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The couple that eats together …

May 14, 2019

Marriage Week UK launches today under the banner of a ‘recipe for a happy marriage‘. And so we thought we’d try and find some evidence to see whether it wasn’t just the recipe that made a marriage but the entire meal. With my colleague Professor Steve McKay at the University of Lincoln, we delved into […]

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Back to 1969: Lifetime divorce risk is now 35 per cent

May 12, 2019

It’s one of those assumptions that pops up with alarming regularity. ‘It’s terrible, isn’t it? Marriages are doing so badly. Surely you can’t really think getting married is a good idea?’ I get this a lot in radio interviews. And you probably see it in the newspapers or hear it on the radio or in […]

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Do women choose and men decide?

May 7, 2019

Last month I wrote an article entitled ‘Men who marry are deciders not sliders’, where I showed that almost all of the fall in UK divorce rates since the 1990s is due to fewer wives filing for divorce during the early years of marriage. I proposed that this was because today’s newlywed husbands are more committed. With less […]

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Why Christians have nothing to fear from ‘no-fault’ divorce

April 11, 2019

It’s nearly twenty five years since my wife Kate confronted me about the state of our marriage. “Harry, you’re not the friend I need you to be. If nothing changes in the next year, our marriage is over”. It was a bolt from the blue. Kate and I had what seemed to me a great […]

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Men behaving well

March 29, 2019

In an era of #MeToo, bad behaviour by men is quite rightly under the microscope like never before. But it would be wrong to assume that it’s only now that something is being done and at last things will improve. Our new analysis of divorces shows that – at least within marriage – men have been behaving […]

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Can AI predict who splits up?

January 14, 2019

At first glance, it sounds appealing. Record a couple discussing a difficult issue for a few minutes, analyse the recording with the latest AI technology, and presto, a recent study suggests you can predict with 79 per cent accuracy who will divorce within the next two years. BBC Future has just produced an article about this. […]

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A nation divided … over marriage

January 11, 2019

It’s not just Brexit. Britain is also a nation divided over marriage. The better off marry and mostly stay together. The less well off don’t marry and face a much higher risk of splitting up. New figures out from the Office for National Statistics show that the vast majority of parents start off as a […]

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A really good news story to begin 2019

December 28, 2018

One of the issues we’ve tried to address at Marriage Foundation is to find out the scale of family breakdown. A few years back, we addressed this by analysing data from 2010 in a big national survey called Understanding Society. From this, we worked out that 45 per cent of all teens were not living […]

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In praise of lone parents

December 4, 2018

When Marriage Foundation was first launched in 2012, I was invited on to ITV’s This Morning show, whereupon I was ambushed by their agony aunt, the late Denise Robertson. She was fuming as she talked about women she knew who had been divorced against their will. “What do you think it’s going to do to […]

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Can open marriages work?

November 22, 2018

(Image: BBC Essex) A married couple from Essex, Debbie and Tony Dowsett, say they go away on dates, have sex and go away with other partners. In an interview today, Debbie told BBC Essex that “we don’t see it as anything strange at all, its been the key to our long and successful marriage”. I’m […]

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Well done, Chancellor!

October 29, 2018

On page 80 of today’s budget red book, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced his intention to relax the rules about where couples can get married, specifically aimed at ‘reducing unnecessary red tape and lowering the cost of wedding venues for couples‘.  Currently, there are restrictions on where couples can marry. The venue has to be a ‘permanent […]

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Living together before getting married: Should you buy before you try?

