It Takes One to Tango. It Doesn’t Take Two.

Back in the early, struggle-filled years of my marriage, the self-help books that I read emphasized love and togetherness. But at the time, my husband and I didn’t feel all that loving, and sometimes I wondered whether staying together was even an option.3D

Many books made it seem like marital strife could be easily corrected. Dozens suggested five or ten or one hundred “simple” things couples can do to be happily married, many of which looked like great ideas for people who were already happy, and utterly useless for couples like us who were in serious distress.

Other books were deeply discouraging, making it seem as if struggling couples were simply mismatched. Marital struggle, it seemed, was an indicator of something having gone terribly wrong: an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.

Was everyone else effortlessly using I-statements? I wondered. Were they all being respectful and tolerant, embracing their partner’s uniqueness? Why, then, was the divorce rate so high?

Obviously, lots of people struggle in their marriage. And some forty percent of them give up. Yet nothing I found explained why.

Where was the book called, How to Keep From from Killing Your Partner While You Figure Out Why He Drives You Nuts? I needed that one.

But no such book existed. So I decided to write it myself. Only I’ve called it IT TAKES ONE TO TANGO: How I Rescued My Marriage With (Almost) No Help From My Spouse—and How You Can, Too.

DesignThe party line about marriage is that it takes two. It’s what most people believe and many therapists espouse: Marriage is a two-way street, a fifty-fifty proposition.

We’re told that change in a marriage requires a shared commitment to growth, and that for good things to happen both partners must be willing to put both feet into the process.

But if it really takes two people to fix things, what happens when one partner is deeply discouraged, or has one foot out the door? What if you’re desperately longing for change and your spouse digs in his heels?

Does that mean you should just call it quits?

Conventional wisdom would say that it does.

That’s the problem with the “it takes two” approach. It limits our options. It leaves us powerless, waiting for our partner to meet us halfway, do their fair share, put in an effort that’s equal to ours.

The message in my book is simple and empowering: you only need one partner to create far-reaching positive change in your marriage. No matter how frustrated you are. No matter how long you’ve been stuck.

I know from experience that when one partner takes that first step, behaves in a new way, challenges the status quo, the other will usually follow. Sometimes slowly, not always cheerfully, and often not in the way we imagined. But eventually, both partners become stronger and healthier, and so does the marriage.

One person must take the first step. Why not let that person be you?

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My book is now on sale! As my way of saying thank you for being such loyal and enthusiastic readers, I’ll be giving away autographed copies to three people who answer the following question: As a Speaking of Marriage reader, what’s the most useful piece of marriage advice you’ve gotten from my blog? Tell us a bit about what change it inspired in you or your relationship.

Have a friend who might be helped by my book? Please share!

For info regarding my talks and appearances, as well as news and inspiring cool stuff about relationships, follow me on twitter: @winifredmreilly and Facebook: WinifredMReilly

The Ultimate Garage Cleaner’s Guide to Marriage Repair

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

image

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

How to Have a Happier Marriage — Without Changing a Thing

imageJanuary 1st. The day of fresh starts and new beginnings. The day we vow to eat more green vegetables, actually use our gym membership, and try, once again, to lose those hard to lose pounds.

As we look to the new year, we often focus on ways to be “better” — resolving to do more of what’s good for us and less of what’s not. To (at least most of the time) come from our best.

For a good many of us, finding ways to have a more satisfying marriage is high on our list.

But in our rush for improvement, we overlook this key fact: Continue reading

10 Daily Choices For Building a Marriage That Lasts

There are a hundred paths through the
world that are easier than loving…
But who needs easier?
— Mary Oliver

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before:

Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb.

bricks_and_trowelIt’s hard to dispute, isn’t it?

Anyone who’s been married longer than, say, a week, knows that marriage requires effort. Not back-breaking-drudgery kind of effort, but make-it-count, put-your-heart-into-it effort.

We build a marriage the way we build a house: day by day, brick by brick, from the ground up. Continue reading

7 Relationship Myths Smart Couples Don’t Fall For

hands-raisedIf you think marriage is hard, raise your hand.

Yep. You and everyone.

Yet, when the going gets rough, it’s as if we develop amnesia about how universally challenging marriage can be and think, instead, that our struggles are a sign that things have gone terribly wrong.

We don’t say, “No big deal. We’ll get through it. All couples struggle.”

What we do is freak out. Continue reading

9 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Divorce Attorney

contemplating-divorce-300x199

None of us gets married thinking that five, ten, even twenty years down the line we’d be so frustrated or miserable that we’d be considering divorce. Most of us step into marriage with hope and enthusiasm, determined to have ours be a marriage that lasts.

But marriage is difficult in ways few of us are prepared for. And rarely do we have all the tools we need for success. Nor do we have a guidebook or a road map to make the journey easier. Continue reading

10 Marriage Vows You Couldn’t Possibly Have Known To Make On Your Wedding Day

il_340x270.350283133_gwbmLet’s be honest. Most of us are more likely to upgrade the operating system on our computer than to revise our marriage vows.

As I sat writing my vows on the eve of my wedding (okay, fine, now you know that I’m a big-time procrastinator) I was no better prepared to face the rigors of marriage than I was to pilot a jumbo jet. And, no surprise, like most soon-to-be newlyweds, the promises I made were idealistic and romantic— based on what I imagined it would take to create a marriage that lasts. Continue reading