm that an attitudinal shift of 8 percentage points in the last 10 years is not likely due to chance.

    According to this report, young adults who have grown up in the age of the internet are the least committed to iFidelity. It also shows that crossing emotional and sexual boundaries results in lower quality relationships. iFidelity, then, suggests that our online conduct is linked to the health of our real life relationships. Is your online conduct helping or hurting your relationship?

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 2, 2019.


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    5 Ways to Help Prevent Gray Divorce

    If you are 50 or older and have been married for 30 years or more, the latest headlines might have you wondering if your marriage is in trouble and you don’t even know it.

    Articles from Pew Research Center, the Wall Street Journal and other publications with titles like, Led by Baby Boomers, Divorce Rates Climb for America’s 50+ Population, and The Divorce Rate is at a 40-Year-Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older, seem to be painting a grim picture. Should people be worried?

    Professors Naomi Cahn at the George Washington University Law School and June Carbone at the University of Minnesota Law School, looked at the latest research on this topic. They say the divorce rate is still not all that high for those over the age of 50. 

    In 1990, five out of every 1,000 married people divorced. In 2010, 10 out of every 1,000 married people divorced. Although the rate has risen more dramatically for those over the age of 50, Cahn and Carbone say it is still half the rate of those younger than 50.

    One might older couples are divorcing because children have finally left the nest or that people are living longer and just getting bored in marriage. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however.

    According to research from the National Center for Family and Marriage at Bowling Green State University:

    • Couples who own property together and couples with over $250,000 in assets were less likely to divorce.
    • Couples married 40 years or more were the least likely to end up divorced.
    • Gray divorce was almost three times higher for remarried couples compared to first-time married couples.

    While property, wealth and the absence of previous marriage may be protective factors, couples can do other things to help their marriage last.

    • Friendship matters. No matter how many years you have been married, continue to grow the friendship between the two of you.
    • Be nice. People often are nicer to those on the outside than the ones they say they care about most. Pay attention to how you treat the one you love.
    • Seek to navigate the tough times together. A job loss, death of a parent or some other transition can be really hard. Instead of trying to navigate it on your own, talking about what you need during a rough patch can help your spouse know the most helpful ways to offer support.
    • Be adventurous. When you’ve been together a long time, it’s easy to find yourselves in a comfortable, yet unfulfilling rut. Look for opportunities to do something out of the ordinary.
    • Keep the conversations going. Some people who have been married for decades complete each other’s sentences and know what the other needs without having to ask. Plenty of research indicates that long-term, happily-married couples know that part of the “happily-married” secret is to keep talking about a variety of topics that interest them.

    It is true that more people are throwing in the towel on marriage later in life. However, those who understand that just because you have traveled the road for a long time doesn’t mean you can put it on cruise control or take your hands off the wheel are much more likely to reach the end of their journey together.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on July 5, 2019.


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    How Family Structure Impacts Loneliness

    For decades, concern has been expressed about how family breakdown impacts children, but the future impact on adults hasn’t received much attention. That's changing.

    In 2018, a Cigna study set off alarms about loneliness and its potential root causes as it indicated loneliness is at epidemic proportions in America. 

    In an article for City Journal, Kay Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys and The New Brooklyn: How to Bring a City Back, addresses how the rise in the breakdown of the family has created an increase in kinlessness. This phenomenon is impacting older adults in profound ways.

    Hymowitz cites studies, including one by Ashton M. Verdery and Rachel Margolis, that showed a surge in the number of “kinless” older adults. 

    “A jump in the number of never-married and divorced adults is also part of the kinlessness story,” writes Hymowitz. “Baby boomers were the first generation to divorce in large numbers, and they continue to split up even as they amble into their golden years, giving rise to the phenomenon known as “gray divorce.”

    Hymowitz also cites Robert Putnam’s work Bowling Alone, where Putnam raised the caution flag about the decline people were experiencing in social capital, especially the likelihood that boomers would experience a lonelier old age than the greatest generation before them. 

