Gratitude is Kryptonite to Divorce

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Gratitude is Kryptonite to Divorce

It’s a mystery. Why do some marriages seem to last forever, while others with just as much hope and promise end in divorce? There can be lots of reasons but one of them often is taking one another for granted.  Turns out lots of research shows that gratitude is kryptonite to divorce or at least the taking-each-other-for-granted part. Gratitude has lots of benefits such as mental and even physical well-being, helping to build closer, more satisfied relationships. Gratitude isn’t just about saying thank you when someone does something nice. Sure that’s great and all. But the kind of gratitude we’re talking about here stems from accepting and appreciating who your partner is as a person. It also helps to recall why you married them to begin with. The thing that gratitude does is, it creates what is known as a generous cycle. Showing gratitude helps us to recognize the value of our partner. This recognized value then makes the partner more worth holding onto. There have been a number of studies that show that the more gratitude a couple experienced the more committed they were to their relationships. Want to know how this virtuous cycle works? Acts and words of gratitude make your partner feel good, which thereby makes them feel more gratitude for you, making you feel good.

This can also be called a cycle of generosity. In one study relationships that were more grateful in the beginning were more committed at the end, nine months later. The best way to do this is to step forward and be the one that gets the ball rolling. Step up and show a tremendous amount of gratitude for the other person, your spouse.  Perhaps make them a special dinner with a cake at the end with their name on it, and maybe something naughty later on. Take them on a special getaway, a dinner and a show they’ve been dying to see, two front row tickets to the game or their favorite band, a picnic set out in a secret woodland hideaway, or stargazing on the perfect mountain meadow with some wine, cheese, fruit and your spouse’s favorite music. Whatever you do to say, “I totally get who you are and I love it!” A move like this prompts those feel-good feelings to invade their psyche. They’ve recognized that you value them and you’ve recognized their value for who they are, deep inside. What’s more, they will have to up the ante, get creative and, if they are worth your time, get you back in return as good as you gave.

But it doesn’t always have to be something so big, it can be a little gift, a note slipped into a jacket pocket or a purse, a naughty photo left on someone’s laptop or that new release they’ve been itching to buy but haven’t had the time to pick up on the coffee table when they get home from work. One study showed that experiencing gratitude helped promote behaviors that helped people stay together and hold onto one another. One study found that partners were responsive to each other’s needs, and thoughtful when interacting with one another due to the introduction of gratitude into their relationship. Other research shows that the key to intimacy, the highest goal in human needs, is through an attentive and thoughtful partner. The use of gratitude therefore may help couples achieve and preserve intimacy. One study found that those partners who felt appreciated were better listeners. They also showed physical signs of feeling more gratitude. Accepting and appreciating one another deep down can be hard to do. But what is better than someone who really gets you, loves you and accepts you for who you are? That is invaluable and that’s what gratitude does, it shows you how treasured that person, your spouse truly is to you. There are times when gratitude can hurt you. This is when you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. Then it can counteract your best strategy which is to high tail it out of there. Besides that, gratitude is a great way to increase the love, closeness and well-being in your marriage. Why not make some special plans to surprise your spouse and show them some gratitude? For more, pick up a copy of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: Marriage Advice to Recharge and Reconnect Every Day by Ashley David Bush and Daniel Arthur Bush.

Sexless Marriages Can Lead to Divorce

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Sexless Marriages Can Lead to Divorce

Most psychologists agree that sex is very important in a marriage. It helps create physical and emotional intimacy, human needs. But when a couple goes for a time without having sex, the longer they go the more ambivalent they feel about it and about one another. Distancing, a lack of trust and awkwardness can build up. When both partners ignore the problem or when the two fail to talk about it, and there is no exploration on pathways to become intimate, more stress is endured by the relationship. A sexless marriage therefore can lead to divorce. But it certainly doesn’t have to. If you have found yourself in a sexless marriage, try to employ some of these strategies in order to jumpstart your love life and rev things up, and get things humming in the bedroom. Many people are embarrassed about sexual issues. But the truth is if you attack the problem logically, like any other marital problem it can be observed, the phenomenon can be studied and the way forward will suddenly become clear. The first thing to do is to rule out any medical issues. A side effect for many common medications like heart medication or antidepressants is low libido. You or your spouse should talk to a doctor if you think that the issue may have something to do with the medication. Check with your pharmacist as well. What’s more, illness, side effects from a previous illness, and age-related problems can also sap sex drive. If none of these are the problem, and the issue isn’t physiological, then perhaps see if it may be psychological.

