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    Dating as a Single Parent

    Morris lost the love of her life in 1991 when her husband, Steve, died of cancer.

    “It was a very difficult time,” says Morris. “I was grieving the loss of my husband in addition to taking care of three toddlers who didn’t really understand what happened to their daddy. One minute we were a happy family - and the next minute I found myself without my helpmate and a single parent - something I never dreamed I would be.”

    According to experts, many parents never plan to raise their children alone, but due to life circumstances they are doing just that. While they would like to find someone to fall in love with who would accept the “total package,” the thought of entering the dating scene again seems awkward and difficult to manage with children.

    “Although I was lonely, I felt like my first priority had to be my children,” Morris says. 

    “For the first year after my husband’s death, I tried to focus on what my children needed. Plus, I needed time to grieve and heal. I relied on family and close friends for support and encouragement. It wasn’t until almost a year had passed that I even considered the idea of another man in my life. I prayed that God would send me someone who would be interested in me and my boys, which was no small request!”

    Friends set Morris up on several blind dates, none of which were good matches. Shortly after that, Morris packed up her family and moved from Atlanta back to Chattanooga.

    “Right before we moved, I asked my oldest son, who was 5 at the time, what he wanted me to look for in a new daddy,” Morris shares. “Many of the things he wanted were on my list as well. The last two items on his list were that the man not have any other wife, and no children. I thought that was interesting coming from a 5-year-old.

    “During the time I was dating there were some pretty awkward moments that I can laugh about now. For example, my two other boys were so young, it was hard for them to understand anything more than I was looking for a new daddy. As we were moving into our new home, a neighborhood high school guy came by to welcome us. One of the boys greeted him at the door by asking, ‘Are you going to be my new daddy?’”

    Morris only went out with five men before she met the man who would become her husband and a father to her three boys. She decided early in the dating process that while she would protect her boys, she would allow her dates to meet them and vice versa. She also put together a list of questions to ask if she felt like the relationship was getting serious.

    “I was cautious about who I would go out with because I knew there would be many who could not handle the fact that marrying me meant becoming an instant father,” Morris says.

    If you're a single parent, experts encourage you not to rush into dating and to be thoughtful about how you handle the dating process. Here are a few things to consider:

    • Are you ready to date? Don’t let others pressure you into dating before you are ready. Make sure you have dealt with your grief and other issues that can potentially taint a dating relationship. Sometimes you need professional help to sort through your emotions.

    • Have you given thought to what you are looking for in a date? Dating can be complicated for a single parent. Just finding the time to date, not to mention childcare, can be a real challenge. Make sure the person is worth your time and energy.

    • Will you allow your date to meet your children or will you meet at a different place? Keep in mind that it may be hard on children forming attachments to people, only to have them leave.

    “I think being a single parent is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Morris says. “It is a pretty vulnerable place to be. You really need good, solid friends who can be a support while you are going through this awkward dating thing. Solid relationships are key. When we have to go through very difficult times, it helps to have one person we can share the hard things with. Sometimes that is what can help us get through the best.”

    Morris met her current husband, Jay, in January of 1994. Their first date was in February. By June, Morris knew she had found her man. They married in October and a year and a half later, Jay Morris adopted the three boys.

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    Co-Parenting: Smoother Transitions

    When Catherine* and her husband separated, their children were 3, 7 and 9.

    The couple's separation and divorce was amicable. They were friendly, worked well together, and took turns if one of them needed child care. Catherine often thought that if they could have gotten along that well when married, they would have never divorced.

    After about nine months, however, the relationship became ugly. The parents couldn't be in the same room without arguing or fighting horribly.

    “I will never forget the time my youngest was clinging to me and crying, saying he didn’t want to go,” Catherine says. “I had to peel him from my body, hand him to his daddy, turn around and go in the house and throw up. Sometime later he said, ‘I don’t want to go, but if I cry it doesn’t matter.’ I told him that was right. It nearly ripped my heart out.”

    People often think that if they are reasonable the ex will be reasonable, but that's not always the case. Smooth transitions and difficult ex-spouses don’t tend to go together. The challenge for co-parents is to set aside personal issues and focus on the parental issues at hand. The goal is to make transition times as smooth as possible. In some instances you just have to be decent.

    “I frequently remind people that some of what happens during a transition is up to you and some is not,” says Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily and the web book, Parenting After Divorce at successfulstepfamilies.com. “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possessions - their children.”

