wise love words: get out of marriage gridlock

Dr. Corey Allan, a Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of SimpleMarriage.net, has written numerous thought-provoking, in depth, useful, and just damn interesting articles in his career. You can tell in his writing that he truly cares about improving the marriages of his readers. I've been a fan of his for almost two years now. He recently wrote a couple of intriguing articles which are definitely some wise love words to live by.

Check out Corey's post entitled "How to Break Free of Marital Gridlock" and then read his follow-up article called, "Marital Gridlock and Growing Up." Enjoy!

to cohabitate or not to cohabitate? that is the question

Many couples struggle when deciding whether they are going to live together before marriage. Some are pro and others are anti, with the arguments on both sides of the fence having their own strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, most people who are pro-cohabitation will claim that you can never really get to know someone without living with him/her (Brien et al., 2006). Therefore, you should live with your mate before you marry so that the two of you can decide whether your partner is marriage material. In addition, many pro-cohabitation individuals believe that it's more practical to combine your and your partner's income, rent, utilities, and other bills. You can save a lot of money with one mortgage instead of two. Other anti-cohabitation individuals claim that couples who live together before marriage are living in sin. And, that your partner may not ever feel the need to get married if you already live together and share everything. Some also believe that living together is such a huge part of marriage and that it should be saved for that special someone, who you are already married to. With a divorce rate of nearly 50% in the U.S., this is a pretty important matter.

Regardless of your opinion on this issue (we all either have or have heard good and bad examples of both lifestyle choices), cohabitation is a growing trend in our society, with over half of first marriages being preceded by cohabitation at the end of the 20th century (compared to virtually none in the beginning of the century) (Bumpass & Lu, 1998). Furthermore, 1 in 3 single women choose to live with their partners before marriage, compared to 1 in 10 in the 1950s (Witman, 1997). Interestingly, in 1999, cohabitation rates were 8.2% for Mormons, 24% for Protestants, 23.1% for Catholics, 32.5% for Jews, and 44.8% for nonreligious Americans (Mims, 1999).

With all of these people doing it, what could go wrong? Well, according to Bumpass and Sweet (1990), cohabitating couples have an 80%+ chance that their relationships will end (40% will break up before marriage and the other 40% will divorce within 10 years) and have a rate of separation that is five times that of married couples. Also, the proportion of separating or divorcing within 10 years of marriage was 1/3 higher for those who cohabitated than for those who did not. Yowza! Those are pretty bad stats.

BUT WAIT! All is not lost! Many researchers (e.g., Seltzer, 2000), including Bumpass and Sweet, have provided a number of explanations as to what may be driving down these statistics and why many of them seem to always vote in favor of marriage-before-mortgage.
  • AGE & EXPERIENCE: Couples who cohabit tend to be younger and therefore may make careless decisions about who they should and should not live with. Younger couples may be blinded by the love that they feel for one another that they don't think everything through before they sign a lease together. This could definitely cause problems in any relationship, increasing the probability that the relationship or marriage will fail.
  • MONEY: Many people who live together before marriage may be combining resources because one or both of them cannot survive on his or her own income. Individuals who have less economic resources may feel forced to live with a new partner early on in the relationship so that they can put food on their table and pay their bills. Unfortunately, things may not pan out the way you thought they would when you decide to live with someone too early in your relationship. Additionally, a large body of literature has also shown that the risk of divorce is increased when the wife is working outside of the home and especially when the wife is working more hours than her husband (see Kalmijn, Loeve, & Manting, 2007 for a review). So, if you already have a low income that caused you to move in with your partner early on and then to work long hours, your relationship is going to be difficult to maintain.
  • EDUCATION: Many couples who cohabit are less educated than individuals who marry first. Again, critical thinking skills are necessary when making life-changing decisions like moving in together or getting married. The less education one has, the more likely he or she is to have poor critical thinking skills.
  • RELIGIOSITY: Still other cohabitating couples are not very religious, which could make them less willing to marry and also have less conventional ideas about romantic relationships in general.

What does all of this mean? In general, cohabitating doesn't seem like it's a good idea. But, when you take a closer look at the statistics, you can see that there are many groups of people who are pulling the stats towards the "cohabitation is living in sin" side. In my opinion (a young, non-religious, educated individual who cohabitated for 3 years before marrying), as long as you and your partner can have a serious, open, thorough conversation about what life will be like when the two of you finally shack-up (maybe you could talk about some of the things from this post), you rigorously examine all of the reasons you both have for wanting to move in together in the first place, and you honestly discuss what the future holds for your relationship, I think you'll be just fine. If you are not willing to have this in-depth (and sometimes quite difficult) conversation with your partner, then maybe you shouldn't live in sin just yet.

