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July 15, 2012

Why Be Married? To Fight Inequality

Today's NY Times has a great analysis of the greatly increasing role marriage plays in class inequality in the U.S.

Forty years ago, the top and middle income thirds had virtually identical family patterns: more than 95 percent of households with children in either tier had two parents in the home.

I grew up very near the bottom of that middle income third, but I grew up with both my parents in a house they owned. We moved a lot, because they would buy run-down homes, fix them up in their spare time, and move to another run-down home in a better neighborhood. As a result, I had some pretty good teachers in high school, and I went off to MIT on a needs-based scholarship.

Forty years ago, at MIT, I met my first husband. Ninety-five percent of children in the top two-thirds of the nation economically lived with both their parents then. Five years later, I became a mother, and our son was one of the lucky 95%. Nine years after that, when we had probably reached that upper third of incomes, his father died, and he got to experience the lot of the other 5%, but with a great running start. We owned a house. I had had plenty of support advancing in my professional career and getting more education. And we were entitled to his father's life insurance and Social Security surviving child benefits, which exceeded what most children of divorced parents received from their living non-custodial parent.

Since then the groups have diverged, according to Mr. Western and Ms. Shollenberger: 88 percent at the top have two parents, but just 71 percent do in the middle.

The article contrasts two mothers who work together:

The secret to their success resides in part in old-fashioned math: strength in numbers. Together, the Faulkners earn nearly three times as much as what Ms. Faulkner earns alone. Their high five-figure income ranks them near the 75th percentile -- hardly rich, but better off than nearly three of four families with children.

For Ms. Schairer, the logic works in reverse. Her individual income of $24,500 puts her at the 49th percentile among parents: smack in the middle. But with only one paycheck, her family income falls to the 19th percentile, lagging more than four out of five.

And it's not just money. It's time. When my husband died, I had to work harder to deal with the income loss. At the same time, our son needed twice as much of my time for attending baseball games and school events, and household chores needed twice as much, too.

It's wisdom, too. Without a second adult watching his back, our son was stuck with my best guess about how to handle every situation that arose. And with my time-pressed, sleep-deprived temper. And with my need for intelligent conversation about something other than my job.

And it's character strengths: creativity, kindness, gratitude, leadership, courage, etc. We all excel in four or five. With two parents, a child gets first-hand training from a master in up to ten different strengths.

How did Ms. Schairer end up a single mom? She got pregnant in college.

Abortion crossed her mind, but her boyfriend...said they should start a family. They agreed that marriage should wait until they could afford a big reception and a long gown.

If you have kids, you probably know how long that will take.

Their odds were not particularly good: nearly half the unmarried parents living together at a child's birth split up within five years, according to Child Trends.

Should she have married him when they were pregnant with the first of their three children? Probably not. He did not turn out to be very responsible or good with kids. And I am guessing she could tell this before they ever had sex together, and certainly before they conceived their second and third kids.

But please, let us get the word out to our current crop of high school and college students that marriage matters to your kids' future chances. Date as if you're choosing someone to turn 60 with. Protect your future kids against single parenthood. And if you did not observe how to sustain a great marriage during your childhood, learn how now. Fight the rising inequality among America's children.

June 6, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Wednesday Walk to Breakfast

Almost every weekday morning, I exchange to-do lists and done lists with two Success Team buddies. And almost every Wednesday morning, I break into a grin when I see "Wednesday walk to breakfast."

It's a special tradition for this woman and her husband, a break in their work days, which start very early. Traditions like this strengthen marriages. They help avoid drifting apart during the years when work demands too much of you. They make it harder to ever get tempted into an affair.

Traditions like this also strengthen lives. They add to the meaning in our lives and our satisfaction with the lives we live. This tradition combines exercise, being cared for, eating, and an opportunity for casual or deep conversation. Without a husband, a wife, or a life partner, traditions like this one are difficult to start and to maintain.

Do you and your mate have a tradition like Wednesday Walk to Breakfast? Tell us about it, please. It may be exactly what someone else's marriage (and life) needs.

April 15, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Miracle of Love and Life

This is a guest blog post from Sue Wiygul Martin, whose unfolding story on her new blog should stir anyone who has ever felt depressed, disabled, or bedeviled. It is a celebration of that wonderful moment when we declare our intention to encounter life as a twosome. In Sue's case, it was clearer than at many weddings how big a challenge that can be. Fortunately for all of us, they are still together all these years later.

Two days before our wedding I returned from The Seeing Eye with my first guide dog. Two and a half years before our wedding I was depressed enough to attempt to end my life. The day of our marriage was a miracle.

"Ready?" said my father. He turned his head towards me and I could hear the smile in his voice.

"Ready," I said. Walking with Sadie at heel, I took Daddy's arm and we walked into the living room.

"Who gives this woman to be married to this man," intoned Grady.

"Frances and I do," and Daddy placed my right hand in Jim's and then faded back to sit with my mother.

"Please kneel," said Grady as the ceremony drew to a close. I knelt on the needlepoint kneeler that I had especially chosen. It depicted Jesus performing his first miracle, that of turning water into wine. This was a miracle.

Just two and a half years after I felt that life was not worth living, I was marrying the man I loved and I was poised to move forward into a new life. As I knelt, I discovered that Sadie had been lying quietly with her chin resting on the kneeler the entire time. With my right hand in Jim's left and my left hand resting on Sadie's head, Grady blessed our marriage.

Telling us to turn around and face our friends and family, Grady said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. James T. Martin."

March 22, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Anchor

Ever feel so angry you want to break something or hurt someone? When you're married to someone you love, you can balance your anger against your desire to protect your spouse. It makes it easier to anchor yourself instead of drifting on the currents of your anger.

Ever feel like walking away from your job and your debts rather than do the hard work of making things right again? Being married makes it easier to do it, because you're doing it for someone else who matters, even when the job or the obligations feel like they don't matter. It's an anchor that keeps you from drifting into irresponsibility and its penalties.

