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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?

North Dakota’s Divorce Bill Revisited

North Dakota divorceDivorce is a hot topic in any society because it involves family values, religion, and personal beliefs. Some people find divorce a non-option, while others view is as a sign of an evolved society. Divorce is, however, as personal a choice as religion; therefore, it should be left for the individual to decide on. But apparently, some North Dakota senators haven’t received that memo about free will.

The Original Senate Bill 2367

The good people of North Dakota dodged a legislative bullet in 2011 when Senate Bill 2367 was rejected. Bill 2367 was brought to the Senate by Senators Larsen, Sitte, and Wanzek, and supported by Representatives Grande, Koppelman, and Ruby. The bill originally recommended a two-fold change in North Dakota divorces with children involved:

  1. Extend the waiting period to 1 year, which would mean spouses would have to wait 1 year after filing for divorce before continuing the divorce process. If there is “substantiated allegations of domestic abuse,” the waiting period may be waived.
  2. Instate mandatory marital counseling of 10 hours, which must be provided by the spouses themselves. The spouses may undergo marital counseling together or separately as long as the sessions are with a “paid or volunteer counselor, clergy member, or any state-certified or licensed marriage mediator.” Four sessions must focus on post-marital finances.

The bill was rejected by the Senate, but was allowed to be revised into “[a] bill to provide for legislative management study relating to divorce reform and education.” In other words, instead of letting the unwanted bill die in the Senate, the Senators decided to turn it into an opportunity to study divorce on children in North Dakota.

Recently, a revised Senate Bill 2367 has found its way back into the Senate and currently awaits deliberation.

Is the New Senate Bill 2367 Good Enough?

The new Senate Bill 2367 has one major revision, but will it be enough to pass the Senate? The revised bill cut the proposed waiting period in half, so now spouses with children seeking a divorce only have to wait 6 months to finalize the divorce after filing the divorce petition. The spouses must still go through 10 hours of marital counseling, and pay for it out of pocket. However, if there is “substantiated” domestic violence in the marriage, the waiting period is waived.

The downsized waiting period is a step in the right direction, but there are still a number of vaguely written sand traps waiting for unsuspecting divorcees to fall right into.

  1. What constitutes a “substantiated allegation”? Sure, if one was a victim of domestic violence and they went to the hospital for treatment, they could use hospital records as evidence or proof; if the victim called the police, they could use the police report or 911 call transcript. But not many victims seek medical attention or help. In fact, it’s estimated only about 25% of domestic violence incidents are reported or documented. Before this bill is passed, it should be clear what constitutes a “substantiated allegation.” If this vagueness is overlooked, the state of North Dakota could be sentencing a victim of domestic violence to 6 months of torment and fear.
  2. Marital counseling is expensive, and not available to everyone. The average cost of marital counseling is $100, and that’s per hour. $100 is a conservative price for counseling, which would bring the (conservative) cost of North Dakota divorce to an additional $600. It’s commendable the authors of Bill 2367 recognized the cost of this additional legislation and noted the counselor could be a “paid or volunteer counselor” or “clergyman.” However, the additional cost makes divorce out of low-income spouses’ reach; does that sound like a violation of civil rights to anyone else?
  3. A bill for the children should think of the children. Senate Bill 2367 was drafted out of regard and in consideration of the children of divorce. But I ask the authors if forcing parents, who clearly want a divorce, to continue to be married is beneficial for the children. Court-administered co-parenting classes would be a better option of looking out for the children of divorce than making the children live in a toxic, stressful home.

Have anything to contribute to the discussion of North Dakota’s Senate Bill 2367? We’re all ears (or eyes, since this a written medium).

Irradicating Irrational Divorce Decisions

Divorce declarationIt has been said that the worst mistake anyone can make during a divorce is to let their emotions cloud their judgement. This is so true that it can be said in any situation, because emotions have a hand in almost all the decisions we make. When you buy an item, no matter how large or small, you base at least a part of your decision off whether or not you like it. You can’t really manufacture an equation to gauge the level of like an item, option, or person musters, you just feel it. So how exactly does one make a totally rational, emotion-free decision?

You can follow the advice of others, or hire someone to do your thinking for you. Or, you could make a few ground rules for yourself to follow during times of emotional turmoil.