    Divorced people don’t typically have ex-spouses who are willing to take care of them in their old age or illness, nor do stepchildren typically care for stepparents as they would care for their biological parent. Even biological parents who walked away from their children now find themselves navigating old age alone

    Verdery and Margolis summarize their findings: “Evidence is accumulating that the legacy of divorce and remarriage has a long reach straining intergenerational relationships and suppressing the support that divorced parents, stepparents and remarried biological parents might expect from their children later in life.”

    Additionally, Hymowitz mentions cohabitation as a key ingredient in the rise of kinlessness.

    “Superficially, cohabitation looks roughly equivalent to marriage; couples live together as ‘husband and wife,’ sharing a bed, living space, meals and in many cases children, but without the ring and city-hall certificate,” Hymowitz says. She asserts that the increase in couples who are living together has added to the fragility of post-transition relations.

    Consider this: Cohabiting couples break up faster and more often than married couples. Separated, cohabiting fathers are more likely to withdraw from their children’s lives than divorced dads. Cohabiting and single parents have looser ties to their own parents and friends than marrieds. Plus, the Cigna study found that single parents are about the loneliest Americans.

    “Even evolutionary-psychology skeptics, might notice that though marriage has shape-shifted over the centuries and across cultures, it has always defined those people - spouses, parents, children, grandparents, siblings, in-laws - to whom we owe special attention and mutual protection,” Hymowitz says. “Marriage creates kin; cohabitation does not. Some of the most crucial obligations of kinship have always been to tend to the sick and to bury the dead.”

    It is worth noting that even today, the vast majority of unpaid caretaking of the aging in the U.S. is done by relatives, according to Putnam. Hymowitz surmises that a lot of what’s happening is due to a change in our understanding of what the family is and its purpose. Hymowitz points out that kinless elders are often hoarders who hang on to every stray electric bill, used coffee cup or odd bit of broken furniture. They cling to their stuff for lack of meaningful human interaction.

    “Uprootedness uproots everything except the need for roots,” wrote American historian Christopher Lasch. Hymowitz believes one of our greatest challenges is to communicate that need to coming generations before they make decisions that will further fragment their lives and communities.

    In conclusion, Hymowitz reminds us that the policy discussions about the troubles of the American working class and poor center on vocational and technical education, higher-paying and reliable jobs and benefits. These are necessary efforts, but they are not enough to counter the loneliness, kinlessness and despair crushing so many spirits. There must be what Tom Wolfe called a “great relearning” about how to satisfy the human longing for continuity and connection.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 14, 2019.

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    How Fear Impacts Your Marriage

    An angry wife greeted her husband, who was late getting home again from work, as he walked through the door. As was their usual pattern, an argument followed. This has been an ongoing issue between the two for several months with no apparent resolution in sight. 

    In Gary Smalley’s book, The DNA of Relationships, Smalley wrote that the external problem couples tend to argue about over and over again is rarely the real problem. Believe it or not, many couples argue about superficial issues, never actually getting to the real problem for the duration of their marriage. Smalley contends that this is a destructive dance many couples are involved in and it stems from fear.

    “We have found that most women have a core fear related to disconnection – they fear not being heard, not being valued, somehow losing the love of another,” said Smalley in his book. “Most men, on the other hand, have a core fear of helplessness or feeling controlled – they fear failure or getting stepped on. We noticed that the common core fears are all related to two main primary fears: the fear of being controlled (losing power) and the fear of being disconnected (separation from people and being alone). Without identifying your own core fear and understanding how you tend to react when your fear button gets pushed, your relationships will suffer.”

    The tardy husband had no way of knowing that at the core of his wife’s anger was the reality that her father used to come in late from work because he was seeing another woman. While she and her husband argued about his tardiness, the real issue – her fear that he might be cheating on her - did not surface until much later.

    Smalley’s book encourages people to do a self-examination to determine their core fear. Maybe it is rejection, feeling like a failure, being unloved or being humiliated, manipulated or isolated.

    Couples who are dancing the fear dance know the steps well. The cycle begins when your feelings get hurt or you experience gut emotional pain. You want to stop feeling this emotional pain and you want the other person to stop treating you in such a way that “causes” you to feel this pain. You fear they won’t change, so you react and try to motivate them to change. In doing so, you start the same process in the other person.

