Posts Tagged ‘marriage initiative’

Meet the Parents…Here I Come

November 17, 2008

Oh how I LOVE the holidays! Seriously, love them. My family does the holiday season with as much enthusiasm as we do birthdays (if you don’t remember, see my last blog)!

Don’t judge me, but I may already have my Christmas tree up with lights and all! To each his or HER own, right?

Some may think this is a bit much, but that is often me…a bit much. I tend to do things in BIG ways. I want to soak up all that life has to offer. I want to go and see. I want to do the things I love and be with the people who are special to me. Some call it passion. Some call it annoying.

Sure, this attitude has earned me the (loving) title of “The General” with my friends, and you can bet I have stuck my foot in my mouth more than once when I get worked up over someone or something important to me. I get it. I can admit it. I can be overwhelming.

This “passion” often serves me well to meet all my responsibilities in a given day as a therapist, full time student, research assistant, novice author, sister, daughter, and now….girlfriend.

BUT how will it serve me as I meet the folks? To tone it down or to be myself? That is the question, right? NOPE! This sweet guy knew what he was getting himself into when he invited me to his hometown for Thanksgiving. The real question is: How soon until we get there?!?!

“The General” side of me recently had a big epiphany, “Mallory, this is NOT about you!” (Maybe some of you other Generals have had this epiphany too!?). This trip is about seeing where he grew up, meeting the people he loves, and being immersed in the holidays (even if they celebrate in some way that is foreign to me).

Of course, I still have my fingers crossed that they appreciate my “passion,” but I am more excited to be part of something intimate and loving as a Thanksgiving dinner.

So, ready or not…here I come : )

Mallory Lucier, M.S., Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Single and Loving It…or Am I: Recognizing Personal Pressures (Part 1 of 3)

November 17, 2008

I would like to begin by welcoming you to my blog. My name is Charles Jackson, and I am a 26 year-old native of Montgomery, Alabama. I am currently working at Auburn University as a public relations coordinator for the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which is a public awareness and education program through the College of Human Sciences.

This entry is the first of a three part series that will focus on the importance of being single and loving it. Please do not mistake me to be a young, lustful man that is just interested in sowing my oats. I know this may seem a little odd coming from someone employed by a marriage initiative. However, the goals of the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative are not to push marriage upon anyone, nor is it to encourage anyone to remain in unhealthy situations. We are driven to promote healthy marriages while providing the education and resources to married couples, those considering marriage, and singles. We know that by doing this, we can strengthen our children, families, and communities. I am sure you will understand the relevance of “being single and loving it” if you stay tuned. So relax and enjoy the show. I look forward to your shared comments, and I hope you will continue to be a reader of my blog. Please understand that I am indeed a man, and I am writing from a male perspective. However, I always try to look at things objectively while also standing upon healthy marriage research.

Twenty-Something…also known as the Quarter Life Crisis. This is the time that many young adults are graduating college and finding themselves pressured to find a job. However, this is not the only pressure that they are experiencing. This is also the time that we begin to become overwhelmed by the personal and societal pressures to get married.

Throughout our lives, we tend to build timelines, and as we mature and age we become stressed with the reality of the approaching deadlines that we committed ourselves to. For women, it seems as if it is the looming ticks of the “biological clock” and a desire to be a mother that drives their race to the altar. Unfortunately, in the midst of this mad dash, they frequently settle for their first encounters while ignoring the warning signs that are SCREAMING at them. With the reality of this misfortune, some women find themselves blinded by impatience and eventually unhappy, contemplating divorce, or living with regrets. Contrary to popular belief, men also experience personal pressure to get married. As we enter into our careers, we tend to realize that it is difficult being single. After a long day at work, men desire that pat on their backs and that special person to share their thoughts with. We also enjoy an occasional stroke of the ego, and although we do not want to admit it, we reach our sexual peak prior to women. Whether by internal instinct, something we’re taught, or both, men desire to be providers and protectors. It makes us feel more like men, and it is important to feel like a “manly man.”

Together we can pressure one another. Thinking that it will be great to have “the ring” prior to our high school reunions, we tend to rush into marriages as we continuously attend the wedding of our friends and classmates. While the numbers of our friends that are single begin to diminish, we become anxious without adequately preparing ourselves. Thus, we find it difficult to love someone else because we have not figured out how to love ourselves. If you are single and unhappy, you will likely be married and unhappy. Ironically, recent research shows that divorces within 10 years of marriage are lowest among couples who entered a first-time marriage after the age of 25. So the next time someone asks, “What are you waiting on?” Simply, tell them that you are waiting on your opportunity for stability while not jumping into an irrational situation.

I like to look at transitioning from being single to married as a journey. While you are on the trip, you should take time to get to know you fellow travelers, their interests, and beliefs. Once you make it to your destination, things change. You have to be focused on the business of combining two lives, adjusting budgets, and meeting deadlines while balancing work and play. What will make this trip enjoyable is how well you got to know the other travelers and the one you choose to spend your time with.

