Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Living Deliberately in 2010

Posted by Michele Olson
Are you a New Year’s Resolutions person? Do they work for you? I’ll be starting my annual diet for a while, but overall, I’m not sure resolutions really work. Maybe if the Mayor of Munchkin City in the county of the Land of Oz came out and read it in a proclamation, I would take it more seriously. But since that hasn’t happened, I find resolutions can fall by the wayside.

How about a different idea? What if we choose instead to live deliberately in 2010? It’s a new year and a new decade. What if we deliberately decided to go the extra mile in our marriages?
What if we deliberately went back to acting toward our spouses as we act toward other people we are trying to impress? We see a stranger, and we are the “good guy” and hold the door. We see our spouse, and we just walk ahead. Hmmmm. That doesn’t seem very deliberate. That seems like just letting the moment happen and pass you by.

Deliberate living.

Worth considering.

What if we decided to attend a marriage or healthy relationship course with our loved one even if it’s not our cup of tea? (Or we have no idea if it is because we’ve never done it but we’ve decided ahead of time “that’s not what we do.”) What if we deliberately, because of statistics showing that it improves relationships, just decide to try it even once? Whether online or in-person, it's a pretty do-able, deliberate thing that you can do. It really is up to you.
What if we deliberately put "us" ahead of "me."
Wow. You yield a lot of power. What if you deliberately decide to put it to good use for your spouse, minus the cape and the kryptonite?

Deliberately choosing the higher ideal, the good, and the true.

How would that change your 2010?

I hope you do decide to be deliberate, and I hope I get to hear about it.

Happy New Year to everyone from thinkmarriage.org

How about deliberately deciding to become a regular blogger in this New Year? We would all love that!

Monday, December 28, 2009

On Facebook? Retrosexuals and more FB smarts.

Posted by Michele Olson

Your first kiss. Your first love. For some it was way back in the past. You have no idea what they look like today, but you remember all the good things at a much simpler time in your life. That used to be more where the story ended. Now with social networking like Facebook, it’s become much easier to find and connect with a past love. That was the subject of a September article by Claire Suddath in Time Magazine.
The article points out that it is easier than ever to make a connection with an old flame without fear of rejection.
In the old black and white movies, it was dramatic, intentional and took a lot of effort. Today it’s an easy inquiry and the ability to see pictures. Reconnecting even has been given a new term: retrosexuals, first coined by The Boston Phoenix as someone who is taking the plunge into recycled love.

This may be a way to meet someone you could really care about if you are single and your old flame is single. If you are married, or if you are single and your old flame is married, it’s become a real problem. Facebook is actually starting to be cited in many divorce proceedings.

If you are married or in a serious relationship: BEWARE!

Here’s a comment on a blog from someone dealing with the situation:

I wish I would have known about this problem months ago. I’m going through this with my wife of nearly 20 yrs right now! She started IM’ing an old boyfriend. I just thought he was an old friend of hers & everything was “innocent”. She went back to her old hometown & went out with him just “as friends”. Now she has “developed” unexplained feelings for him. MEN BEWARE!! I would have NEVER thought this would happen to my marriage!! NEVER!!

This type of “meeting” on Facebook can start out innocently, which makes it more dangerous. It can start to meet the emotional needs of the participants, leading to an emotional affair first.

For those getting divorced, FB can again cause problems. Pictures you’ve posted or been tagged in can be used in court in a custody case.

Or, your pics and postings can be looked at by a future employer. Don’t think of FB as your private journal. The world is actually watching and has easy access to what you think is private.

We’ve talked about this before on our blog, but it seems to becoming more of a problem. So here’s another reminder, especially for married, engaged and those in a serious relationship.
Think of FB as a fire in which you can get burned. You are not special when it comes this. You are not different. It can ruin a great relationship that you already have.

Be smart about who you “friend.” If you have the desire to seek out an old flame, or even find that if you were being honest with yourself, you are getting an emotional charge from someone on FB that would be inappropriate if you were out meeting for coffee in “real life”, put an end to it. You are going down a rabbit hole that will not end well.

Use this as an opportunity to realize you need to be connecting more with your spouse or serious relationship. Take the time you are putting into FB and put it into a relationship workshop, either online or in a classroom.

Do you have a FB story to relate? Have you found yourself heading down this slippery slope or are you single and had a wonderful reunion with an old flame? Let’s hear your story.

I have to go...I'm going to post this blog link on FB!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cheers to Britain…Seeing the Importance of Marriage!

posted by Michele Olson
Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt writing for the Guardian talk about what we’ve been talking about…marriage! They explore the idea put forth by the Tories Party in the U.K. that Marriage is becoming “a preserve” of middle-classes. Not exactly how we would word it here in the states, but the story is the same. They are concerned about what is happening to traditional marriage and family. If you are familiar with thinkmarriage.org, you know why. What happens to the family has a vast influence on society as a whole. In talking about the need for change, they cite David Willetts , the Tories shadow cabinet member as he refers to all the evidence in our country of how we are in danger of marriage becoming something only for the affluent elite, starting with the upper middle class. He also talks about the break-up of the family as a disaster for children. They are proposing changes and writing papers to influence what is happening with marriage in Great Britain. Latest UK figures show marriage at an all time low with only 270,000 people married last year compared to 480,285 at the peak in 1972. They are having an issue with marriage in their tax system as well…one earner couples get the worst deal, encouraging people to avoid marriage for monetary reasons. They are also talking about relationship courses. Translation: marriage education!

Read the entire article. The world is now much smaller in this day and age, so what other countries do and their attitude toward marriage does affect us in the states. It’s good to see someone in England thinking about more than figgy pudding in this season of celebration.

Time for a Christmas break here too …so from everyone at thinkmarriage.org to you and yours….we wish you a happy, joyous Christmas with special moments for every marriage and healthy relationship! God bless us everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stop Those Holiday Family Arguments!

posted by Michele Olson

Will there be arguing in your home over the upcoming holidays? Rather than just “hoping” it won’t happen this year…why not take a moment to learn some tangible ways to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. An article by Melinda Maximova in Examiner.com sheds some light on the subject. Read these tips and maybe you can diffuse a conflict this holiday season!

The big question is whether you want to diffuse, accommodate or resolve a problem. Here’s the question to ask yourself; How important is the relationship and how important is the goal?

If it’s your spouse, it’s an important relationship. If it’s Great Aunt Matilda who insists every year that you do your reindeer imitations from childhood, it may not be worth the trouble. If the other party is not that interested in the relationship and they would never be interested in establishing a goal together…you may not be able to successfully come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.

