From: Newsletter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Sep 2, 2013 at 9:27 AM
Subject: Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 13.35
Welcome to this week’s UK Marriage News
· Interfering in-laws are 'responsible for one in 10 divorces' in Britain, study into marriage breakdown reveals
· The transforming power
· Education before marriage; marriage before children – the sequence matters
· Interfering in-laws are 'responsible for one in 10 divorces' in Britain, study into marriage breakdown reveals
Interfering in-laws are responsible for one in 10 marriage breakdowns in Britain, a new study into divorce has found says the Daily Mail. Arguments about how often couples see parents and families were the underlying tensions behind nearly a third of marriage splits, while rows over how to bring up the children caused difficulties for a quarter of married couples. Disagreements over the division of household chores, career aspirations and holidays were also major factors in married couples splitting up. Meanwhile, half of all married couples never discuss where to live or whether to have children before they get married, which could lead to trouble further down the line, the study found.
The study by The Co-operative Legal Services surveyed 2,000 married couples, including 800 divorcees. While traditional causes of divorce, such as infidelity and selfishness, were the biggest reasons for marriages breaking down, lifestyle habits, such as how often they go out and the amount they drink, and where the couple lives were among the biggest reasons for tension in marriages.
Christina Blacklaws, Director of Family Law at The Co-operative Legal Services, said: 'When getting engaged, couples spend so much effort planning for the wedding day of their dreams that they lose sight of the next 50 years of married life. Sadly, this is the underlying reason for the majority of divorces, as couples with different ideas and expectations start to drift apart and no longer connect a few years down the track. It doesn’t have to be as formal as pre-marital counselling, but couples certainly stand a much better chance of a long and happy marriage if they spend time talking to each other about what they each want out of life and how they want to live their lives together before they get married.'
A total of 11 per cent of those polled blamed interfering in-laws for their marriage break down, while eight per cent blamed political beliefs. Another nine per cent said they got married too young and 13 per cent blamed their incompatibility. Meanwhile, 31 per cent of those polled said rows over whether to have children caused tensions, while 25 per cent argued over how to bring up children.
Top 10 tensions behind marriage splits
1 - Lifestyle choices - drinking etc (46 per cent)
2 - Where to live (37 per cent)
3 - Division of chores (36 per cent)
4 - Whether to have children (31 per cent)
5 - How often to see families (28 per cent)
6 - Being ‘stay at home parent’ or continuing with career (28 per cent)
7 - How to bring up children (25 per cent)
8 - Career aspirations (23 per cent)
9 - Travelling and holidays (23 per cent)
10 - How often to see friends (22 per cent)
Top 10 reasons for marriage break down
1 - Affair (33 per cent)
2 - Selfishness (22 per cent)
3 - Personality traits (too similar or too different) (14 per cent)
4 - Abusive relationship (14 per cent)
5 - Different expectations from life (13 per cent)
6 - We’re not compatible (13 per cent)
7 - Job loss or debt (12 per cent)
8 - Interfering in-laws (11 per cent)
9 - Got married too young (9 per cent)
10 - Political beliefs (8 per cent)
· Men Feel Worse About Themselves When Female Partners Succeed
Deep down, men may not bask in the glory of their successful wives or girlfriends says Science Daily. While this is not true of women, men's subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their spouse or girlfriend excels, says a study published by the American Psychological Association.
It didn't matter if their significant other was an excellent hostess or intelligent, men were more likely to feel subconsciously worse about themselves when their female partner succeeded than when she failed, according to the study published online in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. However, women's self-esteem was not affected by their male partners' successes or failures, according to the research, which looked at heterosexual Americans and Dutch.
"It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they're doing together, such as trying to lose weight," said the study's lead author, Kate Ratliff, PhD, of the University of Florida. "But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner's success as their own failure, even when they're not in direct competition"
Men subconsciously felt worse about themselves when they thought about a time when their female partner thrived in a situation in which they had failed, according to the findings. The researchers studied 896 people in five experiments.
In one experiment, 32 couples from the University of Virginia were given what was described as a "test of problem solving and social intelligence" and then told that their partner scored either in the top or bottom 12 percent of all university students. Hearing that their partner scored high or low on the test did not affect what the researchers called participants' explicit self-esteem - i.e., how they said they felt.
Participants were also given a test to determine how they felt subconsciously about their partners' performance, which the researchers called implicit self-esteem. In this test, a computer tracks how quickly people associate good and bad words with themselves. For example, participants with high implicit self-esteem who see the word "me" on a computer screen are more likely to associate it with words such as "excellent" or "good" rather than "bad" or "dreadful."