Ever dread dealing with other human beings and want to withdraw? When you're married, it's harder to withdraw. You have more relatives, and you have someone who can speak for you when you need a break. Marriage provides the anchor that keeps you working on relating to other people so you do not drift into depression.

Ever tempted to take the easy way out and lie or cheat? Marriage anchors you to your better self, if only to protect your spouse.

Many fear marriage will become a ball and chain. Instead, it becomes an anchor when you need one. Why be married? To be the person you hoped you would become by setting anchor when the winds blow.

February 21, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Meaning It Brings

This is a great story from StoryCorps on what it means to be married.

Link to story on StoryCorps site - No transcript available

February 19, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Intimacy

Sue Wiygul Martin and her guide dog, KismetWe have a guest post today from Sue Wiygul Martin, author of Sue's Blog: The story of a suicide survivor and the rebuilding of a life. Sue is a great writer, and her true story is a great read for us. For her, though, writing it is a journey back through some very emotional events.

Sue's guest post is an email she sent me this morning, relishing one of the true joys of marriage. I reprint it with her permission and a big grin.

So, here's what it's like today. Jim's upstairs painting the bathroom. I'm downstairs writing. I can hear the music Jim is playing but it doesn't bother me. I can also faintly hear the dryer in the laundry room. This is such a comfortable day. It's raining outside, hence our indoor activities. While I usually prefer that it be quiet when I'm writing, Jim's music is oddly comforting. It reminds me that he's there. If I get stuck for a word or phrase I know I have only to go upstairs. I'll tell him what I'm writing about now and he'll help me find the elusive word or phrase.

This is one of the unexpected benefits of my writing. We've remembered and talked about things in a way that we never have before. I've lost track of the times I've started with, "Oh, and something I've never told you..." It's a level of intimacy we've never before experienced.

February 12, 2012

Why Be Married? For the Respect

I just noticed that it's been more than a month since I added to my Why Be Married series. There are so many great reasons. Today, one that's close to my heart, as my first husband died without warning at the very young age of 35.

Respect is a very good reason to be married to the person you love:

  • The respect you receive as a husband or wife if your mate is in a car accident, a fall, or a shooting and someone must be notified of their death or hospitalization
  • The respect you receive as a wife or husband if your mate is ever wrongly accused of a crime and you are in possession of information that could somehow be used against the person with whom you share expenses, future plans, maybe even children
  • The respect you receive from your mate's employer when it is time to honor his or her contributions at work
  • The respect you receive from a prospective employer looking for someone who can handle responsibility and commitment
It's not that no one else deserves the same respect, but that the seriousness of the vow of marriage automatically confers all of this respect on you. It changes you, and it changes others' perceptions of you. Marriage matters.

If you are looking for more reasons to be married, I have turned some of my earlier posts in this series into an eBook. You can download your copy from the eBooks section of my Enjoy Being Married website.

January 2, 2012

Why Be Married? To Fly Higher than the Stars

So many of the folks who have figured out the secret to fame and fortune cannot figure out how to stay married. Olivia Wilde eloped with her Italian prince at age 19, but she was divorced in 2011 after just eight years together. Elizabeth Hurley's second marriage, to Arun Nayar, also ended in 2011. It lasted only four years.

Fred Armisen and Elisabeth Moss lasted only 16 months. They were separated for eight of them. Their divorce was final in May of 2011. Kim Kardashian was ready to give up after just 72 days. Her divorce from Kris Humphries is still pending.

So is Arnold Schwarzenegger's divorce from Maria Shriver. He blew it big time but may yet get a second chance. They have been married for 25 years.

So why am I telling you this? It's because the folks who study what makes us happy say it's close relationships, not money or fame. Money makes a difference only below a household income of $75,000 a year. If the next million or two comes with a failed marriage, it's a net loss.

If you are taking stock as you begin this new year, be sure to give yourself a whole lot of credit for figuring out how to love the guy or gal you married. It's worth a fortune.

December 20, 2011

Why Be Married? For Double the Windfall

The Los Angeles Times reports Vanessa Bryant is likely to gain a "windfall" in her divorce from Kobe Bryant. It could be $75 million in assets plus a hefty monthly living allowance.

Indeed, she is likely to leave the marriage with a whole lot more wealth than she would be likely to have if she had remained unmarried. They live in a community property state and have been married for more than a decade.

The term "windfall" also denotes a bonus that just falls into one's lap. If you are married, you know a tenth anniversary is an accomplishment, not an accident of fate. This was not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme for either of them. Nor is it a gain for either. Each will have access to a lot less than they did together, when they each had double the windfall.

And beware the implication that Vanessa's "windfall" comes at Kobe's expense. This may not be the case. Unmarried men tend to earn less than married men and to blow through more of their wealth. In such a volatile profession, where income depends so much on health, sleep, reputation, and perseverance, he, too, might be in very different circumstances had he not married.

If you are still on the fence about marrying, pay no attention to those who think a divorce settlement is ever a windfall. Shoot for the double windfall and sustain it for as long as you possibly can.

December 8, 2011

Why Be Married? For Another Pair of Eyes

One of my greatest pleasures in life comes from finding solutions by looking at problems from odd angles. Sometimes, though, I get stuck. This is when I find the fact that my husband and I see so many things so differently a real blessing. Whenever I need, I can borrow his eyes.

Doing so usually entails a sharp stab of pain as I realize how wrong my starting perspective looks to him. I feel so alone then, even in this most intimate exchange. I take a few deep breaths and let him show me how things looks to him—usually as completely foreign to me as the Jet Car Meltdown I once attended with a friend who actually found them enjoyable.

And then I see what my husband sees. My ocean-sized challenge looks like a puddle from his vantage point. I can hop right over it from there.

