Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Linda Malone-Colon Said

Posted by Michele Olson

Linda Malone-Colon is chair of the Hampton University Department of Psychology in Hampton, Va, and will soon be the executive director of the National Center on African-American Marriages and Parenting at Hampton University. On Monday they hosted a summit on marriage, parenting and families today.

Linda is passionate about the breakdown of marriage in today’s world and how it is leading to poverty for many Americans. That is evident in her opinion piece in the Atlantic Journal Constitution. I encourage you to read this piece because it aligns with what we have been saying here at – many of society’s problems fall back to the breakdown of the family, and we need to speak up and speak out.

These are a few of her points:

*When have you heard your public leaders address the dramatic increase of children born out of wedlock (72 percent of African Americans), divorce, cohabitation, and decline in marital quality?

*What are these leaders saying in response to the growing scientific evidence that the breakdown of marriage and family relationships impacts the mental and physical health, education attainment and delinquent behavior of our children?

She challenges the leaders of the African American community that while they have championed issues of economic and social justice they have often neglected the importance within the black community of the health of marriage and family. She asks about the urgency of what she calls a black marriage crisis…and challenges that it demands our “unqualified and focused attention.”

Linda is not afraid to speak up about what she is seeing and to call on our leaders to say and do something. We join her in the call.

Read the article and comment. Are these facts new news to you? What do you think of her opinion?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shrinking Your Arguments

Posted by Michele Olson picked up on an post about what happens to couples bodies when they are arguing. The article focuses on research associate Lisa Diamond’s study on arguing couples, specifically studying the measurable changes that happen in their bodies while fighting. Ironically, she has no trouble even in a research setting getting a couple to find a topic and “go at it.” The tougher part is getting them to stop the argument when the data has been gathered and they are free to go!

Diamond is trying to quantify the role the body and nervous system play in relationships and conflict. She’s learning how even very small gestures can lessen the damage of big arguments and how a minor reconsideration of what’s happening can affect the furious heat being generated.

She often sees the traditional demand-withdrawal dynamic. The woman makes demands and the man in response shuts down.

Diamond goes on to observe:

*Each of demand/withdrawal emotions reflects what is happening in the body.
*If you are the demanding partner, listen to your heart; literally. If your heart is racing, eyes ablaze, step back and take a deep breath, close your eyes, calm down. Pay attention to your body.
*The most important gesture you can make toward your partner is to empathize. The very behavior driving you crazy is actually calming your partner.
*When calmer, approach the subject with a smile. Humor defuses tension and can lessen the damage of big arguments.

All of this takes a measure of self control and may not “feel as good” at the moment as unleashing your feelings, but the big picture outcome is much more rewarding.
What about your relationship? Have you ever paid attention to what is happening to you physically during an argument? What do you think about the suggestions in the article?
Tell us your story!

Complete article here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

There is Something For You

Posted by Michele Olson

Dr. Gail Saltz , an NBC Today show contributor recently received a question about a woman ready to marry her boyfriend of five years, but he’s hesitant to get married because the divorce rate is so high, and he is afraid of how easily people get divorced. Dr. Saltz points out that there is a reason marriage vows usually contain the words; for better or worse. She believes the fundamental question is; does her boyfriend feel he can’t make a lifelong commitment or he doesn’t know if she can?

A very important question was left out of her comments, she needed to ask; have you as a couple taken a pre-marital inventory?

Prepare-Enrich, a program we offer at did a study to assess the difference their workshop would make in the lives of those getting married. Here’s what they found out: PREPARE scores from 3 months before marriage could predict with 80-90% accuracy which couples were separated and divorced from those that were happily married. These findings not only demonstrate the predictive validity of PREPARE, but its potential utility in identifying high-risk couples who could benefit from more intensive premarital counseling.

This couple can do much more than just hope things will work out. They can take tangible steps to know that they have a great chance at a great life as a married couple. If this is similar to the life situation you are in, or if you are considering marriage, does offer pre-marital education on line.

For those who would like to marry some day, we offer How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk (Jerkette) workshops. There is also an excellent book by the same name if attending a workshop doesn’t work for you.
Individual and couple relationship coaching is also available.
We often hear from people very nervous about future relationships because of divorce or how they were treated in the past. Our workshops and coaching are an excellent tool to give you concrete, strategic tools to understand what to look for in a relationship…and when to put on the brakes!

