Today is my husband’s and my anniversary.  We’re celebrating 14 years of wedded . . . ah . . . marriage.  Because as much as I’d love to tell to you that it’s been all bliss, it hasn’t.  Oh, I love him and he loves me —  there is no doubt about that. But love isn’t what keeps us together.

I hate to burst your bubble, but love is not enough for a healthy marriage.  Even people who are in unhealthy marriages can truly love each other.  They may not show each other in healthy ways, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel love.

Having a healthy marriage takes work.  It’s a daily, even moment-to-moment decision to show your partner love.  Even when they are not being lovable.  Even when you don’t feel loving. It’s this kind of work on our marriage that keeps us together.

Before I go any further, I want to state that this post is not for couples who are in an abusive marriage.  If your marriage is abusive, you can try these tips until you’re blue in the face and they will NOT make your marriage healthy.  Both partners must first be emotionally healthy and free from abuse or abusive behaviors before trying these tips.  

Do not use these tips to attempt to change your abusive partner.  Instead, spend your energy working on a way to find your freedom. If your partner gets the help he or she needs and you come back together as two emotionally and mentally healthy people, then you can try these tips to move ahead in your relationship and to maintain a healthy marriage.

Five Daily Practices for a Healthy Marriage

1.  Know Yourself

When you and your spouse come together at the end of a long day or if you are together throughout the day, know what’s on your mind.  If you are having a bad day, if you are dealing with illness, if you are upset about something, go in to interactions with your spouse understanding what may be causing you to be in a bad mood.

If you don’t know the reasons behind your sadness, annoyance, or anger you may blame your spouse for those feelings.  It’s unfair to rope your biggest ally into being responsible for your big feelings that were caused by someone or something else.

Be mindful about what you’re feeling so that you can interact with your partner honestly.  Let him or her know upfront that you are in a bad mood or that you don’t feel well.  He or she may be able to help you feel better.  But, if he or she can’t, don’t waste time being upset over it.  Simply work on helping yourself to feel better so that you can be a better partner.

2.  Assign Positive Intent

If your partner is really working your nerves today, take a step back.  Try to assign positive intent to his or her actions.  For instance, did he leave his laundry on the bathroom floor?  Maybe he ran out of time or was distracted.  This doesn’t mean you have to pick it up for him, but try to remember the times when you weren’t able to finish chores for one reason or another.

Stop assuming that the annoying things your spouse does are done to spite you.  Likely it has nothing at all to do with you!  Stop taking it personally  and assign positive intent to his or her actions.  When in doubt, ask your partner why he or she did the thing that you find bothersome.  But do not ask in a rude or blaming way.

3.  Give Each Other Space

You can also file this on under “get a life”!  This tip is especially important if your spouse is an introvert.  There may be some days when you or your partner just want to be alone.  This is okay and is not a red flag of a failing marriage.

Give your spouse some space and take space when you need it.  As I said in the last tip, assign positive intent to your spouse in these times. He or she isn’t rejecting you by needing some time alone.  He or she is simply doing what it takes to stay healthy and for some people that means having some time alone.

4.  Say What’s Bothering You

If something is bothering you about your partner, let them know.  Do it in a respectful way, but don’t hold it in.  Unspoken resentment leads to contempt and contempt kills marriages.

Talk about the little things as they come up.  Assign positive intent and be sure to use your “I” statements.  Example:  “I feel frustrated when you leave your laundry on the floor.  Help me understand why you left your laundry on the floor.”  Also, ‘What can I do to help?”  is a great way to spark a healthy conversation without inciting defensiveness and anger from your partner.

5.  Ask for What You Need

Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader.  Not even after many years of marriage should you expect your partner to know what you need if you don’t tell him or her.

Of course, it’s great when our spouses anticipate our needs.  Sometimes we hit it out of the park and know exactly what the other person needs or wants — sometimes before they know they need or want it!  But, expecting this all the time is tiring for your partner and frustrating for you.

So, just ask.  Tell them what you need and don’t play games.  It’s not true that if they loved you, they would know what you need.  They have a whole life of their own to figure out.  Unless you want to be held to the same standard of mind-reading (at which I promise you would fail), stop expecting your spouse to know what you need from them without being told.  Use your words and get what you need!

