Archive for the ‘marriage and relationship’ Category


The cost of getting hitched

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Traci Arbios,

Spring is upon us, a time when young lovers’ thoughts turn to each other, their relationship therewith and the explosive ticking that is the pressure of the social clock. I cannot begin to count the number of times my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I, just a few years into our courtship, were asked, “So when are you getting married?”

“Never,” I would reply to their gaping maws. “It’s too expensive.”

But it wasn’t the party I worried about. Or the honeymoon, because we had no plans for one anyway. And nevermind that we had both been married and divorced previously; we could handle that emotional baggage. Our issue? The fact marriage would permanently blend and increase our individual family numbers to a massive six kids (and one almost live-in best friend that eventually did become our seventh), ALL OF WHOM would need college educations. Also? We would suffer deeply from a much heavier tax burden. THOSE were very serious issues. Well, those and the recession.

In the end, love won out. We wanted the words — husband and wife — to be applicable to each other and would connect us as a family. And though our wedding cost FAR less than the national average and our Familymoon even less so? Our wedding budget was still one of those “If I don’t look at it in the face, it’ll go away” items for us.

FACT: We did not look too carefully, and it went quickly. But money issues? THEY did not go away. Rather, they were always waiting for us to look at them.

Money is a chronic issue in most people’s love lives, like that constant, necessary third partner in any relationship; and when it’s not around? NOBODY is happy. Best to be honest and do the breakdown of your needs up front.

So, lovebirds: if you’re thinking about tying the knot, be aware of some general numbers:

The Cost of Getting Hitched (according to a 2011 Brides “American Wedding Study”)

Reception (AWESOME party for roughly 150 to 200 guests): $13,370

Dress (that you will wear EXACTLY one time): $1,290

Photographer (to capture every moment for all eternity lest you forget): $3,300

Florist (whose product dies like pretty much within 24 hours): $1,430

Cake (NOM): $480

Rings (which you will have all your lives): $1,500

Other (license, tips, bridal party gifts, panty hose, all the itty-bitty stuff):$5,130

TOTAL: $26,500

So there you go.

Personally, our wedding was mere itty-bitty a fraction of this massive total — less than the “other” amount in itself. So how did I keep costs down?

Our reception was smaller — about 80 people — and held in our home.

I made the cake and the bouquets/boutonnieres.

I wore a gorgeous, awesome dress off the rack.

We didn’t hire a photographer.

Our rings are simple, matching bands.

We DID have a caterer, though.

In all honesty, we had a budget and agreed on the items that were important to each of us. And we earnestly tried our best not to go into (too much) debt.

Things we knew: We love parties, and throwing parties. We knew this wouldn’t be our one and only party, so we didn’t have that “It’s our only chance” feeling. Plus we’d done this before; it didn’t need to be a ONCE IN A LIFETIME shindig for obvious reasons.

So if you think heading down the aisle might be in your plans, chat with each other about the budget, and what items are important to you. And after the wedding, remember to keep finances a regular, sincere discussion. Because according to a 2008 GFK Roper poll? Twenty-two percent of divorcees say money was the cause.

Happy spring.

Traci Arbios is a mom, stepmom, adoptive mom and working mom. She lives with and writes about her blended family of seven kids, two pets and one amazingly patient husband at Find her on Facebook at; contact her at; or zap her on twitter, @traciAWESOME.


Advice on remarrying with kids

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Krystle Russin,

The biggest test when remarrying is how your fiancee will fit into your family. What happens when your children are unwilling to accept your new love?

“It is not always a matter of if the child likes or dislikes the new partner. Often it is the feelings that come along with this change that the children respond to,” said Emily Ryan Smith, a social worker in Mobile, Ala.

“Children will have different emotional responses to family change based on the child’s age, developmental stage and the presence of other life changes,” she said. “Children often feel anxiety due to the uncertainty of the future. They may ask themselves, ‘Where will we live? Will I have to share my room? Will I have to call him Dad? Where do I fit into this family?’”

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, 61 percent of divorced couples have children. That means almost one-third of divorcees who remarry face the possible conflict. “The main problem that happens with teenagers is that divorce is good for the parents, but actually, children — even if the parents aren’t getting along, even if they’re quite unhappy together — children like having both parents in the house,” says Dr. Marcia Polansky, a psychotherapist and professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa.