Whatever your need, we are here to assist you in having a wonderful, healthy relationship.

Can anyone relate? Why not make a blog comment!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love by the Numbers and How I Know That!

posted by Michele Olson

Did you know that in Wisconsin the percentage of married couples in each of these counties looks like this:
Brown 52%
Outagamie 56%
Fond du Lac 61%
Milwaukee 42%
Waukesha 62%
Marathon 58%

These are some of the counties where we hold workshops. By contrast the percentage of divorced people in each of these counties is:
Brown 10%
Outagamie 9%
Fond du Lac 7%
Milwaukee 12%
Waukesha 9%
Marathon 11%

Compare that to the numbers of those never married:
Brown 33%
Outagamie 29%
Fond du Lac 26%
Milwaukee 41%
Waukesha 24%
Marathon 25%

How in the world do I know this? It’s a handy dandy tool that allows you to scroll over a state and county to know the latest census figures on marriage statistics.

More census findings:
· The number of unmarried people climbed to about one-third of all Americans over 15
· Oklahoma has the highest rate of people who have been married three times or more
· Utah and Idaho tied for the youngest median bride age at 23.5 years old

These newly released census figures also show that the number of unmarried people continued its 10-year climb, the ranks of married people in the U.S. rose by nearly 6 million last year, bucking a decade-long decline. The number of divorced people rose…but only slightly.

It’s an interesting look at marriage by the numbers. Are you surprised by what you see? How is your area doing?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

7th Commandment Debate on Nightline

Posted by Michele Olson

Nightline, the ABC night time news program is doing a series on the Ten Commandments. Tomorrow night’s installment is on the 7th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.

The Nightline producers are starting the debate in a church setting with some of the participants invited that advocate open marriage. Interesting arena to hold the debate which was attended by many church goers. Topics include pornography, secret lives, sexless marriages and more. ( I put more because some of the topics made me cringe a bit to even type!)

Nightline’s goal is obviously healthy discussion and they have done their best to populate the panel with some guests that could only be described as controversial.

If you want to be part of the discussion…watch the show or set your VCR/DVD to tape it.
Titled: Are we born to cheat? it promises to be a very healthy debate. Feel free to express you opinion on this blog on Friday!

See the Nightline website and take a 10 Commandments Quiz.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do Facebook and Twitter Cause Affairs?

posted by Michele Olson

A recent article by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. writing for Psychology Today asks a great question: Can an inanimate medium like Facebook and Twitter cause someone to betray their husband or wife?

Nancy points out that whenever a new media is invented, there are those who foresee the “end of civilization” and morality. Originally, people thought TV would never stick around and that it would cause people to stop reading all together.

She asks the question: Does Facebook guide your fingers to click until you find your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend?

Think about it: Do we go into some kind of old late night movie trance where we can’t control ourselves? Should technology be the scapegoat for reuniting people who then go on to inappropriate behavior?

According to Nancy’s research with reunited couples, there are more extramarital affairs than way back in the ancient 1990’s. Pre-social networking, we had to use people to find someone. Do you know what happened to so and so? Do you have their number?

Now, with social networking we can look for people casually, sometimes even by accident.

Her excellent point is this: Facebook is not the cause of marriages breaking apart. Facebook does not book hotel rooms. While social media can enable much more interaction, it does not cause affairs. It makes secrecy easier, but it still takes a person moving forward from contact that causes an affair.

So, if you think social media is to blame for any tendency you may have to have an affair…it’s time to become honest with yourself. While it may make the leap to this bad decision easier, the devastating result to your family, friends, and yourself will be the same.

In the end, to have an affair can’t be blamed on anyone or anything but your choices. With that in mind, make all your choices wisely.

It may make the most sense to treat social media just as you do any relationship outside of your marriage …with the proper boundaries, hedges and realization of what is possible. We still have the human brains behind the technology. We still make the decisions.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Date in Six Words

Posted by Michele Olson
It’s six words or less time again! Reader’s Digest challenged readers to describe their first date in six words or less. Here are some of the results…

"Broke leg on future husband's motorcycle!"
"Oh my. What was I thinking?"
"Disaster, I should have known then!"
"Next time don't order the spaghetti."
"Blind date. Too bad I wasn't."
"Full of butterflies but so amazing."

