Financial Disagreements Can Spell Trouble in Marriage

While financial disagreements are the most common issue in marriage (yes, even more frequent than conflicts over sex life), there has been inconsistent research as to whether these types of disagreements actually predict divorce. However, research in 2012 did find that early conflicts about money do, in fact, predictor such an end.

Research Into Financial Conflict and Divorce

To investigate this question, researchers from Kansas State University and Texas Tech University examined data collected through the National Survey of Families and Households.  The researchers concluded that arguments about money are not just a contributing factor, but are actually the top predictor of divorce.

In fact, financial disagreements were even more of a divorce predictor than conflicts over:

  • Children
  • A couple’s sex-life
  • The in-laws

Why Financial Conflict Leads to Marriage Trouble

The researchers hypothesized that arguments over money normally take longer to recover from than other arguments. Why the longer recovery time? This may be because, hidden below the surface of these arguments, there are often deeper issues within the relationship. Some of these include underlying trust issues (addressed below), and power differentials within the relationship, such as how decisions are made.

Trust in the Relationship

Another issue connected to financial disagreement is trust. For instance, if one partner decides to spend $2000 on a new road bike after previously agreeing to discuss major purchases, that could be a problem! It’s important for both partners in a relationship to know that they can trust one another. This definitely includes communicating major financial decisions in advance (yes, including that new road bike).

Financial Distress in Relationships

Certainly if a household is in financial distress, that can definitely negatively impact the relationship. The Great Recession in 2008 didn’t help couples and families that were already struggling to pay the bills and support households. For many families a job loss, increase in rent, or an accident/illness can significantly strain any relationship.

Differences in Financial Outlook

Financial differences can also reveal different fiscal approaches that each person holds regarding money and saving vs. spending. One partner may have a conservative outlook when it comes to money, and believes in saving every penny. On the other hand, another partner may spend on impulse without thinking about the future and how they will pay the bills. They may also not be able to save any money for emergencies or retirement. These differences can make agreeing on finances a challenge and certainly can lead to trouble in the marriage.

What to Do about Financial Conflict?

Here are several tips that couples can do to address financial disagreements:

  • Start early, before even getting married, to make sure you are both on the same page regarding finances. Consider seeing a financial planner to project into the future and compare fiscal approaches.
  • Attend pre-marital counseling and be sure to include discussions on spending money in order to come to an understanding with your partner.
  • Remember, even though financial disagreements may statistically increase the chance of divorce or a break-up, it’s far from a guarantee that will happen to your relationship. When communicating, try to see things from your partner’s perspective and truly listen to them.

It’s definitely preferable to get financial issues out in the open before marrying. However, you may already be married and discovering significant financial conflict now. Fortunately, an experienced couples counselor can help you get back on track.

Overall, regardless of what stage you are at in your relationship, communication about money, and its use, are important discussions. Also, don’t assume your relationship is doomed if you have disagreements over money. Couples counseling can help you both learn to more effectively handle this issue. Furthermore, It can allow you to understand each other’s perspectives on finances and talk openly about this issue. That way, you can both move forward together. United, not just in marriage, but on the same page financially as well.


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3 Ways Children of Divorce Struggle in Their Adult Relationships

Most of us know our past experiences can have an effect on how we relate to other people. Children of divorce seem to have a reputation for having more relationship problems as adults. Research shows that they are, in fact, more likely to divorce themselves, compared to children who grow up in two-parent, intact families. By understanding how divorce affected them, adults can take steps to have more stable relationships than their parents.

How Divorce Affects Children

Here are the three main ways that divorce can affect children in future relationships:

1. They often struggle managing relationship conflict.

2. Their level of commitment in intimate relationships can fluctuate.

3. They often struggle with trust issues in relationships.

Sadly, as children struggle through the painful process of their parents’ divorce, they rarely escape unscathed. They can experience relationship instability for an extended amount of time, before trying to better understand how their parents’ divorce affected them.

