Is there a ‘secret’ to being married?

The funny thing about marriage (well, there are many, but let’s narrow it down) is that lots of people seem to have a “secret” that will magically transform everyone’s marriage into a manageable, doable and supposedly happy union. Like a recent Modern Love written by Gabrielle Zevin — except her secret to marriage isn’t necessarily what you might expect:  The Secret to Marriage Is Never Getting Married. 

Zevin, a novelist and screenwriter, describes the 21-year relationship she has with her partner, Hans:

I have had four dogs with the man I am not married to. I have dedicated several of my books to him, but really, they all could be. He is my most important reader and creative collaborator. We have traveled the world with one suitcase. We have cooked more than 100 Blue Apron meals without killing each other. We have shared a dozen different addresses. We have built a life.

But, they’re not married.

And that’s where Zevin reveals the complications of committing to someone without actually tying the knot, even though, given a complicated and unfair debt Hans brought into the relationship two decades ago, it made sense not to co-mingle expenses — then. Still, she had found herself unable to explain that to people — many often don’t understand the financial realities of a marriage license. It isn’t just about love, it’s about money and property and a lot of other stuff, too.

Which is why her longtime accountant is advising that they now tie the knot. Why?

I guess because I am turning 40 this year, he said, “Well, there are reasons to be married when you are old.” The reasons fell largely into two categories: What happens when I die? And what happens if I get sick and then die?

And this is what hetero couples don’t understand about marriage but same-sex couples do: The big reason why same-sex couples fought so hard for the right to legally marry is exactly because of the sick and dying part, the importance of which was made glaringly clear during the HIV epidemic. It’s really important for people to understand just what a marriage license offers you; it isn’t just about love and commitment.

Zevin ventures — somewhat blindly — into that territory, too, and it bothered me. To read more, click here.

Want to learn how to create a renewable marital plan? (Of course you do!) Then read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.


Dear Millennials: Here’s some marital advice you can ignore

Millennials have become a much maligned generation — they’re either living in their parents’ basement, or spending too much time playing video games, or unable to buy a home because they’re spending too much money on avocado toast or delaying marriage, aka “failing” to reach the traditional markers of adulthood (hey, maybe those markers need to be changed?) or all of the above. And now, evidently, the one positive thing millennials who actually are tying the knot are doing — protecting their assets with a prenup — is being dissed. And, boy, is that bad advice.

In a recent article for Verily, Why Happy Couples Don’t Get Prenups (Even Though Divorce Lawyers Say It’s a Millennial Trend) with the tagline “Don’t buy into the prenup trend!,” relationship editor Monica Gabriel Marshall quotes Joslin Davis, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who observes that millennials are  “particularly choosing prenups as the best option to cover separate property holdings, business interests, anticipated family inheritances, and potential alimony claims.”

Then she acknowledges that it makes sense, given that people are remaining single longer and thus having more time to build their own assets. But then she quotes two people to switch her thinking to convince young people that its wrong to get a prenup: Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project — an unabashed pro-marriage advocate — and Mia Adler Ozair, a therapist who advises to never mention the word “divorce.”

If you are serious about wanting to build a long-lasting, loving relationship, then this word can simply not enter the vocabulary in a relationship … Trust is built by knowing that regular marital issues that arise during the course of all relationships will be met with a true desire to communicate. … threats of leaving are not acceptable where trust and love are desired.

Sure — no one should use divorce as a way to threaten your spouse. But — and such a huge but — that isn’t the only way for couples to address the potential reality of divorce, which is always a potential reality no matter what you think.

Read more here.

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.

You don’t have to have a ‘gray divorce’

Nothing will make you think more about what marriage is about than a divorce. But there’s divorce and then there’s divorce. When Vicki divorced in her 20s and they had nothing — no property, no savings, no kids — it was emotionally challenging, true, but that’s about it. If someone presented her with a way to make the marriage work, she probably would have said, Why? We made a mistake; it’s over!

But when she divorced at midlife with stuff (a house, a car, a dog and, most important, young kids) it was much more complicated. While many people argue about the stuff and money, the bigger issue is the kids: How will we raise them until they can be self-sufficient? renegotiate marital contract

Now a friend is in the midst of a divorce and her kids, at 21 and 25, are no longer “kids;” they’re self-sufficient adults. What does divorce mean at this point?

Are there alternatives that might be available for midlife couples who are struggling?

Yes.

While divorce is on the decline among younger couples, the so-called gray divorce — among those 50 and older — is growing. While most divorces are initiated by women, it hurts women more than the men — 27 percent of gray divorced women live in poverty compared with 11 percent of gray divorced men, according to a recent Bowling Green State University study.