Of course, there are many ways to improve the health of your marriage, but I have found that these five have taken my husband and me a long way toward a better marriage.

A couple of the tips (assigning positive intent and asking for what I need) have been a struggle for me to implement at times, but when I have gotten outside of myself and practiced these things, I have seen the positive effect they’ve had on my marriage.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Featured image via

What is contempt?

Contempt is easily defined as an emotional mix of anger and disgust. Contempt is the feeling that something or someone is undeserving of consideration or deserving of scorn.

If you’ve ever said, “Oh, I would never do that!” when referring to the actions of other people, you have expressed contempt toward their actions. If you’ve ever said, “Oh, I would never be like that!”, then you’ve expressed contempt toward a person.

Contempt is damaging to all relationships and marriage is no exception. When the partners in a marriage journey down the road to contempt, they put their marriage at risk.

What does contempt in marriage look like?

Maybe you aren’t sure if contempt is alive in your marriage. If you’ve experienced any of these scenarios, then you or your partner may feel contempt toward each other.

If you’ve ever expressed disgust toward your partner and feel that they are on a lower moral level than you are, you have experienced contempt toward your spouse.

If your spouse has ever expressed disgust toward you or something that you’ve done, they likely feel contempt toward you concerning that issue.

If you’ve ever felt superior to your spouse and those feelings led you to question your relationship, you may be experiencing contempt.

If your spouse has ever declared his or her superiority over you, he or she likely feels contempt toward you, at least in the areas where he or she feels superior.

If you or your spouse exchange in sarcasm toward one another, there may be contempt present in your marriage.

If you or your partner ever mock each other during arguments, you have a red flag for contempt.

What does contempt do to a marriage?

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of your partner’s contempt, then you know how it makes you feel. When someone you love and are emotionally intimate with treats you with disgust or flings sarcasm your way, it hurts. Even if your spouse apologizes later, the fact that he or she has considered such hurtful things about you still plays in your mind.

When your partner scrutinizes your life and exposes your flaws, you begin to trust him or her — and his or her love for you — a little less. Eventually, your marriage becomes a place where you don’t feel safe to be yourself for fear of your partner looking down on you. This lack of trust and security dooms a marriage.

How can you stop contempt from ruining your marriage?

The best way to keep contempt from ruining your marriage is to never let it get started. This means that couples must find a way to express their frustrations and voice their complaints without sliding into resentment or disgust.

Here are four ways to keep contempt out of your marriage:

1. Make your complaints all about you. This means using your “I” statements. When your partner does something you don’t like, tell him or her how it makes you feel. Use, “I feel frustrated when . . . “, and “My feelings are hurt when . . .” instead of “You frustrate me when . . .” and “You always hurt my feelings.”

Your feelings are your problem — not your partner’s! But, as your committed spouse, your partner should care enough to discuss with you how you feel and what steps you can each take so that you don’t feel that way anymore.

2. Assign positive intent. I’ve mentioned this important step in other posts about marriage. When your partner does something that annoys or hurts you, don’t automatically assume that he or she was intentionally trying to annoy or hurt you.

Talk to your spouse about it and explain how you feel, but don’t blame them for being purposefully hurtful. The truth is that they may not have been thinking of you at all! Help your spouse to become more aware of how his or her actions affect others by saying how those actions affected you.

3. Complaints and criticism are not the same thing. When you complain to your partner about something he or she is doing that bothers you, you are not attacking him or her as a person. (Especially if you use your “I” statements and assign positive intent.) Complaining helps you to express yourself and to be heard. Criticism, on the other hand, is damaging and can be the beginning of feelings of contempt.

4. Pay attention to your own faults and practice compassion. If you feel like criticizing your partner, try to remember the last time you were perfect. If your partner is messing up in ways that you don’t struggle with, think about how you would feel if he or she began blasting you for the things with which you do struggle.

Instead of looking down on your partner or feeling disgust toward him or her, ask how you can help. Your spouse probably already knows the things that he or she has difficulty with and would probably be relieved if you showed compassion instead of condemning. Be your partner’s biggest fan and the first one in line to help him or her when he or she needs it!

