Couples Who Laugh Together, Last Together.

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When my husband and I were engaged my mother hosted an engagement reception for us. People my parents had known for years showed up, ate food, wished us well, and left, in the way most receptions happen. On a table by the door were slips of paper for every guest to put a piece of marital advice for us and place it in a jar. Most of the advice written out were things I have heard my whole life:

“Don’t go to bed angry” “Communicate with each other” “Be physically affectionate” “Admit when you’re wrong.”

One piece of advice I wish had been written out was “laugh together every day.”

The physical benefits of laughter are well known – laughter can improve health, and lengthen life expectancy in terminally ill patients – but how does laughter aid relationships?

Neuroscientist Robert Provine studied just that, and published his findings in his book Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

What he found was that, beyond just diffusing tense situations and reducing anger and anxiety, laughter establishes (or restores) a positive emotional connection between ... Read more »

The Ripe Age for Marriage

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Have you ever been given the advice that you should wait to marry until after 25, or maybe even as late as 30? Would you give that same advice to someone else?

Chances are, most of us have heard at some point in our lives that getting married too young is a recipe for disaster. And when it comes to basic divorce statistics, such wisdom seems to be supported. But what is too young? Is there really something magical about 25 years old?

According to Norval Glenn at the University of Texas at Austin, 25 years does make a significant difference in the success of marriage, but it may not be in the direction you think.

The Best Age

In his study, Glenn argues that one of the main reasons we are seeing a large incline in the average at at first marriage, approaching 30 for men and 28 for women, is consistent findings in research that the risk of divorce continues to drop with age. Teen weddings are clearly not supported. And since 30 year olds show a lower risk of divorce ... Read more »

Putting Your Marriage on the Operating Table

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One of our followers asked the question “Is divorce ever healthy?”

That is a good question, and to really address it let’s start with the word healthy.

Health is defined as proper and normal function.

Whenever we are sick and go visit a doctor, their goal is to fix whatever is not working right and return us to health.  But what happens when it cannot be fixed?  The best option for our survival is to remove the unhealthy part completely. When it comes to divorce, it may also help to put “marriage” under the surgical light and see what is really going on.

Healthy Marriage

Based on years of research, we have a pretty good idea of what a healthy marriage looks like.  While we could create a very long list, I have chosen some of the most important aspects which represent the majority of research:

A healthy marriage is…

safety for deep connection and intimacy. effective communication and problem solving. respect for each other. teamwork in providing the best possible care for the family. support and involvement. trust and loyalty. dedication. effort to forgive, sacrifice, and make things right.

Usually, when we are ... Read more »

For Love or Money

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Financial issues are a great source of tension in many people’s lives. Students may have to take out loans in order to cover the cost of tuition, housing, and books. Couples may struggle to afford mortgages or rent costs. New parents feel the joy of their baby mixed with the pain of medical bills. It seems no matter who you are, it’s hard to avoid money problems.

Unfortunately, financial strain can take a great toll on relationships. Statistics indicate that the #1 topic of argument in relationships is money, and money is often linked as a significant cause for divorce. The big question is: if everyone struggles with finances at some point, how can we keep our relationships from suffering?

A study by Barton, Futris, and Nielson discusses one key tactic for reducing financial based conflict within marriages.

Expressing Gratitude

When gratitude is expressed regularly in relationships, the strain of finances is lessened. While it may seem more important to receive gratitude, than to express it, the study found that for both men and women, relationships become more stable when ... 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 »

6 Characteristics of the Marriage-Ready Couple

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If you were asked “how long should a couple date before getting married?” what would you say?  10 months?  2 years?  A week?  The truth is there is no magic number of months or years that make a couple ready for marriage.  Six months may be more than enough time for one couple, but another couple may need six years.

Research shows that couples who are always moving forward in their relationship do experience greater stability and satisfaction than those who hold back from taking important steps.  What really matters is the development of certain skills and characteristics that mature a couple enough to take the next step down the aisle.  So what are these characteristics and how do you know if you are ready?

