October 7, 2015

What I've Been Up To

I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be on the blog lately. Life has been busy!

Some of my time has been spent filling in for other teachers. Subbing is typically a last-minute request, so other plans get pushed aside. I also took over a class from someone who went on a two-week vacation. So, in addition to showing up and following a lesson plan, I became responsible for making the lesson plans, creating and grading the tests, and reading/correcting all assignments. Teaching is one of those jobs that doesn't end with the workday. Few students appreciate the fact that I have more homework than they do.

Related to teaching, I did have time for a blog post over at my other (and much neglected) blog, Touring the Valley. Thirty years ago, the phrase "school shooting" would probably have sounded like a nonsense phrase. Now, tragically, it is a thing. I wrote a little bit about my thoughts regarding guns on campus.

On a happier note, I've been doing even more writing. Finishing the book version of For Better - Or What? took quite a bit of time, but it was a great experience. Not only has this been a lot of fun, it has stimulated my creativity so much that I now have ideas for another two or three books. I am not going to run out of things to do any time soon.


September 28, 2015

For Better - Or What? -- The Book!

I'm very pleased to announce that my book, "For Better - Or What?" has been released and is now available on Amazon.

The best articles from the past three years have been carefully selected, organized thematically, and adapted to book format.

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this project. I would never have written this had it not been for my husband. (Naturally, the book is dedicated to him.) I appreciate the encouragement from friends and colleagues who took the time to share their comments with me, and from my fellow bloggers, who have always been supportive and inspiring.

"For Better - Or What" is all about relationships - how good relationships work, and how to approach problems, disagreements and issues to resolve them in a positive way that will nurture the relationship and leave both parties better and stronger. Her section on how to avoid infidelity is especially good, with the most realistic, pointed and useful advice I've seen on the subject. If you are looking to strengthen your current relationship, get tips on future relationships, or just want a good read, "For Better - Or What" is for you.
-- Susie Pichotta, Port Angeles, Washington


August 15, 2015

Use Your Words

I recently came across an article that used the word hypergamy. I had no idea what it meant (until I looked it up, of course). That led me to other interesting words and got me started on a collection of terms related to marriage and other personal relationships. I've listed some of them here. A few of these were new to me; perhaps you'll find something new, too.

Marriage is a socially or legally recognized contract between spouses which establishes the rights and obligations they have with each other and any children they may produce. Marriage is considered a "cultural universal" because some kind of marriage custom or institution exists in all cultures worldwide.

Matrimony and wedlock are synonyms for marriage.

A wedding is a ceremony in which people are united in marriage.

Courtship refers to attention paid to someone (usually a woman) with the intention of proposing marriage.

An engagement or betrothal is a promise to marry. Engagement and betrothal also refer to the period of time between the marriage proposal and the wedding.

A fianc‌é (male) or fianc‌ée (female) is a person who is engaged to be married. Recently, the word has sometimes been abused to refer to a person with whom one cohabits and has children, but without any plan to marry.

A marriage license is a document issued by a governing agency which grants permission for a couple to marry. Receiving a license does not mean that the couple is married. They still must undergo a ceremony (before the license expires) and register the marriage. Requirements and regulations vary by jurisdiction.

To consummate a marriage is to make it complete by engaging in sexual intercourse.

A widow (female) or widower (male) is a person whose spouse has died.

Hypergamy, commonly referred to as "marrying up", is the practice of marrying someone who has greater wealth or higher social status than oneself. Hypogamy refers to marrying someone of lower status.

A morganatic marriage is a marriage between a man of high rank (typically a member of a royal family) and a woman who is a commoner, in which the wife and any children produced by the marriage are not allowed to inherit the husband's title and privileges.

Endogamy is the practice of allowing marriage only within a particular ethnic or social group. Exogamy is the practice of allowing marriage only outside of a particular group.

A spouse is a married person, either a husband or wife. The terms bride and groom (or bridegroom) are typically used for those who are very newly married or in the process of getting married.

Common-law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between a couple who has not undergone a formal ceremony or registration of the marriage. Once the norm in Western society, common-law marriage is now rare in the U.S., and is recognized by only a handful of states. Contrary to popular misconceptions, simply living together does not create a common-law marriage. Certain specific conditions must be met. Once properly established, a common-law marriage has all the same rights and obligations as a formal marriage, and can be terminated only by divorce or death.

