Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: relationships

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    What People Are Thinking About Marriage

    What people believe about marriage may surprise you.

    At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people really think about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

    If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers - the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today - their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

    Before you get too excited about the divorce rate decrease though, it would be important to know that the marriage rate has also decreased. 

    WHAT MARRIAGE LOOKS LIKE TODAY

    According to Stanley, demographers and sociologists wonder whether people are marrying later or if a historic number of younger people just won’t marry. Some think marriage will bounce back, while others think the younger generations are afraid of or disinterested in marriage. 

    This is quite perplexing when research, including the U.S. General Social Survey, indicates that around 95% of people say they are “pretty happy” or “very happy” in their marriage. Stanley says it’s possible that people are happy, but that when things go south, they may do so very quickly.

    The average age of first marriage is currently 30 for men and 28 for women, but many who have young adult children or grandchildren are often puzzled by this delay in marriage. Boomers and Gen Xers reflect on their own young adulthood and realize that not only were they married in their early to mid-20s, but they also had children and jobs.

    So what’s up with the delay? Stanley likens it to people milling around the airport who aren’t all there for the same reason. 

    THREE TYPES OF SINGLES

    1. Seekers: Some are there seeking the one perfect person who will be perfectly attuned to them. Stanley cautions these seekers to examine if they are unrealistically seeking perfection from someone when they aren’t perfect themselves.
    2. Determined Delayers: The “determined delayers” at the airport might eventually be seeking “the one,” but are uninterested in finding them, at least for now. They say they want to get married - but maybe in five years or so. These delayers are either having fun trying out several relationships or are enjoying being uninvolved romantically.
    3. Wanderers: Then there are the wanderers, who aren’t looking for a relationship or preventing one either. If they get into a relationship and it works, they could easily end up married.

    It’s when a seeker starts dating a determined delayer and doesn’t know it that things can get complicated. Stanley says ambiguity can lead one person in the dating relationship to believe that the other is more interested in marriage than they really are.

    THE COMPETITION TO COMMITMENT

    According to Stanley, the number one competitor to commitment in a relationship is how good your alternatives are and your awareness of them. People who carry a lot of relationship experience into marriage tend to think, “I hope this works, but if it doesn’t, there are other fish in the sea.”

    “Marriage for many people has moved from being a cornerstone to your life to a capstone,” Stanley shares. “Instead of being foundational, it is a major achievement as a status symbol.”

    Yet, the 2018 American Family Survey (AFS) indicates that 64 percent of us believe that marriage makes families and children better off financially. A large majority believes that marriage is needed to create strong families, and that society is better off when more people are married. The percentage of people who believe marriage is old-fashioned and outdated hovers in the mid-teens.

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    • If there is a benefit in delaying marriage, Stanley believes that perhaps people are self-insuring to protect themselves from potential loss. However, the downside of that means they are doubling down on individualism versus interdependence.
    • Friends used to connect their friends to their future mate, but the data shows that more people are meeting online instead. If people wisely use these online systems to look for someone who is a better fit instead of being limited to only the people in their community, this is good news for relationships. Stanley says people need to think about what they are looking for and intentionally surround themselves with people who share their values.
    • People are wrestling with the idea of marriage for various reasons. When the AFS asked what was essential to living a fulfilled life, marriage was the lowest thing on the list. A good living, education and a rewarding job were at the top. It could be that people are thinking if they have those three things, their chances of making marriage work are greater, but no one knows for sure.

    In The Atlantic piece, What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse, Mandy Len Catron contends that marriage is socially isolating, marriage is no longer what many want, there is too much emphasis on marriage and commitment is really the main thing, not marriage.  

    Research does indicate singles are more socially connected than marrieds, and they tend to have a broader community. When people marry, they do tend to invest their time and energy into their marriage. However, couples who know that marriage could become socially isolating can be intentional about building social connectedness and community.

    THREE QUESTIONS TO CLARIFY COMMITMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE

    For those who align with Mandy Len Catron, Stanley offers three questions that are important to ask.

    1. Have you both agreed to a lifetime of commitment to each other?
    2. Have you publicly declared the depth of your commitment to those who matter most in your lives?
    3. Have you agreed to be faithful to each other for the rest of your lives?

    The answers to these questions can help determine the trajectory of the relationship, for better or for worse.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 9, 2019.

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    The Most Important New Year's Resolution

    When a new year dawns, people often reminisce about all they have experienced during the past year. Others consider whether or not to make the usual and customary New Year’s resolutions. You know the ones - exercise more, eat healthier, organize better and spend less. 

    Contemplating another year makes me thoughtful. The past year has been a hectic one. In addition to the day-in and day-out routines of life, there have been exciting and scary moments, a few once in a lifetime opportunities and amazing celebrations. One thing stands out though - the unexpected goodbyes I have said to a number of people.

