risks of cohabitation

What Are The Risks of Cohabitation For You And Your Kids?

risks of cohabitation

 

Over the last fifty years, there has been a quiet shift in the landscape of family life in America. Approximately two-thirds of couples live together before marriage; this number is compared to one-half of couples 20 years ago, according to The Pew Research Center.

Recently, Rand sociologists who study family demographics, surveyed 2,600 couples who lived together without marriage. One of the most important findings of this study is that young adults who cohabitated had lower levels of commitment than those who marry. Further, couples who cohabitate report lower levels of certainty about the future of their relationships, especially if they are males.

This “commitment gap” has been studied by sociologists Michael Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris who found that cohabitating males have a lower level of commitment to their relationship than their female partners. This “commitment gap” was also researched by psychologists Scott Stanley and Galena Rhodes who discovered that women who live with their future husband prior to becoming engaged are 40% more likely to divorce than those who are engaged before moving in together.

Interestingly, many couples in America today believe that living together prior to tying the knot will decrease their chances of getting a divorce. However, researchers Stanley and Rhodes have demonstrated the “cohabitation effect” – showing that couples who cohabit before marriage are less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce.

According to Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade, studies have shown that not all of the effect can be explained by demographics such as politics, education, or religion. Jay writes, “Research suggests that at least some of the effect may lie in cohabitation itself.” She posits that one of the main factors that put cohabitating couples at risk for breakup is “sliding not deciding.” This means that a couple gradually decides to move in together mostly out of convenience rather than discussing their expectations and plans for the future.

One thing is for certain, researchers have found that before you decide to live with someone, it is incredibly important that you and your partner are on the same page. Dr. John Curtis, author of Happily Unmarried highlights the “expectation gap” as a critical consideration before moving in with your partner. He states that the fundamental difference between men and women according to a recent Rand Study is that many women view living together as a step towards marriage while many men see it as a test drive.

It’s no secret that marriage rates are on the decline. In 1960, 72% of Americans were married. Today approximately 50% are. Understandably, there’s a lot of fear about marriage. Since the divorce rate has hovered around 50% for decades, the question for many is: Why marry when there is one in two chances it won’t work out? However, what many people forget is that just because a couple isn’t married when they breakup it doesn’t mean they don’t have issues to resolve such as financial claims (related to property or combined assets); as well as the custody of children.

As the rate of couples who live together without being married are rising dramatically, children in America are more likely to experience cohabitation than divorce, according to W. Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Many experts, including Wilcox conclude that cohabitation puts children at risk for psychological and academic problems as well as child abuse. Wilcox notes that cohabitation also creates more instability for children.

He writes, “A recent study from Drs. Sheela Kennedy and Larry Bumpass found that 65% of children born to cohabitating parents saw their parents break up by age 12, compared to 24% born to married families.” Since 40% of children in the US will experience the divorce of their parents prior to the age of 16, this is an important topic to explore.

If you’re a single parent who is considering cohabitation what are the risks to your children? In my opinion, you need to consider that your children may see your partner as an intruder – as a complication they don’t want in their lives – who is a rival with their father.

In addition, if the relationship doesn’t last, they may see it as yet another loss (in addition to your divorce) if they’ve established a bond. In What About the Kids, the late Judith Wallerstein writes, “If they genuinely grow to like or even love the person you’ve invited into your lives and that person disappears one night, it’s another loss. It’s frightening when people disappear and it’s awful to feel rejected.”

Let’s take a look at some statistics that shed light on this topic:

  • Over 50% of couples who cohabitate before marriage are broken up within five years (Cherlin, 2009)
  • Over 75% of children born to couples who are not married no longer live with both parents by the age of fifteen (Cherlin, 2009)
  • 47% of American women who give birth in their twenties are unmarried at the time (Cherlin, New York Times, 4/27/2013)

Considering the research, if you’re a divorced parent contemplating cohabiting, proceed with caution. Ask yourself: What are your motivations for living together? If you want to develop a deeper bond, and most significantly, you see cohabitation as a step toward marriage, having differing expectations from your partner may be a problem.

