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Articles from December 2011

December 31, 2011

The "Get Over Yourself" Award

Grow Your Marriage Award 2011 from The Generous WifeLori, who writes the marvelous blog called The Generous Wife, has given Assume Love one of her 2011 Grow Your Marriage Awards, specifically this one:

For Reminding Us All to "Get Over Yourself" ~ this blog regularly challenges me, it's a very good mirror.

Handsome little badge, don't you think? And a great reminder to me to get over myself in my marriage.

If you are a fan of Assume Love, I hope you will join me in thanking Lori on her blog.

December 30, 2011

Who Will You Be in 2012?

Every year brings a new opportunity to decide who we will become next. Want to become a much happier person? Here is a technique that might help.

  1. List any one thing you wish your husband or wife would do to make you happier. For example, compliment your appearance more often or take over supporting your son's interest in the violin.

  2. Write down why you think this will make you happier. For example, what will be different if you get compliments? Will it increase your self-confidence when you are outside your home? Will it make you feel more valuable to your spouse? Will it help you refine your wardrobe choices?

  3. Tell your spouse what it is you are looking for (from step 2, not step 1) and that you think it will make you a happier person. For example, you might say, "I want to feel more self-confident when I'm out in public. I think this would make me a happier person."

  4. Ask for ideas on how to get what you are looking for. You can mention the one you came up with in step 1, but only as one possible suggestion. For example, "It would definitely increase my self-confidence to hear more compliments from you on my appearance, but tonight I am looking for other ways to feel more confident about how I come across to other people. Can you help me come up with a few?"

Now, instead of making your problem sound like your spouse's failing, you are taking charge of your own happiness. And you are doing it in a way that increases the intimacy in your relationship instead of pulling away.

Those two things make all the difference. Try it.

December 29, 2011

Refrigerator Battles

The Situation

You are preparing dinner. As you pull out the chicken and vegetables, you do a quick check for other ingredients you will need.




Everything's there. You cut up the chicken and vegetables while the oven heats up. You dump the dry ingredients for dumplings in the bowl, then reach for the milk. Your heart sinks as you lift it. You pour it into your measuring cup and confirm there is maybe an eighth of a cup of milk in the carton you bought yesterday.

The Anger

And now you are furious. Furious he would return the carton to the refrigerator with so little in it. Why?! Furious he drank the milk earlier in the day and did not pick up more while he was out. You always replace essentials when you use the last of them. Furious it's you who must make dinner, even during a week when your husband is off from work. You never get a week off. Furious you're making chicken and dumplings when there are so many Mediterranean dishes you would like better, but he will not eat.

Marriage suddenly feels overwhelmingly unfair.

Now your thoughts go looking for all the other ways your marriage gives you the short end of the stick, like when he hogs the comforter. And when you go with him to see his parents, who live 30 minutes away, but when it's time to fly out to see your parents, he claims he cannot take the time away from work.

Sound like anything you've gone through? The first shock of "I've been wronged" releases an entire cascade of them. You literally cannot think of anything else until you take back control of your thoughts.

This is where it comes it really handy to Assume Love. This technique gives you back that control. Is it wrong to be angry? No, but it's unpleasant and unhelpful.

Anger serves a purpose. It gives us the energy and courage to fight off an attack. But the only attack here is a shortage of one ingredient in a dish you don't even want to make.

Assume Love

To Assume Love, you ask yourself how the ounce of milk could possibly be the act of a loving spouse, rather than an attack.

For starters, loving you does not convey any ability to read your mind about your dinner plans. Even if he knew what was for dinner, odds are he has no clue milk is needed to make chicken and dumplings, if you do all the cooking.

If he wasn't intentionally making it harder to prepare dinner, why didn't he simply finish the milk and toss the carton? You would have noticed it missing before you started cooking.

His version of loving you might include not wasting food. His glass was full, there was milk left, ergo the milk goes back in the refrigerator for one of you to drink later, perhaps with seven ounces from the next carton.

As you consider explanations like this, you need to ask yourself if they are possible in your case. Is frugality one of your mate's strengths? Is saving money something you have asked him to do for you? Either of these would suggest putting back the milk as a loving act.

Why did he not buy more? He might have forgotten. He might not have passed a food store. He might have believed you were going to the store, and an extra container of milk could spoil before it did any good.

Again, you will know whether any of these fit your circumstances. I am not suggesting you make up excuses, but that you search for evidence that no harm was intended, no disregard for you behind the milk mistake.

