Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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    Infidelity and Forgiveness

    Popular talk shows imply that everybody intentionally cheats in marriage.

    “In reality, most people don’t cheat,” says Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair. “Based on research, approximately 40 percent of married people cheat on their spouse. Studies indicate the person most likely to cheat is someone who is dissatisfied with their relationship and/or feels insecure about themselves. They use the relationship outside of their marriage as a way to feel better about themselves.”

    Some people believe that if sex isn’t involved outside the marriage, they weren’t being unfaithful to their spouse. However, Gordon and others such as Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not "Just Friends," disagree.

    Being unfaithful to your spouse starts when you begin to hide what you are doing with someone else. If you'd be uncomfortable with your spouse knowing about conversations with a co-worker or a regular lunch appointment, or if you schedule workouts to spend time with someone, then you have probably crossed the line.

    Only 10 percent of people who leave their marriage to pursue their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened. They often wish they had worked on their marriage instead.

    “It is not uncommon for couples who have experienced infidelity to believe that their marriage is over,” Gordon says. “However, based on 20 years of research we have found that at least 65-70 percent of couples survive the affair.”

    For many, this seems impossible. How can you ever re-establish trust? At least one spouse has betrayed the marriage relationship, creating a lot of trauma and questions. The offended spouse often experiences great anxiety and wonders if it will happen again.

    “If you are willing to do the soul searching in your marriage, I will just about guarantee your marriage will not only survive, but you will be happy in your marriage,” Gordon says. “In fact, a couple I recently worked with shared that as difficult as the affair was to get through, while they would not want to experience it again or wish it on anyone, they are grateful it happened because it was a real wake up call for their marriage.”

    Gordon’s step-by-step guide helps couples dealing with infidelity. It encourages them to look at themselves and their marriage, discover where things derailed and identify steps to get back on track. A huge piece of the restoration process is forgiveness.

    “Some people confuse forgiveness with excusing unacceptable behavior or no accountability,” Gordon says. “This is not true. Forgiveness is very freeing. Just because you forgive, it doesn’t necessarily mean immediate reconciliation. Questions still have to be asked. People have to be willing to look at themselves and acknowledge, ‘I messed up. What caused me to do that?’ Couples willing to do the hard work receive a gift because they learn a lot about themselves, their spouse and their marriage.”

    “The affair is one layer of our relationship," says a couple who used Gordon’s book to help them heal from an affair. "It is a painful, awful, yucky layer. We are continuing to weave our relationship and lay so many more layers on top of that layer that it will be just one line in the many layers of our marriage.”

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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 2

    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1 told of a married couple’s struggle with alcohol and its impact on their marriage. The story ended with Ellen resolving to find David (names changed to protect their privacy), who was drinking heavily, had quit his job and left town. She was going to bring him home and move forward with divorce.

    “Little did I know, the Lord had other plans,” Ellen says.

    She knew he had gone on a business trip to Las Vegas and resigned from his job while there, so she headed for the Nevada city.

    “I had a name of a hotel I thought I had heard in one of the phone calls (from David). I arrived in the middle of the night. When the taxi driver saw the name of the hotel, he tried to talk me out of going there, saying I had no business in that part of town.”

    At the hotel, Ellen found her husband on the brink of death from drinking.

    “It took six paramedics and police officers to get my husband out of that room and to the hospital,” Ellen says. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. In 48 hours we were on a plane home. When the plane landed, David went straight into treatment knowing our marriage was over.”

    Over the 30 days David was in treatment, Ellen received letters from him daily. Through the letters, she got to know her husband again.

    “If we had been talking, we would have been fighting because I felt so much anger toward him,” Ellen says. “I never once wrote him a letter. I did take the kids to see him on Father’s Day.”

    That day, Ellen saw her husband healthy for the first time in a very long time. In spite of her anger and resentment, she had a small glimmer of hope, like something bigger than themselves was going on.

    “Both of us had been trying to make everything better on our own,” Ellen says. “We didn’t think we needed anybody to help us, nor did we want people knowing our business. Exhausted and at the end of my rope, I finally broke down and shared about our situation with a group of friends.