Learning How to Manage Conflict

Children of divorced parents learn how to manage, or more accurately, how not to manage, conflict with their partners. They have likely seen their parents engage in frequent, heated arguments while growing up. Witnessing this conflict can impact how they manage conflict themselves. Unfortunately, they are more likely to struggle.

Learning About Commitment

Adult children of divorced parents often mirror their parents’ shaky level of commitment in relationships. Witnessing the pain and dissolution of their parent’s marriage may make adult children reluctant to commit to marriage. This means they are more likely to give up on a relationship and end it instead of trying to work through difficult problems with their partner. It’s often just easier for them to throw in the towel and give up.

Learning About Trust

Also, children of divorce typically have less trust in their romantic relationships. Issues that can arise include:

  • Fear that their partner is going to leave them.
  • Worry that their partner doesn’t love them.
  • Concern that their partner “doesn’t have their back.”

The consequence of this limited trust is that, as adults, the children of divorce will often drift towards shallow relationships and shy away from seeking out deeper, more loving connections as a way to protect themselves. They shy away from this deeper connection for fear of being hurt and often break up with their partner when their trust is compromised.

Less Likely to Marry, More Likely to Divorce

Even if they have been in a loving and committed relationship for years, frequently, children of divorce will still remain reluctant to “pull the trigger.” If they do get married, they will be more inclined to get a divorce when the relationship hits a rough patch. The lesson that their parents modeled for them in childhood is that breaking up is more acceptable than remaining committed to working through the tough issues.

A Greater Chance, But Not Set in Stone

So, what should children of divorce do? Just because their parents’ relationship didn’t work out does not guarantee that their relationships will fail. While there is a higher risk for these children to struggle in adult relationships, it doesn’t mean their destinies are set in stone. When it comes to having healthier relationships, children of divorce can be proactive. Individual and couples counseling can help to work on these three areas where children of divorce typically struggle most.

We know that children of divorced parents may have a tough time in their own relationships as adults. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. By being aware of their past, taking proactive steps to understand themselves better, and learning effective relationship skills, they can absolutely have loving and enjoyable partnerships. They can break their parents’ cycle for good to create healthy, satisfying, and lasting relationships of their own.

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How Mindfulness Can Improve Your Relationship

Are you looking to improve your relationship with your partner? Have there been times when one or both of you became emotionally triggered, causing a small argument to turn into a major blowup? Mindfulness can be a helpful tool for couples looking to strengthen their relationships, improve communication, and develop a greater sense of self and awareness of others around them.

What is Mindfulness?

A mindfulness practice is a process directed at the development of having a heightened or fuller sense of self-awareness of the present moment. This awareness involves obtaining an open and non-judgmental stance regarding what is currently happening in front of you.

A developed mindfulness practice can help you to respond more effectively to varied life situations instead of reacting emotionally or instinctively.  It is a mindset that allows you to better cope when there is general stress in general and specific stress between you and your partner.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

There are several benefits of mindfulness, both psychological and physical. These include:

  • The ability to calm down
  • Lower levels of stress
  • A strengthened immune system
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased working memory

Mindfulness and Your Mental Narrative

Imagine a time when you and your partner began to feel stressed. Perhaps you started arguing over something that has been a perpetual problem in your relationship. Did you ever hear yourself saying, “Here we go again?” When this happens, do you feel yourself tense up and become more emotionally reactive to what your partner is saying?

Mindfulness can help us avoid playing that “tape in the background” which, in essence, is the narrative we provide ourselves when we become emotionally triggered.  Instead, we can stay present and actually hear what our partner says without being judgmental.

Mindfulness and Reactivity

Let’s continue with the example from above. You begin to feel more emotionally reactive to what your partner is saying.  For example, you may

  • Interrupt your partner to get across your point of view.
  • Display nonverbal signs such as shaking your head or rolling your eyes.
  • Get up and leaving the conversation.
  • Feel hurt or angry and wanting to push back.
  • Miss cues that your partner is in emotional pain.