    Here are Deal's suggestions for diminishing conflict in the midst of transitions:

    • Write down your goal for the parental task at hand on a 3x5 card. Whether it is making a phone call to determine drop-off arrangements or talking in person about an issue at school, script out what you want to say. This will help you stick to the topic and hopefully achieve your goal.
    • Keep the conversation civil and nonreactive. Maybe you are calling about visitation arrangements and the other parent brings up something else. Instead of changing topics, perhaps you could respond with, "I know that is a problem -what time should I pick him up?"
    • Avoid putting your child in a position to choose between one home or the other.
    • Schedule a monthly “business” meeting to discuss co-parenting matters.
    • Be reliable. Don’t disappoint your children with broken promises.
    • Make your custody structure work for your children even if you don’t like the details of the arrangement.

    “It is common for couples to move in and out of higher levels of cooperation,” Deal says. “Things are usually worse right after the divorce. Your goal is to create a strong boundary between old marital issues and the current parental relationship.”

    *Name was changed.

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    Tips for the First Trip Home From College

    “I remember going home for Christmas my freshman year,” says Akeyla Madison. “I had been on my own for five months and felt good about how I was doing. When I arrived home, I was surprised to found out I would be sharing a room with my sister who is six years younger than me because my room had been turned into a storage room. I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t think that would be a big deal.

    “My mom also wanted to know where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. I felt smothered and honestly couldn’t wait to get back to college and my freedom.”

    While parents and family members are excited to see their freshman come home for the holidays, the transition can be complicated for everybody, especially if expectations are not clear on the front end.

    “I didn’t know ahead of time I would be sharing a room with my little sister,” Madison remembers. “Because there was such an age difference, it made me uncomfortable. My mom didn’t want me staying out late because she was afraid I would wake up my sister when I came home. We survived each other, but it wasn’t pretty.”

    Her sophomore year, Madison decided to try something different. She called her grandmother who lived close by and asked to stay with her over the winter break. 

    “That worked out a lot better on so many levels,” Madison says. “My mom and I got along better. There was no tension between my sister and me, and I think we all enjoyed the holidays more.”

    Madison is now preparing to graduate. When asked how she would advise parents and college students preparing for their first long break together, she shared the following:

    Communication is critical. Everybody needs to talk about expectations for being together before the break begins. Talk about the family plans and ask your young adult about their plans for the holidays. If you expect them to be at certain events, be clear about that. Discuss expectations for helping out around the house, their friends coming over to visit, food in the refrigerator, coming and going, meals, etc. These things can create unnecessary drama due to unspoken expectations on both sides.

    Flexibility is a good thing. Being away at school has allowed your young adult to use many of the skills you taught them at home, but coming back home is an adjustment for everybody. If the parents and college student are willing to adjust, things will probably go a lot better. It’s important to remember that the family has created their own new normal without the college student and the student has probably grown in their independence - which is the ultimate goal, right? Just because they return home does not mean things will or even should revert back to the way they were before they left. Some students choose to earn extra spending money for the next semester. This can throw a monkey wrench into holiday plans as well. 

    Mutual respect goes a long way. When learning to dance a new dance, it’s easy for everyone involved to get frustrated or say and do things they will ultimately regret. Respecting each other while trying to work things out goes a long way. For the college student, it means realizing you aren’t company. Expecting people to wait on you hand and foot and make adjustments based on everything you want to do isn’t realistic or respectful. For everybody, you still have to respect what you don’t understand.  

    “Looking back, I realize I felt more like an adult, but my mom saw me as just 18 and had the life experience to know all that could potentially go wrong,” Madison recalls. “That created tension between the two of us. At this point I think I have a better understanding of why my mom was concerned and I can clearly see that she wanted the best for me. I think if we had actually done the things listed above, the transition would have been smoother for both of us.

    “Believe it or not, most of the time we really are paying attention to the things you say and are teaching us. We may do some stupid things along the way, but for the most part we want you to see that we are capable.” 

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    How to Navigate the Holidays as a Divorced Parent

    For so many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a beautiful season sprinkled with festive events and family gatherings. For parents who are divorced and sharing their children over the holidays with their other parent however, this can be the beginning of a very complicated time.

    “I grew up as a child of divorce, was a single mother for eight years and am now remarried,” says author and marriage and family therapist, Tammy Daughtry. “I know firsthand how difficult and chaotic the holidays can be for children going between two homes, not to mention the emotional turmoil that can come from expectations of creating the ‘perfect Christmas.’”

