The One Thing That Kills Most Marriages

My wife, Carlin, and I were enjoying a wonderful dinner at the new vegan Caribbean restaurant in Willits when a friend and his wife saw us eating outside. “How’s the food here?” Henry wanted to know. “It’s great,” we told them. “It’s real, authentic, handmade, and delicious.” As we chatted they introduced us to Henry’s brother and his wife. They were in town for the wedding of Henry’s daughter. “I just happen to have a picture,” Henry said as he scrolled through his smart phon

There was a lovely shot of his beautiful daughter in a stunning wedding gown looking up at her new husband. There is so much hope and desire in their eyes. As a marriage and family counselor who has been working with men and women for more than 40 years, I can’t help but see both sides of the future: Marriages that end and marriages that last.

  • Approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years.
  • However, 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Everyone who gets married says, “I do.” No one says, “I do…until…I don’t.” Everyone who gets married wants the “I do” to last “until death do we part,” but too often it ends before then. I know. It happened to me. Being a therapist, presumably an expert in understanding love and marriage, I thought I would beat the odds. But my first marriage lasted less than ten years and produced two great children. I followed the pattern and remarried after three years, but that marriage was short lived.

Before going for number three and facing the 73% divorce statistic, I decided I’d get to the bottom of what kills most marriages. I think I found the answer, at least one that made sense to me. I fell in love again and got married for the third time to a woman who had also been married twice before and had spent time learning how to have a marriage that lasts. All I can say is “so far, so good.” Carlin and I have been together now for 37 years. I can say we’re more in love now than ever and looking forward to another 37 years together and if there’s life after death, we hope to enjoy that together, as well. [Read more…]

The Birth of The Enlightened Marriage: Would You Like to Be a God-Parent?

Book CoverI have 17 children and a new one is on the way. Well, not exactly. Let me explain. When my first wife and I were in college we decided that when we got married we would have one child and then adopt a child. Even back in 1964 we knew the world was getting crowded and we wanted to do our part by fulfilling our dream to have our own biological child, but to take a child to love that needed a home. Ten years later the marriage was on the rocks and I became a single parent. When I met and married Carlin, she had three children. We ended up raising her son and my daughter together, but together we count five children. So where did the other twelve come from?

They are my literary children. As a writer I dream about the next conception. The gestation period can be many years and the birth is just the first in a series of steps as the child makes its way in the world. My first literary child was born on June 22, 1983. His name is Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man (I know, not your typical child’s name) and he turned thirty-three a few days ago.

Each of these literary children has multiple God-parents. These are people who feel a great love for this child, give guidance, and help them find their place in the world. Here’s what a few of the Inside Out God-parents had to say:

“We know the personal is political—feminists have proved that point—yet few, (if any) men have had the courage to be as vulnerable as Jed Diamond.” Natalie Rogers, author of Emerging Woman.

  “Through his own vividly revealed experiences Jed shows us just where the sexual revolution took a wrong turn toward the unexamined doctrine of obligatory ‘openness.’” George Leonard, author of The End of Sex: Erotic Love After the Sexual Revolution.

[Read more…]

Confessions of a Twice Divorced Marriage Counselor

6734544555_9389e751a6_zI became a marriage counselor to help families stay together through difficult times, to keep love alive during times of stress. I wanted to help men and women avoid what I experienced growing up in a family obsessed with death.

When my mother got pregnant she told stories about her anxiety and worry. “I would walk down the streets of Greenwich village terrified I would lose the child. I tiptoed everywhere. I was afraid I’d lose you, even before you were born.” After my birth she was afraid to let my father hold me, believing he was clumsy and might drop me. She was also convinced she would die before I was out of high school and bought a life insurance policy she couldn’t afford so I’d have money after she was gone. She also got a life insurance policy for me when I turned five, insisting you could never start too soon to take care of your family after you’re gone. When I started nursery school she was already preparing for my life after she was dead and for the life of my wife and family after I died.

My father struggled to make a living as a playwright and actor in New York. After moving to California to try his luck in the emerging television industry, he became increasingly overwhelmed and depressed. The last entry in his journal which I found later as an adult read:

“November 8th:

A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

[Read more…]

How to Save Your Mid-Life Marriage: Learn the 5 Stages of Relationships and Heal Old Wounds

9689251625_d47e548942_zGrowing up watching romantic movies it all seemed so simple. Find your true love, win their heart, and live happily ever after. But in practice it never seems to work out like it does in the movies. My first marriage ended in divorce after ten years. My second marriage lasted less than three years. As a practicing marriage and family counselor I didn’t feel I was a very good role model for what I was trying to teach people who were coming to me for help.

The statistics were not heartening. Somewhere around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 60% of second marriages end badly. Even marriages that stay together are not always happy and many people deal with emotional problems as a result. I know during both my marriages I suffered from anxiety and depression.

