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Speak Up for Family and Life

In Abortion, Abstinence, Child Development, Choice, Diane Robertson, Divorce, Families, father, Free Speech, Freedom, Marriage, Media, Parenting, Planned Parenthood, Prostitution, Sanctity of Life, Sexual Freedom, Technology, The Family, Values on August 26, 2015 at 8:47 am

Ashley Madisonby Diane Robertson

There’s this infamous company in Canada, Ashley Madison, which hosts a purportedly secret online dating service for people who are married or in a committed relationship. The company’s slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Customers pay Ashley Madison to help them have extra marital affairs and one night stands.

On July 15th of this year hackers stole the company’s “secret” customer data—including email addresses, names, home addresses, sexual fantasies and credit card information. At the time, Hackers said they would release the information to the public if Ashley Madison did not permanently shut down. On July 22nd, the company released just the first names of the customers. When the company did not comply with the demands of the hackers, they released all of the information on Aug 18th.

The fall out has been huge with ordinary people to celebrities such as Josh Duggar being outed for cheating on their spouses.

The Toronto police department even reported that two people committed suicide because they were outed by the hackers. The Toronto police department blamed the hackers stating this would “not be tolerated”.

Normally, I agree that hacking is wrong. It’s typically used to gain access to personal information for financial gains. I feel like this situation is different. I agree with the hackers that the company is abominable. They make money while facilitating the breakup of marriages and families. I think justice has been served.

Most people are standing by the fact that hacking is illegal, and that what these hackers did was wrong because they have ruined millions of lives. I agree that hacking is illegal and should be. But I do not believe the hackers are responsible for ruining the lives of the adulterers. Rather, those committing adultery are responsible for ruining their own lives. They made conscious choices to do something they were very aware would harm their spouse, their children, and ultimately themselves.

I am going to speak as a Christian in an appeal to other Christians. I believe that as Christians it is imperative for us to recognize what is wrong and damaging to families and to society and call it out. We need to make judgments so that we can understand what is good and what is bad. Sadly, as a society we have been bullied into a place where we won’t say something is right or wrong because it might hurt someone’s feelings. We cower at the being called names, and our unwillingness to face the criticism of those calling us judgmental or bigoted or hateful has led to a whole host of societal ills.

Ashley Madison would not exist if there weren’t enough corrupt people willing to pay for it. Companies can only exist if there is enough of a market to be profitable. Along the same lines, Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics wouldn’t exist if there weren’t so many mothers and fathers willing to sacrifice the very life of their children for the sake of lust and convenience.

I look around me and see that as a society we have given our compassion to the people selfishly destroying life and family instead of those who have had their lives and families destroyed. The people who need our compassion are the husbands and wives whose marriages have been shattered by infidelity, the sons and daughters who are left without a mother or a father because of the resulting divorce, and the babies that never breathed because their parents did not want them.

Just 60 years ago, compassion was given to the real victims and as a result more people considered the consequences before breaking apart their families or taking the lives of their unborn children. The pressure to live a chaste life meant that life and family were cherished. Now, individual choice is cherished, and life and family are discarded.

To Christians, I say, make a choice. Is what we say and how we judge saving lives and strengthening families, or is it promoting (quietly or openly) the destruction of life and the breakdown of families? Those who hacked into the Ashley Madison website, may have committed a crime, but they also made an important statement about marriage and family. They stood up for love and fidelity. We can to, and we don’t even need to break the law to do so. We just need to speak.

Carrot cake and a dash of divorce at my wedding reception

In Cohabitation, Divorce, Marriage on July 30, 2015 at 12:09 pm

carrot cakeBy Jimmy Bridges

Toward the close of our wedding reception, my wife and I said our goodbyes to family and friends. One particular guest, age 21, parted with the following words, “congratulations you two, I hope it lasts.” There was a strange casual, uneasiness in his tone, suggesting that the outcome of lasting marriage or divorce was completely out of our hands and that everyone on earth knows that fact. We smiled, thanked him for his “support?” while feeling a bit unsettled shortly thereafter. We felt unsettled because a wedding and reception are usually accompanied by individuals who are filled with hope for the happy couple. Was this guest filled with fear and despair? I knew for a fact that he was not. He seemed just as happy and hopeful as the next guest throughout the reception. Then why did he say this so matter-of-factly?

The attitudes of marriage differ according to age group, gender, and culture. In this article I focus mainly on cohabitation as a byproduct of shifting marriage attitudes, though there are many more. It is difficult to specifically determine societal effects on the shifting attitude towards marriage. It seems reasonable to think that whatever an individual and their partner decide on, in regards to their relationship, has no effect on anyone else except that individual and their partner. However, as further research is done on the byproducts of shifting marriage attitudes (i.e. cohabitation, dropping fertility rates, gender blindness to parenting, and more), we begin to see that one’s decision to either marry or cohabit before living together, have children or not, or provide a child with a mother and father actually does affect others—both directly and indirectly.

The attitude of many good young people in the United States towards marriage is not always a hopeful one. In fact, the positive attitude towards marriage is waning as evidenced in the rise of cohabiting couples.1 There seems to be a great fear or an uncertainty looming over the heads of many young people that marriage can only end in divorce. This attitude is destructive to future marriages, future children, and society’s functioning as a system dependent on intact families.

