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“How do I get my ex to be consistent with discipline?”

“Sometimes I find it very hard not to talk bad about my ex in front of the children.”

“There is nothing that will make my blood pressure go up faster than when my ex says they will do something and they don’t.”

“I honestly believe my ex does things intentionally to get back at me.”

In the aftermath of a divorce, people often realize that instead of being better off as they hoped, they have traded one set of problems for another. There are a lot of frustrated moms and dads who don’t understand why they can’t agree on anything after the divorce when it comes to parenting.

Life is Different

Even though you have lived with this person for a number of years, you are now learning how to live separate lives while still parenting your children well. There may be things your ex is doing that you totally don’t agree with, but you have to figure out how to work within the boundaries of your new relationship – while always considering what will be in the best interest of your children.

For starters, it is important for you to plan how you will manage as a single parent.

  • Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, friends who can provide support and backup, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.
  • Focus on family. Set expectations, keep the lines of communication open, establish boundaries and set aside time to be together as a family.
  • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is more about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.
  • Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate when you need them.
  • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

This transition time can be very challenging. Having a plan in place will help you bring some order into your life and help you keep your cool when things don’t go as planned with your ex.

Keep the Children out of the Middle

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 possession – their children,” says stepfamily expert Ron Deal. “Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass because they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.”

Parents who want to reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children should strive to be effective co-parents because it reduces between-home conflict and increases cooperation. Taming your tongue, for example, is critical to cooperating. Conflict containment starts with controlling your speech. You cannot be an effective co-parent without doing so.

“Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” Deal says. “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 parents. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

According to Deal, children 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.
  • There is a commitment from parents to cooperate on issues of the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

Many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurturing and disciplining of their children. That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.

Co-parenting does not mean sharing all decisions about the children or that either home is accountable to the other for their choices, rules or standards. Each household should be autonomous, but share responsibility for the children. It also does not mean that rules or punishment from one home cross over to the other home.

For example, if your child gets in trouble on Thursday and he loses his television privileges, in an ideal world it would be great if your ex were willing to enforce the consequence over the weekend. That may not happen in reality, so the actual consequence would go into effect when your child returns home to you Sunday evening. Telling your ex that he/she has to enforce your consequence usually leads to more conflict between the two of you and more angst for your child.

Deal believes effective co-parenting should look something like this:

  • Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household.
  • Schedule a monthly “business” meeting to discuss co-parenting matters. Make a list of things that need to be discussed. A word of caution: Do not discuss your personal life or that of your ex. If the conversation drifts away from the children, redirect it toward your children and their activities, schedules, etc.
  • Never ask your children to be spies or tattle-tales on the other home. The goal is to decrease distress, not create more. If you hear information about what happened while they were with their other parent, listen and stay neutral.
  • When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent.
  • Children should have everything they need in each home. Don’t make them bring basics back and forth.
  • Try to release your hostility toward the other parent so that the children can’t take advantage of your hard feelings. Bitterness, hurt and anger keep you from being the person and the parent your children need.
  • Do not disappoint your children with broken promises or by being unreliable.

In the midst of a complicated and difficult situation, you have the opportunity to show integrity, honor and respect. Even when you don’t like someone anymore or you don’t think they deserve it, you can still find a way to be respectful.

  • Make your custody structure work for your children even if you don’t like the details of the arrangement.
  • If you plan to hire a babysitter for more than four hours while the children are in your home, give the other parent first rights to that time.
  • Suggest that younger children take a favorite toy or game as a transitional object.
  • If you and your ex cannot resolve a problem, change in custody or visitation, agree to problem-solve through mediation rather than litigation.

Moving On

“The reality is many parents who were poor marriage partners are good parents and their children enjoy them very much,” Deal shares. “Give your ex-spouse the opportunity to be wonderful with the children, even if he/she wasn’t wonderful with you.”

You are traveling in uncharted waters. While you probably have friends who have experienced this and are willing to give you advice, it may not be right for your family.

A father once said that it had been six months since his divorce and it was time for his “kid” to get over it. Children of divorce don’t ever “get over it.” They may learn how to cope with it, but every day for the rest of their lives they will have to make decisions that are a result of their parents’ divorce.

