Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marriage Rates: Divorce Fears To Blame For Low Rates?

Recently, social demographer Dr. Sharon Sassler, a Cornell University professor, set out to learn more about how couples decide to live together, and why. In interviews conducted with 122 people, Sassler saw a surprising trend: Though her questions were primarily focused on cohabitation, respondents consistently raised the subject of divorce, even though she and her team had not solicited information on the subject. Indeed, a full two-thirds of her subjects revealed fears about their own future marriages falling apart.
Her findings, published last month in the NovemberJournal of Family Relations, seem to correspond with a recent Pew Research Institute report, which found that men and women are getting married later and later, and the number of people who do actually make it down the aisle recently hit an all time low.
So is one finding related to the other? HuffPost Divorce spoke with Dr. Sassler to find out more about how fears of divorce might be affecting national marriage trends.
What was the most surprising finding of the study?
We actually didn't have a specific question about divorce. We were asking about what the benefits of cohabitating are relative to marriage. The fact that divorce spontaneously arose in such a large proportion of the responses was what was surprising, because we weren't looking for it, and it kind of slapped us in the face. Also surprising was that, regardless of whether the cohabitators had personally experienced their parents' divorce, they expressed concerns about divorce themselves.
Is there evidence to substantiate a claim that these fears of divorce contribute to low marriage rates?
There are a lot of factors at play that contribute to low marriage rates. Most of our couples still planned to get married, so I'd prefer to say that our findings might help explain the delay of marriage...One of the factors my respondents gave in being reluctant to take that next step was being cautious about marriage or even jaded about marriage. Since the majority of young adults live together prior to marriage, I do think it tells us something about how anxious young people are today about their ability to maintain intimate relationships. They're being more cautious and they might want to take more time.
We did find that the majority of those who do mention fears of divorce do intend to eventually get married because they think it might have some benefits. They think it would make their family happy, or that it would improve their relationship or that it's one way of showing love.
Where do these fears of divorce come from? How did they differ by gender and class?
The fears differ by social class and they differ by gender. For less-educated women, there are these strong concerns about being financially trapped in a bad relationship, and not having the means to exit it. And there were fears of what divorce would do to the children. There's also this concern that if they get married that they'd be expected to do more domestic work, and they're working women, so they viewed it as a double burden. Many of them thought, "why take on these extra responsibilities?"
The middle class group mentioned hearing the statistics all the time: they hear one out of two marriages is destined to fail, but it's incorrect. Divorce rates have been going down for the last few decades. Data indicates that the marriages are lasting longer in the early 2000s than they did in the 1990s, but they don't hear that. What they hear are the scare stories -- the Kim Kardashians who are on their second divorces. They don't realize that things have changed. Across the board, it was just a lot of this free-floating anxiety about divorce. A lot of them said they only wanted to marry once. That was the most common refrain: "I want to do it right. I only want to marry once."
For those who were children of divorce themselves, how did that affect their views on marriage?
They often referenced their families and their parents' marriages as cautionary tales, but that doesn't stop them from being in relationships, it's just an added layer of anxiety. The working classes are more likely to have experienced their parents' divorce, and they move in together more quickly, but there is an economic element to this -- they're more likely to move in more rapidly because of the financial need.
For the middle class respondents, they're much more likely to have dated for over a year or longer and that's not often the case with the working class. The college-educated respondents had held on to their apartments longer before moving in together, even though they might have been spending as much time together as the cohabiters. They still had that escape hatch. If you're working two minimum-wage jobs, it's harder to maintain that second apartment.
Slightly over a third of the sample made no mention of divorce at all. Who were they and why do you suspect divorce didn't come up in interviews with them?
We did not specifically ask about divorce, so it just might not have been on their mental map. We don't have indicators of relationship quality, but maybe they're in better relationships. Respondents who are engaged might not want to jinx themselves by thinking about divorce.

