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.

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36 Things I Know After 36 Years of Marriage

P & W Yosemite 2014IMG_0086 copyNext week, my husband and I will celebrate our 36th anniversary.

Some years we’ve gotten dressed-up and gone out to dinner. Other years we’ve simply marked the day with a kiss.

Once, we were both sick with the flu and I vaguely remember clinking our glasses of orange juice together and then sleeping right through the day.

Then there was the year when we were so embroiled in struggle that we let the day pass without even a word.

That’s what marriage is: richer, poorer, good times and bad. Each year with its surprises and challenges, its hard fought lessons, its moments of sweetness.

To honor our many years together, here are 36 lessons I’ve found most valuable: 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

Surviving Infidelity: A Step-by-Step Guide to Healing

Holding HandsIt’s the first question most people ask when seeking couples therapy after an affair: “Can my marriage survive?”

Most are relieved that the answer is, yes. 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

The Shocking Truth About Thinking Big

resolutions-1Ahhh, January! The month of good intentions.

The month of diets begun and gym memberships opened, vices sworn off and new beginnings envisioned.

And now, one week in, it may well be the month of “I’ll start over next week.”

If you’re looking to make changes—and to actually succeed—I suggest you start small. Continue reading

What Can I Do If My Partner Won’t Go To Couples Therapy?

There’s no getting around it. Your marriage is in trouble and it’s time to get help.iStock_000025095355XSmall

Yet, despite all the good reasons you offered and how nicely you asked, your spouse is dead set against therapy and is unwilling to budge. Continue reading