Now it’s your turn! Maybe your first date was recently…or maybe it was years ago. Whatever the case, have some fun and share with our blog readers. A good reminder that is also here for single, seriously dating and engaged people too. We have workshops like How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette and Within My Reach…as well as great pre-marital inventories. Relationship Coaching is also available online. Let us know how we can be an asset to your relationship journey.
Now…what are your six words?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tall Women, Fewer choices

Posted by Michele Olson

Michael Winerip writing in a recent New York Times article does a very good job of giving us a look into the life of Rev. Christine Shilber, a woman in her 50s who got divorced after 30 years of marriage to her husband. It doesn’t sound like there was any abuse in the marriage from the article.

Her story paints a very good picture of what her life is like now, including the ups and the downs. There are things she likes, but things that have been a challenge-like her odds of meeting up with someone at her age.... and height!

The article cites a 2001 census date statistic that 41 percent of women 50 and over who’ve been divorced have remarried while 58.4 percent of divorced men that age are remarried. Among the divorced, the least marriageable in our society are older women, highly educated who make a good salary. And if she is tall, the pickings are even smaller!

(Any tall, over 50 women, highly educated who make a good salary want to comment on this data?)

She also goes into some of the foibles of online dating, the good and the bad.

Simply some food for thought from someone who is walking the path. What has been your experience? Can you relate?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is Your Marriage Going Down the Drain?

posted by Michele Olson
As crazy as it sounds…a little video on may be very helpful in opening the discussion about how to co -exist with one bathroom in your marriage. In just two and a half minutes, Jonathan E. Stewart covers many of the things that can cause friction with a couple.
Who is supposed to clean the bathroom? Do you divide up the space 50/50 and how about the time spent in the bathroom?

Amazingly enough he doesn’t get into the right way to squeeze a toothpaste tube or the correct way to hang the toilet paper on the roll…but he does get into the idea of setting and respecting ground rules and being patient with one another. (Hint, there isn't a right way!)

If you are having some bathroom sharing frustrations with your mate, this may be just what you need to spark some positive discussion to ease those tensions.

We’d hate to think that your love life is “going down the drain” due to one of the smallest rooms in your house or apartment.

Told from a man’s point of view, it’s worth a watch.

So, take a look at “How to Share a Bathroom” and then please tell us some of your funny bathroom stories…and how you’ve worked out this matter of importance in your home!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Separate Beds for Lucy and Ricky and You?

posted by Michele Olson

Separate beds like…Lucy and Ricky and Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke show. These and so many of the 50’s and 60’s TV couples who were not allowed to sleep in the same bed on TV may have had it right when it comes to a happy and longer marriage.

That is the conclusion of a study done by sleep researcher Dr. Neil Stanley. He found that when one partner tosses in sleep, there is a 50-50 chance the other will turn. While younger couples would be hesitant to sleep apart, older couples often have the confidence to broach a subject that could cause hurt feelings in younger couples.

Dr. Stanley offers this point: “People say that they like the feeling of having their partner next to them when they are asleep. But you have to be awake to feel that. We all know what it is like to sleep in a bed with someone and have a cuddle. But at one point you say, ‘I’m going to go to sleep now.’ Why not at that point just take yourself down the landing?”

Since this is a British publication, we Americans would probably interpret that as…when you are ready to go to sleep, go get in your own bed.

Some people may assume that two beds means a lack of intimacy, which is important for emotional health, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The London’s Daily Mail report that sleeping in separate beds can lead to a good night’s rest, which can ward off stroke, heart disease and divorce. (Think blanket hogging.)

So, Ricky doesn’t have some ‘splanin to do. Turns out he just wanted a good night’s sleep.

What do you think? Do you and your spouse sleep in separate beds? Does it lessen intimacy or increase it because of a good night’s sleep?

Full article

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dr. Josh Coleman, Elmo and Your Family

posted by Michele Olson

Dr. Josh Coleman, an author we highlighted in our Dec. 22, 2008 blog will be on a special Sesame Street Workshop program tonight on PBS geared toward helping families cope with tough economic times. With two out of three middle-class families at risk for losing their economic security, the hour-long special will focus on helping families cope with all our recent economic challenges. Hosted by Al Roker, Deborah Roberts and yes…Elmo….relationship expert Dr. Coleman will be on hand to provide simple strategies and tips that can easily be integrated into a family’s every day routine. Geared for the 2-8 year old, everyone in the family is sure to learn a thing or two by watching the lives of people like the Balli Family of Canyon Lake California who were forced to sell everything and move into a two bedroom motor home to survive after a job loss.