My husband and I disagree a lot, much more than in my first marriage. We see almost everything differently. It is truly a blessing, a source of great strength and occasional deep pleasure. I am so glad to be married.

November 9, 2011

Why Be Married? For the Creativity Boost

Today is the fifth anniversary for a couple of great friends of mine. They are two of the most creative people I know. Each of them provides a boost to the other's creative efforts.

He is Matthew Cornell, a photo-realistic painter with a thing for stormy weather. He won first place in painting at the Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton, MO, this year. That's a big deal prize, in case you're as uninformed about these things as I am. And it's not the first time he's won it.

Lon Brauer Studios wrote on their blog, "Matthew Cornell was pretty spectacular. He had about 10 photo-realistic landscape paintings on the walls of his booth, one on each panel and several of them VERY small (business card size) but with large frames bringing the overall size of the pieces up to about 8″x10″ or so. The scale of the pieces FORCED us to go in and inspect them closely - I couldn't help but be pulled in by them. It was such a dramatic and effective way to show the work. He's definitely got the goods as evidenced by red dots (meaning SALES, for anyone not familiar with the art market) on at least half of the paintings on display."

Want to see what they're talking about? Check out these Matthew Cornell paintings. Or click on any painting on MatthewCornell.com or visit the Matthew Cornell page at EVOKE Gallery.

Matthew has a great wife who cooks him really healthy meals, accompanies him to art shows and gallery openings, and travels with him to find the sites he paints. She encourages him when an economic downturn cuts into his sales or when bad weather keeps everyone away from a gallery opening. Being married makes it easier to be so creative.

But Matthew's wife does not live in his shadow. She is the wildly popular ProNagger, Rachel Z. Cornell. She coaches people struggling to finish their book or dissertation, to launch a new career, to earn a better position, or turn their life around. In just a few minutes a day, she can get you past all sorts of obstacles to creative success.

I have learned so much from her about how to be ready for opportunity, how to increase my creative inspiration, how to write to-do lists that actually encourage me to work, and how to avoid the post-creative-binge slump. Who knew nagging could be a creative outlet? It is for Rachel.

When she and Matthew married, Rachel was a working multimedia artist with a masters in fine arts from the University of Michigan, a pretty remarkable achievement for a woman who is legally blind. Since she decided instead to encourage other artists, writers, and creative folks by nagging them, Matthew has been by her side to support her new artistry.

He's her proofreader, her business advisor, her financial support as she launched her business, her driver, and her ongoing connection to the world of artists and art. Being married makes it so much easier for her to be creative, too.

I congratulate Rachel and Matthew on their strong and healthy marriage and all they have been able to create because of it. Five years of loving each other, encouraging each other, and helping each other through tough times is a wonderful start on a life-long happy marriage that will enrich both their lives, which means ours will be enriched, too.

October 31, 2011

Why Be Married? Because Love Happens All the Time, Everywhere

Yesterday, the New York Times published Mona Simpson's eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs. I just have to reprint a few really important quotes from it today.


Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.


I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. "There's this beautiful woman and she's really smart and she has this dog and I'm going to marry her."


His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.


"Love happens all the time, everywhere." That was the part I failed to understand in my first marriage. I missed out on so much love because I thought I knew what my husband would do if he loved me. If we look for love only some of the time, in certain places (the lawn, the dinner table, the bedroom, the visits to your relatives), we can easily be fooled into believing we are not loved enough.

Love happens, all the time, everywhere. And it makes marriage one of the most wonderful things that happens to us in a lifetime.

October 30, 2011

Why Be Married? For the Hot Water

As you might have heard, the northeastern U.S. got hit with a record-breaking October snowstorm yesterday. We were right in its path.

And even though I usually overprepare for hurricanes, I didn't do much about this freak storm, because I was supposed to pick up my mother at the airport. Instead of preparing the house, I was digging out my car. Online weather reports kept telling me it was raining, not snowing in NJ. They were saying that about where I was, too, so I wasn't all that confident, but still I did very little to prepare for problems and focused instead of being safe on the drive to the airport and back, which included getting myself a lot closer to the airport before dark and hanging out until she landed.

So I was caught by surprise when trees began falling apart in the neighborhood. I got a little worried when the tree I park under lowered its boughs to surround my car in its own private garage with no exit. I went out and shook snow off every branch I could reach with a broom. Then the power went out and we got the call that her flight was cancelled.

We were not ready for the 22 hours that followed, without heat or electricity or—gasp!—the internet.

There we were, surrounded by candles and wearing several layers of clothing, when my husband, a genuine, certified geek, began setting up two piles of big, fat technical manuals on either side of a candle in a jar. He set a cookie cooling rack across the two piles of books (Perl, PHP, Excel, Linux, and the like). Then he set a pot of water on to boil, as if this little, apple-cinnamon-scented candle were a Bunsen burner in a chemistry lab (waving hi here to my science teacher daughter-in-law). To my delight, the water boiled, and we could have all the tea, coffee, and hot cocoa we needed to make it through a very chilly night of indoor camping.

It's times like this that I really love being married.

October 25, 2011

Why Be Married? For a 70th Anniversary

A New Zealand couple, Margaret and Allan Alexander, celebrated their 70 wedding anniversary on October 4th. Both are in their 90s.

They met in 1937 and married in 1941. A month after marrying, Allan went off to fight in WWII. A bomber pilot stationed in England, he was unable to return home for three long years.

It was a huge test for a new marriage, one faced by many couples who married in 1941. Allan flew 27 night missions over Germany in a Stirling bomber. In one five-month period, his squadron lost 39 aircraft, with a crew of 7 in each one. He says he survived by becoming one with his machine.

Back home, Margaret could do nothing but wait for his return and the resumption of their marriage. She said the separation was "dreadful." Finally, he was back. They raised three children together and retired almost 30 years ago.