    “The fear dance can start with discussions of sex, money, in-laws, disciplining children, being late, etc.," Smalley wrote. “People fall into patterns of reacting when their buttons are pushed. Most people use unhealthy reactions to deal with fear. Most of us try different ways to change the other person’s words and actions so that we will feel better. As a result, our relationships are sabotaged. It’s how you choose to react when your fear button is pushed that determines harmony.” 

    So, how do you break the rhythm of the fear dance? According to Smalley, these steps can help:

    1. Take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Your thoughts determine your feelings and actions.
    2. Take responsibility for your buttons. You choose how you react when someone pushes your fear button.
    3. Don’t give others the power to control your feelings. Personal responsibility means refusing to focus on what the other person has done. The only person you can change is yourself. You can stop the fear dance.
    4. Don’t look to others to make you happy. Don’t fall into the “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” myth. Come to relationships with realistic expectations.
    5. Become the CEO of your life. You can’t force people to meet your needs, but when you express legitimate needs to others, they can choose to step in to assist you.
    6. Remember that forgiveness heals relationships. Taking personal responsibility means confessing your wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. You also forgive others.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 19, 2019.


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


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    What Husbands Need From Their Wives

    During the 2019 Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute’s IMPACT dinner in February, Katty Kay, a British journalist, author and broadcaster, spoke about the importance of confidence and competence, specifically in women.

    Kay shared that both she and her husband travel a lot. Whenever she was headed out of town, she lined up extra babysitters, made sure the refrigerator was stocked and made lists: lots of lists of all the kids’ activities and such to ensure that her husband didn’t forget anything. At some point she realized that she was going to all of this extra effort in preparation for leaving town, but that when her husband went out of town, he just left. This irritated her a bit.

    She had a conversation with him about it that went something along the lines of, “Whenever I am going out of town, I take the time to do all of this pre-prep for you to make sure everything gets taken care of. Yet when you go out of town, you do nothing.” 

    His response to her was, “Yes you do, but I did not ask you to do that.” 

    So the next time she went out of town, she did nothing. And, lo and behold, the house was still standing and the kids were taken care of when she returned home.

    Katty Kay is definitely not the only woman to fall into the trap of believing that if she doesn’t map everything out, things will fall apart while she is away. In fact, more than likely, a majority of women do the very same thing. 

    Here’s the deal. According to research, men want to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside? 

    Despite all the well-meaning intention behind the pre-prep, the message men receive isn’t, “I love you so much that I am doing all of this for you before I leave town.” The inadvertent message is, “I’m not confident you have the bandwidth to remember everything that needs to be done so I will put a safety net in place to make sure none of the balls get dropped.”

    Research conducted by Harvard-educated analyst, Shaunti Feldhahn, found that three-quarters of the men surveyed, if forced to choose, would give up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.

    In an effort to try and better understand this, Feldhahn was speaking with a friend who stated: “I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough.” When she asked what he meant, he said that they recently had friends over for dinner. Afterward, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. Upon returning home, the wife kissed his cheek,  looked over his shoulder and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. Feldhahn asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently and he said, “Yes, she could have said thanks.”

    Feldhahn explains that when women are thinking about something, they usually process out loud so there’s no question what they’re thinking. On the other hand, when men think and process, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Her research showed that in most cases, instead of questioning the husband’s decision, saying, “Help me understand,” will result in a long, well-thought out explanation.

    For example, one wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

    Feldhahn asked the husband to help his wife understand what happened. He explained that when he went to the fridge to get the milk, he realized if he gave the kids milk for dinner there wouldn't be enough for breakfast. He was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep. They had been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so he didn't want to wake her up just to go get milk. He decided to give the kids juice, which he diluted by half with water so they wouldn't have as much sugar. After the explanation, the look on his wife's face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.

    Katty Kay’s message to the women in the room was this: The need for perfection is often the very thing that holds us back at work, home and in life in general. Just because you may not have it down perfectly doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do the job. Just because your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen just like you would doesn’t mean you have to go behind them and “fix it.” Women have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try. She also said that learning how to fail and still move forward is important. And finally, as women grow in their confidence and competence, they should pass it on.

