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Marriage Isn’t a Moral Measuring Stick

85784552Gray divorce was a big deal about three months ago, but now it’s nothing more than a little section on Huffintington Post: Divorce. It appears the world has already tired of the topic, except when celebrities and public figures are involved.

It’s true, Buzz Aldrin and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, filed for divorce on December 28th, 2012. We won’t get into the details of the divorce because the amount of money the almost-former Ms. Aldrin is getting makes our pupils turn into dollar signs. What we will get into is how this piece of Aldrin news isn’t quite so depressing or indicative of moral looseness as one might assume.

Dear Old Buzz

Since making the second set of footprints on the moon, Buzz Aldrin has had quite a time of it in life. He’s been through a battle with alcoholism, two divorces and marriages, and a lifetime struggle of being labeled #2. The man is currently 82 years old, and has had a turbulent, probably exhausting life. Yet even at such a jaw dropping age he is making decisions a person half his age is making; he’s getting divorced and continuing his pursuit of happiness.

Buzz Aldrin just might reignite the world’s fascination with gray divorce. Well, at this point it’s more like white divorce, but here’s why divorce at any age isn’t telling of an amoral society.

Marriage Isn’t a Moral Measuring Stick

For generations marriage has been closely associated with morality, wholesomeness, and everything good and pure. But this is a romantic, unrealistic view of what marriage means for society. Just because a couple has decided to legally enter a union does not mean that life is in any way better than a single person’s life. Marriage shouldn’t be viewed just as something people in our world do. Ask yourself, do you want to get married because it’s something “people do”?

This question is what is really so shocking about gray divorce. News about gray divorce snaps people out of their day-to-day lives and makes them reevaluate their own situations. If older people, who are supposed to just wait around for the end, are refusing to settle in their lives, then why should the younger generations? The answer is: They shouldn’t.

Marriage is ________

So if marriage isn’t a moral measuring stick, what is it? Marriage is supposed to the be ultimate display and symbol of love. But love is a fickle emotion, as any stereotypical adolescent knows. For a marriage to stay a real marriage (meaning: still full of love), the spouses must constantly check in on their relationship, which is the basis of the marriage.(Could that simplistic idea be our answer? “Marriage is a relationship.”)

No one wants to be wrong, but if a marriage is discovered to run out of love without a hope of a refill, then why shouldn’t divorce be the solution? If this realization should creep into my life, I hope I have the strength to take a page from Buzz Aldrin and continue to live life like it has meaning up until the end.

As it stands, marriage is viewed as a test with only two options: pass or fail. But since the fail rate is about 50%, maybe it’s time to view marriage in a new light.

Marriage like a Phoenix

fireThere have been some strange whisperings around Huffington Post: Divorce about infidelity and marriages. One blog writes about David Letterman’s statement during an Oprah show that after his affair he “never felt better about [him]self, and [his] relationship with [his] wife has never been better.” After this statement, and an affirmation form a writer at The Stir, the blog dares to ask the question, “Can an affair make a marriage stronger?” The answer to which was a resounding “NO” in the comments.

The Truth Corner

Welcome to the Truth Corner. In this little space in the blogosphere, we will tell the unadulterated truth; and now we are about to tell the unadulterated truth about adultery.

Firstly, Mr. Letterman probably has never felt better about himself because he just discovered his wife will in fact remain married to his old, cheating self. Secondly, Mr. Letterman must have horrible judgement to think it’s good for his image to stroke his own ego after such a public faux pas. Thirdly, the only way a marriage can come back stronger after an affair is if the old marriage dies.

Thank you very much for tuning in for this edition of the Truth Corner.

The Marriage, Reincarnate

Just so you won’t get the wrong impression about the Huffington Post, we found a wonderful blog about how a marriage should recover from an affair written by Tammy Nelson. Nelson’s blog goes into the process a married couple went through to salvage their marriage.

After the initial shock or rage wears off, the next step is to think about how you feel about your marriage. Nelson make two lists of questions to consider, one list for the unfaithful spouse and another for the wronged spouse.