If you want to know more about contempt in marriage and other factors that destroy marriage and predict divorce, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. This was required reading for me in my grad school Marriage and Family Therapy program and remains one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of marriage.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Featured image via

I have a sad story to tell. I don’t know the statistics, but I’m guessing just about every woman with a vagina will suffer from the ailment of which I am about to speak of.

Last week, I wrote a post about having sex for the first time after baby. If you missed it, you can read it here.

I received a comment from an older woman. Her name is Marcie. She told me about her friend. Her name is Bonnie.

They are both on the other side of menopause. Which means they are dryer than a prune on the equator.

Marcie is lucky. Her hubs doesn’t care much about sex anymore, therefore, Marcie doesn’t have to worry about it. Because, and I quote, “sex after childbirth is nothing compared to what you will face after menopause! It is painful beyond belief! Sex after menopause is like sticking knives AND sandpaper in there.

Thanks Marcie. Glad to know that I have something fun to look forward to. I love the feeling of sandpaper in my vijay jay. Said no woman ever.

Now, her friend Bonnie isn’t so lucky. She happens to be married to a sex machine. Pretty much no amount of KY Jelly will do the trick. There are drugs with dangerous side effects that she has to take so that her man can get his rocks off. And these drugs don’t even work all that great. I just hope she’s able to achieve the big “O” for her troubles.

Why is it that men can go at it like little Jack Rabbits and can procreate until their last breath? I still am amazed at how far Tony Randall went. That little horn dog. May he rest in peace. I just hope he’s not trying to hump my grandmother up there. Oh right, he likes the younger ladies.

What was I saying? Oh yes…sorry about that.

I love men. I really do. This is in no way a man bashing post. I’m just stating the obvious. And, also, I need to say that I’m totally coming back as a man in my next life. Because seriously, if I don’t have to have my ass ripped open by a human head ever again, I wouldn’t be happier.

Anyway, I did a little comparison. Correct me if I’m wrong.

What women have to endure:

  1. Painful periods with mega bleeding out of their down between, cramps, nausea, migraines and mood swings for 7 days or more each month from adolescence until — dear God — too long.
  2. Childbirth. 9+ months of carrying a person on the inside of our bodies like an alien and then enduring hours of having to push this person into the world through a small hole. It doesn’t seem natural. But yet, it is.
  3. Menopause. Why do they call it this? To pause the menses? Then just pause it Mother Effing Nature and move along.
  4. Atrophy of the Vagina or Dried Vagina Syndrome. Sure, maybe that should fall under menopause but I truly and deeply in my heart feel that it needs its very own bullet point. No further explanation needed.
  5. Sagging butt, boobs and mid-life gut (or as the kid likes to refer to it as the “fupa” (pronounced foo-pah — pretty huh?)).

Just so you know, my husband looks better than the day I met him. Why does the gray hair at his temples look sexy when my gray hair just makes me look like an unkempt old maid? I have to pay hundreds of dollars a year to prevent this look from taking over my life. That is not a lie. But I digress.

What men have to endure:

  1. Premature ejaculation. I’ll give it to them that this must suck.
  2. Not able to “perform.” Eh. It happens to the best of us.
  3. The fear of someone kicking them in the gonads. I heard that’s pretty painful. Although I have been elbowed in the breast and it’s not like picking daisies.
  4. Wet dreams. I don’t know, it sounds kind of fun, no?

Okay, so we have 5 and they have 4. But can we compare apples to apples? No, it’s more like comparing apples to watermelon. Or even worse, an apple to the Loch Ness Monster. Does that sound dumb and not make sense? Exactly.

Now I am no man. So, I don’t know what it’s like to be one. But my hubs doesn’t complain about anything unless his stomach hurts, he cuts his finger or has a cold. Therefore, to me that means that there isn’t much to complain about.

Unlike us. See above. Yet, we do these things and we do it with dignity. Because, hello? Girl Power, that’s what.

May I just say before I go that may God never change the rules and decide that men should give birth. Because hello? That’s scarier than the thought of the apocalypse. Don’t you think?