All that you should aim for with Assume Love is to feel better about your husband's intentions. It won't get rid of the situation. You are still looking at an oven and food ready to go, without the necessary milk.

Expect Love

If it doesn't relieve you of all that anger, you might also Expect Love. Which of the things upsetting you would no longer be true if he had dropped dead yesterday? You would still be doing all the cooking, even on your vacations. If you ran out of milk, you would be the person who had to run out and get some or change the dinner menu. You would still need to visit your parents alone, and you would still need to pull some blankets over yourself, but in an empty bed.

None of what's bothering you actually results from having him in your life. The anger comes from what he's not doing that you expect he should do. So, take a moment to recall all the things he has done recently to add to your life. Do you live in a nicer home or have more money to spend on food because he's in your life? Did he give you a gift for Christmas? Does he take care of your car? Does his gratitude make it worth your while to cook a healthy meal?

Find Third Alternatives

Feeling better about him yet? Now it's time to Find Third Alternatives to some of your disagreements over this dinner, the refrigerator, and cooking in general. Here are a few:
  • You can ask him if he prefers to eat his chicken and vegetables Mediterranean style or rush to the store for milk immediately.
  • You can tell him that this dinner is so upsetting to you that you need an alternative to cooking it and want his suggestions on what else to do about eating tonight.
  • You can cook without the milk and ask him to join you after dinner in coming up with a way to always keep the essentials on hand, whether it's not taking the last cup of milk, the last two eggs, the last two tablespoons of butter, or replacing them immediately. You might need to help him identify the essentials and the minimum quantities for them, but make sure the solution is one he likes as much as you do.
  • You can ask for a Third Alternative to cooking on days when he doesn't work.
Just please remember that you cannot Find Third Alternatives while you are still angry and feeling like his victim. If you truly are his victim, you need outside help to fix this first. But most of the time, we are the victims of our own expectations and our brain's natural inclination to look for more injustices or threats when it spots one.

December 28, 2011

Subscribe to Assume Love by Email

At the suggestion of a wonderful, caring reader, I added a new link to Assume Love this past weekend. Now you can receive Assume Love by email.

Remember to watch for the confirmation email. If it shows up in your Junk folder, mark it as from an address you want to receive email from. Then be sure to click on the confirmation link in the email, so we know it was really you who entered your email address in the form. Your free subscription begins immediately.

If you have other suggestions for improving Assume Love, please let me know.

December 27, 2011

Your Marital Bliss Depends on What You Expect

Expect Love. Most husbands and wives enter marriage intending to give you lots of it.

What happens? Why does it stop? Why is every day not as love-filled as our wedding day?

It happens when we think we know what our spouses will do to show they love us. We think we know, so we look for that, instead of looking for any other form of love. We look for dinners we like, when we like them. When they are late or unappetizing, we don't stick around for the hug. We don't look forward to the vacation those extra hours at work paid for. We miss out on real love while looking for our picture of love.

We look for help with the diapers or the dog-walking. When we don't get it, we turn down the chance to get out to a museum or a ball game together, because it seems unfair to let the unhelpful spouse benefit from a sitter. Or we come back from taking care of the diapers or the dog-walking in too foul a mood to invite any affirming words or sex. We miss out on real love while looking for our picture of love.

If you want a really happy marriage, Expect Love. Don't be caught with a yardstick when you are offered love better measured with a protractor, scale, weather vane, barometer, or measuring cup. Let love arrive in any of its glorious forms, not just the one you expected.

December 26, 2011

New Year's Resolutions and How to Tackle Them

Want to be a better person or have a better marriage in 2012? Some fascinating research may help you succeed. It sounds too simple to be true, but several studies have come to this same conclusion: it works!

Think about what usually gets in the way of what you resolve to do. Now write down some very specific if-then solutions to these distractions. For example,

  • If we have not had sex for four days running, then at noon I will start preparing myself to feel, look, smell, and act sexy tonight.

  • If my husband encourages me to eat something that will sabotage my weight loss plans, then I will say to him, "I appreciate your efforts to increase my enjoyment, and tonight I want to enjoy it vicariously, so please make it sound yummy as you eat it."

  • If I feel myself getting upset by my wife's harsh words, then I will Assume Love right away and see if there might be a loving explanation for them that will let them roll right off me.

  • When I pass the VFW hall on my way home, then I will begin thinking of ways to make a positive, upbeat, loving entrance when I get home, instead of crashing first.