She recommends that parents who remarry help maintain the bond between their children and ex-spouse. “Although it improves the quality of the parents’ life, children need access to both parents, especially if you’re a teenager, where the best place to run into your parents is in your house,” Polansky said.

Smith said parents need to remember that it is more difficult for children to adjust to a new partner than they might expect. “The adjustment period will be more trying if there is unresolved grief due to the parent’s divorce. The feelings discussed previously, may be expressed in different ways,” she said.

Young children may regress to a period in their life when they felt safe; for example, use of baby talk, sucking their thumb or becoming very clingy to the parent. Others may act out aggressively as a way of expressing feelings of anger or fear,“ she says. ”Some children internalize their feelings and withdraw or exhibit depressive symptoms. Teenagers may become more cynical toward the parent and step-parent,” she said.

When this happens, Smith said children may be less willing to talk about it than before. “Anxiety regarding the invasion of private space is common,” she explained.

Polansky says divorce comes at the worst time when children are in their teens, because those are the years when they start developing relationships.

“They’re very distressed, because they’re at the point in their lives when they’re starting to form their romantic views, having boyfriends and girlfriends, starting dating. They’re wondering if their relationships are going to work out, because they see that their parents’ didn’t, and they may feel that they don’t have a home,” she said. “Teens are really trying to prove themselves. The question is, are they going to be like their parents or can they create a satisfying relationship?”

Polansky said that although divorce is more frequent in society, “I think teenagers are still embarrassed.” And a new love relationship for one parent can cause other feelings as well.

“Children may experience sadness as they lose hope that their parents will reunite. Jealousy of time and attention given to the new partner or step-sibling is not uncommon. Children will typically experience loyalty conflicts. Anger may be experienced as a result of the change as well. Some children, if the parent’s previous marriage involved much conflict or abuse, may have a smoother adjustment period,” said Smith.

“These feelings are normal reactions to family change. The key to helping your child is maintaining open communication, allowing your child to express his feelings and concerns. Teenagers tend to respond to remarriage more smoothly if they are involved in certain decision making processes,” she said.

“No matter the age, all children need structure. Try to maintain the existing routine as much as possible. A healthy co-parenting relationship with your previous spouse can ease the transition for the children. Providing a safe and loving environment is crucial to adjustment,” Smith said.

If the children aren’t adapting over time, you can tell by watching school performance or by looking for signs of substance abuse. “A lot of teens, the effect of the divorce is, they’re having problems in school,” said Polansky. “They may turn more to friends and sometimes, there can be drugs or alcohol. There’s a lot of anger, because they’re trying to focus on their own lives right now. They need a home base, as a teenager, but instead, they’re entangled, because they feel they have to take care of one or the other parent. They’re kind of in the middle with loyalty issues.:

“The reason for looking for these flags is, because there is treatment for them,” Polansky said.

“Divorce doesn’t have to just interfere with a teenager growing and becoming independent, and succeeding in life, and doing well at life and school, and having friends. If you get the counseling to deal with these feelings, it frees you to really be a teenager. You don’t have to stay involved and get entangled in your parents,” she said.

Emily Ryan Smith, a social worker in Mobile, Ala., offers advice for when your children don’t like your new significant other:

  1. Discuss it with your ex-spouse. “If possible, co-parent with the biological parent in order to ease the transition. Set aside your emotions about your ex-spouse and focus on the child.”
  2. Look to other family members for help. “Seek out added support for the children. Now is a good time for them to be in contact with supportive family members from both sides (paternal and maternal).”
  3. Tell your children how special they are to you. “Reassure the children that they will continue to be loved and that they cannot be replaced.”
  4. Spend time asking your children about how they feel. “Set aside time to talk with your child.”
  5. When you do talk to your children, don’t interrupt. Pay extra attention. “Practice active listening skills so that you really hear your child. You do not have to agree with the child, but this time is for listening and understanding his or her feelings.”
  6. Spend time doing fun things with your children, without your new spouse. “Make time to spend alone with your child.”
  7. Ask your kids to talk with friends at school whose parents are divorced. “Encourage your teenager to find a peer support group.”
  8. Check at your children’s school for more information and support. “Talk with your child’s school social worker for group referrals.”
  9. If remarrying, ask your children for opinions and let them in on the fun of planning your wedding. “Involve your child, if they are comfortable, in making wedding plans.”
  10. Read books and brochures about the issue. “Seek out literature on blended families.”
  11. Talk to others about it. “Seek out parent support or educational groups.”
  12. If something is going wrong in your relationship, do something about it. Your children’s ideas about relationships and seeing yours now might affect their future relationships. “If you are being mistreated by your partner seek help. Remember, you are serving as a role model for your child.”
  13. Take your children to therapy. “If your child appears ‘stuck’ in the grieving cycle and continues to have difficulty adjusting, seek advice from a professional therapist.”

