Apr 24, 2015

How books like fifty shades of grey affect the younger generation
There are two sides to this argument. The "it is just a book, it is fiction/fantasy, what is the big deal?" And then the extreme side, that the book is about an abusive relationship.

Some might argue there is a third opinion, that there is no abuse, but having read the first ten chapters myself, I scoff at that.

I read ten horribly written chapters and had to stop. The writing was awful, inner goddess? Really? What the heck was that about? And then the whole showing up at her work? She never even told him where she worked and he is not even her boyfriend! I swear I was more freaked out than Ana when I read that, but I digress.

Physical abuse might not be as obvious since Ana consented to be dominated (although it seems to be quite unhealthy), but psychological abuse is totally present.

"By juxtaposing statements such as “I am incapable of leaving you alone” with “you can leave at any time,” Grey engages in emotionally manipulative — and questionably abusive — behavior." (source)

However, instead of making another post on how "Fifty Shades of Grey" showcases an abusive relationship, I want to focus on how this affects young adults and teenagers reading these books. Let's start with looking back at the Twilight series, the inspiration for "Fifty Shades of Grey." 

I had the unfortunate experience of reading the "Twilight" series (yes I actually somehow managed to make it through this one. I was in a vampire phase). The books were horribly written, but my main issue was Bella.

Bella is this girl who desperately likes this guy who turns out to be a vampire, becomes obsessed, falls in love, and then he leaves her. She goes into deep depression and even tries to kill herself. That is a great reaction to being dumped! (sarcasm) What message does that send to teenage girls, that if you love someone so much and they do not love you back, it is the end of the world? That going into suicide mode is normal after a breakup? Well, I hope not!

It is one thing to enjoy books like "Twilight" and "Fifty Shades of Grey," it is a whole other issue when people begin to believe the relationships in these books are healthy. A lot of people claim Ana is okay with everything Christian does, but then why does she desperately want to talk about "sex" with her best friend? Why does she want to leave, go to Alaska? Why does she complain about her food regiment even though she signed the agreement? 

I just don't agree or I think she is being manipulated to be okay with it. I mean, she is a virgin, she has never had sex, she does not know anything other than what Christian has taught her. Ana needs to get out and date other guys. To me, she seems weak and pathetic, hence why she stays an awful relationship. Bella and Ana are two girls who could use some serious therapy. 

The problem is not the stories themselves, it is the readers. The readers need to realize that it is fiction and not base their relationships on the ones in these stories. No girl should wish to marry a Christian Grey or Edward Cullen.

Parents need to make sure their kids understand this, but there are plenty of parents out there who claim this is an okay relationship? Would you seriously want your daughter to marry a Christian Grey? Some guy who just takes an innocent girl, turns her into his sex slave, and basically manipulates her into staying with him because otherwise, he'd go after her? Does that sound healthy?

I think schools need a relationship class for this reason. Not all parents can be trusted to teach their kids these important lessons. If more girls were aware of the potential danger in these type of relationships, they would be less likely to end up in one.

Not only girls can be affected by these books, but boys too. Boys might think this abusive, dominant behavior is okay. It could lead them to potentially abuse women, thinking it was okay because that is what a relationship is about, so denying that there is not any abuse in these books could be quite harmful on our society.

I repeat, my problem is not with the stories, it is what the readers take away from the story. I think the reason many fans claim that Christian and Ana have a healthy relationship is because they feel the need to defend a story they loved. It is okay to love the story for what it is, a story, but it is not okay to claim that the relationship is healthy because that leaves an impression on young girls that could lead to them to being in an abusive relationship. I would never want any of my children to marry a Christian Grey, let alone date one. I also would not want any of my children to turn into an egomaniac, abusive jerk, and I would hope many other parents feel the same way.

For those of you who would like to read more about the abuse in "Fifty Shades of Grey," check out these links and videos:

Apr 17, 2015

money, marriage, and divorce
A recent study noticed a correlation between the cost of a wedding and the likelihood of a divorce. ?It turns out couples who spent more on a wedding were more likely to divorce than those who spent less. One hypothesis for this is that money is a factor when it comes to marriage. More money spent, more financial stress, which can lead to an unhappy marriage and ultimately divorce.

First, let's take a look at how household income could affect a marriage:

The study found that couples who make over $125K are 51% less likely to divorce than those who make less than $25K. Kind of depressing right? But remember correlation does not equal causation. The type of people who make less money might just have personalities that are not suited for married life. There are many other factors not included in this study.

However, my hypothesis is that money can affect marriage. I know many would like to think love is the only thing that matters in a marriage, but I think money can also play a role. I know I would not be as happy as I am now if we were living on the street eating garbage.

