From: Newsletter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Subject: Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 13.49
Welcome to this week’s UK Marriage News
· Autumn Statement 2013: Marriage tax break 'will help poorest families’
· Don't have children unless you are ready to marry, says judge
· Women twice as likely to be childless as 30 years ago due to 'greater social acceptability' of child-free lifestyle
· Will traditional marriage be written out of official statistics?
Government and Political
· Autumn Statement 2013: Marriage tax break 'will help poorest families’
More than four million married couples will be given tax breaks worth up to £200 a year in an attempt to help some of the “poorest working families” says the Telegraph. Couples in which the mother works at home or part-time are expected to be among the biggest winners of a policy that allows a husband or wife to transfer £1,000 of their unused personal tax-free allowance to their spouse. The highest earner in the couple must be a basic rate taxpayer, earning less than £41,865 a year, to qualify. By taking advantage of their partner’s unused allowance, their own taxable income will fall. The Treasury expects the measure to cost £500 million when it takes effect at the start of the 2015-16 financial year.
The Marriage Tax Allowance was put forward by David Cameron in September, and follows pressure from some Conservatives who have been pushing for it since the election in 2010. It is also expected to benefit more than 15,000 couples in civil partnerships. George Osborne told MPs that the allowance “is just a start”, adding: “We will introduce a new uprating mechanism that ensures that the new married couples tax allowance is automatically increased in proportion to the personal allowance.
“Four million families will benefit, many of them among the poorest working families in our country. This measure, along with the others we take today, ensures that across this parliament our policies are progressive — showing we’re all in this together, with the very rich paying the most.”
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales said many low income couples taking advantage of the tax break could lose other benefit payments as a result of the increase in their take-home pay. Anita Monteith, the group’s tax faculty manager, said: “The marriage tax allowance adds further complexity to an already complicated tax system that taxpayers struggle to deal with.”
However an economic think tank has warned that the marriage tax break should not be increased as it risks penalising people who start to earn more. The £200 tax break for married couples creates a “cliff edge” in the tax system that will see recipients left suddenly worse off as they earn more and become ineligible, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said. “A £200 cliff edge may not be too much to worry about. But one really would not want to make the cliff any higher.”
He added: “Whatever one’s views of the pros and cons of a transferable tax allowance, this one really has not been introduced in a way which makes it easy, or desirable, to extend it and make it a significant part of the tax system.”
Mark Pearce, a partner at the law firm Thomas Eggar, added that it was hard to see how a tax break equivalent to £4 a week would give an incentive to even the lowest-paid worker to get married. “Dangling a tiny, almost invisible, carrot to try to encourage people who are either not ready or do not want to get married is at best a sop to an ill-thought-out manifesto pledge and at worst another Coalition compromise,” he said.
However, John Ashcroft, the research director of the Marriage Foundation, said: “It is both right and fair for the tax system, and not just the tax system, to treat people as couples rather than just individuals so they are taxed the same whoever earns the income. Any government that does not recognise the mutual commitments and responsibilities of marriage undermines an institution which does so much to build the social fabric of the nation.”
During his trade visit to China this week, the Prime Minister hinted that the tax allowance would be the start of a series of cuts for married couples. “I believe in marriage, I believe marriage should be recognised in the tax system. I see this as, yes, a start of something I would like to extend further,” he said.
· Don't have children unless you are ready to marry, says judge
Sir Paul Coleridge said those couples whose relationship was stable enough to cope with the rigours of child rearing should marry reports the Telegraph (Daily Mail and the Guardian). But the judge, who is retiring from the bench next year after decades as a family lawyer and judge, said those who did not feel ready for children should not have them. He said couples had no right to have children, “you only have responsibilities if you have them”.
Sir Paul criticised warring parents’ obsessions with their own “rights” instead of their responsibilities to do the best for their children. His comments came after his Marriage Foundation think-tank published research suggesting children whose parents were not married were twice as likely to suffer a family break-up as those whose parents were married.
The Office for National Statistics reported earlier this year that the proportion of children born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales reached a record 47.5 per cent last year. This means that as many as 346,595 babies were born outside marriage or civil partnerships in England and Wales. It has risen from 25 per cent in 1988. If the trend continues it is estimated that more than half of all children will be born out of wedlock by 2016.
The 2011 Census found that the number of married people in England and Wales had fallen from just over half the population a decade ago to 45 per cent. This is the first time since the first census in 1801 that married couples have been in the minority.
Sir Paul, who sits in the High Court as Mr Justice Coleridge, said there was a “high level of ignorance” in the political establishment about the benefits of marriage. He praised Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has pressed for tax breaks for married couples, as one of the few figures willing to advocate the virtues of marriage. Sir Paul said recently that his decision to step down next year was at least in part driven by the lack of support within the judiciary for his views. He said he did not think politicians and other authority figures were “afraid” to speak in favour of marriage but many of them believed marriage and cohabitation were equivalent.