    Ironically, the very things women don’t want people doing to them, such as pigeonholing them, penalizing them for taking risks and questioning their competence, is the exact thing women often do to their husbands.

    Feldhahn believes it's important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Just like Kay pointed out that women don’t like feeling or being seen as incompetent or lacking in confidence, neither do men. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn't measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 3, 2019.


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



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    Building a Brilliantly Blended Family

    Any couple involved in a remarriage can tell you there are definitely some complicating factors. 

    Extended family is even more extended. There are typically at least three people involved in parenting decisions, if not more. Visitation with the other parent involves consulting more schedules, and co-parenting is often complicated. 

    Here are some blended family facts from Pew research and others:

    • 42% of adults (102 million) have a steprelationship, and when you add the 11.6 million stepchildren in the U.S. (16% of all kids), an estimated 113.6 million Americans have stepkin.
    • 52% of married/cohabiting couples with at least one living parent (or parent-in-law) and at least one adult child have a stepkin relationship.
    • 52% of “sandwich” generation couples have at least one stepparent or stepchild. 
    • The percentage is even higher for younger households, with 62% of married/cohabiting couples under age 55 having at least one stepkin relationship in the three generations.
    • 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage.

    In many instances, children find themselves trying to navigate two worlds, attempting to understand why they have to follow different sets of rules at each house. Sometimes parents talk badly about the other parent in front of their children. It can very quickly become confusing and complicated for the children.

    “Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” said Ron Deal, speaker and author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.

    “While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

    Deal says that children can successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if: 

    • the parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict;
    • children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist; and
    • there is a commitment from parents to cooperate regarding the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

    “I do realize that many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurture and discipline of their children,” Deal said. “That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.”

    Although blending two families together comes with plenty of challenges, Deal wants to give stepfamilies the keys to unlocking some of the most difficult struggles they face. 

    Deal helps families answer some of their most common questions, such as:

    • Should we develop new family traditions together? 
    • Are my boundaries and influence different as a stepparent?
    • How do I make sure no one feels left out or unheard?
    • What about dealing with ex-spouses? Are there dos and don’ts?
    • Sometimes, our “blended family” feels awkward. Will it ever feel normal?
    • Our marriage often takes a backseat to figuring out the stepparent dynamic. How can we stay connected?

    Your blended family can grow, learn and become stronger, no matter what season you find yourself in. Work together to develop a game plan - one that builds connection and intimacy at home while keeping your marriage strong,

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    Finding Purpose in the New Year

    Some people eagerly anticipate the arrival of a new year, hoping for new opportunities. Others feel stuck in a rut and could really care less. 

    At the ripe old age of 28, Dr. Jeff Fray, psychologist/consultant, had met all of his life goals. He had earned his doctorate and built up a practice that included eight or nine counselors, yet he felt like he was living life on a treadmill. 

    From the outside looking in, one might assume Fray had it all. Instead, he felt trapped like a wild animal in a cage with bars of insecurity, money, fear of failure and rejection, and lack of purpose. 

    “I certainly wasn’t experiencing life to its fullest,” said Fray. “I was in a rut. I thought I had purpose, but what I really had was ambition. I had a plan in my mind of how things were supposed to go. What I have learned is, when people have ambition instead of purpose, they have a vision for the future. But if that vision isn’t working, they often wind up manipulating people to fulfill that vision to which they have attached their sense of worth and purpose.”

    After some soul searching, Fray decided he was tired of living in the cage. He and his wife made a radical decision to sell their home, camper, cars and the practice he worked so hard to build. They purchased a 50-foot sailboat, and after 18 months of getting prepared and equipped, they set sail on the journey of a lifetime.  

    “It wasn’t an easy decision, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it was the right one,” Fray shared. “For a year and a half we sailed with our three children who were 4, 9 and 12 at the time. It was an opportunity to re-engage as a family. We had just 300 square feet of living quarters, but we had a huge backyard. We home-schooled the boys, which led to some interesting moments for sure!”