I think money influences a lot of people, even those who claim it doesn't; it just might on a subconscious level. Think about it: Would you be attracted to some homeless person on the side of the road? Or would you be more attracted to the one in the business suit walking into an office building? Let's assume these two people were identical twins and you have no idea what their personalities are, who would you pick? I am gonna guess most of you would choose the one in the business suit.

Now let's take a look at wedding costs and how they might affect a marriage:

According to this graph, those who spent less than $1k were 53% less likely to divorce than those who spent $5-10k, while those who spent over $20k are 46% more likely to divorce than those who spent $5-10k (honestly, who needs a $20,000 wedding?).

Why is it that those who spend more on a wedding might get a divorce, well:
In the research paper, the authors suggest that the financial burden incurred by lavish, expensive weddings leads to financial stress for the couple, which ultimately tears the marriage apart. They found that women, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages: women in couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that. (source)
The authors hypothesize that it might have to do with a couple's ability to handle finances. Those who spend more tend to not be good at budgeting versus those who spend less are more financially stable. Since it is correlation data, there is no proof that an expensive wedding leads to divorce, but it is definitely something to consider when planning your future with your partner.

The study also found that the more money spent on an engagement ring, the more likely a couple will get divorced: 
Men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than men who spent $500 to $2,000. Women who received expensive engagement rings also experienced higher rates of divorce. (source)
However, those who spent less than $500 also experience higher rates of divorce, so spending too little can also backfire.
The authors of the paper hypothesize that the correlation between high wedding and engagement ring costs and divorce may have to do with financial stress placed on brides and grooms who are determined to have the perfect day, whether or not they can actually afford it.
This makes sense: spending more than you can afford leads to financial stress, leads to unhappy marriage, which ultimately leads to divorce. There could be other factors, so more research needs to be done before claiming money is the only issue: 
Francis and Mialon say one possible explanation for their findings is that post-wedding debt can stoke marital tensions. But, as Schwartz is quick to point out, correlation is not the same as causation. She says part of the problem may be that “the wedding has become the highlight rather than the beginning of something." (source)
So another possible problem is the wedding industry. The average cost of a wedding in America is $30,000! That is a lot of money to waste on a one-day celebration,. However, it has become the norm. It is what people expect. Couples just starting their lives together now have to have this big financial burden: They have to throw a big, fancy, expensive wedding.

Not only that, but guys are expected to buy an expensive and impressive diamond ring when in the past, most rings did not contain diamonds: 
"Prior to World War II, in Western countries, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained a diamond. By the end of the century, about 80 percent did. In 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States." (source)
A wedding is also no longer focused on the couple:
“The focus is not on the relationship and the long-term commitment,” Horn says. Since the 1980s, when Horn first started her career, she feels the industry has become much more hyped. Between bridal magazines and reality TV shows, couples are inundated with advertising, so she says it’s not surprising that average spending has doubled in the last 30 years. (source)
So maybe society is the real culprit. Society says you need a $10k engagement ring and $30k wedding. Couples feel the financial stress of trying to pay for these things, leading to unhappiness, and then divorce, but again, more research is needed.

According to the same study: couples who are together longer before getting engaged are less likely to divorce than those who dated less than a year:

Also, couples who don't attend church are 2x more likely to divorce than those who do (kind of interesting how those that only sometimes go were more likely to get a divorce than those who never go):

Obviously, it is not all about money, there are other factors. It would be interesting to see them combine some of these factors to see if there were any effects there, like if someone who spent $30k on a wedding, but went to church regularly, would they be more likely or less likely to divorce? It would also be interesting to see what other factors could influence or what ones did not influence as much such as how many kids they had, age at the time of marriage, or if both had full-time jobs.

Here are the other factors they did:

This one interested me since who thought a honeymoon was that important? Apparently going away on vacation together can increase your chances of staying together. Good thing we had a honeymoon!


Joking aside, this is a correlation study, correlation does not equal causation. Just because you did not have a honeymoon, does not mean you will end up divorced. More research is needed and I hope they do more studies. I would be interested in seeing the type of personalities these couples have, their ages, lifestyle, etc. and how that affected their marriage or if it really did come down to society and money.


Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on  MorgueFile.

Apr 10, 2015

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Read full disclosure here.

Have you ever asked your parents "who is the favorite in the family" and got the response, "you are all my favorite?" Well, the harsh truth is that every parent with more than one child is going to have a favorite.

There is nothing wrong with having a favorite child. Favoritism has been around since biblical times, Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:9-15) and Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:28), are two parents that played favorites.

It is human instinct or mother nature for parents to have favorites. It is like "Sophie's Choice," in tough decisions, you might have to choose one over the other. No two children are the same, you are bound to become more attached to one. Your favorite child can also change as they age or as certain situations arise. 

