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From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, “Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces.”

“When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” says Jason Krafsky. Krafsky co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife, Kelli. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”

To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members. They claimed that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys saw an increase in cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. Despite the media hype, you didn’t hear the whole truth there, either. In reality, not all divorce attorneys completed the survey – just AAML members.

“There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky says. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”

Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds.

Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. For others, unexpected feelings and emotions when friending or interacting with an old flame catches them off guard. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.

“I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.’

“There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong,” Krafsky shares. “I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book.”

The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, social networking sites are dangerous places to hang out.

“Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky says. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently.

“Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

For so many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a beautiful season sprinkled with festive events and family gatherings. For divorced parents 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: 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 the holidays as a divorced parent, Daughtry’s suggestions can help you make this shared Christmas bright for your children.

  • Confirm that your children feel 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 become surprised how much joy you actually experience this holiday season.”

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “10 Tips for Blended Families”. Download Here

Margery D. Rosen wrote Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” She interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

“The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

Here’s what Rosen found when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

“The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

Rosen’s research revealed that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics:

  1. Trust
  2. Communication
  3. Fighting fair
  4. Power struggles
  5. Money
  6. Sex
  7. Balancing parenthood

Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to hope for a lasting marriage.

Here’s a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

Trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate’s expense.

Communicate.

Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

Fight Fair.

People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

Defuse Power Struggles.

Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

Be Money-smart.

Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want and how they can best attain these goals. They also discuss how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

Make Love.

A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress of work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

Team Up .

Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

“It takes courage to face marital problems head-on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

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

 ***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The holidays will be different for many children who are adjusting to their parents’ divorce. What once was, is no more. In the midst of their “new normal,” now they must learn how to deal with dividing the holidays between parents. And, it isn’t just the kids who will be experiencing stress.

Understanding is Key

“I think it is critical for newly-divorced parents to anticipate the added emotional strain the holidays can present for both themselves and their children and prepare accordingly,” says Dr. Susan Hickman, psychologist. “First and foremost, parents must remember that it is their role to provide emotional support for their children, not vice versa. Unfortunately, too many parents look to their children, rather than to other appropriate adults, for emotional support, love and/or validation.”

Rarely does everything go according to plan. Maybe one parent doesn’t pick up or return the children on time or the kids forget their favorite teddy bear. Perhaps somebody says something hurtful, resulting in a meltdown along the way.

“The likelihood of this happening is great because favorite routines that are so easily remembered have gone away and truth be told, everybody still longs for them,” Hickman says. “Nothing is as it was, and with this realization comes sadness and perhaps anger – especially during the holidays, when family time is viewed as more sacred. Understanding these sensitivities and the reasons for them is the first step in not allowing the stress to spiral out of control.”

If you want to prepare for dealing with the holidays constructively, try Hickman’s holiday tips for divorced parents:

  • Have a release valve. Identify a parent or friend in advance, someone who has a level head and who is willing to listen without attempting to fix the problem or meddle, to be on standby for you to call and blow off steam. Recognize that the overwhelming emotions of the present are not permanent.
  • Be available for your children. If it overwhelms you as a parent, imagine how overwhelming it is for children with their limited coping abilities. Children cannot reason through or understand adult decisions or actions and thus often blame themselves erroneously for parental behaviors such as divorce. If they do not have the opportunity to express their grief, anger, sadness, shame and self-blame, how will you ever tell them differently? Many emotional and behavioral problems arise because children of divorce try to cope on their own.
  • Allow children to be children, especially during the holidays. While divorce is serious and full of heavy ramifications, children still need to laugh, play, relate to others, engage in fantasy, etc. They do not understand the emotional pain of their parents, nor should they! Do not think they “don’t love you” because they don’t show empathy. Try not to expect or force them to carry this load the same way you do. One of the best gifts you can give them as a parent is the gift of childhood.
  • Give up the idea of ultimate control. Adults often believe they can change and control others, and they frequently make themselves (and others) crazy in their attempts. This is the art of parenting from a distance. Children need to see healthy coping skills and positive attitudes modeled in difficult situations toward all. This is a time to promote family involvement, not sabotage it through bitterness and the need to hurt one another.
  • Keep as many old traditions as you can, but don’t be afraid to start new ones. The old traditions provide stability, but many disappear due to divorce. Invite your children to help you create some, but be sensitive if they are sullen and reluctant to do so. This is especially important for teens.