The unfaithful spouse should ask themselves:

  • Do you regret the infidelity? We are assuming this question does not mean “Do you regret getting caught?” The question is “Do you regret hurting your spouse and making this error?”
  • Do you love your spouse and want to continue to have a [romantic] relationship with them?
  • Are you ready to honestly and openly work on the relationship? Yes, for clarity’s sake, working “honestly and openly” will include pain, tears, and some anger.

The wronged spouses should ask themselves:

  • Are you scared your relationship with the person won’t survive?
  • Does the thought of ending relationship feel wrong to you?
  • Are you also ready to honestly and openly work on the relationship, including pain, tears, and anger?

If the spouses answered “Yes” to all of their questions, the relationship may have a chance to move on from the infidelity.

The Phoenix Marriage

According to Nelson, from this point on the couple must come to the realization that there is no returning to the marriage they had. The only way to stay in a relationship is to let that marriage die and recreate a new, stronger marriage from the old one’s ashes. This might require counseling; actually, this will probably require counseling.

But this is the true way to move on after a bout of infidelity and adultery. To make a break from a relationship so flawed that infidelity was allowed to sprout. When thinking about healing a marriage after unfaithfulness, think more about starting new and not going back to the way things were. Who would want to go back to the way things were if infidelity was the end result? People on the fast track to divorce court, and maybe David Letterman.

Love, Divorce, and ‘Family’ Matters

200209831-001In the 21st century we like our families mixed. With the rise in divorce, it’s almost impossible for anyone to say they don’t have at least one step relation or acquaintance. This used to be a shameful topic because divorce used to be seen as a shameful act. But now marriage is seen as a romantic, heartfelt decision rather than a rational necessity, and there is (relatively) no shame in ending an unhappy marriage.

Yet after ending an unhappy marriage, you may be faced with the task of deciding who your family is. Does this signal the breakdown of the family as we know it, or the beginning of an evolved family structure?

21st Century Family

In 2010, the Pew Research Center uncovered that 42% of 2,691 surveyed adults had at least one step-relative in their family; of those 2,691, 30% had a step or half sibling, and 18% had a living stepparent. Welcome to the make up of almost every 21st century family, thanks to gender equality, changing morals, modernized divorce laws, and whatever else we can blame the high divorce rate on.

While 21st century families don’t quite look like The Jetsons, 21st century families do slightly resemble the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie. Like Rosie, 21st century families are made of different pieces fused together. In 21st century families, there are step-siblings, ex-stepparents, various “uncles” and “aunts” who aren’t related by blood or marriage, and ex-relations’ relations who need sentence-long introductions.

Yet somehow all these people can be easily defined as “family.” Family is usually defined as “a group of persons of common ancestry,” but there are many other definitions.

Are You My Family?

Merriam-Webster.com includes groups who share the same home, share the same convictons and values, as well as various related organisms as part of the definition of “family.” This is because relationships and the semantics of those relationships are complicated. Once two people have become acquainted they cannot un-know each other. The result is one big, happy Frankenfamily.

Remember the old saying, “You can’t choose your family”? Well, consider that saying to be outdated. With in-laws and other “family” coming and going in and out of marriage, there is a choice. If you never really bonded, you can let an ex-in-law fall by the wayside; on the flip side, if you have a strong bond with a now-ex-in-law, you don’t necessarily have to let them go. Of course every family is different, and the decision to keep a certain “relative” around is up to the individual.

Is the Family Stronger?

The term “Frankenfamily” might not be very inspiring or reassuring, but it’s very possible the Frankenfamily is a much stronger unit than the family of old. The traditional perception of family chains a person to relationships with people they may not care for in the least. But the Frankenfamily is created upon much more stable ground since the person chooses and admits people into their family.

The Frankenfamily does not completely disband or destroy the traditional family, it just allows the family tree to be pruned. Who wants rotting branches on their family tree, anyway? Not I, that’s for sure.

