Did Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt need a parenting prenup?

No matter how you feel about the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt divorce — including the desire to not have to think about it, celebrity divorces or divorce in general — there is one thing all parents should pay attention to.

The reason they split, we’re lead to believe, is because they couldn’t agree on how to parent their six children: Jolie wants to homeschool their children so they can become “worldly” as the family travels throughout the world and among their homes in France, New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York City, and Pitt supposedly wanted them to be enrolled in school. parents divorce

That’s just one small part of being a parent — school is important, yes, but there are a lot of other factors that go into how parents will have and raise children, from how many they’ll have to how far apart they’ll be born or adopted to religious instruction to discipline to who’ll care for them to activities and sports. In other words, there are lots of things to think about when a couple decides to become parents — and a similar process must happen when a man or woman considers whether to become a single parent. But, here’s one thing that doesn’t happen when one decides to become a single parent — there’s no one else’s opinions, feelings, thoughts, desires to take into consideration. But if you’re raising children as co-parents, there are a lot of things that need to be decided together.

Except, are parents fully deciding together how they will raise their children?

What is a parent’s responsibility?

OK, most of us are not living the life of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But, any couple deciding to have children together or even those couples who didn’t decide but suddenly find themselves pregnant, have a certain responsibility to figure out what they’re doing and why  … ideally before their child is born.

Of course, things change once your kids are born and then start to grow. Learning challenges may suddenly appear or an illness. So, having a parental plan of action isn’t set in stone; you have to be flexible. But a parenting plan is a baseline.

Apparently, it wasn’t just how the kids were going to be schooled that helped lead to the Jolie-Pitt split; it also was how they were being disciplined. Both Jolie and Pitt admitted he was the stricter of the twobut perhaps just with their boys. “I am with the boys,” Pitt once said. “Girls do no wrong so I don’t have to be.” As a former girl myself, I would beg to differ.  Girls do plenty of wrong and I’m actually surprised by his rather sexist view.

Nevertheless, discipline and schooling are two huge issues when it comes to raising children and if couples become parents without having some sort of a meeting of minds, they are setting themselves up for trouble — and perhaps divorce. Divorce per se isn’t bad for children, but if the parents are still fighting, well, we know from studies that conflict is what’s harmful to kids. And because Jolie is fighting for full physical custody of their children and Pitt has reluctantly agreed to that for now, continued conflict for them is not out of the question. Guess who will suffer?

Given all that, it’s clear the old way of becoming a parent is no longer working for us or our kids. There’s been some talk about a “new ethic of responsible parenthood,” which sounds great on the surface although I have some problems with what’s suggested on how to create that.

Yes, there needs to be policies that give parents the support they need, but the onus is on every person who decides to raise a child to plan for parenthood, especially if they’re co-parenting.

Are prenups for kids?

Jolie and Pitt allegedly have an “iron-clad” prenup for their substantial wealth. How ironic, then, that they don’t create a “prenup” for what seems to be even more precious — the well-being of their children. Those six kids have a right and a need to have access to both parents (assuming that doesn’t put them into a harmful situation) equally. At the same time, each parent should have a right to be an active partner in deciding what’s best for his or her children. Neither is likely to happen now.

That’s why divorce can be so painful.

Many of today’s marriages are based on having children — so-called high-investment parenting (HIP) marriages. But that’s not enough. In The New I Do, we address what a prenup for a parenting marriage may look like; in fact, we call it the true definition of planned parenthood. A prenup for kids may seem silly — honestly, who has one? — and perhaps even unnecessary. Except, there are no guarantees in life, love or marriage. If your kids matter to you — and I’d say most parents would say they do — and you want to make sure you have a say in how they’ll be raised, whether you’re cohabiting, married or in a parenting partnership, please don’t wait until things fall apart (and none of us think it will) and you and your co-parent are unhappy or angry or both or worse; make a plan. Now. Your children will thank you for it one day. Or, just as good, perhaps they’ll never even have to know.

Want to learn how to have a parenting plan? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Will your wedding day be tradition-filled?