Consider counseling. A sexless marriage can be a symptom of a much deeper problem. Resentment, misplaced anger, infidelity, lack of trust or having one foot in and one foot out emotionally of the marriage can all cause a lack of intimacy. When arguments go nowhere the bond between the two is strained and sex is impossible. Seek out a licensed marriage counselor that you both trust. Therapy can definitely help you work out your issues if you are both committed to it, committed to the marriage and will take the advice the therapist gives. Now it’s time to look at how compatible your goals are. Those include goals within the boudoir and outside of it. Both partners should feel free enough with one another to talk about their wants and needs. Outside of the bedroom, what are your goals in life? What are your partner’s goals? Are you moving in the same direction or instead sailing apart? When a couple is moving in two different directions a sexless marriage may just be a warning sign of what is to come. If it’s just a matter of awkwardness, or lack of interest due to a lack of novelty, there are definitely some things you can do to rekindle that spark. Psychologists note that novel experiences taken together, such as doing something exciting like bungee jumping or white water rafting, traveling to a different place or a different country, something that gets your pulses alight and your hearts racing, can reignite that spark, both in and outside the bedroom. You’ll feel like newlyweds again.

If you want to reignite the spark inside the bedroom, try novel approaches to sex. Have a romantic dinner followed by wine or a few cocktails and enjoy your time together. Start talking about different fantasies. It’s a great way to reconnect, show trust, work together on common goals, and reconnect physically and emotionally. Get a list going and start to make plans to fulfill those goals. Do you or does your partner enjoy role play? What about elements of bondage or BDSM? In fact, a recent study found that couples who take part in BDSM have better communication, were closer and weathered storms in their relationship better. So taking part in such practices with your spouse in the comfort of your own home, or perhaps a hotel can really spice up the relationship, and let you see a side of your spouse that you perhaps never knew existed. There are books in your local bookstore. There are plenty of books online along with how-to videos, websites and more. If you can’t work it out but love each other and want to stay together, perhaps visit a sex therapist. A quick Google search can help you find licensed, reputable sex therapists in your area. You don’t have to stay in a sexless marriage. Get to the bottom of it and with some patience and lots of elbow grease, soon you won’t be able to get enough of each other. For more on this topic, pick up a copy of The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple’s Guide by Michele Weiner Davis.

Why First Marriages Often End in Divorce

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Why First Marriages Often End in Divorce

With such longer lifespans nowadays, “Until death do you part” may mean 80 years altogether for the average couple, rather than the 30 it used to mean in the past. Today, young people are staving off marriage to get more education and develop their careers. What’s more, many wonder with so much time in their life whether it’s possible nowadays to stay with one person for the rest of their lives. This is true, too, given the fact that so many young people today grew up in households that endured contentious divorces in the 1970’s and 80’s, and so are more wary of the institution in general. Americans today it now seems are becoming serial monogamists. For late baby boomers and below, two or even three marriages in a lifetime is not uncommon. Long-term partnership through cohabitation without getting married is becoming much more common today than it was in the past. So the days of marrying your high school sweetheart, though nostalgic, are probably gone. It’s probably for the best, too since those relationships certainly were not the most solid. Though this is a good time to form the basis for what it means to be in an adult relationship, the criteria adolescence use for choosing their partner is quite a bit different than adults use when selecting a life partner.

The problem is some have carried these immature patterns into adult relationships. Being whiny, condescending, passive aggressive or outright aggressive is certainly adolescent relationship behavior. Of course we are all human and take part in such interactions from time to time. But many marriages are consumed by these. There are many other reasons why first marriages often end in divorce, too. Another issue is unrealistic expectations. Lots of people enter into that first year of marriage thinking that everything will fall into place all by itself. They think that “Happily ever after” is how life really is. But anyone who has ever been in a real marriage realizes that there is a lot of energy, time and effort that has to be put into a marriage to keep it alive and to make it grow and thrive. Otherwise it can get stale, old and your connection can fall apart. There are those who enter into marriage seeing it as a way to edify themselves, but they don’t realize that it’s important to hold up and support their spouse and at times, step out of the lime light to let their spouse be the star of the show. Each person in the relationship should be important. It should be a union of equals. What’s more, each person should hold up and support their partner for that person’s own unique set of talents, help them to thrive and celebrate their growth. Today, we seek partners who help us grow. If our partner inhibits that growth, it’s sayonara, and this does happen in a lot of first marriages. This shaping one another into their ideal selves is called the Michelangelo phenomenon by psychological researcher Carol Rusbult, and has been called “a defining characteristic of mature love,” by Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University Kelly Campbell, Ph.D. in an article in Psychology Today.