Stepparenting, Step-By-Step

person at the top of long stairway outsideFamilies are complex organisms that are constantly growing, constricting, and adapting to daily life. On the outside, family is a beautiful word that gives people warms fuzzies. But when you’re becoming a stepparent, these beautiful organisms you once watched contentedly from afar become up close, personal horrors. Not only are you afraid of stepping on toes, kid germs, familial boundaries, and so, SO much more, you are afraid of turning into the evil stepmother or sinister stepfather.

Well, just relax as much as humanly possible, and let us breakdown the situation for you. We’ll include some helpful pointers, too.

Their Point of View

Some children are reluctant to let a stepparent into their lives, and some are overjoyed to have another parent in the house. The stepparents with the adoring stepchildren may have it easier, but there are still the parental boundaries to hash out with the children’s biological parent, and that is no easy task. Yet those with the reluctant stepchildren have a more difficult situation to juggle, so we’ll focus on them.

The best piece of advice anyone can give to stepparents (especially those with reluctant stepchildren) is not to push the relationship. We don’t mean give in to every demand and treat the children like princes or princesses. We mean don’t expect to be best friends right away. Don’t plan tons of outings together, don’t spend excessively on them, and don’t buy matching anything.

Stepchildren aren’t evil demons out to get stepparents (usually), but they are children. They feel powerless, torn between families, and unsure. If the other biological parent is in the picture, they may be waiting to be given “permission” to like you or may feel as though liking you is a betrayal to their other parent.

So whatever you do, just give the stepchild time to get used to the idea of a stepparent without suffocating them or patronizing them. Give them their space, and they will come seeking a relationship when they are ready. Warning: This may never happen in the way you would like, but no one every said being a stepparent was easy.

Your Conundrum

Huffington Post blogger Wednesday Martin put it best when she created a little list of things to avoid in her blog, “When and Why You Shouldn’t Put the Kids First.” This list handles the silent struggle between stepparents and stepchildren, and that is the struggle over the biological parent. To stepchildren, their biological parent is theirs’ and their other bio parents’; this perception is ruined when a stepparent enters the situation. The stepparent claims a part of the biological parent the stepchildren cannot claim, and that the other bio parent has relinquished. In essence, it’s an odd territorial standoff between the stepchildren and the stepparent.

So instead of aggressively trying to win the battle, and instead of forfeiting to placate the stepchildren, simply accept your place as the biological parent’s partner. However, this requires joint commitment, so make sure to talk things over with the biological parent.

  1. When the stepchildren visit, make them a part of your household’s routines; don’t make the plans all about the children and their wants; that sends the message that their parent and their new stepparent’s life is secondary to theirs’. Make it equal by maintaining the household rituals.
  2. Sometimes the biological parent may try to show the children they matter by making the relationship with the stepparent secondary. This is most often exhibited by limited affection and contact with the stepparent. For you biological parents, this is a poor route because it alienates your new spouse and fails to unite the family. So continue to show affection for your new spouse, even in front of the kids. (Just don’t go overboard. Kids don’t even want to see their bio parents make out.)
  3. To the stepparents, don’t sacrifice your sanity, relationship, or time to win over your stepchildren. The stepchildren will make themselves available when they are ready to be in a relationship with you, so don’t take desperate measures to make that day come any sooner. Maintain the relationship with your spouse, maintain your health, your work, and the rest will follow in time.

Victorian Divorce: We Are Amused

QueenVIn today’s world our news is so littered with celebrity break ups, romances, and affairs that we are no longer surprised by the crazy antics people get themselves into. As a prime example, take the Kardashian/Humphries divorce debacle that has been recirculated through every media outlet known to man for the past year.

Then, there is the Bethenny Frankel divorce, which was projected as a peaceful dissolution; yet, this week when the news hit that Mrs. Frankel’s husband has decided to fight back, no one was much too surprised. In fact, I think the Frankel divorce had run its media circuit so vigorously in the past month that this truly new development has been quite under-reported.

