How your premarital experiences can affect your future marriage

Your prospects for a happy marriage may be tied to people other than your soon-to-be spouse. For example, the more people who come to your wedding, the better it bodes for your marital bliss. But the more serious premarital relationships you had before, the less likely you are to be happily married later.

A new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, “Before ‘I Do’: What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults,” highlights those and other findings on how decisions and experiences before marriage can help or hurt future marriage quality.

Individuals who had more sexual partners or more experience cohabitating are not as likely to have high-quality marriages compared with those who had less, said Galena K. Rhoades, study co-author and research associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. She said experience may provide benefit in some realms, like employment, but not in the case of marital quality.

The study does not prove cause, emphasized Rhoades and her co-author, Scott Stanley, research professor, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and senior fellow for both the National Marriage Project and the Institute for Family Studies. The results, they said, “may reflect the fact that certain types of people are more likely to engage in certain behaviors.”

The researchers analyzed data from the national Relationship Development Study, tracking more than 1,000 Americans 18 to 34 who were not married but were in a relationship in 2007 and 2008. They followed them for five years, through 11 waves of data collection, then looked closely at 418 who married. The study was controlled for race and ethnicity, years of education, personal income and how religious subjects were.

The report notes a changed sequence of events when it comes to marriage. Courtship once led to marriage, sex and having children, but today as many as 90 percent of couples reportedly have premarital sex, and close to 40 percent of babies are born to unmarried parents. Couples are also more likely to live together before marriage.

The individual relationship histories of two people who will later marry is important, helping shape how satisfying their married life together will be, the study found.

Sexual experience

Men and women who had other sexual partners before marrying each other reported less marital satisfaction than those who slept only with each other. In addition, marital satisfaction was higher for women who had fewer sexual partners, and marital dissatisfaction was greater in proportion to the number of partners.

Having been married previously also corresponded to lower marital quality.

The average respondent had five sexual partners before marriage. Only 23 percent of those who got married had had sex only with the future spouse.

“It’s not that when you say ‘I do’ all the other options disappear from life or mind, but you have decided that this is the one. The key factor is how you manage your sense of alternatives and how good you think those alternatives are,” Stanley said.

He and Rhoades speculate that having had more partners provides fodder for comparison and reminds one there are other choices. Plus, someone with a greater history of relationships also has experienced breakups — and may have developed skills not only to cope with them, but to facilitate them.

Children from previous relationships also sometimes complicate future marriage, the research found.

“In general, couples who wait to have sex later in their relationship report higher levels of marital quality,” the study said. “There are many possible explanations for this link. One is that some people who are already more likely to struggle in romantic relationships — such as people who are impulsive or insecure — are also more likely to have casual sex.”

It’s also possible, the study noted, that relationships that began as hook-ups may involve partners not as well matched on factors that promote happy marriages, such as shared values, interests and perspectives.

Slide vs. decide

Talking things through and making deliberate decisions helps couples over the long term in ways that drifting along does not.

“Decisions matter,” the study said. “At times of important transitions, the process of making a decision sets up couples to make stronger commitments with better follow-through as they live them out. This is undoubtedly why all cultures have rituals that add force to major decisions about the pathway ahead. We tend to ritualize experiences that are important. Couples who decide rather than slide are saying, ‘our relationship is important, so let’s think about what we’re doing here.’ Making time to talk clearly about potential transitions may contribute to better marriages.”

Couples who slide without deciding where the relationship is heading may find it harder to get out later when they’re sharing furniture and space and have signed leases, among other things. “In short, living together creates a kind of inertia that makes it difficult to change course,” the report said.

People may be “stuck with someone you might not have otherwise married,” Stanley said.

Cohabitating couples face the pressures of dating and the issues of married couples, effectively “sandwiching” them from both sides as they navigate everything from rent to relationship issues. It’s a lot to deal with, Rhoades said, and those “couples are more at risk for trouble.”

The study also found that people who had some form of marital preparation, such as relationship education, had higher marital quality. Rhoades said people need to talk about their relationships and make deliberate decisions, and that couples who live together should consider relationship education.

When it comes time to make some of those deliberate decisions, the report highlights three factors that “represent a grave problem that could become even worse down the road”: different commitment levels, premarital infidelity and physical aggression. Each factor should “lead to serious consideration about a relationship’s future.”

Big wedding, big reward:

“This study finds that couples who have larger wedding parties are more likely to report high-quality marriages,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and professor of sociology at University of Virginia, in a written statement.