Visit for help before, during and after divorce. Krystle Russin is a freelance journalist in Austin, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in government (pre-law), and minors in journalism and history.


What to do after fighting in front of your child

Posted by Lorain County Moms

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

Q: My husband and I got into a huge argument the other night in front of our 1½ -year-old. She is now afraid to go to her father. It has been two days now and nothing has changed. Please help.

A: You need to reassure your daughter that she is safe in her family, the Help for Families panel says. Don’t try to push her. It may take some time.

“You need to show you and your husband have recovered from the argument,” says panelist Marcie Lightwood. “Demonstrate that you no longer are angry and don’t want to hurt each other.”

It’s OK to go a little overboard in trying to show your daughter everything’s all right, Lightwood adds. Give her lots of hugs and reassurances.

Having a conflict in front of a child actually can be positive, says panelist Denise Continenza.
Make sure that she sees you and your husband have made up and said “I’m sorry.” She will learn that people can get angry at each other and argue but that it doesn’t mean they don’t care about each other. It also models problem solving and shows her it takes effort to work out differences.

It’s unusual that such a young child is holding on to her fear for so long, says panelist Bill Vogler.

“You didn’t do irreparable harm by having one bad argument,” Vogler says. “But if it becomes chronic then you have to work on it and might consider marital therapy. If it’s a once-and-done event I wouldn’t worry, but if it was the manifestation of long-lying undercurrent of tension, your daughter will hone in on that. You need to work on your relationship. Children’s reactions often reflect the atmosphere at home.”

Don’t have another bad argument in front of your daughter, he says.

“Her father may have to go to extremes to reconnect with this child,” Vogler says. “Dad needs to do everything he can so the child feels safe.”

One way to reconnect is the child’s father could sit in the playroom and play with one of the child’s toys or have a favorite treat and wait for the child to approach him, says Lightwood.

“Let the child decide when to come,” she says.

Another tactic is for both parents to sit together and read one of the child’s favorite books out loud until she comes to join them at her own pace, Vogler says.

You should consider going to couple’s therapy to learn how to fight, Lightwood says. There are ways to fight that are constructive and don’t harm the family.

“Your daughter’s security was threatened and she needs to be reassured,” Continenza says. “Both you and your husband need to get tools in place to handle future conflict.”

Tips for parents arguing in front of a toddler

  • Demonstrate you and your spouse have made up and aren’t angry anymore.
  • Reassure your child that she is safe with hugs and loving words.
  • Don’t have another bad argument in front of your child.
  • If arguing becomes chronic, get marriage counseling.
  • Be available and let the child decide when to come to you.
  • Consider going to couple’s therapy to learn how to fight.

Ask Mr. Dad: Can couples argue without affecting kids?

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Armin Brott, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Dear Mr. Dad: Like a lot of couples these days, my wife and I are going through some tough times. We argue about everything — but especially money. How can we work through these issues without stressing out the kids?

A: As the economy continues to stagnate and families find themselves having to adjust to a very different life than the one they’d planned, this is a question I get more and more often. The truth is that all couples go through some tough times at various points. And, as much as we’d like to pretend our adult troubles aren’t affecting our kids, we’re dead wrong.

Kids have a much better idea of what’s going on than we give them credit for, and they definitely feel the stress and uncertainty that come with knowing that their parents are less than completely happy with each other.

You often hear that the greatest gift parents can give to their children is to love and respect each other. In a perfect world, sure, but in real life, that’s often easier said than done. Here are a few rules that may reduce some of the tension your family is living under during these tough times.