Thanks to the Kapiti Observer for the Alexanders' story.

Most folks today are marrying too late in life to reach their 70th anniversary. Many are saying marriages ought to be temporary, because 5 or 7 or 12 years with one person is plenty. For me, though, the idea of spending my 90s with someone who has known me and stood by me for seven decades sounds like pure heaven.

October 19, 2011

Why Be Married? So Your Heart Bypass Lasts

Psychologist and relationship researcher Harry Reis says:

"Getting relationships right is something that people ought to pay attention to, because it is significant."

The University of Rochester professor and nursing professor Kathy King asked 225 heart bypass surgery survivors two simple questions a year after surgery:

  1. Are you married?
  2. Do you feel happily married compared to most people?

Pie charts showing 27% live, 73% die in unhappy marriages, 83% live, 17% die in happy onesFifteen years later, they checked to see who was alive and who was not. 83 percent of the women happily married a year after surgery were still alive. Compare this to the unmarried women (only 27% still alive) and the women in unhappy marriages (only 28% still alive).

The outcome for happily married men was the same: 83% were still alive. For them, just being married was a big factor: only 36% of the unmarried men made it 15 years, but 60% of the unhappily married men did.

While the number of people studied is small, the differences are huge, and Harry Reis is an experienced and highly regarded researcher, If your cardiologist offered you a treatment shown to increase your 15-year survival odds from 27% to 83%, or even from 60% to 83%, would you jump on it? Will you jump on turning your marriage around from unhappy to happy?

Source: Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle newspaper

October 9, 2011

Why Be Married? Because Love Matters

Paul McCartney married Nancy Shevel yesterday. It's got me singing All You Need is Love again today, one of the world's (and the Beatles') most touching songs.

"All you need is love. All you need is love, love. Love is all you need."

And what do we need it for? To become our best selves.

"Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It's easy."

"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy."

"All you need is love."

If you are lucky enough to have a husband or wife today, look past your differences. Look past your unmet needs. Look for the love you are offered in an act of service, a small gift, an affirming word, time shared with you, or a gentle touch (thanks for the list, Gary Chapman).

Now amplify it in your heart. Send it back to the source and out into the world.

Congratulations, Paul and Nancy! May you bring all your experience with love to this marriage and enjoy the rest of your lives together in harmony.

Thanks to all the folks participating in this month's Ultimate Blog Challenge for your encouragement in posting on Assume Love daily for the month of October.

August 10, 2011

Why Be Married? Not Alone for Our Own Happiness

Henry and Mary Stillwell and seven of their eight children
After the open-air meeting the procession reformed and marched back to the chapel, which was filled to the door with a crowd that waited impatiently for the service to begin. The chapel was decorated with evergreens, roses, wedding bells and flags. A solid bank of white and green was before the altar. Above, a huge wedding bell of flowers was suspended.

Before the ceremony Mrs. Stillwell addressed the audience and told some of her experiences when first she came to Portland 18 years ago. Then, while the Army band played the wedding march, the bridal couple entered and took seats on the platform amid the applause of the crowd.

Miss Mitchell was in the dress uniform of the Army, with a white silk sash about her waist and shoulders and a white bow on her hair. Aside from these simple distinctions, she was garbed as simply as any other Army woman in the house. Mr. Vanderkelen wore the conventional uniform of the corps.

The flag of the Army and the flag of the United States were carried to the center of the platform before the altar and spread so as to form a background. Before this the couple and Brigadier Stillwell took their stand. Mrs. Stillwell then read the marriage vow of the Salvation Army: "We do solemnly swear that we seek this union not alone for our own happiness, though we hope that through it it may be advanced, but because we believe we will be better fitted to carry on the work of the Salvation Army. We will in no way let this union come between us and the work of the Salvation Army. We will each of us not object to anything the other may desire to do to further the work of God through the Salvation Army."

"If you desire to become husband and wife on these terms," said Brigadier Stillwell, "stand forth."

Miss Mitchell and Mr. Vanderkelen immediately advanced to the altar, and there, through the ceremony of the Salvation Army were made husband and wife. After concluding the ceremony Brigadier Stillwell congratulated the pair, and the members of the Army in the hall shouted their approval of the union. The bride sat on the platform smiling happily, and the groom smiled back with the air of a soul-satisfied man.

- Morning Oregonian, August 6, 1904, as quoted by T. McCracken

You probably do not have my great-grandmother's passion for the work of the Salvation Army. Mary Stillwell had more passion, more fearlessness, and more of a sense of mission than any human being I have ever known.

But you do have a passion, something you do well and yearn to do, something the rest of us need you to do to make this a better world. And you are in danger of failing us. When it becomes difficult to do, your spouse's discomfort is the easiest thing to blame for your decision not to honor your passion, not to be who you were meant to be.

When you share your vows, when you renew them, or even just the next time you stand on the peak of a mountain together surveying the great valley below you, try her promise:

"We do solemnly swear that we seek this union not alone for our own happiness, though we hope that through it it may be advanced, but because we believe we will be better fitted to carry on the work of [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]. We will in no way let this union come between us and the work of the [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]. We will each of us not object to anything the other may desire to do to further the work of [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]."

Not alone for our own happiness but also to be better fitted for our most important work. Like Mary and Henry Stillwell.

That's my grandfather, the baby on his mother's lap. The photo was taken about two years before Mary's business trip to Portland. She had one more child before the trip. She continued to follow her passion after she became a single mother less than a year later, when Henry died of consumption. She did not stop when the daughter standing next to her died a few months later, after their cross-country move and her older her sister's wedding, nor when the son born 18 months after my grandfather died a decade later.

Some report being unhappy because marriage keeps them from doing the things they love. Think they might have it backwards?

