Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thanks Ralph

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson gave us a benchmark for success with this enduring poem:


To laugh often and love much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To give of one's self;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived...

This it to have succeeded.

Perhaps today we can take some “poetic license” and apply it to successful relationships and marriages…

When it comes to your spouse, this day, this week, have you….
Made a point to laugh often and love much?
Won the respect and affection of your spouse and children?
Welcomed honest criticism and figured out who in your life encourages or discourages your marriage?
Looked for beauty and the best in your spouse?
Given of yourself in meaningful ways?
Left the world a better place because of how you behaved in your marriage?
Played, laughed with enthusiasm and sang the praises of your spouse?
Do you know that your spouse’s life is better because you two are together.

This is to have succeeded at marriage.

Thanks Ralph.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dissecting a Happy Marriage

Posted by Michele Olson

A few of our prior blogs touched on some news lately about a study that takes into consideration your future marital success based on your smile meter in past photos.

We’ve also touched on the news of how having children affects a marriage. Lots of feedback comments on that blog! touches these subjects along with some other points in an article entitled: Hunting for the secrets of a happy marriage by A. Pawlowski

The article delves into a look at what causes stress in a relationship and what has been shown to keep the spark alive.

Some interesting highlights of the article:

· Spouses who were the most romantic before the birth of a child found the transition to parenthood to be the most difficult.

Authors note: Of course! Changing diapers, baby spit, no sleep and never being in the bathroom again by yourself are just not romantic!

· Staying childless isn’t the secret to marital bliss. Couples who didn’t have children still became less happy with their marriage; it was just more gradual than for those who had children.

· It’s not just tension that can spell trouble in a marriage; boredom also plays a role in eroding marital bliss.

· There are strategies and ways to ignite a spark in a dwindling flame.

All the tips lead back to effort on a couple’s part to deal with the road bumps that are a part of any marriage. Happily ever after simply takes work, just like any worthwhile endeavor in life.

What do these highlights make you think about in your own marriage? Encourage others with your thoughts! Read the CNN article here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arranged or Romantic…How Do You Get a Good Marriage?

Posted by Michele Olson
A recent global post from New Delhi, India in the Huffington Post got me thinking. See if it gets you thinking too.

The article talks about the fact that there is a fairly recent phenomenon of divorce in India. The days of “bride burning” to extort dowries and a bride being chosen and living with her husband’s family are dwindling. Now the young lovers in the country are looking to romance and romantic feelings as a basis for choosing a life-long mate. Who doesn’t applaud the freedom to choose and the right to get out of what could sometimes be an abusive, dangerous situation? That’s all good news. The days of the dowry can’t end soon enough.

What is not so good news is what seems to be the people’s ability to throw the baby out with the bath water. Now people are looking to romance and personal fulfillment as the benchmark for choosing their mate. Oops. That has not worked the best for us in the U.S. It would be better if India would learn some lessons that we have had to learn the hard way. The article says that the “state is failing helplessly as it tries to balance tradition with modernity when it comes to the legal and law enforcement responses to marital discord.”

If only they could start a new tradition….pre-marital inventories and education for those seriously dating and engaged. Jumping from arranged marriages to marriages built on romance is equally dangerous. The conversation in the country is surrounding the idea that they don’t want divorce to be a stigma. That’s the wrong conversation to be having.

India, famous for Bollywood and the dancing, singing extravaganza movies often about star-crossed lovers is definitely a distorted image to portray about non-arranged marriages.

Here in America we are also stuck in the idea of marrying for romance and portrayed by Hollywood. Hopefully here in America, we can start to hear more loudly the voices calling out for pre-marital inventories and education for a couple anticipating marriage. Social science research tells us that you can slash the probabilities of divorce down to 10% when you add in the use of such programs. We’ve seen India imitate us in the movies from Hollywood to Bollywood. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get them to imitate healthy relationship education as they go through marriage changes in their country? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get our own country to be a shining example to the world?

Read the full article on India here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Have You Heard Of Marriage Education?

Posted by Michele Olson

Is there a place in your brain for marriage and healthy relationship education?
The first thought people usually have when they hear about is : Oh, are you marriage counseling?

That's because they are looking for a place in their brain that matches up with something they know. Marriage education doesn't hold a space yet.

We'd like to change that!

From our FAQ area:

Q. Is marriage education the same as counseling?

A. Basically, marriage education is teaching people healthy relationship skills. Unlike counseling, it doesn't focus on discussing specific problems or situations. Instead, it focuses on giving people knowledge about what makes relationships successful, and having them practice skills that can make a difference in their own relationship.

Q. Is marriage education only for married couples?

A. Absolutely not. People learn about marriage from infancy on, absorbing the patterns their parent's model. They begin experiencing their own romantic relationships as teens or young adults. We offer marriage education to everyone from teens to seniors.