Susan and her husband got married on a Saturday. They didn’t know that was bad luck in the English culture.* They based our choice on when the venue was available and when they thought most of our guests could make it.

The good news is that it poured rain all day. That’s considered good luck in the Hindu customs.* Obviously, they had no control over this!

Susan wore a hand-sewn white gown* and carried a lovely bouquet of flowers.* She had no veil,* no garter,* nothing old,* nothing new,* nothing borrowed* and nothing blue.* traditional wedding

The vows they exchanged* while gifting each other rings* were quasi-traditional in that they included being together in sickness and health, and richer and poorer. Yet, they strayed from the normal, “for better or worse” in favor of the rugby terms “tries” and “knock-ons” (This was Susan’s husband’s idea being that he’s a huge rugby aficionado).

Because she’d been working with divorcing people for four years by then, Susan and her husband agreed to skip the “until death do us part” line* to avoid promising something they might not be able to live up to (Some of you are undoubtedly thinking that that isn’t very romantic, but read on).

At their reception, Susan and her husband had a beautiful cake.* They got the top layer of the cake from the baker on their one-year anniversary.*

At the end of the ceremony, Susan threw the bouquet and the guests threw rose petals at the newlyweds.* Then, they went on a brief honeymoon* and when they got home, Susan’s husband carried her over the threshold.* And they’ve continued to live “happily ever after.”

*Every asterisk represents a nuptial tradition, belief or custom. Although there are quite a few listed here, there are many more that determine how and when people get married. This is true across the globe.

Some of the oddest wedding traditions are rooted in warding off evil spirits, or are based in practices of a time long ago. This includes the language we use. The term, “Best Man,” for example, is said to refer to the best (defined then as strongest, best swordsman and most capable) man to help steal the bride from her neighboring community or disapproving family. Yet, we still condone using these traditions because it’s “romantic,” and make those who don’t follow along, “un-romantic.” This thinking makes no sense, however, once you dig to find out why we do the things we do.

Flowers are thought to cover the bad smell of the woman at a time in the 1500s when people bathed once a year in May (the reason June is the most popular month to wed is because people smelled better than when they would in October).

So, why is all this so important? The reality is that we are prisoners of tradition to the extent that we don’t stop and ask why things are done this way. We just continue blindly following these traditions whether it’s breaking a glass  or putting henna on our hands  or beating the groom’s feet with fish.

If you are planning to marry in the upcoming wedding season, ask yourself why you are incorporating certain customs. Do these customs really make sense for you personally? Are they customs you truly want to include, or will you be like Susan and her husband and pick and choose those that feel more pertinent?

Then start asking a bigger question: “Is my marriage going to be based on tradition (this refers to the romantic, love-based model) or is it going to be more personalized?”

If this question intrigues you and you are curious what that means, you may want to take a look at  The New I Do. We talk about wedding and marriage customs a fair amount, and we encourage everyone to “Question tradition.”

We believe in concepts like conscious coupling and planned parenthood, rather than following blindly as if in a trance. You may still choose the old traditions and marriage path but you would be choosing deliberately versus being guided by a script you don’t know anything about.

For more on wedding traditions and how they originated, here are a couple of websites to check out. We hope you’ll think out of the box not only on your wedding day but for many years to come. Mazel Tov!

https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-traditions-superstitions-facts-triviahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_customs_by_country

Should modern marriage have modern goals?

(This article was inspired by a recent interview Susan had with FoxNews radio personality, Vipp Jaswal that may be heard here)

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Are you happy and fulfilled in your marriage or are you pre-
tending? Do you
fantasize about life as an “independent?” Would friends and family be shocked if you announced that you and your spouse were divorcing?

Of the 60 percent of intact marriages (give or take a few percentages), many are not what we would consider good or healthy relationships. Yet, people stay because they made a commitment, or because they’re afraid to leave the kids with the other parent, or because they would face financial ruin if they split up.