For more on how to use if-then planning, see these two articles by Heidi Grant Halvorson:
Want a Simple Way to Double or Triple Your Own Productivity? Here's How.
Be Careful What You Plan For

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and Thank You!

I know some of you are celebrating Christmas today (me, too!) and some of you are not. I am so grateful for every single one of you, whatever you are doing with this day. Thank you for reading what I have to say about marriage. Thank you for giving me the chance to just maybe bring some extra depth or delight to your marriage.

No snow this year, just a cold, sunny day. Like yesterday, when I spent three hours in the car singing along with radio Christmas carols (thanks, Philly's 92.5 XTU and NJ 101.5!). Join in if Jingle Bells is your thing, too.

I was on my way to the cemetery where husband #1 is buried and back home again to dinner with husband #2, renewed by the reminder of all I promised myself 25 years ago.

There is no time for resentment, no time to waste trying to change someone when we could be loving who they are and receiving all they have to offer us.

Merry Christmas and Happy Rest of Your Marriage!

December 23, 2011

How to Love Your Mother-in-Law

You and your mother-in-law want the same thing. You want the best for the man or woman you married. You also want to feel loved by this same man or woman.

My grandmother's mother-in-lawYour relationship with this person goes sour when you disagree on what is best and believe only one of you can be right. And it makes you miserable when you believe your mate has only a little love to go around and you must compete for it.

Want to love your mother-in-law? End the disagreement about what's best for your spouse. Either defer to your spouse on this one or, if you and your mother-in-law really believe you know better what spouse needs, combine your specs and come up with a Third Alternative you can both support.

Then deal with the jealousy. Check your Love Languages. If your mother-in-law seeks quality time with her child, make some room for this, some time when you are not simultaneously asking for what makes you feel loved.

If your mother-in-law seeks word of affirmation or hugs and kisses, join your spouse in giving them instead of viewing them as evidence you are not as much loved. If your mother-in-law seeks gifts or acts of service, offer your spouse assistance in providing these.

Then be sure you ask your spouse for what makes you feel loved, especially if it is different, because your mother-in-law's way of loving is the one he or she grew up with and knows best. When you stop expecting any particular act of love and simply Expect Love from your marriage, it likely to look a lot like the best parts of your mate's childhood.

Once you stop competing, you may find you have an older, wiser woman who will be your ally in life. She is probably also better than almost anyone at helping you explain your spouse's unexpected behavior when you Assume Love.

December 22, 2011

5 Tips to Get More Out of Gift Week

This is gift week for anyone who observes Christmas or Hanukkah. Time to give gifts and receive gifts. It is a week filled with joy, annoyance, and outrage.

It is the thought that counts, sort of. The problem lies in whose thought counts. Recipients invent a story about the giver's thoughts. If you are a recipient, and if your spouse is the giver, you might want to prepare yourself to Assume Love if you feel at all disappointed with your gift.

  • If your Love Language is gifts, try to remember that artful gift wrapping is an acquired talent. It adds to a relationship, but so can lots of other talents you probably excuse yourself from mastering. Your mate can love you and still wrap a gift in a wad of white tissue paper with a ribbon around it.

  • Try not to guess how big an effort shopping was. Shopping time may be part of your gift if your Love Language is acts of service, but to someone focused on quality time together or physical touch, more time shopping means less time loving.

  • If you spend any time at all on whether the gift required any thought, spend it looking for ways this gift is perfect for you. You might discover parts of yourself that delight your spouse, even if they seem unextraordinary to you.

  • If you lean toward the tangible side of gift-giving, listen carefully for words of affirmation from a mate whose Love Language places these way above blenders and Snuggies®.

  • In the past, unusual gifts may have seemed more thoughtful than a gift you could pick up at your nearest gift shop. Not so true any more, with all of the internet at our fingertips.

Do yourself a favor. Avoid any overall evaluation of any gifts you receive. Instead, look at each one with an eye toward the good things it reflects about the giver and your relationship. Each one you find will add to your own joy and to the love you reflect back to your husband or wife.

December 21, 2011

Find Third Alternatives: Better Brainstorms

The third step in finding Third Alternatives (after Jump the Net and Write New Specs) is to Brainstorm. A brainstorm lets you build on top of each other's creativity to think of things that would never occur to either of you alone.

Here are a few tips for better brainstorms:

  • Set aside a block of time with no interruptions.

  • Find a relaxed, non-distracting environment.

