Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Will Put A Smile on Your Face: Married 81 Years!

posted by Michele Olson

Most people reading this have not been alive 81 years, let alone married 81 years! That’s why it’s fun today to reflect a moment on Frank and Anita Milford.

Frank is 101 and Anita is 100 and they celebrated their 81st Anniversary Tuesday. In 260 days they will have the honor of having the longest marriage in Great Britain.

So, what is the secret to such a long and enduring marriage?

A little argument every day, or a “row” as they say in jolly old England. Not a big fight, just the “odd cross word” Anita advises. They also feel “a little romance” is equally as important. Their advice to young people (that would be us young ‘uns only married 30 years) is to make time for a little romance every day.

It's a story to put a smile on your face and one we can aspire to. Read the complete story here.

What about you? How many years has the longest married couple in your circle of influence been married? What have you observed?

Before You Sign Up For Your Reality Show: Life Lessons from Jon and Kate

Posted by Michele Olson

Unless you really don’t watch TV or look at the internet headlines or browse the covers of the magazines while waiting to check out at the grocery story, you have by now heard the words Jon and Kate. They and their sextuplet plus twin children are the subject of a TLC reality show called “Jon and Kate Plus 8.”

In this show the viewer watches the day to day life of a Mom and Dad and all those kids in their Pennsylvania home. In “real” real life outside of the show, there have been rumors and accusations about marital misconduct…all which has been denied and apologized for at the same time. (Which kind of confuses everyone.)

Sure, they make probably $25,000 to $50,000 and episode and those are a lot of mouths to feed and college to worry about…but they are paying such a high price for filling their home with camera crews, lighting technicians and security guards. What started out as a novelty and something fun and interesting has turned into the type of complexity no family should subject themselves to. No producer wants to tape a show where nothing is happening to entice the audience. Of course to be successful they had to make day-to-day life a bit more dramatic. Unfortunately this has all taken an ugly turn.

In case you are on the phone right now with a producer pondering whether you should sign up for a reality show about your marriage or family, let's pause and think about this.

Here are some lessons from Jon and Kate:

1) Don’t do a reality show that involves exposing your children to the world’s eyes no matter how much money they are paying you.

2) Don’t expose your marriage and relationship to the scrutiny of ratings. Marriage and a healthy relationship take a lot of hard work, time and effort…put your energies there instead of into a TV show. (This is a life lesson for all of us, where are we putting our energies, and are they directed in the right place?)

3) Even before you see issues in your marriage…and with 8 kids, you know there are going to be some extra strains on your relationship…be pro-active in nurturing your marriage. We recommend healthy relationship education through a great organization like Being good at communication and conflict resolution would serve this family really well right now.

4) Put your marriage and family first…before fame, exorbitant income and all the allure of the red carpet. That will all fade but the love of a strong marriage and family can be forever.

5) Realize it’s not too late to bring this back to why you decided to get married in the first place. Recapture what’s important in your lives.
Like an accident along the side of the road where you don’t want to stare, but you can’t look away, millions of viewers will tune into Jon and Kate for the drama ahead.

Whether you choose to watch or not, let’s not forget these are real people with real children and real consequences at stake.
Let’s hope for better days of restoration ahead.
Let's hope that in our hearts, that is what we are really hoping to see.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Emotional Affairs

posted by Michele Olson

Ask your Grandma if she were ever attempted to have an emotional affair and chances are…she wouldn’t know what you were talking about. Our work-a-day world filled with chat rooms, emails and extended work hours has led to a fairly recent phenomenon known as an emotional affair.

According to an article featured on, emotional cheating steers clear of physical intimacy, but does involve the same type of secrecy, deception and therefore betrayal of the traditional affair.

The article points out that while people may think they are fooling themselves that they haven’t really done anything, it’s the breach of trust more than the sexual misconduct that is the most painful part of an affair.

The problem is even worse when we consider where a person is putting their “energy” when they aren’t happy with their marriage or relationship. Instead of seeking out marriage education or some kind of counseling…they are putting their efforts and need for attention in the wrong place. That’s the recipe for an affair; emotional or otherwise.

The story highlights these points which can be a good benchmark for understanding if you have been flirting with an emotional affair:

1) You are confiding in a friend who happens to be someone of the opposite sex, things you aren’t telling your spouse.
2) You hide the amount of time you are spending with “your friend” from your spouse.
3) You are flirting or spending a lot of time with old lovers.
4) You are devoting your energies and time to “your friend” and not putting the pro- active energy into working on your relationship, possibly with outside help.