This post was originally featured on Maureen’s blog, Momfeld. Featured image via

Note to Dad: This post is about S-E-X and a certain daughter of yours. Do not read any further if you think you might have nightmares. You have been duly warned.

When people talk about sex after kids, the first thing that comes to my mind is not sex after kids, but sex after babies. Like right after. It’s been a long time. I mean, it’s been a long time since I gave birth to my kid. 16 years, 4 months and 10 days to be exact.

So, can I legitimately talk about this subject? Do I have the right? Damn straight I do. Because having sex for the first time after healing from childbirth is like having someone clean out your insides with a scythe that has been wrapped in 60 grit sandpaper. Sure, that sounds pretty painful. That’s because it is.

Not something soon to be forgotten with time. No matter what they say. It’s a lie. Like saying that you will soon forget about the pain of pushing an 8 pound person out of your nether-area. Your lady jewels. Your motherly loins. That, too, is a lie. Because 16 years, 4 months and 10 days later I remember that shit as if it happened just yesterday. It’s as fresh as a daisy in the subconsciousness of my mind.

I dreaded it. “Six weeks” the good doctor said. When I arrived home after my postpartum appointment and the hubs was waiting with bated breath, looking for the green light, I should have lied. Six months probably would have been more like it.

I wasn’t dreading it because I dislike sex. I was dreading it because I know precisely what went on down below during childbirth. Things got pulled, stretched and ripped in places that should NEVER have been…well, at least ripped. Apparently, pulled and stretched is acceptable given the fact that we are the lucky God-chosen gender to have been given the gift of child bearing. But I digress.

Between walking like a stud with the biggest set of scrotums known to man for 2 weeks to avoid any chafing and spending 3/4 of my time sitting on a sitz-bath for 10 days to relieve the horrid pain exuding from my bottom, the last thing I needed was to have all that down there invaded by the exact thing that got me in that situation in the first place.

No, I wasn’t holding any grudges. It wasn’t his fault that this was how we chose to have a family. We both agreed to it. We did. But dang, a little advanced notice would have been nice. You know, maybe before we got into this situation called being pregnant?

The light turned GREEN and it was game time. The pain made my toes curl, took the breath out of me, made me want to cry out for my mama. But I didn’t do that. Cry out for my mama. That would have been weird. And a major buzz kill.

But don’t worry. After that first time, all is well. Every time after that is hunky-dory. Back to normal. Have all the sex you want. Well, that is if you can come out of your lack-of-sleep induced coma from having a newborn wake you up at all ungodly hours of the night. Then by all means, carry on. You’re a trooper.

This post was originally featured on Maureen’s blog, Momfeld. Photo via

My husband doesn’t make me happy. I would like to tell you that there was a time when he did make me happy, but the truth is that he has never made me happy. There was a time when I wanted to believe that he made me happy. I bet you believe (or have believed) the same about your husband, but, hopefully, you’ve finally admitted (at least to yourself) that your husband doesn’t make you happy. The good news is that realizing this important fact about your husband is the first step toward an fulfilling relationship!

That’s right, ladies! Once you admit that your husband doesn’t make you happy, you can stop looking to him to provide your happiness for you and instead start looking to the one person on this planet who can make you happy: YOU!

My Husband Doesn’t Make Me Sad

One phrase I saw repeated over and over by therapy clients was , “He/She doesn’t make me happy.” They might be talking about their partner or their parent, their child or even a friend. It caused me wonder just how other people were given the responsibility of making my clients happy. Who gave that responsibility to them? Why do people expect other people to provide them with happiness?

I expect a lot of things from my husband. Respect is a must. Support is required. Patience is nice. Loyalty is essential. Faithfulness is a necessity. But happiness? That’s not part of the deal.

Now, that’s not to say that my husband doesn’t go out of his way to do things that bring me happiness. He does a lot of things that make me feel cherished, appreciated, admired and loved.

He refrains from trying to intentionally bring me sadness, as well. But that’s not why he doesn’t make me sad. He doesn’t make me sad because I am the owner of my feelings. Only I can decide if I’m sad or happy or angry or annoyed.