  • Review your specs first, but accept and record all ideas without critique until you finish the brainstorm.

  • If you have a negative reaction to an idea, find the part you like in it and ask for more like it.

  • Invite others who have faced the same disagreement or experienced more of life to help if you get stuck.

  • Include a friend with odd or shocking ideas just to loosen up your own ideas.

Too many disagreements result from getting stuck on the first two options we can think of. Once we know what would make us both happy, brainstorming reveals so many more options for getting to this great place.

December 20, 2011

Why Be Married? For Double the Windfall

The Los Angeles Times reports Vanessa Bryant is likely to gain a "windfall" in her divorce from Kobe Bryant. It could be $75 million in assets plus a hefty monthly living allowance.

Indeed, she is likely to leave the marriage with a whole lot more wealth than she would be likely to have if she had remained unmarried. They live in a community property state and have been married for more than a decade.

The term "windfall" also denotes a bonus that just falls into one's lap. If you are married, you know a tenth anniversary is an accomplishment, not an accident of fate. This was not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme for either of them. Nor is it a gain for either. Each will have access to a lot less than they did together, when they each had double the windfall.

And beware the implication that Vanessa's "windfall" comes at Kobe's expense. This may not be the case. Unmarried men tend to earn less than married men and to blow through more of their wealth. In such a volatile profession, where income depends so much on health, sleep, reputation, and perseverance, he, too, might be in very different circumstances had he not married.

If you are still on the fence about marrying, pay no attention to those who think a divorce settlement is ever a windfall. Shoot for the double windfall and sustain it for as long as you possibly can.

December 19, 2011

Christmas Traditions

It's not a Christmas tradition, not a Chanukah tradition, if you are the only one looking forward to it. Why not retire the worn out ones this year and try something new?

If everyone looks forward to the new one next December, keep it. If not, keep experimenting.

The great traditions are the ones that build excitement in advance and memories to savor after the holiday has passed, and there is no way to predict which ones will have meaning for you and yours.

December 18, 2011

Overwhelmed and Looking for More from Your Mate?

Life demands a lot of us. A new baby, a new business, a move away from family and friends, a new boss, even a promotion can send us into overwhelm.

Know what happens once we hit overwhelm? Our thinking switches to what Daniel Kahneman call WYSIATI—What You See Is All There Is. This leads us to an ugly place.

Here is the trip as I have been known to take it. I am overwhelmed. Too much to do. Overstressed. Too much responsibility. I want help from my husband. He watches TV or sits down to his computer or heads out on his bicycle for some exercise. What I see is a partner who does not recognize my needs nor even all that I am doing for him. I freak out and mysteriously conclude I might as well be divorced, would be happier divorced. And I know a lot of other people do this, too.

WYSIATI - this day or this month is all there is. That other day when I was able to take a nap while my husband took care of things never happened. That month when his earnings paid for my relaxing vacation never happened. The reality of extra obligations during and after a divorce won't ever happen. What I see right now is all there is.

WYSIATI - I know I need help right now. How could my husband not see this? I forget entirely the last time I was overstressed and asked, loudly, for some peace and quiet or to be left alone. I expect help right now. And I resent his relaxing, forgetting entirely how important his ability to regulate his own stress is to managing mine. From in here, it's very obvious I need a helping hand immediately to relieve my stress. What I see from this side is all there is.

WYSIATI - My husband is a strong man. He can tackle some pretty tough assignments. He used to fight fires and keep people alive until he could get them to a hospital. And that's what he did with his spare time. He would get up after a night of patching up the victims of bar fights or domestic abuse and show up for his day job in the morning. If he neatly steps around cat vomit or puts off removing a mouse from the house, it is so much easier to imagine he takes me for granted than that there might be chores that distress him. What I see in my picture of him is all there is.

I screwed this up once. I will not screw it up again. Relying on WYSIATI stole my first marriage from me.

Now I will Expect Love. Love is what he promised, not cat cleanup and definitely not mind-reading. I will ask for exactly what I want right now. I will ask for it as I might ask for a back rub, without snarkiness or any hint of failing on his part, without name-calling. I will ask for it, and if the answer is no, I will ask for a Third Alternative, something else he feels comfortable doing that will relieve my distress. I will ask not because he owes me, but because he has offered me his love and I trust that he meant it.

I will Expect Love.

I will not let What You See Is All There Is steal any more love from me.

