Are You Afraid of Marriage?

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As a student and marriage scholar, I have been fascinated by the attitudes so many young adults hold about marriage.  In fact, my Thesis is on that very topic.  I have taken particular interest in the increasing delay of marriage we see among young adults today.  According to the US Census Bureau, the average age at first marriage for men is 29 and 27 for women, and it appears this continues to increase.  So what is behind this increase in age?  Some might say young adults are just being smart because they are more mature at those ages. There appears to be some fears about marriage that suggest that many young adults believe that marrying at younger ages is simply irresponsible.

While the fears we have about marriage are often different and come from different places, research has revealed some common fears about marriage that are prevalent among young adults today.  While these fears are often based on valid concerns, they also drive many relationships to a less than satisfying end and a delay in one of the most rewarding ... Read more »

Consoling the Inconsolable

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“To have and to hold…for better or for worse.”  This phrase is familiar to all of us, and many of us have heard the phrase, or one like it, directed towards us and a previous or current spouse.  While this phrase carries a lot of meaning, it highlights one of the key aspects of a successful marriage: supporting one another in good times and bad.

Many of us take this to heart and willingly give of ourselves in support of our spouse.  Whether it be supporting them in finding a job, working together as parents, or being a shoulder to cry on, we all recognize the value of support.  

But what happens when the support we try to give doesn’t seem to have any effect?  If you have a partner who doesn’t feel better with the support you have to offer, then what happens to that value?

According to a recent study by Gelareh Karimiha and a team of scholars from Canada, when the support we offer doesn’t work it can leave us feeling much less valued.

How Inconsolability Affects Us

When a ... Read more »

5 Foundations of Morality

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The majority of us could probably name at least one or two things that you would immediately recognize as hurting a relationship.  And many of us would probably name most of the same things: once you are married, you aren’t supposed to have sex with anyone but your spouse, don’t abuse your partner, and don’t start dating someone else until you have actually ended another relationship.

But have you ever done something that you didn’t think would be a problem, or maybe even thought it would help the relationship, and your partner reacted like you had done one of the worst things possible?

When it comes to how we behave in a relationship, we may find that there are no clear social rules about what is or is not acceptable.  In one relationship, giving someone of the opposite sex a ride to school or work would be just fine, but in another your partner may turn into a jealous monster who wrecks your car and threatens the other person.  This lack of rules can often make relationships confusing and unpredictable.

According to ... Read more »

The Goldilocks Theory of Marriage and Divorce

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I never know what I’m doing when I pick produce at the grocery store. I try to look like I’m a knowledgeable adult by knocking on the watermelons, squeezing the tomatoes, smelling the oranges. Really, I know nothing. All I can do is pick the best I can, and wait until I get home to see how well I did. Sometimes I get duds, but other times I have some really delicious fruits and vegs.

Research suggests that there is a ripe time for marrying, just as there is time when my produce is best for picking (I should probably look at the latter before shopping again). While it is true that people change and every couple will hit hard times throughout their relationship, science can give us a helpful hand to know our prime age for successful marriage.

The Goldilocks Theory of Marriage and Divorce

Researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger studied the best time to get married in order to lower your risk of divorce. Then, to assure he got it right, he did it again. Both studies indicated that there’s ... Read more »

Creating Couple Safety

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Note: This is a guest post from Dr. Jonathan Sandberg, a professor in FHSS’s School of Family Life. Professor Sandberg is involved in the Marriage and Family Therapy Programs at BYU, a Certified Emotionally Focused Supervisor with the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute, and a licensed marriage and family therapist in Utah.


I once heard from a young person something very insightful, a comment like this: “I guess I am just in love with the feeling of being in love.” Yes, feeling deep love from and for another person is a sublime experience. But, it is about the deep, serene, and settled sense of safety and security that comes with mature romantic love I write about today. That type of safety within a couple relationship has a name; it is called “attachment security”. The concept of secure or insecure attachment actually has its roots in parent-child research. John Bowlby, and later others, proposed that when a child feels a parent is accessible (“I can find you”) and responsive (“you reach out to me and comfort me when I call”), a ... Read more »

Test Driving Sex

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I recently saw a BuzzFeed video exploring what driver’s ed would be like if we taught people how to drive like we teach them about sex.  While hilarious, the video also shows just how ridiculous it is to compare driving a car to sexuality. Yet, there may be something to such a comparison.  Can we learn something about sex by comparing it to cars?