As time goes by, you may feel like you are moving on, adjusting and putting this chapter in your life behind you. However, this is not something your children will ever “put behind them.” At every turn your child will gain new insights and more questions. They must understand the divorce was not their fault. Equally as important is being intentional about modeling healthy relationship skills with your children.

Additional Resources:

The Smart Stepfamily: Seven steps to a Healthy Family – Ron Deal

Parenting After Divorce: How to Work Together with Your Ex-Spouse for Happier, Healthier Children – Ron Deal

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce – Judith Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakesless

What About the Kids?: Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce – Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Smart Stepfamilies

Looking for more? Check out this video by JulieB TV on this topic!

I was 18 when my father announced he was divorcing my mother. My sister and brother were 13 and 20 respectively.

While some might think that the three of us were old enough to grasp what was going on, our lives were honestly in an absolute tailspin. Sure, we had heard our parents fight, but it never seemed like anything major.

Never in a million years would I have suspected they were headed down the road to divorce. If you had asked anyone in our community about the likelihood of my parents splitting, they probably would have laughed in your face. The whole thing was a very big shocker.

“What some people don’t take into consideration is the younger you are when your parents divorce, the more childhood you have left to travel between two parents whose lives become more different with each passing year,” says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and director of the Center for Marriage and Family at the Institute for American Values.

“The older you are when your parents divorce, the more you have to lose. You have a long experience with your ‘whole’ family. You have (for yourself, the teen) a lifetime of memories, experiences, photographs and stories of YOUR FAMILY. All of that comes apart.”

A World Turned Upside Down

Going through the divorce process was an awkward time, not just for my family, but for friends, youth leaders, teachers, and neighbors. People knew what happened, but seemed to keep their distance as if they didn’t know what to say.

Just recently I was talking with a childhood friend about my parents’ divorce. She said the divorce shocked her so much that she didn’t know what to say – so she never said anything at all.

As a teenager, I had all these thoughts and feelings rumbling around inside my head and no idea where to turn to sort things out. Furious with my parents and the situation in which I found myself, I wondered how I had missed the severity of the situation and if there was any way I could have helped to prevent the divorce.

I had questions:  

  • “Would we have to move?”
  • “How would I afford college?”
  • “Would we see our father and did I even want to see him?”
  • “What will my friends think of me?”
  • “Why me?”

I would lie awake at night praying that this was just a bad dream and that I would eventually wake up and everything would be just fine.

“Divorce is tremendously painful at any age (even if you are grown and have left home when your parents divorce), but especially so in the vulnerable teen years when you are just looking at the world and imagining taking it on, on your own,” Marquardt says. “You are standing on the rock of your family, about to jump off, but needing to know that the rock is there so you can jump back at any time. But before your eyes the rock fractures in two.

“Teens can be more likely than younger children to get drawn into their parents’ needs and to worry about their parents’ vulnerabilities. And this is occurring at precisely the time when, developmentally, they are supposed to be identifying more with peers than parents. It’s not developmentally appropriate for a teen to spend the weekend ‘visiting’ his father or ‘visiting’ his mother. His parents are supposed to just BE THERE, steady, in the background, while the teen is focusing on other things.”

Teens Need a Strong Support System During A Divorce

In many instances, teens don’t feel like they can talk with their parents about the divorce. I suspect there were many people who wanted to be supportive of me as I went through this tough time, but just didn’t know what to say or how to approach me. Honestly, I think just letting me know they were aware and available if I needed to talk would have been helpful.

“Parents can do their teen a great favor by personally speaking with people who are close to their teen such as grandparents, a beloved aunt or uncle, coach, youth leader or close adult friend letting them know they want their teen to feel free to speak openly about how they’re feeling, even if it means sometimes saying something bad or unflattering about their parents,” Marquardt says.

“Clearly, this is not about family members and the teen joining together in badmouthing the parents, but they do want to give ‘permission’ to the teen and family member to speak openly as the TEEN wishes. Parents need to understand that if this person is not someone the teen already has a close relationship with, the teen is likely just to see them as another adult and unlikely to form a trusting bond during that time, unless the person is especially skilled and empathetic.”