I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. Relationships between co-workers and internet friends that crossed a line of what was appropriate, all while the involved person goes to great lengths to explain how “nothing is going on.”

What do you think? Have you ever been tempted by or been in an emotional affair? Have you been on the other end when your loved one was in one? What thoughts can you share?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beyond Great Aunt Fern

posted by Michele Olson

It's so easy to fall in love
It's so easy to fall in love
It's so easy to fall in love
It's so easy to fall in love
Oh-ooh It's so easy to fall in love
- Linda Rondstadt

Are you tapping your feet and humming this tune? It is pretty easy to fall in love…and then as the old rhyme goes; first comes love, then comes marriage. But what comes in-between?

The best idea is to ask the right questions as a couple. The kind of questions that get you behind the starry eyed thought that this person will never totally irritate you and will meet your every expectation.

Here’s a pinch so you’ll wake up.

This “questioning” process has lots of names like marriage preparation, a pre-marital inventory, pre-marriage counseling. For many people they look forward to it about as much as a trip to the dentist. Some couples only participate because their church or synagogue won’t marry them unless they have taken part in a program. There’s also the fact that most couples can’t stand the idea of Great Aunt Fern’s wrath if they don’t get married in a church.

But that’s the wrong attitude. Asking questions before you get married using a proven program and trained facilitator or coach can save you a whole lot of heartache in the days to come no matter where you are choosing to marry.

Exploring issues like how you will spend or not spend money, extended family involvement, how you will resolve differences and whether or not to have kids all need to be talked about ahead of time. Seems like a no-brainer, but many couples do not delve into these types of questions as much as they need to.

Proven programs help couples to approach these questions in a healthy, non threatening way. A trained facilitator and coach can key in on the areas that you as a couple really need to focus on.

So don’t let whether you church, synagogue or Great Aunt Fern requires a marriage prep program be the basis for your decision. Do it for your future satisfaction in your marriage.

At we offer a great program for couples called Prepare-Enrich that involves an assessment test and the opportunity to work with a coach on line if that works for you or in person if you are in the right vicinity.

We also offer some great on the ground opportunities for workshops with other couples through a program called Getting Real Relationships for seriously dating or engaged couples.

Email with your questions about marriage prep.

Great Aunt Fern thinks that’s a very good idea.

What about you?

If you’re married, what was your marriage prep like…and are you glad you did it?

If you are not married and seriously dating or engaged, are you planning on some kind of marriage prep?

Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Cost of Divorce to Your Workplace

Posted by Michele Olson

What if there was a formula, in a convenient worksheet, that would help managers and employers calculate the cost to every company’s bottom line when someone in the company is going through a divorce? The purpose is not to cause hardship to the particular employee, but rather for employers as a whole to realize the importance of investing in relational wellness as a company. The goal is to offer something before a relationship gets to the divorce stage for those in low-conflict, yet unsatisfying marriages who feel that divorce is their only or best option.

By the way, there is such a formula and worksheet and we’d be happy to email it to you free of charge. If you are in a company who has not thought about the idea that education to promote employee’s marriage relationships is a beneficial thing rather than a drain on company resources …we’d like you to think again.

While some may argue that management should stay out of the private lives of employees, every taxpayer and employer has to face the fact that the 1.2 million annual U.S. divorces in our country cost the taxpayers an estimated $30 billion in federal and state expenditures. (Schramm,2006). Each divorce costs society about $25,000 to $30,000 because of the increase in costs of supporting people with housing, food stamps, bankruptcies, problems with youth, and other related expenses. *

Wondering what the cost is in your state? The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First Ever Estimates for the Nation and all 50 States report is available. Get hard, color copies of this important report from for $5 a piece or you can download it at

So that’s a big picture look at verifying why every divorce affects everyone and costs every tax payer and business. Then there’s the productivity factor. Current research and thinking has come up with a very easy to understand conclusion that if you look around you probably will agree with:

Happily married employees increase profitability.
Unhappily married employees decrease profitability.

It’s that simple and that black and white.

Because the goal is not to “get down” on people who have to experience the heart ache of divorce, but rather pro-actively prevent divorce in low-conflict, unsatisfying marriages that could be turned around with marriage education, it is in the best interest of all employers, managers and employees to want their workplace to partner with relational wellness programs specifically aimed at healthy relationships and marriages.

