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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.***

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other. Then they come home from the honeymoon and reality hits. Is it possible to keep the “honey” in honeymoon?

“Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. He didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

“Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the ‘clash of civilizations stage’ instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

“Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

If you’re marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest.

It’s a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things don’t pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage—including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface. And knowing what to expect can help you keep the “honey” long after the honeymoon is over.

For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

“You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things—your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

 ***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 First Year of Marriage

There are challenges ahead, but you can get ready for them!

Scene 1: The Big Day

The day has finally arrived. You walk down the aisle taking in all of the people who have come to witness this momentous occasion. You and your fiancé enthusiastically say “I do!” There is a great celebration and finally you leave. Now, the two of you begin your journey of happily ever after.

 

Scene 2: Beyond the Honeymoon

Reality sets in. Sometimes it happens on Day One of the honeymoon. Others experience it when they arrive home and are trying to settle into a routine. You both realize it is just the two of you and you have to figure out how to do life together as a team. While this is something you have been looking forward to, it can create some difficult moments.

 

Scene 3: What Nobody Tells You  

Regardless of how long you have been together as a couple, being married is different. The first couple of years can actually be very challenging, but nobody really talks about that for fear that people will judge them.

Learning how to live with your spouse is an adventure. In most marriages, each person has unspoken expectations based on what they experienced in their own home. Things like:

  • Who cleans the toilets, pays the bills, mows the lawn, does the laundry, shops for groceries?

  • How will you deal with the in-laws?

  • Will you eat dinner together every night?

  • Who does the cooking?

  • What about sleep? Do you go to bed at the same time?

  • When you experience conflict (and you will) how will you handle it?

All of these things tend to trip couples up because each person comes to the marriage with assumptions about how things will be.

 

Scene 4: What Might be Helpful to Know

As you navigate the first years of marriage, here are some things to consider that can help make the transition smoother.

  • Get prepared. You probably spent a lot of time and energy preparing for the wedding, but don’t forget to prepare for the health of your marriage. Getting married without preparation is like planning to compete in the Iron Man and hoping you have what it takes to finish the race. Couples who take the time to learn the skills needed for successful marriage are 30 percent less likely to divorce. Make the time to attend a premarital education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

  • You are a team. Before marriage you only had to be concerned about yourself. Adding someone else into the mix, even when you love them, can be tough. It isn’t all about you anymore. It is about two individuals coming together with the goal of helping each other grow. This requires give and take, thinking through priorities and being totally invested in making the relationship work.

  • Love isn’t all you need. Many couples believe that because they love each other they will agree on most things. This is when things can get really dicey. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. An advantage of marriage is you have someone who cares so much about you they are willing to disagree and weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. Couples who understand these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas of their life do better.

Happily-married couples rarely describe their marriage as challenge-free, even after decades of marriage. In fact, many of them describe the hard times as those that refined them and made their marriage stronger.

Whether you are preparing for marriage or you are a newlywed, remember you are building something new together. You may come to marriage with a blueprint of how you always thought it should be, but as you hammer it out you both realize you need something different. No matter who you marry, there will be challenges. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference.

***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.***