Family members, friends or others who have their own feelings they need to process about the divorce should turn to someone besides the teen, cautions Marquardt.

Local clinical psychologist, Susan Hickman encourages caring adults who find themselves in a position to reach out to teens who are experiencing divorce to consider the following:

  • Be immovable. Provide unlimited, unyielding support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
  • Be patient with their behavior. Remember that teens often express their pain through their behavior versus words. Respond to this with positive regard and consistent support for the child providing gentle limits and correction if needed.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Do more listening than talking. Teens experiencing divorce are in pain and confusion. Someone needs to hear them.
  • Validate their feelings even if you do not agree. Emotions aren’t reasonable. They are expressions of exuberance or distress. Acknowledge their emotions and tell them you understand why they might feel that way.
  • Save judgment or criticism for later. This is a time of repair – being there for them in the midst of distress speaks volumes. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth caring about.
  • Find a teen support group. Support groups for teens experiencing divorce allows them to connect with people their own age in similar circumstances.
  • Time is the key. Giving teens the time they need can sometimes be challenging. Just like there are times when we think people ought to be in a certain place in their grieving process after a death, people often assume that after a certain amount of time kids should just be over the divorce. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.

“Teens going through this very hard time should get the help they need. They should also be encouraged that there are so many great ways to learn about having a good and happy marriage,” Marquardt says.

“The pain they are going through is something they can use to inspire them to be a great husband/wife and father/mother some day. There are many children of divorce in happy, lasting marriages and that can be them, too.”

They say time heals all wounds, and I suppose to some degree that is true.

I remember talking to one of my college professors before heading home for Christmas break my freshman year. I did not want to go home. After listening to me for a while, he said, “I know you don’t want to do home. I understand that what you are experiencing is miserable, but you have told me that you plan to be a counselor. And while this is not something I would wish on anybody, what you are experiencing now will be helpful to you later on when you are working with people who are dealing with divorce.”

He was right. I am painfully aware that my parents’ divorce left scars on my life. If there is a positive side to the divorce, it would have to be the tenacious passion I have for having a healthy marriage and for helping teens that are experiencing divorce. They need to know somebody out there cares and is willing to walk the road with them. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can YOU do?

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

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

“In 2010, the first Baby Boomers turned 65. By 2030, 20 percent of America’s population will be over 65. As the Baby Boom generation moves into later life, the proportion of American elders who are divorced is skyrocketing,” says researcher and author Elizabeth Marquardt. “The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2015, 46 percent of boomers will live in divorced or unmarried households. These trends raise concerns for Baby Boomers as they age – and challenges for their grown children – as they become caregivers for their aging parents.”

Marquardt and Amy Ziettlow are co-researchers in a 3-year project funded by the Lilly Endowment to investigate aging, death and dying in an era of high family fragmentation.

Marquardt and Ziettlow are asking Gen Xers about things like:

  • How does your generation care for parents who may live far apart?
  • Is there an obligation to care for stepparents?
  • How do you grieve the loss of a parent when you have grieved the loss at the time of the divorce?
  • How do you honor your father and mother when a parent abandons their child?

During an interview, one man said, “My parent’s cold war lasted until my dad died. Then my mom wanted me to mourn the loss of my dad with her. I had already mourned the loss of my father.”

“Married parents will do their best to protect their kids from the worst of a dying parents’ illness,” Marquardt says. “Fragmented families don’t have that luxury. In fact, many of the people interviewed talked about stepparents who don’t communicate anymore once the biological parent has passed away. Family change is not the only stressor. Longer life span, smaller family size and rapid economic changes have a ripple effect on family breakdown.

“We have never thought forward to the impact of divorce on an aging nation,” Marquardt says. “Marriage used to be ‘until death do us part.’ Now it is ‘until it doesn’t feel good anymore.’ There are people who will die a lonely death due to family fragmentation. Leaders are asking who will be taking care of the old people.”

Marquardt and Ziettlow have found there is a lot of hope with Generation X.

“There is something about telling your story,” Marquardt says. “Out of sharing tears, raw memories and family craziness there is a hope that seems to emerge. They take a deep breath and at the end seem to feel a sense of relief.”