At, that’s our specialty. We’re a non-profit organization who is not here to point fingers, but rather to point out the truth and some solutions to the problem. Let us know if you’d like to talk further and also if you’d like the free worksheets on the cost of divorce to your workplace.

Be a workplace Marriage Champion. We're here to help!

*Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? published by The Marriage
CoMission, Life Innovations, Inc. 2006

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Would You Write?

posted by Michele Olson

Do you enjoy these types of things circulating from your friends on the internet? (Are you old enough so that it makes sense?)
Remember when:

Memory was something you lost with age

An application was for employment

A program was a TV show

A cursor used profanity

A keyboard was a piano

A web was a spider's home

A virus was the flu

A CD was a bank account

A hard drive was a long trip on the road

A mouse pad was where a mouse lived

Gets you thinking about how some things have really changed in their meaning.

What about marriage?

What would you put if you were putting something together that started out:

Remember when marriage…

How you would answer that would probably have a lot to do with your current marital status…your age…your upbringing…and what you have observed happening in the relationships around you.

Would it evoke feelings of nostalgia for something that you think marriage has lost that it used to have?

Or would you think that many things are finally changing for the better when it comes to marriage?

Would your response be funny, sad or a combination?

What kind of commentary would you make if you were writing a piece called: Remember when marriage….

Let us hear your thoughts!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Dads and the Kids: The Untold Story

by Susan Dutton Freund Executive Director of

Did you see the headline yesterday? Unmarried mothers gave birth to four out of every 10 babies born in the United States in 2007, a share that is increasing rapidly both here and abroad, according to government figures released Wednesday.( ABC news video report )

We at thinkmarriage have been citing this statistic for some time now. Although the numbers didn’t catch us by surprise, we were struck by what was not said in the ABC news report more than by what was said.

Sharon Alfonsi did an admirable job of explaining who these unwed mothers increasingly are (women in their 20’s and 30’s) and that these women are in some type of relationship. The report was vague about the teen birth rate, saying “it has remained steady, or declined” while showing a chart that called the age 15-19 category “unchanged” since 2002. Ms. Alfonsi also reported that “about half” are living with the fathers and showed a brief clip from Sociologist Kelly Musick at Cornell University discussing how similar these families are to married parent families.

Here are some things we at thinkmarriage also know about these statistics, and we would like to tell, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story".

About the Teens - The teen pregnancy rate dropped 38 percent from 1990 to 2004, according to a CDC study released in April. In recent years there has been a slight uptick.

About the Fathers – We’d like to know why no men were asked their opinion about marriage and the future of the children they are equally giving life to? The Fragile Families Study shows that, while 80% of the parents are romantically involved at the time of birth, only 39% will be by the time the child reaches the age of 5, and only 16% will be married. Take special note of the table graph from the Fragile Families Study that tells the tale of who wins and who loses as a result.

About the Families – Despite what Prof. Musick says, cohabiting families do not look like married families. The research has very clearly shown that on all measures of child wellbeing – academic achievement, mental health, risk of abuse, physical healthy– children of married parents fare better than children living with their own two biological parents who are cohabiting.

Women and men who are married show the same benefits to health and well being compared to cohabiting adults.

So now you know the rest of the story; and more good reasons for all of us to be marriage champions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When To Stay Together in a Marriage with Children

posted by Michele Olson

A Minnesota CBS affiliate station, WCCO just did a story entitled; Should Parents Stay Together For Their Kids? Reporters of the story Amelia Santaniello and Frank Vascellaro spoke with a father who had experienced a divorce. They also spoke with an expert in the field of marriage- Dr. William Doherty.

The report brings up some statistics that we have been shouting from the rooftops here at The statistic is; 2/3 of marriages that end in divorce are considered “unsatisfying, but not angry marriages." In these marriages there is no infidelity, inappropriate arguing or abuse of any kind. Unlike the remaining 1/3 of marriages that ended in divorce and did exhibit those behaviors where the kids were found to be better off if the parents divorced, the children in the 2/3 statistic were found to be seriously hurt by their parents divorce. These findings were echoed in a book the report cites by scholars Paul Amato and Alan Booth entitled A Generation at Risk: Growing up in and Era of Family Upheaval. Dr. Doherty states that the divorces in the 2/3 category tend to double the risk of academic, psychological and future relationship problems for those children. The findings are also backed up by Elizabeth Marquardt in her 2005 book Between Two Worlds-The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce.

While no parent of divorce wants to hear these statistics, and of course it’s not the inevitable course for every child, the data points out the greater probability for children in the 2/3 category. We have to consider the effect on society as a whole if divorce remains rampant.