December 16, 2011

For the 51% of US Adults Who Are Married

The news media love to declare the end of marriage. Yes, lots more of the over-18 crowd were married back in 1970. Now it is 51% (counting only opposite-sex marriages, per the federal definition of marriage).

Should you feel less in the mainstream if you are married? Hardly.

Thirty seven percent of Americans over the age of 18 have been married to the same person for at least the last 10 years. Another fourteen percent married within the past ten years and remain married.

Who is not married? The young.

Three times as many of the over-18 crowd are in college now as in 1970. The result? Now, instead of 42% of first-time brides marrying before their 20th birthday, only 7% do. This is good, because the under-20 marriages were less stable. Women marry about six years later now, and men have always married later than women, but we still use the 18-and-up or sometimes 15-and-up population to divide by.

Who else is not married? Those who outlive their spouses.

For every 10 marriages that end in divorce each year now, 12 end as promised, leaving behind a widow or widower.

Is marriage finished? Not yet.

Three out of every ten new marriages are second, third, or greater marriages, suggesting a lot of those who divorce or outlive their partners still have confidence in marriage.

I do, too.

Data Source:

December 15, 2011

Marriage Book Recommendations

Here are three books I often recommend to people dealing with marriage problems.

If You Doubt Your Spouse Still Loves You or Your Spouse Doubts Your Love:
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman

If Your Disagreements Turn into Loud Arguments:
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

If You Hit, Grab, Choke, or Belittle Your Spouse or Your Spouse Hurts You:
Love Without Hurt: Turn Your Resentful, Angry, or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One

December 14, 2011

Wives Who Don't Cook

You have been working a brutal schedule, and you expect a little extra help from your mate. After all, you both benefit from the overtime or the raise that comes from your efforts. However, it's dinner time, and nothing is ready to eat. What do you do?

You can focus on the work. You do more. She should do more. Doing less? Unfair! You are mistreated. You deserve better! She has no respect for you!

Or you can focus on your wife. Assume Love. Ask yourself what might keep someone with a lighter schedule than yours who loves you dearly from cooking you a meal.

Here are some possibilities.

Cooking feels like drudgery, harder than other chores. She puts her energy into less unpleasant shared chores. You two need a Third Alternative, a way to get an evening meal with less of a burden on your wife.

Cooking must be done at the lowest energy point in the day. She wants to feed you, but often finds herself curling up with a book or heading to the gym for more energy. Again, a Third Alternative, like cooking together on the weekends and reheating in the evening, might help.

Cooking seems pointless, except to please you, and something has happened recently that makes pleasing you less pleasing. Repair the relationship. And consider a Third Alternative like eating a big, cooked, midday meal, followed by a salad you can both enjoy in the evening.

Your wife is doing something else for you in return for all your extra effort, and you have not yet noticed. Look for what it is. Or ask. Then take your turn at cooking or discuss a Third Alternative that works for both of you better than this mismatch does.

You can tell yourself you are owed a home-cooked meal if you work harder or more hours. You can find other people to agree with you. But in the end, you might want to ask how this story works for you. Does it make you happier or angrier? Does it make you powerful or helpless to change things?

I discovered after my first husband was dead that I could have gotten rid of my long commute. But for two years, I focused on what I felt he owed me because we lived near his job and far from mine. I made him miserable. I made myself miserable. Expect Love. When you expect cooking—or anything else you wish you did not need to do—you make yourself unhappy.

December 13, 2011

When You Disagree about a Child's Request

Parenting disagreements can be some of the toughest. When your child makes a request and one of you wants to say yes, but the other thinks yes would be a bad idea, you really need a Third Alternative.

You need one because you are in danger of planting your feet and holding your ground to protect your child at the possible expense of your marriage. Concern for a child motivates immediate action, which can take a wrong turn and become disrespect for your mate and corrosive anger over nothing more than an opinion.

Let's say your teenage daughter wants to attend a church-sponsored weekend away from home. One of you finds this an awful idea because it's not your church and you don't know the chaperones, while the other believes it would be a great step toward developing the independence she will soon need to go off to college without the two of you. How do you find a Third Alternative to No and Yes?

Jump the Net

You start by jumping the net. You agree to stop defending a First or Second Alternative to free yourself to find that Third Alternative that both of you will value as much or more.

Write Your Specs

Then you write the specs: - Allow her to take responsibility for her own choices in a strange environment but with adult supervision, so she builds her confidence and ability to handle choices. - Reward her recent school successes with something she really wants to do. - Avoid subjecting her to religious proselytizing. - Avoid encouraging her to choose a religion different from the rest of her family. - Avoid sexual predators, unsupervised opportunities for sex with someone her own age, reckless behavior of other teens, or lack of proper attention to any injuries.