    “Even though David was in treatment again, I was still so angry I could not even pray for him. I asked them to pray for him to heal and that my heart would heal. While I had no hope for our marriage, I didn’t want to hate him. I couldn’t say his name without getting sick to my stomach.”

    By the time David returned from treatment, Ellen had decided it was worth seeing what God could do with their marriage.

    “It was a scary time,” Ellen says. “Both of us believed that God had been mightily at work over the 30 days he was in treatment. We decided it was time to change our entire way of living.

    “Memorial Day 2015 will mark two years since the beginning of our transition. The peace we have today is something we didn’t know existed when we were in the throes of the addiction. It has not been easy, but it has been worth every bit of the time, energy and commitment.”

    If you find yourself where Ellen and David have been, they would like to share some thoughts with you:

    • Few alcoholics or addicts intend to destroy their marriage.

    • It is never too late to seek help. While it was often hard for Ellen and David to see past the shame, pain and embarrassment, getting treatment and allowing others to come alongside them in the midst of their struggle was one of the best moves they made.

    • Stop trying to fix it. Ellen had to acknowledge her role in this situation. She thought she had to fix it alone. When she stopped trying to fix him, things changed.

    • Healthy boundaries are necessary. Boundaries that honor God, yourself and your marriage allow you to make wise decisions. Sometimes leaving for a time is necessary.

    “For all of the men and women who find themselves feeling like they are at the end of their rope, we both want them to know there is hope,” Ellen says. “This has been a very long walk in obedience for both of us. It was so worth being uncomfortable and hanging in there when I didn’t want to and to see how God would take two very broken people and bring healing to our marriage.”

    Where to Find Help

    CADAS: 877-282-2327

    Parkridge Valley Hospital: 423-894-4220

    Bradford Health Services: 423-892-2639

    Alcoholics Anonymous: 423-499-6003

    Al Anon: 423-892-9462

    Celebrate Recovery: chattanoogarecovery.info

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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1

    When David and Ellen* married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic.

    “We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us. David was a good provider and the good far outweighed the bad in our marriage.”

    In 2004, David and Ellen moved to Atlanta with their 6-month-old daughter. While Ellen noticed behaviors in David that raised red flags, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

    “I noticed David was drinking more at night,” Ellen says. “In addition to David being super-stressed at work, I was terribly lonely and did not want to be away from my family. We had some knock-down drag-out fights which I attributed to both of us having too much to drink. Several times I left and stayed with my parents for a while. When I came home, we both apologized and life went back to normal. The fights were few and far between. We did not realize they were warning signs of things to come.”

    In 2008, the couple moved to Chattanooga feeling like this was a great opportunity to advance their lives.

    “I convinced myself that a new house, more money and getting out of Atlanta would help our situation. As time unfolded, things remained the same. We had great times and really bad times. Sometimes I wondered if I was crazy because life could go along for so long and be wonderful, then wham.”

    In 2012, Ellen began to notice a significant difference in David’s behavior.

    “I honestly believed he was having an affair,” Ellen says. “He was unhappy with everything including me and drinking seemed to be the only thing to help him cope and relax. Finally, David acknowledged he had a problem and tried outpatient treatment. Shortly after that he quit his job of 20 years, convinced that was the problem and took a new job in Louisiana. At that point, I was ready to do anything to get my husband back, even leave Chattanooga and friends I loved to support him.”

    In Louisiana, David was only home on weekends, and he hid his drinking well. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. After months of living in denial, Ellen finally acknowledged her husband was an alcoholic. Now with two children, she decided she could no longer live with David. She left with the stipulation that if he went to treatment she would commit to trying to salvage their marriage.

    “While I was gone, David got a DUI and was fired from his job,” Ellen says. “Once again he entered treatment. When he came home, we made a plan to move back to Chattanooga. David found a job pretty quickly. I knew he was having relapses, but I overlooked them thinking that if I could just be a better wife, I could make him better. I now know that was not true.”

    In 2013, David’s life spiraled completely out of control. While David was away on a business trip, his co-worker notified Ellen that David had called to resign from his position - and it sounded like he planned to take his life.