  • Keep your arguments private. Wait until you’re behind closed doors — or, better yet, when the children are at school, outside, or sleeping — before you start debating. Keep your voices low, and if you can’t reach an agreement within 30 minutes or so, take a break and schedule Part II for later. To the extent possible, don’t talk about your disagreements when the children are around.
  • Maintain a semblance of harmony. You don’t have to fake extreme affection, but it wouldn’t hurt to show respect and display a thoughtful attitude in communication. Cooperate with each other on household chores, stay involved with the kids’ activities, and keep the family on its usual schedule as much as possible.
  • Get some outside help. This may seem kind of obvious, but many couples dance around or ignore tough topics for years at a time. The household silence and stress become almost unbearable for everyone, especially kids, and they reinforce unhealthy attitudes toward managing conflict. If you can’t resolve your conflicts on your own within a reasonable amount of time, find yourselves a good counselor or spiritual adviser.
  • Do not use the children as weapons or shields. It’s unfair for kids to be told to wheedle information from Mommy or to ask Daddy where he was last night. Your children are innocent bystanders to whatever’s going on in your marriage and have absolutely no role to play in it.
  • Be honest without going overboard. If your children ask questions, such as “Are you and Mommy mad at each other?” try say something like “Mom and I are trying to figure out some things right now, but we’re doing okay.” Remind them that just as siblings don’t always get along, parents have occasional tussles too.
  • Reassure them. While kids may be aware that you and Mom are having trouble, they need to know they aren’t the cause. Also, kids have a tendency to see the world through “what does it mean for me” glasses. Don’t pretend everything is fine when it isn’t, but remind them frequently that no matter what happens, you and mom will both be there to love and care for them.
  • Lighten up a little. Continue to supervise their schoolwork, get involved with their extracurricular activities, and be sure to schedule in some activities that let everyone relax for a while.

Contact Armin Brott,, or visit his Web site,


Getting along as co-parents is divorced parents’ job

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe, Contra Costa Times


My ex and I can’t talk to each other. Our breakup was really nasty and someone suggested we only communicate by e-mail or text. But her text messages are really awful which makes it difficult when we exchange the kids. What can we do?


When a divorced couple comes into my office telling me they can’t talk to each other, I hesitate suggesting text messages or e-mail. Sometimes, e-mail is the lesser of the two evils and necessary when couples think they can’t communicate, but relying on text messages is really asking for trouble. First, they are short and can sound argumentative even though they are not intended to be. Consider the question, “Where are you?” If you are in love and dating, “Where are you?” can mean, “I miss you. Please hurry.” When you are at odds, “Where are you?” can mean, “You’re late again and I’m really sick of it.” Ultimately, the best way to communicate is to talk — where someone can hear the inflections in your voice and understand your true meaning.

When communicating with an ex, it’s best keep the discussion about the kids and not about the past or who did what to whom. I always suggest that battling parents approach each other in a businesslike manner. In other words, if you were at work and you had to interact with a co-worker you didn’t like, you wouldn’t openly fight with him or her because you might lose your job. You would look for ways to cooperate. You would try not to push their buttons. You would just do your job and then go home. It’s the same premise when communicating with an ex who gets under your skin. Just talk about what is necessary — the kids. Look for ways to cooperate — for the kids’ sake. Do your job and move on.

That’s when angry divorced parents really turn up the heat. “You don’t understand,” they say. “My ex was the worst ex anyone could ever have and I never want to speak to him (or her) again.” And, there lies the key to why you can’t talk to each other. You don’t want to. You are stuck in the anger, revenge, or jealousy and can’t get past it. Meanwhile the kids are going back and forth between houses. Try to remember this: You are now forging a new relationship as co-parents. It is not an extension of the relationship that didn’t work. Because you were not good at being partners does not mean you cannot be good co-parents. You can. Just do your job.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families ( Reach them at


Embrace ‘date night’ to strengthen your marriage … and your family

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune

A “date” is butterflies in the stomach. Pants that flatter the rear view. Surprise endings.

Its very distant cousin, “date night,” is an uninterrupted meal. The pants you wore to that wedding one time. A baby-sitter.

Yes, we married parents know we’re supposed to go on date nights. And we’re certainly all atwitter about other people’s — especially when other people’s day jobs involve leading our country. “Date Night,” starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a married couple, isn’t set to hit theaters until 2010, and already it’s creating Internet buzz.

