Thursday, April 29, 2010

From a Rut to a Marathon in a Marriage

Posted by Michele Olson
Harry Smith on the CBS Morning show interviewed a couple recently who had an interesting story. They had been married ten years before children, and once kids came, found themselves losing each other. With all the changes, they felt they had become someone they didn't recognize as a couple.
Brad Wieners and Mary Ashley decided to team up on a multi sport adventure race across New Zealand to recharge their marriage. Brad has written about their unusual experience in Men's Journal Magazine, on news stands now. While Brad had considered himself an athlete at some point, Mary did not have any background in training of this type. In fact when she realized that the event meant 21 miles over a mountain for her and 42 miles in a kayak for him, plus mountain biking when they didn't even own a bike...she thought it was a crazy idea.
They decided to do it together to tackle a new challenge and found that as their ability to do this through training progressed, so did their ability to change and be there for each other. As a team, neither wanted to let the other they kept going. This had nothing to do with children, only about them being a strong team. It's a great analogy for marriage.
Relationship expert Heide Banks commented about the basis of their success; intention. With strong intention you can do anything.
It's a good question to ask ourselves; how strong is my intention to have a strong healthy marriage? What am I willing to do to act on that intention?
Here are the details on the race if you'd like to take that path. If that is not for you, why not consider healthy relationship and marriage education through workshops in your area or online?
Making sure you have our free Marriage Myth Buster Guide is also a good intentional way to start.
What would be your dream to tackle as a couple?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

92.1 % of Statstics are Made Up and The Divorce Rate is 50%

posted by Michele Olson

Ever heard the old joke; 49.7 % of all statistics are made up? I love that joke. You don’t even have to remember the number in the statistic, you can make that up and change it every time if you’d like.

Ahhh, statistics. As a right brainer, my eyes glaze over when I see charts or someone starts going into in-depth statistics. There are many people in the general public who are just like me. How do I know that? Most of us hear one number as a general statistic and that’s good enough for us. That’s all we want to know thank you very much. We don’t want to feel as if we are back in high school wishing the bell would ring and let us out of this mind numbing class. We’re happy to take our one number that sounds reasonable and quote it in any upcoming conversation that includes that topic.

Here’s a test to see if you fall into this category too.
Quick, what’s the divorce rate in the U.S.?

You probably answered 50%.

That’s what we hear in the media and we repeat it over and over again. At we get feedback from people who like our mission because, well, don’t you know there’s a 50% divorce rate in the U.S.?

Unfortunately in our instant potato, microwave society, the real truth is not quite that easy to disseminate. Just because we love a simple, wrapped in a bow, easy to remember statistic doesn’t mean it’s what’s actually happening.

Here’s a better look at the rates of marriage and divorce in the U.S. Titled: Interpreting Divorce Rates, Marriage Rates, and Data on the Percentage of Children with Single Parents, this Research Brief
by Paul R. Amato
will make you much more informed on the current data.

As the report states: data on family statistics comes from two primary sources: vital statistics and surveys. Total counts of marriages and divorces are reported by state and county offices to the federal government and are summarized in publications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. Funding for the collection and publication of detailed marriage and divorce statistics was suspended in January 1996.

Wait, stop! 1996? That’s like a hundred years ago in statistic land isn’t it? For example, in 2004, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, and Louisiana did not report this type of information. For this reason, there is no complete count of how many divorces occur in the United States annually.

What to do to fill in the gap? Enter the survey.

This report points out a better measure—the refined divorce rate. This rate is the number of divorces per 1,000 married women.

Back to report speak:
This rate is preferable to the crude divorce rate because the denominator includes only those people at risk of divorce. The federal government has not published information on the refined divorce rate for many years. Nevertheless, in 2008 the annual ACS added a question on divorce (and marriage) during the previous year. The addition of this question (which will continue in subsequent surveys) makes it possible to calculate a refined divorce rate for the United States, including states that do not report information on divorce statistics to the federal government. An analysis of this item indicates that the refined divorce rate ranged from a low of 14.3 in North Dakota to a high of 34.5 in Washington, DC, with a national average of 19.4 (National Center for Family and Marriage Research, 2010). An advantage of the refined divorce rate is that it has a clear interpretation. That is, dividing the rate by 10 yields the percentage of marriages that end in divorce every year. Currently, this figure is about 2%. A possible limitation of relying on the ACS is that surveys (in general) appear to underestimate the frequency of divorce when compared with vital statistics (Martin and Bumpass, 1989). When the federal government releases vital divorce statistics for 2008, it should be possible to assess the extent and importance of any bias.

Did you get that?