To elope is to run off and get married suddenly and/or secretly.

Cohabitation means living together for an extended period of time as if married. Cohabitation is sometimes referred to as trial marriage when a couple decides to live together for the purpose of determining compatibility prior to marriage.

In-laws are the relatives of one's spouse, or the spouses of one's siblings or children. For example, your spouse's mother is your mother-in-law. Your son's wife is your daughter-in-law. Your sister's husband is your brother-in-law. Your wife's brother is also your brother-in-law.

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.

Annulment is a legal procedure which cancels a marriage. Unlike divorce, which simply terminates the marriage, annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened. Annulments are granted when the marriage was illegal or invalid. Some people seek a religious annulment even when they do not qualify for a legal one.

Legal separation occurs when a married couple lives apart without divorcing, but undergoes a court procedure similar to divorce in which the division of property, child custody, and other terms and conditions are determined.

Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is the legal obligation of one spouse to provide financial support for the other after a legal separation or divorce.

Monogamy is the practice of having only one mate at a time. Sociologists, anthropologists, and biologists often break this down further. Social monogamy refers to a pair's living arrangement. They are partners in life, but may or may not have a sexual (or sexually exclusive) relationship. Sexual monogamy refers to sexual exclusivity. Genetic monogamy means that DNA analysis of offspring confirms that a male-female pair mate exclusively with each other. The term strict monogamy is sometimes used to mean having only one mate for life.

Serial monogamy refers to a succession of monogamous relationships (married or otherwise). Usually this implies sexual exclusivity for the duration of each relationship.

Adultery is a sexual relationship between a married person and someone who is not that person's spouse. Adultery is also referred to as infidelity or cheating.

Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage contract while still legally married to a prior spouse. This is usually considered a crime in countries whose only legally recognized form of marriage is monogamy.

Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse at a time. Polygyny is polygamy in which one man has multiple wives. Polyandry is polygamy in which one woman has multiple husbands. Polygamy is sometimes called plural marriage, but this term seems to refer mostly to polygyny. Group marriage usually refers to a marriage-like arrangement involving three or more people in a household. In polygyny and polyandry, there is one male or female who has multiple opposite-sex spouses. In group marriage, there may be multiple males and females, and the parties consider themselves all married to each other.

Polyamory is sometimes used as a synonym for group marriage, but it also includes arrangements where the involved parties do not consider themselves married and do not share a household. Polyamory also includes open marriage, an arrangement in which a socially monogamous couple agrees to to be sexually nonmonogamous.

Levirate marriage is a custom in which a deceased man's brother is obligated to marry his widow.

Sororate marriage is a practice in which a man marries his wife's sister, typically after the death of his wife, or if she is infertile.

Companionate marriage was a concept promoted by social reformers in the 1920s. In a marriage of equals, partners would agree not to have children, marrying for companionship, sexual love, and mutual interests. They could divorce through mutual consent, with no subsequent financial obligation.

A marriage of convenience is a marriage motivated primarily by reasons other than the relationship itself. People sometimes marry to gain political, social, or financial advantages.

Posthumous marriage. It sounds bizarre, but in some places, under some circumstances, it is legal to marry a dead person.

I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. This article is based on research and is intended solely for informational and entertainment purposes. If you need legal, psychological, or spiritual advice, please contact a qualified professional.

August 10, 2015

Balancing Technology Helps Sustain Healthy Marriages

by guest contributor Kelli T. Irvin

How much time would you say you spend on your phone? Is your time online affecting your real-life relationships? If so, you're not alone. People across the world continue to struggle to find the right balance between the digital and physical worlds when it comes to love.

The new advances in technology have definitely helped by providing the tools to be closer together, but there is also a darker side to digital romance. The use of social media and texting is a great way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, but it's also important not to allow digital interactions to replace real-life connections. An article on ways to take your marriage "off hold" recommends putting smart phones or tablets away and spending that time focusing on your partner, rather than your Facebook status.