And now you brainstorm ways to achieve all of this: - Meet and spend time with one or more of the chaperones. - Ask someone you trust to volunteer as a chaperone. - Discuss the differences between the two religions with her before and after she goes. - Rehearse some of the situations that might come up with your daughter in advance. - Contract with a taxi company near the retreat location to drive her home, no questions asked, at any hour, if she calls them. - Check with her to see if there are non-religious trips coming up that she might enjoy as much and with which you two would feel more comfortable. - Check with other parents at work for well-supervised trips for teens that she might enjoy as much. - Talk to your own church about organizing a similar retreat. - Offer her another reward that requires independent choices but does not require overnight travel, such as a pet, a fashion store gift card, or a party budget.

Keep referring back to your specs, and rattle off anything that might possibly help achieve them. If you like an idea, add to it. If you don't like an idea, revise the part you don't like and keep the rest. If you run out of ideas, ask your most creative or wisest friends to help add to the list.

When you get to an idea or a set of ideas that works for you, let your spouse know, but don't get attached yet. If your spouse does not like them, it might be that there is one more thing to add to your specs that was at first not apparent. Add it and get back to brainstorming.

When you find your Third Alternative, both of you will like it as much as you liked your flat-out Yes or No. You get your way and you get to give your spouse what he or she wants, plus a heap of respect and admiration.

December 12, 2011

3 Ways Your Marriage is Like a Pepper Mill

I had this odd idea last night about marriages and pepper mills. Here are three ways your marriage is like a pepper mill:

  1. It is always there, easy to take for granted. Our pepper mill sits right next to our salt shaker on our table. We forget how valuable it is. Pepper is so valuable that it spurred development of the Silk Road and world exploration in the late 1400s. It could be used for ransom or as collateral in Europe. We expect our pepper mill and our marriage will always be there when we need them. Either could vanish today. Appreciate them while you can.

  2. It adds something to almost everything. We grab for the pepper mill all the time, adding flavor whenever we need it, hardly noticing why people risked their lives to get this stuff. We share chores, back each other up on making an income and raising children. We drive each other to and from the emergency room. We buy homes together. We have sex when we want it and vacation together, adding something to so many different aspects of our lives.

  3. It is simple to operate, but it takes a bit of effort. To get the pepper, you need to turn the crank. A happy marriage is not difficult to achieve, but if you rely on your initial loving feelings to make it work, nothing happens. You have to turn the crank.

December 11, 2011

When Your Spouse Blindsides You

It happens at least once to every married person. Life seems fine and then you discover your husband put in for retirement without telling you or bought a $6,000 lawn mower for your quarter acre yard. Your wife spent $3,000 on a new wardrobe to look for a job, or she redecorated the living room in black and purple while you were on a business trip. You thought she was using birth control and now she's pregnant and delighted. He gets a wax job on parts you think should stay hairy.

You have been blindsided. You did not see it coming, and there is not much you can do about it now. What now?

This would be an excellent time to Assume Love. Your initial reaction is to what this change means for you. But if you ask yourself what would make someone who loves you too much to want to put you through an uncomfortable change do something this crazy, you may find yourself forgiving easily.

What makes a loving man retire without asking for his wife's input? A reason so compelling that no opinion, no argument would change his mind. As soon as you realize this, it frees your thinking. It lets you recall all of the clues that something was coming to a head at work or that something bad happened to friends who did not retire. If nothing comes to mind, at least it allows you to ask a loving question about what led up to it, instead of "What were your thinking, you fool?!!"

What makes a loving woman redecorate, badly, behind your back? A big need for a change. Is she keeping up with some twist in high fashion you have not yet heard of? Is she dealing with depression? Is she seeking to get your attention, convinced you appreciate none of her decorating efforts? Is she at the end of her rope for ways to convince you to stop inviting the guys over for poker in the living room? Once you ask about what a woman who loves you would do, you allow in all the rest that you know about her and don't immediately associate with paint and slipcovers.

Who needs a $6,000 mower for a tiny yard, denying his spouse all the other things $6,000 can buy? Perhaps someone with an unfulfilled passion for farming or a longing to relive a childhood experience. So what set it off this month? Was it a death of a family member or friend? Perhaps a son's reaching a certain age? Or is this perhaps an alternative to the $60,000 vehicle your spouse truly longs for, leaving $54,000 for your needs? You know lots more than comes to mind when you focus on the lawn mower instead of the person.