If you decide to cohabitate these are steps to minimize damage to your children:

  • Sit down with your partner and clarify your expectations about the future. This can enhance your chances of remaining in a committed relationship.
  • Be careful not to bypass these discussions and fall into “sliding not deciding,” according to author Meg Jay.
  • Don’t ask your children’s permission to cohabitate – this is too much responsibility for them and will be harder for them to recover from if you breakup.
  • Discuss parenting strategies such as how you are going to handle conflicts that will arise with children and between them – especially if you are blending families.
  • Prepare your children carefully. Make sure they’ve met the person many times and feel comfortable with them. Reassure your children that they are still a priority and that your partner will not replace their biological parent.
  • Set household routines that accommodate your partner and your children. Have regular discussions and share meals together so you can check in about how household issues are going.

Before you make the decision about whether or not to cohabitate, consider the risks to your children if it doesn’t work out. Ask yourself: Am I selling myself short by moving in with my partner? Would cohabitation put my children at risk for instability, psychological, or academic problems?

Weigh the advantages of tying the knot before having children or delaying cohabiting until your children launch if you’re a parent. In the end, consider that your children may grow to genuinely like or love this person and if the relationship ends, it’s yet another loss. However, if you decide to cohabitate, approach your new lifestyle with optimism and confidence – because you’ve taken all the steps to enhance your chances of success.

More From Terry:

Follow Terry Gaspard on Facebook, Twitter, and movingpastdivorce.com

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8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

remarriage manualUNDERSTANDING YOUR STEPCHILD

Victoria was about 10 years old when her father, Ryan, married Lisa. In her view, she had little control over the events unfolding in her life, including her mother remarrying and starting a new family quickly.

Even though Lisa seemed nice enough and obviously really loved her dad, it still didn’t seem fair to Victoria that her life had to change so radically. When she met me for an interview, she was eager to share her perspectives as a stepchild.

In her mind, nothing would ever be the same after her parents’ split and she believes that parents ought to be more understanding about the stepchild’s plight.

Victoria reflects, “I wrote on my closet door, ‘January 18 was the worst day of my life’ — the day of my parents’ divorce. For me, divorce meant changes in where I lived, changes at school and with friends and having to spend time with new adults I didn’t particularly want to spend time with.

No one asked me if I wanted any of those things to happen, but they did, without my consent, and sometimes without warning.”

During our in-depth interview, Victoria speaks with anguish about both of her parents getting remarried around the same time. She explains, “I had a teacher tell me that if I loved my parents, I would accept their significant others because I’d want them to be happy. Inside I was screaming, ‘What about my happiness?’”

These are hard issues, and there are no easy fixes, but following these tips can help you weather the rough times and be a supportive stepparent.

8Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

  1. Proceed slowly. Take your time getting to know your stepchild. If you rush the relationship, it may satisfy your own unmet needs to be liked, but your approach could backfire. It’s important to realize that you’re not replacing your stepchild’s other parent; your role is more of a mentor. Never make your stepchild feel as if they have to choose between their biological parent and you. Over time, everyone in the recoupled family can create a positive culture together.
  2. Respect your spouse’s relationship with your stepchild. And don’t feel threatened by their close connection. Your partner will want to spend special time with their child, so try not to feel neglected by them. Make plans with your friends or with your own kids and graciously step out of their way.
  3. Develop a relationship with your stepchild through daily activities, hobbies, and shared interests to create positive memories. Strive to engage in activities as a family unit as much as possible so everyone has an opportunity to make a connection. Sharing interests in sports or the arts can help you develop a bond. Spending time together, even if it’s eating a meal or watching a movie, can help weave the fabric of stronger stepfamily relationships.
  4. Understand your stepchild’s view and have realistic expectations. First, it’s a given that your stepchild had a relationship with your spouse that existed before you came on the scene. They’re likely to see you as a rival to both of their parents. Even if your stepchild seems to like you well enough, they will sometimes prefer you weren’t in the picture and may express this by ignoring you or being indifferent or rude. Your remarriage effectively ends any hope of their mother and father reunifying and can reignite feelings of loss for your stepchild.
  5. Be sure to discuss roles and feelings about parenting with your spouse. Sometimes a biological parent may not understand a stepparent’s feelings of rejection. They may need you to tell them what they can do to support you. On the other hand, a biological parent may feel criticized and get defensive when their spouse offers unsolicited advice about parenting. Blending your sometimes-opposing styles of parenting and focusing on what you have in common will benefit all family members.
  6. Be courteous and respectful of your child’s and stepchild’s “other parent.” Keep in mind that it is likely that they would not have chosen to have their children live with them part-time. Stepparents need to stay out of interactions between biological parents working out holiday or vacation schedules, and biological parents need to be collaborative when planning family events.
  7. Realize that love often comes later. Even if you don’t hit it off with your stepchild, you can still develop a working relationship built on respect. If your stepchild does not warm up to you right away, that does not mean you have failed. Adopting realistic expectations can help you get through some rough spots. Be patient and try not to react with anger if your stepchild gives you the cold shoulder or is a little impolite sometimes.
  8. Cooperate with your partner, and talk, talk, talk. Most of the talking will take place away from your children or stepchildren, but be sure to have cordial conversations and informal discussions about family rules, roles, chores, and routines with the kids.