I hope you will read the report and educate yourself so the next time someone throws out the old tried and true 50% divorce rate you can bring up this report and sound like Einstein.

Because remember 89.2 % of all statistics are made up.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

What We Could Teach Archie and Edith

posted by Michele Olson

If you have 20 minutes and want to take a break….check out this episode of All in the Family. Each section is 10 minutes long and it is the entire episode.
This episode finds Archie and Edith Bunker facing the empty nest and what it means to their marriage. This leads to Archie not being able to say he’s sorry when he’s hurt Edith’s feelings.
It’s an entertaining look at this couple as they deal with something that all marriages will deal with…learning to say you are sorry.

A former blog on how to apologize would have helped.

As would this blog on marriage education.

Archie and Edith are one of a kind, and we can learn from this episode. The question is, will we put into practice what we learn?

Watch the episode and explore all the resources at Don't forget to share some thoughts!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Earth Day - Go Green With Your Marriage!

posted by Michele Olson

If you want to know how Earth Day started, with the beginnings in the 1960s and the actual first day in 1970 forty years ago today, here’s a link to the story.

What’s interesting was how after all the background work was done, the grassroots movement took on a life of its own, far beyond what Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day could have ever imagined.

In his own words:
Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

It really took off because of the involvement of students in college campuses. We here at can’t help but be “green” with envy, and would love to see our own grassroots movement rise to the same type of country wide consciousness. Healthy relationships and marriages through education and skill building are also very important to the well being of the human race!

Grass root movements still count on the individual to spread the word and we are counting on you. Read this blog, comment and forward it to your circle of influence. Get your free Marriage Myth Buster Guide. Talk about the importance of marriage to the people you know. Uphold marriage, including your own marriage or healthy relationship. Sign up for workshops, online classes or coaching. Settle for nothing less than your own healthy relationship.

And then, Go Green with your marriage! Stop emotional pollution. Invest in your relationship.
Explore all that has to offer.

Can we count on you to spread the word today? If you are reading this right now, don’t leave without making your voice heard. Why not start by blogging? Go Green!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Mrs. Obama Thinks About Being a Mrs.

posted by Michele Olson
To celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Good Housekeeping Magazine, they put First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover, along with the words; on keeping her marriage close.

Of course I wanted to hear more about what our First Lady has to say about her marriage so I headed to the article. (It’s also the first time I realized we have the same initials, and yes the same first name but spelled differently.) For some reason, Mrs. Obama seems to get asked more about her marriage than previous First Ladies, perhaps because the Obama’s bring small children with them and the appearance of family is more apparent. Parenting, marriage, and the presidency are all of interest to the public.

When asked what qualifies as “couple time” these days, her response makes her and the president sound pretty typical. They try to eat dinner together with their kids whenever possible, which is now much easier for them since campaigning stopped. They may spend the evening reading a little or curled up in the den watching a TV show, catching up and talking. She talks about the fact that they aren’t talking about “big splashy stuff” which if you think about the topics they could get into is pretty interesting, but rather it’s the day-to-day sharing and routines they talk about. Just like a real normal couple.

When asked what other couples can learn from their marriage, Mrs. Obama states that young couples have to realize that marriage is hard work- even if you are married to your soul mate, a person you consider to have very few flaws.

From the Good Housekeeping article written by Rosemary Ellis:
MO: Building a life with a person other than yourself, and raising kids and dealing with all of the bumps and the bruises and the joys and the pains that go along with life, that creates the natural state of marriage, and it's a challenge. I say that to people not to discourage them, but to say that you will inevitably hit those bumps. Don't view that as a shortcoming of yourself or your spouse or your marriage. Don't give up on it. Just understand that you're going along the path that everybody else goes on. Go in ready for the work.

Whatever your political leanings…it’s refreshing to see a couple in the White House who are so grounded when it comes to marriage. We all hope they stay that way. With all the pressures they must face in a day, a strong marriage can be the cornerstone of their personal joy and comfort.

Monday, April 19, 2010

See a Black Marriage Day Event and Plan Now for Next Year

posted by Michele Olson

March 28, 2010 was Black Marriage Day as we mentioned in a previous blog. Many wonderful celebrations were held around the country. There was a very successful Black Marriage Day event with wedding vow renewals in Milwaukee, WI. Here is a look at that day and the event.

According to, the hub for the day:
Any entity interested in celebrating the joy of marriage in the Black community can host a Black Marriage Day event. Organize couples in your family, social or work group to stand up on Black Marriage Day and celebrate marriage. The goal is to change the hearts and minds of the Black community to cherish and celebrate the marriages that we currently have while encouraging more to commit themselves to marriage so more children grow up with the gift of a two parent family.

