To Prenup or Not-To-Prenup

Prenuptial agreements are a decision that many couples have to make prior to their nuptials.  There's controversy over the contract and often hurt feelings. How should you approach your partner? Should you get one? Why? What's in it? Are a few of the questions people often ask. 

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Love is Not Enough

People should get married for love, right?!  This is a fact to many and most do, but some don’t.  Those that don’t won’t admit they’re marrying for other reasons.  They don’t admit it, because people are appalled to think of someone getting married for financial stability, social status, companionship, to have children, or to feel like they’ve met a life milestone.  It’s seems wrong to us…somehow false and using. 

Instead, we look for love and when we find it we assume it means that we should be with that person for the rest of our life.  Love is curious that way.  Even if the person we love is a bad match, we still think they’re “the one.”  The problem is, ultimately our marriage will crumble and the effort it takes to carry on is unimaginable when we marry a bad match.  Most people stay in love with their spouse and stay married, but live in misery.  

I’ve talked with countless married men and women who wait to leave their marriage.  They say, “nothing really bad has happened” as if to indicate that they must have a solid reason to leave.  Like you shouldn’t quit a marriage unless infidelity, abuse, or addiction are present?  There are countless reasons to leave a marriage other than these major ones. 

However, this blog entry isn’t about when people should stay married or get divorced.  The focus of this one is on determining who you should marry. 

Love isn’t enough.  Marriage takes more than love.  Similarly, choosing a mate based on the factors I mentioned in the first paragraph aren’t enough either.  The best way to fireproof your marriage and make it AMAZING…is to start with the selection process.  Very people are lucky enough to find the below in one person if they don’t know it’s important.  You don’t need to “look” for this, but rather just be mindful of it and make sure it’s there before you commit legally.

  1. Soulful Connection:  This is not a soul mate (aka “the one” you’re destined to marry).  What this refers to is the deep bond that is emotional, physical, and intellectual.  You just fit together.  You don’t need to establish a physical rhythm, because it’s already there.  Your hand feels right in theirs.  This kind of connection is felt immediately and is so intrusive that you’re overwhelmed.  There is an immediate ease and flow of conversation and doing nothing with them feels like everything.  Soulful connection goes way beyond love.  When you feel it for someone and part…you’re devastated. 
  2. Deep Friendship:  We all have a best friend.  This best friend is someone with whom we are honest and authentic.  We are real in our opinion and advice.  We are silly and playful.  We are open and vulnerable, because we not they won’t try to hurt us.  We won’t try to injure them either.  We don’t hit them below the belt or use something against them.  We allow them to make mistakes and also to recover and grow from those experiences.  If they do something wrong we don’t attack their character.  We don’t blame or shame them.  We don’t abandon them.  You can have this type of deep friendship with your romantic partner. 
  3. Compatibility:  You should have some shared interests and do things together other than just the mundane tasks of living.  However, compatibility doesn’t just mean that you share these things.  It’s bigger than that.  It means your likes, dislikes, idiosyncrasies, dreams, goals, and pet peeves whether different or similar seem to mesh.  They are compatible.  Each person is different and imperfect, but even so they can “work” with another.  
  4. Passion:  You champion your partner’s interests and desires.  You’re their biggest cheerleader and supporter.  You want them to be happy and succeed.  You help them make their dreams come true.  Your passion for them and your passion for their passion is your priority.
  5. Sexual Appetite:  Physical excitement is hugely important for sustained connection.  There’s a period of time where you will need to learn each other’s body, but doing so only makes it better.  This sexual appetite for your partner is insatiable.  You want to have sex with them even when you don’t have time for it. You crave that type and level of intimacy with them.  Pleasuring them makes it even better.  And… the sex should be at best amazing and at worst just good.  Never unfulfilling.  Having sex any less than a minimum of several times a week is unthinkable. 

When these five variables are present in a union… having a great relationship is possible.  Not just a good one, a great one.  They have to exist fully on both sides of the relationship.  If just one is missing… then greatness will also be absent. 

Life gets in the way of every relationship.  This will have less of an impact if you start strong.  

So, be mindful.  Choose wisely. If, and when, you find them make sure to “attend” to your relationship every day.  Deal with conflicts, because you will disagree at times.  Continue to date and travel as a couple even when you have children.  Your life can’t be only about the kids and family.  See the hardships as potential bonding moments.  

Select wisely and start strong!!!!

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

A Wedding in the Eye of the Divorcee

The dissolution of marriage is often the only choice.  It's not an easy one and it's not one that feels good.  It's just the one that must be made for self-preservation.  It takes a large toll on a person.  The toll it takes on a person is smaller than the one that results from enduring countless more years in an unsupportable marriage.  Still, the toll is great. 

Sadness and loneliness is part of the toll, because an important connection was severed.  Your spouse is no longer your spouse.  The connection is gone.  And connection fulfills the need for love and belonging.  

Depending on the recency of your divorce seeing others embracing their relationship will have an affect.  No greater place to witness this connection is to attend a wedding.  Weddings are a time of enjoyment.  The couple is congratulated on their union.  Family and friends bear witness to this life event and it's a time of celebration. 