While boomer women were renegades and feminists, and many of us had full-time careers while raising kids, we are still paid less than men are and many of us still resorted to traditional male breadwinner-female housekeeping roles when we married, which inevitably hurt us in the event of a divorce (a model that, despite all our progress, still seems to be the default for Gen-Yers and millennials). Plus, we live longer than men.

Knowing that, is there something else we could be doing?

In some instances, yes. Even if you didn’t create a contract at the onset of your marriage, you can certainly create one after the fact.

Vicki’s second marriage fell apart after the discovery of a long-term affair as well as other issues. Her initial reaction was to save the marriage because her kids were young, 9 and 12, and she was scared. She’d only worked part time since they were born, and they weren’t a wealthy family to begin with.

They could have transformed their marriage into a parenting marriage, giving their kids the consistency and stability they needed while separating the sexual/romantic aspect of their relationship from their parenting relationship, which is one of the models in The New I Do. Would that have worked? In the aftermath of a long-term affair, Vicki didn’t know. Would she have considered it if it had been presented to her by a marriage counselor? Absolutely.

Sadly, you are not going to hear about parenting marriages from marriage counselors, except from people like Susan, because it’s not in their frame of reference. Same with renegotiating the marital contract. Which is why Susan and Vicki have been presenting before local therapists, helping them help their clients.

A blog post from more than a year ago on this website has hundreds of comments from people in a sexless marriage (by their definition) exploring the many ways they have tried to cope — suffer, divorce or cheat. The option of opening up their marriage will never come up in a therapy session because traditionally, therapists don’t think that way. What we need is therapists who are not only able to consider suggesting an open marriage, but also knowledgeable enough to offer support and information to help those who may see it as an option.

But, let’s say there hasn’t been an affair or any sort of major dysfunction. Let’s consider middle-aged empty-nesters, suddenly staring at each across the breakfast table without the distraction of children for the first time in decades. Many couples might discover they have little in common with their spouse anymore, and any conversation that doesn’t involve the kids or household issues feels strained. This is especially true when husbands retire and they’re around 24/7. Which is why many older couples are willing to call it quits and move on.

Given the economic hit they’ll take, they could find other ways to be connected to each other while also creating space that honors their individual needs and “me” time. They could consider living apart together, again, another model in The New I Do.

None of this is to say we’re for or against divorce or marital longevity; most of us fall in and out of love with several people before we find someone we actually might want to be in love with for the rest of our life — if we even want that — and many people are much happier after divorcing.

But we are for letting people know they have options. Your marriage is yours to create and re-create. Go for it!

Want to re-create your marriage? Learn how by ordering The New I Do on Amazon, and, while you’re at it, follow TNID on Twitter and Facebook.

7 things engaged couples need to talk about right now

This article was written by Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson

You have the ring you wanted, the partner you wanted and you’re planning for the future you wanted. You and your partner have a unique relationship. So why would you want to have the same marriage everyone else has? You don’t want to just create a life with your partner; you want to create a specific kind of life. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your partner before your big day, so you can couple consciously.  engaged couples

1. Why are we tying the knot?
If you’re like many couples, you may have been living together for a while. You could have continued on that way without the stress and expense of planning a wedding. Gone are the days when people had to marry to have kids, have a live-in partner, financial security or sex. So you need to ask yourself and your partner, “Why are we marrying?” Are you feeling pressured by your family or your biological clock? Are all your friends marrying and moving on with their lives? Do you just want to make a formal statement of your commitment? You might be surprised by how much clarity your answers will bring.

2. What do we want to happen in the first three to five years?
How your marriage begins matters. The early years lay the foundation for the many anniversaries to follow. Map out what you’d like them to look like: Do you want to have kids right away or wait a few years? Do you want to live in the city, the suburbs or on a ranch? Does one of you need to finish earning a degree or do you want to travel? A marriage map keeps you on the same path. Just like in business, it’s a good idea to make short-term goals in addition to long-term goals.

3. What about kids?
If you haven’t talked about kids, now’s the time to do it. Kids are one of the greatest marriage and life game-changers so ask a lot of questions of yourself and your mate. Don’t assume your betrothed wants children just because you do. Talk about your desires openly and honestly. If you both want kids, share what you believe your strengths and weaknesses might be as parents. Will one of you stay home or will you hire a nanny? What will schooling look like? What about discipline? It’s better to know your differences now so you can address them as early as possible.

4. How will we handle our finances?
Money is one of the top subjects couples fight about so it’s important to talk frankly about debt, what each plans to contribute, whether one of you hopes to stop working, if there will be a main breadwinner and who will pay the bills. If you have concerns about your partner’s money matters now, pay attention; you’ll want to resolve any issues before you become fiscally entwined and legally bound.