Men who believed that their partner scored in the top 12 percent demonstrated significantly lower implicit self-esteem than men who believed their partner scored in the bottom 12 percent. Participants did not receive information about their own performance.
Findings were similar in two more studies conducted in the Netherlands. The Netherlands boasts one of the smallest gender gaps in labour, education and politics, according to the United Nations' Gender Equality Index. However, like American men, Dutch men who thought about their romantic partner's success subconsciously felt worse about themselves than men who thought about their partner's failure, according to both studies. They said they felt fine but the test of implicit self-esteem revealed otherwise.
In the final two experiments, conducted online, 657 U.S. participants, 284 of whom were men, were asked to think about a time when their partner had succeeded or failed. For example, some participants were asked to think about their partner's social success or failure, such as being a charming host at a party, or a more intellectual achievement or failure. In one study, participants were told to think of a time when their partner succeeded or failed at something at which they had succeeded or failed. When comparing all the results, the researchers found that it didn't matter if the achievements or failures were social, intellectual or related to participants' own successes or failures - men subconsciously still felt worse about themselves when their partner succeeded than when she failed. However, men's implicit self-esteem took a bigger hit when they thought about a time when their partner succeeded at something while they had failed.
Researchers also looked at how relationship satisfaction affected self-esteem. Women in these experiments reported feeling better about their relationship when they thought about a time their partner succeeded rather than a time when their partner failed but men did not.
· 10 Ways Technology Is Ruining Your Love Life
Technology has completely changed how we live our lives, and it’s happening at an ever-increasing rate says an article on listverse. Our worlds are completely different from the world of even 10 years ago. This obviously has resulted in differences in the way we work and play, but did you know it’s even changed the way we have sex?
10 Netflix Adultery
A new issue causing strife between couples is “Netflix adultery”: watching TV shows and movies alone that they promised their partner they would watch together. Twelve percent of those surveyed said they do it, and 59 percent of cheaters even reveal spoilers, which means that more than 7 percent of us are dating huge jerks.
Netflix’s director of public relations Jenny McCabe says that couples are reporting some serious drama over the phenomenon, commenting “We hear people say, ‘We made a pact, we were going to watch this together.’ ” It’s a real violation of trust and lack of consideration that can cause tension every bit as real as fights over money or other relationship matters.
9 Internet Infidelity
The Internet has made actual infidelity easy and guiltless. Cybersex offers a convenience and anonymity that can prove too tempting for many to resist, even if they have someone who is generally willing to have sex with them right there in the other room. There’s no physical contact, so what’s the problem? It’s not like cybersex is really cheating, right?
Wrong: 77 percent of people surveyed said that cybersex infidelity is unacceptable. Despite the many reasons a cheater could use to rationalize their activities, an overwhelming majority of people agree that cheating is cheating, period. This new and puzzling grey area is such a big problem that it was responsible for a full third of divorce cases in 2009.
8 We’re All Creepy Stalkers
The Internet has given us unprecedented access to the personal lives of prospective and past partners, and boy are we making use of it. Almost 90 percent of us admit to “stalking” the social networking activities of our ex-partners, and 60 percent of us admit to doing so to a crush.
This can have catastrophic effects on our well-being, because the information often doesn’t fully satisfy our curiosity and causes even more anxiety. Stalking an ex can significantly hamper our recovery from the break-up, and even spur us to make really bad decisions like hopping back into bed with them (yes, scientists actually studied this stuff). It might be best to keep them out of feed, out of mind.
7 Fear Of Intimacy
Harvard professor Craig Malkin has coined the term “cyber-celibacy” to describe the increasing number of people who turn to online games and networks to satisfy their social needs without having to face scary real people. It creates a vicious cycle, he explains, where people aren’t forced to face their anxieties about relationships, which makes those anxieties grow and causes them to retreat further.
How bad is the problem, exactly? Well, 28 percent of people surveyed admitted that they spend less time with friends in favour of online activities, and almost as many (20 percent) say they’re having less sex. It turns out that going outside occasionally is a really important step to taking up residence in someone else’s underpants.
6 Facebook Provokes Your Jealousy
Following your partner’s Facebook feed creates needless jealousy, one study says. Even after controlling for other factors (that’s science for “weeding out the crazy people whose unbridled jealousy would exist either way”), the study found that the more time you spend reading your partner’s boring status updates, the more likely you are to turn into a raging psycho.
