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Baby Boomers’ Booming Divorces: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy?

84120557The rate at which baby boomers are divorcing each other defies many traditional expectations, obliterating marriages that have already lasted 25 plus years. Perhaps it’s not so surprising when you remember that the generation came of age as supporters of the cultural upheaval defining the 60′s. Again, many baby boomers are breaking tradition.

You would think marriages that have lasted so long would continue lasting throughout the end of the spouses’ lives. But statistics have been consistently proving that perception wrong, as more older couples enter the divorce process without looking back. There is a theory circulating that gray divorces are the result of the generation’s original expectations going into their marriages, expectations involving the high-held goal of self-fulfillment.

The Stats Tell A Story

Although the overall divorce rate peaked in the 1980s, a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research shows that the baby boomer divorce rate has doubled in the last 20 years. Among those 50 years old or older, the divorce rate went from 1 in 10 in 1990, to 1 in 4 today.

Experts speculate this is partly due to empty-nest syndrome. As opposed to fidelity being a main cause, divorce attorney Don Cosley says, “The reality is that lack of communication is often the deal breaker. Empty nesters wake up one day and realize they have nothing in common with their spouse. That’s because they haven’t kept up the communication in their marriages.” It’s possible that children may have been what was holding a relationship together, so that when they leave the nest, so might love.

Self-Fulfillment, Individual Needs, and Happiness

Social workers and relationship coaches, Linda and Charlie Bloom, offer up another theory regarding the age of entitlement. In addition to baby boomers living longer than any other generation thus far, “those born after 1946 have entered marriage with a goal that was not shared by any previous generation: self-fulfillment.”

At the base of this hypothesis is the notion that, growing up in an era of greater affluence and opportunity, these baby boomers–like the generations that have followed them–feel a sense that they deserve happiness handed to them on a silver platter. And this is the kind of expectation that fueled their motivation to venture into marriage.

While there is nothing wrong with valuing happiness, your individual needs, and personal growth, believing that someone else, your lover, can simply bring all of that to you is a grave mistake. The marriage becomes a blame game of him or her not doing their part to make you happy, when in fact, much of your happiness and success depends on you and the work you put into it.

As the Blooms emphasize, lasting love and happiness comes with your own “willingness to take responsibility for the fulfillment of a desired outcome and making the effort to bring it about.”

Lesson to Learn

Maybe it’s time for the term “self-fulfillment” to be taken more literally, meaning that we fulfill ourselves independently from spouses, and he/she is wonderful icing on the cake. When that shift of attitude takes place, marriage becomes a game of mutual helping and progressing, not finger-pointing. Judging by the high rate of seemingly successful baby boomer couples filing for divorce, it’s likely that they can benefit from this change of perspective.

To the Women Who Populate the World

happy mothers day!As we all know (or at least most of us know) America celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, Sunday, May 13th. Let it just be said that it wouldn’t surprise me if all the staple items served at a brunch are a scarcity today. But lets move past the odd notion that mothers particularly love combining breakfast and lunch; what we really are here to talk about is what Mother’s Day is (and was) really about.

Where Mother’s Day Came From

No, Mother’s Day was not brought by a horde of storks. Although female goddess were always honored on certain days in the days of mummification and toga-wearing, Mother’s Day does not have such deep roots. In fact, Mother’s Day is one of the holidays with the most shallow roots.

Mothering Day is the oldest link to modern Mother’s Day. Mothering Day was a day in the late middle ages (1600′s) when people traveled from all over to attend service in the main church of their parish on the fourth day of Lent. Slowly, Mothering Day grew to include celebrations for real mothers, but Mother’s Day did not migrate to the U.S. until 1870.

Mother’s Day, American Style

Julia Ward Howe wrote a manifesto in 1870 proposing an American Mother’s Day, which would be a Mother’s Day of Peace. This was in response to the horrors and high death toll of the Civil War. Howe wished Mother’s Day would bring families together, and would unite mothers against their children killing other mother’s children.

After a few decades of women (namely, Anna Reeves Jarvis, and her daughter Anna M. Jarvis) sponsored what they hoped would be Mother’s Day revivals, it was passed as a National holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. From that day on, Mother’s Day has been the second Sunday of May every year.