  • Brien, M. J., Lillard, L. E., & Stern, S. N. (2006). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce in a model of match equality. International Economic Review, 47, 451-494.
  • Bumpass, L., & Lu. H-H (1998). Trends in cohabitation and implications for children's family contexts. Unpublished manuscript, Madison, WI: Cener for Demography, University of Wisconsin.
  • Bumpass, L., & Sweet, J. (1990). Changing patterns of remarriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 747-756.
  • Kalmijn, M., Loeve, A., & Manting, D. (2007). Income dynamics in couples and the dissolution of marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 44, 159-179.
  • Seltzer, J. A. (2000). Families formed outside of marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1247-1268.

a joke

This joke was recently sent to me by my Mom.


An Irish woman of advanced age visited her physician to ask his help in reviving her husband’s libido...

“What about trying Viagra? asks the doctor.

“Not a chance,” she said, “He won’t even take an aspirin.”

“Not a problem,” replied the doctor. “Give him an Irish Viagra. It’s when you drop the Viagra tablet into his coffee. He won’t even taste it. Give it a try and call me in a week to let me know how things went.”

It wasn’t a week later that she called the doctor, who directly inquired as to progress.

The poor dear exclaimed, “Oh, faith, bejaysus and begorrah! T’was horrid! Just terrible, doctor!”

“Really? What happened?” asked the doctor.

“Well, I did as you advised and slipped it in his coffee and the effect was almost immediate. He jumped straight up, with a twinkle in his eye, and with his pants a-bulging fiercely! With one swoop of his arm, he sent the cups and tablecloth flying, ripped me clothes to tatters and took me then and there, took me passionately on the tabletop! It was a nightmare, I tell you, an absolute nightmare!”

“Why so terrible?” asked the doctor, “Do you mean the sex your husband provided wasn’t good?"

“Twas the best sex I’ve had in 25 years! But sure as I’m sittin’ here, I’ll never be able to show me face in that Starbucks again!”


Hilarious. Thanks Mom!

the power of the middle ground winner!

After using random.org to determine the winner, one lucky reader was chosen to receive Marty Babits' The Power of the Middle Ground. Drumroll please..........................

Kristi is the official winner of The Power of the Middle Ground!

Congrats Kristi! All you have to do now is send your name and mailing address to jenslovelessons@gmail.com by 5 p.m. on March 24 and then I will send you your book.

Not Kristi? It's okay, there will always be more giveaways!

student love lesson: friends with benefits

Friends with Benefits: Adding FWB to Our Relationship… I Mean Sexual Lingo
Written by : Pooja Kumar Edited by: Jen

The relationship that sounds so caring: friendship. What could be better than a friend? Duh, a friend with benefits of course! The term friends with benefits (FWB) describes couples who are more than friends but less than committed lovers. They’re friends who, now and then, also have sex. They’re not deeply involved and remain free to date other people. But they value the friendship, feel a mutual affection towards one another, and sometimes make love, or simply, have sex. But when a friendship moves from platonic to sexual, even if both partners claim they're not "romantic," doesn't the dynamic of that relationship change? It's a puzzle of gargantuan proportions (or a mistake made time and time again), that's often discussed during girl’s nights in, guy’s nights out, and with anyone besides the friend we’re benefiting with!

The FWB relationship shouldn’t be as surprising or new as the Grapple you’ll find in your local grocery store, unless you’ve been living under the conservative rock, or in this case, boulder. P.S. For those of you who don’t dabble in genetically modified foods, a Grapple is an ordinary apple that’s modified to taste like a grape. Similar to the ordinary apple that’s been around, umm pretty much forever, FWB relationships have been too, and, are semi-similar to ordinary relationships, though those participating will beg and plead to disagree. Some similarities: disagreements between partners about making time for the benefit-er, nondisclosure of personal feelings, and of course, sex. Side note, the first two criteria are signs of an unhealthy relationship; just sayin’!