But, for those instances when it does matter follow these tips:
1) Identify the common goal. Take your eyes off the conflict and focus on a goal you agree upon. Perhaps no one wants to clean up after a big dinner, but it needs to get done. You can agree on the goal of not leaving the clean up mess to one member of the family.
2) Define the conflict. Describe actions without using labels, explaining feelings and facts.
In the cleaning up issue- don’t throw out the words inconsiderate, lazy and rude. It just won’t get you to your goal!
3) Listen without interruptions. Oh, that can be a tough one, right? Real listening means you are not just planning what you are going to be saying next. Look for areas of agreement and practice empathy for their viewpoint.
4) Restate their position. Paraphrase what you think you heard them say, this helps you with that empathy part of the previous point. You may also discover you are interpreting what they are saying incorrectly. Give them a chance to state if you did hear them correctly.
5) Make a plan of action to end the conflict. Come up with some ideas of how to solve the problem together. Have some fun with it. Talk about the ways you can act differently in the future to prevent a repeat of the same conflict. Brainstorm a solution!

You will probably have some adjustment of this plan based on the specific situation and people involved, but if you will follow the tenants, you will be much better off than just walking away in anger. Arguments are caused by people and arguments can be controlled and managed by people too. Make it a goal of your holiday season to switch up any arguing patterns in your family. That can help restore the Merry to Merry Christmas.

What about your family? Has arguing wrecked your holiday joy in the past?
Full article here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can Science Help You Fall and Stay In Love?

posted by Michele Olson

If we were going on straight logic, you would think anyone who marries more than once would be more successful in any subsequent marriage, right? Statistically we know that’s not the case. Second and third marriages fail even faster. Are we unteachable or what’s the deal?

Consider this article: How Science Can Help You Fall In Love by Robert Epstein writing in Scientific American Mind. Working with his students at University of California in San Diego he observed different techniques tried by students who were complete strangers. Things like gazing into each other’s eyes for a period of time. It did something. It increased the closeness between the people. This led to the idea that there are some specific exercises you can do – deliberately – to increase closeness with your mate. More than 90 percent of the students who tried the recommended exercises reported improvement in their relationships.

This explains why some arranged marriages can do amazingly well…the people grow into love. While most Americans don’t go for the arranged marriage idea, and want to choose love while expecting the fairy tale to last a lifetime, this study suggests that love can actually be learned. By practicing the techniques recommended, love can be built over time. When love is fading, these techniques can rebuild it. So, since we know leaving it all to chance is not working over all, these findings could really make a big difference.
Read the article and leave some comments on what you think. Are you willing to try some of the ideas presented and let us know what happened?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Careful of the Gift You Give to Your Spouse!

posted by Michele Olson
Elizabeth Bernstein writing in the Wall St. Journal has a great article about the problems between couples when one spouse (usually the man) gives a less than welcome gift to the other (usually the woman.)

She goes through many examples of what a man thought was a good gift that left his wife mortified.

Golf stuff…and your wife doesn’t golf.
Heating pads, Listerine, snoring strips and really large flannel nightgowns.
(Everyone, let’s cringe together.)

Obviously, it’s not the thought that counts, but the thoughtlessness.

Or, is it fairer to say, cluelessness?

The guys were thinking it was funny, they were doing something great by buying their wife a new pot to make spaghetti in for them and that their practical side was something their wives appreciated…and that translated into gift giving.

The other problem? Women have the memory of the elephant when it comes to remembering even one bad gift. I’ve been married for over 30 years and I still remember in the first years of our marriage receiving a space heater for an anniversary. The motive was that we had a very cold bathroom which I always complained about. But, my expression to receiving this as a gift on a momentous occasion became a great lesson…don’t do that again! (Gifts have been wonderful ever since.)

The author points out: gift giving is one of the holiday season's unexpected traps: in a season of goodwill toward men, the wrong gift to a woman can strain our marriage bonds. Men may receive less than stellar gifts too, but they don’t seem to care as much.

Finding yourself in the giving or getting end of this article?
Here are some helpful tips:

• When in doubt, go down a size. (In my opinion, unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt where your spouse shops and exactly what style and taste work for them, don’t give clothes.)

• Never give a gift that suggests your spouse is not perfect. No unsolicited exercise equipment, self-help books, wrinkle cremes or nose-hair removers.

• Appliances and cookware are OK only if she asks for them.

• Don't even think about a gift that you will get more enjoyment out of than your spouse.

• Remember: It's not just the thought that counts—especially if you didn't have that thought until the checkout line.

• When all else fails, at least try to create memories.

Good tips. Do you have a story of what has happened with gift giving in your relationship? Share!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Scrapbooking Saved Katie and Charlies Marriage

posted by Michele Olson

Katie Scott of St. Petersburg Florida took a very unique approach to her less than thriving marriage to her husband Charlie. Her story is told in the Dec. 28th issue of First for Women magazine currently on newsstands. Close to five years into her marriage she found herself wondering why her husband couldn’t dress the kids correctly, train the dogs better or get the roof fixed fast enough. She couldn’t even think of an anniversary present to get him…when he could just buy what he wanted for himself. While picking up one day she came across a blank mini scrapbook she had received as a party favor. Though she wasn’t sure Charlie would even care, she decided to make a mini scrapbook for him as a gift.

As she dug through photos of the both of them from their wedding and honeymoon she began to recall how happy they were and what hope they had for their lives together. Looking at the expressions on their faces she felt a warm, fuzzy surge. She decided the theme of her book would be: 10 Reasons I Love You. She put a photo on the left side of the page and then proceeded to say why she loved him in a way that also related to the picture.

The process made her stop focusing on all the things her husband was doing wrong and instead focus on what he had done well. By changing her focus, she began to feel happier about their relationship.

Susan Kuchinskas, author of The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy, and Love (New Harbinger, 2009) says that looking at pictures of your sweetheart kicks off a biochemical chain reaction that “floods your brain with oxytocin.” Oxytocin is the same hormone that helps moms bond with babies and gives us a powerful feeling of love, joy and happiness.

Katie gave Charlie the mini scrapbook on their fifth anniversary. She knew he really liked it when she received a note back on scrapbook paper that read: “I love you, too – I don’t often stop to say that.”

She kept it up and it really made a difference in her marriage…in fact the title of the article is :
Scrapbooking Saved My Marriage. Now ten years into her marriage, her special gift is still a scrapbook.

Looking for a great Christmas gift for your spouse? Take a tip from Katie…make a life-changing scrapbook.

Tell us some things you do to help you concentrate on the good things about your spouse.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Frog, A Princess, A Dad and YOU

posted by Michele Olson

Have you seen the latest Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog?” If you have a young lady in your home about the right age, you probably have seen it…and didn’t have a choice!
Roland C. Warren, writing in the Washington Times had a great article recently about this very movie. But there’s more to his thinking. He points out that "A good father helps his daughter find her prince without kissing all the frogs." We can all agree, there are a lot of frogs out there! (And yes, some not “so ‘princesssy’ people too.)