Society does not make being single very easy. Part two will address societal pressures and measures of success, so please stay tuned for the next entry. Until then, please ponder these thoughts and feel free to comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

Charles Jackson, Public Relations Coordinator

Auburn University, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Planning a Family History

September 15, 2008

This past weekend we celebrated my husband’s grandfathers 93rd birthday. All gathered around the table while papaw shared memories, stories and photos of his life, I began to wonder. .. Do people stop and embrace their family, friends and life experiences anymore or are we so caught up in work, ball practice, grocery shopping and PTA that we do not have the time to “reflect”? I too have been guilty of not “taking time to smell the roses” but as my husband and I plan our future and talk of having children, we wonder is there a way to balance time? To make a living history, so to speak, that when our children look back on their life that they too can recall all the special times at the lake, Christmas at Nana’s, movie night and family ties that helped us to remain strong as a family.

Our family is very close and we value each other more so today that ever. Unfortunately, I do not live as close to some of my family as I would like, so I learn to cherish the time that we can spend together. The birth of each new child or the important milestones in the lives of the people in our family proves that a family can be tied together, no matter how far apart you are. I can honestly say that when I was growing up, I never worried much whether or not I attended family functions. Wouldn’t there be another one in a few months anyway? Now, I take the time to go to these gatherings, with my camera in hand, knowing that I should take advantage of every opportunity to see my loved ones. People and things change so quickly and the years go by so fast. I want to capture these moments, the ones of watching the smiles on my nephew’s face as they open their Christmas gifts, the excitement on the face of a 93 year old man, who is still loving life no matter what his age. As our future children come into the world, I hope that my loved ones will do the same for me, treating every moment as important as the next and knowing that nothing is or ever will be as important as family. 

Teresa Wagoner

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Wedding Planning 101

September 15, 2008

I recently became engaged and entered the vast world of wedding planning. Never in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine the details (and the costs!) that go into planning the “perfect day.” From “Save the Date cards” to reception favors, planning a wedding can be a daunting task. I see how one can become so involved in the details that they forget about the big picture. Although I grew up dreaming that I’d have an elaborate wedding, replete with a horse drawn carriage, I have come to the realization that it’s the love I share with my fiancé and the commitment we have to each other that will endure after the invitations are thrown away, (because only the bride is interested in framing one), the “I do’s” are done, and the band has stopped playing. Working on the ACHMI project has opened my eyes to the value of marriage education and its positive impact on strengthening marriages. How do we manage conflicts? How do we balance home and work? Do we have the foundation necessary to build a successful marriage that will inspire generations to come? I have come to value not the how, or the where, or the when, of getting married but rather the WHO. Who is this person that I have decided to marry? Who is this person that I am pledging a lifetime commitment to? Who is this person I want to grow old with, working in our garden while our grandchildren run around in the yard? Unfortunately, neither the calligrapher nor the caterer will be there to help us with these questions along the way. Rather than focusing on the details of the wedding day, I’d rather focus on the details of our relationship. So despite the lure of hand-crafted invitations, elaborate cakes, and designer dresses, my focus has shifted from planning a DAY to planning a LIFETIME.

Eugenia Parrett, M.Ed.

Graduate Research Assistant, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

The World As It Should Be

September 2, 2008

Watching television during the last two weeks has been delightfully different from the regular season. It is not often during television viewing that I feel uplifted and inspired, as I did watching the many triumphs and heartbreaks of the Olympics… and watching Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night.

Mrs. Obama spoke about how she came to understand her husband’s values as they got to know each other. She spoke warmly about her husband’s belief that we should not accept the world as it is. “He talked about the world as it is and the world as it should be. And he said that all too often we accept the distance between the two, and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.” Mrs. Obama returned to this theme several times and each time her words reverberated as I thought about the mission of ACHMI and its genesis.

 

ACHMI was established in the belief that Alabama families deserve a better future. For years, Alabama has had one of the nation’s highest rates of divorce, child abuse, and unwed pregnancies. It doesn’t have to be this way! The research is clear that children in stable families benefit in all spheres: physical, social and emotional. But vision without action is merely a dream.

 

ACHMI combines the vision of a better future for all Alabama families with an action plan of marriage education/relationship classes and accessible resources. As staff, graduate students and community partners, we believe change is possible and research corroborates this. Empower women and men with the skills, resources and education to make life changes and they will. Alabamians want better lives for themselves and for their children. The dismal statistics that reflect the reality of too many Alabama children are not rooted in our soil but in relationship patterns than can be different. ACHMI is leading the way as we provide marriage education/relationship classes and accessible resources that will result in concrete changes for our most vulnerable citizens.

Do opposites really attract?