A Happy Mother’s Day Means…

I’m not sure how ceremonies for goddess, main church pilgrimages, and anti-violence holidays transformed into a day when women get flowers and are taken to brunch, but we’ll take it (sort of).

For parents who are both mothers and fathers, Mother’s Day can be described as rubbing salt in an open wound for single mothers and fathers alike. So just as a suggestion, for all mothers really, let make Mother’s Day even better in the future.

For starters, why not try asking your mother what her idea of a dream day is? After all, it very well could include sipping on a mimosa and smelling her bouquet.

Divorce from a Young Child’s Perspective

The dramatic event of filing for divorce is a manifestation of problems within the spousal relationship, which children are innocently caught in between. What’s even more emotionally troubling to contemplate is the common tendency for children, especially young ones, to somehow feel responsible for their parents’ separation. While that responsibility is always far from the case, they internalize the divorce and struggle to understand its complex reality.

What children need to always understand, no matter what is happening in any aspect of their life, is their unfaltering, complete innocence. Parents and other family members can help them remember this universal fact by paying attention, talking through the emotional difficulties, and showering their children with consistent support and reassurance.

Center of the World

What if you were able to read the diary of a small child going through their parents’ divorce? According to Stephanie Duckworth, licensed clinical manager at a behavioral health agency, it would sound something like this:

“If only I had been better, maybe they wouldn’t have broken up. Maybe, if I’m really good, they will stop fighting and get back together. Mom said she hates him, but I don’t. I really miss him, even if he does dumb stuff sometimes. What if one day Mom decides I do too many dumb things and doesn’t love me anymore? I feel so sad and my tummy hurts. I don’t tell Mom. I don’t want to make her more sad or mad or both. I don’t think she would understand. My family is broken. I feel broken.”

An important thing to remember about young children is the way they understand their place in the world. It’s hard for them to see that certain family problems have nothing to do with what they have or haven’t done, and they are in no way to blame. The world they can comprehend is small and they themselves are at the center of it, with parents in tightly intertwined proximity.

It’s evident from the excerpt that the vulnerability of young children creates a tendency to be confused and blame themselves. This affects their behavior in certain ways, like shutting down, becoming moody, and not talking about their feelings to their mom or dad, fearing that this would make things worse, and that they are the cause.

Effective Communication and Support

Talking about feelings is key. Even if the child prefers to speaking out to another trusted adult besides the parent, it is incredibly helpful. Like adults who keep things bottled in, children who do so run the risk of developing physical symptoms of the stress, such as head or tummy aches. Releasing emotions in mutual, simple discussion will help remedy this as well as their feelings of being to blame.

Without overwhelming them with too much information about the details of the divorce process, parents should work to state the facts and reassure their child of their unconditional love. It’s also important to avoid saying hurtful things about the other parent in front of the child; children love both their parents. In return, they need to know that they will always be loved, and reassurance of their innocence.

Dealing With Blindsided Divorce

200227110-001Most people have been through unwanted breakups and more or less quickly recover, but what about unwanted divorce? What is the best way to cope with being so traumatically blindsided? Actually coping with it is a good start. The hard fact is, the divorce process will usually progress whether you want it to or not, if it’s what the other spouse desires. No amount of denial or pleading will change that, unfortunately.

While if there is indeed a legitimate chance to salvage the marriage, it may be worth a shot, it’s important not to postpone the inevitable. Doing so would only serve to make cutting ties more of a hassle, both emotionally and financially. The quicker and the more smoothly you can maneuver through the practical proceedings, the easier it will be in the long run to find relief from the emotional pain and find a happier future.

Step by Step, Day by Day

Family lawyer and author, Alison Heller, explains the importance of blindsided divorcees to both deal with their conflicting feelings and take proper action, instead of sticking their head in the sand, ostrich style. Referring to a client who didn’t want his divorce to happen, she warns about the results of delaying legal steps: “Greater litigation costs and the racheting up of acrimony between them, which would undoubtedly increase tensions for their two children, as well as leave less money for their savings and household budgets.” As for helpful emotional steps, she advises:

  • Salvage, if reasonably likely: The end of marriage is never something to be taken lightly, especially if it is indeed salvageable. If there is any reasonable doubt the marriage is not over but redeemable, it’s important to allow the possibility to unfold. To allow it, it’s also important to allot space for you and your partner to weigh which path is best, reconciliation or moving forward with the end.