The press has talked a lot about the fact that this is Disney’s first black princess. There are many young ladies in the African American community who are not living a fairy tale, but instead are part of the story that reflects a low marriage rate and high out-of-wedlock birthrate.

Those facts makes this next point from Mr. Warren even more interesting. He lets us know that Disney is actually working with the National Fatherhood Initiative to market the movie to dads and their families. That’s pretty refreshing! Mr. Warren himself is president of the National Fatherhood Initiative

Want a real life example of someone not created on a computer? He tells the story of our own first lady, Michelle Obama…and the father who made such a difference in her life.

What’s your story? We’d love to hear from Dad’s who are doing the day to day work of being a great dad to a daughter. What advice do you have for our readers? Or are you a daughter who knows your life is better because of your Dad?

Blog away!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Did Ozzie and Harriet Exist?

Posted by Michele Olson
If you are not of a certain age, I first have to explain to you what Ozzie and Harriet represent. There was a TV show that ran from 1952-1966 titled: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. It starred the real life Nelson family – husband and father Ozzie Nelson and his wife singer Harriet Nelson and mother to their young sons. (Ever hear Garden Party by the late Ricky Nelson? This was his life before music fame.) The hit became a picture of what was considered an ideal American life in the 1950s. It’s also the marriage standard that we often long for in today’s microwave society.

But are we remembering correctly?
Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and author of the 2005 book Marriage: A History, says it's "questionable" that marriages of the Ozzie-and-Harriet era were any more stable than those today. In the '50s, "divorce was harder to get, and there were fewer economic options outside marriage," she says.

In her book Stephanie shows the changes marriage has gone through from times past when women were socialized to obey the man, when no one even expected to marry for love. Dr. Dorothy Marcic of Vanderbilt University in reviewing the book said: “Back then, marriage was for economic and social reasons and family and society kept a couple together. Now we expect to marry for love, but as Coontz shows, love is the most fragile part of the equation. Thus, it has meant a change in how we see marriage, a change in behaviors. Not only do we expect emotional intimacy, but women (in Western societies, anyway) are more equal than before. And so marriage continues to evolve. Coontz also shows how robust the institution of marriage is: try to think of many other institutions that have survived for thousands of years. She also gives honest--and personal--insights into the difficulties of sustaining a happy marriage, as well as the rewards. Consider that married couples in Western countries are generally better off emotionally, economically and are healthier than couples living in other types of arrangements.”

So although we saw a huge rise in the divorce rate since the 1950’s we may not be looking at the story behind the statistics. With access to marriage preparation and marriage education at an all time high, perhaps our future will tell a better story than our past when it comes to thriving healthy marriages. At the very least, we can each do our part in our own relationships.

What do you think…have we idealized an era ? Did Ozzie and Harriet truly exist?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Do Argue in Front of the Kids (The Right Way)

posted by Michele Olson

Not in front of the children!” can often be heard as a comment from an arguing spouse. That may not be the best answer if you can disagree and solve the conflict in a positive way in front of your kids. Researchers at University of Notre Dame did some experiments to test what is happening to kids when they are seeing a marital spat. The kid’s level of cortisol, the primary hormone produced by stress, was tested for over 20 years.

As reported on Good Morning America, kids watched actors portraying parents in an arguing state. They seemed to be far less disturbed by the argument if there was a sincere effort to resolve the issue in a positive manner. Kids were happy to see the parents work it out.

The message also comes through: you can disagree, still love each other, and go about your day.

Another finding which should not come as a surprise; children are acutely attuned to the quality of their parent’s relationship. It was also interesting to learn that the typical married couple has about eight disputes a day. Children witnessed these 45% of the time. Even children as young as a year old were sensitive to the temperature of their parent’s relationship.

The key is using disagreements in front of the children to teach them how a conflict can be resolved in a good way. If you are a couple who fights and you don’t reach a positive resolution, even if you don’t fight right in from of the kids…they can sense the tension in the home. If you fight in front of the kids and don’t resolve the conflict in a positive manner, you are causing high stress levels in your children. Take the time to learn how to resolve conflicts in a positive way. At thinkmarriage.org, we teach skills on how to resolve conflicts and have positive communication in a relationship. Take advantage of our learn opportunities or seek out proven programs that teach communication and conflict resolution.

Make the time to learn how to disagree as a couple. It has a huge impact on your children.
Do you have a story to share on this subject?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So, Facebook is the Problem, Right?

posted by Michele Olson
Facebook has become such a phenomenon that it’s warranted a book for married couples and those in a serious relationship. Jason and Kelli Krafsky have written a book to be released in Feb. 2010 called Facebook and Your Marriage. Mary Jo Rapini writes about the book in her Houston Love and Relationships column and includes many of the tips that the book will talk about.

Creating boundaries, setting your relationship status to married, the willingness to share your username and password with your mate, not looking up old flames, not talking about your problems with your mate on Facebook, not private chatting with someone of the opposite sex and not letting people know one or both of you are out of town are just a few of the tips. (This could also be seen as an invitation to burglars…because your comments get posted on non-friends pages depending on how the conversation goes)

It’s all good info, but the reaction from the comments is also worth reading. The first comment brings up a good point: if you’re getting to the point you can’t Facebook chat because someone is worried about cheating, you have bigger issues.

That’s the bigger question that things like Facebook pose to us. Is it the opportunity to cheat that pushes us over the brink and causes it, or is it a heart decision that just takes whatever path is available at anytime? Some social media comment makes it sound like we are innocent victims with no brains who are unknowingly drawn into affairs, emotional or otherwise, and if we don’t follow some rules, we have no ability to make a good decision. Those who had no intentions but just set out to look up an old flame may argue they did not intend for anything to happen. But is that truthful?

While it may be easier to cheat in the privacy of your own home than it has ever been, it still seems to come back to decisions about your own personal character and how you will conduct yourself. Then comes the honesty and communication that you have going on with your spouse. Does trust only exist if there’s always absolute proof? Is Facebook the problem…or is there a greater issue underneath?

What do you think? Do two people have to know EVERYTHING about each other in order to remain faithful or one will fall down an abyss of lust or emotional need?

I hope we’re better than that. I hope we’re more mature than that. I hope it hasn’t come to that.

What do you think?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Facts About the Mancession

Posted by Michele Olson

What has the “Great Recession” meant for marriages? According to a report by the National Marriage Project out of the University of Virginia, a lot!

Working class men with no college education have been the group that has taken the brunt of job losses. Add that to this statistic; men are 61 percent less likely to be happy in a marriage if they work fewer hours than their wives.

That has coined a new phrase: Mancession. This trend has been causing a rift between couples where one spouse has a college degree and the other, less education. It’s all in the 2009 “State of Our Unions” report issued today.