By practicing mindfulness, you can reduce your emotional reactivity. This means that you may avoid having an argument entirely. Or at the very least prevent a small disagreement from turning into a major conflict. You would able to listen and respond more tactfully, instead of emotionally lashing out at your partner.

Remember, healthy couples are skilled at not getting caught up in this negative communication cycle. They can process without easily being emotionally triggered. Some are able to more naturally stay calmer, but for most of us it requires practice.

Three Tips for Mindful Discussions

1. Set aside a specific time with your partner where both of you can be present. For instance, sitting with each other in the evening before bedtime.

2.  During this time practice being fully present and be interested in learning more about your partner. Face each other, make eye contact, and listen to what they have to say.

3. Make sure that there are no electronic distractions to divert your attention. Turn off your cell phones.

These discussions can become great practice for not only learning both how to communicate with each other, but also how to truly listen to each other.

Consider Starting a Formal Meditation/Mindfulness Practice

You and your partner can go a step further with mindfulness by starting a meditation practice. There are several advantages that meditation provides us when having important discussions with our partners. For example, we can:

  • Learn breathing techniques that help keep us calm.
  • Become better aware of our surroundings.
  • Learn to acknowledge our thoughts without being hyper-focused on them.

Couples that improve their “relationship mindfulness” are rewarded with the added benefit of having improved communication skills. Both of you can learn how to be less emotionally reactive and truly be present with one another. It can help you and your partner create a stronger and longer-lasting relationship.

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Men Underestimate Women’s Interest in Sex

Recent research shows that men in relationships consistently underestimate their partner’s interest in sex. This is in stark contrast to prior research that examined perceptions of partner’s interest in sex while dating.  In dating relationship, males actually over-estimated their partner’s interest in sex. Why this shift and what can we learn from the data?

Why Do Men Underestimate Their Partner’s Interest?

Some reasons that men may underestimate their partner include:

  • Motivation. Underestimation helps to encourage men to stay motivated to entice their partner’s interest. If they don’t think that their partner is interested, men will go out of their way to court their partner.
  • Fear. Men are often fearful of sexual rejection. They have more to lose when their partner is not interested.

Research Into Men’s Underestimate of Partner’s Interest

Research into this subject was conducted by Amy Muise (and others) at the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The research was conducted using mostly heterosexual couples. They filled out surveys in the evening that measured sex drive and how each partner felt about their relationship. This lasted for three weeks. The results showed that the couples with the highest relational quality accurately estimated their partner’s desire for sex. You could say that both were, “on the same wavelength.”

Possibility for Further Research

The study seems to operate on the assumption that it is up to men to initiate sex. This was more implied rather than directly stated. However, it opens up the possibility for further research as to whether women initiate more or less than men and their perception of their partner’s sexual interest. Research should also examine this phenomenon in same-sex relationships.

Expressing Your Feelings, Eliminate the Guesswork

The bottom line? It is best to express your feelings to your partner when you are interested and have a high desire for sexual intimacy. Communication with your partner is important for maintaining a healthy relationship and it obviously eliminates the guesswork when trying to determine whether your partner reciprocates your interest in sex.

More Doesn’t Mean Better

Research also shows that couples who have sex once a week are the most satisfied in their relationships. Couples who have sex more than once a week do not appear to have any significant increase in relationship satisfaction. The relationships don’t get worse, but satisfaction does not improve when the frequency exceeds once a week either.

Interestingly, this corresponds to other research indicating that more is not always better in terms of what makes us happy. One important example correlates to money. Studies also show, that earning more than a certain amount (somewhere $60k and $90k per year depending on the cost of living) does not increase our happiness.

Finding a Happy Balance

So how can couples get to a place where they find a happy balance in the frequency of sexual intimacy? Try some of the following ideas: 

  • Check in often, even nightly, about how you are feeling.
  • Be more attuned to your partner’s needs.
  • Establish a date night for intimacy.
  • Become more aware of when your partner is- and isn’t- interested in sex.

All of these ideas require effective communicate with your partner. In addition, try to be compassionate and understanding with one another.