    Most of us probably live life at a pretty fast pace. This year I have come face to face with how easy it is to take tomorrow for granted when it comes to relationships. For example, I recently saw a friend in the grocery store. We’ve mentioned getting together for coffee for months. We laughed about it, but in my heart I asked, “How can I be so busy that I can’t find time for coffee with my friend whom I love?” 

    My husband and I frequently talk at dinner about inviting friends over, but I know that if I don’t grab my calendar and look at dates, we’ll be having the same conversation about the same group of friends six months from now.

    Here’s what I think bothers me the most about this:  Not only is my life’s work all about healthy relationships, but I have also been blessed with many special people in my life. No question about it, I thrive on relationship. As I have come face to face with losing people who are close to me, it has hit me like a ton of bricks that life really is short and there is no promise of tomorrow.

    New Year’s resolutions aren’t necessarily my thing, but on the eve of a new year, I am absolutely resolved to spend more time with the ones I love. 

    I remember reading “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” written by Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse who interviewed hundreds of her patients. It was interesting to me that all of the regrets really had to do with living life to the fullest with the people in your life. Every male patient (and many women, too) Ware cared for said they wished they hadn’t worked so hard but had spent more time with their loved ones instead. 

    Another regret was not realizing the full blessing of friends until they were facing death. Many said they had gotten so caught up in life that their friendships had been sidelined. Yet in the end when they were getting their affairs in order, the money or status weren’t what was most important to them - but the relationships were.

    I don’t want to look back with regret when it comes to the relationships in my life. I am definitely taking some intentional steps about creating space for the relationships that speak life to me.

    I hope the new year2018 brings you many blessings, including those of love and relationship.

    Happy New Year!

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    10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage

    The top 10 resolutions for each new year are often to: lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others in their dreams, fall in love, and spend more time with family.

    These are great goals, but studies show that without accountability, your goals will be out the window in a month. But what if you and your spouse made some fun resolutions to build up your relationship?

    Here are some examples to help you out:

    • Don’t come in and want to “talk” during the Super Bowl unless you want to pick a fight. Instead, schedule time for uninterrupted conversation on a regular basis. Just five minutes a day can make a huge difference in your relationship.

    • If you want to know what's going on in his head, don’t ask your man to share his feelings. Simply ask, “What do you think?” Chances are good you will actually end up knowing how he feels.

    • Eat dinner together. Seriously, taking time away from the television and other technology to eat together enhances communication and connectedness, and that's crucial to a healthy marriage. If you have children, feed them early and plan a late dinner for yourselves.

    • Help your spouse with organization, but remember it’s OK to be spontaneous.

    • Help your spouse be spontaneous, but remember it’s OK to plan. The key to both of these goals is clearly balance. Too much planning or spontaneity can make marriage miserable.

    • If your goal is good health, pay attention to what you eat, get enough rest and exercise regularly. Moderation in eating is important. Take walks together holding hands. Studies show that holding your mate's hand can decrease your blood pressure. Who knows? This exercise could lead to more “fun exercise.”

    • Set goals together no matter what. Decide on one thing you want to accomplish together this year and make plans to see it happen. Doing things as a team throughout the years will help you prepare for becoming empty-nesters.

    • Find ways to encourage your spouse. The truth is, most people know deep down what their weaknesses are, but often have trouble knowing and acknowledging their strengths.

    • Figure out how to live within your means. At the end of life, relationships trump material things.

    • Don’t forget, if you want to have a little fun, you can still embarrass your teenagers by just showing up.

    • Compete with your spouse by learning to out-serve each other. Selfishness comes naturally, but selflessness takes intentional effort.

    If you do the above, you'll probably lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, get healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others fulfill dreams, fall more in love with your spouse, and spend more time with family. Who knew?

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    4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries

    Just say the word boundaries and watch what happens to people’s faces. Some immediately become suspicious and negative while others believe they are a good thing. Why does this word elicit such opposing responses?

    “Many people view boundaries as a way to restrain them,” says relationship coach, Dr. David Banks. “They say they want to be free to do whatever, whenever they want to do it. This is not a healthy way of thinking. Living with no boundaries may sound exciting, but it can actually destroy you. The sad thing is, most of the time people don’t experience the negative impact of 'no boundaries' until after the fact, and then it is often too late.”

    For example, take the person whose goal is to make a million dollars in a year. He basically puts his marriage and children on hold while putting his nose to the grindstone to make his million. At year’s end, he realizes he reached his monetary goal, but sacrificed his relationship with his family in the process.