July 17, 2011

Why Be Married? To Enjoy Your Lottery Winnings Together

I love this story! Colin and Christine Weir, a Scottish couple with two grown children, now rank just behind David and Victoria Beckham on the UK's Sunday Times Rich List. Just the interest on their recent lottery prize will give them £5 million a year.

According to The Upshot, a Yahoo! News blog, the two have been married for 30 years. They stayed up all night together after discovering they had won too late in the day to alert the lottery. They plan to travel together and to set up their kids with a house and car each.

It's a wonderful thing to have someone to share good fortune with. I hope they have a grand time together.

June 24, 2011

Why Be Married? To Survive Colon Cancer

Colon cancer patients, male and female, have a 14% lower risk of death if they are fortunate enough to be married when they get this awful diagnosis. This finding, from Penn State University's College of Medicine and Brigham Young University, compares patients at the same stage of the disease. Married patients also were likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

Download my free Why Be Married eBook for more research and stories about the many benefits of marriage.

May 13, 2011

Why Be Married? To Be a Great Dad

Fathers matter so much to their children. If you're reading this blog, I know you care a lot about your marriage. You have no idea how delighted this makes me. Loving your children's mother is the number one thing you can do for those kids.

We moms often think we know best about raising children, but dads are important because they have different goals and different approaches to raising kids, not in spite of this.

Most of our presidents have been fathers, too, and the last two have supported the idea that great fathers are a most important part of a great nation. For this reason, we have a nationwide government program to help dads improve their game.

Father's Day is June 19th this year. If you would like to take your fathering up a notch before then, check out the fatherhood.gov website for lots of resources for fathers, step-fathers, new fathers, and experienced fathers ready to help other men be better fathers. Use the map there to find programs for fathers in your area. Don't forget to sign up for email updates, too. Be sure to see the Dad2Dad section for a list of non-government forums for dads, too.

Thanks, Dad, for all you do for your kids and for your country.
Fatherhood.gov website

April 17, 2011

Why Be Married? For the Questions

One of the things I really like about being married is being asked questions that force me to look at things from other angles. My husband excels at coming up with these.

Why Be Married? eBook coverLately, an odd string of unexpected occurrences keeps taking me back to my roots, one of which was city planning, my college major. Not the where do we need some green space sort of planning nor the should this be zoned light industrial or commercial sort of planning, but the what should education, health care, and social services look like to create a city that works for those who need those services and all the rest who pitch in to provide them sort of planning.

I pointed out how stronger marriages appear to yield better students, fewer crimes, less hunger, less child sexual abuse, more independence and better health for the disabled and the aging, and even less energy use. He turned it around and asked how else we might obtain all those if we just let marriage fall by the wayside in favor of temporary cohabitation and easy no-fault divorce for those who feel they chose the wrong partner.

I have no answers yet, and I cannot imagine others would really choose temporary partnerships if they knew how to sustain satisfying permanent relationships, but I have to tell you I am head-over-heels crazy about him for asking such questions. I just had to add this to my list of reasons for being married.

April 7, 2011

Why Be Married? To Share the Load

Last night, I read this article in my alumni news about Lita Nelsen, MIT's Director of Technology Licensing. She and her staff negotiate between faculty members, including Nobel Laureates, and the companies seeking to use their inventions. She graduated MIT ten years before me, when there were even fewer women in her class, only 22, so I know she must be pretty tough-skinned.

It was the last paragraph that made me smile. She is "especially proud of building a successful career while also raising two children...and staying happily married" to MIT grad Don Nelsen. Her secret? She says, "You marry the right guy who shares the load."

Want more reasons to be married? I put 25 of them in a free eBook for you.

March 11, 2011

Lucky Day

On days like this, when so many people fear for their lives and property, when so many have already lost theirs, I feel lucky. My life has its ordinary ups and downs, but I am safe, and I am not on my own. I feel so fortunate to be married on days like this.

We have some minor damage from last night's storm, but we got off very easy. Around us, at least one person has lost his life and others are bracing to lose property to the overflowing Swatara, Brandywine, and Neshaminy creeks and the Delaware, Schuylkill, Raritan, and Passaic rivers.

And we don't need to worry, as many in Yemen, Bahrain, and other middle eastern nations do, that a trip to the store today could result in being teargassed or shot to death. No one is bombing our town or lobbing rockets at us from the shore; that is happening in Libya, not here. No suicide bombers are doing here what they did today in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

None of the 10,000 homes in Christchurch, New Zealand that cannot be rebuilt are ours, and we have never even seen anything like Christchurch's train tracks. Our trains are still running.

We are not bracing for tsunami damage, as those in Hawaii, California, and Oregon are. And we most definitely have not watched our buildings tear apart, collapse, and kill or seen cars, trucks, and other heavy equipment wash up over our farms in a dark soup of salt water and toxic chemicals, like so many in Japan have today. We have not experienced even a 5.0 earthquake. We cannot imagine the terror of an 8.9 earthquake (almost 10,000 times as strong) and 70+ aftershocks of 5.0 and above in just the nine hours since it hit.

This is my lucky day. If you're reading this, it's probably your lucky day, too. And if you have a husband, a wife, or any life partner with whom to face whatever comes tomorrow, you have an extraordinarily lucky life.

December 31, 2010

Why Be Married? For a Lot of Little Things

Just saw this ad from Whitcoulls in New Zealand. It brought a big smile to my face.

I hope it brightens your day, too. Happy New Year!

December 15, 2009

Why Be Married? To Celebrate a 25th Anniversary

Wishing David and Elaine a very, very happy 25th anniversary and the start of the next 25 great years together. Well done, guys! Still have your wedding photo just a few feet from my computer. Can't imagine a better gift to your kids than your love for each other.

December 4, 2009

Why Be Married? For the Tacos

Yesterday afternoon, all I could think of was tacos. Nothing fancy, like our favorite Mexican restaurant serves, nor really spicy, like the wonderful new restaurant we found last month. Just simple, ground-beef tacos in pre-made taco shells, overflowing with shredded lettuce and salsa. But after I bought the ingredients, I had no energy to make them. So I asked my husband, and he said yes, and they were really, really yummy. And one more time I thought how very lucky I am to be married.