5. Let’s talk about sex.
No one wants to think about infidelity when you’d rather be searching for the perfect gown, but we all know that cheating happens — a lot. You can’t affair-proof a marriage — it’s impossible to control your partner’s actions — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be talking about monogamy, sex and infidelity anyway. Monogamy is assumed once a couple becomes committed, but it’s actually a choice; are you both willingly choosing it? Are you good at it? Do you like it?

Then there’s sex, a source of conflict for many couples. Do you have different sexual energies and needs? How are you addressing them? What will you do if kids come along (they challenge every marriage’s sex life, especially in the first two years)?

Finally, how do you define infidelity — is it just intercourse or does it include watching porn, sexting, flirting? By agreeing about these things now, you’ll save yourselves a lot of heartache in the future.

6. Will we become our parents?
No matter how you feel about your parents, they were your first marital model — not a fairy tale in which the prince sweeps the princess off to his castle and they live happily ever after. Some of the patterns and behaviors you learned from them may creep into your marital life. You aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat them, but it would wise to explore how they have helped shape your view of relationships, love and marriage as well as your partner’s.

7. Should we get a prenup?
A prenup is to marriage what insurance is to your health and possessions; it provides protections in the event that something goes wrong. But there’s a much better reason to get a prenup than protection in the event of a divorce: It forces you and your partner to talk about expectations around money, work, home, kids, family and lifestyle. Not only do you get to plan married life together, but you also get to see how you each deal with difficult subjects. Given that you each may already have assets of your own, we encourage you to consider whether a prenup makes sense. If you can’t decide, seek advice from a professional.

Love, sex, kids and marriage

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We were fortunate to have been asked to be on The Better Show to talk about The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels with co-hosts JD Roberto and Kristina Behr

We spoke with them first, and then had a conversation with Lori Zaslow and Jennifer Zucher, co-owners of the matchmaking service Project Soulmate. We wish we had more time to address some of the old-fashioned thinking of Zaslow and Zucher — the same thinking that is making couples miserable in their marriages — but we feel pretty lucky to have had as much time as we had.

The conversation is broken down into four segments; watch and then tell us what you think.

Is marriage still about love?

What’s a test drive marriage?

What’s love got to do with it?

Do the kids know if your marriage is a fraud?

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?

Is it OK for a woman to want to be provided for?

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Is it OK for a woman to want to have a man take care of her?

Yes, writes Ginger at her popular blog Girls Just Want to Have Funds:

“I mean, I don’t need him to be rich or anything, I just need for him to be making enough to provide for me some day, you know?” – seen at TeacherFinance.org

If you’ve read some of the more contentious articles here, then you know there was a time when I drew a hard line when it came to women who decided to opt out either because they wanted to, can or have to do so.  The reasons for opting out range from wanting to spend more time with their families, be more hands on with the kids, pursue vocational interests – or whatever their hearts can justify at the time making a career pointless.  Thus, you have women who have chosen en-masse, to opt out.

And It’s OK.

Here’s the thing. We really are too hard and judgmental as it relates to picking apart the choices that another woman makes for her life.  Don’t get me wrong, I am no advocate of flying by the seat of your pants unless it’s a calculated risk, but I don’t support bashing a woman for wanting a lifestyle that works entirely for her and the family she supports and/or raises. The mommy wars (Stay at Home vs Working Moms debate) that has spanned the women’s movement must stop and here’s why:

Read more of what she has to say here, and then tell us — do you agree?

What’s the “right” age to marry?

Men and women are pushing back marriage — if they’re even getting married, that is. While our parents may have married in their early 20s, most women nowadays are marrying at 27 and most men at 29. Right time to marry

Should we really be worried?

Delaying marriage has its perks, especially if you’re a woman: Women accumulate more wealth if they wait until they’re 30 or older to marry — about $18,152 (nothing to sneeze at). And, delaying marriage has meant that those marriages are more stable, thus driving down the divorce rate (couples who marry in their early 20s or even younger are more likely to divorce). That’s good, right?

Still, the big “horror” stories about waiting to marry are actually about waiting to marry if you want kids — no one seems to be too concerned about marrying latter if you’re not going to have kids — because the older women are, the harder it is for them to conceive. A recent article in the Atlantic, How long can you wait to have a baby?, basically busted that argument wide open, and Cyma Shapiro’s “Nurture: Stories of New Midlife Mothers,” her traveling photo and essay exhibit of mothers aged 41 to 65, indicates more and more women are finding ways to work around the age-fertility issue, happily.

So, is there a “right” age to marry? Read more here.