“Let’s just live together” – think again

Living togetherThe above story is only one example of the growing attitude regarding marriage in our society. Media is replete with the myth that cohabitation is a smart, even necessary step to “test drive”2 the relationship. From Dear Abbey3 to NBC news, society is buying into the assumption that cohabitation actually helps prepare a couple for marriage. However, credible research continues to show that cohabitation not only has no effect on improving the relationship after marriage, but is shown to have negative effects on the couple’s relationship quality after marriage.4

Studies that focus on the practice of cohabitation find that in no way does this practice improve the future marriage of that couple. In many cases it has negative effects on the future marriage and increases risk of marital disillusionment. One such study was entitled Should We Live Together and was written by David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (2002)5 through the National Marriage Project. In summary, the research they reviewed on cohabitation concluded the following; “There is no evidence that if you decide to cohabit before marriage you will have a stronger marriage than those who don’t’ live together, and some evidence suggest that if you live together before marriage, you are more likely to break up after marriage” (p. 15). Another recent study by Jose, O’Leary, and Moyer (2010)6 was entitled Does Premarital Cohabitation Predict Subsequent Marital Stability and Marital Quality? The study concluded the following; “Couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce than couples who do not cohabit before marriage.”

The research continues to show that this tend does not prove to be beneficial to the marriage agreement. Why then has the uninformed society fallen into the trap of thinking that it is only sure way to “test drive” the vehicle of marriage? Part of the reason may have to do with the fact that many young people are simply uninformed. To be frank, researching the possible effects of cohabitation on a relationship with the love of one’s life is not common protocol—especially for the infatuated young adult. The attitude, like the one expressed in the well-intentioned young man in the story above, gives us a snap shot of the environment that is becoming “normal” for today’s youth. If it is becoming normal that most marriages will eventually fail and that a serious relationship ought to begin within a noncommittal atmosphere (i.e. cohabitation) then what might this mean for the future stability of our society?

We as a society have long since understood the self-evident truth that marriage is not an easy task. It requires a strong, loyal commitment between a man and a woman; a commitment needed to withstand the difficulty of raising children. When we step back and consider society at large, what are we prone to consider? We might be wise to consider what it may look like in the future. We may also consider who will fill the offices and chairs of competent leaders who will guide and guarantee safety, equality, and civility from society’s members. These considerations lead us back to our main issue at hand. Marriage provides an ideal setting where husband and wife commit to one another in raising children, children who will then end up taking the place of future leaders within our society. If we are still under the impression that our marriage attitudes affect no one but the couple, we ought to reconsider this attitude. Behind the backdrop of these considerations and current research on the byproducts of shifting marriage attitudes, we might reconsider the trend of cohabitation as one of the worst ways to “test drive” the vehicle of marriage.

Jimmy BridgesJimmy is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a masters in Marriage and family therapy.  His passion is in family science. “Social science is not perfect, but it is currently all we have as a society to give us a glimpse of where we have been, where we are at, and where we are going. The hope is that as we become more informed we become more responsible citizens.”

 

References

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf
  2. http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/04/17588704-the-new-normal-cohabitation-on-the-rise-study-finds?lite
  3. http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/2013/6/15/daughter-living-with-boyfriend-doesnt-get
  4. http://www.stateofourunions.org/2012/SOOU2012.pdf
  5. David Popenoe & Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (2002) Should we live together?
  6. Jose, O’Leary, & Moyer (2010) Does premarital cohabitation predict subsequent marital stability and marital quality?

 

 

Marriage is Dead? The Case against “The Case Against Marriage”

In Abstinence, Child Development, Choice, Cohabitation, Divorce, Families, Feminism, Free Speech, Freedom, Government, Health Care, Marriage, Media, Meet UFI, Parenting, Research, Sexual Freedom, Single Mothers, The Family, Values on July 7, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Newly Married Couple ca. 2003

“Marriage is dead,”. . . or, at least,  no longer necessary was the Nietzchean-like declaration of two young, female writers in Newsweek.  In an article entitled “The Case Against Marriage,” Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison lay-out with dismissive nonchalance, and not a small amount of arrogance, the various reasons that they, and women like them no longer need marriage. “Once upon a time, marriage made sense,” they write.

“It was how women ensured their financial security, got the father of their children to stick around, and gained access to a host of legal rights. But 40 years after the feminist movement established women’s rights in the workplace, a generation after the divorce rate peaked, and a decade after Sex and the City made singledom chic, marriage is–from a legal and practical standpoint, anyway–no longer necessary.”

Well, from a “legal standpoint,” they may be correct. With the advent of no-fault divorce, and a growing welfare state, singledom is no longer legally disadvantaged, and as they claim, may be advantaged in some ways. However, from every other standpoint–practical or otherwise–they could not be further from the truth. Legal structures and societal trends may obscure this fact, but the truth is traditional marriage benefits everyone–men, women, children, and as a result, society. Marriage is in fact necessary. Why? Simply put: because marriage produces the best results for society and especially for women.

The danger is that the “Marriage is dead” crowd, so aptly represented by Bennett and Ellison, is getting louder, and with changes in public policy increasingly disadvantaging the married, and society increasingly glorifying “chic singledom” this crowd is becoming more persuasive. Fortunately, the facts are on the side of marriage. So please indulge us as we take on Bennett and Ellison, point by point, in our case against “the case against marriage.”

  1. Marriage is no longer necessary for child-rearing or, at least, society no longer expects women to be married to have children. Bennett and Ellison point out that the social stigma against marriage disappeared a long time ago, with 41 percent of births being to unmarried mothers. They also make the claim that this can be an advantage, for in Scandinavia, where unmarried parents are the norm, parents actually spend more time with their children. What Bennett and Ellison seem to forget are outcomes.


Yes, the social stigma against single parents may be gone, but the negative consequences for children are not. Study after study has shown that children living with a married mom and dad are better off. They are more likely to have better health, fewer behavioral and emotional problems, better cognitive and verbal development and greater education and job attainment. All the statistics are clear, traditional marriage is better for children.