There's a myriad of possible reactions a divorcee will experience when bearing witness to such a celebratory experience.  Many divorcees don't prefer to attend weddings due to the discomfort it can cause.  Overall, many divorcees will feel a combination of the following:

  • Anxiety and discomfort at least before the wedding begins.
  • Intense happiness for the married couple.
  • Memories/images of their own wedding and ex-spouse.
  • Feelings of sadness and loss...even anger.
  • Thoughts about divorce rates and will this couple make it.
  • Being thankful for the honor of attending such an occasion.
  • Feelings of hope and love.
  • Feeling like you need a drink.

The more weddings a divorcee attends the less discomfort they will feel.  Whatever you experience in response to attending a wedding is completely natural.  Don't beat yourself up because of your reaction.  Instead use self-compassion and live your values. 

"I will release the old, embrace the new, and grow a vision of hope."
~ Shiv Adhikari

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

Divorce Equality

In December 2000, The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same sex marriage and allow same sex couples to adopt children. The Dutch parliament passed this bill by a 3 to 1 margin. Iceland was the first country to elect Johanna Sigurdardottir, an openly gay Prime Minister, in 2009. Iceland also unanimously passed a measure in June 2010 legalizing same sex marriage. On May 22, 2015 Ireland legalized same sex marriages by popular (62%) vote in this predominantly Catholic state only 22 years after homosexuality had been decriminalized.  Currently, nearly 24 countries have legalized same sex marriage mostly in Europe and the Americas plus South Africa and New Zealand. 

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of The United States of America ruled that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under law throughout the country... and limiting marriage to only heterosexual couples violates this constitutional right. This ruling came 11 years after same sex marriage was first legalized in the US by Massachusetts. At the time of this Supreme Court ruling, 14 US states had imposed bans on same sex marriage including: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. 

At the time of this ruling, nearly 2/3 of married same sex couples were lesbians. Approximately 1% of same sex couples divorce each year as opposed to 2% of heterosexual couples.  In addition, a smaller percentage of same sex couples register to marry than do heterosexual couples.  In Massachusetts in 2011, a poll by UCLA's William's Institute identified that 68% of same sex couples were in marriages rather than in domestic partnerships as opposed to 91% of heterosexuals being married over domestic partnerships. Overall, same sex divorce rates are lower than rates for heterosexual couples, as long-term stable same sex couples have been more likely to pursue marriage than same sex couples in new unions. Heterosexual couples seem to pursue marriage regardless of relationship stability. However, with marriage equality it is likely that this will also bring divorce equality.  At the very least, there will be a spike in same sex divorce rates as there is likely to be a spike in same sex marriages. 

The research shows that when people rush into marriage they soon file for divorce. A post-ruling same sex marriage boom, followed by a leveling out period, has been noted in states that have previously legalized same sex marriage. It's natural for people to rush to exercise a right that has been unconstitutionally withheld for generations. Unfortunately, this will increase divorce rates at least in the short-run as hastiness is likely to be the root cause. 

Marriage is the most important decision you will ever make in your life. You are choosing a partner to not only bear witness to your life, but to also take part in it. They will be a part of every important decisions made.. and the unimportant ones. They will be the person to nurse you when you are ill. They will be your sexual companion for the rest of your life. They will be the parent of your children and you will need to be able to co-parent with them. They will be involved in making and spending your joint income. Basically, they will greatly influence your quality of your life and happiness for the better or for the worse. This is not a decision to make in haste, but one to consider over time, personal experience, and evaluation of compatibility for ALL couples. 

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

The Post-Divorce Personas

Generally, divorce isn't a quick and easy process.  It is often the last solution to an unhappy marriage.  So, it's not surprising that people come out of it struggling.  They struggled through their marriage and then made it through the divorce.  Usually, people aren't themselves for at least 6 months following the divorce.  Actually, I would say that most people following a divorce won't feel like themselves for about a year regardless of whether they take on one of these extreme personas.  The three typical post-divorce extreme personas are: 

  • The "Promiscuous" One: This type of persona is just interested in sex.  They may have many sex partners at once or serial sex partners.  They may even like the emotional closeness of having a partner, but they are very non-committal ...not wanting to take the next step toward an actual relationship. 
  • The"Never Again" Kind: This persona is very angry.  And when I say very angry, I mean very very very angry.  This persona blames their ex-spouse for everything.  They feel they've been done wrong and never want to get married again.  Marriage is seen as a death sentence to be avoided at all cost.  They will also likely not date anyone for many years following their divorce. 
  • The "Call for a Rewind" Type: This particular persona isn't single for long.  After the divorce, they are immediately dating someone.  They are very quickly in a committed monogamous relationship.  They often end up marrying the first person they dated seriously post-divorce.

The trick is not to go into the extreme.  Balance and moderation is the key to healing.  If you find yourself falling into the extreme: (1) try to identify what need is being met by this persona; (2) re-examine your values; (3) identify what behaviors represent living those values; and (4) start doing those behaviors.  Don't beat yourself up, because you went into the extreme.  Give yourself a break and take the steps to pull yourself out of the downward spiral! 

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA