Assume Love (TM): How to have a happier marriage without waiting for your spouse to change (daisy logo)

August 31, 2015

What You Give Up When You Marry

One common thread I notice in the stories of those who have initiated divorces is what they gave up while married. They usually return to it with some glee after the divorce.

Many of these things are creative: painting, photography, poetry, pottery. Others are risk-taking: helicopter skiing, small plane flying, bungee jumping, unescorted travel in third world or less safe countries. Some are group or couples hobbies: bird watching, salsa dancing, Steam Punk gatherings, sci-fi gatherings.

Marriage does not require you to give these up. And if doing without them creates any resentment or sense of loss in you, giving them up is harming your marriage.

You may need a Third Alternative to keep them in your life.

A Third Alternative is the answer to almost every disagreement. You want to paint, your spouse objects: uses too much of our together time or can't stand the smell of your paints or we can't afford it. So, instead of debating those claims, you look for a way to remove them from the decision to paint or not.

Free paints? Offer to run a weekly painting session in an assisted living place or a community center if they will provide the materials. This would work to remove the paint smell from the house, too. So would plein air painting.

More time together? Paint while your spouse listens to music in the same room. Paint while he or she runs out to the hardware store or the gym. Paint on your lunch hour at work. Paint each other's bodies.

But paint! Because your spouse cannot predict the real effects on your marriage of not painting or not bungee jumping or not being around other Steam Punk fans. And you cannot be a better spouse without the things that make you float on air. And it's silly to think you have to choose between marriage and the things you love to do.

July 21, 2015

When You Stop Loving Your Husband or Wife

Is it over? Is it worth repairing? Can things get better? Here is how to tell.

Are you married to someone who keeps you afraid to step out of line? Do you fear getting hit, bullied, locked up, or torn down with words designed to hit your most vulnerable spots? Or are you aware your spouse has cheated on you repeatedly? If so, only your spouse can save this marriage, and it's going to take a big shakeup in his or her belief system. Abuse training or compassion training are the best bet for this.

Are you married to someone who uses a lot more alcohol or drugs than you do and suffers health, financial, and relationship problems as a result? Your prospects are good if the alcohol or drug use stops. Check out Al Anon (for you, not your spouse) or talk to a psychologist about an intervention.

Are you carrying a grudge over something that happened more than 6 months ago? The resentment eats at your relationship. It prevents you from accepting love that's offered to you and from experiencing the emotion of love that comes when you're feeling good together. But you hold all the power to change things and start feeling loved and loving again. Take a look at some of the posts on this blog about how to Assume Love to shift your thinking about that past event so you can start receiving love again. The more you gratefully receive, the more your spouse will likely offer.

Are you disappointed by your spouse? Unhappy with his or her income or effort on household chores or changes in personal appearance? Falling back in love may be as simple as recognizing that not loving your spouse won't in any way fix any of these things. Perhaps you'll find a replacement someday who does better at whatever is bothering you, but perhaps not. Divorcing or choosing to be unhappily married ("for the kids") won't get you money, help around the house, or a better looking housemate. If you take care of those problems the way you would on your own or while living with someone you've made equally resentful, you might find the two of you can fall back in love again.

Are you having a hard time making big decisions together because of your very different expectations? This is a great reason to see a marriage counselor, and there is no need to wait until you've actually lost all feelings for your spouse first. There are many techniques for understanding how the differences came about and how they feed into each other. Finding Third Alternatives, discussed in this blog, is a method to resolve them in ways that make you both a lot happier than compromise can.

Are you newly shocked and angry over something that recently happened? Don't say a thing. Take some time to Assume Love, to check whether you Expect Love or some particular action that some people use to show love but others don't, and to plan how you will Find Third Alternatives to your disagreements. You will find lots about these topics here in this blog. Don't escalate the anger by lashing out before you have a full understanding of what just happened and what you want instead. Marriages recover fairly easily if you get clear before you get furious.

July 11, 2015

Poking, Pushing, Hitting, and Threats

When you are trying to make sense of something upsetting that your husband or wife does, I always suggest you first Assume Love. In other words, try setting aside your fears about the possible reasons for what happened for a moment to see if there is any explanation for a good man or woman who loves you completely doing this same thing.

But there is no need to even try on this notion if you've just been poked, pushed, hit with a hand, fist, or object, or threatened with any of these by your husband or wife. There is an easy way to tell if you are loved or not. Ask yourself if he or she also does these things to others when upset: a good friend, a police officer, a nurse, a parent.