As for the parent with child time ratio, if their facts are correct, Scandinavia would be the exception, an exception enabled by a cradle-to-grave welfare state in which the government compensates for the financial and social instability inherent to unmarried child-rearing. The more children are raised out of wedlock, the more government welfare programs are needed to compensate. That is a simple fact. And with government debt rising around the world, this is a responsibility most governments simply cannot afford.

  1. Marriage is no longer necessary to engage in sexual relations. It is true that many, some would argue most, no longer wait until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse. Bennett and Ellison fairly accurately, if a bit glibly, express the general attitude: “And the idea that we’d ‘save ourselves’ for marriage? Please.” Yet, as mainstream as this attitude may be, it is not one they should be touting as a reason to dispose of marriage.

No matter what societal mores may be, pre-marital sex leads to negative outcomes. It leads to more out-of-wedlock childbearing, more STDs, more violence in relationships, more mental and emotional trauma to women, and cohabitation contributes to a higher divorce rate–and that’s just the short list of the “contributions” of pre-martial sex. There is nothing about this trend that is healthy and good for society.

  1. Government programs and legislation no longer benefit the married, and probably advantage the single. Bennett and Ellison rightly point out that under current governmental policy; it sometimes doesn’t pay to be married. Unmarried couples have nearly all the rights of married couples, “federal law favors unmarried taxpayers . . . and under President Obama’s health plan, low-earning single people get better subsidies to buy insurance.”

But the duo forgets to mention that 75 percent of the $150+ billion dollars spent annually on various government welfare programs goes directly to single parents and individuals in non-traditional relationships. On the other hand, marriage is financially advantageous in nearly every other way. Here’s just a few facts:

– Marriage increases wealth over one’s lifetime. Among couples who marry and stay married, their net worth increases on average by 16 percent with each year. Over a lifetime that is, on average, a 93 percent increase in wealth over those who remain single.

– For those in poverty, particularly, marriage is even more important financially. According to one study, seventy percent of never-married mothers would be able to escape poverty if they were married to the father of their children.

No government program can tout such success in alleviating poverty. So government programs may not directly benefit the married, but the married are still better off financially, even without tax breaks.

  1. Women are not happier in marriage. Well, this one is just blatantly false. If you would like to talk superficially about marriage, as Bennett and Ellison do, you can certainly cite enough male shortcomings to discourage any woman from wanting to marry. But the truth of the matter is evidence indicates that both men and women are happier in marriage. Statistics show that married people are happier and wealthier than widowed, divorced, separated, or never-married people across the board. And not only are women happier in marriage, they also experience lower levels of violence, poverty, depression and emotional trauma. Not to mention, they also enjoy better sex lives and live longer than single women. So the amount of housework they do weekly may increase due to the simple fact of being married to a man, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
  2. Humans are not made to stay together for a lifetime, as illustrated by soaring divorce rates. “With our life expectancy in the high 70s,” write Bennett and Ellison, “the idea that we’re meant to be together forever is less realistic. . . . Healthy partnerships are possible, for sure–but the permanence of marriage seems naive, almost arrogant.” Let us suggest that what is “arrogant,” is assuming humans are not equipped for lifetime commitment (against centuries’ worth of evidence to the contrary) on the evidence that we are living a little longer and divorcing more often.

The truth is extended longevity accounts for only a tiny fraction of the increase in divorce from 1965 to 1980. And more importantly, over 70 percent of all people who have ever been married are STILL married to the same person. The other 30 percent are part of a marry-divorce, remarry-divorce, remarry-divorce pattern that drives the overall divorce rate to around 50 percent.

So perhaps a more accurate diagnosis of the problem is not human nature, but the unrealistic expectations on the part of a minority who continue to marry and remarry. Bennett and Ellison, themselves, identify that expectations of marriage have changed. “Young people today don’t want their parents’ marriage, says Tara Parker-Pope, the author of For Better–they want all-encompassing, head-over-heels fulfillment: a best friend, a business partner, somebody to share sex, love, and chores. In other words, a “soul mate”–which is what 94 percent of singles in their 20s describe what they look for in a partner.” Such expectation would doom any relationship to failure because they are based on selfish gratification which is a number one contributor to divorce. Seventy percent of the population has learned that real fulfillment comes through years of sacrifice and service as soul mates are created–not found!

Conclusion

Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison in “The Case Against Marriage,” aren’t the first to set out to disprove the benefits of marriage. In fact, such attempts are almost as old as marriage itself. A very inclusive study of this nature was attempted by a well known anthropologist of the early 1900’s named Joseph Daniel Unwin. He too set out to prove that marriage was irrelevant and even harmful. In his research he chronicled the historical decline of 86 different cultures and was forced to conclude that only marriage with fidelity could lead to cultural prosperity. In fact, he said, “Once a society departs from a social norm of absolute marital monogamy, social chaos ensues within three generations!”

United Families International acknowledges Unwin’s findings and we dedicate large amounts of time and efforts in protecting the institution of traditional marriage as the most basic unit of society around the world. Join us in this effort!

To see a list of studies documenting the importance of marriage as discussed above, go here. Or visit UFI’s website to see UFI’s Guides to Family Issues: The Marriage Advantage and our guide discussing the impact of Cohabitation.

How does a same-sex marriage harm your heterosexual marriage? Here’s how.

In Child Development, Divorce, Families, Gender Identity, Homosexuality, Marriage, Parenting, Same-Sex Marriage, The Family, Values on June 30, 2015 at 6:11 am

The happy “same-sex family” is more often than not built upon the back of a destroyed mother/father heterosexual family. 

In the same-sex marriage debate, how often have you heard this snarkily-delivered question:  “Well, how does a same-sex marriage harm your heterosexual marriage?”  With the obvious answer to be:  “Of course, there isn’t any harm…”  But writer Janna Darnelle shows us very clearly the consequences to marriage in her very sobering article entitled:

gay announcementBreaking the Silence: Redefining Marriage Hurts Women Like Me – and Our Children

By Janna Darnelle

The news is full of happy stories of gay and lesbian couples and their new families. But behind those big smiles and sunny photographs are other, more painful stories. These are left to secret, dark places. They are suppressed, and those who would tell them are silenced in the name of “marriage equality.”

But I refuse to be silent.

I represent one of those real life stories that are kept in the shadows. I have personally felt the pain and devastation wrought by the propaganda that destroys natural families.

The Divorce

In the fall of 2007, my husband of almost ten years told me that he was gay and that he wanted a divorce. In an instant, the world that I had known and loved—the life we had built together—was shattered.

I tried to convince him to stay, to stick it out and fight to save our marriage. But my voice, my desires, my needs—and those of our two young children—no longer mattered to him. We had become disposable, because he had embraced one tiny word that had become his entire identity. Being gay trumped commitment, vows, responsibility, faith, fatherhood, marriage, friendships, and community. All of this was thrown away for the sake of his new identity.

Try as I might to save our marriage, there was no stopping my husband. Our divorce was not settled in mediation or with lawyers. No, it went all the way to trial. My husband wanted primary custody of our children. His entire case can be summed up in one sentence: “I am gay, and I deserve my rights.” It worked: the judge gave him practically everything he wanted. At one point, he even told my husband, “If you had asked for more, I would have given it to you.”  Read the rest of the article at Public Discourse

 

 

Forests and Families

In Child Development, Choice, Divorce, Drug Use, Education, Families, father, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, Religion, Sanctity of Life, Schools, The Family, Values on June 12, 2015 at 7:29 am

family in forrestby Tom Christensen

When driving through the arid national pine forests of Montana, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, one cannot help but notice large numbers of dead trees.   Mountain pine beetles about the size of a grain of rice bore into, lay their eggs, feed on and protect themselves in the soft phloem of an older tree, creating a deadly girdle cutting off the transmission of nutrients to the rest of the tree.

Vulnerable pine trees infested by the beetles quickly turn orange and die.  Abandoning a dead tree for one living, pine beetles spread from one tree to another until there are no mature trees left.  Literally millions of acres of pine forest have been destroyed in this manner.

Bark beetle infestation is a symptom of a sick forest already weakened by draught, disease and the aging process.  Pine trees when young and healthy have a natural internal defense mechanism against bark beetles.  They produce a pitch substance that encapsulates or drowns the beetles; and the beetles naturally avoid them.  When the trees grow older and are weakened by draught or disease, they are unable to stave off the beetles.

Bark Beetle.jpgA pine forest cannot be protected from the beetle by impractical artificial means, such as the regular injection of insecticide into trees, or by waiting for unreasonable natural means to destroy the beetles, such as extreme cold weather or forest fire.  The best approach is to steadily “replenish” the forest by planting and nurturing a fresh supply of seedlings and younger pine stock.

Not only are the scores of dead trees unsightly, the non-reproducing dead trees contribute to soil erosion, mud slides and flash floods.  The dead trees also affect wildlife habitat, food chains, and a broad range of ecosystems.

The Devastation of the Natural Family

Like a majestic ponderosa or lodge pole pine forest, the future of an entire civilization turns on the health and strength of its families.  The greatest hope for society is the formation of impenetrable unions of strong, capable men and women who honor their marital covenants, care for their own, and produce a steady supply of young ones prepared to carry on the fight for life, liberty, and the family.

 Forest After Bark Beetle 2.jpg
The internal defense system of an enduring society is a stable family structure, elevated moral standards, and a willingness among parents to “multiply and replenish the earth.”  Like a pine forest, a human society is replenished when the older population renews itself with healthy, responsible young people who marry and continue the cycle of life.

On the other hand, a family’s internal defense system can be weakened by narcissistic dysfunction, addictions and attitudes.    Like pine beetles, negative social policies and conventions (such as those that disfavor traditional marriage, religion, childbearing and responsible parenthood), feed on families under stress.  However, unlike bark beetles, they target the young as well as the old.

Similar to the death and destruction of millions of acres of pine forests, the effects of the weakening and dissolution of families throughout the world are plain to see.  Nations depopulate, crime rates rise, schools fail, quality of life declines, and economies sink.

Preserving the World’s Families

What can be done to protect the health of the world’s families?

Family Working Together.jpgFirst, each family must strengthen its own internal defenses and immunities.  Stable families can resist those who would destroy them if they are well-organized, self-sufficient, and put their marriage and children first.  The best protections include living by a consistent code of rules and expectations; practicing forgiveness, integrity, thrift and industry; communicating with and loving each other; and playing, working, and worshipping together.

Second, individuals, families, communities and nations must resist harmful external influences such as media, policy, institutions, and peer influences that seek to penetrate them.  They must acknowledge that high-sounding policies of government paternalism, anti-capitalism, and moral relativism stunt economic growth and opportunity and destroy lives, families, and personal initiative.  Government policy too often addresses the symptoms of family decline rather than the causes of it.

Parents are the first line of defense.  Next comes the faith institutions, the school and university, and the community.  In some settings such as the United Nations, the opposition is so vast and organized that one cannot fight these battles alone.  To provide an effective voice of reason, families, churches and organizations must join with others, including professionals, to influence policymakers and to shape policies at distant, unreported venues.