This happens because a good chunk of your partner’s social interaction becomes visible to you, but you don’t have those in-person cues that gives the exchange context. For example, when your lady’s gay co-worker or the best friend who loves her like a sister leaves an innocent “You look great!” on her picture, they know it’s a harmless compliment—but all you see is some dude hitting on your girlfriend.
5 Too Many Points Of Contact
A lack of communication can be a big problem in a relationship, but one study suggests that communicating too much can be a strain as well. A survey of 24,000 married people found that using more than five channels (such as social media, texting, instant messaging, etc.) to communicate with your partner actually decreases relationship satisfaction.
The stress of never being more than a series of ones and zeroes away from your partner and monitoring so many incoming data streams is a killer. Think about how easy it is to step over that threshold. You follow your partner’s Facebook and Twitter feed, obviously, and of course they have your phone number for calling and texting—if you regularly use even one more communication tool, you’re screwed.
4 The Online Pornsplosion
With porn so easily accessible, convenient, and increasingly hardcore, many women are feeling either neglected or pressured to adhere to male-centric sexual scripts that they don’t enjoy. It turns out that many ladies don’t actually enjoy being sprayed in the face or poked in the butt (acts that are simply a matter of course in even mainstream porn nowadays) but feel like they have to if they want to please their man.
That is, if they’re being asked to please them at all: More women are reporting that they can’t compete with the blonde, tanned, and augmented video vixens, and their partners neglect them in favour of pre-recorded thrills. It’s never a good thing if one person is unhappy with the naked-time routine, but the problem is so bad that in 2003, it was reported that online porn played a major role in a quarter of all divorce cases that year (and we’re pretty sure the amount of porn available hasn’t decreased any since then).
Some people are literally addicted to their smartphones; they can’t even leave the room without carrying them around like a colicky baby. Or maybe you like to bring your laptop to bed for some late-night work, or even just watch a little Letterman before tucking in. Well, all of those things could be wreaking havoc on your sex life, studies show. The mere act of having a phone nearby is so distracting that we can’t focus on the person we’re with, and simply having a TV in the bedroom can cut the amount of sex you have in half.
2 Dubious ‘Matching Algorithms’
Matching algorithms, such as those used by OkCupid and eHarmony, use questionnaire information about users’ personality and interests, which may help the strangers find things to talk about, but won’t in any way guarantee relationship success. Hold on, you say, isn’t it important that my partner likes Star Wars and skydiving as much as I do? If I end up with a scaredy cat who hates sci-fi, how are we even supposed to relate to each other?
Actually, the former has little to do with the latter. The way two individuals interact with each other specifically—i.e., plain ol’ chemistry—is the best indication of a good match, something that can’t be determined until two people meet. Maybe that overly cautious person keeps you grounded without holding you back, or the foreign film nut knows intuitively just what kind of support you need when you’ve had a bad day. Furthermore, the sites encourage users to objectify potential partners, “shopping” for matches based on these superficial and insignificant traits.
1 Googling Your Date
There’s really no such thing as a blind date anymore: 48 percent of women will not hesitate to Google you before they agree to go out with you, and just as many are willing to decline if they find unsavoury information. Sure, some serious bullets can be dodged this way, like if you find your potential date’s incoherent, violent blog about his serial killer fantasies, but in many cases, you might be rejecting your soulmate based on a false (or at least meaningless) representation.
According to one study, the more information we dig up about our suitors, the more likely we are to reject them. You might think that just saves everyone some time—you’re going to find out about her online shrine to Hanson eventually, right?—but before you judge too harshly, take a minute to Google yourself. Did anything potentially off-putting come up? That embarrassingly naive op-ed piece about Objectivism you wrote for your college newspaper, say, or videos of your misguided attempt at hip-hop superstardom? How representative are those things of you as a person?
The fact is, someone who’s had a chance to get to know all the virtues and quirks that come packed in the you-shaped bundle is probably going to find those things endearing, but someone whose first impression of you has been based on them is going to run away screaming. As study co-author Joanna Frost, PhD., says, “Your disillusionment with someone during a conversation might take hours, during which your date has the opportunity to explain himself, whereas online that disillusionment can happen almost instantly.” So give that freak a chance to explain herself over a beer—it might just be a charming quirk in an otherwise flawless package.
· Is Forever Feasible?