    “At this point in our marriage, we are barely speaking to each other,” Ellen says. “I had no idea where he was and I had no interest in going to find him. I was actually determined not to go - I was tired and had rescued him one too many times. My heart was done with him. Something in my core kept saying, ‘Show him grace one more time.’ I resolved that I did not have to be nice to him, but I had to go get him one more time and then I could be done with him.”

    Read part two of Addiction and Marriage for the rest of the story, and find resources for those who struggle with addiction in their marriage.

    *Names changed to protect privacy

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    For the Guys: Tips for Putting Your Wife First (Without Hurting Mom's Feelings)

    When you tie the knot, family relationships change. 

    Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she's one of the first people you've gone to for advice since... well, as long as you can remember. 

    But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

    Think of it this way: You've added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

    Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but these tips can help.

    • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don't want to hear her speak badly of your bride. 

    • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don't make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat--that will only create problems.

    • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.

    • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she's ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she's REALLY ok with it!)

    • Remember, you're no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system - make sure she knows that.

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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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    Communication Killers

    According to Dr. John Gottman, the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" are hostile forms of communication that put couples at high risk for divorce when these patterns take up permanent residence in the relationship.

    1. Criticism is defined as blaming, faultfinding, or using global and negative labels to attack your spouse's character. For example, "How would you know? You're never home," or "My problem with you is ..." A harsh startup often comes in the form of criticism.

    2. Contempt is a lack of respect for your spouse’s dignity, an attitude of looking down on your spouse as unworthy. Forms of contempt include name-calling, put-downs, sarcasm, cynicism, swearing at each other, rolling of the eyes, mockery or hostile humor. Contempt is demeaning and conveys not just disapproval of your spouse's behavior, but disgust with who your spouse is. While the other three horsemen show up in small amounts in most marriages, contempt is only found in toxic relationships. This horseman also includes belligerence, which is an aggressive and angry provocation or threat.

    3. Defensiveness is a way of turning back a perceived attack. Someone who is defensive denies their spouse’s statements, refuses to admit their role in problems, avoids responsibility for how they impact their spouse, or deflects their spouse’s complaints back onto the other person. Defensiveness is destructive because it escalates tension and creates an adversarial interaction.

    4. Stonewalling usually occurs as a result of escalating criticism, contempt and defensiveness as emotional overload becomes intense. Spouses who stonewall stubbornly refuse to give any verbal or nonverbal feedback that they are listening or attending to what their spouse is saying. Often they just get up and leave the room. It's like talking to a stone wall. Stonewalling is best seen as a containment strategy that spouses use to avoid further escalation of the conflict. The problem is that the stonewaller does not just avoid the fight, but avoids his spouse and the relationship as well. According to John Gottman's research, 85% of stonewallers are men.

    Discussion Questions: Share with your spouse how anger was handled in your childhood home.

    • How do you typically behave when you are angry?

    • Does your behavior get the response you want? If not, what do you think you could do differently?

    • Ask your spouse if he/she is comfortable with how you handle anger.

    • Discuss some options for handling anger in healthy ways in your home, keeping in mind that you are not on opposing teams.

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    Communicating Effectively

    What kind of communicator are you? Would your family describe you as soft-spoken or loud? Do you tend to shy away from conflict or embrace it wholeheartedly? Has anybody ever described you as sarcastic? When you are angry, are you more likely to fly off the handle or wait until you are calm to address the issue?

    The way you communicate with family, friends and co-workers dramatically impacts the quality of your relationships. It has the ability to shut down communication or to encourage it.

    Based on decades of research, Dr. John Gottman has discovered four common communication styles that can really damage relationships.

    1. Harsh startup – Whether at work or at home, a tendency to attack someone verbally while you are upset with them is considered a harsh startup and usually shuts down communication immediately.

    2. Flooding – Have you ever felt your heart race, your blood pressure rise, your muscles tense and your body break into a sweat when trying to communicate with someone? Gottman refers to this as “flooding.” It is impossible to think and react rationally in this state. Consequently, discussion at this time usually escalates uncontrollably with no resolution.

    3. Body Language – Here, Gottman is referring to eye-rolling, heavy sighs and what many call “the look.” Those are things your teen does that get on your last nerve, but they are not things you would typically expect from an adult.