    Joey, now 41, recalls his saddest moments of Christmas were seeing his mom cry when he left to visit his dad. 

    “Like many children of divorce, Joey hated to see his mom fall apart when he left for the holidays with his dad,” Daughtry says. “Thinking that it was his job to make her happy, he felt sad and like it was his fault. He felt guilty about having fun with his father. At 9, he described feeling like he needed to call his mom every day while he was away to make sure she was alright. As an adult looking back, he wishes someone had been there to tell his mom to pull herself together and not place that kind of pressure on him. Joey said the mental image of his mom sitting at home crying, alone and sad caused enough guilt to last more than my lifetime.”

    Daughtry not only has personal experience with this issue, but she also works with stepfamilies to help them navigate situations such as these. If you are in the midst of co-parenting, Daughtry’s suggestions can help you make this shared Christmas bright for your children.

    • Confirm that your children are loved and secure in both homes.

    • Allow your child to share the joy they feel at their other home. Affirm their joy with a healthy response.

    • Create a photo collage of your child with their other parent and give it to them as a gift this year. Encourage your child to hang it in their room at your house.

    • Purchase a large corkboard and encourage your child to put special tokens and mementoes of their other parent and their family on the board - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - as a way to celebrate both sides of the family.

    Additionally, Daughtry has some ideas for making your own Christmas celebration brighter, especially if you’ll be celebrating Christmas without the children:

    • Invite a friend to be there as your children leave or to ride along as you drop them off so you won’t be completely alone initially.

    • Be kind to yourself by acknowledging the pain you may feel, but plan ahead to care for yourself. You might even create your own extra-fun experience instead of becoming an emotional trainwreck.

    • Don’t sulk at home alone. Make plans to be with family or friends.

    • Get together with a single parent who is also celebrating without the children this year.

    • Volunteer somewhere and give to others in need.

    “We often don’t know what we are capable of handling until we have to do it,” says Daughtry. “Be intentional about taking care of yourself which will help you be strong for your children. Give yourself permission to re-frame and redefine your expectations as a parent. You might be surprised how much joy you actually experience this holiday season.”




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    Easy Ways to Help Your Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

    As a parent, you might be in too much of a hurry if:

    • You talk on the phone when your child tells you about their day;

    • Your kids eat most meals in the car;

    • You dress your child when she can dress herself – buttoning, zipping, finding her coat, etc;

    • Your child constantly hears, "Are you ready?" or "Hurry up!";

    • Your child never completes a project at play time;

    • You don’t have time to read to your child or let him/her read to you; and

    • You don’t have enough time to talk with and listen to him/her.

    Why does this matter? All of these activities help your child develop fine motor skills critical for reading and writing.

    “In order for a child to develop holistically, fine motor skills are very important,” says Lu Lewis, early childhood educator. “When you slow down and allow your child to do the activities listed above, you allow him to learn eye-hand coordination. His hands and eyes learn to work together. For example, when you give a child something to cut out, their eyes see what you want them to cut and their hands cut what their eyes see.”

    Even simple things like a baby grasping for an object is a fine motor skill.

    When a parent always gives the rattle to the baby, it robs them of an opportunity to learn this skill.

    “A mom once asked me if it was bad if she didn’t play with her child all the time,” Lewis says. “In today’s society, I think many people believe they are not being good parents if they are not always entertaining their child. The truth is your child needs to play for a period of time with an object in order to complete a play cycle and concentrate to the point that it is etched into their long-term memory. Many educators see children in their classroom who are always dependent on an adult to complete a project for them because they have never completed a project by themselves.”

    Believe it or not, helping your child develop fine motor skills is not complicated.

    Just including your child in your day can help develop these skills. Folding laundry, talking with your child as you cook, letting him walk with you to the mailbox and allowing him to open the mailbox and grab the mail, asking him to get a pan or utensil for you, and allowing him to play in the tub with toys are all activities that help to naturally develop these necessary skills.

    “Most parents I work with really want their child to do well,” Lewis says. “Sometimes parents do things they believe are helping their child when they are actually hindering their development. The number one thing I would tell parents is to slow down, relax and let your child truly experience life.”

    In addition to including your child in your daily activities, Lewis encourages parents to:

    • Walk with your child down the street and count bricks or pick dandelions.

    • Encourage them to sit at the kitchen table while you fix dinner and string beads or sort blocks by color instead of watching television or playing on the computer.