October 25, 2018

It sounds like common sense. Live with somebody for a while and you’ll find out properly if you’re a good match for a life together. Wouldn’t you want to know in advance about that frightful habit you really can’t stand? By living together, you make sure they are the one … and also avoid making […]

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Why advocates of marriage have nothing to fear from no-fault divorce

September 18, 2018

(image copyright The Times) The Times and Marriage Foundation will be hosting a top-level debate “Is it time to reform our divorce laws?” at 1830 next Monday 24 September at the News Building. Details of how to get tickets here.  Last week the government launched a consultation paper about reforming the legal requirements for divorce. […]

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Why cohabiting couples should not get the same rights as married couples

August 30, 2018

(photo credit BBC) It’s a situation that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. After 23 years and four children together, Siobhan McLaughlin’s partner died leaving her to cope on her own. I’ve been married for over 32 years and can’t imagine the awfulness of losing the person who is closest to me. So I have a great […]

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Mummy’s boys and Daddy’s girls: Teenage mental health

August 6, 2018

Our growing mental health crisis is often presented as a recent problem. Too much social media . Too much exam pressure. Casting blame on factors over which we have little control makes us all feel better. Blame social media. Blame the Department for Education. In other words blame anyone but us. However it should be […]

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STOP signs: Clues to what really went wrong in the Owens marriage

July 26, 2018

(photo credit PA) Embarrassing details of the marriage between Hugh and Tini Owens have now been splashed all over our papers and news. After many years of marriage, Mrs Owens wants a divorce, citing the unreasonable behaviour of Mr Owens as the required ‘fact’. However three levels of courts, including most recently the Supreme Court, […]

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The government’s feeble policy on strengthening families

July 26, 2018

What is the government doing to strengthen families? Given that providing support for families that have broken down costs £51 billion per year at last count, that around 45 per cent of all teens are not living with both natural parents, and that Britain has the worst family instability in the entire developed world, a […]

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Cost of family breakdown

July 3, 2018

Amicable or acrimonious, civilised or conflicted, cooperative or combative, whatever form it takes family breakdown was never the dream. Family always begins with an act of love. Family breakdown always ends in a failure of love. When love fails, there is always an emotional cost, whether to the parents or the children or those outside […]

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Children’s mental health: Forever repairing sand castles?

June 25, 2018

In December last year the government produced its green paper on children’s mental health. The opening paragraph begins with an optimistic note that the state can make a difference. “Children with a persistent mental health problem face unequal chances in life. This is one of the burning injustices of our time.” Alas, it’s all downhill […]

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It’s not ‘cuts’ that put children in care

June 12, 2018

I could have written it myself. In her foreword for a new report from IFS on spending on children’s services, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, said this: ‘Children do not arrive in extreme need overnight and many could be prevented from getting to that point if we helped them sooner in a more effective way. ‘The economic […]

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All you need is … Love Island

June 5, 2018

Royal wedding preacher Michael Curry had it right when he said ‘there is power in love‘. And with love in the air, yes, ITV’s hit reality show ‘Love Island‘ is back! It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but 2.5 million viewers watched last year’s season finale. I have to out myself and admit […]

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A simple policy on marriage for Mrs May

June 5, 2018

Government policy on marriage is lukewarm at best and downright ambivalent at worst. On the one hand, the state is terribly interested in marriage. We have strict laws on who can marry and how marriages can end, and we have special rules that favour transfers of assets between husband and wife in life and after death. But […]

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Cheap sex, so why should men marry?

June 1, 2018

There’s a deep irony about the subject of marriage and men. On the one hand, marriage appears to benefit men more than women. Men’s health in particular, for example, is better among those who get and stay married. On the other hand, men appear to resist marriage more than women. In a couple of surveys […]

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An open letter to Prince Harry and Meghan: Four things I wish I’d known as a newlywed

May 22, 2018

We don’t know each other but we have important things in common – and it’s not just that we are both Harrys and both former military helicopter pilots who have seen action. I did get to marry a Kate though … The biggest thing we have in common is marriage. You’re about to get married, […]

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The ‘burning injustice’ that the poor no longer marry

May 22, 2018

Harry and Meghan have just done it. His older brother did it a few years ago. Some of his cousins have done it. And his father has even done it twice. Indeed it would be considered quite odd if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hadn’t got married. Royal weddings and marriages are a bit of a […]