    Other than a one-week chartered “test-sail,” the Frays had never sailed before, so the first several weeks were literally baptism by fire.

    “Our first night out of the harbor we were up all night saving a boat from sinking,” Fray remembered. “One week later, we saved another boat. Within the first two weeks, our alternator broke, which meant we had no electricity, and then our hot water heater rusted through. We missed our turn into Georgetown Harbor in the Bahamas and took the boat up on a reef. The only thing that saved us was that the tide was coming in and the current moved us off the reef.”

    The Frays had their sights set on sailing to the Dominican Republic and many other places, but after the adventures of the first two weeks, they were tempted to stay put.

    “The harbor is beautiful and there are hundreds of other families who live there and home school their children,” Fray said. “One night, new friends came over to our boat for dinner. They told us that this harbor is known as Chicken Harbor and is where the dream of the southern Caribbean gives way to the good enough.”

    In his quest to find purpose, Fray realized this was a critical piece of information. “Life is hard. When people get to a safe place that is better, like Chicken Harbor, it is tempting to say, ‘Safe is good enough’ and you end up missing out on the ultimate purpose for your life.”

    The Frays stayed in the harbor one week to make boat repairs and then headed out. The first night, they ran into another storm and were tested again. As time went by they persevered many other trials, including adjusting to living in very close quarters.

    “In 300 square feet, we had to learn to honor and respect each other,” Fray recalled. “You couldn’t escape conflict. We developed our team at a whole different level. Every family member had a role to play. Our 4-year-old took the first watch every night with his mom. The 9-year-old was our mechanic and our oldest was the first to get his dingy license so he was captain of the dingy taking us back and forth to land. We all had a sense of purpose.”

    Their year-and-a-half adventure took them to many places most never get the opportunity to see, including uninhabited islands where Christopher Columbus landed, huge waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, and the remote coast of Venezuela. 

    “It was amazing,” Fray said. “During our time at sea I came to the realization that my purpose is to do the next thing wholeheartedly the rest of my life. While I don’t recommend everybody do what we did, I can tell you it gave us the opportunity to examine our priorities, recalibrate to God’s purposes and discover our purpose, which gave us a road map for the future. Years later, our family is still impacted by our sailing sabbatical.” 

    On the cusp of a new year, is the rudder of your life ambition or purpose? Do you feel trapped in a cage? If so, it is never too late to make changes. The beginning of a new year presents a great opportunity to establish a new direction or build on an existing strong foundation. Don’t be afraid to enter uncharted waters, which may be the course to newfound purpose in the coming year.  

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 30, 2018.

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    Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays

    If you've ever spent the holiday season caring for a sick loved one or friend, you know how stressful it can be when caregiving tasks already fill your day. Heap the expectations of a joy-filled season on top of that, and there is real potential for feelings of guilt, anger, resentment and complete fatigue to take over.

    Many caregivers are constantly exhausted, and sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other seems daunting. It can be tempting to hide away until after the holidays to avoid dealing with the added stress. If you can relate, these suggestions may help you navigate the season with a different mindset.

    • Give yourself permission to put self-care at the top of the list. You probably know that you can’t give what you don’t have to others, but that is just plain easier said than done. Some family and friends may have more flexibility to give you much-needed breaks to exercise, sleep, treat yourself to some time with friends or to just do nothing. 
    • Instead of trying to do it all yourself, let someone help. Driving to doctor visits, picking up prescriptions, changing beds, grocery shopping, fixing meals and keeping the house clean can keep you going 24/7. Friends are usually looking for ways to be helpful, especially during the holidays. It will bless you both if you take them up on their offers or ask for what you need. 
    • Think about what makes your heart happy when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Do those things and eliminate the rest even though you might want to do more. Instead of doing all the decorating, ask a friend if they would do it for you. Send an email instead of cards or have someone help you address envelopes. If hosting the annual holiday gathering feels like too much to handle this year, ask someone else to host. If you still want to host but want less responsibility, let others bring the food.
    • Take control of your mind and guard against negative self-talk. If you typically do everything yourself, this can be a particularly complicated time of year. On one hand, you know you need help, but on the other hand, you hate to seem needy. Healthy people ask for what they need and don’t feel guilty about it.

