What Valentine’s Day Can Teach Us About The True Meaning of Love

Valentine’s Day. The day that happy couples exchange kisses and chocolate and go out for a candle-lit dinner. And unhappy couples feel worse about their marriage than on any other day of the year.CC_valentines_chocolate

With all the pressure to be romantic and passionate, to feel like starry-eyed lovers, to somehow resurrect the mystery and allure you felt in the early days of courtship — after a long day of work and a race home to pick up the kids, after picking up their pizza and your dry cleaning and double-checking with the babysitter — even reasonably happy couples may wonder are we happy enough?

And struggling couples? All the hype and heart-studded hoopla can push them over the edge.

Valentine’s Day generates record-breaking flower sales and the exchange of over a billion boxes of chocolate. It also triggers a dramatic increase in the number of calls made to divorce attorneys. Continue reading

“If You Really Loved Me…” and Other Desperate Measures For Getting Our Way

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who
can’t sleep with the window shut, and a woman
who can’t sleep with the window open.
— George Bernard Shaw

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Frustrating, isn’t it?

You ask your partner for something and the answer is no.

Yet, you still want it. It’s important. So you ask again, this time hoping the answer will be yes.

But what if it’s not? What’s your plan B? 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

Twelve Essential Qualities of Masterful Listening

“Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” — Rachel Naomi Remen

For many of us, what someone says and what we hear may be wildly divergent.

“When can we talk?” can easily translate to “Uh, oh. I’m in the doghouse.”

“You look fine,” can become “he hates what I’m wearing.”Tin can phone

Clearly, listening is not simply about hearing the words someone says. 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

Warning: Don’t Trust The Wall Street Journal To Give You Marriage Advice

You're LateImagine that one morning you sit down to breakfast and your partner hands you a copy of your annual review. There in a bright yellow folder is a formal evaluation, complete with pie charts and bar graphs, highlighting the areas in which your spouse thought you’d excelled and where you’d fallen short.

“Over all, your performance is up from last year. Sex has improved, both in frequency and enthusiasm, and you’re also more punctual, which, as you recall, was a big problem last year. However, you continue to be far too irritable about the house being messy, complaining an average of five times a week…”

Sound far-fetched? Insulting? A sure first step toward divorce? Continue reading

Thirty-five Things I’ve Learned In Thirty-five Years Of Marriage

iStock_000010401448XSmallLike most newlyweds, my husband and I stepped into marriage bright-eyed, optimistic and flat-out unprepared. We’d had terrible family role models and possessed virtually no tools, yet — let’s hear it for young love — we assumed that our marriage would be a rousing success. Continue reading

Give Your Spouse The Gift That Can’t Go Wrong

Happy smiling woman showing blank area on hand and looking isolaWhether you’re a big holiday shopper or a minimalist, here’s one holiday gift your spouse is guaranteed to enjoy.

There’s no need to wrap it and plenty of opportunity to use it.

This year, give your partner a break. Continue reading

The Surprising Benefit Of Being Less Helpful

Go on. Admit it.

You know it’s utterly fruitless, yet deep down, you’re still hoping to get your partner to change.

“Who couldn’t benefit from a bit of improvement?” you say. And who better than you to point out what to improve?

There’s no denying that we all have our rough edges and blind spots— some of us with rougher edges than others. Even so, the “helpful” commentary we offer is neither helpful nor welcome.

robert-weber-do-you-mind-if-i-say-something-helpful-about-your-personality-new-yorker-cartoonWhat if 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

10 Surefire Ways To Turn A Small Fight Into A Big One

bombIt’s no secret. Couples have fights.

But not all fights are created equal. Some start small and stay small while others pick up steam as they go and leave a mess in their wake.

And the difference in outcomes is not random.

Have you ever seen a fight coming a mile away and done nothing to stop it?

Or worse, just for the heck of it you did your best to provoke it?

Sometimes we’re like that. We’re short-fused or irritable or maybe we’re bored. Or, as a friend likes to say, we’re simply a fight looking for something to pick itself on.

Other times, the last thing we want is yet another knock-down-drag-out about unloading the dishwasher, but we feel powerless to stop it.

The truth is: we’re not. Continue reading

How To Talk With Your Spouse About The Things You Don’t Want To Talk About

It’s true. There are some conversations you’d rather not have.

Woman With Brown Box On Her Head - IsolatedLike the one about the credit card or your mother-in-law or how you hardly ever have sex.

Maybe you need to talk about quitting your job or having another baby, or how you lie awake worrying that your marriage is in trouble, or that you never have fun. Maybe you think your partner is having an affair.

And the very idea of bringing it up fills you with dread.

Maybe tomorrow, you say. Maybe next week.

Then again, maybe not. Continue reading

Mastering The Art of Shutting Up

Say no more!

Face it. When it comes to marital conflict, most of us don’t know when to hush up.

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard… no, let’s be honest… it’s downright impossible to resist throwing in that one last clever comeback, that sigh, that snarky retort— even though it’s guaranteed to get the two of you all fired-up. And not in a good way.

Most of the time it seems that nothing can keep us from jumping onto the old hamster wheel and taking a run. Not even our wisest, sanest voice asking us if the thing we’re fighting about is actually worth it, suggesting we drop it, begging us to, just this once, zip our lips.

For some reason, we can’t. Or, we won’t. Continue reading

Does Your Marriage Need A Boost? Try Some Tenderness

Be kind whenever possible.
It is always possible.
-Dalai Lama

Three seconds. Just enough time to slam on my brakes, grab ahold of the steering wheel and hope for the best. Between good brakes and good luck, I stopped barely an inch short of the car that had suddenly pulled out in front of me. Continue reading