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*Article from Huffington Post

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Minutes To A Better Marriage

What’s the one thing any couple needs to make their marriage stronger and more romantic? If you’re like most people surveyed recently, you’d say time together—and lots of it.  But that isn't so, in a recent study of couples that had recently turned their marriages around and felt really close now hadn’t made any big changes like devoting entire evenings or weekends to being together. Instead, they’d simply started spending five-minute blocks of time together in rewarding ways. And you can follow their lead to improve your marriage!  Here are some examples:
  • Cuddle at the most important time of the day. "Most couples fit their cuddles in at the end of the day", says psychologist Judith Sherven, Ph.D. "but cuddling in the morning is even more rewarding." Why? "The physical contact will keep you feeling close to each other all day," she says. So go ahead and set the alarm five minutes early, then snuggle. "You can talk, but you don’t have to," she says. "The most important part is that you’re holding each other. It’ll help you both start the day feeling loved, and you’ll feel that way all day long."
  • Ask each other one simple question before you head out the door. What is it? "Anything special going on today? Gottman discovered that talking about the daily details of our lives is just as important to couples as sharing hopes, dreams and fears with each other. "The nitty-gritty details determine a lot of how we act and feel on any given day, so asking about them is a great way to build understanding and rapport," Gottman explains. Then, when you’re together again at the end of the day, ask how that special something—that meeting, phone call to an important client or lunch with a friend went. The results? You’ll feel connected, Gottman says.
  • Share what you like about each other. When a conversation about cars sprang up at a gathering with friends, Mary Gilman gave her husband credit for making their old clunker last with his TLC. "He looked so happy, I realized I should tell him more often how much I appreciate the things he does," says the 32-year-old sales representative from Tustin, California. "I didn’t think I had to tell him. I assumed he knew how much I appreciate him." The moral? If there’s something you appreciate about your spouse, from his/her parenting skills to the way he/she painted the bathroom last month, speak up! This proved so important to the couples Gottman studied that he recommends sprinkling five minutes of praise throughout each other’s day. If you start, he promises, you’ll enjoy the same treatment from your husband/wife. How does praise work? "It reminds people that their spouse loves them," Gottman explains. And knowing they’re loved "makes people more willing to iron out differences".
  • Do small kindnesses for each other. The good we do for our partner tends to come back to us, says relationship expert James Sniechowski, Ph.D.  "When you’re thoughtful to someone, they’re inclined to be thoughtful in return," he explains. "And those acts of kindness make for a loving feeling between two people."  So pick up each other’s favorite dessert or clip articles you think your spouse might like. "The amount of love those small kindnesses will bring you is without limit," Sniechowski says.
The more five-minute connections you’re able to make, the better, says Gottman. Why? "Because the more good connections you make, the more money you’ll have in your joint emotional bank account, and the richer your relationship will be." But even just one five-minute connection a day can make for a happier marriage. So go ahead and spend five minutes on building a great marriage.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Surviving the Holidays after loss

For those experiencing a loss, October through December can be excruciatingly painful months. Death, separation, divorce, illness, family trauma, job loss or moving to a new location result in great losses that make the holidays difficult.

Therefore, here are a few practical tips.
  • PREPARE – The ambush of emotions can attack at any time; prepare beforehand.
  • ACCEPT the difficulty of this time of year and your loss. Remind yourself that it’s a season and it will pass.
  • SOCIALIZE – Don’t hibernate. Insecure feelings may tempt you to isolate, but force yourself to go out even if it’s only for a short time.
  • LOWER your expectations – Movies and songs paint an unrealistic picture of the holidays.
  • DON’T ANESTHETIZE the pain with drugs or alcohol – Numbing emotional distress with chemicals creates more depression.
  • TRIMMING – If old ornaments or trimmings cause too much pain, don’t hang them this year. Put them aside for another time.
  • GET UP AND MOVE – Take care of your physical well-being. Healthy foods will give you strength; fattening and sugar-filled foods can worsen your depression. Exercise produces natural stress reducers.
  • SHOP online if going to the mall is too stressful.
  • COPING STRATEGY – Have the phone number of your counselor, pastor, church, close friend or hotline already taped to your phone. Make the commitment to call someone if negative thoughts get fierce.
  • LIGHT – Get some sunshine. Winter can take its toll on your emotions by the loss of sun you experience.
  • INVITE a friend to see a movie, have dinner or help decorate the house.
  • SET BOUNDARIES – Precisely explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle.
  • REACH OTHERS by discovering people who might be alone during the holidays.
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