“One possibility here is that couples with larger networks of friends and family may have more help and encouragement in navigating the challenges of married life. Note, however, this finding is not about spending lots of money on a wedding party; it’s about having a good number of friends and family in your corner.”

The researchers speculate that a well-attended public ceremony may reflect “a clear decision to commit to one’s marriage.” They wrote that “wedding ceremonies ritualize the foundation of commitment.”

They originally thought the association between guests and marital quality was about having good financial resources, but the association remained when they controlled for income and education. It is possible the very public nature of the commitment strengthens marital quality, they said.

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https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865609072/How-a-persons-premarital-experiences-affect-his-or-her-future-marriage.html

What We’re Missing About Mass-Shootings: Young Men Are in Crisis

The state of our national discourse is, to put it mildly, discouraging and unhelpful, and the reaction to the recent shootings only amplified how bad it is. Once again, everyone took their place along partisan battle lines to pound the same old drums, but it’s past time we admit that there’s something deeper going on in America than too many guns, or too few guns, or violent video games, or the President’s rhetoric, or even the evil of white supremacy.

That’s not to say there are no good policy proposals out there to address these issues, which need to be addressed. As a Second Amendment guy, I could buy into something like what David French proposed last year in National Review: a system for family and employers to report warning signs and separate unstable individuals from their guns.

But, as French admits, the best that policy would do is keep troubled young men from acting on their violent impulses. It doesn’t address the young men themselves, or the source of those impulses. And that’s exactly the issue we can no longer ignore. Yesterday, I highlighted the crisis of virtue across our culture, and how that will lead to the loss of freedom. It’s a historical inevitability. Today, I want to zero in on the problem of men in our culture, especially young men. They aren’t okay.

Writing at the LA Times, professor of criminology Jillian Peterson and sociologist James Densley offer a revealing look at America’s mass-shooters. They’ve studied every shooter since 1966, and the vast majority have four things in common: “early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age”; seeking “validation” in extreme communities, often online; openly admiring the work of prior shooters; and nearly all are longtime loners with an identifiable “crisis point” like getting fired or expelled from school. Oh, and by the way, they are men.

In fact, the young men who appear on CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History” have something else in common: almost all of them grew up without fathers.

In other words, with few exceptions, the signs that a young man is headed down a dark road overlap noticeably with signs we see across our culture that young men, in general, are not doing well.

Lacking strong role models and healthy social groups, increasingly left behind academically and vocationally, and floundering for a purpose in life beyond video games, countless males have sought solace in the only communities they can find—usually online—where the foulest kinds of hate, conspiracy theories, and nihilism await them.

Of course, these factors don’t always lead one to become a mass shooter. For every young man catechized into some toxic radicalism (like Dylan Roof or the El Paso Shooter) or into nihilistic unbelief (like Dylan Klebold and the Aurora theater shooter), and then chooses to act on it with a gun, millions of others do not.

Still, that doesn’t mean they’re doing well either. Quite the opposite: our society largely fails to cultivate young men, to teach them about their fallen natures, and to morally form them to choose love over hate and courage over violence. Thus, the epidemics of addiction, aimlessness, depression, irresponsibility, perversion, selfishness, victimhood, and low expectations continue.

Until we face the fact that the root of our problem lies here, the fruit will continue to be bitter. Unless we rebuild the institutions of civil society that cultivate young men, there is no way forward.

We certainly won’t fix this problem through government policies or mindless distractions. Only the church, with its kingdom vision and distributed work force, has the necessary resources to target young men with truth, forgiveness, accountability, and hope.

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Understanding Christians’ Climate Views Can Help Us Talk About the Environment

In their second round of debates, Democratic presidential candidates called for aggressive measures to slow climate change. As Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has said, “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it.”

Politicians realize that many voters care about this issue. A 2018 survey conducted by Yale and George Mason Universities categorizes 69% of Americans as at least “somewhat worried” about climate change, the highest level these programs had recorded since 2008.

But climate is still an uncomfortable subject for many people. I study environmental communication and the obstacles people encounter when discussing climate change. My new book, “Communication Strategies for Engaging Climate Skeptics: Religion and the Environment,” considers Christians and the variety of ways they incorporate the environment into their faith.

Studying Christianity provides important insights into how to talk productively about climate change with a variety of audiences. I interviewed Christians from many different denominations and found that they don’t all think alike when it comes to the environment. Some reject environmentalism, some embrace it, and others modify it to fit their beliefs.

CHRISTIANITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
In 1967, historian Lynn White Jr. argued that Christian beliefs promoted the domination and exploitation of nature, and therefore were incompatible with environmentalism. Almost half a century later, polls showed that fewer than 50% of all U.S. Protestants and Catholics believe the Earth is warming as a result of human actions.

There are notable exceptions, such as Pope Francis, who called for action to slow climate change in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’.” Another prominent advocate for action is U.S. climate scientist and evangelical Christian Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. A growing number of Christians are joining the Creation Care movement, which combines Christianity and the environment. But as recently as early 2018, they were outnumbered by Christian climate skeptics.

Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian married to a pastor, has taken climate science to a broad public platform. In 2016 she discussed climate change with former President Barack Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio at a White House ideas conference. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Christians hold a diverse range of attitudes about the environment. I divide them into three categories – separators, bargainers, and harmonizers – based on my study of religious organizations (The Cornwall Alliance, The Acton Institute, and The Evangelical Environmental Network), and interviews I conducted. I chose these three groups because they exhibit primary characteristics of the three categories.

Separators believe that faith and the environment are at odds. They tend to think environmentalism threatens their faith. One separator who I interviewed argued that climate scientists use “good causes to further evil agendas.” This person thought environmentalism was an evil force.

Bargainers adopt some aspects of environmentalism, but reject or modify others. One bargainer I interviewed said, “The climate is changing. It’s been changing for millions of years and will continue to do so.” This person changed the definition of climate change to fit the belief that climate change is natural and nothing needs to be done to address it.

Harmonizers see environmentalism as an important part of being a good Christian. Although they are not climate skeptics, they may or may not actively engage in the environmental movement. One harmonizer I interviewed said that environmentalism “begins on an individual basis.” Another argued that you only “have control over your individual actions.”

Harmonizers sometimes limit their environmentalism to personal behaviors. Most of the harmonizers I interviewed did not call for political or public action to solve climate change.

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Chris Pratt Doesn’t Think Hollywood Is Anti-Christian

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People claim the entertainment industry opposes religion “but it’s just not the case,” the “Jurassic World” actor said.

As an actor who often speaks out about his Christian faith, Chris Pratt isn’t convinced that Hollywood is anti-religious.

“I think that there’s this narrative that exists out there that Hollywood is anti-Christian or anti-religious, but it’s just not the case,” the “Jurassic World” star told The Associated Press this week.

On the contrary, Pratt said, Hollywood’s culture encourages people to embrace whatever is authentic to them.

“They are kind of not anti-anything. They are kind of pro whatever is authentic to you. And I like that,” the actor said. “Because it’s authentic for me to be pro-Christian, pro-Jesus. That’s my thing. I like it.”

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article continued….

Pratt said that no one in Hollywood has ever tried to shame him to his face about his faith. Even if they did it behind his back, he said, “I’m not going to change.”

The actor has often used his appearances on award shows to share his religious beliefs. In June, while accepting the Generation Award at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, Pratt offered his listeners some spiritual advice.

“God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do,” Pratt said while listing what he called nine essential life rules.

He also advised the audience to be careful with their souls, serve others and learn to pray.

“You are imperfect. You always will be. But there is a powerful force that designed you that way,” the actor said. “And if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift.”

Pratt told AP that he knows this kind of message might not be for everybody. But he thinks there are people out there who are yearning to hear it.

“And nothing fills my soul more than to think that maybe some kid watching that would say, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve been thinking about praying. Let me try that out,’” he said.

Pratt, who was raised Lutheran, spoke about his Christian awakening in a January 2017 Vanity Fair article. As a struggling young actor, the Minnesota native moved to Maui, Hawaii. He lived in a van parked on the beach and worked as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Though his surroundings were idyllic, Pratt recalled feeling lost.

One day, when he was sitting outside a grocery story, a stranger came up and invited him to church.

“He said, ‘Jesus told me to talk to you …’ At that moment I was like, I think I have to go with this guy,” Pratt told Vanity Fair. “He took me to church. Over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring that I was going to change my life.”

Pratt said he became a committed Christian two days later and even helped the stranger, who apparently worked for a Messianic Jewish organization.

One month later, according to Esquire, Pratt was discovered by a director at Bubba Gump Shrimp. He was cast in a short film, which eventually led to bigger acting gigs.

Last year, Pratt was spotted in Los Angeles attending Hillsong Church, which is part of an evangelical Christian group of churches known for attracting quite a few celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Kourtney Kardashian.

He feels speaking publicly about his faith has become his calling, Pratt told AP.

“That’s like the only way I feel like I can repay what has essentially been a giant gift in my life,” he said.

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