10 Wishes I Have For My Son and His Future Wife

original_marry-me-christmas-proposal-card edited Wedding experts say that the three-month stretch between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is prime time for proposals. With the sparkle of Christmas and the promise of the new year lending an air of romance, nearly forty percent of couples choose this time to get engaged. To my delight, this year, my son and his fiancée are among them.

While the coming months will be taken up with writing guest lists and weighing the pros and cons of a winter wedding (with its possibility of ice storms) or a wedding in June (with its guarantee of mosquitoes) I’m keeping in mind the many years that will follow.

Millions of couples marry each year. Like my son and his fiancée, and my husband and I, they’ll step into marriage bright-eyed, optimistic, ready to give it their all. The good news: despite all the challenges that marriage can bring, a vast majority of them will succeed.

To my son, my lovely future daughter-in-law, and all of you who are newly-engaged, here are my hopes, wishes and words of advice:

1. Some problems are easy to resolve, while others will require patience, effort, and creativity. Though there will be things about which you disagree, never consider a problem to have been solved when one person wins and the other loses.

2. A good marriage requires that we act like grown-ups without forgetting the importance of being thoroughly silly. Please don’t let life’s challenges keep you from laughing at yourselves and feeling delight at making snow angels in the year’s first snow storm. (Or even the second.)

3. None of us comes into marriage with all we need for success. We learn “on the job” — benefiting as much from our failures as our successes. When the going gets rough it’s most often a sign that we need some new skills, not a sign that we need a new spouse.

couple painting4. Though all of us who love you wish for the wind to always be at your backs, there will be times that the winds of life blast you right in the face. In whatever hard times that come, may you have each other to turn to. Please remember that you’re on the same team. Even when things are hard. Even when you don’t see eye-to-eye.

5. We learn a lot more from listening than we do from talking.

6. Marriage is a long, ongoing negotiation about how two people are going to run things. Money. Intimacy. Parenting. Chores. As your needs change, so will your agreements. You can dig in your heels, or you can collaborate. Collaboration is a lot more rewarding.

7. As you move through the years, you will see your friends divorcing. Don’t panic. Divorce isn’t contagious. Though there’s no guaranteed way to “divorce-proof” your marriage, your best shot at a loving and lasting marriage is to be a husband or wife your spouse would be foolish to leave.

8. Don’t believe anyone who says that marriage doesn’t take work. Marriage, like anything else worth doing, takes focus, commitment, and willingness to go outside of your comfort zone. For some people, work is another word for drudgery. I think that work, in the context of marriage, is another word for love.

9. It’s always a good idea to be kind.

10. All that stuff about better or worse, good times and bad — it’s totally true. Forget about wedded bliss and living happily ever after. The best of marriages are a combination of difficulty and delight, surprise and predictability, aloneness and intimacy. A good marriage is about loving, despite disappointments. Regardless of differences. It’s about knowing and accepting each other, opening your heart come what may — creating a life that allows your love to grow deeper and more generous with time.


Have a friend or some soon-to-be newlyweds who might like this post? Please share!

Looking to have a more satisfying marriage? Get my free bonus article: 75 Ways To Improve Your Relationship Starting Today — plus new blog posts delivered straight to your inbox!
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Coming soon…

Looking For Opportunities.

… New Posts


… Details — plus previews — from my forthcoming book about how one partner can be a powerful agent for change in a marriage.

Finally, after many months of work, I’ve finished my manuscript and have sent it off to my publisher. So, once I catch my breath, I’ll be back to blogging.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you with questions or requests about relationship issues you’d like me to address in upcoming blog posts.

See you soon,


How to Turn an Okay Marriage Into a Great One

Image 7-12-15 at 1.49 PM (1)How many people do you know who would wholeheartedly say that their marriage is great?

How many would say that they’re happier now than when they first got together, that their marriage is one of the most satisfying parts of their life?

Five? Ten? None? Continue reading

How to be Happily Married in a World of Naysayers

imageWe’ve all heard the jokes: The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.

I married Ms. Right. I just didn’t know that her first name was Always.

Marriage is talked about as if it’s a jail sentence, a ball and chain, the mistake of a lifetime.

Some have said that marriage is irrelevant and outdated. Others have called it a failed experiment.

Failed? Really?

I’ll be the first to admit that marriage can be difficult. Marriage asks us to grow and to stretch; it calls for flexibility and fortitude and a capacity to love — even (and especially) during really hard times. And anyone who’s been married for more than a month knows that hard times do come.

But there are also sweet times and easy times, times of deep love and affection, times when we’re glad that we’re married to the wonderful, annoying person we picked.

The “marriage is broken” folks seem to be saying that because some marriages are truly miserable, and because, even under the best of circumstances, marriage can be hard, we need to change the rules.

They say we need to stop expecting marriage to last a lifetime, to meet our needs for intimacy, to bring satisfaction and joy.

The trouble with the naysayers is that they talk about marriage as if it’s an entity — as if marriage is some sort of troublemaker; as if there’s something inherent in marriage that sets us up to fail.

To further bolster their argument, they trot out the inaccurate, “bad news” statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce.

Here’s the good news: when it comes to first marriages, 60-70% of them will be marriages that last. And yes, a lasting marriage isn’t necessarily a happy one, but the happiness part — that’s in our hands.

Senior couple kiss situation in white isolated background

If you’re looking to prove the naysayers wrong:

1. Accept that marriage takes effort if we want to do it well. Many things in life are difficult, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. Why should marriage be any different?

2.  Relationships don’t just happen. They don’t succeed by magic and they don’t fail on their own. Marriage is something we build from the ground up. It requires care and attention. The more creative and committed we are, the better our marriage will be.

3. The best marriages are based on generosity. No, I’m not talking about over-giving and sacrifice. True generosity is a wholehearted desire to offer the best of what we have. Love, affection, not believing we need to have everything our way in order to be happy.

4. Some of the worst marriages I’ve seen have gotten as bad as they are because neither partner is willing to risk: to apologize, to reach out, to be vulnerable, to name what needs to be addressed. Remember, you have to step out of your comfort zone if you want your marriage to grow.

5. Pay less attention to what your partner is doing that gets in the way of having a satisfying relationship, and pay more attention to what you’re doing, which is the only thing you can control anyway.

6. Accept that sometimes you’re going to be disappointed by your partner, just as your partner will, at times, be disappointed by you. Disappointment is not a sign that something’s gone wrong. It’s simply a challenging fact of life that we, as partners, must learn to handle as gracefully as possible. Freaking out about your inevitable disappointments will make you unnecessarily unhappy, or discouraged, or both.

image7. Don’t expect  your spouse to be a mindreader. If something is important to you, it’s your job to speak up.

8. Accept that your partner won’t be thrilled about everything you do. Relationships are about being a twosome and about being two separate people who want different things. I don’t advocate behaving in ways that are harmful or inconsiderate, but there are times when we have to act alone — to confront something difficult, to make a bold move, to challenge the rules.

9. Don’t underestimate the importance of quality time. Show up. Make eye contact. Open your heart. And, for goodness sake, turn off your phone.

10. Never believe you’ve tried everything. Most of us do the same ineffective things over and over, and think we’ve given it our all. Yes, some relationship problems are complex and overwhelming, and we have no idea what to do to solve them. But before you think you’re out of options, ask yourself this: What one thing can I do that would make a significant, positive difference in my relationship? Before you give up, go ahead. Go all out.


Have a friend who might like this post? Please share!

Looking to have a more satisfying marriage? Get my free bonus article:
75 Ways To Improve Your Relationship Starting Today — plus new blog posts delivered straight to your inbox!
(Use the Sign-up button on the right or below.)

For news and inspiring cool stuff about relationships, follow me on twitter: @winifredmreilly.

The Ultimate Garage Cleaner’s Guide to Marriage Repair

A few years ago a client gave me a refrigerator magnet that reads:


Yep. I agree.

Especially when one of the chores involves the word garage. That’s how our garage ended up looking like a scene from the reality show where they bring in five guys in hazmat suits while a team of kind social workers comforts the hoarder. Continue reading

10 Everyday Relationship Issues That Aren’t Worth Freaking Out About

One of the best parts of my job as a couples therapist is that I get to deliver good news.

Woman Biting On Her LipCouples come in fearing that their marriage is too far gone to fix, and I get to tell them it’s not.

Yes, some people are in serious trouble and if they keep going in the direction they’re headed, their worst fears will come true.

Still, most couples are simply facing normal and ordinary relationship challenges that they lack the tools to address. Continue reading

10 Reasons Not to Be a Valentine’s Day Grinch

wallpaper_20100115103718_16542854972It’s that time again — Valentine’s Day. The holiday of romantic love, chocolate hearts, and passionate feelings about whether Valentine’s Day should be celebrated, or banned.

Yes, a dozen red roses, plus dinner, will cost as much as your car payment. And yes, love is as sweet on February 15th and every day after that (and should, indeed, be expressed all year long.)

And it’s true, Valentine’s Day is a red ribbon sales day for Hallmark and Hershey and a host of others who peddle “romance” for profit, creating enough hype and hoopla to turn even the ultra-romantic among us into a Valentine’s Day Grinch.

Still there are those of us who like to make the most of the day. Continue reading