 Given that we now live in a time of so much choice, older people aren’t staying so much any more. Gray divorces (those Americans over 50-years-old) have doubled since 1990.  But what if, rather than change your marital status, you change the status within your  marriage? What if rather than focusing on having the “love of your life,” who fulfills all of your needs, you focus on having a high functioning relationship that fulfills a good portion of the key areas in your life? What if you could preserve your legal union but expand your life from this home base?

Of course, not every marriage could handle these kinds of changes and, before elaborating on this idea, I feel it’s important to distinguish between a “bad” marriage and a “good enough” marriage.

In a “bad” marriage, one or both people feel unsafe in some way or things do not improve despite attempts to help the relationship (or, your partner blocks you from getting help in which case, the marriage is surely doomed).

A “good enough” marriage is one in which you and your spouse have a basic trust of one another as co-parents, for example, or you feel comfortable relying on each other financially, socially or simply as a roommate.

If your marriage is good enough, try talking to your mate about changing your agreements and goals for the marriage.

An example of this is transitioning from a love-based partnership to a purpose-based relationship. One Colorado couple, Cynthia and Dennis, went from having a “traditional” marriage to a Parenting Marriage because they decided that the romantic part of their relationship had expired but their kids were still young enough that they both wanted to be as present as possible. Since they co-parent well together, this arrangement has really worked well.

Some couples have chosen to live in separate homes, while others have agreed that they won’t have children and they’ll focus on creating wealth by being DINKS (double income, no kids). Still others will stay married in order to share experiences, travel, co-exist in the house, or take care of each other. Betsy and Warren Talbot exemplify the couple who at one point were focused on earning to their maximum potential. They are traveling the world and have started a blog/website called Married with Luggage. Last we heard from them, they were in Spain.

In researching our latest book, The New I Do Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, we uncovered seven alternatives to the love-based model we’ve come to equate with conventional marriage.

They are: Starter Marriage, Companionship Marriage, Parenting Marriage, Living Alone Together, Safety Marriage, Covenant Marriage and Open Marriage  (link is external).

With the exception of the first model (which is not a legal option because it’s against public policy to plan the demise of a marriage), all of these options are being practiced in one way or another with people throughout the Western world (even in the U.S!).

These alternatives have helped many people remain in their marriages by allowing couples to taper their nuptials to their own needs. If marriage in general is going to survive, it surely needs to change. If you feel your marriage needs some changes in order to survive, you may want to research one of these options.

Tweaking the way we relate within the institution of marriage is truly a way to have your wedding cake and eat it, too.

What makes someone ‘wife material’?

Recently, Angelina Jolie said marriage to Brad Pitt has changed her for the better, inspiring her to “be a better wife. I’m going to learn to cook.”

It was a curious thing to say — is being a cook what “good wives” do? Maybe, for Angelina anyway. But I’m not sure it answers the question for the rest of us — what exactly makes a “good wife”?  Good_wife

Thought Catalog recently listed 25 Things Girls Do That Make Guys Realize They’re Wife Material. Sure enough, along with bringing others happiness, being likeable, going with the flow, being the guy’s biggest fan and being low-maintenance, “they can cook.”

Obviously wives need a few more skills than that, and when it comes to divorce, those desirable wifely attributes often have no monetary worth in court of public sentiment — just ask newly divorced multimillionaire Jamie Cooper-Hohn).

The Telegraph’s Daisy Buchanan, about to become a wife herself, has some thoughts on society’s expectations of wives:

The problem that persists (and my problem with the Thought Catalog piece) is that we place an enormous weight of expectation on women and their behaviour within a marriage — but culturally, that pressure is not forced on men in the same way. We’re still suffering from a hangover of hundreds of years of seeing ourselves as desperate, wannabe wives, hoping to be picked out from the crowd by a choosy potential husband.

Although marriage is a contract between two people, we still cling to the convention in which we wait for someone to ask us to be their wife and then take their name. … Of course, being a good wife shouldn’t be any different from being a good husband. But men aren’t targeted with the same stream of ‘make her marry you!’ articles.

