According to a national Pew Research Center report done in 2013, 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before. In 2010, a Pew Research Center survey found that 42% of the American adults interviewed have at least one step relative in their family, whether it be a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. Having a stepfamily is not something most of us plan for, and the reality of being in a stepfamily can be quite different than our expectations. But different doesn’t mean worse. All stepfamilies have to go through an adjustment period together.
A stepfamily is formed as a result of a loss of a previous marriage or relationship. Children and adults have to be able to grieve the changes that happen as a result of death or divorce. Children especially may feel a loss of stability as a result of living in two households. They may be left wondering where they fit in with a new parent and new siblings. A child moving into a stepparent’s home may feel like an outsider or unwanted guest. In situations where the stepfamily moves into the child’s existing home, the child may feel like “unwanted visitors” are invading, and the child may feel resentful. One way to make the transition easier on all family members is to start fresh in a home that is new to all. But because this is not always feasible or practical, here are some ways to help make the transition into a blended family a little easier:
- Try to make the home more welcoming to all. If you have pictures on the wall, be sure the pictures accurately reflect all members of the family, not just the ones who have always lived in the house
- Take on a redecorating project together, to make the home “yours” as a family
- Try to incorporate furniture and furnishings from both homes
- Be patient and sensitive regarding children’s feelings. The blending of a family is a big change, and to the child it may feel like things are moving really fast. If the child now has to share a room, this can be a particularly difficult adjustment. Try to lower your expectations about “happily ever after,” at least in the beginning. Remember, there will be an adjustment period for all family members!
Being empathetic and understanding of each family members concerns and needs will go a long way. You are all in this together. With a few adjustments, you will be able to fine-tune your home to better include all family members.
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“The No. 1 reason people have trouble in their relationship or marriage is due to the lack of communication,” says Dr. Janne’ Lomasky, co-author of the self help book for people considering divorce, “To Stay or Not To Stay.” Dr. Lomasky is a Boca Raton psychologist, hypnotherapist, and Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator.
Dr. Lomasky mentions several other common causes of relationship trauma including low self-esteem and spending so much time at work that a relationship is formed at the workplace. One of the biggest new obstacles to relationships is that social media is leading many couples to Dr. Lomasky’s office. Increasingly, when a spouse becomes bored or feels like something is missing from their relationship, they start or renew friendships on social media to fill the void they feel in their marriage. This can first lead to emotional infidelity, and possibly physical infidelity. Husbands are contacting old girlfriends; wives are contacting old boy friends. Instead of talking to their spouse about the void they are feeling, they go out and look to fill that void with someone else.
Dr. Lomasky suggests, “If your relationship is in trouble, the best thing to do is not ignore it. People need to identify the obstacles that have them talking at each other and not to each other.” She goes on to suggest showing your spouse affection and empathy, using a positive tone of voice, and being kind to your spouse.
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What is the key to matrimonial bliss? According to a study by business psychologist Dale Griffin from the University of British Columbia, the key is to have an idealized view of your spouse. Griffin’s research studied new marriages over a five-year period of time. The study took into account whether couples remained together, and who was happy and had satisfaction from their marriage.
According to Griffin, “The key finding is that the average person becomes less and less satisfied over five years.” For those who have an idealized view of their spouse, they were still satisfied with their spouse and marriage. The idealized view of their spouse caused them to overlook or ignore flaws, seeing their spouse in an unrealistically positive light.
Griffin’s research found that when one sees the best in their spouse, they are more forgiving, and that forgiveness is “significant” according to Griffin. “Seeing the best in your partner actually leads you, our research finds, to be more forgiving when they do something wrong.” Griffin goes on to say, “we see these people who are having the successful marriages, who are idealizing, are really very forgiving in how they attribute problems.” If an idealist spouse did something wrong, the idealist was more likely to put blame on factors other than the spouse.
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The divorce rate in the United States has dropped somewhat over the last decade to around forty percent. Although this rate is still high, it is an improvement over that of the 1980’s when the divorce rate was hovering around fifty percent for all married couples.
A recent study conducted by the Bowling Green State University Family and Marriage Center found that the divorce rate of younger couples is decreasing while that of couples over the age of fifty has nearly doubled in the past two decades. While many older couples may be divorcing, one older married couple has stayed together through thick and thin and is being recognized as America’s longest married couple.
John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, Connecticut, were married 81 years ago during the Great Depression. The couple was named as the longest married couple in the United States by World Marriage Encounter, a California Christian group based on a review of nominations sent in from around the country.
John and Ann eloped on November 25, 1932, to avoid Ann’s father’s plan to marry her off to a man twenty years her senior.
Although their life has not always been easy and Ann said that marriage isn’t a lovey-dovey thing for eighty years, she did say that you need to “accept another’s ways of life, agreements, disagreements” to have a happy marriage.
The Betars admitted they do argue over one thing in their lifetime together – cooking. John jokes, “It’s only about the cooking, that’s the only arguments we had.”