September 24, 2009

Why Be Married? It's the World's Best Kind of Drug

I Get That All the Time by Due West is #8 this week on the Great American Country charts with a great answer to the question Why Be Married?

What is it that happily married folks get all the time? The "world's best kind of drug" and "the night of your life." Help vote I Get That All the Time to #1 and spread the message.

September 6, 2009

Why Be Married? To Be Someone's Everything

Milton Rivera Manga started a poll this week in Linked In's Harvard Business Review group. He's received six responses so far, two from women, four from men. It's an international, multi-ethnic group of people in high places.

Milton's question: When you wake up in the morning, what are you grateful for? As usual, four out of four men responding are grateful for a wife.

December 17, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Fans

The San Diego Padres are up for sale, because John and Becky Moores are no longer willing to be married.

Baseball's rules require one controlling owner, and they don't have enough assets to split them without violating this rule, except by selling the team.

According to SignOnSanDiego, "The Moores met in high school history class in Texas and married in 1963. They have four adult children, including Jennifer, a minority owner of the Padres."

December 14, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Rituals of Home

Pull up a chair and visit with a happily married woman who truly appreciates the rituals of sharing a home...

Today's guest blogger is Jennifer Blair. Jennifer is a recovering codependent, perfectionist, and workaholic. Sound like anyone you know? Jennifer can help. She will be speaking, along with Barbara Sher and six others, at the Time for Me retreat on March 27 - 29, 2009, which looks like a wonderful weekend of relaxation and new perspectives. It's at the beautiful Mimslyn Inn in Luray, Virginia. I think you'll enjoy her take on what's really great about marriage.

I'm enjoying a cozy morning at home before driving back up to York, PA around lunchtime.

Last night my husband and I drove by our oldest son's house and popped in to see if they wanted to go with us to a good Vietnamese restaurant nearby where we are all addicted to their #25 - broiled chicken over diced fresh veggies and rice noodles.

Now, my oldest (John) is 6'5", my husband is around 6'3" tall, John's girlfriend, Karin, is around 5'10" or 11, and well, then there's me, at 5'6". We entered the restaurant and took a table off to the right. The owner, who's about 4'11" and who normally greets us by yelling out "NUMBER 25!", came over and fussed at us: "What you doing sitting there? You don't sit there! Sit over here!" To which we all rose, and obediently moved over to the table on the left. And I had to smile. It's good to be home.

This morning I awoke to the smell of Tim Horton's coffee, one of God's gifts to humanity. My husband had the Sunday paper out and was busy chopping onions, green peppers, and mushrooms for an omelet. Nice. He also had a frying pan full of my favorite Maple Bacon, slowly cooking. Ahh, the smells!

Spoiled, I sat down and read the Washington Post and sipped my coffee until he placed a plate filled with a steaming omelet and fragrant bacon in front of me. This is how the strong, silent types say "I missed you. I'm glad you're home." They shove food at you and grunt: "Here."

After breakfast, I watched Larry attempt to wrestle wrapping paper around a present I picked out for myself yesterday. Using about twice as much paper as the box called for, he was alright until he got to the final corner and all the excess awaited. Mumbling and cursing inanimate objects are two of his favorite past times, so this was no exception. He folded the wad of paper into something that looked like an overstuffed diaper, then held it down with one large hand while he cut the scotch tape with his teeth and the other hand. Then he wrapped the long strip of tape around the package, grabbed a black marker and wrote my name on the paper, stood back proudly, and said "There!" There is no mistaking a package wrapped by my husband. They all have their own charm.

I will do my part Christmas morning and act surprised when I am handed this paper ball.

Such are the rituals of old people who forgot to celebrate their 32nd anniversary yesterday.

Or maybe we just did - in our own quiet way.

October 20, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Ride

Today was a clear, autumn day in Pennsylvania. Perfect for a new experience. For the first time, I flew in a small, four-seater plane, a Cessna 172. In the pilot's seat was my husband, now in possession of a pilot's license after 40-some years of looking up at the sky and wishing.

As a child, I had frequented airports and looked up, too, with my parents, who both flew until they had kids. I didn't inherit their longing, but I had a blast seeing this semi-rural county, and the city of Philadelphia in the distance, from the air. I was also excited to share the culmination of a two-year learning journey--I had no idea how much one needs to know to fly today--and the accomplishment of a long held dream with the man I love.

I doubt I would ever have tried this on my own. It's one of the delights of marriage to try new things, especially in the comfort of a loving relationship, and I am so glad I tried this.

October 15, 2008

Why Be Married? To Cover Your Parents' Debts

I found this fascinating description of marriage in Bali today, with yet another reason to be married:

"For Balinese, a marriage in Bali is not just a union of two individual but also a passing of the baton religious and social responsibilities from father to son. Son inherits everything, wealth, debt, religious and social obligations, family temple, and of course obligation to perform cremation ceremony for his parents."

The wife moves into the husband's home and cuts her responsibilities to her family of origin to help him meet his.

No sons to offer in marriage? Offer a daughter. There's a special marriage form in which you adopt your son-in-law, giving him all the rights and responsibilities of a married son. He moves in with your daughter, abandons his responsibilities to his parents.

If that's a problem, because he's an only son, there's a special third form, seen as less desirable than the first two, in which he takes on the responsibilties and rights of both families.

I have not attempted to verify if this is an accurate description, but It's got me thinking once again about our reasons for marrying.

Too often, we focus on what we expect to get from marriage, rather than what we are offering to do. Happiness research has shown satisfaction comes from feeling part of something bigger than ourselves. The happiness of physical and emotional pleasures from a spouse is fleeting and must be renewed constantly, but the satisfaction of feeling part of something meaningful and larger than ourselves is much more long-lasting.