She is wrong in believing that “being a good wife shouldn’t be any different than being a good husband,” however; an overwhelming number of never-married women want a husband who has a steady job (while men say they favor someone who shares their ideas about raising children) and that male-as-provider model most likely perpetuates gendered expectations when it comes to marriage.

When George Clooney proposed to now-wife Amal Alamuddin, some people — and I’m sure some of his former girlfriends — wondered, why her? What does Amal have that the others didn’t? It’s clear the typecast “perpetual bachelor” and purported commitaphobe was neither; he just was waiting for the right woman to commit to. A woman who is wife material.

Again, we are stuck trying to define what that means.

Mrs. Clooney (yes, Amal took Clooney’s last name) is a top-flight human rights attorney — she may or may not cook and she may or may not know her way around a Swiffer, but somehow I don’t think Clooney married her because of her great domestic tasks. He most likely asked her to marry him because she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she has a kind heart and she has confidence (she’s also 17 years younger than he is, a huge age difference that is often typical for older men). And, perhaps most important to Clooney, a noted jokester, a sense of humor.

But there are other expectations of being a “good wife” that go beyond our own. Just ask Oprah — despite being smart, beautiful, kind-hearted and confident, she is clear that society’s expectations of being a good wife is not her thing; she’d rather stay a good girlfriend. Which means that perhaps she isn’t good wife material after all. Which means there is no one-size-fits-all definition of what a “good wife” is or does. Or is there?

Ready to Occupy Marriage?

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it that way.”

Marriage, in its current state, is not working.

Don’t believe me? Look at the stats.

With anywhere from a 40% – 50% divorce rate (depending on who you talk to) and a 23% decrease in numbers of those marrying from 1960 to today, it’s obvious that lifestyle trends are shifting away from “forever after” unions.

Should we sit back and do nothing more than watch the institution die a slow death? Or should we mobilize to take action?

If marriage had nothing to offer, it would be fine to let it go by the wayside. But an updated version of marriage could offer couples and families quite a lot in the way of social and emotional stability, financial well-being and more.

Some of you may be thinking, “Change marriage? We can’t change marriage! There are religious edicts and legal statutes that have been in place for years—centuries even!” Therein lies the problem.  We continue to think we’re all supposed to fit into a size “Small,” yet we live “Medium,” “Large” and “Extra Large” lifestyles.  Not to mention that we also live longer these days than we did in 1215, when “until death do us part,” got added to the vows.

On September 18, The Census Bureau released new data showing that, despite including same-sex couple stats with married couples (in its largest household survey to date), there was no reversal in the long-term national decline in marriage.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center and one of the authors of the Census Bureau report stated, “The projections really suggest that there’s more than just a delay going on here. People are more likely to be never married and stay never married as they reach middle age. That’s a significant change.”

PewMarriage1

We can continue to defend “Traditional Marriage,” which perpetuates a narrow model designed for an elite (and straight) population, and continue to set marriage up to fail, but we’d do better to be more inclusive of the myriad needs we have as an evolving culture and thus, set marriage up to succeed.

By offering creative alternatives like having a starter marriage or a parenting marriage, matrimony will appeal to a wider audience. Accepting concepts that have been considered blasphemous by some in our culture—like making it okay to marry for money, having term limits, or opening our minds to open marriage—would make marriage more practical and realistic.

Something’s clearly gotta give if marriage is going to make it.

If you’d like to join the cause or simply learn more about the Occupy Marriage Movement,” please visit The New I Do Facebook page.

You may also want to check out the just-released book entitled, The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, 2014).

 

Why a beta marriage is not enough

If you’re to believe a (clearly unscientific) survey conducted by the USA Network in conjunction with Satisfaction, its new TV series, Millennials are open to ditching the “until death do us part” version of marriage for a beta marriage — a limited term marital contract. At least that’s how Jessica Bennett saw it in her Time magazine last week, “The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do,'”  which was discussed at Jezebel, Salon, Fox News and a gazillion other media outlets, some of which began wringing their hands over the idea that young people may not be committed to go the distance.   Millennial marriage

Whoa, slow down! It’s not about a lack of commitment; young adults are wisely postponing marriage, and because of that they have more opportunities to have several committed relationships before they tie the knot. In fact, they’re getting better at commitment because they are approaching it consciously. As one Millennial tells Bennett:

“Millennials aren’t scared of commitment — we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely. We rigorously craft our social media and online dating profiles to maximize our chances of getting a first date, and ‘beta testing’ is just an extension of us trying to strategize for future romantic success.”