Despite news reports that marriage is in deep trouble in the U.S., Brigham Young University Professor Alan J. Hawkins says that marriage is not dead says Huffington Post. In fact, Hawkins believes that even "forever" is feasible through implementation of a series of affordable, state-run educational initiatives. That's the premise of his latest book, The Forever Initiative: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda to Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Marriages and Relationships, along with a step-by-step plan for getting there.
A professor of family life, for decades Hawkins has been researching and writing about marriage education, the importance of fathers, and government initiatives to sustain healthy marriages as well as a guidebook for couples on the brink of divorce.
I've been following Alan's work for a few years now and interviewed him recently to find out why he's so optimistic about the future of marriage and his vision for reversing family instability in America.
Q: Why did you write this book?
Alan Hawkins: More than half of first births in our country are to unmarried couples who will struggle to hold their family together. That - and divorce - make family instability the most important social problem of our time. That's saying something given the wide range of social problems that exist --intergenerational poverty, diminishing educational performance and opportunities, drug and alcohol addiction, to name a few. Sure, less poverty and better education and recovery services for addicts will make more fertile ground for healthy romantic relationships and more stable marriages. But it's equally true that family instability contributes significantly to poorer outcomes for children of these unstable unions, not to mention the adults themselves. I think there are some feasible things we can do to decrease family instability. That's why I wrote this book.
Q: Marriage is dying off, or at least that's what some people are saying, haven't you heard? And you're going to facilitate "forever?"
AH: If it's dead, explain why nearly all American youth and young adults still aspire to a healthy, life-long marriage, why 80-90 percent of all adults still marry at some time, and about two-thirds of adults age 35-44 are currently married. The research shows how beneficial good marriages are to adults, children, and communities. But the work of achieving that life goal has perhaps never been harder, especially for less advantaged Americans.
Q: So what's your grand plan for fixing marriage and relationships?
AH: Well, I'm not sure how "grand" my plan is; it's pretty basic. Scholars and therapists know a lot about how to form and sustain healthy relationships, but we need to get that knowledge out of academia's ivory towers and clinician's wood-panelled offices to the public, especially to less educated young people who are at much greater risk for churning, unhealthy romantic relationships.
Over the past decade lawmakers and policy makers have begun to experiment with ways to do this. In my book, I document how state and federal governments have invested nearly $800 million over the past decade in supporting educational programs, targeted especially to less educated and lower income individuals, to explore whether these programs can help them form more stable families.
· Marriage beyond reach
Job insecurity and uncertainty about the future may be a key part of what’s keeping many working-class Americans from getting or staying married, a new study suggests reports Maybeido. Recent years have seen a big shift in the traditional American family. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, married couples now account for fewer than half of all U.S. households — down from 78 percent in 1950. But there are also clear economic divides. Women with college degrees, for example, are more likely to get married than women with only high school diplomas — a stark reversal from years ago.
“It is definitely true that there is a class divide in marriage,” said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who studies trends in marriage and family. “Working-class adults are postponing marriage and marrying later than they used to,” Cherlin said. “Marriage also seems to be on the decline as a context for having children among the working class.”
That’s what’s going on in the big picture. In the new study, researchers interviewed about 300 Americans — both working- and middle-class — to get a sense of how economics and education are swaying people’s views on marriage. They found that, in general, working-class men and women pointed to job insecurity, low wages and a lack of resources as deterrents to walking down the aisle. In short, they had a hard time imagining being able to provide for someone else — financially or emotionally, according to Sarah Corse, one of the researchers in the study.
“It doesn’t make sense to people to plan for the future if you don’t even know if you’ll have a paycheck,” said Corse, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.
The findings, scheduled to be reported at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City, offer some insight into why marriage is not the draw it used to be — even though most Americans still say they want to get married at some point. Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The decision to take the plunge is not just a personal or moral issue, Corse said. And for many working-class people, the upsides of marriage are not as clear: Committing to someone with a low-paying job and a hefty debt, for example, may not seem like a wise decision. “We need to think about how income inequality affects other types of inequalities,” Corse said. “It’s harder to choose to get married, or to sustain a marriage, if you the lack resources that many educated, middle-class people have.”
Cherlin, who was not involved in the study, agreed. “In our new economy, working-class young adults often lack the resources to make a long-term marriage work, so they opt for short-term relationships instead,” he said. “Marriage plays less of a role in the lives of high-school-educated Americans than among college-educated Americans.”
In years past, Corse said, Americans without a college education could still get secure jobs that pay well, in areas like manufacturing. Now, she said, the opportunities often are in the service industry, where jobs may be low-paying, only part-time or offer no health insurance or other benefits.
