Marriage in America Today

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Marriage in America Today

The number of people getting married is declining. Experts say the marriage rate today is lower than it was in 1880, another time when extreme differences in income affected the social landscape. Though marriage is touted in America and many societies as helping to preserve the social order, the atmosphere with which we operate is far from conducive in promoting it. In the original Gilded Age as Mark Twain called it, a new class of industrialists slashed wages and with it the prospects of workers of marrying age, mostly male factory workers. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin at John Hopkins University wrote that one difference today is many are choosing to cohabitate and have children without a marriage license filed away in the family home. That would never do in the 19th century. But today it’s quite common.

One problem is the gatekeepers to pop culture, the TV and movie writers, musical artists and others have failed to keep up and give us an image we can hang onto for this new state of affairs in how long-term love should be.  Zoë Heller at the New York Review of Books says films today and other cultural milieu are filled with simplistic plots and clichés about love, without delving into the complicated minutia of modern relationships and how best to navigate them. They don’t reflect what people are actually experiencing, nor do they give a strategy for which to encounter the prickly paradigm of modern love. Supporters of traditional values decry the end of marriage as it once was. But couples staying together longer show greater stability, know each other better and perhaps can best negotiate differences. The expense of a wedding, weakening norms and lack of financial benefit may result in a further decline in marriage, experts believe. On the upshot for advocates, statistics show that those who are getting married stay together longer. Also, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, since the 1980’s, divorce has been in deep decline. 70% of those who married in the 1990s celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary today. That’s 5% higher than those who married in the 70’s and 80’s. Those who tied the knot in the new millennium have an even lower divorce rate.

According to economist Justin Wolfer at the University of Michigan, two-thirds of married couples today stay together. For those cases where divorce does occur, two-thirds of the time it’s the wife who wants it. The reason is women’s expectations for marriage have vastly changed. Gender roles in America saw a dramatic paradigm shift over the past two decades due to the Feminist movement. This in turn affected how both sexes interact with one another. Today, marriage isn’t only about raising a family or having financial support. It’s about love and partnership. People also want someone who will help lead them into personal growth. They want to grow and better themselves and they look to their partner to help them complete their metamorphosis. A lot of times, when we feel as though we are in a stale relationship and the well has gone dry, we feel it’s time to move on. The baby boomer generation remains the one with the highest rate of divorce. People are living older nowadays, and so when the children have moved out and they still have decades of life left, they want to make the most of it. That sometimes means leaving someone they no longer connect with in order to enjoy those years with someone they do. For more on this topic read, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today by Andrew J. Cherlin.

The Most Expensive Weddings Lead to the Shortest Marriages

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The Most Expensive Weddings Lead to the Shortest Marriages

The price on weddings has risen significantly in recent years. So-called “normal” couples today incorporate detailed websites, photo booths and giant ice sculptures into their marriages, and even throw weekend-long events. The industry likes to marry the idea of love and commitment with how much is spent. But although most of us scour the plan looking for ways of saving a few dollars, some wish money was no object. They secretly drool over celebrity-style affairs in exotic locales, taking place in lavish venues where so many luxuries abound their guests’ heads spin. We dream of becoming a part of what looks like modern day royalty. But be careful what you wish for. All of that style may be hiding a lack of substance, according to a study out of Emory University. You would think those who shell out the most mean it the most. But this study found the opposite to be true. The most expensive weddings lead to the shortest marriages. Two economics professors came to this conclusion. They also found that the higher the price-tag for the engagement ring, the greater the likelihood of divorce.

3,000 participants, married only one time, took part in this study. They found that those men who spent $500 to $2,000 were 1.3 times less likely to get divorced than those who spent $2,000 and $4,000. Those who spent $5,000 to $10,000 on the wedding were 3.5 times less likely to get divorced than those who shelled out over $20,000. In an email to Big Think researchers wrote, “Advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful.” Though they’ve found a correlation, determining causation is far trickier. The economists surmise that such a big event inflates the expectations of the marriage. The couple is enchanted into the notion that things are going to be easy from here on out. Both parties have unrealistic expectations which undermine reconciliation when the couple hits a stumbling block. Those who have a more moderately priced affair have a level-headed view and so are ready when the inevitable difficulties arise.

No matter how much you plunk down for your wedding, there are some qualities that can be sustained by both parties to give the marriage the best chance of success. The first is to focus on the positive rather than the negative. There are little things that will inevitably drive you crazy. But if you can remember how supportive and understanding they are, you can perhaps overlook the hair they leave in the shower drain or that they are never once on-time. Invest in your relationship. This could be time, energy or thoughtfulness. But you get out of a marriage what you put into it. Communicate clearly and make sure you understand what your spouse has said or is saying. Lots of fights boil down to miscommunication. Fight smart. If you hurt your partner but win the argument, have you really won? Learn to let the little things go. And find ways to increase your closeness and strengthen your bond. For more on how to achieve marital success read, Strong Marriage, Happy Life: The Core Principles of a Successful Marriage and How to Make Your Marriage Work by Sonya Dawson.

Denying Marriage until they pay down their Debt

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Denying Marriage until they pay down their Debt

Due to the Great Recession, people are being more careful about marriage and are cohabitating longer. They know how expensive divorce can be, not to mention how draining. But there’s another phenomenon too. Some people are denying their lovers their hand in marriage until they pay down their debt. The credit score is almighty today, allowing access to homes, cars and businesses, or denying access depending on how that person handles money. One spouse’s debt affects both of their credit. With lots of plans for the future, no one wants to get tied down or lassoed with the debt of another.