But what do you do if you and/or your partner struggle with communication?

Getting Help With Communication

A therapist can help both of you to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other. A couples therapist can provide perspective and help point out unhealthy patterns of communication and interaction. A skilled therapist can teach you tools that will allow you to more capably share not only the simple communications, but also your deeper feelings with one another. He or she can also help to resolve conflicts that have risen between the two of you.

Research shows that men often underestimate their partner’s desire for sex. However, that does not mean that it isn’t possible to reach a point where the two of you are on the same page. Learning and practicing communication tools can be extremely helpful. Talking with a therapist can reveal some communication barriers that may be negatively affecting your relationship. With professional support, you can both find a healthy balance in order to enjoy a more satisfying relationship.

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Why You Always End Up With the Same Partner

It’s a common Hollywood movie theme. We all know people who can’t seem to get a romance off the ground. In the movies, the central character always picks the wrong partner and winds up alone at home. Yet by the end of the film, they find themselves meeting the “perfect partner.” In the real world though, people can wind up in the wrong relationship over and over again.

Why is this, and what can you do to avoid falling into this trap?

Look Towards Your Past

The first place to look when trying to understand why you repeatedly make poor relationship choices is to examine your past. The “baggage” that you carry may actually be the culprit. Some questions to consider:

  • What have your past relationships been like?
  • Are there any similarities or patterns in previous romantic partners?
  • Has there been a significant event that plays into your decision-making process?
  • Did you grow up with less than healthy relationships with either parent?

When we don’t understand and haven’t processed our past experiences, they have a way of bubbling back up to the surface. They can also significantly influence the way we live our life and the choices we make. These past experiences can dramatically affect how we choose and interact with our romantic partners and ultimately influence our relationships.

A Classic Example of Baggage’s Influence

Imagine a young woman who grew up with an angry and abusive father. As a result of these past traumatic experiences with her father, this woman may end up being attracted to partners who are more dominating and controlling. Her attraction to these qualities would not happen on a conscious level (she wouldn’t say to herself that she’s searching for a controlling & angry man). Psychologically, she may experience an unconscious drive to reenact this past dynamic with her father in her adult relationships.  (Freud referred to this phenomenon as “repetition compulsion.”)

In other words, she may be unconsciously driven to face, work through, and understand the trauma she experienced as an adult. Although she may not be able to “fix” her father, she could try to resolve and gain a sense of mastery over a similar difficulty with her current partner.

A Repeat of the Past

This woman’s baggage can keep her in this perpetual cycle of bad relationships. But the reason is that subconsciously she wants to find resolution to the trauma she experienced growing up. There are other ways to do this, such as:

  • She could break up with her partner (before she is subjected to any abusive behavior) allowing her to take a more active stance instead of being a victim.
  • She could become attracted to someone who is weaker and whom she can control.  However, this is just the other side of the same unhealthy relationship dynamic.
  • She could figure out and process the underlying dynamics that cause these patterns, without having to be in a relationship in the first place.

How Do We Stop or Prevent This Pattern?

There are ways that you can break this cycle of behavior and to even prevent it from starting in the first place. You can:

  • Strive to understand your part in how (and with whom) you choose to be in a relationship.  Get to the root of the problem by identifying the source and asking why this happens.
  • Start to become aware of the reasons why you make these decisions and realize you have the power to make healthier choices.

It can be difficult to take a hard, honest look at why you choose to be in certain relationships. However, you don’t have to do this alone.

Collaborating With a Therapist

A skilled therapist can be a helpful resource for you.  Together you can seek to understand why your relationships just are not working out for you.  This might involve working to resolve past traumatic events and previous experiences in order to gain perspective and a new understanding. That perspective can be invaluable for being able to find a healthy and loving relationship.

The baggage that you carry in life is the reason you repeatedly wind up with the same partner. However, there is a way to break this cycle. Through deep introspection on your own and with a therapist, you can understand why you decide to be with certain partners. This knowledge can not only help you with dating, but can also help you find the positive and caring partner that you deserve.

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