The Divorce Rules Charter

There are two life-altering D’s in life: Divorce and Death; while divorce can be avoided, staying married is not always a viable option. Deciding which movie to rent is difficult enough, let alone deciding on who will keep the house or car. So how do you keep a level, emotionless head during a divorce? Draw up a Divorce Rules Charter for yourself (or with your ex if that’s possible without a bloodbath). Here are a few rules we’d include in our Divorce Rules charter:

  • I will not lie. In the divorce process, and basically in life, it’s best to be truthful and honest; this is especially important when money matter are the topic of discussion. In a divorce it may be tempting to hide assets, lie about assets, and unscrupulously try to get all you can, but this guerrilla warfare approach could end up hurting you the most. If you’re in a contested divorce, do yourself a favor and be honest in court and with the lawyers (both your lawyer and theirs). If somehow you are caught in a lie in court, or in a court proceeding, you’d be in deep water and sinking fast. Besides, your mother taught you better.
  • I will vent only to the appropriate outlet. Part of not exploding in rage during a mediation session or in court is having an outlet for your feelings and stress. The other part of not being a human time bomb is having the appropriate outlet, like a counselor or therapist, group of friends, or one really good friend. The upside of a professional “outlet” is although a professional may bring out your less-than-perfect traits, it may be beneficial in moving on to healthier relationships. The upside of the friend route is you have a personal cheerleader, commiserating partner, and at times a reality-checker all in one; just make sure your friend doesn’t let you stay in the resentment/misery-monger phase too long.
  • I will think about what is best for the children first. If you have children from the marriage, think about how your actions and decisions will affect them. By putting the children first, this will cool your jets (hopefully) in your subconscious mission to make your ex pay. Also, a child-conscientious divorce might even pave the way for an amicable relationship with the ex, which really would be the best thing since the ghost of the family will still exist after divorce.

Have any other rules you want to add to the Rules of Divorce Charter?

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.

DOMA & The New Marriage Frontier

supreme court divorce decisionLove, marriage, and matters of the heart are a highly personal matter. However, due to the governmental role in monitoring society’s well being and maintaining a census, marriage (and subsequently love and matters of the heart) are of governmental and federal concern. Currently, the Third Section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is being challenged as unconstitutional. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. will be spearheading the Supreme Court case of the United States v. Windsor, which is scheduled to begin on March 27th.

DOMA Then

In 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed, and unleashed a fervor of debate throughout America that has lasted even until today. DOMA defined and solidified “marriage” as a union solely between a man and a woman. DOMA has a two-pronged approach: First, it does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, and secondly, it allows each state to either recognize or not recognize same-sex marriages as well.

The ratification of DOMA means the federal government cannot legally recognize same-sex marriages, and consequently denies legally married same-sex couples federal benefits, like survivorship. Survivorship allows married couples to pass ownership of property and benefits of a deceased spouse to their surviving spouse.

Unconstitutionality

In 2011, the Obama administration made a policy decision to no longer protect DOMA’s constitutionality in court because “. . . this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest . . .” According to the General Solicitor Verrilli Jr.’s case, DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause that states “all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.”

DOMA is challenged by Edith Windsor, a woman 83 years old. Edith Windsor was married to Thea Spyer, after a 40 year engagement, in 2007. Two years later in 2009, Ms. Spyer died and left her estate to her spouse, Ms. Windsor. Due to DOMA, Ms. Windsor has spent $600,000 to pay state and federal taxes on the estate left to her by Ms. Spyer. So in 2012, Ms. Windsor mounted a mission to strike DOMA from federal and state law, and that journey has brought about the case of the United States v. Windsor.

DOMA Now

Earlier this month on February 19th, journalist Jonathan Capehart published an article, “Americans are done with DOMA,” in the Washington Post discussing the recent poll findings about the American public’s position on DOMA. The poll, held by The Respect for Marriage Coalition, found that 75% of voters believe same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.

This belief is held across political party lines. 91% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans support the idea that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. Furthermore, the poll discovered that 83% of the American public, regardless of personal opinion, believes same-sex marriage will be nationally legal in the next 5 to 10 years; 77% of the American public believes same-sex marriage will be nationally legal in the next couple of years.

The purpose of Capehart’s article is to bring to light how Americans of all political affiliation are seemingly aware of the discriminatory nature of DOMA, and have accepted the place same-sex marriage has in society, whether or not they personally agree with homosexuality. Capehart’s article brings up the point that people are aware that because a law or life choice exists, opponents can peacefully coexist as non-participants.

What are your thoughts on the DOMA law and the current actions to strike the DOMA’s 3rd Section from federal law?

The Parent Trap: Dating After Divorce

kid in the middleWith the news about how traumatic divorce is on children, as a divorcee you may be afraid to ever pay attention to anything else in life than your children. But after your wounds from the divorce heal, and after your children settle into this new phase of life, you may feel the calling to the dating realm again.

If you are lucky enough to find a person you feel a connection with, best of luck to you and this new relationship. However, luck isn’t really the component to rely on right now, especially if there are children on either side of the relationship.

Monkeys in the Middle

Divorce is difficult for everyone it even remotely touches, and that is the truth for quite some time after the divorce is finalized. Children can be affected by divorce is strange and various ways, but it doesn’t have to guide their future. Most psychologists and researchers find that the way in which the divorce is handled defines the children’s adjustment and future.