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It’s not marriage that’s patriarchal. It’s cohabitation

May 15, 2018

Marriage is ‘heteronormative’ and ‘patriarchal‘, according to lawyers representing a couple in the Supreme Court this week. Their gripe is that whereas same sex couples have the opportunity to commit to one another through either marriage or civil partnership, different sex couples who have an ideological objection to marriage have no similar alternative legal structure. […]

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Broken homes, broken children

May 14, 2018

The UK has the highest level of family instability in the entire developed world. Our epidemic levels of family breakdown were highlighted in a recent international analysis by the Social Trends Institute. Yet as a nation we seem to be completely unaware of what is happening to us. Our own analysis at Marriage Foundation confirmed that a quarter […]

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Ch 4 “Married at first sight”: A programme that doesn’t understand marriage

April 27, 2018

Channel 4 is at it again, recruiting single people to take part in the fourth series of their reality programme Married at first sight. In what the makers describe as a social experiment, three couples will marry, having met for the first time just a few hours before they walk up the aisle. They will […]

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Does marriage really get worse over time?

April 22, 2018

Ever since the 1930s, conventional wisdom among researchers has been that marriage tends to start off looking good and then gradually deteriorates over time. Although most studies have followed couples over the first few years of marriage, a handful of studies have covered as long as forty years. Nonetheless the overall conclusion has been clear. The longer marriages […]

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Shared parenting: Good luck with bucking human nature

April 9, 2018

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister reaffirmed her commitment to encouraging “fathers to share caring roles more fairly, through initiatives such as shared parental leave, and promote schemes for mothers returning to work“. Giving fathers encouragement to get involved is excellent. Giving mothers opportunities to return to work, if and when they want to do so, […]

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Church school report: 10 out of 10 on marriage, but next time show your workings!

March 13, 2018

The Church of England has just released its response to the Department for Education consultation on Relationship and Sex Education (“RSE”) in schools. The really good bit is their robust and unashamed view that marriage must be included in RSE as: “a relationship of trust, loyalty and fidelity“, “a spiritual relationship based on Christ’s relationship with the […]

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Marriage at an all time low

February 28, 2018

Today’s release from the Office for National Statistics reveals that marriage has hit an all-time low. The number of weddings in 2015 was 239,020, down 3.4 per cent on the previous year. Marriage rates, the proportion of unmarried people who marry in any given year, are now at their lowest level since records began, more […]

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Theme for Marriage Week – Think Ahead!

February 7, 2018

There’s a very simple equation. Less marriage = more unmarried cohabitation = more family instability The reason is that marriage is inherently stable whereas cohabitation is inherently unstable. Study after study shows that this remains the case even when you’ve taken into account all of the background factors that make people more or less likely […]

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Brief on Relationship Education

February 1, 2018

  Children should know …  … The upsides of healthy relationships When relationships go right, couples who stay together tend to be happier, healthier and ultimately wealthier (Waite & Gallagher 2000) Conversely when relationships go wrong, couple distress is strongly linked to problems with individual health and well-being (Lebow et al 2012) The children of […]

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Rich kids on benefits?

January 21, 2018

One of the most common critiques of the supposed advantages of marriage is that married adults and their children only do better because of their education and money. It’s not marriage that conveys the advantages of life. It’s just that those who are better educated are more likely to get married. They then go on […]

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Divorce day: the grain of truth behind the hype

January 8, 2018

It comes up every year. January is supposedly the month when lawyers and counsellors say they get more new enquiries than in any other month. And the first working Monday of the year, today, is supposedly “divorce day” – the busiest day of the year. But is there any truth to this or is it merely […]

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Hopelessly unhappy? Drifting apart? Before you give up hope for your marriage, read this …