Stop. Assume Love. Ask yourself what might lead a person who loves you dearly and has not suddenly changed character to behave this way. When you see the real explanation, your reaction to it changes dramatically. It just might bring you a lot closer together, even if your wife's or husband's actions seemed outrageous at first.

December 9, 2011

Date One Person, Marry a Bunch

You date one person, but you marry a bunch. As you begin dating, you might want to inquire about all the others. Here are some of the extra people you acquire when you marry the man or woman you fell in love with and what to do about them after the wedding.

Your spouse's children

They may someday view you as their bonus mom or dad, maybe even their "real" mom or dad, thanks to the great relationship you develop with them. However, when you first marry, they will more likely see you as competition for the approval, time, and affection they seek from their parent, maybe even as the obstacle to their family ever reuniting.

Schedule some of the things you do on your own (errands, chores, hobbies) for times when they can have some good time alone with their mom or dad (your new spouse). Schedule some time together with them, too, both with your spouse and without. And teach them how to find Third Alternatives with you when you and they disagree about house rules, outings, or schedules.

If you want to have a great relationship with them, make an effort to find things to like and appreciate about each of them. Pay attention to their talents and strengths. Unlike their birth parents, you can be the adult who encourages them to become themselves. It is a great basis for a long-lasting relationship.

Your spouse's ex

There is no way out of it. If you marry someone with children whose other parent is still alive, you will have an ex in your life. You might also acquire an ever-present ex if you choose someone who left a depressed, addicted, alcoholic, or schizophrenic partner or one who made financial or personal sacrifices to help your new guy or gal become the success you now see.

If you expect you will dictate your spouse's relationship with an ex, you will make yourself miserable over and over and over. All the reasons they are no longer together are reasons why your spouse will do things that seem utterly illogical to you to deal with today's issues.

Your marriage may call on you to create a harmonious relationship with someone who pities or resents you. You will need to Assume Love from your husband or wife and find your way to understanding when your spouse's desire to avoid conflict with an ex constrains where you live, how you live, or which days you can call your own.

Your budget, your peace of mind, your child-rearing practices, and your schedule will all need to include this person. Find some common ground if you can, and keep looking for Third Alternatives together.

Let go of any expectation that you can banish this person. An ex is family, like it or not. You work with or around their flaws.

Your spouse's parents and siblings

If you marry, you will always have an adult-adult relationship with these people. Your spouse quite likely never will. Remember this. When you feel uncomfortable, check to see how much of it comes simply from your mate's behaving in ways he or she almost never does around you. Your in-laws are already familiar with this behavior. What they are noticing is yours. Remain an understanding adult, and your relationship with them will be a much better one.

While it would be very nice if your spouse would defend you in any disagreements with his or her family, it is not all that likely. Instead, remember to look for Third Alternatives instead of stewing over what your in-laws ask for.

Close friends, old enemies, and friends of the family

When you say, "I do," you say it to a rather large crowd. Your relationship with all of them matters a lot after you marry. Try to remember that your role is not to fix your spouse's life, but to enhance it.

Be there for her or him when you can and be supportive from a distance when you just can't. Protect yourself, your relationship, and your assets from the unethical ones and the ones with no boundaries. Talk openly with your spouse about your concerns, without criticizing your mate's inability to see their flaws.

Over time, we all get better at dealing with the people life gives us. If you are a newlywed in shock right now, I invite you to join my teleclasses and ask for help. Whatever the announced topic, we always have time for other questions, and there are often several experienced husbands and wives on the call to join me in offering you what has worked for us.

December 8, 2011

Why Be Married? For Another Pair of Eyes

One of my greatest pleasures in life comes from finding solutions by looking at problems from odd angles. Sometimes, though, I get stuck. This is when I find the fact that my husband and I see so many things so differently a real blessing. Whenever I need, I can borrow his eyes.

Doing so usually entails a sharp stab of pain as I realize how wrong my starting perspective looks to him. I feel so alone then, even in this most intimate exchange. I take a few deep breaths and let him show me how things looks to him—usually as completely foreign to me as the Jet Car Meltdown I once attended with a friend who actually found them enjoyable.

And then I see what my husband sees. My ocean-sized challenge looks like a puddle from his vantage point. I can hop right over it from there.