TERRY GASPARDMSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist and author. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TheGoodMenProject, The Gottman Institute Blog, and Marriage.com. Her new book, out now, is THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around.

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com.

Excerpted from THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL by Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW. Credit Terry Gaspard. Reprinted with permission of Sounds True. All rights reserved.

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new step-parent

Navigating a Blended Family: 8 Tips For The New Step-Parent

new step-parent

 

Blended families generally consist of a couple and their children from all relationships, and they’re becoming more common every year. According to the 2009 census, upwards of 16% of children live in a blended family, and upwards of 1,300 new blended families form every single day.

Going from being a single parent to being a part of a blended family can be challenging. Here are a few tips and tricks to help make that transition easier to navigate.

8 Tips For The New Step-Parent

1. Remember That It’s a Big Change

Becoming a blended family is a major change for everyone involved. It also ends up being more challenging for children than it is for adults, especially young ones who don’t have any context to help them understand what’s going on. Be patient with everyone and prepare for conflicts. Know how to defuse stressful situations before they get out of hand.

2. Talk About Parenting Styles Before You Move In

Discuss your parenting styles with your significant other before you cross that final bridge and bring everyone together. Figure out where you agree, where you differ and where you need to compromise, as well as who is responsible for things like doling out corrective action. Have that conversation as early as possible so you have plenty of time to iron out all the details.

3. Adapt As Necessary to Manage Age Differences

Different-age children will respond to becoming a blended family in various ways. Teenagers might rebel dramatically, while younger children might have tantrums or act out because they don’t understand what’s happening. All they know is that things are changing. You’ll need to be adaptable in response to this. Deal with issues related to age differences as they come up, and remember to be patient and communicate with both the children and your partner.

4. Be Open About Mental Health

People often consider mental health a taboo topic, but if you’re making your way toward becoming a blended family, you need to keep everyone’s mental wellness in mind. Start the conversation, especially with those who are old enough to use social media.

These sites, and the internet as a whole, are an integral part of our lives, but they can also be detrimental to our mental health. This factor is especially true if other things are happening in your life that could have adverse effects.

5. Don’t Make Your Children Choose

Ultimatums are your worst enemy when it comes to creating a successful blended family. Don’t make your kids choose, whether that means deciding between parents or where they want to live. If you do reach a point where decisions are necessary, have a conversation with your partner first to ensure you’re on the same page with parenting your collective children.

6. Be Ready to Co-Parent

When it comes to blended families, co-parenting doesn’t just mean the relationship between you and your partner. It means being ready to deal respectfully with any living ex-partner that may have had a parenting role in your children’s lives. Co-parenting is a part of any parent/step-parent relationship, regardless of the situation. Don’t make it a battle. Doing this will make your life harder, and it isn’t fair to any kids involved either.

