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Study finds cohabitation not divorce is worse for family instability

It’s long been held that children of divorcing parents face a number of societal challenges, but children with unmarried parents who live with each other or other adults may also be at risk.

Research conducted by the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project found that children of cohabitating parents deserve the same concern as the children of divorce, because the study claims that these kids are also at risk for trouble in school, psychological stress, poverty and physical abuse.

The drama facing families today is less about divorcing spouses and more about unmarried parents, National Public Radio reports. The study found that by the time they are 12, 42 percent of children will have unmarried parents living together or with other adults, while 24 percent of children born to married parents will see them divorce or separate.

“We’re moving into a pattern where we’re seeing more instability, more adults moving in and out of the household in this relationship carousel,” Brad Wilcox, a co-author of the report and head of the National Marriage Project, explained to NPR.

The report studied more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles and included additional scholarly analysis.

Forging a friendship with an ex-spouse

Divorces are painful both emotionally and financially, and the experience can take a toll on any family, especially when children are involved. Staying friends with an ex-spouse can often be a way of easing this pain, but the situation is not right for everyone, explains Lauren Mackler in a recent column for the Huffington Post.

For couples without children, a friendship can be doomed if one spouse still feels rejected or still harbors romantic feelings for the other. Guilt, frustration, resentment and other feelings can easily sink a platonic friendship between ex-lovers.

“Examine your motives for wanting to stay friends,” Mackler advises. “Hidden agendas such as financial or material gain, fear of being alone, appearing desirable to others or relieving guilt will ultimately contaminate a friendship.”

When children are in the picture, the desire to preserve some form of a respectful relationship between ex-spouses is often greater. To handle the emotional toll this evolving relationship will take, Mackler suggests seeking the help of a therapist or life coach. This professional can help exes develop co-parenting and communication plans.

According to CNN, adhering to certain ground rules can help preserve a friendship with an ex-spouse. For starters, the news source advises that individuals allow for a mourning period and keep the relationship platonic.

Deciding the right time to date after a divorce

Dating after a divorce can be a scary prospect, particularly if you’ve been out of the game for a while. But according to post-divorce consultant Lee Block in a recent Huffington Post column, just when and how a person re-enters the dating pool varies depending on the individual.

One way to know that you’re ready to date again is that you don’t harbor fresh anger about your divorce. This could lead you to talk incessantly about your ex throughout a date, which can be a big turn-off for potential mates.

“It is important that the anger and bitterness has evaporated enough that you can enjoy yourself and be open to the new experiences of dating,” Block writes.

The post-divorce expert also advises that when you enter the dating scene once again, avoid playing games. If you like someone, call them or text to make a second date.

Additionally, dating decisions after a divorce should involve the children if the dissolved marriage resulted in offspring. It is important not to have your children feel as though a number of suitors are coming in and out of your life.

According to Psychology Today, successful dating after a divorce can be achieved with some patience, supportive friends and, perhaps most importantly, a healthy level of self-esteem.

Seven-year itch still evident in marriages

Often regarded as a wive’s tale or urban legend, the concept of the seven-year itch in a marriage may be more real than expected, according to the Boston Globe.

The publication, citing data from the most recent U.S. Census, found that first marriages that end in divorce last eight years on average, but the median time frame for a marriage to reach separation is approximately seven years.

The seven-year curse is more than just a concept for the famous Marilyn Monroe film “The Seven Year Itch.” Marriage experts believe the seven-year time frame could be prime for divorce because the stress of caring for young children, financial concerns, family pressure, work stress and an accumulation of other trying circumstances all reach a fever pitch around seven years.

“Over time, people’s flaws reveal themselves,” Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, told the Globe. “The positives remain, but the negatives build up.”

According to Science Daily, boredom can also bring about a seven-year itch. Participants in a study by the University of Michigan and Stony Brook University were asked how often they felt that their marriages were in a rut. Study results indicated that boredom in a marriage undermines closeness, which can quickly erode a relationship.