In summary, the stakes are too high and the potential destruction too devastating to allow the enemy of the family free reign.  For a society to flourish, the limits of government must be understood, mature families must be replenished and strengthened from within, and the common characteristics and vulnerabilities of those who would destroy the family must be clearly identified. 

Strong Families Will End Poverty

In Abortion, Child Development, Choice, Cohabitation, Courts, Diane Robertson, Divorce, Drug Use, Education, Families, father, Free Speech, Government, Marriage, Religion, Religious Freedom, Same-Sex Marriage, Sanctity of Life, Single Mothers, The Family, Values on May 27, 2015 at 8:30 am

poverty stop itby Diane Robertson

During a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Obama, and Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam chided Christian religious organizations for focusing too heavily on “divisive issues” such as abortion and gay marriage.

The New York Times reported that President Obama, “chided religious organizations for sometimes focusing too heavily on issues like abortion rather than keeping the pressure on politicians to confront poverty.”

President Obama said, “This is oftentimes viewed as a nice-to-have relative to an issue like abortion…I think that there’s more power to be had there, a more transformative voice that’s available around these issues.”

The Washington Post reported that Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, went even further. Referring to Catholics and Evangelicals, he said that they “are the two largest faith communities in America. They have historically been involved in the public square. They’ve been emphasizing homosexuality and abortion and issues related to sex. If they employ the same strengths that religious institutions have on behalf of poor kids as they have on other issues, it would make a real difference.”

What President Obama and Mr. Putnam misunderstand is that religious institutions strengthen families, and strong families beat poverty. Marriage reduces the likelihood of childhood poverty by 82%. The Heritage Foundation reported that:

“Most poor children live in single-parent families. Seventy-one percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents, mostly single mothers. Compared to children raised in an intact family, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; and drop out of high school.”

This means that the Christian religions focusing on marriage and the right to life fight poverty in a very real and meaningful way. The government already gives money to the poor, and has been for almost a century. But that has not gotten rid of poverty. Teaching the people about marriage, counseling with them, and helping them with the knowledge and resources to maintain strong marriages and families will give the people the resources they need to get themselves out of poverty.

The divisive issues of gay marriage and abortion are intimately related to family. Strong families believe in the right to life, and strong families lead the world in the fight against poverty.

How My Family Fell Apart

In Child Development, Divorce, Uncategorized on May 6, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Author’s name with held by request

divorce, split in twoOn October 26th, 2013 a phone call changed my world forever and caused me to reevaluate just how much my family had been impacted by my parent’s divorce. “I have terrible news,” my father said–a phrase that would prove to be a gross understatement. The night before, my younger brother, who was only 16 years old, had committed suicide in my father’s home. Unfortunately the years leading up to his death were difficult, as my brother had been the center of a custody battle that caused him great distress.

My parents divorced when I was a toddler and my brother was just an infant. Through the years I felt confused as my father was framed as the ‘bad guy’, and I let myself believe this for a while until one day I decided to form my own opinion of my father. I have tried to be more open minded, and even though this decision created a greater bond with my brother, it sadly created distance between me, my sisters and mom. As in many divorce situations, I felt torn between family members.

Even though at the beginning my mother had custody of us, my father always wanted one or more of us to live with him. When my mother needed to move out of state, my father decided to fight for custody of my brother, claiming that all teenage boys need their father. Even though in theory I believe this to be true, part of me felt that perhaps it was pride that drove my father’s decision.

At the beginning of what I refer to as “the war,” my mom fought diligently for my brother as he had informed her that he wanted to live with her. Things slowed down for a little, but soon my dad fought for custody with much more vigor, which led to my brother deciding to give my dad a chance. This decision though changed things even more in my family as my mother felt betrayed because she had spent so much time, money and effort in fighting for custody of him, as that had initially been my brother’s desire. This escalated tense feeling among family members and unfortunately my brother had to deal with pressure from both sides as he knew that no matter what he did – he couldn’t win or please everyone.

When my dad came to pick him up after the custody settlement, my mother sent my brother with only the clothes he wore and flip flops on his feet. I think she meant it as a way to get at my dad, but I doubt my brother saw it this way. My brother was an example of how children can get caught in the crossfire of divorce. When I say that I know firsthand the heartache, pain, and suffering that can come from divorce, it’s because I have experienced it.

The morning that I got the “terrible news” from my dad, I nearly fell apart. Some may say my case is extreme, and I wish that were totally true, but a study conducted by Franklyn Nelson concluded that, “A study of teen suicides in California [that] found that in 52 percent of the cases investigated, the decedent’s parents were divorced or separated.” This study reveals perhaps depression and other unresolved issues that can occur in a divorced family.

Even though more studies need to be conducted to confirm the connection between suicide and divorce, it is clear that divorce is a key contributor to many serious social issues, including lower GPA’s, decrease in economic security, and increase in emotional distress which can be found in United Families International’s, “Divorce 100 Reasons Not To…”. Regrettably, I witnessed firsthand the impact of each of these areas in my family following the divorce.

I do not want such heartache and pain to be felt by other families. The negative impact on our family caused by the divorce and incredible loss that I felt upon hearing that my brother had committed suicide is something I would never wish on anyone. This experience though has given me the desire to speak up in behalf of the traditional family based upon a mother and father who are faithful to each other.

How can we do this?

One answer starts with a change in us. A change in me took place upon my brother’s death. I realized what selfishness and hatred could create, and the negative domino effect it can cause to family members. This is when I made my decision to forgive and to love. I knew holding a grudge will just add to the cycle. When I made this decision, I felt incredible peace.