    • Incorporate time for your child to play every day.

    “Learning is a human endeavor,” Lewis says. “It takes place from one human to another and it requires your most precious commodity, time.”

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    10 Red Flags in a Dating Relationship

    The person you are dating wants to dominate your time and/or keep you from friends and family.

    He/she asks you to sacrifice your values for the sake of the relationship.

    Your significant other disrespects and discourages you instead of encouraging and honoring you. 

    Your date wants to control you – where you go, who you see, what you wear, etc.

    When talking about past relationships, your date always blames the other party for the problems in their relationship.

    Your dating relationship is in constant turmoil.

    Your date has anger issues.

    Your date is rushing the getting to know you process.

    Your friends don’t like him/her.

    You continually make excuses for their behavior.

    He/she seems to be heading in the opposite direction of where you are headed in life.

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    3 Myths About Waiting to Marry

    Not too long ago people tended to marry in their early 20s, but now the average marrying age is 29 for males and 27 for females. Why are people waiting so long to marry? And is it helping or hurting their chances of success in marriage?

    “It is interesting because today’s young singles (emerging adults) want to have a great marriage yet they keep putting it off,” says Dr. John Van Epp, author of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk (or Jerkette). “This is occurring across almost all subcultures, races and the socio-economic spectrum in both the U.S. and most European countries.” 

    For instance, researcher Katherine Edin found that marriage was a dream for most people living in poverty, a luxury they hoped to indulge in someday when the time was right, but generally not something they saw happening in the near or even the foreseeable future.

    “To understand what is happening with singles we can’t just look at their behavior—we have to ask what they are thinking,” Van Epp says. “There seem to be three prevalent myths that emerging adults buy into when it comes to marriage. First, marrying later results in marrying better. Second, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And finally, marriage takes more than it gives.” 

    In some ways, it is true that marrying later leads to better marriages. In a 2002 study of 10,000 women, marrying after 21 did contribute to improved marital stability; however, there wasn’t much difference between the ages of 21 and 30. On the other hand, premarital sex, premarital cohabitation and unwed childbearing contributed to marital instability. As a result, researchers suggest that marrying after the early 20s may increase the risks because people become set in their ways and are more likely to engage in these higher risk activities.

    The second myth – what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—is used to compartmentalize risky activities apart from their effects on a future marriage. 

    “Many singles operate under the premise that sowing their wild oats before they get married will not impact their marriage relationship,” Van Epp shares. “However, this is a myth. Research has provided indisputable evidence that the number of sexual partners women had before they married were directly related to their chances of divorce. A 2003 study found that involvement with just one partner outside of marriage raised the risk of divorce three times higher than those who had only had sex with their husband.”

    For emerging adults, there seems to be a marital horizon, the ideal age at which to marry. Those who have a more distant marital horizon are much more likely to participate in the risky premarital activities identified by research to put them at greater risk for divorce. 

    “Clearly we are seeing that it isn’t just the experience of marriage… it is the mindset of marriage,” Van Epp notes. “For instance, my daughter remembers a friend she had in high school who told her that when she dated she always kept in mind her future husband. Do not be fooled, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.”

    The third myth, according to Van Epp - marriage takes more than it gives - comes from messages that society sends to our young people. Too many well-meaning parents are counseling their kids to slow down, delay settling down, experience and enjoy life, and not to marry until they have to.   

    “The implication for the emerging adult is that when you finally get married it’s as if you stepped into a life sentence of limited options,” Van Epp believes. “The truth is just the opposite: marriage creates a framework that gives you something more than what you can gain and be by yourself.” 

    So how can you keep from falling prey to these three myths?  

    First, educate yourself on these issues so you have accurate information. It’s helpful to know that what you do now programs your future behavior. Keep marriage close on the horizon versus a distant goal. Realize the risks involved with premarital cohabitation and premarital sex. 

    “We have intentionally raised our daughters to think of marriage as a wonderful experience that could be just around the corner after they entered their 20s,” Van Epp says. “Our oldest is getting married soon. Throughout her high school and college years she dated with her future marriage in mind. Many parents are cultivating a narcissistic and compartmentalized view of dating and the 20s. I would encourage an emerging adult to move marriage closer on the horizon, to consciously work at a better attitude toward marriage and to live in a way that would not jeopardize marriage in the future.”  



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    How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette

    Jennie met Kevin through a friend at work, and she thought she had met her knight in shining armor. He was such a gentleman. At the time, she had no clue that the relationship was headed for disaster. 