September 9, 2008

Why Be Married? To Become Yourself Fully

Here's a blog post from a woman engaged for the first time in midlife on her surprising discovery.

It's different when you have love in your life. It wasn't the money I was afraid of losing, it was the opportunity to become who I really am. It's not possible to do that when you are afraid all the time.

August 10, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Environment

How green is your marriage? "Divorce breeds environmental degradation," reports tomorrow's business section in The Australian..

[A study on household energy use released by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts in June] found that despite the advent of airconditioners and plasma-screen TVs, the average energy consumption of each Australian household is not expected to change significantly. From 1990 to 2020, household energy demand will increase by 56 per cent, but mainly because the number of Australian households will increase by 61 per cent.

And it's not just electricity:

A four-person family that breaks up will generate around 43 per cent more garbage than they did when they were together. They will use up to 34 per cent more water and up to 70 per cent more energy, depending on the type of new dwellings being occupied.

Have you gone green with marriage education?

August 6, 2008

Why Be Married? For Good Fortune and Happiness

No one need apply for a divorce in many Chinese cities this Friday (8/8/08). It has nothing to do with the Olympics and everything to do with the number of couples applying for marriage registration on this luckiest of days. Triple eights brings a threefold measure of fortune and happiness in China. What better way to start a marriage?

July 30, 2008

Why Be Married? For Protection Against Alzheimer's

More evidence today that being married may protect us against Alzheimer's Disease or a less serious loss of cognitive abilities.

This comes from Krister Hakansson of Sweden in a report to the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease today. The study looks at more than 1,400 people in Finland over a 21-year period from middle-aged to over 65.

Among those who carried a gene associated with Alzheimer's, the ones who were married when the study began fared much better than those who were widowed or divorced then.

July 12, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Family

I've always thought it wonderful that when I married, I married into a family. Both my husbands' families are now part of my extended family. When my son married eight years ago, my family grew again. In a couple of weeks, I'll get to meet his mother-in-law and father-in-law, who live in India, in person for the first time. I can't wait. We share a couple of adorable grandkids who stand at the ready to translate for us.

When people marry expecting they'll divorce if it doesn't work out, I always wonder how they can be so cavalier about the rest of their extended family. Some manage to stay connected to their new family after divorce, but not many. My life would seem so much smaller without my California-Florida-Pennsylvania-Ohio-Texas-Ontario-Saudi Arabia-India family arms. They are a wonderful part of being married.

May 7, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Name

Michael Buday and Diana Bijon wanted to share a last name: hers. On Monday, he finally got his new driver's license with the name Michael Bijon. He sued the State of California--and got a change in the law--when they told him it would cost $350 and require court appearances to get a name change women can make for free.

According to Reuters, only nine other states include this option on the marriage license application.

March 21, 2008

Why Be Married? To Avoid a Stroke

The news from psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University yesterday, according to the Washington Post: Happily married people have lower blood pressure than unhappily married people or singles, even those with a supportive social network.

Better yet, blood pressure dips even lower at night in the happily married, reducing their risk of cardiovascular problems.

February 13, 2008

Why Be Married? To Get into the Guiness Book of World Records

Sydney, Australia set the record at 272 last September, but Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania smashed it this weekend. Which record? The number of married couples simultaneously renewing their wedding vows.

To help celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th birthday and their love for each other, approximately 750 couples gathered in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Music Hall on February 10th for the celebration, which included champagne, wedding cake, photos, and prizes. The new record, after it's verified, will stand at 611, the number of couples present who recited their renewal vows and produced their wedding certificates to be copied for the folks at Guiness.

Ed and Helen Downing of Bellevue had been married the longest. They married on Thanksgiving Day in 1947. Meet them and watch as all those couples renew their love for each other on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's website.

Pittsburgh was my home for five years, but I live in the Philadelphia area now, and I hope the new mayor, Michael Nutter, accepts the challenge to beat Pittsburgh's record. With four and half times as many people in this city, we can easily push the record over 2,500!

February 6, 2008

Why Be Married? It's a Calling

From The Georgian Times this week:

Theoretically Georgia [the country between Turkey and Russia, not the US state] should have a decreasing divorce rate. In the Soviet period getting married was a civil contract, without the deeper relevance of an Orthodox Christian marriage . . . In the Orthodox Christian understanding . . . marriage is a calling, and people marry if they are ‘called’ to do so. Often this calling is not accompanied by any romantic feelings whatever, and can only be confirmed by seeking the counsel of clergymen and other wiser people.

While the divorce rate may be increasing, Georgia has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world, whether you measure it by the annual ratio of divorces to new marriages (6.6%) or the annual number of divorces per 1,000 people (0.4).

November 13, 2007

Why Be Married? For the Company

My cousin mentioned today his surprise (or was it delight?) at how much his wife appreciates doing simple things together, like grocery shopping. She's not alone. Life's just better with someone who loves you along for the ride. A backrub, a shared day of leaf raking, a smooth river stone with "you're the best" painted on it, a love note tucked into a briefcase -- being married brings joy to life.

October 21, 2007

Why Be Married? Because Most Couples Don't Divorce

Here's the skinny on divorce. If you first got married in the 1950s, the odds are better than 2 to 1 you celebrated your 25th wedding anniversary. If you married in the 1960s, the odds are still good you got there: a little better than 1.5 to 1. If you married in the 1970s, the odds are 1.2 to 1, still better than even.

If you recently married, or you're thinking about getting married, your parents might be among those who married in the 1970s. Almost a third of the couples married then were divorced before their 10th anniversary, which means even when you were just a kid, a lot of the adults in your life were splitting up, maybe even your parents.

I can't blame you if you expect your chances of staying together for the long run must be pretty slim now. But there's good news.