What have I learned for my own marriage? I’ve learned to not be selfish. I do my best to not hold a grudge, but to instead put my energy into loving my husband and strengthening my marriage–a marriage which will one day welcome children who will live in a home full of love and acceptance.

Selfishness is something that I believe destroys families. In divorce, people can think of themselves and how hurt they are, while ignoring the hurtful things perhaps that they do. I recognize that divorce may be necessary for some individuals due to particular circumstances; however I tend to believe that many divorces are caused by selfishness.

What if society could let go of this mindset? What if we could stop thinking so much about ourselves and expand to think of others? What if we could think about the future children that will come into this world and what will be best for them? I for one have made it a personal goal to work to forgive more and be less selfish, so that on a smaller scale I can stop this trend in my own family. I invite you to do the same.

Name withheld by request.

Instant Divorce – Mix In & Stir Well

In Divorce on May 1, 2015 at 1:53 pm

By Laura Chesley

Stir wellIt was 1973, deep into the uproar and chaos of the sexual revolution. The winds had begun to shift concerning marriage and families; it was time to hurl the historic chains of domination by men to the ground and take control of personal destiny. Equal Rights was the call sign for every self-respecting feminist and Jimmie was one of them. She gloried in having a name that belonged to men and enjoyed the discord between the name and her bra-less body. She wore the garment of self-fulfillment proudly, proclaiming her right to do as she pleased with her body and her life. The fact that she was married, and had children, wasn’t really an issue. She was determined to shed the oppression of the ages by doing just as she pleased.

At that time her marriage was unsatisfying and her husband, boring. The excitement was gone and what was left was comfortable, but dull. She and her husband had moved to another state only a year earlier, in search of greener grass and brighter rainbows. What she found was the same monotony she’d left in the previous state. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, though, she was considering a quick divorce – severing the ties to her husband without any accusation of wrong doing or fault – and moving on to those greener pastures she’d hoped to find a year before. Surely they were out there.

The History of No-fault Divorce

Prior to 1969 divorce laws required that there be a reason for a marriage to be dissolved. There were a number of legal reasons allowed: adultery, abandonment, drug abuse, neglect, criminal conviction or even mental illness, among others and depending on the state the couple resided. Divorce was a civil process in court, similar to bringing a lawsuit against another person; it required proof and the determination to see it through to the end. It often wasn’t pleasant, but it was an effective brake on ending a relationship too quickly.

In 1969, Ronald Reagan, a staunch social conservative, signed a ‘no-fault’ divorce bill into law in the state of California. He was the first. Many states would soon follow in California’s footsteps, to the unfortunate demise of many marriages. Within approximately 15 years nearly every state had some form of no fault divorce.  California has always prided itself about being progressive and forward thinking; they have a long history of blazing the trail to greater innovation – socially and economically – but this was a social experiment that has failed.

The Whys of No-Fault Divorce

There were many ideas behind no-fault divorce at the time, but one in particular was the main driver: no fault divorce was meant to make the process of divorce easier and less hostile. If no one had to prove the other at fault, it would make the whole break up less messy, less antagonistic, less expensive, and easier on everyone, including children. There was even the idea of a good divorce that floated around certain parts of society. Surely children would be better off with parents who were no longer angry, bitter people.  The legacy of no-fault divorce includes individuals left wondering what happened to their marriage, as they watch their spouse leave them high and dry without firm reasons and with little to no accountability.  The acrimony associated with divorce did not go away; it simply moved into lengthy custody battles and rancor over asset distribution.  No-fault divorce has been a gift to divorce lawyers and the negative impact to children has been incalculable.

During the 1960s and ‘70s the United States experienced a deep social change. The post World War II baby boom generation was growing up in relative prosperity and peace, and given the sexual revolution, relationships were more fluid. It was more about being true to yourself than settling down to raise family – with all the responsibility and duty that entailed. If someone was unhappy, then it was time for a change of scenery or job or relationship – even if that meant divorcing. These feelings of entitlement – to happiness, fulfillment, and contentment – permeated popular culture and made the idea of ending an unsatisfying marriage just another step on the way to finding oneself.

The Result After 46 Years

Divorce, valentine heartMarriages still end in acrimony. Children are still affected by parents who take every opportunity to fight and argue; divorce does not end the contact the parents have with each other. Relationship problems that existed during the marriage continue after the divorce, with the only real remedy being limited contact and emotional maturity.

No-fault divorce solved few problems, but it created many. Before no-fault laws, many women were awarded full custody of the children, ownership of the family home, and alimony. But with the push for equality with the Equal Rights Amendment, newly minted no-fault divorce laws made those economic cushions less commonplace and many newly single mothers found themselves living in poverty. That trend continues today.

What Can Be Done?

Michael J. McManus, president of Marriage Savers, has written about three ways of reforming no-fault divorce laws. They are not perfect solutions, but a good start:

  • Divorcing couples with minor children would be required to have mutual consent to the divorce. One spouse should not have the ability to end a marriage with children on his or her own.
  • A legislative act that is already currently being looked at in twelve states would require that divorcing parents participate in a marriage education course and wait a year before filing formally for the divorce.
  • States would identify a parent who is committed to saving the marriage as the “responsible spouse” and award half to two thirds custody of the children and as much as 100 percent of the family’s economic assets.

There may be another way to overcome the negative affects of no-fault divorce laws, but it is relatively new. Three states (Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana) have created a legally distinct type of marriage. In Arizona the requirement is a statement that must contain three things:

  • A specific proscribed statement acknowledging that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, proof that the couple has participated in premarital counseling, and the signatures of both people, witnessed by a court clerk.

Covenant marriage statutes don’t ensure that marriages will last, but it is an attempt to roll back some of what’s happened since no-fault divorce laws changed the landscape. It is worth a try.