John, 102 years-old, says the secret to their happy and long marriage is, “Just contentment….with what you have, and what you’re doing.”
Ann, 98 years-old, said that you need to think about what you’re doing and if it’s wrong, straighten it out.
The advice the Betars have for married couples today; don’t expect your spouse to always agree with you and expect to have your way in all things. The secret to a happy marriage is communication and compromise.
Many times those couples who have enjoyed a long, happy marriage, find discord in their marriage once they retire. Instead of enjoying their “golden years” these couples are experiencing serious marital problems that can actually threaten their marriage.
According to a 2013 Fidelity Investment Couples Retirement Study, one of the reasons marital satisfaction drops and conflicts rise is because the married couple disagrees on how, when and where they will retire. The survey discovered that:
- Thirty-eight percent of couples disagree as to the lifestyle they expect to live once they retire
- Thirty-six percent of couples do not agree on where they plan to live in retirement
- One-third of couples approaching retirement don’t agree on whether they will continue working in retirement
When a couple retires, the dynamics of the marriage changes. Instead of spending just a portion of the day together, the couple will now spend the majority of the day and night together. The newly retired couple will need to not only work out how to spend time together, but also learn to give each other space, too.
Experts in the field have found that for some couples spending extended time together in retirement can bring out habits and characteristics in a spouse that are irritating and annoying. These annoying traits were always there, but once a couple spends so much time together, they become more apparent and more aggravating.
When a couple retires, their life changes. Many people view retirement as a loss of roles, income and productivity. A married couple needs to plan for retirement in more ways than financially.
When a couple retires, they initially find themselves in each others space as well as having too much time on their hands. To successfully navigate retirement, the couple will need to grow both together and individually. Looking for activities to do individually and as a couple, enrolling in a college course or volunteering will help keep a couple busy.
Although it may take time to adjust to retirement, by keeping busy with new activities and by communicating openly and honestly with each other, a married couple can successfully navigate and enjoy this new phase in their lives.
A study published in the December issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reports that mixed-weight couples – one partner is average weight whereas the other partner is overweight – not only argue more than same-weight couples, but have more feelings of anger and resentment towards each other, as well. These negative feelings can cause problems both with intimacy and communication in a relationship or marriage.
In an online survey on TODAY.com, 55 percent of the 1,500 participants said weight differences have caused problems in their relationships.
In the article, one mixed-weight couple from Utah was profiled. The woman in the relationship had weight problems her whole life, with her weight yo-yoing up and down. She met her future husband while at college during a “skinny period” in her life. However, the “skinny period” did not last, as, by the time of their wedding, she had gained twenty-five pounds and five years after their marriage, her weight was up to 220 pounds.
Both partners were unhappy with the wife’s weight, but it was the wife’s unhappiness with her weight gain that strained the couple’s marriage to the point they were contemplating divorce. Everything was centered around her weight; what they would eat; what activities they could do together; what clothes she would wear; and even whether or not they would appear together in public because she felt her husband was embarrassed by her appearance.
Researchers state that it is hard to determine which comes first in a mixed-weight relationship; conflict or weight gain, as stress over weight problems tends to lead to overeating. Experts do agree that one important key for success in a mixed-weight relationship is for the “normal weight” partner to never be verbally abusive by stating cruel remarks about his partner’s weight. Another important key to encouraging weight loss and healthy eating, is for both partners to work together without causing feelings of anger or/and resentment in the overweight partner in the relationship. Working as a team supports the overweight partner and assists in easing feelings of anger, resentment and frustration and thus helps the couple create a more successful, happy relationship.
Many marriage vows contain the words, “for richer or poorer.” A new study by Brigham Young University and William Patterson University found that when both spouses’ emphasis is on the “for richer” part of their vows, there is a good possibility there will be trouble in the marriage.
The two university’s researchers surveyed 1,700 married couples with the intent of gauging the couple’s materialism. These couples were asked whether they agreed with certain statements concerning materialism, such as “I like to own things to impress people” or “Money can buy happiness.”
The study’s lead author, Jason Carroll, a professor at BYU, said researchers found that materialistic couples had lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity. “Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction and less marriage stability." Researchers found those couples who had little interest in money scored 10 to 15 percent higher in the quality and satisfaction of their marriage. Carroll also found the correlation between interest in money and marital satisfaction remained the same regardless of how wealthy the couple was.
The researchers discovered, however, when only one spouse had materialistic tendencies and the other spouse didn’t, the materialism of the one spouse did not negatively affect the marriage. According to researchers, the nonmaterialistic spouse stabilized the marriage, and allowed the couple to balance each other out and improve their marital quality and satisfaction.
Although materialism may be a point of contention in a marriage, the authors want to stress that materialism alone isn’t to blame for marriage problems, as there are many other issues that can negatively affect a marriage. However, the researchers do feel that the materialistic tendencies of one or both spouses can play a large role in marriage dissatisfaction and marriage quality that in time could lead to divorce.