The report shows: Divorce fell during the first full year of the Great Recession, the first annual dip since 2005. While that may sound grand, the trend may be following what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. That trend suggests that couples are delaying divorce because they can’t afford to live apart. That just adds to the truth of the Myth #2 in our free Marriage Myth Buster Guide…getting and staying married is by far the best strategy for accumulating assets and wealth.

That’s just one of the findings in this vast report which you can view for yourself. Take a look and come back and tell us what reactions you have to the report. We’d like to hear from you!

Is there a “Mancession” in your home?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Affairs, Emotional and Otherwise

posted by Michele Olson

Here we go again. Another major celebrity in the news for a possible affair. You have to wonder if fame and fortune aren’t part of the recipe for an affair, and how many people can keep their heads on straight when it happens to them. (No excuses, but fame and fortune people should really be taking classes on how not to let it ruin your relationships!)
Most of us “every day” people will not deal with fame and fortune in our lives…but we do have something in common. Much of what leads to an affair begins first in our heads…which is now called an emotional affair. We have past blogs on ways to “build hedges” around your marriage. Check them out. Meanwhile, here’s a recent online question and answer from columnist Carolyn Hax of Washington Post and also syndicated to many papers around the country. It answers the question very succinctly of how to end an emotional affair. If you are starting down that path, or know someone who is…pass this letter along. Heed the advice.

No affair is worth the devastation that follows. Here's Carolyn's article.

Dear Carolyn:
How do I go about ending an "emotional affair"? I don't even know whether the other person involved would classify it as such, but I know my husband would, so I feel I should get out. However, the guy is a longtime friend and has done nothing wrong, so I feel strange about a formal "breakup."

For Question Mark,
Pull away. Reveal less. Invest more in your husband, consciously. You can do these to nudge yourself toward balance. If it turns out you can't get balance by increments, then you're going to need to say something along the lines of, "I'm coming to believe the amount of my time and myself that I share with you is unfair to my husband."
For Question Mark:
For what it's worth, it is very likely your husband knows you have a relationship that detracts from your marriage. Unrequited love/like has a way of creating a loneliness that others pick up on but may not be able to qualify. In addition to trying to pull back from the person who is your current distraction, try being honest with your husband by saying something like, "I know I've been distant, and I really want to try to reconnect."
I think you will find it easier to put this "emotional affair" behind you if you have a real purpose in front of you: rebuilding your marriage with help from the necessary parties.

Good advice from Carolyn. Have you been in an emotional affair? Did you end something that you saw was becoming an emotional affair?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Your Marriage Mission Statement

Posted by Michele Olson
Interesting thought from a Business Daily Africa article. Author Melissa Thoma reflects on how important it is for every business to have a mission statement. The purpose of a mission statement is to get everyone on the same page. Everyone in the company should understand what the ultimate goal is for the business. A good mission statement also provides for the individual in the company to play a role in engaging their skills to bring about the greater mission. There’s a clear sense of purpose and agreement on strategies to reach the goal.

This got the author wondering, “What is my marital mission statement?”

That’s worth giving some thought.

The article goes on to ask: What’s the highest motivating force behind your union? Having children? Supporting one another? What would you say?

Once you answer that question you can move on to strategies- a game-plan if you will -to make sure you keep on track with your mission.

Melissa shares what all this means for her and her husband. Read their mission statement and consider making a marriage mission statement with your spouse!

Care to share? What would be your basic marriage mission statement?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In Doubt But Still Going Through With the Wedding

Posted by Michele Olson

Sitcoms do a good job of showing us of people getting cold feet right before the wedding. Friends and family always tell the person: “This is normal, everyone gets cold feet.”

But when should you pay attention to those thoughts and feelings? In a USA Today article today, reporter Sharon Jayson shed some light on the subject. The story includes info on several books by Carl Weisman. He wrote a book called So Why Have You Never Been Married? 10 Insights Into Why He Hasn’t Wed. When a divorced woman he knows made the comment that she didn’t listen to her inner voice before she married, she knew she was going to be divorced before she even married her husband, he had another book idea. This caused Weisman to survey over 1,000 people and write: Serious Doubts, Why People Marry When They Know it Won’t Last.

In his interviews he found a common thread; these people ignored their "inner voice" warning them against the marriage. He states this is different than pre-wedding jitters.

Another author Andrea Candell wrote: His Cold Feet: A Guide for the Woman Who Wants to Tie the Knot With the Guy Who Wants to Talk About it Later. How’s that for a book title? She too found a difference between cold feet and more serious reservations.

The article sites several “why’s” for this practice of marrying when you know all is not well:
1) Not heeding early warning signs and advice of family and friends.
2) Thinking it will work out in the end and deciding to go through with it.
3) Pregnancy
4) Thinking the person is too good to pass up, even though there is no spark.
5) Getting engaged and letting that whole process take over along with the fantasy of happily ever after.
6) Not wanting to hurt their partner and believing they can learn to love them
7) Thinking they won’t find someone else.

The in-depth article points out that researchers are doing more scientific studies on the subject.
Pre-marital counseling and education are mentioned as one of the ways that people can discover they should or shouldn’t be married.

Other factors that keep people going toward the alter when they feel they aren’t sure:
*They feel ready to be married or at the right age to be married.
*Feelings of : If I don’t take advantage of this, I may miss out on this opportunity.

Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver points out that co-habitation can be part of the problem. Some of these couples who ended up marrying would never have reached the alter if they had not been living together. They "slide" into the decision to marry rather than "deciding" to marry.

It’s an interesting article and hopefully talking about it will get someone in the situation of not being sure to really think through the decision. Even the “best divorce” if there is such a thing, is a painful ordeal. It’s clear that one of the better ways to really discover if you are right for each other is pre-marital education. Check into what is available in your community for pre-marital education and know that thinkmarriage.org does offer this resource in the form of classes in Wisconsin and online for everyone at thinkmarriage.org. The engagement check up is right on our home page, and online classes will run throughout the year.

Don’t enter into marriage unsure. It’s not worth it. You have options and resources.
Did you marry knowing it wasn't right for you? Tell us your story.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Other Very High Cost of War

posted by Michele Olson
The news has just come out that the divorce rate in the armed forces continues to grow, despite the efforts of the military to help struggling couples.

The sad number? About 27,312 divorces among the active duty Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in a 12 month period. Marriage failure among reservists also went up one percent.

As in previous years, women in uniform suffered much higher divorce rates than men in uniform: 7.7 percent compared to 3 percent.

The military does know it‘s a problem and they are doing something. Retreats, couples’ counseling and workshops aimed at easing the strains of separation are offered. thinkmarriage.org has brought programming to military in our area.

But not everyone chooses to participate.

These statistics do not take into account veterans who divorce after leaving the service, or other war time consequences such alcoholism, and mental illness related to stress. It does also does not account for troubled marriages.