Conclusion

I am the daughter of Jimmie. She was successful in getting her much-wanted, no-fault divorce from my father, but never found the greener pastures. The easy come, easy go siren call of marriage and divorce was a sham. There were no perfect men, or marriages for that matter, out there. She is currently married to her fifth husband, though this one will most likely be the last. The entitlement attitude has faded, replaced by a marriage in its 16th year. Her life is filled with predictability and general comfort, the best to be had now that she’s in her 70s. It’s been a long road, this path she’s trod, in the search for herself. Unfortunately, her choices left broken hearts and homes in her wake, but the tide has turned – she’s learned and settled down. It appears she has finally come to understand that there are no short cuts to finding happiness.

Laura ChesleyLaura Chesley is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is currently a student at BYU-Idaho majoring in Marriage & Family Studies. She anticipates graduating in July 2015 and beginning the Masters in Social Work program at Arizona State University in August. She and her husband, Phil, have been married 31 years and enjoy being grandparents to 7 amazing young people.

What’s My Role? – The Grandparent Dilemma… or Opportunity?

In Child Development, Divorce, Education, Families, father, Grandparents, Health Care, Media, Parental Rights, Parenting, Sanctity of Life, Technology, The Family, Values on April 13, 2015 at 6:30 am

Grandpa and grandsonby Chuck Malone

Indeed one of the most fascinating, albeit frustrating, challenges facing any family unit is trying to understand and adjust to changing roles. The constant challenge to the definition of family in today’s changing environment makes that challenge even more difficult.

In a nutshell, let me set the stage for the object of this blog – “the grandparent.” What do we do with them? What does it mean to be without them? Who loses if they are not in our children’s lives?

My children had grandparents during their childhood years, but my parents struggled with that role. They were so careful not to interfere, that they became almost ghost-like; appearing and then almost as fast… disappearing, leaving evidence of their visit in the form of gifts, food, and/or a little chat about “what’s new with the kids?” Or “you are pregnant… again?”

My wife’s mother on the other hand was made to be a grandmother. She loved her grandchildren as much, or more, than her own children… and treated them as such.

So now my wife and I are “the grandparents.” Interesting, isn’t it, how fast time flies? I got to thinking about what makes someone a good grandparent “now that I are one,” with the goal of discovering some qualities that I don’t now possess, and work toward getting better at understanding my role, because I have to admit… I am lost here!

Because I had never been a grandparent before, and even now after 17 years of practice I still consider myself lost when it comes to understanding my role… so I looked into the fountain of all wisdom – the “Internet.”

What I found was like reading a daytime soap opera. Grandparent
estrangement? Narcissism? Increasing divorce rate among grandparents? Grandchildren

being raised by grandparents because the adult parent-child is not responsible enough to care for his/her own children? On and on…

What?

As disturbing as it was, however, to read about this drama enveloping the family unit, it was even more disturbing to learn that the majority of those polled agreed that having grandparents in their children’s lives had benefit, but they didn’t know how to extract it.

So when both sides of the conflict are confused, no wonder we have, as one writer put it, “erosion within the family unit.”

Ok, I’m going to get personal here on the bet that at least a few readers of this UFI blog will relate. I’ve had my hands slapped several times because I overstepped the boundary of my YouAreNotTheParentofMyChildren status. I didn’t even know I had status to begin with, and now what little I had was taken away when my children became parents?

I soon learned that although it is not written in the grandparent’s handbook I received (wait! I didn’t get my copy) there “are” boundaries now. My past role as the leader of the pack, the solution to every problem, the get it done guy… all gone! Instead, I am “bra-man.”

I am here to “support.” Not to lead. No voice! No authority! Actually, that’s ok. I just needed to know that, because it was a change. These new parents… our adult children, are now responsible. So I need to let them be, and accept my new role… to support and to love unconditionally!

So now that we know there are boundaries… let’s set some for the adult children too. We grandparents have a life. Just because it may look like we have nothing to do when you drop in unexpectedly with high hopes for grandma and I to watch the little darling(s) while you go out for a while, it “may” be that we do (or did) but are hesitant to expose that for fear we might never see little precious again. So parents, please heed the wall plaque in our home for all to see: “Grandchildren Welcome Anytime; Parents by Appointment!

Ok, on to the next grandparent boundary… Keep your mouth shut! As Anne Rolphe, shares, as one of the 27 writers in the NYT bestselling Eye of My Heart… “Ah, my poor tongue is sore from being bitten.”

When an adult child decides to move his/her family across the ocean in pursuit of their own dreams, and takes our grandchildren with them, it is very hard not to cry and stamp our feet while yelling, “unfair – unfair!” As hard as it may be to accept, our children deserve to make their own road in life… even if the road they choose isn’t the road “we”

would have taken and it gets bumpy at times. And even if we might have saved them from making a big mistake, had they listened… no one will leave earth life without getting bruised a few times. And they will become all the better for it. So wish them the best and learn how to skype.

“I am Ari’s Grammie. I live in Dallas and he lives in New York. We don’t get to visit in person that much, so we video-chat most days. Thanks to 21st century technology, we are virtual grandparents. We have eaten dinner together, played with toys, and sung. We’ve watched him reach many milestones like walking, thanks to technology. We stay updated, though we wish we lived closer. We cherish the times we actually get to spend with him and hope there will be many more to come.” –Michele Kesner (As quoted in HuffingtonPost.com)

Now let’s talk about a word society seems to have forgotten – Influence. A grandparent is in a wonderful position as support to grandchildren. Without skin in the game, we can observe from the bleachers and cheer and yell encouragement, and then head home before the locker room rant starts.

