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Articles from August 2008

August 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today marks the anniversary of the day Ed and I married. With each year, our lives have been woven more tightly together. We've shared some incredible high points and held each other close through some very difficult moments. We've watched each other grow as individuals and ourselves grow as a couple.

It is this complexity, this richness, this history that I missed when my first marriage unaveled. Falling in love is grand, but it doesn't hold a candle to feeling love from and for a partner who is part of your life's fabric, someone who knows you.

It doesn't hurt that my Ed is a handsome, highly talented man with a deep and comforting voice and a vibrant love of life and living. But what makes our relationship so great, I think, is our shared willingness to see our many differences and disgreements as stepping stones to a fuller life, rather than a threat to life as we knew it before we met.

All we have to do is expect love and assume love, instead of always testing love.

August 21, 2008

What to Expect When in Marriage

Before the wedding, we say we don't know exactly what to expect from marriage. We lie. It's not even a year before most utter the words, "If you loved me..." or "If he loved me..." or "Why can't she..." We know what we expect, and it is a disappointment when it's not what we get.

Picture yourself planning a garden tour. You have seen your friends' photos of their garden tours. You love the large, single-color clusters of red, yellow, or pink tulips. The sparsely planted arrangements of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths delight you. And those azaleas! The variety is amazing. The colors are so perfect. You are really looking forward to your garden tour.

You look for tulips. You look for those translucent colors of the azaleas in the gardens they visited. But you have been robbed! In the gardens you visit, there are rust-colored chrysanthemums or orange and purple birds of paradise or spiky, purple hostas with more leaf than flower. This is not what you expected!

If you keep using your checklist of tulips and azaleas from observing your friends' garden trips through snapshots, your trip will be a huge disappointment. If you let go of this list of expectations and open your eyes, you will discover a wealth of nature's beauty. You can be disappointed, or you can crumple up your list of expectations, look for whatever delights your senses, and be in awe.

Your marriage is your garden trip. If you spend it looking for what you've seen in snapshots of your parents' or friends' marriages, you cheat yourself out of an incredible experience. Love comes in as many colors, shapes, fragrances, and seasons as flowers do. Live your marriage on the edge of your seat, always watching for the next, unexpected bit of love your spouse offers you, always savoring each one.

August 15, 2008

Marriage: Keeping it Healthy through Tough Times

A good marriage can make tough times a lot easier. Tough times can make a marriage better or worse. I was thinking about this question yesterday, listening to John Michael Montgomery sing, "Do you remember the times of nickels and dimes...and love?"

Almost all of us can remember such times, when we pulled together to get through difficult times. We felt close. We felt loved. We felt blessed to have this person we share a lifelong commitment with.

Reminds me of that marvelous form of happiness Aristotle called Eudaimonia, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow, and Martin Seligman calls Engagement. It's a quiet sort of happiness, one where we don't even notice whether we're happy or not. We're content, but engaged with something other than how we feel. Time flies by. When we notice how we are again, it's just sort of a warm glow.

The "times of nickels and dimes...and love" are Flow for Two. We don't have to check how our relationship is going, because we're just in it, engaged in what we're doing together. When we come up for air, we just notice we feel very close to this other human being.

Csikszentmihalyi set out some criteria for Flow. They include working at something that's just a bit of a stretch for our current abilities, not routine and not so hard we can't go on. Making do, managing limited cash and time, sharing tasks -- those are stretches, exactly the sort of challenges for which we need a life partner, a spouse.

His criteria also include working at something where we have a way to tell, from moment to moment, whether we're succeeding or not. For a couple, a limited budget provides such a measure. So does a tight schedule and a shared to do list. Even if we forget to congratulate each other on our progress, we both know how we're doing.

So, if we "remember those times of nickels and dimes...and love" together, perhaps whatever problems pull us apart later are not flaws in our mates.

  • If we are overwhelmed, as a couple might be after a fire or a cancer diagnosis or stricken child, maybe we need to bring in some outside help, to take the challenge down to the level where it's just a stretch for us as a couple.

  • If we are fighting over money or parenting, perhaps what we need is to stop and find the same measure for success, so we can work on the problem together again.

  • If we are drifting apart, maybe all we need is a new, shared goal, one that's just a little beyond our current abilities.

On the title song of that album, John Michael Montgomery sings, "Life's a dance we learn as we go." How true.

August 11, 2008

Boring Marriage Teleclass

Following up on my July 29th blog post, my Enjoy Being Married teleclass on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 will be When Marriage Gets Boring. We will look at what we can learn by assuming love when we feel bored, how expecting love can bring back excitement, and tips to help us look for third alternatives to the choice between boredom together vs. pursuing our own interests separately.

The teleclass is free for all subscribers to my Enjoy Being Married mailing list. I hope you can join us.

August 10, 2008

Why Be Married? For the Environment

How green is your marriage? "Divorce breeds environmental degradation," reports tomorrow's business section in The Australian..

[A study on household energy use released by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts in June] found that despite the advent of airconditioners and plasma-screen TVs, the average energy consumption of each Australian household is not expected to change significantly. From 1990 to 2020, household energy demand will increase by 56 per cent, but mainly because the number of Australian households will increase by 61 per cent.

And it's not just electricity:

A four-person family that breaks up will generate around 43 per cent more garbage than they did when they were together. They will use up to 34 per cent more water and up to 70 per cent more energy, depending on the type of new dwellings being occupied.

Have you gone green with marriage education?

August 6, 2008

Why Be Married? For Good Fortune and Happiness

No one need apply for a divorce in many Chinese cities this Friday (8/8/08). It has nothing to do with the Olympics and everything to do with the number of couples applying for marriage registration on this luckiest of days. Triple eights brings a threefold measure of fortune and happiness in China. What better way to start a marriage?

August 5, 2008

Disagreements Turn Into Gifts

When you look for a Third Alternative instead of arguing over whatever you disagree about, two things happen.

  1. You get what you want or something you like even more.

  2. You give generously to your husband or wife.

But how do you come up a Third Alternative when none comes easily? Call in to my August 6th teleclass to find out. To get the phone number, sign up for my newsletter at, my marriage resources website.

It's a two-step process. (I do love the Two-Step.)

  1. Type your name and email address at and click on the Subscribe button.

  2. Find the email from in your inbox a few minutes later and click on the link in it. (If you have spam filters, you might want to add the address to your list of approved senders.)

You should receive the current newsletter within minutes.

The Author

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

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