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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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

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

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

How to Become Your Spouse’s Best Friend

girl shares, gives or feeds boy with her ice cream in studio isoEvery day we hear yet another bit of advice about what it takes to have a marriage that lasts. The latest: Find a spouse who can be your best friend.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Kindness, companionship, a special someone to come home to…

For many of us, the friendship we have with our spouse is what we value the most in our relationship. And according to recent research, friendship plays a key role in what makes a good marriage even better.

Mind you, the researchers aren’t saying that you have to start out as best friends. 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

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