Yet, the wise adult child will recognize the benefit of having grandparents as an ally and not just as a guest or spectator. But parent and grandparent need to work together… and that is where the rub comes in for most. Grandparents still think they should parent and the adult child wants to show he/she is in charge, and in walks the conflict.

So grandparents, back off and remember your role, bite your tongue, and listen to what your adult children need from you in the way of “influence” over their children.

“I was extremely close to my grandparents and their presence in my life greatly formed my perceptions of food, gardening, my Swedish heritage and the essence of family love generation after generation. I couldn’t be more delighted to see my parents evolve the teachings of their parents as they interact with my 1-yr old daughter, who couldn’t love her “gamma and gampapa” more. The more love the better, and without grandparents, we’d be missing one of the most important relationships in life.” -Jamie Smith (As quoted in HuffingtonPost.com)

My wife loves to “sit and knit,” to the point she has become very proficient in the art. One of our adult children had some concerns over the recent behavior of her soon to be teenage daughter and mentioned it to her grandmother. It so happened that our granddaughter loved “sitting and knitting” with grandmother. They would talk together during these times, and soon grandmother was able to provide some insight into the mother’s concern over the welfare of her daughter. Now that’s working together.

It helps if the adult children speak kindly and generously about the grandparent(s) in front of the children. It is amazing how much they pick up when appearing to not be listening to a word you are saying.

There is certainly more to say on the topic, for both sides to learn. But if you are fortunate enough to have grandchildren to love… and if you, parents, have someone in your life who loves your children as only a grandparent can, please remember this, as quoted in Grandparents.com: “Family – we may not have it all together, but together we have it all.”

Resources:

Marriage, the Kitchen, and the Bedroom

In Abstinence, Child Development, Cohabitation, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Drug Use, Families, Feminism, Gender, Human Rights, Marriage, Media, Meet UFI, motherhood, Parenting, Research, Sexual Freedom, The Family, Values, Violence, Women's Rights on April 9, 2015 at 9:38 am

woman in the kitchenTashica Jacobson

Laura Bunker’s recent UFI alert struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to get her message out of my mind. Not only did it bring up this year’s trip to the UN, which brought up wonderful memories for me, she quoted Kate Gilmore’s shocking comment at the CSW side event.

We discovered that for millions and millions of women that marriage is not much better than an arbitrary detention cell; that the kitchen is a torture chamber; that the bedroom is a site for the gravest of human rights violations.”

While it would be false to say that every marriage and family situation is good, taking the other route and advocating against the marriage institution is even more destructive. I bring up the following points in defense of the institution that can and will bring about the most good for society, if we promote strong marriages and families.

Marriage

Marriage is more than a piece of paper and it’s more than a private relationship, it is a public commitment and responsibility for one another. And it should always be viewed as more than just one individual’s happiness, even though that is part of it.

Marriage promotes many benefits to many different people. It benefits the couple and their children, and it also benefits society. And when marriage is entered into in a responsible way these benefits are even more pronounced.

Married couples are typically better off financially, physically and mentally. And they are able to fully invest in a relationship that is protected by the promise of permanence. Another benefit is pooling: couples bring their abilities, income, and skills together. And then these tools benefit both parties rather than just one individual. Overall happiness is increased by marriage, which in itself promotes positive change in lives.

Children do better when raised by their biological married parents. They do better in school and have better relationships with their parents, while the likelihood of drug use and delinquent behavior decrease.

These benefits then transfer over to society, because when the individual people benefit, the society also improves, and people have more time and resources to devote to bettering the community.

Kitchen

The kitchen is actually my favorite room in the whole house. Do I cook? NO, but it’s so much more than cooking. Growing up, the kitchen was the center of my home. It was where we gathered together at the start of our day and where we finished our day. It was where we greeted each other through the comings and goings. It is one of the things that brought us together as a family.

Research has shown the benefits of the family meals together. These benefits range from better academic performance to lower risk of delinquency and depression. Kathleen Ferrigno, the director of marketing for CASA said, “The magic that happens over family dinners isn’t the food on the table, but the communication and conversations around it.” And the same could be said for the kitchen as a whole. It allows ample opportunity for family members to connect with one another.

Time in the kitchen also allows time for all members to contribute and work together. Family work has changed over time and what used to be time together, is now typically isolation. That is what needs to be avoided when doing kitchen chores. It should be a time to remember your family and the service that you are doing for them and a time to work together. Kitchen chores are one way children can feel like they are part of the family, even if they don’t enjoy completing them.

Bedroom

The bedroom and intimacy shared between husband and wife can be a source of conflict in marriage but we also need to keep in mind that it is also a way to bring a couple together and unite them in a way like no other.

When intimacy is shared within a marriage, with care and concern for the other, it enhances a marriage. And because the couple has already made the ultimate commitment to one anther it provides a safe environment to be vulnerable.

In his book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, Dr Van Epp describes the relational aspects of sex. “The primary reason why sex is always relational is because you cannot separate your body from the rest of who you are.”(p.289) meaning that casual sex is not beneficial. Sex needs to be allowed in the context of a relationship with the maximum commitment, which is the marriage relationship.

Marriage actually improves ones sex life and studies have shown married couples are actually more satisfied with their sex life. Access to partner, commitment, exclusivity, all contribute to the increased satisfaction. Care and concern for each other throughout all parts of married life contribute to care and concern in the bedroom.

 All parts of family life play an important role in strengthening the family and society, but they also add to individual safety, security, and happiness. This is why we need to continue to promote healthy families. Despite the opposition married intact families do continue to achieve the best outcomes for individuals.

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