Dating does throw divorced families for a bit of a loop, but there are ways to come out of it intact and stronger than ever. The key is the continue to cultivate your children’s confidence and trust in you and the family (even if the structure is not a stereotypical one). Children of various ages tend to react differently to mothers and fathers dating, so it’s important to know what your child is feeling and how to speak to those feelings.

Timing is Everything

The dating realm is an uncertain place, of this we are all sure. So it should be no surprise that one of the post-divorce dating credos is to wait to introduce the children to your new “friend” until you’re out of the dating realm and safely in the relationship realm. In the relationship realm you are exclusively seeing each other, you introduce each other to friends as the boyfriend or girlfriend, and you foresee this person being in your life for quite sometime (if not indefinitely).

This point in the relationship is when you want to start introducing the children to your significant other. If you introduce your new partner sooner, when the relationship is just a fledgling of an idea, the chances are higher that your children will accept this person only to have them person disappear. The uncertainty of people coming and going in their life is a child’s worst fear, because in their mind, what’s to stop you from coming and going too?

Who is This?

After a few group meetings, where your children and partner have the opportunity to meet and interact in low-stress environments, things begin to get serious in the new dynamic. If your children like this new person, they might be inducted into the family. But what is their role? They aren’t stepparent, they aren’t family (yet), but they have some relation to your children.

Before uncomfortable boundaries are crossed, it’s smart to discuss with your children and your partner separately who they are to each other. This is probably the most difficult part if you have young children, because the young children are prone to attaching familial titles with unclassified newcomers. If need be, have the “you only have one mommy and one daddy” talk with your children.

The Next Phase

If things with your new significant other have progressed (over time!) to a more committed, long term relationship, then a new talk needs to take place. This talk must include the range of parental duties your partner will have over your children; to what extent is discipline allowed? Is there a limit to their parental duties? Will there be shared monetary parental duties?

So many questions and new experiences, so little time. Just remember, it’s smart to plan ahead as best you can to avoid as many bumps in the road as possible.

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?

Post-Divorce DIY Healing

Post-divorce DIY healingDivorce has a knack for making you feel angry, remorseful, hurt, empowered, confused, and so many other emotions your head and heart feeling like they’re going to spontaneously combust. Experiencing these emotions (especially confusion) rings dangerously true for the divorcees who never saw it coming. We’ve written a lot about the divorcee who benefitted and even wanted the divorce, but what about the divorcee who didn’t want the divorce? What about the divorcees who didn’t even see the divorce coming?

The Walking Wounded…

Forgive me for quoting such a chick flick, tear-jerking, sweat-pant-night movie choice, but Iris Simpkins of the 2006 movie “The Holiday” found the best words to describe what we’re talking about today:

“…there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. It’s called unrequited love…Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone?…We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded, the handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space.”

But before you join in on a chorus of “Hear, Hear!” actually hear us out. Divorce may be horrible, and being on the receiving end of a divorce petition may be more than horrible, but there is the opportunity to live a life after the divorce dust settles.

…But Not the Walking Dead

After a divorce, it’s easy to find yourself making little slip ups, like saying “My husband/wife… I mean ex husband/wife…” While these little slip ups feel more like needles and sharp knives, it doesn’t have to be your lot in life forever. What you are in desperate need of is some healing and perspective.

The most common thing unsuspecting divorcees have to deal with is the question: “How do I move on when the person I built my world around just exited my life?” It’s quite a painful predicament to be forced to live “normally” day in and day out with the memory of a lost love nagging at your brain. Like Iris of “The Holiday” said, it’s like you’re handicapped without the perks. But what we want you to recognize is that you might feel like you’re a walking wounded, but at least you’re not a walking dead.

Life is still to be lived, and you can do it joyfully.

About Face

You can take a page from the heroines from “The Holiday” and visit somewhere new for a little while, but that can be expensive and difficult to work into your schedule. So let’s discuss the ways you can about face towards a happy, healthy life after divorce.

  • Create a new space. If you can’t vacate your life for a bit to recharge and boot up the new and improved you, then it’s time to reboot your daily surroundings. Put away, sell, or give away items that bring back painful memories, and replace them with things that make you happy. Make the renovations or life changes you always wanted to make but couldn’t when you had to consider another person’s wants.
  • Exemplify your best qualities. Before your marriage, you were a person who had qualities that enticed someone to marry you. Don’t forget this, and don’t forget the person you were, are, and will be by being yourself completely. It will be hard, but by doing this you will show your children (if you have any) how strong a person can be, which is a valuable lesson. Also, by taking pride in yourself you will learn to love yourself again.
  • Redefine your relationships. While you’re cleaning house of things and feelings that hold you back, do the same with people who make you feel negatively about yourself. In doing this, you will sort out the good friends from the false friends, and also learn to value your time and company. Additionally, this will brace you to redefine your relationship with your ex-spouse. They were your significant other, but now they are another person from your past; if you have children, their role needs to change from significant other to co-parent.