What if it was impossible for your husband to make you happy or sad? What if it simply wasn’t something he had the power to do? What if you, and only you, were responsible for your emotions and you were the only one who got to decide how you felt?

Guess what, buttercup? You are the only one who gets to decide how you feel. Not your husband. Not your children. Not even your mother. Just you.

How absolutely freeing is that?

For me (and for my marriage) it was the best realization I’ve ever had!

Be The Owner of Your Own Emotions

You may be asking, “If my husband can’t make me happy, then what’s the point of marriage?” or “If my husband can’t make me sad, then why do I feel so down when he does _____?”

It’s because you are human and you do feel emotions. When someone behaves toward you in a way that is hurtful, you feel hurt. This is a good indicator of whether or not you should be around that person. If you consistently feel sad when you are around your husband, you have to ask yourself if he is a healthy person to share your life with. That is what marriage is about — sharing your life with someone; partnering with your person; having a witness to your life.

Listen to your emotions. They are an excellent compass. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. It is your responsibility to move yourself from a place of emotional dis-ease to a place of emotional health. Not your husband’s.

If you aren’t happy, you need to take the steps to create happiness for yourself. Your husband can’t do that for you. If you came into marriage expecting your husband to be a constant source of happiness for you, you have put a lot of pressure on him and you have set yourself up for disappointment.

Do I Make My Husband Happy?

I know that we often go out of our way to bring happiness to our husbands. We tend more toward people-pleasing and constantly consider ways to add to their happiness. Many times they don’t even notice when we’ve gone out of our way for them. And that certainly doesn’t make us happy!

The great news is that when you stop expecting your husband to make you happy, you can also take the responsibility of your husband’s happiness off of your shoulders. Now, you can simply do things for him because you love him instead of hoping that what you’re doing will make him happy. His happiness is not your burden to bear — it’s his!

Most emotionally healthy people naturally want to do things that add to the happiness of those about whom they care. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s when you stop taking responsibility for your own happiness or when you take too much responsibility for someone else’s happiness that you will find yourself becoming less and less happy.

How to Make Yourself Happy in Your Marriage

1. Assign Positive Intent

I talk about assigning positive intent to others’ words and actions often. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache and keep your relationships drama-free if you simply assume that others’ words and actions are meant in a positive manner, or at least a neutral manner.

For example, your husband is not trying to make you crazy by leaving his socks on the floor. He is not doing that to intentionally mess with you. He’s doing that because picking up his socks is not on his list of important things to do. That’s it. No malice intended. Either remind him (nicely!) every time it happens, pick them up for him or get over it and go be happy.

2. Get a Hobby

Does that sound harsh? It’s not intended to be. It’s a very real, very helpful suggestion. What, outside of your relationship with your husband, brings you joy? Do more of that.

Practice better self-care. Reach out to others via volunteer work. Take classes to better a skill you have or to add to your education.

3. Figure Out What Your Emotional Needs Are

Simply tossing a general, “You don’t make me happy.” in your husband’s direction doesn’t help him to show you love in a way that is more meaningful to you. Tell him tangible things he can do when he wants to show you how much he cares for you.

Do you need him bring you flowers? Should he vacuum the living room? Give you a massage? Sit and listen to you talk about your day?

If you don’t know what you need from him, then how is he supposed know? Spend some time figuring out what makes you tick and then tell him. Be straightforward and don’t play coy games. If you need him to massage your right third toe while singing Let It Go in his best cookie monster voice, then tell him exactly that. Do not make him guess. That only sets him up for failure and you for disappointment.

4. Don’t Expect to Always be Happy

No one is happy all of the time. For us ladies, our hormone shifts can cause us to feel inexplicably unhappy from time to time. Do both you and your man a favor by keeping track of your cycle. You will probably notice that between ovulation and the first day of your next cycle, your husband has a much more difficult time staying on your good side. When I’m ovulating, my husband can do no wrong. A week before my period, however, nothing he does is right. I’ve learned to steer clear of him during those times when I have nothing positive to say about anything. He has learned to consult his calendar when he’s feeling unjustly accused of treachery.