Isn't it great! You now have a place in your brain for marriage education.

What's next? Tell the story!

Become a marriage champion and let your friends and family know that marriage and healthy relationship education is a great resource for everyone. If you have not received one of our Marriage Myth Buster need one! They're free... all you have to do is request your copy at It's a great resource to help you understand the importance of marriage education.

What did you think of the first time you heard ? Have you heard of marriage education?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oysters, Chocolate…Libido Boosters? Really?

Posted by Michele Olson

We’ve all heard the stories…oysters, chocolate. Not in the mood? Depend on your food or an herb! But does food and herbs really affect people as an aphrodisiac?

Not according to the FDA and the CHIRI.

"The mind is the most potent aphrodisiac there is," says John Renner, founder of the Consumer Health Information Research Institute (CHIRI). "It's very difficult to evaluate something someone is taking because if you tell them it's an aphrodisiac, the hope of a certain response might actually lead to an additional sexual reaction."

From an article by Tamar Nordenberg of the Food and Drug Administration on their website, the FDA's findings clash with a 5,000-year tradition of pursuing sexual betterment through use of plants, drugs and magic. Despite FDA's determination that OTC aphrodisiacs are ineffective--and sometimes even dangerous--people continue the optimistic quest for drug-induced sexual success.
Chilies, curries, and other spicy foods have been viewed as aphrodisiacs because their physiological effects--a raised heart rate and sometimes sweating--are similar to the physical reactions experienced during sex. And some foods were glorified as aphrodisiacs based on their rarity and mystery. While chocolate was once considered the ultimate aphrodisiac, the reputation wore off as it became commonly available.
The FDA sends warning letters to companies that make aphrodisiac claims, stating that the agency may take further regulatory action if the violations continue. "In the health fraud area, when they get a warning letter, most people take their profits and run," says Joel Aronson, director of FDA's division of nontraditional drugs. "They don't want to get into a legal battle with the agency because it could involve protracted, expensive litigation."
Self Magazine published this list of folklore and fact when it comes food that might boost the libido.

FOOD Strawberries
FOLKLORE This multiseeded berry symbolized fertility.
FACT Strawberries contain more vitamin C than any other berry.
FOOD Chocolate
FOLKLORE Montezuma drank 50 cups of hot chocolate before sex.
FACT Phenylethylamine in chocolate is a natural mood booster.
FOOD Caviar
FOLKLORE Dostoyevsky received caviar and marital pleasures from his wife after each completed chapter of Crime and Punishment.
FACT The vitamin B12 in caviar builds red blood cells.
FOLKLORE African fertility ointments contained this fruit.
FACT Figs are packed with potassium and fiber.
What do you think? Does food get you in the mood?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Smile! It's a Predictor of Marital Success...Well Maybe.

Posted by Michele Olson

Quick…get your spouse’s yearbook! Are they smiling in the pictures? Now you know your future!

Well, if only it were really that simple!

These thoughts are based on research done by scientists at DePauw University in Indiana who have “found a link between weak smiles and divorces” according to Matt Hertenstein, associate professor of psychology who led the team of researchers.

According to the study and the many daily newspapers commenting on the research, a smile intensity in a collection of yearbook photos was rated on a scale of one to ten. They found that none of the highest 10 percent of smilers had divorced, while almost one in four of the bottom 10 percent had experienced a broken marriage.

To explore this further, a second test looked at childhood pics of people over 65 and it was found that just 11 percent of those with the biggest smiles in their photos had been divorced, while 31 percent of those who kept a straight-face in their photos had experienced a failed marriage.

The bottom line? People who frown in childhood photos are five times more likely to get a divorce than those who smile for the camera.

Now if you are divorced and look back on your ex’s unsmiling pics you are going to think this study is pure genius. But take note, the study also found many people who smiled a lot, got divorced, and many people who frowned stayed married. There are also cultural differences to take into consideration.

A U.S. News and World Report blog has taken the info and provided some tips on what a parent can do with this information. That attitude of “looking forward” may be the best tips gleaned from the study.

What do you think? Do smiles is past pics give a good clue to future marital success?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

25 things for Men, 25 things for Women: The List

Posted by Michele Olson

Steven Stosny, PhD, the founder of CompassionPower, is widely published and featured as an expert on relationships and anger in the media, you may have seen him on many of the national talk shows.

In his book, co-authored with Patricia Love(How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It), and listed as resource on this blog, he talks about the fear factor for women and the shame factor for men. Here is a succinct list of 25 ways men promote fear and cause a woman to be anxious, and 25 ways women stimulate shame in a man.