    Have you ever dated "the love of your life" only to discover you were really involved with a jerk or jerkette? Well, you aren’t alone. Thousands of people every year marry “person of their dreams” only to have the relationship turn into a real nightmare in a few short months.

    “I have seen far too many people fall into the trap of marrying a person thinking that they knew them, but in reality they only knew about them,” says Dr. John Van Epp, relationship expert and author of How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk.   

    Van Epp is committed to helping singles and singles-again in their dating and marital preparation. 

    “As I worked with individuals, I found myself talking with people who repeatedly became involved in unhealthy relationships,” Van Epp recalls. “When I asked these individuals if they saw any signs of problem areas at the beginning of their relationship, the answer was always ‘yes.’ The bottom line is, they were suffering from what I call the ‘love is blind’ syndrome. They had become too attached and involved too quickly and overlooked the problem areas. Even when you know what to look for in the dating process, you can still be blindsided when you allow your attachment to become too strong too soon.”

    Jennie admits to being blinded by love. Kevin was quite the gentleman when it came to treating Jennie with respect and spending time with her. So while they were dating she admits that she never noticed any red flags such as his jealousy because she worked in a predominantly male environment and went to lunch occasionally with a group of male co-workers.

    As a result of his experiences, Van Epp developed a program to help people form healthy relationships from the very beginning. Van Epp says there are five areas a person should know about another person before marrying.

    Bonding Dynamics 

    Getting to know people is the first of five bonding dynamics. These forces create the feeling of closeness in every romantic relationship. They are: 

    • getting to know about the person you are dating;

    • family background; 

    • what a person’s conscience is like; 

    • compatibility potential;

    • relationship skills; and 

    • previous relationship patterns. 

    Because Jennie met her boyfriend through a co-worker, she felt like she knew something about him. In hindsight, she realizes that she didn't have the chance to know much about him or his family because his family was not a close-knit one.  

    “I come from a very large extended family,” says Jennie. “We are used to hugging and saying I love you. None of that was present in Kevin’s family. I never really learned much about his family background. I honestly thought that after Kevin met my family he would change and would love the closeness of a tight-knit family.”  

    “Some people have an established friendship before they start dating,” Van Epp says. “Other relationships start out with a bang – you see someone, talk with them, end up going out and hitting it off and you are totally infatuated with them. No matter how you get together, it really does take time to get to know someone.”  

    Dr. Van Epp encourages couples to wait two years before marrying. You may be thinking that sounds like an eternity. Van Epp believes that within three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time. 

    Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. After dating for about a year, you begin to have history with him/her. Many couples get through their first year just fine, but issues often begin to surface in the second year that weren’t there in the past.  

    A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you.  

    There's also the trust dynamic. As you get to know a person based on the areas listed above, you shape a picture in your mind of what this person is like. From that picture comes trust. 

    “Trust is a picture in your mind that tells you what that person will do when you are not around,” Van Epp says. “It is a living and active definition that changes as the relationship evolves. For example, your boyfriend tells you he is going to call at 5 p.m. and he calls at exactly 5 p.m., in your mind you think, ‘He did what he said he was going to do, therefore I can trust him.’ With that you begin to fill in the gaps in the trust equation that the person is trustworthy to do what they said they would do.”  

    After three months of dating, Jennie felt like she could trust Kevin.  

    “He seemed to have respect for me,” Jennie shares. “He didn’t try anything, which really impressed me because most guys try to make a move on you the first time you go out. A few months later, we moved in together. It seemed like the ‘adult’ thing to do if we were considering marriage, which we had talked about several times.”

    Dr. Van Epp cautions that you must be careful not to over-exaggerate what a person has done and draw the conclusion that the person is trustworthy. Generalizations are dangerous. Just because a person has certain characteristics that you like does not mean that they are trustworthy. Knowing their family background and their history helps you to know whether or not you can trust them.  

    The third dynamic is reliance. As you really get to know a person, you look to them to meet certain needs that you have. This forms reliance in the relationship. This is when you think that your deep needs in life can be met by this person. If you go too fast and get too close to soon, you won’t have an accurate picture of what it will be like with this person down the road. You should not marry a person and suddenly find out new things about them. 

    According to Dr. Van Epp, reliance can be overcharged by sexual involvement. Couples who are sexually active prior to marriage often say they can depend and rely on each other, but the feeling of closeness is really fed by the sexual chemistry not true knowledge about the person. 