Day to day life can be very stressful without war, what about life with your loved ones placed in harms way daily?

Even though much is being done, it may not be enough. Even more skill building programs may have to be interwoven with other trainings for those deployed and the families left behind. Perhaps life skills need to become as high a priority as weapon skills.

As President Obama readies to speak the nation about more troops to Afghanistan, hopefully the powers that be are also counting the cost of what war does to marriage.

How about you? Are you in a military marriage? What tips do you have to survive the service with a marriage intact and thriving?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We Can Help Pooh and You With The Middle

Posted by Michele Olson
Pooh is writing a story and he asks Piglet for some help. He tells him he has the beginning and the end...Piglet wants to know what he's written so far. "Once upon a time" and "They lived happily ever after." He's looking for help with the middle.
It's much the same with marriage. The beginning goes very well. It's the making it to the "happily ever after" that seems to cause the most trouble. Oh bother! If you don't know where to begin, I suggest our website, thinkmarriage.org
Life today is complicated. Just as we need more education to make it in society than we did years ago, we need more education to make it in our marriages. Just "hoping" doesn't cut it anymore. We need to learn the skills of how to handle our emotions, talk to another person, communicate effectively and live a life of balance as a couple. We just aren't born with that ability as the divorce rate shows. We need to learn it, and we need to keep getting refresher courses about it...just as any well educated person does. The learning never stops. But the stakes are much higher than they are for a diploma. The well -being of society ultimately depends on the family staying intact, strong and thriving.
A good place to begin is our "Check Ups", available from our website. There are versions for dating, engaged and married. Just as we know that preventative medicine catches a lot of potential problems...so do relationship check ups.
We also offer relationship coaching, available in person locally or online or phone for anyone in the country. Coaching is often just what a couple needs to get to where they would like to be in their relationship. Check our class calendar for on the ground and on line workshops.
It's not an easy road to get to "happily ever" after as Pooh is discovering. Anyone who has made it beyond "once a upon a time" also knows that to be true. Take advantage of the excellent tools and skills available for your journey. A healthy relationship that works is as sweet as a pot of honey!
During this time of Thanksgiving...what are you thankful for about your loved ones?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Telling How You Met May Tell All

posted by Michele Olson

Psychology Today sometimes reruns articles…the ones that are particularly interesting or struck a chord with a crowd. They reran a very interesting article on the importance of examining how you recall your “love story” or how you met as a couple. In fact, author Suzanne Leanord recounts how psychologist John Gottman Ph.D felt that after listening to the oral history of 52 couples, he could predict with 94 percent accuracy which couple were going to separate and which were there for the duration. All based on how they told the story.

Interesting right?

The article points out that once there is a decline in the quality of the marital relationship, it sets off a downward spiral that is hard to reverse without active effort. (Plug here for online classes and healthy relationship coaching = effort on a couples part. Available from thinkmarriage.org)

When this downward spiral occurs, disappointment become easier to recall than the high points in the relationship. The article states: “Whether the recasting of history is a sudden or gradual process, the turning point is always marked by the emergence of contempt. When couples view each other as having lasting qualities that they loathe, it’s mighty hard to turn back the tide.”

The article goes on to describe couples in a stable marriage as talking positively and remembering positively about details of their relationship.

A sure tell tale sign of problems ahead? If a husband is telling the story in a disillusioned fashion. Things like:“ I wish we had waited longer to get married.”

Is fondness part of the retelling? Those in a good relationship tend to minimize the bad times and emphasize the good. When criticism is part of the story telling, that’s another bad sign.

In fact, contented couples could have the exact same experience as disgruntled couples, and tell the stories in a whole different light…in a positive manner. The author points out that we walk around with the stories of our relationship in our heads. The tone evolves based on our current emotions, but the overall tone can affect how we will treat our spouses in the future.

Listen to how your spouse…or how you tell the story of your chance encounter or the friendship that led to marriage. Really listen. What do you hear?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comments From the World of Faith

Posted by Michele Olson

Today's blog contains two thoughts from the Christian faith, excerpts from a pastoral letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops titled “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan” and an interesting, thought provoking article from a site called Marriagepartnership.com

Excerpts from the Bishops letter:
Noting that “couples too often reflect a lack of understanding of the purposes of marriage,” the document states that “marriage is a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, by mutual consent between a man and a woman, and ordered towards the good of the and the procreation of offspring.

Marriage is not merely a private institution,” the bishops wrote. “It is the foundation for the family, where children learn the values and virtues that will make good Christians as well as good citizens.”

Also stated: “Marriage does not exist solely for the reproduction of another member of the species, but for the creation of a communion of persons.”

"People are entering into marriage probably without an adequate appreciation of the beauty of marriage and the gift that it is," Archbishop O'Brien said. "The document is meant to strengthen Christian marriage, to prepare people who are going to be married before they enter that bond to appreciate what the commitment is, and also to open a discussion in our culture as to what the differences are today and to try to reach some common ground

Read the full article from the Catholic News Agency here.

Next, Mark E. Smith writing for Marriage Partnership.com in an article titled The Secret Mind-blowing Actual Purpose of Marriage And how it has your parents written all over it, proposes a very interesting theory. To understand what he is proposing, read the entire article, but the bottom line point he makes is this: “The truth is that our particular family dysfunction conspires to form and twist us into who we uniquely are—both good and bad. It even determines who you're attracted to. Whatever wounding you repress from childhood develops and morphs into your love life type.”

I don't think I have ever heard that theory put forth before.
Lots to chew on and think about from the world of faith. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

African American, Married with Kids and Thriving

Posted by Michele Olson
You have probably seen the social science research and statistics on the problems with marriage in the African American community. The numbers are dismal.
Lamar and Ronnie Tyler were fed up with hearing about the lack of strong black family’s, so they did something about it. They launched a website and made a movie. Their goal is to connect black couples and families. Their DVD is called "Happily Ever After: A Positive Image Of Black Marriage." It’s number one on Amazon's African American best sellers list.
In these Fox news interviews, the couple talks about why they are doing what they are doing. They felt that African American families should not have to name a fictional couple, The Huxtables from the Bill Cosby show fame, as one of the few examples of a strong black marriage.
It's refreshing to hear about what they are doing. Explore their website and watch the videos and then tell us what you think.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Advice For Those Thinking of or About to Walk Down the Aisle

Posted by Michele Olson

Ken Potts, a Chicago Daily Herald columnist has a unique perspective….he’s a minister, a marriage therapist, a husband and a writer. So, he sees a lot of what’s happening in marriage and he’s able to express it well.
From the starry eyed couples who want to get married to those coming through his door when the “happily ever after” didn’t quite meet up to the expectations Ken sees the before and after of the journey.

