Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: responsibility

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    What Husbands Need From Their Wives

    During the 2019 Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute’s IMPACT dinner in February, Katty Kay, a British journalist, author and broadcaster, spoke about the importance of confidence and competence, specifically in women.

    Kay shared that both she and her husband travel a lot. Whenever she was headed out of town, she lined up extra babysitters, made sure the refrigerator was stocked and made lists: lots of lists of all the kids’ activities and such to ensure that her husband didn’t forget anything. At some point she realized that she was going to all of this extra effort in preparation for leaving town, but that when her husband went out of town, he just left. This irritated her a bit.

    She had a conversation with him about it that went something along the lines of, “Whenever I am going out of town, I take the time to do all of this pre-prep for you to make sure everything gets taken care of. Yet when you go out of town, you do nothing.” 

    His response to her was, “Yes you do, but I did not ask you to do that.” 

    So the next time she went out of town, she did nothing. And, lo and behold, the house was still standing and the kids were taken care of when she returned home.

    Katty Kay is definitely not the only woman to fall into the trap of believing that if she doesn’t map everything out, things will fall apart while she is away. In fact, more than likely, a majority of women do the very same thing. 

    Here’s the deal. According to research, men want to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside? 

    Despite all the well-meaning intention behind the pre-prep, the message men receive isn’t, “I love you so much that I am doing all of this for you before I leave town.” The inadvertent message is, “I’m not confident you have the bandwidth to remember everything that needs to be done so I will put a safety net in place to make sure none of the balls get dropped.”

    Research conducted by Harvard-educated analyst, Shaunti Feldhahn, found that three-quarters of the men surveyed, if forced to choose, would give up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.

    In an effort to try and better understand this, Feldhahn was speaking with a friend who stated: “I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough.” When she asked what he meant, he said that they recently had friends over for dinner. Afterward, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. Upon returning home, the wife kissed his cheek,  looked over his shoulder and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. Feldhahn asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently and he said, “Yes, she could have said thanks.”

    Feldhahn explains that when women are thinking about something, they usually process out loud so there’s no question what they’re thinking. On the other hand, when men think and process, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Her research showed that in most cases, instead of questioning the husband’s decision, saying, “Help me understand,” will result in a long, well-thought out explanation.

    For example, one wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

    Feldhahn asked the husband to help his wife understand what happened. He explained that when he went to the fridge to get the milk, he realized if he gave the kids milk for dinner there wouldn't be enough for breakfast. He was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep. They had been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so he didn't want to wake her up just to go get milk. He decided to give the kids juice, which he diluted by half with water so they wouldn't have as much sugar. After the explanation, the look on his wife's face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.

    Katty Kay’s message to the women in the room was this: The need for perfection is often the very thing that holds us back at work, home and in life in general. Just because you may not have it down perfectly doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do the job. Just because your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen just like you would doesn’t mean you have to go behind them and “fix it.” Women have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try. She also said that learning how to fail and still move forward is important. And finally, as women grow in their confidence and competence, they should pass it on.

    Ironically, the very things women don’t want people doing to them, such as pigeonholing them, penalizing them for taking risks and questioning their competence, is the exact thing women often do to their husbands.

    Feldhahn believes it's important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Just like Kay pointed out that women don’t like feeling or being seen as incompetent or lacking in confidence, neither do men. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn't measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 3, 2019.


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    How Marriage Affects Poverty

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

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

    The Problem

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

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

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

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

    Consider the following information:

    Unwed births increased dramatically between 1970 and 2010.

    • Black: 37.6 percent to 72 percent

    • Caucasian: 5.7 percent to 35.9 percent

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

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

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

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

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

    • Married families with children living in poverty:  6.8 percent

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

    What else causes people to be poor? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Women are earning more than ever before.

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

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

    Can the children escape from poverty?

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

    Potential Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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