    “In real life, in long-term marriage relationships, sexual chemistry does not dominate the majority of life together,” Van Epp says. “Most of life is talking together, having a personality that blends well with the other person, having a good sense of humor, etc. Sex is part of it, but not a major portion of it.”

    Commitment is the fourth dynamic. As a relationship grows, it has different definitions. Each definition is a level of commitment. Friends have a low level of commitment, whereas best friends have a higher level of commitment to each other and soul mates have the highest level of commitment.  

    Based on their time together, Jennie thought that Kevin was committed to her for life. They enjoyed each other’s company and seemed to have a lot in common. After 13 months of dating, Jennie and Kevin married. As they were leaving the wedding in a limo, Kevin turned to Jennie and said, “Now that we are married, you can have all my money.”  

    “I thought that was the strangest statement to make to me,” Jennie recalls. “It was a warning sign of things to come. I was going to find out very quickly that Kevin was not committed to me. He was committed to money. Our relationship began going downhill very quickly.”

    The fifth dynamic is sexual touch. This includes chemistry as well as any expression of touch from hand-holding to giving a hug to complete openness. Sexual involvement tends to create a feeling of really knowing somebody when in fact you don’t know them at all. Living together and sexual involvement prior to marriage usually create barriers for your understanding of the person.  

    Sexual intimacy is intended to build a feeling of bonding and closeness, but not when you are trying to get to know someone. Becoming sexually intimate outside of marriage can cloud the picture of the person you are dating to a point that you miss very important warning signs.

    “Like Jennie, many people think that living with a person will tell you everything about another person,” Van Epp asserts. “Perhaps you do get to know things about a person that you might not know if you weren’t rooming with them, but there is a cost involved. It breaks down the depth of commitment that is imbedded in the marriage relationship.”  

    Even though Jennie lived with Kevin, she had not dated him long enough to see his abusive tendencies. In spite of hearing him constantly yell at his sister, she attributed it to sibling issues, not a potential threat to their marriage.

    “Think of this like your stereo mixing board where each one of these dynamics is a slider that goes up and down,” Van Epp says. “There is a certain safe zone that will protect you from the ‘love is blind’ syndrome. You should never let one level exceed the previous.  For example, the level of your sexual involvement should never exceed your level of commitment, which should never exceed your level of reliance. Your level of reliance should not exceed the trust picture you develop and that should not go beyond what you know about that person in the key areas.”

    According to Dr. Van Epp, most if not all relationship problems occur when there is an imbalance in these five dynamics. For instance, co-dependency occurs when the reliance dynamic is at the top and what you know about the person and trust about the person is significantly lower. For the person that is sexually active, their sex level is high and their commitment dynamic is low as well as all the others.  The naive person fills in the gap of their trust picture long before they actually know the person they are dating in these five areas. Their trust level is high and their real knowledge of the person is low. Never allow the level or intensity of a bonding force to exceed the level of the previous bonding force.

    “If you really want to make sure you aren’t marrying a jerk or jerkette it takes time,” Van Epp says. “There is no substitute. You need to spend time talking with each other about all kinds of things. You also need to do things together. This is why electronic relationships are dangerous. It is one thing to have someone tell you about their family via the internet. It is totally different to actually spend time with their family and watch how they interact together. 

    "Based on research, there seems to be an embedded amount of time that it takes to know someone that you can’t get around. It is certainly possible to meet someone and have this sense of love at first sight and be married for 50 years, but the risks of marrying someone you don’t know are very high. 

    "The divorce rate is twice as high for those who have dated less than two years before getting married. Therefore, time is a strong predictor of a lasting marriage. BUT, time alone doesn’t give you an accurate enough picture. When your brain knows what to look for, and your heart knows how to keep the boundaries and balances in your growing attachment, then you will be in the best position to make a marital choice you will not regret.”

    The veil that had been keeping Jennie from seeing Kevin’s true nature lifted when they married. The respect he had shown her in the beginning went out the window as he became verbally abusive. He would show up at her workplace unexpectedly to check up on her and began monitoring her spending habits. Jennie hung in there for more than two years trying to make their marriage work.

    “I kept thinking that I could make him happy,” she says. “In the end I realized I could not change him.”

    Jennie ended up filing for divorce. Looking back, she wishes she had heeded some of the red flags that she shrugged off as nothing major. From this point forward, she says she will be more cautious in her dating relationships, careful not to repeat the same mistakes.