The special addresses everything from how to have difficult conversations to how to strategize and budget…and tips on how to say “no” to your children’s wants when you never had to in the past. Beyond the special Sesame Workshop will also provide additional resources online.

Joe Balli says it best with his stellar attitude:
“We lost a house. I lost a box of wood. I didn’t lose a home. My home is where the four of us are together. It could be a mobile home- what we’re living in now. It could be the backseat of a car. It could be in the spare bedroom of a friend’s house. That’s where our home is. That’s something no one can take away- no bank, no government. That’s yours. Those memories come with you. You’ve lost the house. You don’t lose your home.”

Check your local listings and tune in. Let us know your thoughts!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Kids of War

posted by Michele Olson

Imagine the stress kids in today’s world experience. Now imagine those kids having a parent deployed in a war zone. That very deployment can put those kids at “high risk” for problems according to a new study by military doctors and researchers published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and reported on

The number of children found to be at high-risk for psychological problems is more than 2 ½ times the national level and higher than historical military samples.

Another factor is the high stress level experienced by the spouse of a deployed military person, which has significant impact on the kids. Gulf war studies showed that problems can last for six months to a year….though admittedly it’s hard to “compare wars” with so much re-deployment in the current conflict. is proud to be working with some military families in Wisconsin with some of our programs that involve the whole family and teach conflict resolution and communication skills.

Do you know a military family? Even if someone is not asking for help…see if you can be a listening ear or a much needed person who can help ease the burden that these families face.

Considering what they are doing for us…it’s not too much to ask.

Are you a military family experiencing this kind of stress? What has your experience been?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Six Ways to Get Closer Over the Labor Day Holiday

Sari Harrarand and Rita DeMaria Ph.D. have some listed six ways to feel closer right now in a recent Readers Digest article. Since we are heading into a long holiday weekend, and chances are you will get more time with your loved one…why not take a read and incorporate them into your plans along with the burgers and celebrating?

The six are pretty great!
1) Be funny
2) Be Kissy
3) Be Appreciative
4) Be Surprising
5) Be Historical
6) Be Forgetful

Visit the article to get the details and them come back to make the list longer by adding what you can do to feel closer…and how you plan to make that happen!

Let us hear your ideas!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Would You Buy Marriage Insurance?

posted by Michele Olson

With health insurance on everyone’s mind, US News and World Report had an interesting article recently about some more “exotic” types of insurances that are going to become available. The one that caught my eye was marriage insurance.

Early next year, at least one company expects to start offering marriage insurance. The policy will pay out in the event of a divorce as well as in the event of a long-lasting marriage. According to the Chief Executive of the Safeguard Guaranty Corp which plans to offer the plan, it’s designed for people who want to stay married. And because divorce can be financially devastating, the insurance is designed to ease some of the burden.

The policy can be purchased starting at a dollar a day. The divorce benefit increases over time, so people who stay married longer and then divorce receive more than those who divorce after shorter periods. For a typical policy with a $100,000 face value, the couple gets $12,500 if they divorce after five years. After 24 years the payout is $64,500. But if the couple stays married and celebrates their 25th wedding anniversary they get the full $100,000.

Wow. My husband and I could have been $100,000 richer six years ago! Unfortunately, the $64,500 is still too high and could be perceived as an incentive TO divorce by some couples not getting along and needing some cash. In some cases, it might even pay for the divorce…which is probably the intent. If you had put away the dollar a day from the first day of your marriage…in some type of decent savings or investment account and not touched it, you could do better than the insurance.

The company feels it will make the money they need to be in business from client’s premiums and customers who buy policies and end up cancelling. It also speaks to the insurance company’s certainty that they don’t expect the majority of marriages that take the insurance to last until payout time. Insurance companies are in the business to make money.

Would getting $100,000 after 25 years be an incentive for you to work on your marriage if you purchased this policy on your wedding day?

Who knows? Now instead of registering at department stores for gifts they would like, couples may be listing the name of an insurance company where you can pay part of their premiums.

What do you think?