His Sunday column focuses on some marriage myths that engaged couples tend to bring to the altar. The problem with myths is: they aren’t based on truth. We walk around making important decisions based on false assumptions. As I’ve said before in this blog; that’s not something we want for anyone. Pain and disillusionment are usually the result.

Ken covers:
1. "The hard part is over." Getting to the point of marriage was the hard part and now it’s time to coast. An attitude that sets people up for problems.

2. "I really know the person I married." We really get to know someone after we are married in a way we can’t before we are married. Changing age and circumstances also changes us.

3. "We both know what it means to be married." Have you ever really had your job description totally match the job itself? Marriage is the same way….the job description doesn’t always match up to the reality.

4. "We'll live happily ever after." Then there’s that little problem of conflict. It’s how we deal with those conflicts that make the difference.

5. "We'll always be this much in love." Learning the difference between romance and love. And there is a difference!

Ken expounds on these points and gives some good food for thought for every seriously dating, engaged and newly married couple to ponder.

Speaking of good food for thought…have you seen the “check-up” opportunities on our home web page?

Check it out…Check ups for dating, engaged and married. A great opportunity to work on your healthy relationship.

Read Ken’s column and comment here…what do you think of his myths and would you like to add a few?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bill Cosby and Michael Wolfe Said the Wrong Thing

posted by Michele Olson
Michael Wolfe, a Dad and husband writes a very true, yet amusing Westport News opinion column that I think will give you a smile. If married, you will probably see yourself or what you’ve felt somewhere in the article.

Michael travels for years and he and his wife have an ongoing battle about how much he is out of the house and not engaged in their day to day lives with the kids. The situation changes and he works from home. As the usual chaotic morning routine with kids and the school bus and “he hit me, she took my pencil arguments” start in the morning; he dares to utter some words of advice.


His description of his wife’s reaction reminds me of the great chocolate cake story from Bill Cosby. If you’ve never seen it or need a good laugh today…revisit it.

Michael makes a comment about communication in marriage and how sometimes it’s better to not talk and be quiet. Michael, we have some great classes that can help you find the happy medium…it’s not just communicating…it’s how you communicate. That’s the type of skills we teach at thinkmarriage.org

Enjoy Michael and Bill today…it will remind you of some of those times that weren’t funny at the moment, but might be funny now.

Any good stories of your own to share?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who You Gonna Call? Marriage Myth Busters!

posted by Michele Olson

At thinkmarriage.org , we’re marriage myth busters from way back…in fact…we have a free guide we’d love to mail you called appropriately Marriage Myth Buster Guide. The truth is there are quite a few myths to bust! Many people base their opinions, habits and decisions regarding marriage on logic that doesn’t hold up statistically or in research. As a result, they’re making life choices based on false information.

That’s a little scary, isn’t it?

Here’s a great article and video where WCCO presents some marriage myths put forth by Dr. Bill Doherty, a therapist, professor and author…and champion in the healthy marriage movement.

He addresses myths about living together, waiting to get married until you can afford it, the ability to revive a struggling marriage, who gains the most from being married and the fact that if you are divorced, your kids can’t wait for you to remarry.

The video section is well worth watching too and has additional info.

Take a look and listen and then let us know what was "new news" to you. Don’t forget, we have a free Myth Buster Guide just for the asking.

What do you think is one of the biggest marriage myths that people are misinformed about?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Money Was OK and Then It Wasn’t

posted by Michele Olson

In all the talk of money, finances and couples, the bent leans toward newlyweds and early marriage. Who will do what. Working it out.

Ron Lieber writing for the New York Times brings up a good point that his readers brought up to him; financial issues that come up years later in a marriage because the economy and life has changed the norm in the marriage.

Aging relatives.

Kids in college.

Job loss and revenue reduction.

After some years into a marriage you, have a lifestyle pattern. With recent economic developments, the rug can be pulled right out from under you. Your marriage needs a readjustment along with your coin purse.

The good news is, what worked for you back in the day to get your finances on track in a way that was mutually satisfying, will probably work for you again in the communication department. How did you overcome the initial stress and challenge of dealing with money as a couple? That may be the first place to reflect upon as you face new obstacles.

The current “sandwich” generation faces a tough road ahead as their parents don’t have enough money and their kids can’t find high paying jobs with mounting college debt. Communicating as a couple is going to be crucial to weathering the economic storm that many partners find themselves in. A refresher marriage education course may be just what the doctor, or should we say “the economy” ordered.

How about you? Have you been married a while and then seen your economic picture change?
How has it affected your relationship?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Could a Game Help With Your Money Attitudes?

posted by Michele Olson

What are your money habits? What money habits did you bring into your marriage?
Did you ever hear your parents say: don’t tell dad or don’t tell mom? How did that affect your future dance with money?

As money gets tighter for just about everyone, money attitudes are really coming to the surface for many couples.

Here’s a great “game” and program that can get you talking about your money “habitudes” as the game refers to them in a way to that is productive and sensitive. It's called Money Habitudes. Rather than just thinking the other person is wrong or crazy, money habitudes points you towards goals and commonalities.

Invented by Syble Solomon, her game was the result of her interest in couple’s inability to have little or no communication about how they came to money decisions.

She found that people run the gamut from keeping their spending a secret, knowing what is healthy but choosing not to spend money that way and spouses who have no interest in managing money and being totally clueless about their financial future.

Making the learning available in a card game format helps people engage in productive conversations about money and understand the habits and attitudes that influence their actions and decisions regarding money. There are versions for teens and couples.

What a great engagement or wedding gift idea!

If you are a couple struggling with talking about money, Money Habitudes could put you on the right path, and you just might have some fun along the way.

Blog question: Are you able to talk about money as a couple? What “habitudes” did you automatically bring to your marriage that caused some problems and how have you dealt with them ?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dad in the Home Involvement Linked to Mom

posted by Michele Olson

Laurie Tarkan writing in a Nov. 3rd New York Times article touts a study by Sara S. McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton. Called the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study it has some findings that fathers and mothers should pay attention to.

One of the findings: a mother’s support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with his children…even if the couple is divorced. Rather than just talking about “father involvement” which we hear a lot about these days, the idea is about the involvement of the couple.

The better the couple gets along, the better it is for the child. That sounds simple, but it’s often lost sight of when adults focus on their happiness.

What does get along mean? Perhaps you can give yourself a little self quiz while you ponder these points:
*Willingness to compromise
*Expressing affection or love for your partner
*Encouraging or helping your partner do things that are important to them
*An absence of insult or criticism

When these things are happening, the father is much more likely to be engaged in the home.

Researchers Philip and Carolyn Cowan also point out that fathers have been accused of uninvolvement in their children’s lives based on a lack of motivation. But instead many societal standards have added to the problem. Family resource centers are pink with magazines geared to women, and the mother is the person approached by outside sources. The father is viewed as a secondary parent.