“There is this idea out there that it doesn’t make any difference whether you cohabit or marry [to which I say] no it doesn’t — except that one tends to last and the other tends not to last,” he said. “And when you are considering what is best for children, stability is the name of the game.” He insisted that he was not intending to “preach morality”. “But the reality of the family is very simple,” he said. “If your relationship is stable enough to cope with the rigours of child rearing then you should consider seriously adding the protection of marriage to your relationship. If your relationship is not stable enough to cope with children you should not have them. You have a responsibility – you have no right to have children, you only have responsibilities if you have them. In the courts people talk about their rights – you have no right where children are concerned … what you have are responsibilities and duties to do the best you can for them.”
He made clear he was not saying people should not have children unless they were prepared to marry. He said: “I don’t think they should have children until they are sure that their relationship is stable enough to cope with the stresses and strains.”
Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice, said: “A lot of people don’t realise that long-term cohabitation with children is really rare – most people with children who are still together after many years are married. Long-term results show that there is something different about being married, it is more stable. People are bound together when they are married in a way that they are not if they are just living together.”
· Children need stable families and responsible parents, says chief Inspector
In a recent speech, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, stated that child abuse and neglect do not happen randomly, but are the product of social decay stemming from family fragmentation reports Family Education Trust. Sir Michael referred to:
· children neglected because the adults who should care for them are only intent on securing their next hit;
· children abused because their biological parents were long ago alienated from each other and the new man in the house (the latest in a succession of men) is violent and resentful;
· young girls exploited sexually because a history of neglect has left them vulnerable to ruthless men who prey on their need for attention.
The Chief Inspector continued: ‘Some people will tell you that social breakdown is the result of material poverty. It’s more than this. These children lack more than money: they lack parents who take responsibility for seeing them raised well. It is this poverty of accountability which costs them. These children suffer because they are not given clear rules or boundaries, have few secure or safe attachments at home, and little understanding of the difference between right and wrong behaviour.
‘If we believe that the family is the great educator, and I certainly do, the community the great support system, then we as a society should worry deeply about the hollowing out and fragmentation of both.
‘A society which is free, liberal and compassionate should also be a demanding one. There is no conflict here. Liberty should never be confused with licence. Compassion shouldn’t be about making excuses for irresponsible behaviour. Parents, even in the most difficult circumstances, must be challenged to shoulder their familial responsibilities.’
· Call for better co-ordinated support for disadvantaged families
Services that support disadvantaged families need to be more joined up and involve children's centres, says 4Children reports CYPNow. Anne Longfield believes the Troubled Families programme suffers from a “lack of co-ordination and patchy delivery”, which she says varies between local authorities, and that children’s centres could play a vital role in delivering the scheme.
Her comments follow the publication of the a report from National Audit Office which reviews the progress of the Troubled Families scheme and the Families with Multiple Problems programme. The report finds that while both programmes are starting to impact on areas such as unemployment and antisocial behaviour, key elements of performance needs to improve if they are to meet the targets set by the government. It blames a lack of co-ordination between the two departments during the designing and implementation stages of the two programmes, which the report concludes have “considerable overlap”.
In response to the findings, Longfield said: “In order to be successful, it will be crucial for services and professionals in areas such as health, housing, social services and Jobcentre Plus to get behind the programme and work together in order to identify those families that require help, share data about their needs and provide support in a joined-up way. “The government also needs to lead the way for local authorities by ensuring that sufficient resources are available to enable them to realise the full benefits of the programme’s preventative approach.”
4Children’s annual Children’s Centres Census, published last month, found that 49 per cent of children’s centres were not involved with the delivery of the Trouble Families programme, despite already working with two-thirds of the country’s most disadvantaged families, meaning they are "not getting the joined-up help they need" said Longfield.
The Troubled Families scheme was launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government in April last year with the aim of turning around the lives of 120,000 disadvantaged families by May 2015. The Department for Work and Pensions introduced the Families with Multiple Problems programme in January last year with the aim of finding employment for 22 per cent of individuals attached to the initiative by March 2015.
· Ten new projects help separated couples resolve parenting conflicts
Ten new projects have been announced by the Department for Work and Pensions to help separated couples resolve grievances and agree financial and parenting arrangements in their children's best interests reports Family Law Week. The projects, worth £3.4m, will test new ways for separated parents to overcome conflicts that may have become entrenched over many years, as part of a £10m investment through the Innovation Fund.
The successful schemes include court-based 'shuttle mediation' sessions, practical family activities including painting, gardening and homework clubs to motivate change, and the latest international expertise on relationship support.
Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: "These groundbreaking projects find new ways to help separated couples put aside their differences, so they can agree their own maintenance payments and parenting arrangements in the best interests of their children. We are investing £20m to help separated parents through these innovative projects and a web app signposting relevant services. We know it can be tough to negotiate with an ex-partner, but we want to help more parents break free of deadlock and sort out their own arrangements, rather than fall back on the state or resort to the courts."
The projects will be evaluated to identify what works best in helping separated parents to resolve their difficulties and collaborate in the interests of their children.
The government awarded £6.5m Innovation Fund money to 7 projects in April 2013 in the first round of bidding. The new projects are as follows:
Children 1st – 3,119 families in Scotland
A bespoke online, telephone and face-to-face family decision-making service, based on a collaboration between Children 1st, Scottish Child Law Centre and One Parent Families Scotland.
Family Lives – 180 Muslim couples in Leicester, Waltham Forest, Gloucestershire
Working with the Barefoot Institute, an Islamic relationship support organisation, the project will provide emotional support before encouraging joint working and parenting agreements.
Family Matters Mediate Ltd – 408 couples in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Notts
The service uses conversational analysis and response methodology and the principles of restorative justice will be used to engage and motivate parents so they address the issues identified by the children.
Headland Future – 120 parents in the Tees Valley
Trained therapists work with individual parents individually to identify blocks to change and triggers for conflict, and help the children express their views through art to help motivate their parents to change.
Mediation Now Ltd – 225 parents in Portsmouth and Hampshire
Provides support in communication and conflict management skills, incorporating expertise from a programme used by over 3 million couples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.
National Association of Child Contact Centres – 4,685 families across England
For families where the conflict between parents is so entrenched that the non-resident parent is required to see their child on neutral ground at a supported child contact centre. Help for parents in 6 regional hubs and a new online screening tool.
National Family Mediation – 832 parents in Berkshire, Yorkshire and Herefordshire
Parents in the court system will get help through a new programme including 'shuttle mediation' to change attitudes and behaviour.
Pinnacle People Limited – 140 families in Bristol, Avon and the South West
Practical activities for parents and their children with a dedicated family coach to encourage parents to communicate and collaborate, including through painting, pottery, horticulture and homework clubs.
Sills & Betteridge Limited Liability Partnership – 2,400 families in Lincolnshire
Face-to-face or webcam and telephone support for families who struggle to get help because of low income, poor facilities and limited transport links. Assisted by Dr David Briggs, a leading psychologist who has developed programmes for behaviour change.
Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships – 100 parents in London
Free therapeutic services for parents caught up in intractable conflict and litigation, including the first UK trial of a risk assessment tool devised in Australia, working with the London Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
· Women twice as likely to be childless as 30 years ago due to 'greater social acceptability' of child-free lifestyle
A woman's chance of going through life without having children has almost doubled over the past three decades, national statistics showed yesterday says the Daily Mail. Nearly one in five of those who reached the end of their child-bearing years last year had no children, compared with just over one in ten of their mothers.
The breakdown by the Office for National Statistics showed that the most common family in Britain has two children – but among a generation of women born in the late 1960s, the next most likely outcome is that they have no children at all. There is also a historic rise in the number of single-child families, so that 15 per cent of mothers born in 1967 have just one child.
The ONS pointed to a variety of reasons for growing childlessness and smaller families, including the decline of marriage, which has left many women without a stable home in which to have children. Other factors leading to more childlessness are the greater costs of having children compared to sticking with a job or career and the ‘greater social acceptability of the child-free lifestyle’, its report said.
The ONS also said a key reason is ‘the postponement of decisions about children until it may be biologically too late’. The evidence was gathered by the ONS in its latest ‘cohort fertility’ figures – charts that show how many children were born to women of selected ages. Researchers compared the child-bearing history of those born in 1967, who reached 45 last year, with that of women from their mothers’ generation, born in 1940. An average woman born in 1940 had 2.36 children, while an average member of her daughter’s generation had 1.91. Those born in 1940 had an 11 per cent chance of childlessness, compared to 19 per cent for the 1967 generation.
Childlessness ran even higher for women born in 1965 and 1966, but high immigration in recent years has raised the overall numbers of mothers living in Britain. There have been high birth rates among women who have arrived in Britain since 1997. However, the ONS said that smaller families ‘reflect women’s postponement of child-bearing to older ages, for reasons including increased participation in higher education’. It also cited ‘the desire to establish a career, get on the housing ladder and ensure financial stability before starting a family’. And the ONS also noted the impact of the declining popularity of marriage. Factors in delayed child-bearing include ‘delayed marriage and partnership formation’.