    4. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which involves:

    • Criticism – Blaming, using negative labels to attack a person’s character, and fault-finding.

    • Contempt - Lack of respect for a person’s dignity, an attitude of superiority, mockery and hostile humor. As a result, communication is condescending and demeaning.

    • Defensiveness – Refuses to take responsibility, will not admit their role in a situation, and deflects complaints back on the other person, as in: “it’s your fault.”

    • Stonewalling – Also known as the silent treatment. Stubbornly refusing to give any verbal or non-verbal feedback that they are listening or attending to what the other person is saying.

    If you are seeking to have healthy communication with the people in your life, try these strategies.

    • Be intentional and specific. Ask for a good, undistracted time to talk. While you may want to discuss many things, choose only one thing and stick to it.

    • Listen without being defensive. After you have shared, listen to their response without planning your defense at the same time. It's impossible for your brain to do two things at once.

    • Avoid mind-reading. Everybody knows the old saying about assumptions. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can read someone’s mind.

    • Express negative feelings constructively. You can talk about hard topics without being ugly and tearing somebody down. Choose your words and your tone carefully.

    • Don’t withhold the positive. Even in the most difficult circumstances, you can often communicate something positive.

    When it comes to communication, people want emotional safety, whether it is spouse to spouse, parent to child or co-worker to supervisor relationships. It is possible to talk with someone about a very complicated situation without destroying them. So, if your goal is to win, have the last word or prove you are right, you might need to ask yourself exactly what you hope to accomplish.

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    Tips for Strengthening In-Law Relationships

    Whether you are a son or a daughter, mom or dad, relationships change quite a bit when after marriage. These tips can help to strengthen the ties that bind you together as a family.

    How to be a good mother/father-in-law

    • Let your in-law make his/her own decisions without meddling from you.

    • As the relationship between your child and his chosen partner deepens, expect that they will want to spend more and more time alone, together.

    • Make positive comments about your child’s spouse – both in private and in public.

    • See your in-law as an individual. Do not compare him/her to others, and do not become too wrapped up in the stereotype of the “perfect” in-law.

    • Make your in-law feel needed.

    How to be a good son/daughter-in-law

    • Maintain direct contact with your in-laws. Don’t enlist your spouse as an unwilling "go-between."

    • Find a comfortable way of addressing your in-laws. Solicit their help in determining what they would like you to call them.

    • Try to see your in-laws as individuals separate and apart from the role they play.

    • Be real and authentic with your in-laws.

    • If you feel jealous about your spouse’s relationship with his/her parents, talk to your spouse, to better understand each other’s feelings.

    How to be a good child/spouse

    • Encourage your partner and your parents to relate to one another directly. Don’t allow yourself to be put in the middle.

    • Compliment your spouse and your parents in front of each other.

    • Do not tolerate criticism from either one toward the other.

    • Don't make your spouse responsible for the relationship between you and your parents.

    • Do not play your spouse against your parents.

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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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    How Marriage Affects Poverty

    In 2014, a group of liberals and conservatives began discussing inequality and family breakdown, poring over research and developing solutions to this problem. In December 2015, they released their report on poverty and mobility called Opportunity, Responsibility and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream. 

    “There are a gazillion reports from various think tanks and interests group on this topic, but this is the first time people from opposite sides discussed the facts about the nature of poverty and mobility today,” says report co-author Kay Hymowitz. “This came at a time when it was very difficult for opposite sides to be talking, yet we met and communicated regularly for more than a year. Through shared values and old-fashioned compromise, we defined the problem and offered a solution.”

    The Problem

    Childhood poverty (21.8 percent) is at almost the exact same level today as it was in 1970. Broken down by race:

    • 12 percent of Caucasian children and 33 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 1970. These rates remain unchanged.

    • 42 percent of African American children lived in poverty in 1970, compared to 38 percent in 2012.

    “Despite living in a richer country than we were in 1970, we have done very little to address child poverty,” Hymowitz says. “One of the major reasons for this number staying so stubbornly high is children are growing up in very different circumstances than in the past.”