January 1, 2018

I know. Maybe your marriage is a mess. It’s drifting, it’s become functional, it’s lost the love and it’s not what you dreamed. In short it needs a kick up the backside. Maybe you’ve even finally decided it’s over. At last you’ve summoned up the courage to call it a day. But before you give […]

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Family breakdown linked to mental health problems in teens

November 18, 2017

It shouldn’t be contentious. Yet somehow it is. You might imagine that the way our parents behave towards each other and how they behave towards us ought to be a major factor in how we develop as teenagers. After all, our parents are the most important people in our lives. We see them at close […]

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Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning back to marriage

November 9, 2017

For the last few years, it’s become apparent that the trend away from marriage has at least paused, if not necessarily stopped. We have seen this in the population data – how many married or unmarried parents there are – and in the birth data – how many births to married and unmarried parents there are. […]

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The fish are doing just fine : Understanding how a headline upward blip in divorce conceals the long term downward trend

October 24, 2017

Imagine an enormous fish tank. In it are fish of all different sizes, all swimming around happily together. It’s easy to tell how long any particular fish has been in the tank because of its size. As fish mature, they get bigger. The bigger fish have been around for a long time. The smallest ones […]

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IDS should champion marriage, not relationship counselling

August 30, 2017

Former welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith has this week warned the government not to cut the annual £7.5 million funding for relationship counselling. But is he right? I know a bit about this issue for a number of reasons: I’ve been researching and writing about what works in relationships for nearly twenty years; I co-wrote […]

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The Google memo writer says men and women are different. He’s right.

August 9, 2017

An internal memo from a Google employee about diversity has caused a furore. An extract from our book “What Mums Want: And Dads Need To Know” attempts to shed some light on precisely how men and women differ …   Stereotypical ways of talking about men and women became popularised by the famous bestseller ‘Men […]

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‘Time for change’, but not the way the Social Mobility Commission sees it

June 28, 2017

‘Time for Change’, announces the Social Mobility Commission in their new report out today. In it, former minister Alan Milburn and his team talk about 20 years of public policy leaving us with a nation divided by region, income and wealth, and generation. Despite the 50 per cent real terms increase in education since 1997, […]

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Smart dads, smart kids?

June 7, 2017

I like paradoxes. So here’s one. How come less than half of all school leavers have both English and Maths GCSE at grade C or higher, yet my daughter, now at university, tells me her experience of the state education system was excellent? These education statistics are astonishingly awful. In fact they remind me of […]

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Marriage-rich Cabinet need to back marriage

June 5, 2017

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s the nature of being an incurable optimist. Assuming the best also means having to deal with disappointment. All of the parties have completely ignored family stability as an issue. Yes, there’s lots of good stuff in the manifestos written and spoken about family issues such as children’s […]

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“I see you, mum and dad”

April 27, 2017

It’s what children see that affects them, not how parents feel Happy parents -especially happy mums – tend to have happy kids. If parents get on well together, kids generally do fine. A load of research backs this up. So it’s easy to assume that if the quality of the parental relationship changes for better […]

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Divorce has no effect on children? Not so fast …

April 12, 2017

Parents at war ‘more harmful than divorce‘, ran a headline in the Times yesterday. The accompanying article reports on a new study that claims “interparental conflict may be even more harmful to a child’s development than parental dissolution itself“. The study – which you can read in full here – attracted my attention for a […]

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Men: The best gift for Mothering Sunday? Be kind to your wife!

March 25, 2017

(This article was originally published in this week’s Church of England newspaper) Twenty two years ago, I stood on the brink of divorce. My wife Kate and I were good parents to our two young children. I had a good job and worked hard to make sure I could feed my family. Sure, there was […]

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It’s not marriage that’s ‘patriarchal’. It’s cohabitation.

March 7, 2017

In an article for Metro last month, writer Rebecca Reid expressed horror that her fiancé might have asked her dad’s permission before he married her. The whole idea has “a massive historical problem” behind it, she declared furiously. There was a time when “women were property to be traded for the advancement of a family […]

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Should you stay together in an unhappy marriage?