This whole discussion is also the basis of Myth #1 in our free Marriage Myth Buster Guide. (Click here to request your free copy.)

To read the entire WCCO news story Should Parents Stay Together For Their Kids? click here…and be sure and watch the same titled video also available.

What are your thoughts on the 1/3 vs. 2/3 statistic of whether to stay married with children?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where Do You Fit In? ( Because You Do Fit In Somewhere!)

Posted by Michele Olson

Where do you fit in when it comes to being a healthy relationship and marriage champion?

Are you a business owner?

In a faith based organization?

An educator?

A public official or work in a social agency?

A health care professional?

A judge or attorney?

A therapist or counselor?

Do you work in the media?

Or …none of the above. Maybe you are just an everyday marriage champion in your own way.

Perhaps someone in your circle of influence falls into one of the categories mentioned. All of these people have a role in affecting healthy relationships and marriages at a very foundational level. If all of these people in these professions paid close attention to their influence on marriage, we would be operating in a very different arena. We would be better off.

Not quite sure what we mean by that? Explore! Then let us know if you do work in one of these professions, and your feedback. Or… thoughts on how this information affects your viewpoint.

Feel free to forward this blog on to “the professionals” in your world.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are You Experiencing Textual Compatibility?

Posted by Michele Olson
I am having a light bulb moment. While writing this blog that you are so graciously reading right now, I started thinking about my own relationship with my husband of 30 plus years. But before I go there, let me tell you about the subject that sparked this epiphany.

In a recent Washington Post article entitled Getting Their (Wireless) Lines Crossed, the subject is brought up of “textual compatibility.” For example, if you are texting someone and not getting an answer because meanwhile, they have direct messaged you on Twitter with the reply…it’s like speaking two different languages to each other. (Some of you aren’t even sure what I’m talking about right now.)
In the past, two people may have been soul mates because they didn’t have choices on how to communicate. Now they can’t agree on what type of communication they are comfortable with and it can cause problems in the relationship. The article points out that this happens mostly to people in their 30’s as the 40 plus crowd usually reaches for the phone. Being in the 50 plus crowd, I’m not so sure I agree with that assessment…but I do know that my closest friendships that “get maintained” are with people who do a lot of emailing or Facebook with me. If they are phone people, our relationship will not progress, because I’m simply not willing to do a lot of talking on the phone.

The article talks about an essential truth; we all want partners who understand us. It’s not just what we say, but how we say it that matters. When it comes to digital communications, we have so many choices! Read the article…you’ll enjoy the premise it brings up.

Now back to my personal reflection. My husband loves gadgets and computer type things. In the mid 80’s he bought me a computer and I didn’t touch it for six months or more. It scared me to death. Then through a series of job events, I started to understand computers and more of what they can do…especially when you are writer. As time has passed, I have grown in my ability to keep up with what’s happening digitally. Although part of me still believes all this is mostly smoke, mirrors, magic and little hamsters inside the computer, I do embrace all the new avenues of communication like Facebook, Twitter and Texting. My husband and I used to have very little in common in the “geek” world; we now communicate in ways that suits both of our very different personalities. We follow some of the same people on Twitter and enjoy finding out what the other knows. We text, we Facebook and I’ve seen a whole new side to my husband that I wouldn’t have if we just talked…not one of his favorite forms of communication. That’s my light bulb moment…we are Textually Compatible! We even got matching I Phones for our 30th anniversary! Want to get closer to your spouse? Think about becoming communicatively compatible. I have to go…I have to Twitter about this.

Tell us more about your relationship and your textual compatibility!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Marriage and Your Physical Well-Being

posted by Michele Olson

With all the talk of swine flu in the news…everyone is thinking about staying healthy!

Cindy Haines, M.D. had an interesting article in the St. Louis Beacon recently talking about what a conscientious spouse can do for your health. She talks about a study with over 2,000 couples where they were asked to rate their own levels of conscientiousness as well as answer questions about their health. One of the most unique findings of the study is the affect a conscientious spouse has on your health, even if you are diligent and meticulous person already. The bottom line: a healthy marriage is good for your physical health too.

You can read her article as well as the research here.

This coincides with Myth #3 in the Marriage Myth Buster Guide which talks about the health benefits to being and staying married.

Maybe instead of an apple a day, the adage should be, “Saying ‘I do’ keeps the doctor away!"
Get your free Marriage Myth Buster Guide and bust a few myths with us!

How does your marriage affect your physical health?