But the mother is very much the key in the father’s involvement. Her attitude toward the father’s bent to do things differently, to act like a father rather than a mother was a key important finding in the research. Dad’s often have a different discipline style and a different style of play. Different, not bad or worse. It’s mom’s attitude toward this that has a huge impact on dad’s involvement.

The gold standard is a mom and dad in the home, parenting together in harmony. In these homes where mom and dad are working together and dad is involved in child rearing the children were much less aggressive, hyperactive, depressed or socially withdrawn.

Sounds like another reason for mom’s and dad’s to be working on the marriage and parenting, Your kids really do benefit. Your day to day choices and behavior really do matter.

Thoughts on these thoughts? Blog!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I'm a Mrs. for 31 Years and Website Input!

Website questions in a moment but first…

Today is my 31st anniversary. 31 years…married to Raymond Olson. I remember when we were first married, we dreamed that way in the future …on our fifth anniversary, we would go to Hawaii. Well, a few years later, we still haven’t gone. But that’s OK. We’d rather skip the flight and be at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island!

Easiest thing I ever did to get and stay married for 31 years?


I don’t believe that two people spending their lives together is the easy way. As Sara Groves says, loving another person is no small thing.

Best thing I ever did?


We may be the only people in the world who had spaghetti at our wedding reception of 400. Everyone had a bib supplied too. It was just the beginning of our adventure together.
I realize every day the rewards of a long marriage. That’s why I’m happy to be writing this blog to encourage everyone along the way and learning a lot myself too. Don’t take what a blessing it is to be married for granted…even in the hard times. The work is worth it. Happy Anniversary Mr. Raymond Olson, you are a treasure and I'll love you forever.

We are working on our new website and want your input! We also want to add a section to the website called “Consider This” devoted to exploring trends and thought for and against marriage with commentary by Executive Director Susan Dutton Freund. Put your thoughts here on this blog to let us know any thoughts you have and also go to our website and vote yes or no in the poll area.

thinkmarriage.org exists for people like you. Let us hear from you!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Teens and Your Marriage

posted by Michele Olson

Need another reason to work on your marriage especially when you have children? Don’t be too shocked, but those little kids are one day going to grow up to be teenagers.

Raising teenagers? Said to be like nailing jello to a tree!

Your teenagers and your marriage? Interesting combination ripe with all the elements of a fourth of July fireworks show.

Want a way to cut down on the drama?

One study showed: “Even when controlling for maternal characteristics and background characteristics, adolescents living with both biological parents who were continuously married exhibited lower levels of problem behavior than peers from any other family type.”*

The truth is that teenagers can add stress to your marriage. Instead of crisis being fueled by outside sources, they can come from within.

Teens driving.

Just those two words can cause any parent to seem like a deer in headlights.

Little kids, little problems. Big kids, well…you know the rest.

If there were ever a time you need to be working on your communication and conflict resolutions skills in your marriage, it’s during these years. Spend some time in the pre-teen years talking about how you will parent with some of the bigger life issues. Keep the lines of communication open and work on the day to day unity so you will be on the same page when something arises with a teen. Continue to take the time to be together as a couple and to talk openly about your thoughts on parenting.

Stay committed. Don’t let the kids pit you against each other. A strong marriage is a really good tool when raising teens.

Some of the best advice I ever got? Don’t get on the roller coaster. Your kids are going to be on the roller coaster and they need their parents to stay on the ground while they go up and down through their teen years.

If you are in the midst of a hard time, remember this will not be forever. They are going to grow up, mature and leave the nest. Don’t forget to enjoy the absolute refreshingly original ideas that can come from your teen. Pick your battles.

Be brave little buckaroos. This too shall pass. God speed.

Raising teenagers and your marriage? Got any tips?

*Source: “Family Structure, Father Involvement, and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes”
Carlson, Marcia J. Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 68, Number 1. February, 2006. Page(s) 137-154.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Everyone Intends to Stay Married…So What’s the Problem?

posted by Michele Olson

(Paraphrased from smartmarriages.com)

Typical scenario.

Boy meets girl. Spark. Interest. Courtship of some kind. Next, they actually feel so strongly about each other that they agree to spend the rest of their lives together.

Those are some pretty strong feelings to be able to make a decision like that.

Engagement. Marriage.

What is one of the number indicators as to whether this couple will not end up in divorce?
Is it a guess, a shake of the dice, something no one can predict?


In fact, researchers can now predict with 90% accuracy which engaged couples will fail or succeed.

It’s those who never fight…never disagree on anything…right? Wrong!

Successful couples have the same number of disagreements as those who end up divorcing.

And they all fight about pretty much the same things: in-laws, housework, sex, kids, money and time. So..what’s the deal?

It all comes down to how they fight, how they handle their differences. The couples who “make it “ disagree in a way that makes their relationship stronger…not in a way that tears it apart. The good news is; destructive skills can be unlearned. Shiny new effective skills can be learned about communication and conflict resolution.

The question is…do you want to be in the 90 percentile?
We can help with classes, online and on the ground and relationship coaching. www.thinkmarriage.org Thoughts?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Obama Marriage and a Great Video

posted by Michele Olson

Great music video to watch…but first…

If you want to be on the cutting edge, you can get a preview of the Sunday New York Times Magazine article that is going to focus on President Obama and the first lady’s marriage, with insight into the time before the White House.
They talk about the bumps in their marriage and have no desire to be held up some kind of Camelot image, much like we saw in the Kennedy White House years. The acknowledgement that even good marriages are not easy is good for the country, particularly newly married couples who are starting to hit those everyday bumps and feeling that they are experiencing something out of the ordinary. It’s good for young couples to realize that the marriages they may admire now of long-time married couples are not necessarily where they are because the road was easy. In business, if you want to emulate a successful company, don’t copy what they are now, copy what they did to get where they are now.
It’s the same for marriage.
Copy what a couple did to get where they are…which means they have done some work on how to communicate and resolve conflict in a way they both find satisfying. Read the article and let us know what you think.

Now! Great video by Sara Groves…the song is “It’s Me” and it does a wonderful job of showing a couple losing their closeness. The words include the phrase “How can tenderness be gone in the blink of an eye?” It’s the perfect scenario for the need for marriage and healthy relationship education. Everyone will relate to the feelings portrayed and happily the answer is to learn the skills to deal with those moments rather than being left to a feeling of emptiness and hurt.

Watch and comment…what did it make you think of?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not Just N1H1, Immunize Against an Emotional Affair!

Posted by Michele Olson
In a New York Post article, Dr. Keith Ablow talks about the idea that almost all marriages are difficult. He proposes that idea should be a relief to any husband or wife who thinks that life as usual after a 5 or 10 year marriage, and the normalcy that sets in, is happening to “just them.”