Do they have poor spending habits? If you are worried that they will talk you into a joint credit card account and max it out, ask them about their buying habits and be careful. Notice whether or not they go on extravagant shopping sprees they can’t afford. Who are they going to stick the bill to? If they can’t afford it and you two are married, you’ll feel forced to contribute, not only in the emotional sense but to save your joint credit.

There is another underlying factor here. If a person isn’t responsible with money, can they be trusted with other things? Are they only irresponsible in the financial sense or in other ways too? And will these other ways damage the other person or the relationship as a whole? Conscientiousness is one of those great qualities in a lover and a spouse that is often overlooked. But someone who went the distance working hard in their career, whether they were knocked down by the economy is another matter.

Someone who can pay bills on time, save, live somewhat frugally, someone who doesn’t spend frivolously but knows the value of money may know, appreciate and respect the other good and worthwhile things in life, namely you. So their spendthrift, responsible or reckless ways they spend money could speak to deeper parts of their psyche, parts you are going to have to deal with should you decide to get involved in a long term relationship, even a marriage with this person. Marriage is forever. If they are serious and really love you perhaps they’ll change their poor financial planning. If not, let them go. Love may be fleeting, but your credit score lasts forever. For more advice read, How to Debt-Proof your Marriage by Mary Hunt.

Advice for a Satisfying Marriage According to Science

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Advice for a Satisfying Marriage According to Science

There is lots of marriage advice out there. But lots of it is based on folk wisdom, stories, generalizations and lots of other things that though may be helpful certainly are not proven. There is some good in it of course but a lot of things that are misleading. When you are married you don’t want to enact a tip that might backfire on you. You live with your spouse. Instead, why not take some advice you can count on? Here is some advice for a satisfying marriage according to science.

The first tip, marry someone who has a similar spending style to you, whether you be a spendthrift or a shopaholic. Money is one of the top issues married couples argue over, According to research out of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, utilizing surveys from more than 1,000 adults both married and not. They found that spenders often end up with savers and vice-versa. But it also showed that this asymmetrical spending style is incompatible and often leads to far less marital satisfaction. Researcher Scott Rick said about their findings, “Even though a spendthrift will have greater debt when married to another spendthrift than when married to a tightwad, the spendthrift is still less likely to argue about money with the other spendthrift.”

If you are married to a neurotic, get them between the sheets more often. You’ll both be happy. A University of Tennessee study found that frequent sex made neurotics just as satisfied with their married lives as others. Another study found that it gets better with age. 50 year old men were more satisfied with their sex lives than 30 and 40 year olds, and just as satisfied as 20 to 29 year olds. Little things like the words you use and how you speak to one another can go a long way. An Arizona State University study revealed that saying “thank you” and showing gratitude makes your spouse feel more appreciated. And those who feel more appreciated are more satisfied in their marriage.

Another study conducted in 2009 found that using the word “we” can increase a partner’s happiness. Deploying words that are couple focused “us”, “we”, and “our” during a fight made partners use less negative behavior against one another, lowered stress levels and increased affection during disagreements. Singular words however such as “me”, “mine” and “I” decreased happiness in the marriage. Do you find your lover or spouse annoying? This will probably only increase over time according to research out of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, so make sure you get hitched to someone you like and love. For more on utilizing scientific studies to make your marriage better read, For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed by Tara Parker-Pope.

Why do Some People Stay with Someone Who Isn’t Good Enough for them?

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Why do Some People Stay with Someone Who Isn’t Good Enough for them?

You know when you see that really amazing girl or guy; funny, good looking, smart and passionate, and you find out later who they are dating and you are floored? Why them? This person is so gorgeous and their partner seems to be short on good qualities. And you wonder why this unbelievable person could be with this mediocre at best partner. Why do some people stay with someone who doesn’t appear good enough for them? Some people are merely complacent in their relationships. Others are harboring feelings of inadequacy and fear being single. There are those who have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle, one financed by their significant other. But it’s psychologically unhealthy if the love for material items far outweighs the love for your partner. Each person should be able to support themselves and be financially independent or at least plan to be say if one is in college working toward a career, or else you end up resenting the other person and the power dynamic is merely one sided. A relationship should fulfill a person emotionally. But if a relationship doesn’t do that, no matter how good the lifestyle or how good it feels to be with someone, it isn’t going to do what it is supposed to do. You will get emotionally drained and sooner or later you’ll split up.

Some people stick together for the sake of the kids. But if this is a high conflict relationship, studies have shown that you are probably doing more harm than good. Even if it is a low conflict household, children can sense the unhappiness of their parents. And what effect will that have on their psyches? If you are embedded in a relationship and do not know how to get out of it, start with your own self-worth. Start to discover who you really are and who you want to be. Learn to love yourself. Then see if you can love the person you are with. Are they good for you or are they adding to negativity in your life? Is the relationship salvageable or is it best to move on? Come to realize what your personal needs are and if the person you are with can fulfill them. Can you fulfill their personal needs? If you are in an unhealthy relationship, find your way out of it. It will only get worse. Instead of allowing you the room you need to grow and develop and become the best person you can be, it will be holding you back and stifling your development. Find someone who enhances your life experience instead of someone who hampers it. Go out on a limb and find real love. It will be there if you just give yourself the right to be happy. For more advice read, Letting Go of Mr. Wrong: Realize Your Self-Worth by Sonya Parker.