But back to the original point: American media has effectively stomped out any surprise we many have at a personal crises. However, that doesn’t mean we expected the same practice to be observed in the Victorian Era.

Strict is Spelled V-i-c-t-o-r-i-a-n

When people think of the Victorian Era things like modesty, stiff upper lips, rigid social customs, and the frumpiest British matriarch are some of the usual first thoughts. But with the publication of Victorian divorce records, this might very well change.

The Victorian Era is dated to Queen Victoria’s reign, which lasted from 1837 to 1901, and marks a time of affluence in England. The Queen focused her efforts to improving her homeland, especially the people’s sense of society and custom. In the Victorian Era there were firmly observed customs, like women were to cover her arms and legs at all times, art with nudity was considered taboo, and social interaction between men and women was at an all-time low. For a more complete feel of the era, consider Queen Victoria’s most famous quote: “We are not amused.”

Ye Olde Divorce

The British divorce records only go as far back as 1858 because divorce and marriage was a matter solely under the church’s control. Yet in 1858 the British Matrimonial Causes Act was passed, which made divorce a civil matter instead of under the church’s jurisdiction. However, divorce was brought all the way up to parliament to decide. In addition, divorce was a luxury for the rich, so only 1,200 divorce applications were made annually. Today, there are 120,000 divorce petitions filed each year.

Oh Really?

Well, sorry, Queen Victoria, but we are most certainly amused by the recent publication of British divorce records.

Apparently, one of those 1,200 divorce applications was filed by a Henry Robinson, who read his wife’s diary only to find her writing about illicit rendezvous with a younger married man. Henry Robinson’s wife, Isabella Robinson, testified in court that her diary entries were fiction, and the court bought it. Mrs. Robinson won the trial, and became the basis of the novel “Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace,” by Kate Summerscale. Now we all know who the song “Mrs. Robinson,” was really based on.

In another Victorian divorce trial, Prime Minister Charles Mordaunt’s wife, Harriet, was accused of carrying on multiple affairs with multiple men. The affairs couldn’t be substantiated, but poor Harriet was later proclaimed insane and lived out her life in an asylum.

Shocked to hear tales like these that play out in books and movies are somewhat based on real life? Well, maybe just a little. We are, after all, of the generation when celebrities marry and divorce in the time it takes us to make dinner. But still, it’s good to know the Victorians knew how to make a headline or two.

A Toast to Marriage and Alcohol Statistics

marriage and alcohol statsWhat can we really say about alcohol that hasn’t been said already? Alcohol can be part of your most embarrassing memory, be the center of controversy, cause you to be violently ill, and be a symbol of class and sophistication, all at the same time. This tricky substance has been associated with celebrations, ceremonies, and debauchery since the first greek accidentally stomped on a bunch of ripe grapes. But now, this mystical elixir is being associated with divorce; as it turns out, your relationship with alcohol may end your relationship with your spouse.

Cheers!

A monolith Norwegian study reported that married couples with varying patterns of alcohol consumption are more likely to divorce than married couples with the same patterns of alcohol consumption. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health studied 19,977 Norwegian married couples for a period of 15 years before they drew their conclusions.

The following are the reported findings from the study:

  • Marriages with two heavy drinkers had a divorce rate of 17.2%
  • Marriages with the husband drinking heavily had a divorce rate of 13.1%
  • Marriage with the wife drinking heavily had a divorce rate of 26.8%

The gender-based skewing of the data lends itself to much social commentary and speculation. Norwegian researchers involved in the study speculate the high divorce rate in marriages with heavy-drinking wives may be due to a number of things, including the wife’s typical role as homemaker and caretaker, and social intolerance of females imbibing.

Whatever the reasons behind the statistics that will no doubt cause a flurry of social commentary on both sides, it is clear Western society cannot keep it’s cool around alcohol.

What’s Love (and Gender) Got to Do With It?

Most people think single people consume more alcohol than married people, but it turns out that is only partially correct. The variables involved are gender and marital status.