A recent study by Dean Busby and colleagues at Brigham Young University found two different models for how people think about when to have sex in relationships.  So which model works best, and why?  Let’s find out.

Compatibility: Test-Drive Model

“You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first, so why would you get married without testing the sex?”  This model depends on the belief that it is important to know if the sex is good or not before committing yourself to a relationship. In the study, couples who used the compatibility model were less stable and satisfied in their relationship, while those couples who waited until after marriage to have sex had the best relationship outcomes. ... Read more »

Staying Attached to an Anxious Partner

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Previously I shared some ways to stay connected to a partner who prefers to avoid closeness.  What about a partner who seems to want too much closeness?  Do you have a partner who you feel like smothers you or never gives you enough space? Rather than avoiding closeness, these partners want closeness, but sometimes aren’t sure how to handle the closeness they get.

Avoidant attachment is only one dimension in how people connect to others.  Those who are high in the other dimension, called anxiety, may be just as difficult to connect with, but in different ways.  Early in life, anxious individuals were often lacking important, supportive relationships.  When they do connect with people later on, it fills a large gap in their life, which also makes them very afraid of losing the relationship.  This fear makes them very anxious and reactive when something seems to go wrong in the relationship.

In the same review of research I shared before, the scholars explored the effects of anxious attachment on relationships.  While difficult, again they show that it is possible to have ... Read more »

Do you Celebrate your Relationship Enough?

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Try to remember your high school graduation.  What were you wearing?  What speeches were given? How did you feel? You may not remember every detail, but chances are you can clearly remember the feelings you had and some of the colors, sounds, or thoughts you experienced.  Why is that?

Markers of accomplishment, such as high school graduation, are often celebrated with traditions that set them apart from everyday events.  These traditions, or rituals, remind us that we are moving from one stage to another, and we can later recall these transitions with clarity.

Similarly, in relationships we make many transitions, big or small, that are important markers of the relationship’s progress.  Sarah Halpern-Meekin at the University of Wisconsin and Laura Tach at Cornell University have found that couples who use rituals to mark these stages are better able to remember the moment of change in the relationship, and are generally happier and more stable.


What is a Relationship Ritual?

When you think about rituals in relationships you may think about a proposal and the engagement ring. A proposal is often a marker of ... Read more »

Where Shopping Can Fail You

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Whenever we go shopping, whether it be for clothes, food, or entertainment, it is both normal and appropriate to look for the best deal.  We want to find something that fits our tastes and is within our budget.  It is common to look at one item and then put it back on the rack or shelf to go look at another brand or flavor.  We do not need to make a choice until we have seen all the options, and when we do finally make our purchase, we are more likely to be happy with our choice because we know we have found the best deal for us.

But what happens when dating becomes all about finding the best deal?

A recent study by Amber Vennum at Kansas State University and Matthew Johnson of the University of Alabama reveals the truth about people who treat relationships like shopping.


The Truth About Reshelving

Relationship cycling occurs whenever two people break off a relationship and then get back together again later.  Whatever the reason for the break-up, such a pattern is becoming more common ... Read more »

Cinematic Romance

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We have all come across messages about love through media.  Romantic comedies are among some of the most viewed films of all time, and why not?  They are fun and can make us feel good.

On the flipside, there are some valid concerns about how our viewing habits shape our perceptions about what love is and what it looks like.  Are we getting realistic expectations or giving ourselves false hope when we watch rom-coms?

Perhaps some of both.  In a recent study, Veronica Hefner of University of Illinois and Barbara Wilson of University of Wisconsin found four primary themes of romantic films.  


1. Soul Mate/One-and-Only

Out of the 7 billion people on the planet, there is only one we are meant to be with.  

The Cons:  The biggest fiction of the soul mate belief is that there is someone we will be perfectly happy and matched with the moment we find them.  However, if we are perfect for each other from the start, then there is no room for growth or conflict.  As soon as we run into trouble, we are more likely ... Read more »