We clearly love date night. But are we in love with date night? It’s complicated.

Siobhan Smith, a Lincroft, N.J., mom of three, recently left her job at Goldman Sachs to focus on raising her girls, ages 10 months to 5 years. She has found the extra time at home rewarding but isolating.

“To counter that, I have started having more dates with my husband,” she says.

Making those dates happen, however, is a bit of a feat — even if Barack and Michelle Obama seem to make it happen pretty regularly.

“When I was working, I found it to be easier to sit at my desk and plan something,” Smith says. “Now I have two toddlers begging for attention and a third screaming for a bottle while I am on hold with Ticketmaster. Planning has taken on a whole new dimension.”

Does her husband ever take the reins?

“You have to be kidding,” Smith says. “If I waited for my husband to make some huge romantic gesture, I’d probably still be single. He’s a good man, but romance is the furthest thing from his mind.”

(Besides, Smith adds, invoking those presidential dates: “I don’t think either Michelle or Barack plan their evenings. It’s their social coordinator, and I would kill to have my own.”)

Valerie and Tommy Rey, teachers in suburban Maryland and parents of 2-year-old twins, take turns planning their bimonthly date nights. “Once a month I do it, and once a month he does,” Valerie says. “This week is my turn. I choose the place, activity and get the sitter.”

Which sounds ideal, except …

“Sometimes I feel like arranging a date night is just one more thing to put on my plate,” Valerie Rey admits. “It becomes a chore setting one up.”

Still, she’s vigilant about making them happen, even if it just means hitting the gym together and grabbing a bite to eat afterward.

“We both really miss our relationship the way it was before kids,” she says. “We love the kids, but we are working on redefining fun.”

And that, say relationship experts, is the key to a successful marriage.

“We’ve all been there, where the last thing you want to do is put on makeup and go out,” says Julia Stone, co-author of “Babyproofing Your Marriage,” (HarperCollins, $24.95), “but you can keep it simple, and it can occur at home. You can have a tablecloth and a takeout meal, as long as there are no electronic gadgets on and no kids awake.”

And as long as they occur semi-regularly.

“It’s easy to put your marriage on hold for a while,” Stone says. “You’re both adults and you can live on the scraps for a while. We compare marriage to a houseplant; it will die of neglect if you don’t take care of it. It doesn’t need heavy maintenance, but it does need some watering.”

Emma Sullivan, a Chicago lawyer, is a date-night pro. Her kids are 4, 2 and 4 weeks, and she has been out with her husband since her newborn arrived.

“When my mom was in town to help, we took advantage of the free sitter and had a post-third-child night out,” Sullivan says. “We just went around the corner to a German restaurant and had a couple drinks, but it was really good to have some adult time.”

Sullivan says they’ve done regular date nights since their first child was born, and she’s usually in charge of planning them.

“If I left it to him, we’d go to a lot more movies,” she says. “I like to go to more restaurants and bars so we have time to talk. It’s really hard at home to have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband.”

Stone says couples shouldn’t get too hung up on who’s planning the nights out but warns that one partner shouldering all the responsibility can lead to resentment.

“You don’t need to over-engineer it,” Stone says. “A little effort on both people’s part makes a huge difference. Women always want to feel wooed and like you’re worth the effort. And guys want to feel valued and not relegated to the sidelines after a baby is born.”

And a willingness to accept reality never hurts.

“I’ll always be in charge of date night, and he’ll always be in charge of getting the oil changed,” says Smith. “I have to be happy with the current situation. If not, I will be back to watching ‘Barney’ and having takeout pizza on Saturday nights.”

Have a great date

Julia Stone, co-author of “Babyproofing Your Marriage” and mother of two, offers these date-night pointers:

  • Don’t feel guilty. “Your adult relationship is the linchpin of the family,” she says. “To model a loving relationship and show kids that adults can have fun together and enjoy each other is one of the best things you can do for your children.”
  • Don’t let money be a hindrance. “If you’re inspired to plan a surprise trip to Paris, then rock on,” she says, “but it still counts as date night if you just jet to the local pizza parlor.”
  • Don’t talk shop. “Try to get through the entire meal without talking about the kids, the house or money,” Stone says.