    “Setting boundaries starts early,” Banks says. “As parents, we model this for our children. Consider the fact that when children are born, parents usually place the child between the two of them and the marriage takes a back seat to childrearing. In reality, the child should be positioned in front with the parents standing firmly behind the child. The boundary is set from an early age that you don’t come between mom and dad. As parents, your job is to receive your child, raise your child and release your child.”

    Without firm boundaries in place, life can become chaotic and miserable. If you have never established boundaries, it is never too late to start.

    “Many people are afraid of the backlash of setting boundaries,” Banks shares. “While it is true that things could be a little challenging for a while, keep your eyes on the goal. Ultimately, people are looking for healthy relationships – at work, in their marriage, with their children and in friendships. Healthy boundaries help you establish priorities, manage your time better and have fulfilling relationships with people.

    “When you are spending time with your spouse and your phone rings or your teenager comes in wanting to talk about changing curfew, you see these for what they are – distractions from your priority at the moment. The phone can wait and so can your teen. Boundaries are actually very freeing.”

    Dr. Banks suggests the following steps for setting healthy boundaries:

    • Understand your purpose – Who are you? What is important to you? What are your priorities in life?

    • Focus on yourself, not on others – The only person you can change is you. You can’t control other people’s behavior. If your goal is to stay healthy and connected, boundaries help.

    • Stay strong – If you have operated without boundaries, suddenly putting them in place could initially create chaos in your relationships. Stay the course.

    • Surround yourself with a strong support system – These aren’t necessarily your best friends, but they will speak the truth to you, encourage you, and hold you accountable for the change you seek to create.

    Ultimately, boundaries set the standard for expectations in relationships at home, at work and in the community. They protect you and allow you to function at your highest level of productivity.

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    Kindness: The Superpower Everyone Can Use

    “What if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse?”

    That’s the question a woman asked social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn after she spoke at a conference on the topic of kindness.

    Feldhahn encouraged her to take a 30-day Kindness Challenge. The steps are: 

    • Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them.
    • Each day, find one positive thing to praise or affirm about that person. Then tell them and tell someone else. 
    • Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
    • You may or may not choose to tell the person you chose about the challenge.

    Three years later, the same woman approached Feldhahn and said, “You won’t remember me, but I asked you a question three years ago about what to do if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse. I decided to take you up on the Kindness Challenge and I learned a lot about myself. I had no idea how unkind I was to my husband, and I thought it was all him. As I was kind to him, his defenses lowered. Three years later, we have a great marriage.”

    “What I have found based on my research is that when kindness starts to flow, it is really incredible,” says Feldhahn. “It’s actually a real-life superpower. For years, I’ve been studying what makes people thrive. And I’ve seen that whether or not we thrive in relationships is far more related to how we treat others than how we ourselves are treated.”

    Feldhahn believes kindness is the answer in any difficult situation. 

    “This means being kind when you are super-irritated and you really don’t want to be,” Feldhahn shares. “Even in situations where you need boundaries, that is usually the kindest thing you can do. If someone is being abusive, for example, it is not kind to allow that person to continue to destroy their own emotional state by being that way.” 

    For her book, The Kindness Challenge, Feldhahn surveyed study participants extensively before and after the 30-day period. After completing the challenge, 89 percent of all relationships had improved, 74 percent felt more love and affection for their romantic partner, and 66 percent felt more love and appreciation by their romantic partner.

    “One of the biggest surprises from the research was that most of us already think we are kind,” Feldhahn says. “In fact, most of us are totally delusional. We have no idea how often we are unkind without even realizing it. In the book, we identify seven patterns of unkindness and negativity - and every one of us has at least one of them! We encourage everyone to identify their own pattern of negativity - because in most cases it is a pattern across all relationships, not just that one.”

    The Challenge opened participants' eyes very quickly to that reality, and it showed them that they also weren’t as affirming to the other person as they thought. It also changed their feelings, to appreciate the person more. 

    As Feldhahn put it, “That only makes sense, right? After all, if you’re irritated with someone, and you tell them that you’re irritated, and you tell someone else that you’re irritated, are you doing to be more or less irritated?” 

    We all know the answer to that. Just as we know that we’ll simply notice the positive more if we’re looking for it. And while being kind doesn’t take away problems, it often makes them easier to solve.

    Feldhahn wants the Challenge to transform relationships.

    “It’s really life-changing,” Feldhahn suggests. “It is a training ground to become a truly kind person. You have to designate one person to do the challenge for. But it can be anyone - your spouse, child, friend, in-law, co-worker, anybody.”

    Like the woman who didn’t respect or appreciate her spouse, the outcome is a pleasant surprise for many Challenge-takers after 30 days.

    If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can find out more at jointhekindnesschallenge.com. The outcome just might surprise you, too.