Since we all know how fast time flies, now is probably the time to begin planning for a Black Marriage Day event in your community for 2011. Use the video above for inspiration and think about what you can do for the event next year.

Anyone have stories to share about Black Marriage Day celebrations you attended?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not Dear Abby, Instead Dear Carolyn

posted by Michele Olson

You may see Carolyn Hax as a Dear Abby type of columnist in your local newspaper. She is a writer for the Washington Post and her column is distributed to many papers through syndication. I enjoy her articles because they are a good tool to show the pulse of what's happening around the country.

This particular column features a good question and answer that points out how a bad potential marriage is on the horizon, and it doesn't have to take place. If this couple would take a pre-marital check up such as the one available at, they could begin the process of talking about how they handle conflict. Another good point from the letter; don't compromise how you are treated because you want to be with someone. How many people have made that mistake thinking things will change after the marriage? And the person sending in this question has been living with her boyfriend for five years.

Read the letter and the response and then let us hear some of your thoughts.

By Carolyn Hax
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Dear Carolyn:

My live-in boyfriend (of five years) and I are in our mid-20s and have talked about marriage, but he snaps at me often over what I see as trivial issues. Today, he mentioned some food looked like it was going bad, and I asked him if he'd used it or just noticed it. He raised his voice slightly and said he was just letting me know, stop pestering him, and he doesn't want to have a discussion about it.

This is just one example. I was away last week, and in the day I've been home, he's said something sharp to me five or six times. It's jarring to come back to this roller coaster.

I admit I can be critical and a little controlling, but I actively work to improve my temper. I don't know if our relationship is normal or if most couples are always pleasant to each other. Lately I've been having (overwhelming) thoughts of how we would divide our stuff and whether I'm strong enough to live alone. He treats me well most of the time and we love each other. Am I overreacting?


Either someone treats you well all of the time, or you need to get out. Do not settle for "most of the time." You can have a raging disagreement and still treat each other respectfully throughout.
You've cited two precursors to emotional abuse: One is that "roller coaster." The ups lift your hopes, and the downs kill your confidence. Classic.

The other is your self-doubt -- about your strength, and about your ability to judge what's healthy. People always ask, why stay with an abuser? You've just answered them: Because people tell themselves it's better than being alone, and any relationship would be the same as this one.

Listen listen listen to the voice telling you to get out. Find that strength. (article on site)

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Trips Your Trigger in a Website?

posted by Michele Olson

What attracts you when you open the page of a website? It is the ohhh's and ahhh's of the graphics? Do you like it to flash and dazzle you? Seems like most people like a little razzle dazzle at first, but then they want to get down to the reason they came to the site; to get some information about something.

We've updated and regrouped the website, and we hope you will find it easier and even more useful to you as a resource for your healthy relationships, including marriage.

Do you like to take quizzes and polls? We have an area to do just that.

Would you like to see some statistics about what happens to people once they take a workshop? There's an area to find that out.

Always wondered; just who is and why are they interested in relationships and marriage? You will find the answer to that question.

What do people who take our classes have to say? We also have a testimonial section.

That's just the tip of the iceberg of everything you can find on our website, but if you haven't been there lately, I encourage you to take a fresh new look. Do some exploring and let us know what you found to be really interesting.

We want your feedback because we'll be continually adding and improving the website. Don't miss the new MarriageWiki too!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Midlife Married Date Night

Posted by Michele Olson

If you are a fan of sitcoms, (Me! Me!) you are well aware of the talent of Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Steve Carell (The Office.) They have collaborated in a movie about a couple’s midlife marriage called Date Night. In the movie which opens this weekend, they learn that their closest friends are splitting. The couple starts to wonder if their own marriage has hit a brick wall. Steve Carell’s character hatches a “date night” for the two where they will wine and dine and rediscover their mojo in New York. In a comic case of mistaken identity the “date” becomes a wild ride into the hilarious and we all get to go along.

The perfect “date night” movie for your marriage, it can also open up a discussion about your own relationship.

Then in the real world, you can turn to for an online couple’s check-up and/or couples coaching. Healthy relationship education is a great way to work on your early, mid and empty nester marriage … laughing at a good movie is a great place to start. (movie trailer)

Also! Check the workshop calendar throughout the year to attend a 10 Great Dates for Married Couples workshop.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Four Red Flags of Marriage

posted by Michele Olson

You know what a red flag is right? When a red flag pops up, it means pay attention. There’s danger ahead. Take a different route, or adjust the direction.

There are red flags in marriage too. The Healthy Marriage Handbook published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System parlayed the flags into four main points, as written in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Take a look at these four flags and see if they are creeping into your relationship.