Many of those interviewed said they agreed to do it because they wanted to honor their parent.

“The golden rule doesn’t say, ‘Do unto others as they have done to you,’” Marquardt says. “Of the Gen Xers we have interviewed, many say their only hope is to rise above what has happened to them and to ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”

Who will be there to take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself?

Image from Unsplash.com

Creating a healthy stepfamily can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. In fact, since the number of stepfamilies has tripled since the 1960s, many men and women have done just that. If you have children from a previous relationship and you’re considering a relationship with another special someone with kids, there are a few things you may want to consider to help ease the transition.

First, what do you expect moving forward? 

Sit down and discuss your expectations as it relates to topics like buying a house together, purchasing a car, date night, soccer practices and many other things. It’s better to have an idea of what you think it should look like, but adaptability is key.

How you will handle discipline is another thing to think about.

For instance, is it okay for the stepparent to discipline their spouse’s child? It is often more assuring to kids (and their other parent) if their own biological parent disciplines them.

What about bonding with the kids?

The bond stepparents have with their stepchild is immensely important for healthy and stable stepfamilies. You both should be able to talk about each child and feel that you are heard, but when it comes to children, consider the fact that marrying their parent is a BIG deal. Remember that you aren’t there to replace their father or mother, so focus on encouraging and building your own relationships with the children.

What about holidays – how will you handle those?

Taking into account that the kids will spend time with both biological parents during the holidays, work to create new traditions and ask for the kids’ input for making the transitions a little easier. When the biological parents talk directly and make arrangements ahead of time, it can lessen confusion. Encourage family meetings so the children feel heard and valued during the process.

Although blending families is no easy task, discussing things like these ahead of time can help everyone prepare well for the journey ahead.

Image from Unsplash.com

The challenges of single parenting are many. Holding down a job, taking care of the children’s needs and household repairs, and a whole host of other things vie for the 168-hour week. How do single parents make it through the trials and come out feeling good about themselves and their children?

When Martin Luther King III was asked how his mother handled being a single parent, he responded, “My mother did the best she could. She surrounded us with caring adults, including my grandmother, who loved us and provided structure and security to help us grow to be responsible adults.”

Census reports indicate there has been a significant increase in single-parent households. In fact, more than 13.7 million men and women find themselves in the position of parenting alone. Things that have never been issues before are now on the radar screen, often producing anxiety, fear and many sleepless nights.

“I have been a single parent of three for six years,” says Richard.* “I didn’t know a soul when I moved here and had no family support. The biggest obstacle for me was keeping all of the balls up in the air. I was launching a new business and trying to keep my family going.”

Richard describes his transition into single parenthood as highly emotional.

“I was living in a one-bedroom place,” Richard says. “At the outset it was very difficult. I realized I was insecure emotionally. I remember taking lunch hours to do laundry at the laundromat.”

Fortunately, Richard found resources that were available to assist in his parenting efforts.

“The aftercare program at school was a lifesaver,” Richard shares. “There were teachers and friends who helped out in many ways. We were befriended by many people to whom I will always be grateful.”

If you’re a single parent trying to find your way, here are some helpful suggestions from seasoned single parents:

  • Be organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.
  • Focus on family. Set expectations, establish boundaries, keep the lines of communication open and set aside time to be together as a family.
  • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.
  • Ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate.
  • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

After going through the trauma of a breakup, loss or abandonment, it’s easy to shy away from asking for help for fear of being seen as weak. Most single parents say this is not how they wished things would go. But over time, many single moms and dads realize the experience has made them stronger and that it is truly okay to ask for help.

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

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Engaged couples spend endless amounts of time planning for their special day. In the excitement of wedding showers, choosing the flowers and the cake, and finding the perfect dress, some wonder if they can make it work. They don’t necessarily question their love for each other, although some actually do. It’s more about wondering if they can reduce their risk for divorce.

Most scholars agree that couples marrying today face a substantial risk of divorce. Many couples, however, don’t realize that certain factors increase their risk.