25 ways to make a woman anxious

Ignore her*Tell her what to do*Be short with your answers*Tune out her feelings*Stonewall or give her the cold shoulder*Take her for granted* Limit or criticize her spending*Tell her to stop worrying *Tell her she's making too much of it *Tell her to get over it *Tell her she talks too much *Complain about her weight *Criticize her family *Withdraw or shut down *Yell or get angry *Pout or sulk *Threaten to quit your job *Flirt with other women *Don't know her dreams*Tell her she's just like her mother *Complain about her girlfriends *Give her the cold shoulder * Dismiss her ideas *Sound like you're trapped in the marriage *Buy a sports car

25 ways to stimulate shame in a man

*Exclude him from important decisions*Correct what he says*Question his judgment
*Give unsolicited advice*Dismiss his opinion*Imply inadequacy*Make unrealistic demands of his time and energy*Overreact*Ignore his desires*Focus on what you didn't get, rather than what you got*Withhold praise *Use a harsh tone*Be abrupt - spring things on him*Undermine his wishes*Condescend *Criticize his personality *Disrespect his work*Show little or no interest in his interests*Criticize his family*Interpret, psychoanalyze, or diagnose him*Make comparisons to other men* Focus on your unhappiness*Put friends before him*Value others' needs over his* Rob him of the opportunity to help

Steven notes:
The majority of lovers crash into each other's vulnerabilities accidentally.
But in the case of verbal abuse, intentional abusers seem to know intuitively where the jugular is. A verbally abusive man is likely to make his wife feel afraid of harm, isolation, or deprivation. A verbally abusive woman is likely to make her husband feel like a failure as a provider, protector, lover, or parent.

But lovers also know intuitively how to help and support one another. The primary regulators of both fear and shame are support and connection. That is what people provide for each other during courtship that makes them fall in love. It is what they must provide in marriage to keep the fear-shame dynamic from destroying it.

Here's Steven Stosney's full blog on this subject.

What are your thoughts on the list? Can you relate? Does this bring some insight into your relationship? Let us hear from you. Post a comment!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Having Children Can Put a Strain on Your Marriage- That’s News?

posted by Michele Olson

This is a time to read past the headlines and sound bites. An eight year study from the University of Denver has found that having a child can put a strain on a marriage. Personally, I don’t find this a shocking finding as being entrusted with a human being should be a weighty life changing event in my mind, but this study helps us take a closer look at the issue.

Marital bliss according to the study dives within a year after the birth of a first child. So - that means not focusing on yourself and being free to come and go as you please is easier than having the total care of a small helpless human being. Rocket science! If your life is only about bliss, I doubt you would ever do anything challenging. Most of the good things in life take a lot of hard work.

This has to be big news only to those couples who have never had a child and romanticized what starting a family would be like. One of the co-authors points out what the study doesn’t capture: the richer, life changing contentment that comes from the efforts of building a family. Scott Stanley, a DU psychology professor and co-author of the study spoke directly to about the study and had this to say:

- The study focuses on the way declines in marital functioning happen over time for couples who have children and also for those who do not. Couples having children showed clear declines in marital quality that were concentrated around the time of childbirth. Yes, transition to parenthood changes couples, and the changes can be challenging.

- Led by Brian Doss's amazing work on this, part of what we found is that the decline is, on average, small to medium in size. The effect was not hugely negative as some studies before have found. On the other hand, the decline is real where some other studies have suggested that this may not be true.

Key take-a-way: Transition to parenthood is a particularly identifiable and challenging period for couples. (Many of you knew that.)

Read a fair media report on the subject here
Visit Scott Stanley’s website here

Let us hear from you…how do the findings of this study affect you? Does this study influence your decision to have children? Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Work Smarter on Your Marriage

posted by Michele Olson

Want to work smarter and more effectively on your marriage? Attend a marriage workshop! Yah, sure…we’d be the ones to say that…but this isn’t coming from This is from a blog that cites findings from the Urban Institute that shows couples who attend marriage education:
* Learn to reduce negative patterns of interaction
* Maintain higher levels of couple and individual satisfaction
* Learn specific skills to improve their relationships
*Reap the benefits of the training for up to five years after the

What? Imagine if you committed to marriage education once a year as a check-up how ahead of the curve you would be! Seems like a no brainer for something as important as your marriage.

Read the blog.
Read the research.

And then commit as a couple to marriage education. Now that’s smart!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

But, What's Your Opinion?

