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. 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,
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 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

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

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 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

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 , 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. 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

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. Thoughts?