7. Make It About Respect

When you’re bringing together multiple families, not everyone is going to like one another. Some people will butt heads, that’s part of life. While you can’t make everyone like each other, it should always be about respect. You can respect someone you don’t like and building a blended family on this principle is the best choice for everyone. Lead by example and practice this principle with others in every situation you encounter.

8. Take Care of Yourself Too

Caring for your kids and your partner’s kids are challenging. It’s easy to forget one of the most important rules, that you need to take care of yourself too. Don’t let putting everyone else first prevent you from practicing self-care.

Work with your partner so you can take a break, even if it’s something as simple as an uninterrupted bath or a solo trip to the grocery store. Caring for your mind and body allows you to be a better parent and partner, which is why it’s essential to avoid leaving your wellbeing on the back burner.

Be Patient With Each Other and Yourself

Coming together as a blended family is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you will ever do. It’s a significant change that may be difficult for members of your growing family to adapt to, but it is becoming more common with each passing year.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to become part of a blended family, be patient with yourself and your new relatives.

The post Navigating a Blended Family: 8 Tips For The New Step-Parent appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

 

Kimberly had a difficult divorce. She split from her husband after finding out he had an emotional affair with a co-worker. It had been a long two years. Their three children had difficulty adjusting to their new home and a new school. But her kids had moved forward and Kimberly felt that the worst was behind her.

She had worked with a divorce coach to help her set career goals and help her achieve clarity on the next chapter of her life as a single mom. She had set some goals for herself and accomplished one of her lifetime goals, completing a triathlon. It was during this training that she met an older, handsome, athletic man named Charles. He too was divorced and had experienced betrayal. They fell in love and planned to marry the following year.

However, she was questioning the relationship because his ex was making their life hell. Charles’ ex-wife was intrusive and manipulative. She tried repeatedly to splinter the relationship between Charles and his son by saying hurtful things about him in front of their son or making snide comments about his parenting.

She sent texts that were nasty when she did communicate. Drop-offs and pickups were becoming more and more dreaded because Charles’ ex-wife always wanted to confront them in front of his son about the parenting agreement, her alimony, or whatever she was upset about that day. Charles’ ex-wife seemed to hold resentment about the fact that there was to be a new mother figure in her son’s life.

Charles’ son had told Kimberly several comments that his mom had made about her. She was surprised that she was hurt by these remarks. She had only met this woman twice and yet she seemed to hate her! In addition, the children all sensed the animosity, and the tension in the house was growing among everyone.

How could she and Charles build a future together when his ex was hellbent on destroying their family?

When it comes to families blending together, there are many issues to deal with. When you are the new woman and you enter a family that has split, it’s important to set up boundaries.

Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

1. Understand your own triggers.

When you find that she is really pushing your buttons- ask yourself why. What is it that is bothering you about what she says? You can work with a divorce coach or therapist to get to the underlying root of your feelings so you can move forward. When you understand what is behind your emotions, you can start to control them.

2. Develop strategies to stay in control of your emotions.

When you’ve identified your triggers, you can identify ways to handle your emotions. Meditation, exercise, and keeping a wholesome lifestyle will help you handle the stress that accompanies dealing with high-conflict people. Find healthy outlets, such as supportive friends or join a support group for families of divorce or stepmoms.

3. Communicate positively with (and around) your children.

Never badmouth your spouse’s ex near or around the children-even if you feel you might be justified. These are people that your children love. They will internalize any negative comments. Foster lots of open communication so that they will come to you to openly discuss their feelings. Ignore those comments that are harmful. Focus on the children and their well-being.

4. Technology is your friend.

If communication is difficult, there are many devices and apps that make it easy to keep the communication respectful. Family Wall is an app that allows you to post dates, reminders, schedules, and even pictures that relate to the children. It allows you to share information in a confidential platform. If you can’t physically be around his ex without it becoming confrontational, communicate only through texts, emails, or apps. Plus, you’ll have a record of the conversations.

5. Keep all communication concise and objective.

When communicating with a difficult ex-spouse, here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain respectful interactions. First, keep it short. Leave out unnecessary information. Stick to the facts and keep the tone cordial. Keep your opinions and emotions out of all interactions.