What’s more, mid-life stresses make marriage for those over 40 an even bigger gamble. In my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, coming out in August, 2016, I cite research that shows that mid-life couples are particularly susceptible to divorce.

A recent research study found that the divorce rate among adults aged fifty and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. In 1990, one in ten people who got divorced were over fifty. Roughly one in four divorces in 2010 occurred to persons aged fifty and older. The study found that over 600,000 people aged fifty and older got divorced in 2010 and this trend of mid-life divorces is expected to increase each year.

I find this a great tragedy since mid-life is often the time when couples look forward to more time together. The children may be grown or demand less day-to-day care, and the couple longs to having time, “just for us.” But then, things start to unravel for many and the couple finds themselves in trouble. Here are a few comments I received from people who read my earlier article, 5 Secrets for Saving Your Mid-Life Marriage – Even When Only One of You is Trying to Keep It Alive:

One man wrote: “I am in a 42 year marriage, and have been going through a rough patch for the last few years. Things just seem to keep getting worse, and I wonder if they can ever get better.”

A concerned woman wrote: “I don’t know how to save a marriage when my husband spends hours in the gym trying to get buff, runs off with another woman, quits his job of twenty years, and is pushing for a divorce. I’m 18 months into this nightmare and the push for divorce is stronger than ever.” [Read more…]

Sex Talk: Knowing How Males and Females Communicate Can Save Your Relationship

9724845490_02e74c4cb4_zEven after 37 years together my wife and I often have difficulty communicating. She sometimes accuses me of not letting her finish her thought before I interrupt with my own ideas. I accuse her of talking so long I can’t figure out what point she’s trying to make. Although I don’t believe that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our communication styles often feel like they are from different planets. We all remember Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady asking his friend Pickering, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” No one would really want the sexes to be more alike. What fun would that be? We would, though, like it if the other sex would communicate more clearly (i.e. more like the way we communicate).

There are reasons men and women communicate the way they do. Understanding how and why our communications differ can go a long way to helping us become better listeners and better speakers. What’s at stake? Just the survival of our relationships.  We know that approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce and later marriages do even worse. Even in marriages that remain intact, communication often is miserable and can lead to irritability and anger, as well as depression and despair. [Read more…]

Is Irritable Female Syndrome Undermining Your Marriage? How to Get Through Stage 3 in Your Relationship

5808553320_9564d3a154_zFemale irritability seems to be in my face lately. I’m hearing about it in my men’s group. Friends are describing it. I think it may even be related to the widespread support that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are currently receiving.

Here are some things I’m hearing from men:

“My wife shows very little empathy when I’m I talking about my ongoing foot pain. When she’s hurting I try to express loving kindness. When I’m hurting, she gets irritable and angry.”

“We’ve been having financial problems lately as the economy in our area continues to be on the decline. When I try and talk to my wife, she bombards me with questions. She’s like a woodpecker rat-a-tat-tatting on my brain.”

“I can’t seem to do anything right lately. I work my ass off to keep us afloat, but when I come home tired she’s got more and more things she wants me to do, and the tone in her voice always has a sharp edge.”

Men aren’t the only ones who are noticing this. Women are sharing their own concerns about irritability.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with me. It seems that things bother me more these days. I’ve become a real bitch. I know it hurts my husband and he gets that wounded, hurt-puppy look, which makes me even more angry. I don’t understand what’s going on with me.”

“I’ve got two children, but including my husband I have three. I’ve got to constantly remind him to do things around the house. It’s like I’ve become his mother. I hate it, but he just keeps pissing me off.”

“I’m getting more irritable with everyone–my husband, the kids, even my friends. Sometimes I just wish I could escape and get the hell out of here.”

A number of years ago I was seeing an increase in irritability among men, particularly those between the ages of 40 and 60 who were going through Andropause. I spent four years doing an in-depth study. My book The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression detailed my findings and what I had learned that could be helpful to men and women. [Read more…]

The Purpose of Marriage: 5 Ways to Insure Your Relationship Lasts Forever

Purpose of marriageI’ve been married twice before and have now been happily married to Carlin for 35 years. Until recently I never really thought about the purpose of marriage. When I was in my 20s I married right out of college because we were “in love” and all our friends were getting married. It seemed like the thing to do. We had two wonderful children and life was good…until it wasn’t.

Following our divorce ten years later I got involved with a woman who slept with a gun under her pillow. My friends all told me to run like hell. For me the sex was out of this world and the excitement was over the top. We married, if I were honest, because we were both out of our minds. Lust trumped whatever rationality we might have had. It lasted less than two years.

Before marrying again I decided to make an honest assessment of my life and tried to understand the real purpose of getting married. I acknowledged that my mother had been married twice before meeting my father. Was I living out her marriage history? Getting married in my 20s was greatly influenced by societal expectations and the next marriage was more about defying expectations than developing a real partnership. For us, “third time” is definitely the charm, but we’ve also learned some important lessons that might be helpful to others: [Read more…]