    Caring for a loved one goes on for a season, and that time period may be months or years. Whatever the time frame, most people understand how hard it is, and there are often many people in your life who are willing to help you shoulder some of the load so that in the end you don’t end up sacrificing yourself in the name of caring for the one you love. 

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 9, 2018.

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    How Marriage Affects the Economy

    Research conducted by Gallup from January to September 2013 reveals that married Americans tend to have an above average income. This leads to more spending, which stimulates the economy.

    In fact, married Americans spend more than those in any other marital status category across age groups. Americans who have never married spend significantly less, particularly those younger than 50. The study suggests that if marriage rates increase, overall spending in the United States may increase.

    Interestingly, W. Bradford Wilcox, director of The National Marriage Project, has been studying the impact of marriage on financial stability.

    Writing for The Atlantic Monthly, Wilcox states, “The Add Health dataset for the Home Economics Project, a new joint initiative between the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, indicates that adolescents raised in intact, married homes are significantly more likely to succeed educationally and financially.

    "Young adults who were raised in a home by their married parents are 44 percent more likely to graduate from college. College graduates have better job prospects, tend to make more than minimum wage and are less likely to be unemployed. The benefits are greatest for less privileged homes, that is, where their mother did not have a college degree. Young people from less-privileged homes with married parents are more likely to graduate from college and earn about $4,000 more than their peers from non-intact families.”

    Wilcox goes on to talk about the implications between adolescent family structure and family formation for young adults. Men and women who come from intact families are approximately 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock. Why is this significant? Because research from numerous groups including Brookings Institution and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies indicates that unwed childbearing decreases your chances of marrying.

    By following the success sequence - complete high school (at a minimum), work full time and marry before having children, a person's chances of being poor fall from 12 to 2 percent. And, their chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent. (Middle class has an income of at least $50,000 a year for a family of three).

    This information is not new. Tons of research show the financial benefits of healthy marriage for adults and their children, including Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences to The Case for Marriage.

    The influence married people have on the economy is new however. Married people have more expendable income. As a result, they are able to buy more, which positively impacts our country’s economy.

    Despite a decrease in the U.S. marriage rate and people's apparent skepticism about the prospect of marriage, there is convincing evidence that marriage's financial benefits impact more than just the couple.

    The Gallup research, along with other studies, indicates that no other living arrangement offers these benefits to the same degree as marriage. The ripple effect of healthy marriage affects the economy and so much more. Perhaps all of us would benefit from learning how to do marriage well.

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    5 Ways to Say "I'm Sorry"

    Have you ever had someone apologize in front of a group of people and one person thought the apology was sincere while you thought it was not? If so, you are not alone. 

    According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, people speak different love languages and they also speak different languages of apology. Even when someone says they are sorry, in many instances the other person may not hear it as a sincere apology for a number of reasons.

    “Most people are looking for specifics in an apology—and unless they hear it or recognize it, they don’t trust it,” says Chapman. “The person who has been hurt needs to know for certain that the apology is genuine. But how do we communicate such sincerity? Therein lies the problem. What one person considers a sincere apology may not sound, or actually be, sincere to another person.” 

    Apology is about validating the other person’s feelings when they have been hurt or wronged. When you start the process of forgiveness, you’re on your way to reconnecting.

    The five languages of apology are:

    • Expressing regret – This is the emotional aspect of an apology. People who speak this language believe it is important to acknowledge that you offended them and to express your own sense of guilt, shame and pain that your behavior has hurt them deeply. Actually being able to say “I am sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language. 
    • Accepting responsibility – In this instance an apology means accepting responsibility for one’s actions and being willing to say “I was wrong.” This is often very difficult because admitting you are wrong can be perceived as weakness. 
    • Making restitution – For an apology to be genuine, it isn’t just about saying “I am sorry.” Instead, it’s all about making things right for a person who speaks this language. They want acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and they want to know what you are going to do to make it right.
    • Genuinely repenting – The word repentance means “to turn around” or to change one’s mind. If a person speaks this language of apology they are expecting that you not only apologize, but that you will seek not to repeat the offense again in the future.
    • Requesting forgiveness - A person who speaks this language believes that an apology not only includes “I am sorry,” but also a request for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness indicates to some that you want to see the relationship fully restored.

