As a relationship scientist, I frequently consider research findings when making personal decisions in my life. The most recent personal decision I’ve made was to move in with The Consultant, a man I have been dating for some time now. Unfortunately, most of the research out there about cohabiting doesn’t quite map onto my particular situation. Although some research findings do seem to apply to us, such as cohabiters being more liberal, less religious, and more egalitarian compared to their married peers,1 other findings do not apply so clearly.
Entries in divorce (34)
Commutes. They’re dull; they’re stressful. They’re even hilariously frustrating, if you’re Ron Livingston in the movie Office Space. But could a commute hurt your relationship?
A 10-year study from Sweden suggests that the answer is yes.1 More than two million married or cohabiting Swedes (from an annually updated database containing the entire Swedish population) were included in this study on long-distance commuting. In the study, a “long-distance commute” was defined as a commute spanning 30 kilometers (approximately 18.6 miles) or more, which in Sweden translates to a one-way commute lasting approximately 45 minutes by car. (The 30-kilometer distance was measured in a straight line, so the actual distances traveled were greater.) The researcher found that couples who had lengthy commutes had a 40% higher risk of separation, compared with non-commuting couples.
I study romantic relationships. I’m also engaged. So, of course, I’ve given a tremendous amount of thought as to what it really means for my partner and I to marry one another. Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don’t really know why they’re so meaningful. Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share for each other. But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. I suspect that it’s really these vows – the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family – that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.
What do divorce and the flu have in common? Obviously, both of them can be pretty unpleasant. But another thing they have in common is that both might be contagious. A new study indicates that being "exposed" to others' divorces can increase your likelihood of divorce by 33%. Click more to read about this study at TheAtlanticWire.com.
Scientific American recently reviewed research by Dr. John Gottman and colleagues within the context of Kim Kardashian and her short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries. Gottman's research team can predict divorce with great accuracy by carefully watching short video clips of couples discussing areas of conflict. If given the opportunity, would they have seen the markers of Kim and Kris' marital demise? See more at Scientific American here.
When I told my ex-husband that I wanted a divorce, I knew that it would not be easy to overcome the legal and logistical hurdles that would inevitably follow. But I was eager to tend to my emotional bruises and move on to whatever else life had to offer. My ex-husband, on the other hand, was not ready to let our relationship—or me—disappear quietly into the night. Months after I filed the paperwork and I had moved across town into a small, one-bedroom apartment, he continued to pressure me to give our relationship another chance. He sent dozens of texts and emails declaring his undying love. I awoke one morning to him banging on my door, asking me to comfort him. He left a (gaudy) handpicked bouquet of flowers at my office. Most recently, I opened my front door and literally stumbled over a container full of leftover food and a $500 winning lottery ticket (okay, so I kept the lottery ticket). These events took place so frequently that, for a while, I was genuinely scared to leave my apartment, lest I run into him or another “gift” that he left for me.
My situation is not unique. Unwanted pursuit behaviors—which include relatively innocuous behaviors, such as gift-giving or exaggerated displays of affection, as well as more serious types of intrusions, such as stalking or threats of physical violence—occur relatively frequently following relationship breakups.
I have not been able to see The Consultant much the last few weeks due to his travel schedule. When he is in town, our ability to find time to spend together has been further complicated by the fact that we both have kids. Faced with the possibility of not seeing each other at all over the long Thanksgiving weekend because of our childcare obligations, I proposed “running into each other” at a local museum. He was looking for something to do with his tween girls anyway, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Let’s play a quick game. What do all of these celebrity couples have in common?: Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries; Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony; Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher; Heidi Klum and Seal; Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. If you said divorced, you’d be correct (we would have also accepted “lack of talent” as a correct answer). These couples are just a few among the many who had a marriage that didn’t survive, and some, like Kim and Kris, had barely left the wedding chapel by the time they were divorced! (Clearly, they didn’t think this one through before having a multi-million dollar wedding!).
High conflict with an ex-husband spills over negatively onto women’s relationships with their children. In a recent survey of a random sample of 1,239 divorced mothers, conflict with an ex-husband was associated with increased feelings of parental stress -- the greater the conflict, the more mothers felt their children were challenging to deal with (acting out, tantrums, etc.). This stress reduced the quality of mother-child interactions. The researchers proposed that mediated communication between ex-spouses, such as with a lawyer or psychologist, could help alleviate some of this conflict and improve family relations.