Use texts and emails whenever possible so that there is a written record of what was said and agreed upon. When you have to deal with a challenging person face-to-face, it may be a good idea to have a “script” in your head prepared ahead of time. If the other person tries to engage in a disrespectful manner, simply restate your scripted message in a calm tone and walk away.

6. Attend family therapy or counseling.

As you’re setting up a new family structure, consider setting up family counseling sessions. It’s important to have a neutral party that will help you discuss intense feelings and issues in a constructive way.  It’s important to include the children in the process so that they feel they have a voice through this.

So much is out of their control and they may feel overwhelmed if there are hostilities between the adults that they love. Choose a counselor that has a background working with blended families. One piece of advice that I give to my clients as they begin their journey together is to write out a mission statement together that will keep the family working towards the same goal.

After six months of family counseling, the tension had lessened and there was more laughter around the house. The children were getting along better. Kim continued working with her life coach to help her as she adjusted to her new role as a stepmom. She and Charles began discussing the plans for their wedding and were feeling secure in their commitment to each other.

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5 Travel Tips for Blended Families

5 Travel Tips for Blended Families

Traveling with a blended family can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are 5 tips to help relieve the stress of blended family travel.

The post 5 Travel Tips for Blended Families appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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blended family life

4 Tips For Helping Your Kids Adjust To Blended Family Life

blended family life

 

According to statistics, there are many more stepfamilies today than there were a decade ago. And the number is projected to grow steadily. It is, therefore, essential for you as the mom in a blended family to help the children make necessary adjustments because such situations hit kids the hardest.

Below are a few ways you can help the kids make the adjustments required for their new, blended way of life.

Helping Your Kids Adjust To Blended Family Life

Explain the unique situation to the kids

As mentioned earlier, kids are the most affected when their parents either die or get divorced. Therefore, it would be a good idea for you as the mom to make ample time and talk to the kids involved. Acknowledge the difficulties they are going through and give them a pat on the back for being so brave. Then assure them by promising to be with them every step of the way.

Knowing that they have a strong and understanding mom who is ready to help will make the adjustment much easier for the kids, whether they’re yours or not.

Acknowledge their losses and help them through it

Blended families come as a result of deaths, divorces, or nasty breakups. Once again, the kids are usually hit the hardest when they lose a parent (or both their parents). The latter explains why kids are often very reluctant to accept blended families. As a caring mother, or stepmother, acknowledging their pain and at the same time helping them through it will make the transition much easier for the kids.

Helping kids through their pain is easier said than done. Some kids will outright disrespect you or throwing nasty tantrums in the name of coping with their new situation. If the latter happens, then it would be in your best interest to seek professional help. Once you’ve helped the kids overcome their pain, they’ll gradually start warming up to the idea of a blended family.

Nurture existing relationships

Just because you’ve forged a new, complicated relationship doesn’t mean death to the old ties that existed before the blended family. Therefore, it would be a good idea for you and your children to keep your old family traditions. If you used to watch movies or go bike riding once a month, stick to doing that because it will only make the transition gradual and as natural as possible.

You can also encourage your new man to do the same with his kids since they need help as well. Afterward, you can slowly create and introduce new family traditions with the blended family without getting rid of the old ones. Feel free to set your nice alarm panel to remind you of the times you and your kids ought to be doing your usual activities.

Encourage respect

Respect is the glue that holds together all kinds of relationships. And since blended families happen to be complex relationship structures, the more you have to emphasize respect since everything can fall apart so easily. You can start by letting the kids know the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries as well as privacy. There should be consequences if anyone doesn’t recognize anyone in the new family setting.

A final word

Being a member of a blended family can be challenging, especially if there are more kids involved. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to try and approach the situation with a lot of care. Try listening to the kids and letting them know you’ll be there for them every step of the way. If it gets a bit difficult, then don’t hesitate to seek outside help.

Lastly, it’s essential to always remember it gets worse before getting better. Once the children know that the new blended system is meant for them to thrive, they’ll gradually warm up to the idea.

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