    “A husband shared with me that as soon as he read the book he understood what had been going on in his marriage,” Chapman says. “He explained that his language of apology is expressing regret. If his wife said that, he considered the situation put to rest. But if he said ‘I’m sorry’ to her, she had trouble forgiving him. He even lectured her about being able to let go of things once an apology had been offered. He didn’t understand why she would want to hold on to these things. After reading the book, he realized her language of apology is making restitution. He never thought about what he needed to do to make it up to her. She would say to him, ‘Well, you think you can just say ‘I’m sorry’ and things will be just fine, but things aren’t just fine.’ He really needed to ask what he needed to do to make this up to her.”

    When someone apologizes, they accept responsibility for their behavior and seek to make amends with the offended person. A genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation so the relationship can continue to grow. Without an apology, the offense sits as a barrier, diminishing the quality of the relationship.

    Chapman encourages people to determine their language of apology and share it with their spouse, family members and co-workers. 

    “I encourage people to make a little cheat sheet so that when an offense occurs toward a spouse, child, family member or co-worker, they know what language of apology to speak to that particular person,” Chapman says. “Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive and reconcile.”


    Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

    Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

    Inside, you'll find:

    • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
    • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
    • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
    • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
    • AND MORE!

    PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.


     



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    3 Secrets to Preventing Infidelity

    Extramarital affairs have rocked many marriages, and unfortunately, you might think that cheating is inevitable in marriage. According to psychiatrist and author Dr. Scott Haltzman, however, that is just not true.

    “Affairs are complicated,” says Haltzman. “Very few people actually set out to cheat on their spouse. After conducting research in this area, I have found that infidelity has to do with a combination of Need, Opportunity and Dis-inhibition, the ‘NOD.’”

    Need

    People often report that the need for respect, sex, validation, attention or an escape led them to look outside their marriage for satisfaction.

    “I met a sports trainer in California who told me he had had 20-30 affairs with women,” Haltzman says. “He thought he was being helpful, stating he gave them attention, listened, appreciated what they were going through, and made them feel good about themselves. ‘I was giving them what their husbands weren’t.' This is not helpful. People who leave a marriage because their needs aren’t being met show no higher level of happiness five years after ending the marriage (unless they are victims of abuse or they are in a second marriage).”

    Opportunity

    People have more opportunities than ever before to be near the opposite sex. The most common place for affairs to begin is the workplace, followed closely by the gym.

    “One particular opportunity that has trumped everything else when it comes to affairs is the internet,” Haltzman says. “Ten years ago, only 6 percent of affairs began or were perpetuated by the internet. Today, 65 percent of affairs are initiated or maintained through the internet.”

    Dis-inhibition

    This is a medical term used to describe people who are unable to suppress their impulses. Many years ago, a researcher conducted an experiment with children where he placed a marshmallow in front of them and told them he would be back in five minutes. If they waited until he returned to eat the marshmallow, he would give them an additional marshmallow to eat. Almost all of the kids struggled. Ten years later, the researcher followed up on the children. The ones who could not suppress their impulses with the one marshmallow were more likely to drop out of school and get in trouble with the law.

    “This trait continues into adulthood,” Haltzman shares. “So when this person is presented with an opportunity to cheat, they are at greater risk for impulsive behavior.”

    So, how can you guard against affairs?

    • Examine your needs and determine what needs aren’t being met. There may be some needs that are never met. What can you live without? What can you do to have your marriage fulfill those needs?
    • Reduce the opportunity to cheat. Avoid conversations about your spouse with members of the opposite sex. Don’t go to lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex. If you sense an attraction to you, move away.
    • You have a responsibility to your marriage to learn to control your impulses and maintain appropriate boundaries.

    “People don’t just end up in affairs,” Haltzman asserts. “There is a ‘NOD’ between two people that they are willing to go there.”


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


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