We love the term beta marriage and wish we had used it in The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels instead of using the name that caused a similar kerfuffle a decade or so ago, a starter marriage.

Whatever you call it, the idea of a short-term contractual marriage is not new, as Bennett points out — anthropologist Margaret Mead was talking about such an arrangement back in the 1970s. But as our research for The New I Do uncovered, the idea of a short, childfree (yes, that part is essential) marriage goes, way, way back (you may be surprised to learn how far back, but you’ll have to buy the book).

So much for Millennials creating a new marital model!

Nevertheless, we’re encouraged to read that young adults are looking at our current “traditional” model that bases a successful marriage solely on longevity and sexual fidelity, and deciding, nah, that just isn’t working. That is exactly what we hope people get from The New I Do — an awareness of whether the marital model we know still works for who we are today.

OK, if beta/starter marriages have been around for so long, why aren’t we embracing them? Why aren’t they the norm? Well, more people are having beta marriages although it’s still a pretty small amount — just 17 percent divorce before their fifth wedding anniversary — but there’s still a lot of shame, judgment and sense of failure around short marriages (and divorce in general) and, let’s face it, it’s hard to embrace something that a huge portion of society pooh-poohs.

But Millennials may change that — they may be the first generation to remove the stigma around short marriages, just like they may change expectations about monogamy since the same survey reveals many Gen Xers and Yers believe it’s “a social expectation but not a biological reality.” Because it isn’t biological — monogamy is a choice.

Yet, short contractual marriages will not necessarily give couples what they want from that marriage; why marry for two or five or eight years if you don’t have particular goals in mind? While The New I Do suggests the idea of limited contractual marriages, we believe couples must agree in advance what their responsibilities in the marriage are and what they want the marriage to accomplish. That way, they can determine when the time to renew the contract or not is upon them whether their marriage was successful by their definition of success. And it’s a way to hold themselves accountable. The goals of a starter marriage are going to be a lot different than, say, the goals of a parenting marriage.

None of this means that people won’t be able to marry for lifelong commitment and sexual fidelity; that choice will likely always be available for those who want it. But what’s exciting is how young people are willing to put marriage and all its trappings under the microscope and decide for themselves what a successful marriage “looks like.” That is exactly how you create stable, happy marriages. And isn’t that what the conservatives (many of whom are pushing to make divorce harder) say they want?

What do you think about beta marriages?

Why all marriages need a prenup

Would you go into a corporate partnership with someone who told you that, in order to “seal the deal,” you had to sign a partnership agreement that protected mainly his interests? Would you squelch the small voice within that wanted to question his actions and motives? Would you feel strong-armed? Do you really think this would be a good person with whom to go into business? prenup

Most onlookers would say it’s obvious that this is not the way to build trust or start a healthy relationship. Friends and advisors might tell you that being pushed into signing away your rights should send up warning flags all over the place and they’d counsel you not to give your signature to anything or anyone under those circumstances.

Something strange happens to people when it comes to putting pen to paper on a prenuptial agreement. There seems to be a thick layer of denial present and my guess is because love is involved. Most people see love and business like oil and water. But marriage is a legal contract. In fact, marriage is the greatest legal partnership most people will enter into in their lives — and a family is nothing short of a corporation.

As a soon-to-be-wed couple, you are not only joining your hearts, you are also combining your home, family, and social and financial structures. In essence, there isn’t one area of your life that marriage doesn’t impact. Despite the fact that we use terms such as “marriage contract,” and “divorce court,” people still don’t seem to understand that marriage is a business deal.

Read more here, than come back and tell us — would you sign a prenup? Why or why not?