While immature love grasps for one’s self, mature love holds the beloved up so that they can fly. Though we live in an individualistic society where we often put our own needs and desires ahead of others, counterintuitively it’s when we put our partner’s needs first that we ourselves thrive. For they, if they are worth your time, will invest the same amount of energy in making sure that we succeed and develop and grow accordingly. If you are in a first marriage or any marriage and want your relationship to last, support your spouse. Show them how much gratitude and affection you have for them. Don’t react with being defensive if your partner needs a change, or asks you to change. Listen deeply. Internalize their concerns. See where they are coming from. Talk it out without any shame or blame but just what is happening and what all the moving parts are. Once you’ve got a good handle on the situation you both can come up with novel solutions that can satisfy both of you, or at least compromise on something you can both live with. Always edify and hold them up and they should do the same for you. For more, pick up a copy of Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Why do People Stay in Bad Marriages Rather than Divorce?

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Why do People Stay in Bad Marriages Rather than Divorce?

Oftentimes when you know someone in a bad marriage, they will go through a list of complaints and anecdotes that paint their spouse in a not so flattering light. Sometimes it isn’t a bunch of little things, but one long problem such as an ongoing affair or drug or alcohol abuse. At other times a litany of issues can seem like an avalanche of problems that this person is wallowing under, brought down upon them by their spouse. These could be lying, cheating, disappearing, improper parenting, cruelty and so much more. Confronted with such a list, most people believe that the relationship was beyond redemption. Yet, people in these types of marriages are often ambivalent as to whether or not they should leave. So why do people stay in bad marriages rather than get a divorce when it seems irreparable and hopeless? The first thing one must understand is that these are weighty matters. Don’t take a stand. The person can’t come to the realization all at once, by merely taking the advice of a friend, or even a therapist. The second thing is that we really can’t know what the marriage is like from the inside. We only know what our friend is telling us. There are perhaps other aspects of the marriage that are satisfying.

When asked why they don’t leave, there are a few answers that often pop up; for the children’s sake, an unwillingness to give up economic certainty or assets, an unwillingness to leave the house, being attached to mutual friends and even in-laws, negativity about striking out on one’s own, and the fear of being lonely. Some people feel like they might be alone forever. So which is better, staying in a marriage you don’t like or divorcing and finding out it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be? Let’s take a look at each reason for staying and see if, through analysis, it’s better to stay or go. The effects on children depend, just like anything else, on who you speak to. Some psychologists say that divorce is detrimental to children. One study out of the UK found that children in single parent or step-parent homes were just as happy as those that came from dual-parent homes. Living in a household stuffed with anger and unhappiness is worse. Plus, children model their own loving relationships after what they observe in their parents growing up. Do you want to teach them to go for happiness, or to settle? Chances are they will follow suit to whatever you decide.

Divorce is expensive and it costs more to live apart than together. Still, there are families in every economic circumstance that do it. There are others, more wealthy, who say the money is the reason they still stay together. When a couple divorces, friends will inevitably go to one side or the other, despite everyone saying they’ll keep in touch. In fact, this is just cover for self-doubt in navigating the world post-marriage. The attachment to the in-laws, too, is really nostalgia for the relationship as it was when it was working, when it was good. The truth is, if you and another person share a deep bond, the divorce isn’t going to come between that. There are in-laws and mutual friends that keep in touch with ex-spouses whom they’ve come to hold in their heart. Usually as time moves on they become aunts, uncles, and friends of the family. Divorce is not embarrassing, nor is it shameful as some feel. In fact, it can be a liberating experience to navigate your own course and sail unencumbered, under your own stars. Don’t fail at imagination or fail to dream, or you will fail in spirit. Really, see if you can resuscitate the relationship.  But if you can’t or it isn’t healthy to, find a way to guide yourself honestly, and true onto your own happiness without regret. You will be loved by someone again, when you are ready, and chances are your ex will, too. That’s good and how it should be. But don’t stay miserable in a marriage for a reason that out-and-out doesn’t make sense. If you are still unsure, pick up a copy of How to Know If it’s Time to Go: A 10-Step Reality Test for Your Marriage by Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman.

