5 Ways to Avoid the Pitfalls of Remarriage

Although about half of all marriages end in divorce, the challenges for second marriages are greater. According to the National Center For Family and Marriage at Bowling Green State University, research shows that 60% of second marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate for third marriages is even higher at 65%. So why does remarrying present so many challenges for couples?

Remarrying presents the following significant hurdles for couples to overcome in order to have a satisfying relationship:

Pitfall #1: Baggage

Issues from prior marriages don’t just go away after the divorce is finalized. Dysfunctional dynamics are tendencies that will likely persist and reoccur in future relationships.

Tip: Instead of rushing into marriage make sure that you understand your relationship behavioral patterns. Do you have a thorough sense of how you contributed to the problems in your previous relationships? This often necessitates learning to understand yourself in counseling so that you know you are in a healthy place for any new relationship.

Pitfall #2: Increased Financial Stress

Typically, financial pressure increases after a marriage ends. Money is often owed to one’s ex in in form of alimony payments, child support, and any assets acquired that need to be divided. Financial conflict is already the biggest issue couples struggle with, which often leads to divorce. How will you handle this extra financial pressure?

Tip: Meet with your partner before marrying to communicate all aspects of your financial situation. Discuss and agree on realistic expectations before getting remarried. It is highly recommended to meet with a financial advisor and/or a couples counselor to ensure the two of you are on the same page.

Pitfall #3: Moving Too Fast

Remarrying couples often act too hastily and marry too quickly. They don’t take the time to make sure that their relationship is healthy and determine whether or not they are truly ready to take the next step.

Tip: It’s important to slow down and make sure that your relationship is in the right place before marriage. If there is any uncertainty it would be foolish not to attend premarital counseling.

Pitfall #4: It’s Easier to Give Up

When things get tough it’s easier to “throw in the towel” with a second marriage. Couples typically don’t have as much fear of the relationship ending when they’ve already faced “the end” in a past relationship. Also, commitment is less likely. And willingness to do the hard work necessary for a successful marriage lessens when conflict ensues. Ironically, having been through a separation or divorce once before helps to make the process a little easier the second or third time around because it’s a familiar path.

Tip: Prepare for conflict in your marriage. Recognize it’s an inevitable part of any relationship and acquire the skills to handle it. Premarital counseling can help provide the tools you both need when conflict arises. Learning conflict resolution skills is essential!

Pitfall#5: Blended Family Chaos

First marriages rarely begin with the stress of children. Remarrying though often does involve children. Couples have to now divert their attention away from each other and towards their own children and stepchildren. This makes resentment and jealousy a probable reality. Combined with brand new step-parenting adjustments, the risk of misunderstandings and conflict, unfortunately, is sky high.

Tip: It helps to have a clear understanding of expectations before the blending of families begins. Preparation through premarital and family counseling can help to better facilitate the blending process. It also helps when stepparents are able to gradually develop a solid relationship with any stepchildren before assuming parental authority and disciplinary practices. Even when attending counseling, newly blended families require having a high level of patience to handle the stress and tremendous overall adjustment.

The challenges of remarrying are great. There are many potential pitfalls that can lead couples towards another divorce. However, you can reduce the risk of encountering these pitfalls. Preparation, slowing things down, developing communication tools, and seeking out premarital and family counseling are key. Together, you can take the important steps above to maximize the chances that your second marriage is a lasting success.

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7 Ways to Rekindle the Passion in Your Relationship

Has your relationship hit a plateau or is it in need of a spark? It’s not uncommon for most of us in long-term relationships to feel uninspired or stuck in some form of a relationship rut. Too many people mistakenly conclude that we will always feel the magical passion that exists at the beginning of a relationship and that no work is needed to maintain that passionate connection. However, nothing could be further from the truth!

All relationships need hard work to keep the passion alive.