Dr. Ablow says that living together dissolves a lot of the boundaries that women and men normally experience. We see each other all the time, hair out of place, not dressed up…the real deal. This can lead to walls of silence and resentment…possibly as a way to just get some personal space.

Interesting idea.

He believes this is where men and women are vulnerable to emotional affairs. His five point plan to prevent that includes:

1) Don’t assume you know everything about your spouse. He points out that people in a marriage can remain strangers for a lifetime. It brings to mind taking your spouse for granted by the way you could ignore exploring their ideas or feelings. This is not the way you would treat a new acquaintance.
2) If you’ve become distant, make it a point to explore the emotional life of your spouse.
3) A tactic? Ask your spouse to share with you three things, which could include childhood, that they have never shared with another person.
4) Then you do the same thing. Share three things. Basically you are becoming more vulnerable to each than you are to anyone else.
5) Trade three secrets about what you crave sexually, even if it ‘s fantasy. (For example, your spouse can’t literally fly in on a magic carpet if that’s what you would find exciting.)

Dr. Ablow says these five steps are like a vaccine against the real epidemic of emotional affairs.

What do you think about the idea of taking a spouse for granted over time? Is it easy to fall into a pattern and stop seeing the other person for who they really are?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Fan and a Critic = The Best of Both Worlds

posted by Michele Olson
Are you a fan or a critic in your relationship? What about being a little of each? Author Mike Robbins, writing in a recent Huffington Post blog reflects on what viewing a re-commitment ceremony meant to him, and how it challenged his thinking. As the Reverend told the couple that their job was to be each other’s biggest fan and their greatest critic for the purpose of the person’s spiritual development, he had an “a-ha” moment.

What is often seen as opposite when viewed from a less than mature attitude can if fact be a basis for the success of a healthy relationship when there is the proper sense of “trust, connection and authenticity.”

He goes on to define what a real fan is: focusing on what we appreciate about someone and a willingness to let them know in a loving and generous way. This is done without agenda or manipulation as the motive.

A conscious critic is described as saying things that may be scary or even hurtful in the eyes of the receiver without being critical or judgmental. It’s freedom to give and receive feedback in a productive, positive and kind way…to stop these things from getting in between two people and hurting their relationship.

Now….you can see the potential for disaster if we are not ascribing to the better angels of our nature in either of these circumstances. You can also see the potential for true closeness if both people in the relationship will really have their act together and step up to the plate with emotional wholeness and sincerity.
That IF there is huge, isn't it?

He goes on to describe some tools such as using your Relationship GPS. Let your appreciation be genuine, personal and specific.

Clear your withholds. This is something you are holding on to that you haven’t shared with the other person. He gives a clear definition of what this means.

Ask for what you want. The clearer about what we want from other people around us, the more likely we are to have the type of genuine mutually beneficial relationship we want.

Great observations and worth thinking about, but possibly needing some real communication skills as a basis to make it happen. thinkmarriage.org has online and in person resources to learn those skills. Keep that in mind if you feel overwhelmed.

Are you a critic and fan in your marriage? Does it work? What makes it work?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Married, Married and Money

Posted by Michele Olson
Great article by Ron Lieber in The New York Times on Money Talks to Have Before Marriage.
Recognizing that a divorce can be not only emotionally devastating, but financially devastating as well, this article brings up four things that couples should be talking about BEFORE they marry.

Here’s an overview….

How did your parents deal with money? Because many of our money habits are learned, it’s important to talk about money attitudes that we might not even realize we have. For example, did one parent hide money from the other? Did you see your parents talk about money? What kind of emotions do those memories evoke?

Have you compared credit scores? While not particularly romantic it does open up an honest discussion of where you are financially, and how you got there. It’s also an opportunity to fix anything that is in error, or you can “clean up” which may allow you as a couple to get better rates for future loans.

Who is going to pay the bills in your house or are you going to do it together? It can become a huge control issue in your marriage if you don’t agree. Here’s another pivotal question: If one person is making most of the money, do they make most of the financial decisions?

Here’s one couples really don’t talk about: How rich do you want to be someday? Are you on the same path or do you have very different ideas of where you want to go when it comes to money?

These are great topics to be talking about pre-marriage, and thoughts you probably have to revisit as a married couple. Here's an interesting article from Redbook Magazine on How Couples Share Their Money...worth the read too.

Engaged? Are you talking about money?
Married? Did you talk about money pre-marriage? How has money affected your relationship?
Divorced? Did money play a role in the demise of your marriage?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Housework = More Sex. Do You Agree?

Posted by Michele Olson
You might be noticing the new study out by the Journal of Family Issues getting some buzz in the news. It basically says that the more housework you both do in the marriage, the more likely you are often to have sex with your spouse. The link even held up for those respondents who believed that it was the wife’s role to handle the housework.

The findings really popped for those high achiever type of individuals who take a "work hard, play hard" approach to life. The study also found a correlation between hours spent on paid work and the frequency of sex in marriage. One logical conclusion not mentioned might be that when both spouses work, there is less expectation on one spouse’s part that the other will do the majority of the housework. There could be a more natural bent to realizing the chores have to be shared.

It could be that housework is an obvious sign that both of the spouses are willing to invest in shared interests…many hands make light loads. Both parties recognize the fairness of sharing in the work. Less resentment means happier people. Happier people may be more open to more sex.

Worth a try? If your love life is lacking and there is a chasm in the chore sharing around your house, it may be the very thing to add the spark you’ve been looking for.

We also know that there are basically five ways that people feel loved by how they are treated. They are called the Five Love Languages, a book by Dr. Gary Chapman. It could be that one of the five; “acts of service” is the love language of many of those who responded in the study.
(Not acquainted with love languages? Take a quick test to know what type of love language is your type.)

What do you think? Do you agree with the study’s findings?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Domestic Violence and You

Posted by Michele Olson

SAFETY ALERT: If you are in danger, please call 911, your local hotline, or (in the U.S.) the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

This is the warning on domestic violence websites that has saved many lives.

Before October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, it was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Awareness is a good part of the title, because unless you are the victim of domestic violence you may tend to turn your head the other way and see it as someone else’s personal business.

All State has done a great job of taking up this cause through their foundation and telling the story of abused people on Youtube. Go check out the stories of strength and hope.

Other good resources to learn more:

National Coalition Against Domestic violence

Domestic Violence Awareness project which includes a message from President Obama
Domestic violence safety tips

thinkmarriage.org mourns all who have died because of domestic violence and celebrates every survivor and anyone who does something to end the violence. All thinkmarriage.org instructors are sensitive to and trained in domestic violence prevention. We encourage you to take a moment to learn more about domestic violence in your area. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please call the hotline numbers listed above.

Do you have a story to share? Or, are you planning what you can do now to be a part of the solution? We'd love to hear your thoughts.