Independent analysts said that increasing childlessness is also a result of many couples having to rely on a double income to survive. Family author and researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘There is a downside to women’s advancement in the jobs market – all women have to be at work to meet the cost of housing and living, and their husband or partner doesn’t have an income good enough to rely on. There is a tremendous loss if one of a couple leaves work, and there are no tax breaks to help them. Women just can’t afford children. No political party will face up to the fact that most women want to look after their own children. They don’t want to put them in daycare and they don’t want the father doing it.’
The statistic of 15 per cent of women born in 1967 having just one child is the highest rate since the generation born in 1935. The spread of ‘little emperor’ families – named after the Chinese phrase for parents with a single spoiled child – reverses a decline in the proportion of one-child families that dates from the Second World War. One-child families were most common among women born in the early 1920s. ‘Around one fifth of women born in the 1920s had one child,’ the report said. ‘This may be because their marriage and child-bearing were delayed or disrupted by World War Two.’
· Fear of Being Single Leads People to Settle for Less
Fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships among both men and women, a new University of Toronto (U of T) study has found reports Science Daily. The results are published in the December edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships," says lead author Stephanie Spielmann, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. "Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren't happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren't very good for them." She adds, "Now we understand that people's anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviours."
Investigators surveyed several samples of North American adults, consisting of University of Toronto undergraduates and community members from Canada and the U.S. The samples included a wide range of ages.
"In our results we see men and women having similar concerns about being single, which lead to similar coping behaviours, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single," says co-author, Professor Geoff MacDonald of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. "Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women, so it's not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender."
· Women’s marriage optimism
Having realistic expectations for your marriage is better than inflated optimism — this according to a new study which claims wives who are highly optimistic about the strength of their relationship are more likely to be dissatisfied later on reports Maybeido.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Family Psychology, was conducted by Justin A. Lavner, Benjamin R. Karney, and Thomas N. Bradbury. The researchers followed 501 newlywed couples in 251 marriage over the course of four years in order to determine whether couples who think positively about their marriage actually have happier marriages.
What they discovered was that optimism towards the relationship didn’t beget a more satisfying marriage — in fact, for women, it had a negative effect.
“Wives who predicted the greatest increases in satisfaction actually had the greatest declines in satisfaction,” the researchers wrote. What’s more, wives who felt strongly that their marriages would do well also reported “significantly lower self-esteem, more stressful life events, and higher levels of physical aggression toward their partners compared with wives with more moderate forecasts.”
Another study conducted earlier this year by Lisa A. Neff and Andrew L. Geers reached a similar conclusion: newlyweds who exhibited higher levels of relationship-specific optimism “experienced steeper declines in marital well-being over time.” The researchers theorized that optimism may act as a liability, hindering a couple’s ability to problem-solve down the line, and the marriage suffers as a result.
· The Social and Cultural Predictors of Generosity in Marriage Gender Egalitarianism, Religiosity, and Familism
This study focuses on the social and cultural sources of an important dimension of solidarity in contemporary marriages: marital generosity reports Family Issues. Marital generosity is defined here as freely giving to one’s spouse by regularly engaging in small acts of service, forgiving one’s spouse, and displaying high levels of affection and respect. Using recent data from a national sample, the Survey of Marital Generosity (N = 1,368 couples), we explored the associations between gender egalitarianism, familism, religiosity, and generous behaviour among spouses aged 18 to 45. Our results suggest that domestic gender egalitarianism—where spouses reported sharing housework and child care—is linked to greater reports of marital generosity. Religiosity is also positively associated with marital generosity. Finally, the most potent predictor of generosity in this study is commitment, where spouses are personally dedicated to their partner and to continuing the relationship.
· Good relationships make women more satisfied with their weight
Being in a satisfying relationship appears to correspond with a more positive body image in women, according to a new study reports BPS. A team at the Tallinn University in Estonia collected data from 256 women between the ages of 20 and 45. Out of these, 71.5 per cent were cohabiting and 28.5 per cent were married. All were asked questions about their weight, diet, self-consciousness, body image and self-esteem.
It was found that the more satisfied a woman was in her relationship, the more likely she was to be happy with her body, regardless of whether or not she was at a weight considered to be ideal.
Satisfied participants also scored higher in terms of self-esteem and lack of self-consciousness.
Presenting the research at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology in York, lead author Sabina Vatter said it suggests that a positive body image "has more to do with how happy we are in important areas of our lives, like our romantic relationships, than it does with what the bathroom scales say".
· Are men and women wired differently?
The belief that men and women think in completely different ways appears to have been confirmed by a new study at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Researchers scanned the brains of 428 men and 521 women using diffusion tensor imaging to map neural connections reports BPS. It was found that while female brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, the connections in their male counterparts were usually stronger between the front and back regions.
When both sexes were asked to perform tasks, men were more proficient at cycling, navigating, spatial processing and sensori-motor speed. Meanwhile, women excelled at multitasking, attention, memory for words and faces, and social cognition.