Dealing with Infidelity and Deciding Whether or Not to Divorce

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Dealing with Infidelity and Deciding Whether or Not to Divorce

Besides the death or illness of a loved one, infidelity and divorce are some of the most painful experiences one can go through. Usually a whole host of emotions is thrust upon someone when confronted with a spouse’s sexual infidelity. Anger, frustration, jealousy, but also hurt, shock, uncertainty about the future, perhaps wondering what it was that drove them into the arms of another. Once you’ve been cheated on, sometimes the wondering can take up your day-to-day life and crowd out the other, important things like family life, career and so on. If you’ve recently come to understand that your spouse has been unfaithful, and you are struggling with exactly how to deal with the infidelity, and deciding whether or not to divorce or try to work it out, here are some ideas on how to sort things out, and a little insight into how to operate while in this vulnerable, wrathful or perhaps even volatile state, to make sure that the outcome of your actions at this stage set you up for the best possible outcome in the near future. First, realize that it might be wise to get tested for STDs. Those who practice infidelity often skip protection with their other lover or lovers. Go to your regular doctor, explain to them what the situation is and have yourself tested.

Whether or not you decide to divorce, you should look into your legal rights, custody, assets and think about getting a lawyer or having an accountant give you a glimpse of what you might be looking at in terms of a settlement and custody if you have children. The sooner you start gathering documentation to support your case, the better protected you will be no matter how the matter proceeds. Some people feel like it’s natural to bottle up. They don’t want others to think less of them for being cheated on, or feel it’s a blow to their ego. But that’s the exact opposite of what one should do in this situation. In fact, it’s the support of close friends and family that will help you vent, sort out the matter, give you advice and help you through this difficult time. What better therapy is there than talking the matter over with a good friend? Everyone needs caring, support and love especially during a trying time such as this. Men in particular will bottle things up inside, or turn to substance abuse. But that only hurts themselves. Learn to talk about the issue with the appropriate people, seek out support and you will receive it. Generally, people are more than happy to help, and wish you’d ask. Research has shown that a strong social network can help relieve extreme stress, which is not good for one’s mental or physical health, and can help you overcome trying times such as this more easily.

Have a frank conversation with your spouse without blame or shaming, to simply find out why they cheated. Has it got something to do with your relationship? Studies have shown that a minority of these relationships turn around and become stronger after an infidelity, as people realize where they’ve gone wrong and are motivated to fix it. The majority of infidelities, particularly serial infidelities, end in divorce. Trust yourself, your observations and feelings. Honestly, there is no right or wrong in this situation. Everything is up to you as to whether to proceed and try to fix the marriage, have a long separation or divorce. Some couples, due to financial hardship, stay separated for long periods of time. They also do this to avoid the emotional suffering divorce can bring. Still, it’s important to note that any change in your spouse’s income could affect an eventual settlement, depending on state law. What’s more, it may become more difficult to eventually divorce. There are many gray areas however. Protect yourself. Find out what the law is. Get expert advice. Don’t have unprotected sex with your partner. Don’t jump into anything until you’ve dealt with your feelings on the matter, grieved and healed. Give yourself some room and space to cogitate and really get to the heart of how you feel about your whole relationship and the affair. Don’t jump into revenge sex or a no strings attached relationship right away. If you are emotionally healed, it may be okay as long as you are protected. But otherwise you may be hurting yourself far worse. Don’t blame others or make threats and don’t seek revenge. Instead, reflect upon your own life, sort out your feelings, and decide how is best to proceed so that you can live the happy, healthy and well-adjusted life you deserve.  For more on this topic read, Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On — Together or Apart by Douglas K. Snyder Ph.D., Donald H. Baucom Ph.D. and Kristina Coop Gordon Ph.D.