August 21, 2008

I am pretty shy when it comes to the dating world, but I am venturing out into this unmarked territory with optimism as my compass. As you could probably guess, I am single—happily single that isJ. But, I do hope to be happily married one day. So, what is the secret—how do I get there? Fortunately, there is never a shortage of dating advice from family, friends, or a favorite talk show. However, at times, it is necessary to filter this massive flow of dating tips in an effort to retain only helpful advice. I decided to do a little filtering of my own by looking more closely at the popular adage: “opposites attract.”

So what happens when you have people who are polar opposites in a relationship with one another? How lasting and stable would their union be? Research on relationships indicates that drastic personality differences are problematic for intimate relationships, but minor personality differences can be complimentary and enhancing. When major differences related to belief systems and core values are involved in relationships, the outcome could be less than favorable; research shows that having similar values is very important for a stable relationship. It seems that extreme opposites that are magnetic in the beginning may end in catastrophic repulsion. And considering what researchers have found, it may be best to look for a dating partner who has similar values and complimentary personality traits.

Well, it appears that opposites may attract, but one may be cautioned against drastic personality and value differences. I am glad that I did a little filtering of the information on relationships. And while opposites may attract, they may not necessarily stay together.  It appears that “birds of a feather flock together” – and may have happier marriages!

Cassandra Kirkland, M.S., Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (ACHMI)

“Normal”: what is that?

August 12, 2008

As a parent, don’t you just love that moment when you realize your kids are listening to you after all? You know what I’m talking about, that pivotal moment when you know something “stuck”?

My husband and I had that moment after our daughters’ first day of high school. As we were getting ready for bed that first night, one of the girls came in and asked her step dad and me to read a paper she had been assigned. We couldn’t believe she asked for our input! Research shows having consistent and positive interaction with children will improve their well being. Yet, if you have teenagers, that is not as easy as it sounds. Anyway, the assignment was for each student to write a paper about their life. She began by stating that her life was not like most teens, in fact she was not the “normal” teenager. What does that mean? Why does she think that? Yet, as I continued reading, I soon realized that through her paper, she re-defined “normal”. She described every member of our chosen family and how important we are to her. She even explained that adjusting to our “new” family took time… and it wasn’t overnight. That is a common myth about stepfamilies. Adjustment can take years! We know! Yet, as her life story unfolded, I knew she had survived our challenges as a stepfamily and had grown because of them. She didn’t write about her siblings as “real” or “step”, but simply as her sisters and brother. That’s a big deal if you are in a stepfamily. According to research, 1 in 3 of us are! She ended her paper by saying that her “normal” may be different from everyone else, but it works for her and she likes it!

I looked up after reading her paper with tears in my eyes. She gave me that “Oh not again” look and went off to bed. All of this time working through the challenges of a stepfamily…. it pays off. I’ve always hoped I was doing and saying the right things, but never knew I’d cry when I got proof! Re-define “normal” and make it fit your family. As long as it works for you, you will succeed!

Ami Landers, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Marital Arguments: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Ya

August 8, 2008

At the beginning of my marriage I remember a fight which was intense for both my wife and me. It came to the boiling point when my spouse said, ““Go to Hell,” with my response being, “I live there.” Being quick witted she replied, “That’s because you’re the devil.” I was left befuddled, but not wanting her to have the last word I blurted out, “Oh ya, you’re the wife of the devil.” She then burst out laughing. Luckily for us she knew how to diffuse the situation with humor. A time or two later when things became heated she would say, with a twinkle in her eye, “Go to hell,” and we would follow the routine, until we started laughing.

I was reminded of these exchanges after reading several articles by Tim Smith from the University of Utah along with several colleagues who focus on marital conflict and heart health. It seems that how a couple fights is strongly related to coronary artery disease. In fact woman who fight with their husbands in a hostile manner have arteries twice as clogged as their non-hostile counterparts. The clogs are worse for those women whose spouses routinely responded in like manner. Men who use controlling or domineering behaviors show arterial clogs 150% greater than their non domineering/controlling counterparts.

While married couples exhibit better health than their single counterparts overall, it appears that those who are “happily married” are even more benefitted health-wise. However, for so many it is difficult to change their style of fighting when pushed to the edge of anger and frustration. The rhythm of the argument style needs to change or it will kill you, literally. Remember, those couples who can refrain from seeing their partner as the enemy on the battlefront, do better at resolving problems. Those who use appropriate humor to dislodge those stuck moments do better. We have also discovered that your mother’s mantra of “don’t go to bed mad,” is one of the worst words of advice she could have ever provided. Go to bed MAD!!!, because the next morning hardly any argument seems as worthy a subject as the night before.

Finally, take a marriage enhancement class or communication seminar. They are beneficial and actually help in other areas of marriage such as romance and sex. For more information about such courses call 1-888-4together.

To Be Continued: Relationship Conflict and Children’s Health. The findings will surprise you.

By Scott Ketring, Ph.D., Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (ACHMI)