The tide turned in 1979. The percentage of first-marriage couples staying together has been climbing since then. For those married in the 1990s, the odds of still being married ten years later were pretty close to what they were for the 1960s couples: for every ten couples who split up, another 35 didn't.

Across the board, divorce is down. The total number of divorces per 1,000 married couples is 25% lower now than it was in 1979. It's back to 1972 levels, lower than 1947 levels. (All statistics from Trends in Marriage Stability by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, October 2007.)

So, why be married? Because most couples don't ever divorce, and a good marriage grows richer with every year.

August 8, 2007

Why Be Married? For the Future

Even though we may vow to remain a couple for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live, most of us can't imagine what lies ahead when we marry. As I and my friends grow older, the benefits of being part of a happily married couple become more and more obvious.

Injuries, cancer, heart attacks, chronic illnesses, the deaths of our parents (or worse, our children) turn our worlds upside down. They make the chore-sharing battles we faced as newlyweds look like kid stuff. These are big-time challenges and SO much easier faced as a shared battle than alone.

May 4, 2007

Why Be Married? For the Kidney

Chip and Cindy Altemos of South Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, have called off the divorce they both thought they wanted. A week after Valentine's Day this year, Cindy gave Chip her kidney.

According to an AP article on CNN.com, Cindy said, "There was no way I could walk around with two kidneys and he had none. It was the right thing to do."

"Chip Altemos said his wife's gesture put an end to his new relationship and to talk of divorce. The two will be married 17 years in October."

March 16, 2007

Why Be Married? For the Shopping

Last night's cold rain kept most sane folks at home, but we needed food. Neither of us felt motivated to do it solo, so Ed and I went to the supermarket together. We shopped efficiently. He kept us moving briskly. I made sure we didn't miss any staples or overlook a buy one get one offer on anything we bought. We each got only half as wet loading the bags into the car and carrying them up the flight of steps in front of our home. When we had it all put away, instead of the self-satisfaction of a chore completed, we felt the bond of us-satisfaction and gave each other a hug.

November 25, 2006

Why Be Married? For Love

I'm reading a history of marriage this week. Over the years, people have married to grow their labor force, to give another clan a reason not to attack them, to hold onto wealth, and many other reasons other than love. Even today in the Indian state my daughter-in-law comes from, love ranks as one of the most inappropriate reasons to marry.

But here in the United States, it's the reason. Few of us live in an extended family overflowing with love or willing to share their wealth or strength. We seek love. We want to give it and we want it reciprocated. As those of us who've been single after 30 know, we'll do the most ridiculous things to find love. The craving for love is in our genes.

On Thanksgiving this year, I gave thanks for the husband who loves me, the daughter-in-law who loves my son, and the father who loved my mother. Since I learned to Assume Love and gave up my "if you loved me" yardsticks (OK, most of them), life seems like one giant sunrise.

And to Mike Fitzpatrick, if you're reading this, when you publicly announced "I love my wife" at Thanksgiving dinner, you made my day.

July 23, 2006

Why Be Married? For the Lows and the Highs

A friend's mother died last week. An only child, he would have been alone in sitting with her as she slipped away and in dealing with her death. But he wasn't. He's married to a wonderful woman who provided help and love during all of it. Being married softens the blow of our low points.

It also enhances our high points. Last week, my husband, Ed, celebrated his birthday by taking his first flying lesson. He's wanted to fly for 40 years or more. He'd crossed many obstacles to reach this starting point. I went along. Shot 75 pictures to capture every bit of it. Watched him learn to do the pre-flight check. Stood there with tears in my eyes as he started up the plane lights and then the propeller and began down the taxiway. Cheered as the wheels left the ground.

My eyes welled up again as he hopped out of the plane and posed by it, all grins, for my final snapshot. When I proposed a celebration at a local restaurant, he agreed in an instant. We smiled at each other through the last bit of dessert. Then we relived the experience with the photos. It had been an unforgettable high point for both of us.

May 19, 2006

Why Be Married? For Mother's Day

I had a great Mother's Day weekend. Mom came for four days. My son and daughter-in-law came for an evening. Five friends joined us for brunch on Sunday, before we headed off to an outdoor festival.

But it was my husband Ed that I noticed most. We have a small, efficient kitchen for one, and we seldom try to cook together. But that's what we did for Sunday brunch. We know what sets each of us off about cooking for others and about sharing that small space, so we scheduled our tasks to avoid those conflicts.

I admired Ed for preparing test batches of three new dishes a couple of days in advance. Two were delicious, and the third didn't get made on Sunday. He alarmed me by insisting on an 8 a.m. dash to the store, but it tickled me to learn he went to get flowers for the table.

We did a great job in the kitchen and had a wonderful time with Mom and friends. Days like this one make me very happy to be married to this man.

Do you have a Mother's Day story about being married? Please use the Comments link to share it.

March 28, 2006

Why Be Married? For Your Kids and Grandkids

Dr. Norval Glenn, sociologist at The University of Texas at Austin, with Elizabeth Marquardt, recently surveyed 1,500 18 to 35 year olds and interviewed another 70 in depth. Half were children of divorce, half were not.

No more than a third had their lives improved by their parents' divorce. Norval reports, "if there is violence or extreme conflict, or if the marriage is so bad it leaves the primary parent, usually the mother, so depressed she can’t parent effectively, the children are usually better off after the parents divorce."

But for the rest, probably more than 2 out of 3, the consequences were negative, both as children and in their own relationships. Children from these "good" divorces had less successful marriages than those from happy marriages, those from divorces that protected them from harm as children, and even those from unhappy marriages.

www.utexas.edu/features/2006/divorce/


February 27, 2006

Why Be Married? It's Like Color TV

Danny Perasa says being married is like color TV instead of black & white. He and his wife Annie tell their love story, one well worth listening to, at the NPR website.

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