Sociologists gathered research from 5,305 men and women from Wisconsin between the years 1993 and 2004, and found a number of surprising results:

  • Married women drink more than single women, widows, and married men. Researchers believe this is for two reasons: 1) Single women tend to drink less than single men; 2) Married men drink less because they traded drinking buddies for a wife, and as a result the wife tends to drink more than she did previously.
  • Divorced men drink significantly more after divorce than women. Researchers contribute this to the fact that men tend to externalize stress (like binge drinking), while women internalize the stress (usually by falling into depression).

The liquid in those bottles you have under lock and key, or way up high in the cabinet, can cause so much more than social lubrication and relaxation after a hard day’s work. However, alcohol consumption is a personal choice, and a part of a person’s lifestyle; so we ask Swedish researchers, is it really big news that an alcohol abstainer and an “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” believer have a hard time making their marriage work?

The Post-Divorce Game of Date or Don’t

78373602For a while after a divorce it may be hard to get out of bed, notice when birds are singing, and enjoy a good romantic comedy. But when it feels like the clouds are starting to break, you may start noticing colors, laughter, and how cute the new bank teller is. Then the internal dilemma is brought forth: Am I ready to date after my divorce?

The magazines and self help books all disagree with each other and often give conflicting advice, except for one thing: Only you can tell if you’re ready to date again. But if you need help deciphering your own signals, we can help. Help is the key word. We can only point out a few clues, you’re going to have to put the puzzle together.

The Decoder Ring

You may feel intrigued by the idea of getting into the dating game, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to get back at it in full swing.

Clue #1: One of the biggest indicators you may really need some more time is the frequency and way you speak about your ex. If you find yourself bringing up your ex in daily conversations, you might need more time to process the divorce. For example, if you find yourself uttering words like “So-and-so used to fold their towels like that!” or “My wife/husband…I mean ex-wife/husband…” then dating isn’t the best activity for you right now. You are still emotionally attached to your ex, and all you can do is let time create some distance and redefine your relationship.

Clue #2: Your dating strategy includes listing all the qualities in a partner you don’t want, whether it be on a dating profile, in an email, or verbally on a date. If you catch yourself spouting off the 32 things you don’t want, stop and consider why you’re not listing the things you do want instead. Yes, it’s healthy to know and communicate what we want and don’t want, but when the communication primarily is concerned with the negatives it says you’re still in the negative. It maybe you are still hurting from being on the receiving end of those negative qualities, or it maybe that you are just angry with the world. Being in either situation and mindset is not conducive to being an honest attempt at a healthy relationship, so opt for more reflection and healing instead of a dinner date.

Clue #3: Dating anyone is better than being alone. This is such a red flag that you are in desperate need of healing and self reflection it’s a miracle a red scare didn’t break out already. Yes, as a divorcee you may feel doomed to be alone for life, but take a deep breath, relax, and recognize that is just your flight instinct trying to take over your fight. Until you are forever bedridden due to old age, you are not old. Life is long, so you may as well fight for control of your life and make it enjoyable. So take out your sickle and hammer, and get to work feel comfortable living for yourself and by yourself.

Why Are We Shocked By Gray Divorce?

78398457As obsessed as our culture is with youth and beauty, society has made quite a few surprising (but completely welcome) age-embracing motions. The spokeswoman/model for MAC cosmetics is a 90 year old woman, and what a woman Iris Apfel is. She wantonly said, “What’s wrong with getting old? If you’re lucky enough to get old, you should celebrate it.” Today we marvel at modern day medicine, which more than ever includes cosmetic surgery, but still have the gall to sternly criticize a person over 60 who doesn’t jump at early bird dinner specials.

Is there an age when we have to stop reassessing happiness and planning to improve our lives? The obvious answer is no, but the way we sensationalize things like gray divorce says otherwise.

The Wonder Years

In this day and age, 1 in 4 people aged 50 or older are getting a divorce, and this statistic makes our heads explode. People are wondering what has happened to our morals, our families, and our very values just because our parents have come to the conclusion that they are still very much alive and deserve to be happy. True, divorce not a very happy topic. The cause of divorce at least is not a very happy topic, but the by-products (getting out of a toxic relationship, living how you want to live, being who you want to be, meeting knew people, etc.) can be very uplifting.