  • Find out the why’s of your resistance: If the end is inevitable, it helps to find out exactly why you are holding on to something that has already slipped away. Sometimes you may think the love is salvageable when it’s not, so it’s important to face the fact and the heartbreak that comes with it.  Otherwise, reasons could range from religious beliefs to wanting to stay together for the kids. Understanding why you are fighting the divorce can help you take steps to address those concerns, find ways to alleviate them, and let go of your spouse.
  • Move Forward: Assess what your immediate actions should be regarding the legal and financial steps to safeguard your interests. Like the emotions involved, the external ramifications of divorce are very real and pressing, needing equal attention and care.

Finally, the blindsided can find peace in the way time can only heal, once they have moved forward. Dealing with the hard reality of filing for divorce is a test of both personal resilience and faith that things will get better.

Love at Any (St)Age

Let’s just acknowledge this right off that bat: Just because you’re divorced does not mean you’re dead. Although at times during the divorce process you might feel like a fine specimen of the living dead, you are not. Just repeat that to yourself in the mirror a few times a day and maybe you’ll actually start to believe it.

But this blog is about the post-divorce stage when trips to the grocery store becoming a grazing ground, in more than one way (if you catch our drift). For some, this stage approaches faster and with more ease than for other divorcees. But we have a sneaking suspicion one of the contributing factors to the time and ease at which a divorcee re-enters the dating scene is whether they come in a multi-pack.

The More the Merrier?

It’s difficult for a divorcee to re-enter the dating world, let alone for a divorcee who also holds the title of parent to re-enter the dating world. The statistics overwhelmingly shout that children of divorce are scarred for life, do poorly in school, might be suicidal, don’t seek healthy relationships, and for some reason are not math whizzes. So it’s no wonder a newly divorced parent’s head explodes at the thought of what dating would do to their children.

We are all for independent thinking, and let us emphasize no one knows what’s best for your family other than you and your family. But in case you were wondering, popular opinions on this topic range the entire spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we have people who believe dating and children should be in totally separate spheres; at on the other end of the spectrum, we have people who believe they can be mixed healthily.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

In a HuffPost Live segment, host Marc Lamont Hill invites divorced parents/ HuffPost bloggers Ed Housewright, Emma Johnson, Jena Kingsley, Jessica Solloway, and Robin Amos Kahn to discuss the topic of single parents dating. The diverse group shares ideas about how to approach dating after divorce, and shed light on all the beautiful points of the spectrum.

Here are the arguments behind the two opposing sides of the issue, as brought up by the HuffPost bloggers:

  • Slow and Steady: The first concern dating parents under this philosophy have is their children’s emotional and mental state. Divorce presents a horrible upheaval for children and their families, which can cause confusion and emotional instability. Dating parents fear introducing romantic possibilities to their children will open the gateway to further feelings of abandonment and pain, should the relationship not work out. Parents operating under this belief promote only introducing a romantic partner after about 6 solid months of being in an exclusive relationship.

  • C’est La Vie: The opposing camp believes dating parents can approach dating with their children in a positive, balanced manner. As stated by one of the HuffPost bloggers, teaching your children about the ebbs and flows of life can prepare and strengthen a child to handle all of life’s curveballs. Age-appropriate communication about dating is the key to going this route, especially explaining the role (or lack of a role) dates have in the child’s life.

Wherever you may fall in the spectrum, don’t forget the players in the relationship. As Housewright said in the HuffPost discussion: “It just depends on your child. You need to know your child, and know their make-up. I don’t think you can make across the board rules. I wouldn’t give any advice to anybody else.”

Where do you fall on the spectrum and why? Sound off, Readers.

Happy (Single) Father’s Day!

Celebrating Single FathersTake a stroll down any store’s card aisle, and you will notice the sudden increase of cards with fishing poles, athletic equipment, and La-Z Boy chairs splattered on the covers; you know, manly things. In case you’re really bad with dates, we will tell you why: Sunday, June 16th, is Father’s Day!