Feeling like your better half is ignoring you in favor of their phone can lead to resentment in a relationship. Also, depending on the state of your union, it can cause unnecessary distrust, paranoia and, worse, infidelity. Reports have shown that relationships with a healthy intimate connection are significantly less likely to experience affairs than those looking for more. This study on cheating habits found that 17 percent of those who are sexually satisfied in their relationships wouldn't even consider cheating whereas 52 percent of unsatisfied partners claimed they would.

This list of ways that technology kills relationships warns against some of the hazards and temptations these amazing inventions can create for users through overexposure to sexual stimuli, making it too easy to look up an old flame or do a little romantic "window shopping" online. Placing too much focus on unrealistic fantasies can negatively impact how people view their partners or the quality of their sex lives, sometimes when there isn't even a problem! That's why it's so important to take a proactive stance to your own relationship with technology and maintain a firm grip on your own reality.

One of the key ways to sustain a healthy relationship with your partner and your digital devices is to strive for balance. This means not only forgoing your phone for a few minutes but also taking the time for yourself and respecting each other's needs for space. It's important to take time to recharge and have a good think, which is pretty impossible when you're constantly bombarded by information!

When you get home today, try setting some boundaries for when and how you use the Internet. Maybe start by making a rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table. Try taking the initiative and put away your phone first. Say that you'd like to spend more quality time with your partner so it comes of as a fun experiment rather than a scolding. Sometimes, cutting the cord can result in the freedom you need to put the fun back in your marriage.

Technology has opened a wealth of possibilities and, like any tool, its ultimate worth is determined by how you use it and making sure that it's used responsibly. Take advantage of these new abilities to make your relationship stronger rather than letting them create more problems.

August 5, 2015

Thinking About Divorce?

I came across a website that featured a link entitled "Thinking about divorce? Contact an attorney for the right advice."

Somehow, that struck me as wrong.

Sure, if you must get divorced, a good attorney can help you come to a fair financial settlement, work out custody arrangements, and process the paperwork.

But if you are just thinking about divorce, it is probably better to look for the right advice in other places. Although most relationship problems can be solved, couples in distress often perceive the situation as hopeless. Perhaps a thoughtful family law attorney might try to talk you out of an unnecessary divorce; sometimes this happens. But the lawyer's real job is to help you do what you say you want to do, and if you say you want a divorce, chances are that you will get one.

If your marriage has become difficult, contentious, distant, frustrating, or just plain boring, and you have begun to think that divorce may be the only way to get relief, think again. Rather than turning to someone whose job is to help you discard your marriage, try someone whose mission is to repair it.

Self-help books. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the thousands of available books offering relationship advice. It can also be difficult to know which books are truly useful, which are mediocre, and which are potentially damaging. As a general rule, if a book seems crazy and destructive, it probably is.

Look for books by reputable professionals whose ideas are founded on serious research. John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Susan Heitler are some of the most trusted marriage experts writing today. Remember that even the best advice will not work unless you actually follow it.

Online inspiration and advice. There are hundreds of blogs about love, marriage and family. Most of the bloggers are well-meaning people who feel they have something to share. It is important to understand who the blogger is and what the real purpose of the blog is. Many bloggers are selling books or counseling services. There is nothing wrong with that! However, I would avoid blogs that appear to be nothing but one big sales pitch, especially those that promise instant results or who disparage others while aggressively touting themselves as the only true solution to marriage problems. Watch out for newlyweds whose honeymoon-stage happiness makes them think they are now relationship experts.

One of my favorite blogs is Patty Newbold's Assume Love. Patty describes how to "have a happier marriage without waiting for your spouse to change." Some other blogs worth looking at are The Gottman Blog, Speaking of Marriage, Becoming a Better Man, and #staymarried. A more extensive blog list is available here.

Couples counseling. A well-trained, neutral third party can bring a fresh perspective to your relationship. A good therapist will help you make sense of your problems and find ways to deal with them as you rebuild a loving, satisfying relationship. Unfortunately, not all marriage therapies (or therapists) are created equal. A referral from friends whose marriage was helped by counseling might be ideal, but since most people are shy about revealing that they have used (or need) marriage counseling, you will probably need to do your own search.

An article on Lifehacker provides some general information on choosing a marriage counselor. Both the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) have excellent success rates. A growing number of therapists use a combination of both methods. Try the Gottman Referral Network, or the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy for referrals to qualified professionals. Marriage Friendly Therapists is another site that may be helpful.