Posted by Michele Olson
What do a marriage historian, professor of business and public policy, think-tank fellow, demographer and sociologist think about the tough economic times we are experiencing and how it will affect couples and their relationships?
They don’t all have the same opinion according to the editors on a blog of the NY Times Opinion Page.
Take a look at all these opinions and let us know what you think. These are unprecedented times and it doesn’t always work to compare now to the past. The real story is hearing what you're experiencing.
Take a moment and leave some comments. Your opinion really matters. Article here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Remarrying Your Ex Spouse

Posted by Michele Olson has an intriguing story about a couple who divorced after many of the same trials all couples face. What’s different about this story, is the telling of how the couple, even though separated for more than five years and leading totally separate lives, find their way back to each other and remarriage. What’s really interesting are the observations of why they were satisfied with each other the second time around and the keys to their now happy relationship.

It’s a good read for anyone, but particularly good food for thought for those wondering if they would be happier divorced. Anyone entertaining the idea that they really do still love the person they divorced will find it enlightening. Here's the story.

What about you? Have you remarried you ex spouse? What can you share about your experience?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Donald Trump Advisor Reflects on a New Couple Trend

Posted by Michele Olson
Are you a fan of The Apprentice? The program of “You’re Fired” fame with the Donald didn’t start out with celebrities. It premiered with ambitious people who wanted to work for Donald Trump. His right hand man was really a lady who worked for him; Carolyn Kepcher. She was one of the two people who would go out and observe a team and then report back to Mr. Trump her impressions of how they were doing. Before the climactic final firing scene, he would turn to Carolyn to get her insight on to who he should fire. Those roles have since been replaced by his kids Donald Jr. and Ivanka. (Does it strike anyone else that it’s quite odd to have these two privileged people judging work ethics? Ah, nepotism)
But back to Carolyn.

If you wondered what happened to her when she disappeared from the show, she is now CEO of Carolyn & Company Media (, an enterprise created by and for career women and a columnist for Your Money. She posted an interesting article yesterday on how the economy is causing economic separation for couples. Couples are now forced to take jobs in different cities, or rarely see each other due to working separate shifts to avoid the cost of daycare.

Termed “separation by career” it appears to be something that could become a new normal with this economy. Surviving it goes back to the fundamentals of making any relationship work: effort!

Read Carolyn’s article and let us know if this describes what you are going through. How do you keep your relationship thriving through separation by career? Post your thoughts!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Debt and Marriage Don’t Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

posted by Michele Olson

Married? Do you have debt?

According to a recent NY Times article, debt is a leading cause of family strife during the first few years of marriage.

Have you heard -we’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression? How did such a hard time in history get the name "great?" Depressing Depression would make more sense. Wait..back to the point!

The article has some helpful tips, encouraging couples to formulate a “debt philosophy.”
A sample philosophy is stated in the article. It involves things like agreeing on whether you will pay cash for everything or have a certain amount on the credit card each month. How big a balance do you agree to carry?

Questions are brought up about where debt and savings rank among the priority list of what’s important.

Much to the article is adapted from “Financially Ever After: The Couple’s Guide to Managing Money,” by Jeff D. Opdyke. Copyright 2009 by Jeff D. Opdyke.

All this comes down to TALKING about money. That brings us to good communication and conflict resolution skills, so your talks are healthy and productive. Those skills can be learned by taking a marriage education workshop through

Tell us your story.

Do you talk about money in your marriage? How have you handled your approach to debt as a couple?
Read the complete NY Times article.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Happy April Fools Day!

Posted by Michele Olson
So, what trick are you playing on your spouse and loved ones today?
I asked for some ideas from the peeps on Twitter that follow thinkmarriage and received a really good one that has taken place by the time of this writing.
Jen shared with us:
Well I already have this planned with my neighbor and am so excited for tomorrow morning! I gave him the spare set of keys to my husband's truck. He (the neighbor) works second shift, and is going to move my husband's truck into his driveway during the night after we're asleep. Then he'll move his truck into our driveway. I can just see the confusion on my husband's face now! I can't wait!! (I know it seems silly..but isn't the that FUN in April Fool's??
Jen and her husband obviously know how to play as a couple...very important in a healthy relationship. Heard the great tip of switching out the inside of the cereal box...someone starts to pour what they think is one kind of cereal and a different kind is inside. Actually did that one today...good for a giggle or two at my house with my husband.
I did some searching on the internet and there are all kinds of tips for pranks for the day. You can download a fake parking ticket and use it on someone in your family. There are also all kind of quite harmless things you can do to someones computer like deactivating their mouse or changing a setting so when the type words, different words come out.
The bottom line is, you have to know the temperament of your spouse. If this is going to send them through the roof on a stressful day filled with a lot of work, probably not a good idea. Or maybe you had this in your wedding vows: to love, honor and cherish and never play an April Fools Day prank on each other. Some people in hindsight might wish they had added that line!
Have fun today in a sweet way and please let us know some of your tricks and the outcomes. Your blog reply might just be our scathingly brilliant idea for next year!