Here are 7 tips to help rediscover the spark in your relationship:

First:  Decide on the Level of Investment You Want to Make

I think it’s very important to take stock in how invested we are in our relationships and examine how much effort we are putting into them. Of course, it takes two people to determine relationship quality. Each partner’s actions make a big difference in how satisfied you both are.  However, it’s easy to fall into the trap where you stop putting effort into your relationship because you believe that your partner isn’t putting forward any effort. As Gandhi says:  “Be the change you wish to see…”

Second:  Communicate

Have a frank talk with your partner about how connected you feel and what level of closeness is ideal. Make sure that your partner understands that you want to shake things up in order to improve the passion in the relationship. This also helps to ensure that you are both on board and are also in agreement that you’d like things to improve.

Third:  Take Ownership of Your Part

Take responsibility for your own contribution to the less-than-ideal current state of affairs in your relationship. Ask yourself how your actions have kept things stagnant or perhaps have even somewhat damaged the relationship? Don’t ignore these realizations. Use them to begin making more positive choices to enhance the health of your relationship.

Fourth:  Commit to Finding Gratitude

When we lose sight of the positive things in our relationships, our satisfaction level with our partners takes a dramatic hit. Far too often we overlook the positive things in life (including our relationships) and become hyper-focused on the negative. Take the time to appreciate the good things about your relationship and learn to experience an attitude of gratitude.

Fifth:  Take Action

Instead of focusing on what’s missing look for opportunities to improve your relationship. For example, if you are noticing a lack of affection from your partner, take the initiative and be the one to express that affection. Don’t wait to show that you care!

Sixth:  Old and New

To initially gain some positive momentum, initiate activities and experiences that you and your partner shared at the beginning (and during more passion-filled stages) of your relationship. Then, in order to build on this momentum, try to add new shared activities with your partner to create fresh experiences and memories together. This can increase relationship satisfaction and reignite the passion between the two of you. For instance, if you both have enjoyed hiking together, continue to go hiking. However, why not also try a new sport or activity together?

Seventh:  Focus on the Little Things

The little things are those things you both did naturally at the beginning of your relationship but faded over time. One little act may not make that much of a big difference. But, over time, those little acts really do add up and make a significant difference in sparking the passion in your relationship. Here are a few examples:

  • Write a loving note to your partner.
  • Call/text your partner during the work day.
  • Take every opportunity to thank or compliment your partner.
  • Create an appreciation list for your partner.

These little things truly do add up and help create a feeling of closeness and intimacy.

Almost every couple in long-term relationships experiences plateaus. But it’s a mistake to think you have no power to change things for the better. Commit to following these simple steps discussed above, and you may be amazed at the progress you made in rekindling the passion and connection with your partner. Don’t wait another day to get that spark back!

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Do These 4 Things to Be Happier and Improve Your Relationship

Our understanding of emotions keeps growing thanks to scientific research. This includes the work of Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at U.C. Berkeley. He has investigated the topic of what makes us happy and also examined relationship satisfaction.  From this research, he developed some ideas we can all follow in order to increase our happiness and improve the quality our relationships.

Idea #1:  Smile!

While the act of smiling itself does not cause you to be happy, the more often you smile the happier you can be. Keltner and other researchers wanted to test that belief by looking at, of all things, yearbook graduation photos! They compared yearbook photos of graduating women to determine whether they could predict future happiness just from the facial expressions of the women in these pictures.  

The results, amazingly, found that the quality of one’s smile did, in fact, predict future happiness! They concluded that those who had a warmer smile had increased rates of happiness and contentedness 20-30 years later. This should be reason enough for you to smile more!

Idea #2:  Laughter

In his book, Born to Be Good:  The Science of a Meaningful Life, Keltner described how laughter is a key component in business affairs, flirtatiousness, and even in the quality of relationships. He referenced research that found that the absence of laughter actually predicts the end of a relationship. In the early stages of marriage, partnerships tend to end due to incompatibility issues. However, the absence of laughter tends to doom marriages when the partners have been together for a long time.  