    Consider the following information:

    Unwed births increased dramatically between 1970 and 2010.

    • Black: 37.6 percent to 72 percent

    • Caucasian: 5.7 percent to 35.9 percent

    • Hispanic (1990 to 2010): 36.7 percent to 53.4 percent

    While the number of unwed births have somewhat stabilized recently, the rates remain very high. In fact, unmarried mothers under the age of 30 account for almost 50 percent of the births.

    “In 1970, the large majority of women at age 35 were married and living with children,” Hymowitz says. “By 2010, only about 51 percent were married and living with children. In 1970, only 9 percent of women were single mothers at 35. Today, that number is 20.5 percent. This is the number we want to study.”

    According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of poor families with children breaks down like this:

    • Single-parent female-headed families living in poverty: 37.1 percent

    • Married families with children living in poverty:  6.8 percent

    “There is no way to talk about poverty at this point in history without addressing the breakdown of marriage,” says Hymowitz.

    What else causes people to be poor? 

    Low paying jobs and lack of jobs contribute to poverty. When you look at the landscape of the labor force since 1980, some very interesting transitions have taken place.

    • The percentage of men who are working has decreased from 72 percent in 1980 to 64.4 percent in 2012. For African American men, the numbers have gone from 61 percent to 49.6 percent.

    • Women are more likely to be working. That number has gone from 39.9 percent in 1980 to 59.4 percent in 2012.

    • Wages have become stagnant for low-wage and middle-wage men.

    • The percentage of men who have left the workforce has doubled, along with the percentage of men without a college degree.

    • The percentage of men in the labor force is lower in the U.S. than every other country in the industrialized world except Israel.

    • Women are earning more than ever before.

    “These trends affect each other,” Hymowitz says. “Fewer men are working. Those who are working are making less. Women are making more and can manage, even if it’s not very well. Not only are they earning more, they get a lot more in the way of benefits.

    “When you add all the benefits, the official poverty rate comes down significantly from 47.6 percent to 24 percent. The conditions in which people are deciding how to manage their domestic lives has changed significantly. Couples see no reason to marry even if they have children. Children are the ones who pay the price for the breakdown of marriage and stable family life.”

    Can the children escape from poverty?

    Research indicates that 43 percent of children who are born to poor parents will be poor themselves. Both liberals and conservatives are especially concerned about this number.

    Potential Solutions

    “Three areas need to be addressed together: work, education and family,” Hymowitz says. “These three areas of life are what have to work pretty well for you to get ahead. They interconnect. We concluded that the 21st century reality demands that we address all three together at the same time. You can’t pull one out and work solely on that one. This is what set our group apart from other groups who have examined this issue.

    “You can strengthen families, but without an education opportunity, children can’t fully benefit from the additional time and resources that two parents provide. You can improve the workforce, but if the education system fails to provide the needed knowledge and skills to the next generation, then wages will remain low. If the education system dramatically improves, but work opportunities are limited, then knowledge and skill-building will be less effective and less-rewarded. If the education system improves but a greater number of children are growing up in unstable homes, it is highly likely they will struggle with discipline, persistence and achievement – especially so for boys.

    “Growing up in a family where you cannot have the kind of stability that allows you to concentrate on your homework impacts your ability to do well in school. This impacts your ability to find a job, which impacts your ability to provide for a family. Education, work and family lay the foundation and reinforce each other. If you take one of these components away, the entire thing collapses. We organized our thinking about solutions around three values:

    • Opportunity: The group recognized that social and economic changes were combining in new ways that threatened to make it harder for children to achieve the American dream. Each man and woman should be able to attain to the fullest stature to which they are capable. The circumstances into which they were born shouldn't matter.

    • Responsibility: Individuals can’t just wait for opportunity to fall into their laps. It is far better to earn money than to depend on assistance, and better to be responsible parents for children. This is essential to getting ahead.

    • Security: It is important to provide people with a certain amount of security. Life throws curve balls beyond any one person’s responsibility, so we need to provide a certain amount of security for those who are hit hard.

    “As we focused on our three values, we realized that in the U.S. at this time marriage offers the best chance for children to thrive,” Hymowitz says.

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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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    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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