Who participates in these far from chivalrous acts? The 18 – 24 year old, new professional – overworked and underpaid – stressed – chardonnay consuming – brand name conscious – bar hopping – after hour’s club attendees – the YOUNG ADULT. But as we grow older (and hopefully wiser), will FWB relationships sustain us into adulthood? What about the Tiffany engagement ring (you know you’ve designed your own via their website), the $50,000 wedding (not including the 5-star honeymoon retreat you hope he’s paying for), the mini-van of our generation – a Mercedes-Benz SUV (GPS? Yes please!), and of course, two beautiful children? It’s a pretty general consensus that the above daydream doesn’t come from the FWB relationship some of us are shamelessly participating in. So, why do we do it? This is what researchers M.A. Bisson from Wayne State University and T.R. Levine from Michigan State University set to find out in their study entitled, Negotiating a Friends with Benefits Relationship.

Bisson and Levine asked some pretty probing questions, much more invasive than when you missed curfew and had to answer to mom over chocolate chip pancakes the next morning. Some snippets: How friendly are FWB? How much sex do they have? And what happens after it’s all over? Their method of discovery: surveying 125 undergraduate students from undergraduate communication courses, 65 women and 60 men.

The results of their study were interesting, particularly the fact that more men were involved in FWB relationships then women! Ladies, what are you thinking, IF anything at all? Of the surveyed, 60 percent overall were involved in FWB relationships, (40 men, 35 women) (Bisson & Levine, 2009). Bisson and Levine weren’t hesitant to ask how many of those participants were involved in an FWB relationship currently and 1/3 revealed they were in one at the time of the survey.

Moving on, what becomes of these FWB partnerships? Of the total sample, almost two-thirds (62 percent) said they thought based on their experiences that men and women can remain "just friends" while being FWB (Bisson & Levine, 2009). The rest said it was impossible, and that FWB participants must decide (and surveyors said that this must happen quickly…finally some reasonable thinking) to be friends without sex, or become official can’t live without each other – you better not cheat – oh I love you sooo much - LOVERS. FWB veterans felt more optimistic: 81 percent (34 men, 26 women) said it was quite possible to be happily FWB FOREVER (Bisson & Levine, 2009). Really, like forever ever? In a country where approximately 50 percent of marriages fail yearly, how can you be deluded enough to think that FWB is the winning ticket to forever? Why should marriage, common law or otherwise, even exist?

So, how much sex are FWB having? Bisson and Levine found that sex isn’t as frequent when the partners share little to no commitment to each other. Again, this shouldn’t be surprising. Simply because, sex is generally a way for those who love each other to express those feelings in a physically intimate way. Deterrents such as work or busy schedules can all be worked out between couples, generally a source of conflict with FWB, because the couples WANT it more and choose to MAKE it work. FWB pairs reported various sexual frequencies: only once (19 percent), occasionally (52 percent), and frequently (29 percent) (Bisson & Levine, 2009).

What happens to the FWB relationship after all the fun is had? First, let’s preface, according to Bisson and Levine, most FWB couples were friends for an average of 14 months. Of these, some maintained the FWB status as a long-term relationship, approximately 28 percent (Bisson & Levine, 2009). However, not all were able to do so, emotional attachment developing – DING! Most FWB relationships changed, relatively close to six months after they began (Bisson & Levine, 2009). Bisson and Levine found that many of these participants stayed true to the “friends” part but smartly chose to stop with the benefits (approximately 36 percent). And surprise, surprise, only 10 percent of those surveys ended up together romantically (Bisson & Levine, 2009). However, tragedy lay for some, 26 percent, as both the friendship and the sex came to a screeching halt (Bisson & Levine, 2009). The killing two birds with one stone adage seems a little “I told you so” at this point, so I’ll refrain….

I guess the burning question in some minds is why do some of us participate in FWB relationships? Like anything else, there is an upside. According to Bisson and Levine, sex without commitment topping the list at 74 percent, having an available sex partner, having sex with some you know, like and trust as opposed to a random hookup, and having some semblance of a relationship while remaining officially single, only 13 percent, top the list of advantages. However, like anything else, there’s a pretty steep downside as well. The biggest disadvantage and one that was felt by 81% of those surveyed, was developing romantic feelings (Bisson & Levine, 2009). Some others included the risk of losing the friendship upon which FWB commenced on, a lack of commitment, and feeling badly about the non-romantic couple sex.

Why is FWB relevant to you, especially if you’re not a participant? Simply because understanding this concept aids in understanding the relationship spectra that our generation is facing. To some, FWB is usually a functional arrangement, serving a definite sexual need between two consenting adults. But we cannot dictate our emotions, or theirs, when we are dealing with complex human beings. For friends with benefits to really work it has to have clear guidelines or rules between the couple. Despite knowing the “rules” when we get busy with our friend, the rules often get broken, along with a few hearts. FWB is a way for this and future generations to experiment, try something with one person, try this thing with another person. In a time when everything can be next day and ordered and put on credit and paid for, love to me is promise, all promise, very little realization. I guess a lot of us see love, relationships, and intimacy as a big gamble, we’re just not ready to put our hearts on the line. But being alone is a battle too difficult to face, so we engage in the FWB compromise.