Flag one: Criticism

Criticism and complaining are not the same thing. A complaint is toward a specific behavior, but a criticism takes it further and assigns a character trait.
Instead of “you didn’t put your clothes in the hamper” it’s “you’re so lazy.”

Flag two: Defensiveness

We all might want to defend ourselves against a complaint, but this does nothing to defuse the situation. The response can be like throwing gas on a flame. Defensiveness can lead to blaming our spouse instead of listening and trying to understand. When you are defensive you are saying; the problem isn’t me, it’s you.

Flag three: Contempt

Too much negativity leads to conversations full of sarcasm, cynicism and mockery. All of these are like poison in a relationship. This type of conveying disgust serves no purpose but to erode the relationship.

Flag four: Stonewalling

When there’s no hope of progress, one partner (the man in 85 percent of cases) simply tunes out. He doesn’t care; he might not even appear to hear. This happens further into the problematic flags and it can be a very deadly disconnection.

Be on the lookout for these four red flags and stop them in their tracks. Once allowed to progress, they can create a cycle that is difficult to stop.

To keep a check on these flags, consider a marriage check-up, marriage education or coaching for your relationship. Don’t forget to explore all the resources available for you at
What about you? Are you dealing with red flags right now?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Take The Top 10 Challenge Today!

Posted by Michele Olson

It seems like a normal Tuesday. Let's change it up.

We all love a good David Letterman Top Ten list. Now you be the brainstormer.

Instead of dwelling on the things about your spouse that you would like to change, the negative things...focus for a minute on the positive things about your spouse and your marriage.

Make a top 10 list today. If things aren't going well right now, go back in time to remember those qualities that drew you to one another.

Make it a stellar list and refer to it when you are feeling frustrated or ready to say something you shouldn't.

Take the challenge.

All it takes is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. If you like to doodle, doodle the list. If you like color, color the list. But do it.

This is the day.

10 Great Things About My Spouse!

Maybe you'll even want to post it on the fridge or share it directly with your spouse.

Let us know what happens when you take the time to make a list !

Monday, April 05, 2010

Laura Munson's Rest of the Story...Not What You Think

posted by Michele Olson

Good Morning America on ABC revisited a subject of our Aug. 3,2009 blog about Laura Munson’s unusual tactics to save her marriage. She now has a book out called: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Basically Laura woke up one day to hear these words from her spouse “I don’t love you anymore, I don’t know if I ever loved you.” That isn’t that uncommon unfortunately. What’s different about Laura’s story is her reaction. She replied: I don’t buy it.

Not a typical response.

In Laura’s words from her book:
At this moment in my life, I am not sure where my husband is. He left last night to bring the trash to the dump after announcing that he's not sure he loves me anymore, and hasn't come home. He isn't answering his cell phone. He isn't responding to texts.
But I don't buy it. The part about him not loving me. As much as it's devastating to hear, I believe there's more to the story. I believe he's in a state of personal crisis. I believe this is about him.’’
She basically gives him a time frame to figure this out…she gives him time to do what he has to do to get to the bottom of what he is feeling. It was a risk, because in the meantime, she sat with all the feelings that go along with hearing someone doesn’t love you and she didn’t get to go off the deep end. Instead, she waited for a possibly better outcome. And it worked. Check out our past blogs and this new ABC report, plus the book. The excerpt seems like it’s a good read on many levels.

What do you think? Have you been in Laura’s shoes?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Complex Jealousy…That’s Nasty!

In yesterday’s blog we learned from Steven Stosny’s article in that there are two types of jealousy: simple and complex.

Simple: doable.
Complex: trouble!

Here’s an overview of the article on disarming complex jealousy:

1) Obsessions distort reality. If you can’t stop thinking about your partner flirting, then distrust the feelings, not necessarily your partner. (Don’t trust your heart and feelings because they have gone awry!)

2) If you are experiencing complex jealousy, you are feeling unloved and inadequate. That’s called “core hurts” and basically it’s stinking thinking. By simply asking yourself:
What can I do to feel more lovable and adequate?” you will help yourself understand that destructive behavior with your loved one will not achieve a healthy end.

3) Focus on compassion not trust. Steven is saying if you are dwelling in complex jealousy, you don’t have the confidence to trust right now, so refocus to compassion.

4) Move over into the healthy arena of simple jealousy. Self correct by being more compassionate, supportive, cooperative and loving.

If this sparks something in you, check out the whole article for the great advice it holds. Making sure you are not feeding complex jealousy in your relationship can be a key to a more rewarding life for you and your loved one.

Thoughts? Has the green-eyed monster been a problem in your home? Let us hear your story.