Lead author Dr Ruben Gur said in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the differences were striking. "Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders," he added.
However Dr Sophie Scott, Society member and Deputy Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London has suggested caution over the findings: "The study has been widely reported to show differences in the ways that male and female brains are ‘wired’, but the study is somewhat more ambiguous than this: not only do they fail to consider experiential differences that might underlie this variation, they do not report any behavioural data to support these differences.
"Furthermore, the authors do not report the variation in brain connectivity associated with age, which would seem to be important as their participants were aged between 8-22 years, a period of great brain development. This means that it’s hard to put the differences into context: for example Cathy Price has found, with functional imaging, that age (in adults) has a bigger effect on brain activity patterns than sex."
· Trajectories of Couple Relationship Quality after Childbirth: Does Marriage Matter?
Just found this recent paper from the Fragile Families study in the US. Marital quality typically declines after the birth of a (first) child, as parenthood brings new identities and responsibilities for mothers and fathers. Yet, it is less clear whether non-marital, cohabiting relationship quality follows a similar trajectory. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=2,108) with latent growth curve models to examine relationship quality for co-resident couples over nine years after a child’s birth.
Findings suggest that marriage at birth is protective for couple relationship quality, net of various individual characteristics associated with marriage, compared to all cohabiting couples at birth;
however, marriage does not differentiate relationship quality compared to the subset of stably - cohabiting couples. Also, cohabiting couples who get married after the birth have better relationship quality compared to all cohabitors who do not marry though again, not compared to stably - cohabiting couples.
· Does Patience Matter for Marriage Stability? Some Evidence from Italy
Here’s another one of those quirky Economics papers! Time preferences can affect divorce probability both affecting the quality of the match and affecting the spouses' reactions to negative shocks. We analyze the relationship between time preferences and divorce decisions using data from the Italian Survey on Household Income and Wealth, which provides a measure of time preferences based on a hypothetical financial situation in which individuals have to decide how much money to give up in order to receive a certain amount of money today instead of in one year's time. Controlling for a number of individual and family characteristics, we find that an increase in impatience of one standard deviation increases the probability of experiencing divorce by almost one percentage point. Our results are not affected by reverse causality problems and are robust when controlling for individual risk attitudes. We also find that more risk averse individuals are less likely to experience divorce.
· Getting Married? Love Science? Here are Our Ten Research-Based Wedding Vows
OK – so we don’t usually include advice pieces, but we thought this was of sufficient interest to perhaps prompt other readers to submit their own thoughts on marriage promises! Here’s what Science of Relationships came up with! (note – the links to the research areas etc are in the original article).
I study romantic relationships. I’m also engaged. So, of course, I’ve given a tremendous amount of thought as to what it really means for my partner and I to marry one another. Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don’t really know why they’re so meaningful. Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share for each other. But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. I suspect that it’s really these vows – the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family – that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.
No pressure. As my partner and I sat down to think about our own vows, clearly we had a lot to consider. If these promises are the essence of what it means to be married, then what exactly do we want to promise each other? We could always go with the traditional marriage vows: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better for worse…but, these seemed a bit too vague for our tastes. We decided that we wanted to make more specific, behavioural promises: things we can strive to do for each other that would help us to not only remain together, but also happy and fulfilled in our marriage.
Conveniently, I had decades of research at my fingertips to help us figure out what it really means to be a good spouse. Why not harness those resources for our wedding? In other words – and this may sound completely over-the-top nerdy to some – we decided to write some research-based vows.
Below are the ten promises that we’ve decided to make to each other. We believe that each of these promises is going to help us to achieve long-term marital bliss. Here’s why.
1. "I promise to respect, admire and appreciate you for who you are, as well as for the person you wish to become."
Research on positive illusions shows that it’s helpful to see romantic partners in a positive light – to appreciate their positive qualities rather than ruminating about their flaws. Not only does this sunny outlook lead to better relationship satisfaction, but positive illusions help partners to feel better about themselves. So, in the first part of this vow, we’re promising to always see the best in each other.
In the second part of this vow, my partner and I are promising to support each other’s attempts to grow and improve ourselves over time. This is called the Michelangelo phenomenon, and research shows that supporting your partner’s changes to their self is very beneficial both for the partner and for the relationship. Importantly, I’m not promising to help my partner improve in the way I want him to improve, but in the way he wants to improve himself, and vice versa. It’s all about supporting the partner’s own personal goals.
2. "I promise to support and protect your freedom, because although our lives are intertwined, your choices are still yours alone."