“While there are academic arguments about how great the average risk is, there is a lot less argument among scholars about the relative risks,” says Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Relationships at the University of Denver. “Some people face a higher risk of divorce and others a very low risk. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but it will hit the highlights.”

Individual Characteristics Linked with Higher Rates of Divorce:

  • Marrying at a young age (younger than 22)
  • Getting less education
  • Having parents who divorced or never married
  • Being a more reactive personality to stress and emotion
  • Having a prior marriage that ended
  • Prior to marrying, having sex with or cohabiting with someone other than your mate
  • Having a very low income or being in poverty

“While some people face a higher risk of divorce than others, many people who have a very low risk nevertheless worry about divorce happening to them,” Stanley asserts. “Some people avoid marriage because of their fear of divorce, but avoiding marriage won’t really reduce one’s chances of experiencing heartache and family instability.

“To really avoid the possibility of such pain, one would need to avoid love, sex and children altogether. For some, avoiding marriage may actually increase their likelihood of experiencing the very thing they fear—heartache and break-up—because marriage can be a potent force for clarifying and reinforcing commitment between two people.”

Stanley contends that BEFORE MARRIAGE is when you have the most power to reduce your risk for divorce. He suggests the following 7 tips as you proceed.

  • Take it slow. Waiting allows you to see a person’s behavior over time versus a snapshot in time.
  • Don’t ignore red flags. Bad behavior will likely not get better once you walk the aisle.
  • Look for someone who shares your beliefs and values. Chemistry is great, but it is not the binding glue in a relationship. Love does not conquer all.
  • Look for mutual dedication to the relationship. Both people should be willing to make sacrifices.
  • Establish mutual commitment to be together. Avoid sliding into staying in a relationship because of constraints such as signing a rent agreement or purchasing furniture together.
  • Get premarital training. There is solid evidence that completing premarital preparation together can improve your odds in marriage.
  • Be realistic about potential mates. There are no perfect people, but two imperfect people can walk the road together and be transformed by a life of loving commitment.

“Marriage involves a choice to risk loving another for life, but that is different from gambling with your love life,” Stanley says. “Just make sure you are deciding rather than sliding your way into your future.”

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

“I do” feels complicated. What can you learn from a focus group of millennial women who live with their boyfriends? You can really find out about their relationships, their thoughts about marriage and how they think cohabitation differs from marriage.

Only one of the six women had ever married. Some had children with their current boyfriend. Others brought children into the relationship. They discussed the following questions, and more.

Do you believe living together and marriage are pretty much the same thing?

Most of the women agreed that living together and marriage were practically the same thing. They said it really boiled down to commitment to the relationship. And, they wondered why someone needs a piece of paper to prove their commitment to each other.

They also wondered if they could make a marriage work. For instance, only one of the women came from an intact family. She said everyone in her family had been successful at marriage so far except her.

Are there any ways that marriage is different from living together?

Regarding the differences in cohabitation and marriage, they discussed missing benefits because they weren’t legally married, even though they thought of themselves as married. They also said people treated them differently when they discovered they were unmarried.

The National Center for Family and Marriage Research indicates that 41 percent of cohabitors express pessimism about marriage. More than half (64 percent) of Gen-Xers and millennials agree that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce. 

Interestingly, only about 35 percent of individuals who married first believe that cohabitation may help prevent breakups.

If your boyfriend asked you to marry him, would you?

Surprisingly, all but one woman enthusiastically said yes, despite saying they believed there was really no difference in cohabitation and marriage.

While these women and many like them believe living together and marriage are basically the same, consider these statistics:

  • The overall rate of violence for cohabiting couples is twice as high as for married couples. Plus, the overall rate for “severe” violence is nearly five times as high, according to the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire, the nation’s leading institution studying domestic violence.
  • Studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that women in cohabiting relationships had depression rates nearly five times higher than married women. Those rates second only to women who twice-divorced.
  • Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most of the women in the focus group said they want to avoid the pain of divorce. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases that risk.

If you’re in a serious relationship and wonder if you should take your relationship to the next level, think carefully. Instead of moving in together, consider taking a class that will help you know if you have learned all of the different skills that can help your relationship last a lifetime.

Image from Unsplash.com

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!