Some factors that can lead to favoritism:

  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Parent(s) had a goal they did not achieve before the baby arrived
  • Child's behavior/disposition
"If a child is overactive, or irritable, this is going to affect the relationship between that child and the parents. Of course, most parents will over-invest in their efforts to have a pleasant relationship with the children. But let’s face it, the disposition of some children is just not pleasant and they are not easy to like." (source)
  • Having kids too early in the marriage 
"You need at least 2 to 5 years to learn how to be married. Getting pregnant on your honeymoon is going to confront you with a specific challenge of welcoming that child as though the child was born 2 or 3 years later. When a child comes too early in the marriage it can be difficult on the marriage as well as difficult for the parents to have the loving, accepting attitude they want to have toward the child." (source)
  • Change - Going from life without a baby to having a baby is a roller coaster ride.
The problem with favoritism is when you openly say or show that one of your children is preferable over the other. It was obvious when my parents preferred one of us over the other. I am pretty sure my sister was the favorite when we were younger, as she was the baby. She got away with everything and I got that "you're older, you should know better" lecture. Then it switched when we were older due to my sister's rebellious behavior. Now that we are out of the house, it is not as easy to tell who is favored, which is the point: It should never be obvious to the children who is the favorite. 

If favoritism is obvious, it can hurt the whole family. As Cornell University professor and researcher, Karl Andrew Pillemer, says:

"Research shows that sibling relationships are much worse when parents show favoritism, so the family atmosphere is less pleasant. And there are negative effects on kids, from small children, to adolescents, to young adults. These include acting out, anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health outcomes." (source)

So what's the solution? Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, the author of The Favorite Child, suggests being open about favoritism:

"Parents can increase the likelihood that all their children benefit from favorite child status while simultaneously minimizing the potential emotional scars of the position.

First, parents must accept that favoritism exists in all families. It is neither good nor bad. It just is. No two children are identical and no two parents are identical, and so, preference is inevitable.

Second, all family members must feel safe to freely express their feelings about favoritism. Even as adults, siblings often carry childhood tensions stemming from feelings of who in their family was loved more, or who was favored. Family health is promoted through healthy discussion.

Third, respectful dialogue between parents, or a parent and trusted confidante, safeguards the inevitable enactment of favoritism. The other adult serves as an observing eye, helping to bring awareness to the potential destructive nature of favorite child dynamics." (source)

Favoritism exists, you can deny it all you want, after all, that is kind of the point, but even if you deny it, your children can often tell by your actions. My parents denied having a favorite, but it was obvious, to me, that they were playing favorites. Hiding it can be hard, so I like Dr. Ellen Libby's advice of being open about it. At least then you are being honest about it, which I think is healthier than denial and lying. 

Favoritism is one of the reasons why I lean towards only wanting one child. You can't favorite another if you only have one!

Here is a video about Favoritism on Time:

I also recommend reading The Favorite Child: How a Favorite Impacts Every Family Member for Life by Ellen Weber Libby.

Some more resources:

Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on StockSnap.io.

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Apr 3, 2015

Is marriage just a piece of paper?
I hate this statement with a passion. It is one thing to not get married because you are not ready or you have other, personal, feelings towards it, but using the excuse that it is just a piece of paper is incorrect. No one says "it's just a piece of paper" about their social security card or their birth certificate, so why should marriage be any different?

A marriage license is a legal binding contract. If it was just a piece of paper, you could tear it up and be divorced, but you can't, you need a lawyer.

If it was just a piece of paper, then why does it give you so many benefits? You can use your spouse's insurance, you can get family rates and discounts, you can file jointly for taxes, allowing you to get more money back, etc. There is a whole list of the benefits of being married, which you can read here

If marriage is just a piece of paper, why do so many homosexuals want it (and I believe they should be allowed to marry)? Obviously, it must be more than just a piece of paper.

There are also some people who are together, have kids, and just do not get married. They are happy where they are. I don't think I will ever understand this. You get so many benefits from being seen legally as a couple, so why not just get married? You love each other, you don't plan on leaving each other, so why not? It makes legal matters less complicated. For instance, If you die, your spouse will automatically get your life insurance and vice versa. If you are not married, this could be more difficult unless you have a Will and it states you want your money to go to your partner, otherwise it defaults to going to your parents or your kids, as you are not considered a family member if you are not married.

It is a shame how marriage today is seen either as nothing (just a piece of paper), or a show: "Everyone is doing it, so I need to have a wedding." It is rare to find a marriage that lasts till "death do us part" anymore. People either rush in or decide not to at all. There are very few couples that make it to happily ever after.

To us, marriage is not just a piece of paper or a contract, it is a promise, it is unconditional love. We are dedicated to each other. We may have only been married for two years now, but we have been together for a total of five. Some would still say that is not very long, but I think we have the right idea. After all, our marriage has lasted longer than some celebrities and others we know. Only time will tell, but I think as long as we stay dedicated to each other, we will make it to death do us part.

Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on Pexels.