“There will likely be some tough moments this holiday season,” Hickman says. “Don’t let this daunt your enthusiasm. Your willingness to move ahead sends the message that you can live fully, happily and hopefully despite unexpected loss. This is the real message of the season: Hope, joy and peace.”

For more insight on parenting, download “10 Tips for Blended Families.”

Why do some couples embrace the empty nest while others end up in divorce court?

“There are lots of sides to the empty nest that are complicated,” says Dr. Susan Hickman, psychologist. “Many experience depression, feelings of sadness, anxiety, identity crisis and significant grief. I remember when our daughter loaded up the van and headed to Oregon. I sat on the curb and sobbed—I was inconsolable for several days.”

There are various responses to the empty nest varies from couple to couple. Women and couples with an only child, however, seem to experience the loss more intensely.

“A huge part of dealing with the transition to the empty nest comes down to how strongly a person identifies with their parenting role to the exclusion of their own self-identity,” Hickman shares. “When things come to an abrupt end, if all you have done for 18 years is focus on your child’s needs, many parents struggle to remember the kinds of things they enjoyed before children came into the picture.”

Additionally, it’s normal for each person to experience the empty nest with differing emotions within the couple relationship. One person may openly grieve the loss. Others may throw themselves more into work or a project as a distraction. This has created significant conflict in many marriages, and can lead to an empty nest divorce.

So what is the key to transitioning to the empty nest with your marriage strong and ready for the next phase of life?

“First and foremost, avoid focusing on your children’s needs to the exclusion of your own needs and the needs of your marriage,” Hickman says. “Having children does not mean you give up your friends and the best interests of your marriage. When parents put children at the center of their world, they send the message that their children’s needs trump everybody else’s needs in this community.”

When your children are older, you may want to prepare for launching a new career when they launch. There’s nothing wrong with taking a class or two, which in turn requires the kids to step up and help with chores and dinner preparation.

Remember, you are modeling how to do marriage well. If it is always about the children and never about the relationship, what message are you sending your children?

Anything you don’t cultivate will die. Children demand a lot, but you don’t want to ignore your marriage relationship. It is the foundation for a stable home which research shows children need to thrive. Many parents complain they can’t go anywhere because their children just keep calling them and driving them crazy. Hickman contends that parents train their children how to treat them. Setting clear boundaries and expectations is essential.

Preparing for the empty nest starts when your child is born,” Hickman asserts. “Your well-being and the well-being of your marriage are as important as the well-being of your child. Recognizing from the moment you find out you are pregnant that you have 18 years with this child, but you have the rest of your life with your spouse can help you cast a vision for keeping your marriage a priority.”

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

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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

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

Researchers wanted to know things such as:

  • How long have they had these thoughts?

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

  • What marital problems are they facing?

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

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

The findings, listed below, might surprise you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***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 that 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.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

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

Inside, you’ll find:

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

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

In a Wall Street Journal article called The Divorce Generation, Susan Gregory Thomas tells the story of her marriage. She met a guy, and they fell in love. Then, they moved in together. His parents warned them that being roommates and pals was totally different than being husband and wife, but they paid no attention. Instead, she and her boyfriend opposed their parents’ advice. They thought it was old-fashioned and sexist.

“Like many of my cohort, the circumstances of my upbringing led me to believe that I had made exactly the right choices by doing everything differently from my parents,” says Thomas.

Thomas thought her marriage would last forever. But nine years later, she found herself in the midst of an unwanted divorce.

A Generation of Divorce

“Gen X children witnessed the beginning of a divorce epidemic. This led to a divorce culture, which led to the conclusion that marriage can be a source of pain and loss,” says Dr. John Van Epp, clinical counselor and author. “These failed relationships convinced people to believe that relationships are good, but relationship definition is risky.”