You see, our baby boomers are not babies anymore. They have lived full lives, seen many changes in the world, and fostered changed offspring; however, they have also looked at the daily vitamin boxes in the face, and decided that the life they take the vitamins for is too precious to ignore anything that makes them less than thrilled to be alive. In their full lives, they might have made unions that have crumbled and been stretched too thin, and decided divorce was the best way forward. But for whatever reasons our baby boomers have decided to put an end to the Mr. and Mrs. letterhead, it’s really none of our business.

Is the Sky Falling?

Divorce, marriage, and other romantic topics are really none of the general public’s business, and my real question is why (after trying to evade time and aging) are we shocked that our parents are starring the clock in the eye and saying “I’ll do what I please in my own time”? Are we jealous of our parents for starting the age-revolution before us?

I’m not entirely sure, but one thing is for sure: We don’t quite know what to make of this age-revolution.

The Logic Fallacy Behind Iowa’s Divorce Bill

logical fallacy in Iowa divorce billIn the past month, the U.S. has seen some strange marriage and divorce legislative moves from various states. In early February, North Dakota revisited an old House Bill that would force parents to observe a 6 month waiting period and undergo counseling before finalizing the divorce. The bill had been introduced a year earlier, but it was rejected because it originally had a year waiting period.

Apparently the divorce reform is an infectious virus, and Iowa has got it bad.

The Latest Divorce and Religion Study

researchers study divorce and religionAs Sinatra crooned into the microphone all those years ago, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage; divorce, however, rides on the back of the carriage like a footman. This sinister footman has been the topic of debate since the 1970′s saw a huge surge in divorce, and now that debate has moved onto the relationship divorce has with religion.

Previously, research held that children of divorced parents were less religious in adulthood because of the divorce. But what about all the other contributing factors in a person’s religious beliefs? This is the question Jeremy Uecker, an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor, and Christopher Ellison, a researcher at University of Texas, asked in their study called “Parental Divorce, Parental Religious Characteristics, and Religious Outcomes in Adulthood.”

Structure of the Study

The study used data from surveys from 1991, 1998, and 2008 catalogued in the General Social Surveys. The surveys were conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. 3,346 people of various faiths, between the ages 18 and 87 answered questions about their family life, religious affiliation, and personal beliefs.

After Ellison analyzed the data, Uecker analyzed the answers to the survey. The team found children of divorce do tend to avoid organized religion, but the cause may be more attributed to their parent’s pre-existing religious beliefs and practices rather than solely their parent’s divorce.

The Findings

“You have to take into account the context,” Uecker explains. “People who are less religious are more likely to get divorced. And if the parents are of different religions or differing levels of religiosity from one another, they also are more likely to divorce. So if we ignore that, we’re overstating the effects of divorce itself on religious outcomes.”

As support for Uecker and Ellison’s findings, the data proves divorce has no effect on a person’s spirituality and private religious practices, like praying.

What it All Means

As noted in the study, the majority of young adults today identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” We’re not entirely sure what that means to each individual, but it does indicate the majority of people are not spiritually destroyed by their parents divorce. According to the researchers, the leading cause of children losing their faiths is the loss of religious socialization.

After a divorce, single parents may feel unaccepted in church, so attendance drops; or, it may be as simple as a single parent’s schedule makes it harder to attend church regularly. Whatever the case, the researchers are not concerned about the children’s well-being.

In the study, the researchers state: “The emotional effects or feelings of sacred loss may well be felt and consequential during childhood and adolescence. In the long run, however, these emotional responses are less consequential.”

The relationship between humans and their beliefs is a truly complex one, which Ellison and Uecker sought to bring to light. This study is not meant to alter our perception of divorce and religion, it is just meant to correct another study’s published findings.

What are your thoughts on the complex relationship marriage, divorce, and religion?