February 10, 2017

After eight years of marriage, Harry and Kate Benson stood on the brink of divorce. They had done the classic thing of growing apart. What Mums Want (And Dads Need To Know) is for all the Harrys and Kates who needn’t get in the mess they did.   Almost exactly twenty two years ago, I got home […]

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What Mums Want (And Dads Need To Know)

February 3, 2017

Marriage Week runs from 7-14 February. Here our Research Director Harry Benson tells the story of how his marriage went badly wrong, and what happened to turn it around. What Mums Want (And Dads Need To Know) by Harry and Kate Benson is out now!  We did the classic thing of growing apart. The first […]

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The myth of the ‘good divorce’

November 28, 2016

It all sounds rather sweet and innocent, doesn’t it? “We love each other very much … we are and always will be a family … in many ways we are closer than we have ever been … we are parents first and foremost” These were the words reportedly said by A-list couple Gwyneth Paltrow and […]

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November 22, 2016


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Does religion help couples stay together?

November 19, 2016

I’m often asked if Christians have lower divorce rates than anyone else. Although I point out that I don’t know of any UK studies on this, evidence from the US is fairly mixed that religion – or ‘religiosity’ as it’s usually called in the academic papers – is linked to higher rates of stability. In […]

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Legal rights for cohabiting couples will create more problems than it solves

November 14, 2016

It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it. A woman – and in most cases it is a woman – lives with a man for a number of years, sacrifices part or all of career to bring up their children, whereupon he walks out taking all of his earning with him. The children have rights under […]

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It’s time to ditch useless family interventions and back marriage

October 20, 2016

This article was first published 18 October 2016 on ConservativeHome As if we needed more evidence that government is hopeless at running large scale family interventions, this week’s report from think tank NIESR reveals that the government’s flagship ‘Troubled Families’ programme has had no impact whatsoever across a range of outcomes. The evaluation ‘was unable to find consistent evidence […]

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Proof that monthly date nights work … but only if you’re married!

September 25, 2016

I’m not sure I’d be taking marriage advice from Katie Price. But according to a recent interview, one thing she swears by is the idea of a “date night” to keep her third marriage on track. Relationship commentators and marriage educators agree. Google the words “date night” and any number of articles pop up exhorting […]

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Brangelina: Why celebs don’t have it all

September 20, 2016

(You can listen to my interview with BBC World Service on this subject here)  Its probably the most common rebuttal I hear when I mention how married couples tend to do so much better than unmarried couples. “It’s not marriage, its money.” There’s an element of truth to this. Money makes it easier for couples […]

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Throughout Europe, the rich marry and the poor don’t

August 8, 2016

Everyone knows that fewer people get married these days. This has become an increasingly serious problem for the simple reason that most couples who don’t marry don’t stay together whereas most couples who do marry do stay together. Among parents, roughly eight out of ten who are married when their child is born will still be […]

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Optimism renewed: The prospect of a family policy that helps families stay on the ladder?

July 26, 2016

Some ten years ago, I remember sitting in the audience at a boys club in the east end of London, just feet away from new Tory leader David Cameron as he gave a brilliant note-free inaugural speech. As the world’s press – and I – looked on, he talked passionately of his social justice mission […]

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Harry Benson: Brexit – It can’t be like a divorce because it was never like a marriage

July 4, 2016

Well, if you can’t beat them join them. Since Brexit and its political consequences seems to be about the only story in town at the moment, I thought I’d add my voice to the tum

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Sir Paul Coleridge: Father, give yourself a Fathers Day present that will last a lifetime!

June 16, 2016

It’s Fathers Day. If you’re an unmarried father reward yourself with the best Fathers Day present you could ever have – Marry the mother of your child(ren)….. (or at least propose to her). That is a gift which will last a lifetime.

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For an archive of older Marriage Foundation blogs, please click here