This vow draws from research on autonomy. Although humans are social creatures who both need and enjoy relationships, it’s also important for us to maintain our individuality. In particular, we need to feel like the decisions we’re making are truly coming from us. When people feel forced or coerced into making choices – like they didn’t have any real choice in the matter – they’re less happy and less fulfilled. And, as you might have guessed, that lack of happiness is problematic for relationships. In this vow, my partner and I are promising to avoid pressuring, guilting, or otherwise coercing each other into making decisions, striving instead to always respect each other’s right to make choices for ourselves.
3. "I promise to seek a deep understanding of your wishes, your desires, your fears, and your dreams."
This vow draws from research on responsiveness, which involves sensitively meeting your partner’s needs. Striving to meet each other’s needs is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. However, you can’t meet a partner’s needs if you don’t know what they are. Understanding one’s partner is the first step to being responsive, which is why we each promise to seek a deep understanding of one another.
4. "I promise to always strive to meet your needs, not out of obligation, but because it delights me to see you happy."
Once we figure out what each other’s needs are, my partner and I promise that we will try our best to meet those needs. Of course, this can be easier said than done. Sometimes, giving your partner what they need involves difficult sacrifices on your part.
Research on sacrifice shows that it’s important not to make sacrifices for avoidance-based reasons, such as feeling as though you “should” be giving something to your partner. Both partners are better off when any sacrifices are made out of approach motives, such as genuinely wanting to make your partner happy. So, with this vow, my partner and I are promising each other that when we do sacrifice for each other, we’ll do it only with love and care, and not with reluctance or resentment. If and when we can’t make sacrifices for the right reasons, it’s probably better not to make the sacrifice at all.
5. "I promise to be there for you when you need me, whenever you need me."
This vow is based on what it means to be a good attachment figure: the person in your life who you most strongly rely on for support. With this vow, we’re promising to reliably be there for each other when one of us is distressed: to be each other’s soft place to fall, or what researchers call a “safe haven.”
6. "I promise to nurture your goals and ambitious; to support you through misfortune, and to celebrate your triumphs."
This vow covers the other side of being a good attachment figure: being there for your partner when they’re not distressed. Basically, my partner and I both want to know that we can take risks, make mistakes, and come home to a supportive partner at the end of the day. Letting your partner go out and conquer their goals, knowing that you’re there in the background cheering them on, is called being a “secure base.”
7. "I promise to keep our lives exciting, adventurous, and full of passion."
Here, we draw from research on self-expansion theory, showing that couples are happier when they engage in new, interesting things together. Basically, we’re promising each other not to let our relationship fall into a rut. We’re going to keep courting each other, keep travelling and exploring together, and keep sharing novel and interesting experiences with each other for the rest of our lives.
8. "I promise to persevere when times get tough, knowing that any challenges we might face, we will conquer them together."
This is our version of the traditional vows about being together “for better, for worse”; in other words, it's a promise to stay committed to each other. Research shows that by having this committed outlook – where we intend to stay together through thick and thin – we should be better able to deal with any adversity that might come our way. This is because when a couple sees themselves as a permanent partnership, their perspective on problems tends to shift from being about “me against you” to being about “us against the issue”: commitment helps people to stop treating conflicts as zero-sum, instead prioritizing the wellbeing of their partner and their relationship. So by acting like a team, we’ll be in a better position to face challenges together.
9. "I promise to treat you with compassion rather than fairness, because we are a team, now and for always."
This vow draws from research on communal orientation. Being communally-oriented means that you contribute to your relationship based on what is needed and based on what you have to give. In other words, it’s about being a team player. With this vow, we’re promising not to “track and trade,” keeping careful tabs on each other to ensure that we’re each contributing to the relationship fairly and equally (“I did the dishes yesterday, so you should do them today”). Instead, we’re promising to always strive to contribute what we can, based on the needs of our partner (“You got home very late and had a stressful day – I’ll do the dishes tonight”). We trust that our respective efforts will more or less balance out in the long run. Communal strength, or this willingness to give to the relationship without much concern for what you’re receiving in return, is associated with a whole range of positive relationship outcomes.
10. "I promise to show you, every day, that I know exactly how lucky I am to have you in my life."
With this last vow, we draw from research on the emotion of gratitude. When people feel appreciative of their partners, they’re happier and more committed to their relationships. And when people express gratitude to their partners, their partners feel appreciated, that makes those partners feel happier, more committed, and more appreciative themselves. It’s all a wonderful cycle of goodness. So in this vow, my partner and I are promising to never take each other for granted, but rather to appreciate what we have and express that appreciation to each other often.
* * *
After the wedding, we’re planning on getting these engraved and hung up in our hallway, to remind ourselves regularly that we made these promises. Clearly, actually following them is the real challenge. But the effort we put into keeping them will undoubtedly make our relationship stronger.
And by the way, if anyone else likes the idea of having wedding vows that are based on research, feel free to use these. We’re happy to share!