Much like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day now seems like a holiday controlled by the stationery stores, but that doesn’t mean its beginnings were money-grubbing. So for all the fathers, especially the single fathers (as you will find), here is a brief history of Father’s Day.

The History of Father’s Day

While Father’s Day doesn’t have as long or rich a history as Mother’s Day, that doesn’t mean the same spirit of love and recognition wasn’t behind it’s creation. In fact, Father’s Day was created to do nothing but give fathers the special recognition they sorely lacked, especially single fathers, according to the Library of Congress article.

In 1910, a little girl from Spokane Washington, named Sonora Dodd, came up with the bright idea of creating a holiday dedicated to fathers while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. Sonora Dodd is said to have reflected on the care her single father gave her and her siblings since her mother’s untimely death during childbirth. Since Sonora’s father’s birthday was in June, she encouraged neighboring churches to celebrate this new holiday in June.

The Fathering of Father’s Day

By 1910, the idea of Mother’s Day had been in America for 40 years, although it was not recognized as a national holiday until 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. Although Father’s Day had been gaining popularity, President Wilson was not presented with a Father’s Day holiday proclamation to sign.

President Calvin Coolidge, however, was presented with and signed a Father’s Day proclamation in 1924. Coolidge is quoted as saying (ironically) he wanted Father’s Day  to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

Father’s Day for the Modern Man

The world is constantly changing (evolving or devolving, you decide), but holidays and the traditions observed during each holiday have a way of bringing us back to familiar, almost cozy, paradigms. Case in point, the horrific-looking, stereotype-ridden Father’s Day cards.

What father is known only by his love of fish tackle, lounging, and sports? Yes, one or more of these might harken warm thoughts of your own father, but the point is this: Do father’s want to be known solely for these pursuits and pleasures? I’m pretty positive fathers would like to be equally known for the bedtime story telling, hugs, and comforting words.

If this baffles you, chalk it up to the changing times; but there is nothing more telling of changing times than the increasing rate of single fathers. According to the 2002 U.S. Census, about 2.2 million American households were headed by single fathers, which marks an 62% increase of single fatherhood within a decade. These fathers, like Sonora Dodd’s father, are everything to their children, and they probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

So instead of playing into Hallmark’s stereotype-perpetuating hands, choose to celebrate all types of fathers for all their roles, influences, and complexities this Sunday.

Single With Kids: Why The Happiness Gap Is Shrinking

Single motherThe idea that single mothers — whether birthing a child out of wedlock or as survivors of a hotly contested or do it yourself divorce — are unhappy has been a popularly held notion for a number of years. And while that’s not an altogether unfair generalization, the unhappiness gap between single and married mothers is falling, according to a new report from the Journal of Happiness Studies.

John Ifcher, one of the study’s co-authors and an assistant professor of economics at Santa Clara University, believed that most single mothers are unhappy because of their relationship status. However, they’re finding more happiness thanks to a number of changes over the past 30 years.

The General Social Survey

Ifcher and co-author Homa Zarghamee, an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College, looked at the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2008 to determine their findings.

In that time span, the researchers discovered that while single moms reported being less happy than their married counterparts, the gap had narrowed since 1972.

Reasons The Gap Has Narrowed

Identifying the reasons this gap in happiness has narrowed, Ifcher and Zarghamee agreed that it could be attributed to these main factors:

  • Single moms’ happiness levels have gone up as other women have experienced decline.
  • There is less stigma associated to single motherhood in 2008 and beyond than there was in 1972. This lightening of the stigma is due mainly to a jump in single parenting and a boost in the number of women who choose to mother children alone.

One factor not mentioned could also be the rise in a woman’s ability to provide for the financial needs of her child without help from a spouse. According to our own month-end report, women file for divorce about 64 percent of the time, and in most of those cases, higher income than their spouses is a common correlation.

Our own DIY divorce site often deals with parents, who would like to file but are afraid of what it may be like for the kids and for their own happiness to try and parent without the help of another person. If you’re concerned, these latest findings present hopeful possibilities.