Yes? Then you are living with someone who needs mental health care or, if they are young and healthy, perhaps anger management training. You cannot provide either of these, and you are the only one who can protect yourself, your children, and your relationship.

No? Then none of those professions of love between threats or assaults is real. Really. Anyone who deliberately makes sure you fear doing the things that matter to you, seeing the people that matter to you, leaving the house when you feel like leaving the house, or letting a chore go undone does not love you. He or she may put on a show of being crazy angry or crazy drunk while doing these things, but if the show ends abruptly when the police show up or he can get crazy drunk with friends without intimidating them, all the sweet things said while not angry or drunk are also a deliberate part of the scheme to have a partner without loving anyone.

Some take the scheme a step further. Fearing jail time or loss of a financially important reputation, some poke with words alone. They get to know all your vulnerabilities and then poke at them with words to create that same fear of being your own person and making your own choices.

You don't need to Assume Love when you recognize you're being controlled and manipulated through a mix of fear-inducing and fake loving behavior. You don't need to weigh the bad against the good. You won't benefit from marriage counseling. You need help from the legal system or a spouse abuse program to get your spouse into a long-term (like a year or two) abuse program before you can begin to improve your relationship or your children's relationship with such a spouse.

I always suggest we'll be happier with fewer expectations of what our partners will or won't do, but there is one expectation that should always remain: Expect Love. Controlling you through fear comes from a place of arrogance, self-centeredness, and unjustified entitlement that shuts off the ability to love another. There are no small fixes to this and no do-it-yourself ones.

Here is a really helpful book for anyone being poked, pushed, hit, or threatened by a spouse or life partner: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, Berkley Books, 2003. He also has a new book of Daily Wisdom for those trying to use what they learned from this book.

July 4, 2015

Why Be Married? To Die in Each Other's Arms

I loved this story on People Magazine's website.

Jeanette and Alexander Toczko met when they were both 8 years old, married 13 years later, and were buried together on their 75th anniversary last week. They were crazy about each other from the start, and they long hoped they would someday die in each other's arms.

They grew up in Connecticut, just outside New York City. They worked in New York City for the first three decades of their marriage, traveling the world. They lived together, healthy and happy, for forty-some years in San Diego, California.

Last year, Alexander's health went downhill after breaking a hip and Jeanette's followed. Every day, Jeanette held Alexander in her arms. Then, on June 17th, she insisted to their children that the date was the 29th, their 75th anniversary. They filled the room with balloons and flowers and celebrated the milestone with their parents. Later that day, Alexander died in Jeanette's arms. She asked him to wait for her, as she'd be joining him soon. And 24 hours later, she did.

They had loved each other for 88 years.

July 1, 2015

How to Get Your Husband to Do Something

Most of us go about this the wrong way, especially early in our marriages. Let's say you want your husband to take the trash out before the pickup time, wash the dishes after you cook a meal, or spend more time teaching your kids baseball skills. Here's what works best with most husbands.

1. Ask, Don't Tell

When you tell your husband what to do, you sound more like a mother than a wife. Hang onto that wife relationship. Telling him what to do comes across as a lack of respect for him, his autonomy, and his good judgment about house odors, fairness, and children. In other words, it's like washing the foundation out from under his love for you. He's biologically inclined to show love only to someone with respect for who he is.

2. Don't Lose Your Perspective If the Answer's No

Don't nag. Ask once. Maybe ask a second time if you think he's simply forgotten you asked. After this, start solving your problem instead of his. It's not as if sulking, separation, or divorce will get you more of what you want. Unless you're being punished for refusing to do something he's asked for, it's quite likely he disagrees on priorities, what's fair, or what he's capable of.

But treat your requests as important, too. Find another way to get what you need. Take the trash out and, if this feels unfair, leave something else undone. Or buy another outdoor trash can so it's less important to be ready for pickup day.

Get your fairness fix: switch to paper plates when it's your turn to cook. Leave the dishes for him to clean when it's his turn to cook. Task the kids with washing dishes. Or ask everyone to take his or her own dishes and utensils to the dishwasher.

Enroll your kids in baseball camp and watch to see what your husband actually enjoys doing with them. If it's weeding, leave the weeds for them. If it's reading, ask the kids to select a book to read with Dad when you take them to the library. If it's kayaking and you're terrified of the water, spend some time investigating the best life jackets and kayaks for kids so you can enjoy your lakeside quiet time.

When you're okay with "no," most husbands are okay with more requests. And when your husband acts on a request he's selected, he's likely to feel respected and loving, not put-upon.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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