You are an emotional creature. Whether it’s hormones or a major life transition or just a bad day, you are not always going to be happy. Marriage isn’t a cure-all for life’s ups and downs. Your husband, strong and brave as he may be, is not the defender of your happiness. You, also brave and strong, are the defender and curator of your happiness — and no one else’s.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Photo via

Being married twice means I never have to get married again. I’m basically off the hook.

People get it. They look at me now and say, “Marriage is just not something you’re good at.” And it’s totally acceptable, if not practical to never do it again.

Like a pilot who has crashed a plane twice, does anyone really want to see me take flight again? Nope. And neither do I. It would be idiotic to get behind the controls, putting flight crew and passengers at risk, when clearly I’m Harrison Ford in heels.

My first two, and might I add, only marriages where doomed from the beginning. It was as if upon starting the engine, I realized the wings and tail were missing and said, “It’ll be fine. I’ll just wing it.”

I apologize for the pun. There may be more. Note to self: Were my witty and relentless puns a cause for marital strife? No, that’s an adorable quality, not annoying. 🙂 Just like my overuse of emoticons. 🙂 🙂 :-0 Am I missing something?

I actually convinced myself that two wings were unnecessary appendages that just gave the plane symmetry, like the high cheek bones of aviation, not the physics behind aerospace engineering. And the navigation system, merely a cute little TV of the stars! Ohhhh, is that Cassiopeia? She’s totes adorbs!

I figured that all I needed was to get above the clouds. And once that happened, we would figure out mid-flight (after drinks were served, of course) where we were going. I hadn’t anticipated an actual destination or GPS to get us there. I believed in the magical thinking of flying through the air without the reality of gravity.

Were their red flags before my marriages? Yes. Red flags, caution tape, a hazmat crew, flares, and the entire air traffic control standing on the tarmac waving light batons shouting, “You’ll crash and burn. Crash and burn!” And yet, I put on my diamond ring, pulled the throttle and said, “But just look at that sky baby!”

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from fucking up on such a catastrophic scale, that takes the pressure off something I would never want to do again anyway.

I’ve had a root canal. Don’t want to do it again. I’ve given birth without pain meds, don’t want to do it again. I’ve been through custody and child support, attorneys and mediators. Don’t want to do it again.

And the beauty is, I can say, “I’m never getting married,” without anyone arguing, “Someday you may feel differently.”

When I say it, friends and family nod in unison and say, “That’s probably wise,” like they’ve just taken a loaded gun out of my hand.

“There’s a girl, just give me the weapon. You are not to be trusted with wedding cake or a ‘Save the Date’. Just step away from the alter slowly and no one will get hurt.”

As sarcastic as I am, (note to self: maybe another reason for marital discord), I’m not bitter. I think it’s great people are able to make marriage work, to compromise and rely on one another for support in life and with children. And I mean that. My parents are still together forty years after saying, “I do,” and they genuinely like one another. It’s weird.

But I’m not like that. I can’t do forty years, or as it turns out even eight. I’m more of a candidate for arranged or plural marriage. My family could have done a much better job of choosing a life partner for me. And if I were a sister wife, and wanted to take the day off from our twenty-seven children and cooking giant pans of tater-tot casserole, there would be ten more women in gunny sack dresses and high bangs to take my place.

The truth is, I never want to feel stuck again. Leaving a marriage, even a bad one is considered failure. But leaving misery did not feel like failure to me. It felt like freedom. It felt like flying.

I am blissfully tethered to motherhood and my child. And that is the only marriage I would ever take part in.
I’d like to be in love again. To feel that stupid giddiness of shmoopy poopy delirium. I want to date, but this time while looking deep into a man’s eyes will think to myself, “You will never be my husband.”

It’s liberating. Not just for me but the other person too. Whew! Dodged that bullet. Yes, you did. We both did! Isn’t it great!

I’m not scared of failure. Because I’ve already failed. I have crashed and burned and rose like a limping and scorched phoenix from the ashes, vowing never to fly too close to the sun again. And should I find someone I want to be with (sans vows and rings) I know that before getting on that plane, there better be landing gear, a twin engine, two wings, a tail, and just in case, a parachute.

Photo via