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Articles from October 2007

October 23, 2007

Save $300 and Your Marriage

Here's a terrific offer in my inbox tonight for everyone who has been walking on eggshells in their marriage, feeling resentful toward their mate, or getting out-of-control angry at them. It comes from one of my favorite newsletters, Smart Marriages.

Steven Stosny is trying an experiment to make his highly-regarded Boot Camp, featured on Oprah and in many other national media, available at a substantially reduced cost. He is experimenting to see if he can fill it without having to pay for advertising, which would mean he could offer this invaluable program for 40% lower than his usual fee.

While I haven't been to a Boot Camp yet, I've read Stosny's book about them (You Don't Have to Take It Anymore) and heard him present his remarkable success story with this program. He's saving marriages most people wouldn't think could be saved.

The Boot Camp takes place November 30 through December 2, 2007, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. That's in the Washington, DC area. The $300 discount is available only through November 4, by calling (301) 528-7067 or registering online at

This is not anger management training or a class for shaming abusers. It's real help for those who want to stop hurting their spouses, whether physically or emotionally, and for those who have been walking on eggshells around them. Expect to learn how to replace resentment, anger, and jealousy with compassion and love.

Read my earlier review of Stosny's book.

October 21, 2007

Feeling Loved When You're Expecting

The easiest way to feel unloved is to expect the wrong things. You live in a time and place when you can marry for love. You don't need a helpmeet to survive. You don't need to bolster your family's political position or status through marriage. You can choose to marry or not, and you can choose the person you marry.

So what should you expect when you marry for love? Love.

Love comes in so many forms -- a strong shoulder to lean on in hard times, a hug, a kiss, help with your chores, sentimental gifts, practical gifts, encouraging words, flattering words, physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, a cup of hot cocoa on a cold night, someone to hike the Grand Canyon with, a date for your high school reunion, a steady income.

Look for love, and you'll find lots of signs of it. Receive them warmly, and most spouses keep adding more, whatever they can give. Some couldn't come up with a sentimental gift if there were a $50,000 prize for it, but they'll clean the gutters because it will keep you dry. Some are never going to hike a canyon they can see on TV, but they'll get you through the worst flu and put love poems on your breakfast tray. Some can't stand to be hugged, but they'll slog through the worst work day to make sure you have a home to live in and food on the table.

When we expect sentimental gifts, a hiking companion, or hugs and we don't get them, it's easy to feel we've been let down. It's easy to scold or whine or nag in an attempt to fix what we see as a problem. But when we expect, it's not easy to see the signs of love. We can't receive them warmly while we're busy feeling hurt. We create a situation where there's no point showing us love, unless it's in the form we expect.

Of course, we feel justified expecting these things. We know other husbands or wives get them all the time. Our visions of married life long before we married were filled with what we now expect. We've thought about them, and they seem like something anyone ought to be able to give. And it's only fair we get them, because we've given them, or something even more valuable, to the person we expect them from. We convince ourselves what we're looking for is not a sign of love, it's the sign of love.

But it's not. And the more we focus on it, the more we miss all the other signs. And so, one by one, the other signs stop, because it looks for all the world like we don't care about them. We can't tell the difference between someone who loves us and someone who doesn't when we're expecting a particular sign. We blind ourselves to love.

The fix is easy. Expect love.

Why Be Married? Because Most Couples Don't Divorce

Here's the skinny on divorce. If you first got married in the 1950s, the odds are better than 2 to 1 you celebrated your 25th wedding anniversary. If you married in the 1960s, the odds are still good you got there: a little better than 1.5 to 1. If you married in the 1970s, the odds are 1.2 to 1, still better than even.

If you recently married, or you're thinking about getting married, your parents might be among those who married in the 1970s. Almost a third of the couples married then were divorced before their 10th anniversary, which means even when you were just a kid, a lot of the adults in your life were splitting up, maybe even your parents.

I can't blame you if you expect your chances of staying together for the long run must be pretty slim now. But there's good news.

The tide turned in 1979. The percentage of first-marriage couples staying together has been climbing since then. For those married in the 1990s, the odds of still being married ten years later were pretty close to what they were for the 1960s couples: for every ten couples who split up, another 35 didn't.

Across the board, divorce is down. The total number of divorces per 1,000 married couples is 25% lower now than it was in 1979. It's back to 1972 levels, lower than 1947 levels. (All statistics from Trends in Marriage Stability by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, October 2007.)

So, why be married? Because most couples don't ever divorce, and a good marriage grows richer with every year.

October 12, 2007

Michelle Obama's Happy Marriage

If you, your spouse, and your kids are the only ones who care if your marriage is a happy one, count your blessings. Over a third (35%) of women in a September 2007 Ladies Home Journal survey said their vote for president in 2008 would be influenced at least somewhat by how happy they thought the candidate's marriage was.

Coming in second in perceived marital happiness, right behind John Edwards, whose wife supports his candidacy despite her own grave medical problems, was Barack Obama.

That happiness comes both from how much each loves the other and from how much love each is capable of receiving. Michelle Obama gets it. In 2000, she was furious about getting stuck with all the parenting responsibilities while he ran for Congress. And then she wasn't. From the November issue of O, the Oprah Magazine:
"'The big thing I figured out,' she says, 'was that I was pushing to make Barack be something I wanted him to be for me. I believed that if only he were around more often, everything would be better. So I was depending on him to make me happy. Except it didn't have anything to do with him. I needed support. I didn't necessarily need it from Barack.'"

Like the rest of us, when she quit being angry about what she wasn't getting, she got more. She started going to the gym before dawn. When she came home, he would have the girls up and fed before he started his day on the campaign trail. Looks like the 43% who believe theirs is a happy marriage are right.

October 4, 2007

Can Baseball Save Your Marriage?

Howard Markman, marriage guru from the University of Denver and one of the creators of the very popular PREP marriage education program, noticed something interesting about Major League Baseball.

When Denver was hoping to lure a major league team ten years ago, he found that cities with a major league team had a divorce rate 28% lower than cities seeking one. Seven years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, Denver's divorce rate has dropped by 20% to 4.2 divorces for every 1,000 people. Phoenix and Miami added major league teams, too, and their divorce rates dropped by 30%. Tampa's dropped by 17%, which is still above the 15% average drop nationwide.

I checked out our local stats. Pennsylvania, with two MLB teams, has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country, 43% lower than Colorado's.

Markman suspects baseball is providing the sort of shared fun that keeps couples together. Here in the Philadelphia area, where the Phillies are in the playoffs against Markman's Rockies, baseball's a shared passion for lots of couples.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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