Laughter has a calming effect and softens the blow when couples are in conflict or coping with challenging life circumstances.  Keltner states that:

“We often think laughter is not that consequential.  We tell people not to laugh. Life is serious, but there may be no more serious antidote to living and no greater path to finding wisdom, than laughter.”

Idea #3:  Touch

Research shows that even small amounts of touching between people can make a big difference in the feelings of connectedness with one another. Touching also promotes a sense of cooperation with others. In one study, the more physical contact between members of an NBA basketball team (such as high-fives), the better the team played at the end of the season compared to the beginning. It does intuitively make sense that touch makes a difference in relationships by promoting the sense that you are both on the same side and that you care about each other.

Idea #4:  Teasing Your Partner

Playful teasing is another habit that promotes and contributes to relationship longevity. It was found that the more satisfied couples were in their relationship, the more skilled they were at teasing each other. Teasing helped predict how happy couples were six months later after the study. In addition to laughter, teasing in a playful, good-natured way during disagreements helps to soften the conflict between partners. It is also a predictor for how long couples stay together. Although fairly obvious, it should be noted that mean-spirited teasing is not helpful and can definitely damage relationships. Stick to well-meaning and playful teasing!

Keltner and other researchers are finding that some of the keys to happiness and relationship satisfaction are significantly influenced by these types of “little things” or behaviors we follow. By doing the little things such as smiling and laughing more, as well as touching and teasing, partners can make a big difference in the quality of their relationships. For those struggling in their relationships, the lesson here is to go back to basics. We can slowly increase happiness and relationship satisfaction. Although these actions are simple, they can have powerful and rewarding consequences.

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Why These Two Personality Traits Help Create Long-Lasting Relationships

There are tons of blog posts and articles out there that claim to provide the magic formula for creating satisfying and long-lasting relationships. Some focus on keeping your passion alive or finding the secret to love. However, few of these claims are supported by scientific research.  One important exception is research conducted by John and Julie Gottman and their focus on what makes relationships work.

Masters vs. Disasters

Initially, in 1986, the Gottmans’ research involved newly married couples answering questions while connected to devices that monitored their heart rate, respiratory rate, and sweat production. The questions were about their wedding and their time together as a couple. The Gottmans then waited six years to interview these couples again and determine whether or not they were still together and why.

The Gottmans formed two categories of couples for this research:

1. Masters:  These were couples stayed together for the six years between the first and second set of interviews.

2. Disasters:  These included couples who were no longer together or who were chronically unhappy but still remained married.

Why These Two Categories?

The Gottmans discovered, after reviewing their data, that the Masters had been calmer than the Disasters during their interview. The Masters had lower heart rates, respiratory rates, and produced less sweat than the Disasters. The Gottmans interpreted this to mean that the Disasters had lower levels of trust and intimacy with one another when discussing their relationships and their weddings.

The Vacation Experiment

A few years later, the Gottmans published another study. This project involved having newlywed couples simulate living in an apartment that was set up for laboratory monitoring. The couples acted like they were on a 3-day weekend vacation.  The researchers not only monitored the couples’ physiological responses, but also looked at their observable behaviors. They wanted to identify what behaviors might lead couples towards becoming either Masters or Disasters.

The researchers were able to identify two traits that did, in fact, help them predict which couples would become Masters or Disasters:

  • Kindness
  • Generosity

While concluding that the absence or presence of these two traits are significant may not seem shocking to many, their research showed that simply being kind and generous is not all that is necessary to become a Master Couple.

Seeking Each Other Out

Master Couples provide a lot of time and attention to each other. They also emotionally seek out their partner, which is what the Gottmans refer to as “turning towards” one another. These couples typically seek their partners out when they are having a significant emotional reaction or experience. This is opposed to those couples that push their partner away or look to a third party for comfort. Master Couples are also able to meet their partners’ emotional needs most of the time, while Disaster Couples do so much less frequently.

Perhaps even more importantly, Master Couples actually search for opportunities to express gratitude towards their partner. Disasters, in contrast, do the exact opposite and frequently look to criticize or point out a partner’s mistakes. When Masters notice a mistake, they typically don’t bring it up or don’t make a big deal about it.