  • Bisson, M. A., & Levine, T. R. (2009). Negotating a friends with benefits relationship. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 66 - 73.

divorce sucks book winner!

After using random.org to determine the winner, one lucky reader was chosen to receive Mary Jo Eustace's book Divorce Sucks! Drumroll please..........................

Alda is the official winner of Divorce Sucks!

Congrats Alda! All you have to do now is send your name and mailing address to jenslovelessons@gmail.com by 5 p.m. on March 17 and then I will send you your book.

Not Alda? It's okay, there will always be more giveaways!

giveaway: the power of the middle ground book!

The Power of the Middle Ground
A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship
By Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD
Published by Prometheus Books

The Power of the Middle Ground explains as no other self-help book does why and how the inherent difficulties entailed in the change process itself are daunting. Author Marty Babits, a seasoned couples therapist and educator, explains strategies and provides tips for grappling successfully with the challenges that change presents. This key aspect of working through relationship difficulties has, until now, been given short shrift in the popular and academic literature. Despite the central place of divorce in our culture, he teaches couples how to achieve a much greater impact in solving difficult interpersonal problems than is often thought possible.

Babits helps couples envision a place that brings their potential for love and compassion alive. This place, which neither partner can dominate and in which each learns to approach problems productively, he calls the middle ground. Through a series of exercises, he equips couples to appreciate and actualize what is positive and possible in their relationship.

This encouraging, yet realistic book empowers partners to negotiate differences, emphasize the positive, see issues from each other's point of view, defuse anger, and, as a result, rekindle warmth and love.

Want to know more?
  • Author: Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD (New York, NY), author of The Power of the Middle Ground: A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship, is a psychotherapist in private practice and a member of the Executive Supervisory Committee of FACTS (the Family and Couples Treatment Service) of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.
  • Website: www.PowerOfTheMiddleGround.com
  • Reviews: (1) "His realistic directions on reaching the middle ground include seeing issues from the other's point of view, emphasizing the positive, and developing patience . . . Recommended." -Library Journal (2) "The Power of the Middle Ground is an easy to read self–help book with many clinical vignettes and couple-strengthening exercises. Too often self-help books are terrific at describing a problem, only to give scant suggestions for improving the situations. Mr. Babits has accomplished the art of describing what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it at the same time . . . " -Paula F. Eagle, M.D. ; Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; Faculty, Columbia Psychoanalytic Center for Training and Research; Private Practice, New York City. (3) "The Middle Ground is where the heart of a relationship's aliveness, its resilience, is located... The middle-ground is a potential that exists within love's province, in which the hard-edged realities of keeping a contemporary relationship vital, can be found." -From the Preface, by Ron Taffel, Ph.D.; Executive Director of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy, NYC; Author of Parenting by Heart and Breaking Through to Teens. (4) "Writing this wonderful book, Marty Babits drew on thousands of hours of experience as a professional couple and family therapist -- and it shows. Always a voice for compassion . . . His book is a joyful tribute to possibility." -Elizabeth Ann Danto, Ph.D.; Author of, Freud's Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice; Associate Professor of Social Work, Hunter College, City University of New York. (5) "This book is a welcome addition to the self-help couples literature. It empowers couples to find creative ways to heal and develop relationship . . . A great contribution." -Suzanne Iasenza, Ph.D.; Psychotherapist/Sex Therapist/; Private Practice.

Want to win? Here's how to enter:
  1. Become a fan of Jen's Love Lessons on Facebook (Already a fan? Great! Not a member of Facebook? Skip to step #3.)
  2. Find the link to THIS GIVEAWAY on my Facebook fan page and make a comment.
  3. Go back to this giveaway on Jen's Love Lessons and make another comment (anything will do).

All entries (comments on Facebook and on Jen's Love Lessons) will be combined based on time of entry (so technically, if you comment on both, you're increasing your odds of winning). Then, the winner will be chosen using random.org.

You have until SUNDAY March 21, 2010 @ 5:00 p.m. EST to enter. The winner will be posted on the Jen's Love Lessons homepage that night. The winner will then have until 5:00 p.m. EST on March 24 to email me at jenslovelessons@gmail.com with their contact information.

*All entries received after the cutoff time will be deleted prior to choosing a winner.

Good Luck!
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