There is no one study that answers these questions, but a large collection of research highlights some of the most important characteristics of couples who will have the best chance for successfully making the transition into marriage.

Coordinating Life Plans

According to Shmuel Shulman at the Bar Ilan University in Israel1, one of the main events that moves ... Read more »

Say No to Consumer Weddings

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Most of us dream of that one day of bliss and absolute joy when we say “I do.”  We plan for it almost from the day we are born, or so it seems, and fantasize about how beautiful it will be.  And when that day comes, we find ourselves in a flurry of action to make it all happen.

But do we ever get so focused on making everything match our fairytale, that we go too far?

Statistics show that the average wedding in the United States costs a staggering $30,000.  And chances are few people are able to actually pay that full amount in cash.  Instead, many of us are willing to go into debt for the perfect day.  And yet, a recent study from Linda Skogrand and a team of researchers at Utah State University showed that starting marriage with large amounts of debt puts couples at major risk for divorce.

So how do we cut down costs without losing the beauty of the day?  Here are three tips to having a successful wedding:

Stay Focused on the Reason

The reason most ... Read more »

How parents “splitting” can be a good thing

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Exactly who should be taking care of the kids? Some say mom needs to stay at home, and that having a stay at home mom will instill children with good morals and keep them grounded. Others may think dad needs to be the main leader of childcare, assuring that children are well disciplined and respectful. If you ask researchers Carlson, Hanson, and Fitzroy, they would tell you parents should split childcare responsibilities equally, at least if they want to improve their sex lives.

The study conducted at Georgia State University decided it was time to settle this mom vs. dad debate once and for all. Researchers utilized data to investigate how the division of childcare responsibilities affects the relationship quality and sexual intimacy of heterosexual American couples.

The survey divided responses from 487 parental couples into three main categories:

Couples with moms having most or all childcare duties. Couples with dads having most or all of the work. Couples with an equal distribution.

Each of these family dynamics were then measured on how happy couples were, how much conflict they had, ... Read more »

Is There Marriage After Pornography?

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Pornography has been a topic of increased focus for the last decade.  As the internet has come to dominate our lives and various forms of pornography have become more accessible, scholars and the general public have struggled with fully understanding the short and long-term effects of increased pornography use and exposure.  Weighing in on this discussion, a recent study by Doran and Price found that adults who had viewed pornography in the last year “were more likely to be divorced, more likely to have an extramarital affair, and less likely to report being happy with their marriage or happy overall.”  

While we should be careful with making blanket statements like “everyone that watches porn will have a horrible marriage,”  these types of research findings underscore the important relationship issues that arise from repeated pornography use by one or both partners.  Unfortunately, there are many who not only view pornography occasionally, but struggle with pornography use as a very real compulsive addiction.  This type of behavior can lead to lying to one’s partner or other harmful relationship behaviors.

So what if ... Read more »

5 Reasons Not to Get Married (and Why They’re All Wrong).

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Marriage is a big commitment. Because we build up marriage so much in our minds, many are often hesitant to make the leap of faith and commit to one person.  Besides the obvious commitment made to the person you’re marrying, there are often many other reasons why people find themselves “stuck” when they consider marriage. Let’s consider some of the many reasons why people might avoid a committed marriage and if such concerns have any validity.

It costs too much money. 

Often a marriage = a big wedding, and a big wedding = even bigger spending. Between the dress, the venue, the cake, and the photographer, many worry they will enter marriage completely broke. However, there are actually many monetary benefits to getting married. For one thing, taxes become easier, and can have a larger tax return. When spouses file jointly there’s also a good chance that it will take less time to assemble the paperwork and cost less to have it prepared. Additionally, that big flashy wedding isn’t necessary.  No research study to our knowledge has ever correlated wedding costs ... Read more »