According to a 2004 study by Generational Differences, Gen Xers were one of the least-parented and least-nurtured generations in U.S. history. Census data shows that almost half of them come from broken homes and that 40 percent were latchkey kids.

In a 2005 article by Kate Hughes in the Journal of Sociology, she states, “Adult children of divorced parents’ failed marriages and broken families brought a fragility that led to risk-diminishing strategies.”

“Many parents sent messages to their children like, ‘Don’t marry young. Establish yourself first. Be sure. Be REALLY sure. The goal is to minimize your risks,’” Van Epp says. “Consequently, Gen Xers took the messages of apprehension a step further to avoidance. Can we form relationships without defining what they really are?”

Family Structure Matters

Van Epp believes it’s a myth that lack of structure in a relationship is safe. Compared to children living with their own married parents, children 12-17 living with cohabitors are:

  • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems,
  • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school, and
  • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

Additionally, the rates of serious abuse are:

  • Lowest in intact families,
  • Six times higher in stepfamilies,
  • 14 times higher in always single-mother families,
  • 20 times higher in a biological cohabiting family, and
  • 33 times higher when mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the biological father.

“Structure gives a framework to the relationship and defines the roles,” Van Epp says.

“People don’t understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases their risk for experiencing exactly what they want to avoid in relationships. Whether married, single or divorced, you can teach your children about dating, partner selection and how to build healthy relationships that don’t create risks.”

The answer is not to avoid marriage, but to teach people how to do it well. This begins when parents build their child’s confidence (not apprehension and avoidance) about how to successfully navigate romantic relationships and establish a secure and lasting marriage.

I was in my late 20s and Jay was 30 when we decided to marry. Both of us are children of divorce. I also had a lot of debt from putting myself through college, and I loved Jay and totally thought he was “the one.” But, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have some anxiety about what might happen to us in the future. I had heard the statistics about the chances of divorce and felt like we were entering into marriage with the odds stacked against us in some ways.

At the time, I worked in mental health care. I remember asking one of my colleagues if he would consider doing some premarital work with us. With eyebrows raised, he said, “What for? Are you having problems already?” Even Jay looked at me quizzically when I mentioned we should sit down with someone who could help us prepare for the journey.

I didn’t know it then, but although we had risk factors for divorce, we actually had a lot more going for us than against us.

Experts studying marriage and divorce through the years found there are some factors that significantly decrease your chances of divorce. For example:

  • Those who marry after age 18 have a 24 percent reduced risk of divorce.
  • Only 27 percent of college graduates will divorce by middle age.
  • Having still-married parents reduces divorce risk by 14 percent.
  • Having a combined income of $50,000 or more is associated with a 30 percent lower divorce risk.
  • Those with a strong shared faith who attend services regularly are 47 percent less likely to divorce.
  • Couples who participate in premarital preparation are generally up to 30 percent less likely to divorce.
  • Having one’s first child after marriage can reduce one’s divorce risk by 24 to 66 percent.

There are some factors that place couples at higher risk for divorce. For instance:

  • Couples who disagree on whether or not to have children are at considerably higher risk of divorce.
  • Being previously divorced markedly increases one’s risk for divorce.
  • Having divorced parents.

Looking back over our 27 years of marriage, neither one of us would say it has been challenge-free. From raising a precocious, strong-willed child to brain surgery, job transitions, death of parents, financial concerns and more, the struggle is real. But, realizing that we’ve endured all of those things together has made us stronger.

If you asked us how we did it, we would say that the premarital preparation definitely helped us look at our potential areas of risk and talk about them instead of putting our heads in the sand. That was a good thing.

Our faith has certainly played a role. Surrounding ourselves with people who believed in our marriage has been helpful. Honestly, choosing intentionality and commitment to the relationship has also been huge. It gives us freedom to be angry, scared, sad, or hurt, and to know that our married is a safe place where we can be real with each other. That makes all the difference.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 29, 2017.