Becoming a Master Couple

So what can couples do to be more like Master Couples? Here are some ideas:

  • Look for opportunities to express gratitude.
  • Be aware of your partner’s needs.
  • Ask how to support your partner.
  • When you are struggling with something difficult, reach out to your partner for emotional support.
  • Don’t forget to be kind and generous to each other.

Unfortunately, when couples are in established relationships, these tips are easily forgotten in our busy lives. Couples, though, can still avoid becoming Disasters by making sure to practice kindness and generosity daily with their partners. Over time, this will lay the foundation for a more loving, caring, and successful marriage.

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Why “Phubbing” is Hurting Relationships

It’s now 2017 and technology is everywhere. Forget “fast,” everything is about NOW in the instantaneous era of the digital age. With new technology and apps we have more ways to communicate and connect online. It’s a fascinating time, but there’s also a downside to technological advancement.  That’s because there are truly many ways that technology can hurt our relationships.

A New Word for Ignoring Each Other

I wrote about this phenomenon two years ago, but I am now seeing a new trend. It’s called “phubbing” or snubbing someone by being on your phone. Addiction to technology can be so powerful for some that they can lose any sense of balance between their online and offline worlds. As if there aren’t enough relationship killers as it is (financial conflict, poor sex life, parenting disagreements, etc.) cell phone use also negatively impacts the way partners relate to each other.

Research into Phubbing

A recent study wanted to look at how damaging phubbing is to relationships. Basically, the researchers wanted to look at how frequently a romantic partner is distracted by their device when it’s around them. The average person checks their phone once every 6 ½ minutes. That’s a staggering 150 times a day!

In another study conducted by James Roberts & Meredith David, 175 adults who were in romantic relationships were surveyed. They were asked to answer a questionnaire and complete a “phubbing scale.” This measured how often they felt snubbed by partners who were using their devices. They also answered questions about whether the device is a source of tension in the relationship. Additionally, the researchers surveyed the couples about the quality of their connections.

Not surprisingly, these devices are having a negative impact on relationships and contribute to other relationship issues, such as parenting conflict. Partners being snubbed also reported having more conflict over devices than those who experienced less snubbing. Also, the more conflict couples experienced over the use of electronic devices the more negatively they rated their relationship satisfaction.

Explanations for the Phubbing Phenomenon

The authors discussed two different possible ways that phubbing is hurting relationships:

1. The Displacement Hypothesis:  This explanation states simply that devoting time on one’s phone or device leaves us with less time to spend with our partner. The device basically reduces meaningful time with each other and therefore negatively impacts our contentment in our relationship.

2. Smartphone Conflict Theory:  The thinking here is that the device itself becomes the source of conflict which decreases relationship satisfaction.

The bottom line is that our smartphones have the potential to inflict real damage on our relationship. However, we do have the ability to avoid falling into this technology trap.

What Can Couples Do?

Couples can preventatively take the following steps in order to avoid electronic devices from damaging your relationship:

  • Discuss the situation with your partner regarding the presence of the device when with one another.
  • Understand how it negatively impacts each of you.
  • Come up with guidelines that clearly define acceptable situations for device use- and when to avoid technology.
  • Decide on a consistent schedule when you agree to have technology-free blocks of time.
  • Agree that certain places in the home are device-free (such as the bedroom).
  • If unclear, you can always check-in with your partner about using a device when they’re around.
  • Regularly participate in activities together that don’t require technology.
  • Give yourself a cut-off time for technology use in the evening.

Ignoring your partner is not a new concept. Yet, with the advent of the smartphone we have created a portable and powerful device that pulls our attention away from our partner and into our own digital worlds. These technologies improve communication, but they also have the potential to create real problems in relationships.

Couples can avoid these pitfalls by communicating to one another what is acceptable (and unacceptable) regarding technology use.  Couples can benefit by engaging in joint activities without any devices and focus on simply being present with one another in the “real world.”

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