Hakvoort, E. M., Bos, H. M. W., Van Balen, F., & Hermanns, J. M. A. (2012). Spillover between mothers’ postdivorce relationships: The mediating role of parenting stress. Personal Relationships, 19, 247-254.
image source: parentdish.co.uk
Many people believe that living together before marriage is a good idea because it helps couples test out whether they are a good fit and ready for marriage. Is he too messy? Does he leave the toilet seat open? Is her mother too involved? Is she a neat-freak? Can we manage finances well enough together? Many think that cohabiting will teach us something important about each other that we need to know before tying the knot. It’s counterintuitive then that some research indicates the living together before marriage, particularly before engagement, is associated with higher risks for divorce.
Having been divorced more than once, I have noticed a sad, but unfortunate by-product: Losing friends. My ex-husband and I had many mutual friends that we met through some parent networking groups; we hosted play dates and attended children’s birthday parties together. Our shared participation was essential for my adjustment to motherhood. The collateral damage I did not anticipate after the divorce was losing some of these friends.
Now that Emily has chosen Jef over Arie in the most recent Bachelorette, the question is whether their relationship will make it to the altar and beyond. After fifteen bachelors and eight bachelorettes, so far there has only been one successful marriage (Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter). Although three other couples, including Jef and Emily, are currently engaged, and one bachelor married the runner-up instead of the winner, most of the bachelors and bachelorettes actually found love elsewhere. Why might this series, which is supposed to help people find love, fail so miserably at producing long-term relationships?
When to get married is one of the most debated topics among my group of friends. It is becoming more apparent that most do not intend to tie the knot until they are in their late twenties or thirties, if at all. Indeed, the desire to postpone marriage is on par with the rising trend in the age of first marriage in the United States. In 2011, the average age of marriage for men and women is 28.7 and 26.5 respectively compared to 24.7 (men) and 22 (women) in 1980 (read more about age differences here). However, regardless of the reasons behind the delay in marriage, research suggests this may not be a wise move.
Let’s face it: Many marriages end. Divorce occurs for a variety of reasons, but regardless of the cause, ex-partners often need to negotiate with one another during the divorce process. For example, if there are kids in the picture, how is custody resolved? How does the couple divide up their friends? Who gets to keep the reality TV show that helped pay the bills?
Recently, people in the mainstream media have been talking about how cohabitation (living with a partner out of wedlock) impacts marriage, beginning with a New York Times article, continuing on Slate.com (here and here) and The Daily Beast. The question at hand concerns the so-called “cohabitation effect,” or the idea that the mere act of living together causes less marriage satisfaction later on and increases the likelihood that those marriages will end in divorce.
Being a scientist, I draw many research ideas from my personal life and, admittedly, my personal life provides much to draw from! I have been married and divorced more than once, have traveled the world and tried out many different types of relationships, and I now find myself a single mother of a toddler and preschool aged boy. I also live with my newly retired mom. Talk about being sandwiched. After taking a break from any relationship that remotely smacked of romance for some time now, I have decided to re-enter the dating world.
This column will document my adventures. I know my personal analysis will generate more questions than I initially pose, but that is the scientific process! Putting my personal experiences out there for public scrutiny is a little intimidating for me. But, if my successes, failures, and embarrassing experiences can be used as a way to teach and generate more research questions about relationship science, or at the very least get you to laugh with or at me, I am willing to be the sacrificial lamb. So, here goes.
A few months ago I wrote about research conducted in my lab on predicting the stability (i.e., persistence vs. breakup) of dating relationships. That article received a lot of traffic, but some readers have asked if similar research has been done on predicting whether a marriage will continue or not. Fortunately, researchers have tackled this question as well. Here are five factors that predict staying married versus getting divorced.
Ever since the invention of pornography, politicians and the public alike have expressed concerns about the potential negative effects that porn has on those who view it. In particular, many people worry that exposure to porn is destructive to people’s romantic and sexual relationships. This concern was seemingly validated by a recent study reporting that Playboy magazine was the “cause” of up to 25% of all divorces that occurred in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. Could this really be the case? Is exposure to porn destroying our love lives?
Whether or not the allegations of cheating are true, there was definitely another woman in Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian’s marriage: Khloe Kardashian. Khloe was not Kris’s mistress, but Kris constantly compared Kim to Khloe. Khloe, who is married to NBA star Lamar Odom, has given up aspects of her career to spend more time with her husband, especially when they were still newlyweds. Kris has said that it is great that Kim has Khloe as a role model in her life and has told Kim that she should be more like Khloe, suggesting that Kris sees Khloe as a better “NBA wife” than Kim.