One of the people Corse’s team interviewed was Cindy, a middle-aged woman who’d spent her whole life in the same small Ohio town. Cindy told the researchers that when she was a child, her father had a stable manufacturing job and her family lived comfortably.
But by the time Cindy married, those jobs were largely gone, and her husband could not find steady work. He eventually deserted her, and she was left as a single mom with a minimum-wage job at a convenience store. Her daughter, now 20, never finished high school and lives with Cindy and Cindy’s boyfriend. Such live-in relationships are more common among working-class and high-school-educated Americans than those with higher education, Corse said. “For middle-class people, marriage generally increases stability,” she said “For the working class, it often doesn’t.”
And that means both financial and emotional stability. “If you can’t handle your own problems,” Corse said, “how can you take on someone else’s? Marriage just doesn’t look very appealing.”
For her part, Cindy told the researchers she has no plans to marry her current boyfriend. (A second marriage ended in divorce after her husband began to physically abuse both her and her daughter.) Cindy said she still hopes for a long-term, fulfilling relationship. But, she told the researchers, she is “not optimistic.”
· Tony Abbott offers married couples voucher for counselling
Tony Abbott, Australia's opposition leader, plans to save and strengthen the nation's romantic relationships by offering £120 vouchers for counselling to couples who get engaged and those already married reports the Telegraph. The vouchers will be offered to married couples for conflict resolution or parenting classes, while engaged couples could have pre-marital counselling.
Mr Abbott, a staunch Catholic and the favourite to win Australia’s election on September 7, is married with three daughters but long believed he had a “lost son” from a relationship he had while at school and university. Years later, as a federal minister, Mr Abbott was reunited with the “son”, who was then aged 27, but DNA testing later showed the child was not his.
The vouchers were reportedly a pet project of Mr Abbott’s Liberal party colleague, Kevin Andrews, an MP who is a strong proponent of marriage and last year authored a book called Maybe ’I do’: Modern Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness. The book says the biggest threat facing the Western world is not climate change or radical Islam, but the “continuing breakdown of the essential structures of civil society — marriage, family and community”.
The Liberal party has proposed to offer about 100,000 “relationship vouchers“ as part of a one-year trial. The vouchers would be offered to same-sex couples despite the opposition of both Mr Abbott and his party to gay marriage.
Mr Abbott, whose sister, Christine Forster, has come out publicly as a lesbian, has signalled he may allow MPs a conscience vote if a same-sex marriage bill goes to parliament.
New Books, Resources and materials
· The transforming power
In their new book Gender and Parenthood, Brad Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline squarely face a current cultural trend that portrays the father as an optional family figure and heralds the concept of gender-neutral parenting. Gleaning the results from the latest research, the authors document the unique role that fathers play in the lives of their children and the changes in men associated with fatherhood that equip them to fulfil that role says a review from Maybeido.
In a recent presentation at The Heritage Foundation, Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, highlighted the book’s key findings, including the impact that a father’s presence and involvement has on his children.
In the absence of an engaged father, for example, boys are more likely to engage in “compensatory” aggressive and predatory behaviour and, correspondingly, to be delinquent or violent and spend time in prison. Similarly, girls without paternal involvement are significantly more likely to be sexually active and become pregnant in their teens. In addition, for both boys and girls, the “father factor” means a decreased likelihood of suffering depression.
As Wilcox explains, the impact of fathers can be traced to their unique input in several arenas. In the realm of play, rough-and-tumble activities impart lessons to children regarding how to handle their emotions and bodies—lessons that can extend to social relationships and behaviour. Paternal interaction also tends to involve an element of challenge, encouraging offspring to take risks, be open to new experiences, and stand up for themselves. In addition, fathers tend to exhibit a style of discipline that carries a unique air of authority and firmness.
Yet the most trailblazing aspect of Gender and Parenthood is the unveiling of nascent research regarding the physiological psychological/social effects that fatherhood has on men.
Becoming a father is associated with a decrease in testosterone levels (associated with aggressive behaviour and heightened libido)—a development that fosters an instinct to settle down and become domesticated, preparing the dad for his role in the nurture and guidance of his children.
Moreover, this biological change is accompanied by changes in behaviour and social relationships and a tendency among fathers to work harder and to “attend bars less and church more.” In addition, fathers who live with their children are less likely to be depressed, and the dynamic between the physiological and psychological/social arenas creates a natural “feedback loop” that reinforces the benefits of fatherhood.
However, there is no “fatherhood premium” for unmarried fathers. In Wilcox’s words: “The evidence suggests that fatherhood is most likely to work its transformative magic on men when they live with their children and the mother of their children—normally in the married state.”
Sadly, more than one in five children in America live in homes without dads, and four in 10 are born outside marriage. To ensure that the next generation has the greatest opportunity to thrive and succeed, efforts should be made in both the cultural and policy arenas to promote marriage and intact, healthy families.
Forthcoming conferences and events
· Forthcoming conferences
Details of all forthcoming conferences can always be found under our listing at 2-in-2-1
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.
· Faithfulness Matters
The Faithfulness Matters Campaign has been launched to ‘challenge companies who run websites which specifically encourage people who are married or in committed relationships to have affairs'.
To find out more and see how you can support the campaign, please visit the website here.
· CARE campaign for recognising marriage in the tax system
In June 2010 David Cameron posed the question: ‘why do we not recognise marriage?' The policy of doing so through the tax system ultimately became a major Conservative pledge at the last General Election and made its way into the Coalition Agreement. However the Government has still not taken action and if nothing is done before the March 2013 Budget time may run out for them to do so.
Over a number of years, CARE has called on the Government to recognise the benefit of marriage for spouses, children, the wider family and society as a whole, and to redress the current unfairness of a tax system which does not take into account marriage commitment and family responsibility.
· Manifesto for Children, Young People and Families
Children England has launched a new manifesto writing process ahead of the 2015 general election. The manifesto, which will be written collaboratively with the members, will focus on the following key areas: Overarching (covering cross-cutting issues such as childhood, poverty, rights); Schools; Health; Families and family life; Early years; Youth; Justice; Special Educational Needs and Disabilities; Looked after children; Benefits and housing; Refugees and Migrants.
To find out more visit the Manifesto webpage to get involved.
· Tax breaks for “working family” childcare
The Government has launched a consultation on proposals which would provide significant tax breaks to all working families apart from one-earner couple families. Our tax system already gives families where one spouse stays at home a particularly difficult time. For those concerned at the way the new child care proposals exclude one-earner couple families, this consultation is a great opportunity to make your views clear to the Government.
Closes 14th October 2013.
· Education before marriage; marriage before children – the sequence matters
We did Marriage Prep for another couple last week – another happy relaxed evening chatting with two people, obviously in love, with dreams of a lifetime together. Yet in their responses we could see how much they HADN’T talked about – and seeing the report this week on the reasons couples give for marriage breakdown and divorce it reminds me how preventable so much of the misery is!
Take the reasons cited for splitting: Lifestyle choices; Where to live; Division of chores; Whether to have children; How often to see families; Being ‘stay at home parent’ or continuing with career; How to bring up children; Career aspirations; Travelling and holidays; and How often to see friends. Every single one of these can be discussed and identified in advance!! Even if specific answers or solutions aren’t arrived at, at least good practice of how to have a constructive conversation can be modelled with solid examples of how to reach a principled decision that respects the aspirations of both partners and seeks a balanced “win-win” outcome.
So did we cover most of these areas – well yes…. to an extent, after all we only had one evening! So the couple will be OK?? Well maybe – but I am by no means certain! And for two reasons. Firstly there are real challenges in having a constructive conversation in these areas – it requires a level of emotional intelligence to separate the strong feelings that may arise from the issue itself, and a skill to communicate without hurting or lashing out. In the case of our couple there was little evidence of such skills. It would take time, and more intensive intervention, to really equip them.
But there was another bigger reason for my doubts – the couple have a one year old child.
Over the years we reckon that about 5% of the couples with whom we do Marriage Prep subsequently take the decision NOT to marry. We consider that a success – 5% of couples who have realised that they may just be getting it wrong, and who then have the courage to change direction.
So what to do here? Do we help the couple realise the number of barriers to their long term stability and happiness, and risk them deciding to part their ways – and if so, what are the implications for their child?
The real sadness to us from the list of reasons why couples split is that it is so eminently preventable… but only if couples do things in the right order. If people gather the right information about their potential life partner, if they equip themselves with the skills to have the conversations to find constructive decisions, and if they reach the commitment to build a lifetime together before they create a new life whose whole lifetime will be influenced by their decisions then there is real hope. If not, then they will lock themselves in with constraints such as children which reduce the freedom to reach the best outcome for each of them.
Unless and until we can change the attitude to having children towards one that takes real responsibility for ensuring they have the love and support of the two parents that brought them into the world much of what we do will be in vain.
Education before marriage; marriage before children – the sequence matters.
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