· Croatians vote to ban gay marriage
Constitution will be amended after 65% of voters back statement that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman reports the Guardian. A majority of Croatians have voted in a referendum to ban gay marriages in what is a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union's newest nation. The state electoral commission, citing initial results, said 65% of those who voted answered "yes" to the referendum question: "Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?" About 34% voted against. The result meant that Croatia's constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage.
The vote has deeply divided Croatia. Liberal groups have said the referendum's question infringes on basic human rights. The church-backed groups have gathered 750,000 signatures in its support. The country of 4.4 million, which became EU's 28th member in July, has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive.
The referendum was called by conservative group In the Name of the Family after Croatia's centre-left government drafted a law to let gay couples register as "life partners". The Catholic church's leaders have urged their followers to vote "yes" in the referendum. Nearly 90% of Croatians are Roman Catholics. "Marriage is the only union enabling procreation," Croatian cardinal Josip Bozanic said in his message to followers. "This is the key difference between a marriage and other unions."
New Books, Resources and materials
· What's the secret of a long and happy relationship?
There’s a great reflective piece by Charles Handy published in the Guardian – it’s a really insightful overview of his long and happy marriage to Elizabeth. Well worth the read and apparently one of a series of Reflections on Ageing: The Role of Relationships in Later Life, a collection of essays that will be published by Relate on 17 December (www.relate.org.uk/essays )
Forthcoming conferences and events
· Forthcoming conferences
Details of all forthcoming conferences can always be found under our listing at 2-in-2-1
· Teach married couples about monogamy for sake of the children, says High Court judge
OK, so it’s not a forthcoming conference having happened last Friday, but here’s the Telegraph’s take on the Marriage Foundation Conference.
Married couples need to be taught about monogamy to help stem a tide of family breakdown which could blight life in Britain for decades, a leading High Court judge will say today. Sir Paul Coleridge, the family division judge, will warn of “yawning public ignorance” about the damaging mental effects on children of conflict between parents, even from birth.
It emerged last week that Sir Paul, who is retiring next year, decided to step down because of opposition from within the judiciary to his support for traditional marriage. He has been placed under investigation and could be officially censured over comments last year criticising the Government for pushing through same-sex marriage legislation rather than tackling a “crisis of family breakdown”.
Speaking in London he will call for a new approach to tackling family breakdown with a greater emphasis on helping prevent relationships running into trouble in the first place. Sir Paul, who founded the Marriage Foundation think-tank last year, is calling for couples in apparently happy and stable marriages to be actively encouraged to seek professional help to build stable strong long-term relationships.
He is hosting a conference in London today to promote the idea of “relationships education” – sending couples to professional classes to teach them how to avoid potential pitfalls rather than relying on marriage guidance and counselling after the damage has been done.
The Work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is among those expected to attend and speak in support of the idea.
Sir Paul, one of the most outspoken figures on the bench, will single out the very public acrimony between Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, exposed during the trial of two former aides, as an example of the pain of a family split which he said would “chime with many who had been exposed to the rigours of the break-up mill”.
He will argue that for centuries society was held together artificially by “nasty taboos” and stigmas which prevented people getting divorced even in cruel and violent relationships. But unless modern couples can learn to respect “self imposed boundaries” Britain could be facing “Social anarchy” with children the biggest victims, he will say. “I encounter it, day in and day out, in arena of the family courts – let it not be forgotten that 50 per cent of all children are not living with both parents by the time they are 15,” he will say. There are millions of them and it is they who are the real victims and casualties. Their parents are too, of course, but the children are given no choice, are never consulted and only rarely considered before it and its effects are dumped into their young lives, slowly to release their legacy over the whole course of their upbringing and way beyond into their adult lives.”
He will continue: “We live in a time of mass family breakdown. We know of its destructive effects. In the old days society was held together by rigid taboos and stigmas which prevented parties from divorcing and stigmatised illegitimate children. These taboos were indiscriminate in their application and led to much inhuman behaviour and unhappiness. I am genuinely thankful they have evaporated and been consigned to the scrap-heap of history in favour of individual choice. However if we are to enjoy freedom to chose we must be helped to understand and make the right choices for ourselves and our children. Social anarchy and a society without boundaries is not the only the alternative to nasty taboos. If we are not to have restraint by taboo we must have personal restraint and self imposed boundaries.”
But he admitted that many couples would be reluctant to consider marriage classes because they fear they would be like a “Maoist re-education camp” or involve lying on a couch or “embarrassing group discussion”.
“It is instead about equipping people by giving them the tools to cope with and manage the eternally difficult subject of living with your partner in a monogamous long term relationship,” he will say.
Consultations and Campaigns
Below is our running list of current and recent consultations and campaigns. New items or those requiring action are highlighted. The Reference numbers are to the newsletter where we covered the subject.
· Will traditional marriage be written out of official statistics?
With the first same-sex marriages due to take place by summer 2014, the Office for National Statistics is reviewing how it publishes its figures on marriage, civil partnership and divorce reports Family Education Trust.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is considering adopting a gender-blind approach to marriage and divorce statistics after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act comes into force during the summer of 2014. The ONS, which has the status of a non-ministerial government department, is currently consulting on whether to merge marriages between a man and a woman with same-sex marriages in its statistical releases. It is also contemplating issuing figures for divorces that draw no distinction between the type of marriage being ended, and even including civil partnerships within the marriage statistics to provide figures on ‘ legally recognised partnerships’.
The consultation was quietly launched on 8 October, [Our apologies that we completely missed this. Ed] on the very same day that the ONS published a report showing that female couples were almost twice as likely to end a civil partnership as male couples. However, if the UK’s recognised national statistical institute ceases to draw any distinction between different types of ‘legally recognised partnerships’, it will no longer be possible to compare and contrast the relative stability or otherwise of different types of registered union.
Family Education Trust director, Norman Wells, commented: ‘It is vital that the ONS is completely open and transparent about the statistics it publishes on marriage, civil partnership and divorce. If we are going to be able to assess the impact of same-sex marriage on traditional marriage, the figures will need to be published separately and not merged into a genderless mush.
‘Decades of research have demonstrated that a marriage between a man and a woman is considerably more stable than other types of relationship and produces better outcomes for children. The Prime Minister and some other supporters of the recent redefinition of marriage are assuming that same-sex unions will produce identical results, but without separate figures the argument cannot be settled one way or the other.
‘To adopt a gender-blind approach to marriage and divorce would severely limit the ability of researchers to assess the relative benefits of different types of registered relationships and stifle healthy debate in a key area of public policy.
‘If the government is serious about pursuing family policy based on sound evidence, it is of the utmost importance that all the relevant statistics should be readily available and not hidden from view.’
Consultation Closes 17th December
· BE the change!
This week’s Soapbox comes on the back of having been at the Marriage Foundation conference on Friday. The conference was sold out, with plenty of old and new faces, and a good speaker line up. There were some challenging inputs, notably Penelope Leach/Melanie Gill on the ways that a better understanding of the importance of attachment theory might re-shape our attitudes to decisions in the situations of family breakdown (and/or the need to avoid it). There were also quite a few “here’s what we do” type presentations – perhaps necessary for those new to the idea of Relationship Education, but rather like reading a brochure out loud to those of us familiar with the field and the players. Just one or two (notably Jason Royce from Romance Academy) spoke with real passion about areas where we need to up our game, especially about the need for new exciting role models of what it really means to be a Dad (and a man) today!
There was much talk about the need for a “culture change” in society to one where seeking help early etc is seen as normal – but to be honest, the conversation felt like one taking place in the stands, not out on the pitch! Somehow “they” (whoever “they” are) need to change.
Almost 20 years ago, on a business vision forming session for the business I was running, we had spent 24 hours discussing the way forward when something happened that shifted my perspective in an instant. As an engineering company we had been discussing analysis, design and similar (to us) everyday tasks when suddenly one of our number (normally a quiet individual) just exploded from his seat and shouted at us, with tears of frustration in his eyes, “I don’t want to f***ing design – I want to CREATE!” There was a hushed silence in the room – and then one by one we started to grasp the difference he was talking about – a vision that was so much bigger, and demanded so much more of us. The rest of the event is a blur, but it was characterised by huge excitement, and one phrase that has shaped my life ever since – “If you want to create change, you have first to BE the change!”
If we want to change the culture, it won’t be by talking about “prevention”, and “avoiding breakdown”, and by running advertising campaigns like those about stopping smoking! It will be because someone, with tears in their eyes explodes onto the scene to articulate a radically different vision in which loving relationships sit at the heart of society – where the full meaning of unconditional love is demonstrated and valued and applauded daily – where society’s members spontaneously commit random acts of untold kindness – where revenge and retaliation are replaced by forgiveness and reconciliation – where the me-first culture is turned on it’s head by mutual support and care!
And if we want such a change then first we have to BE the change! At a corporate level I want to issue a challenge to every organisation that reads this newsletter to stop and think: “What would it look like if we were to actually start behaving this way, and espousing such values in everything we do?” And at a personal level, what would it look like if we were to start putting these values into practice as we first got out of bed in the morning until the last vestiges of wakefulness departed at the end of the day?
Please put those questions at the top of the agenda for your next board meeting, or mull them over personally as you go through Christmas, and turn them into realisable actions as part of your New Year Resolutions.
We have talked about the need for change long enough – if we really mean it, then the time has come to BE the change!
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