My husband and I disagree a lot, much more than in my first marriage. We see almost everything differently. It is truly a blessing, a source of great strength and occasional deep pleasure. I am so glad to be married.

December 7, 2011

5 Ways to Enjoy Being Married on a Dreary Day

I am looking out my window at a dreary day. The rain has stopped for a bit, but the sun is still hiding. More rain, with flash flood warnings, will arrive very soon.
It is easy to feel sad right now. It is also easy to feel warmly loved. And it is my choice. Here are five ways I (and you, if you choose) can switch moods on a day without sunshine.

  1. See the good behind the bad. Dreary days are less frequent here than where I last lived. And the only reason I moved here, the only reason I know Doylestown exists, is because I fell in love with this man I am married to. All those extra gorgeous days I owe to his love for me.

  2. Count those blessings. Yesterday, my husband saved me a lot of time with one quick answer to a technical question. When I described a second, bigger problem, he put it on his reminders list to look online for possible solutions today. And when I woke up this morning, there was a freshly baked biscuit awaiting me.

  3. Look for love. I stopped typing and touched his arm when he entered the office, and he took my hand. I stopped to enjoy it for a bit. Then he kissed my head and was gone.

  4. Pay closer attention to seemingly irrelevant clues. I received a nice discount coupon by email from a restaurant in town. I printed it, and it is sitting on my desk. It is a buy one entree get another free coupon. This made me think how nice it has been, for almost 15 years now, to have someone to dine with.

  5. Do a Flashback. When we first got together, dining together was such a treat. He would take me to some wonderful restaurant, review the menu, then look into my eyes, hold both hands and tap his foot on the floor like a dog getting his belly scratched while smiling ear to ear. I loved this (still do, when he does it). However, back then we also needed a journal on the coffee table in which to record anything we agreed on, just to disperse the fear that we would always disagree on everything. We have come so far since then, and recalling the journey we have shared fills my heart with real warmth on this dreary day.

December 6, 2011

Men Who Don't Vacuum

Does it drive you bonkers that your husband never runs the vacuum cleaner just because it needs doing?

Are you annoyed to tears when he steps over a bit of sock lint on the floor without picking it up?

Do you start pondering divorce when he sticks flowers in a vase without first dusting out the inside of the vase?

Are you furious if your husband brings home the wrong brand of diced tomatoes when he does the grocery shopping?

Do you feel mistreated when he walks past a full and stinky trash can in the kitchen without emptying it?

Do you grind your teeth when he spends the whole weekend at home without doing anything about the leaky toilet in the guest bathroom?

Have you ever thought about why some of these failures seem laughable and others raise your ire?

Would you consider moving some of them into the other category so you could enjoy being married to him, even if it sticks you with almost as many to-do items as you would have without love in your life?

December 5, 2011

Top Ten Again!!

Top Ten Marriage Blogs of 2011A thousand thank yous to all who read this blog and especially to all who voted. We placed #4 this year in the Top Ten Marriage Blogs of 2011 competition. We placed ahead of some pretty incredible blogs, thanks to you!

Special thanks to Susan R, Cherie Travis, 365 Acts of Love, Barbara Sher, Andrea Reese, and Kimberly Stewart, who all left comments to let me know they voted.

If you have not done so yet, please go check out the other blogs. We all write about different things from different angles. There is so much to learn from all 48 nominees and especially the Top Ten.

December 4, 2011

Date Night: How to Keep Your Marriage Intimate

Intimate: Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity (
Intimate: Marked by a warm friendship developing through long association (

Date Night Goals: Become better acquainted, build warm memories with your husband, wife, or life partner.

Free Teleclass: Enjoy Being Married, Wednesday, December 14, 2011, at 9pm Eastern.

What You Will Learn: How to choose activities that make the most of date night for the two of you. How to get closer, have fun, see each other in your best light, and separate your relationship from your jobs, kids, and other responsibilities so it can thrive.

Who is Teaching: Me, Patty Newbold. I hope you will join us.

PS: Today is the last day to vote for Assume Love as a Top Ten Marriage Blog of 2011. If you have already voted, thank you, thank you, thank you!

December 3, 2011

Doing All the Chores?

You know how you start thinking you're doing the bulk of the chores? Or that you're stuck with way too many on top of your exhausting paid job?

You are not alone. Most wives feel this way. And so do most husbands.

How can this be? Surely one of us is trying to put something over on the other. Surely one of us needs to pick up the pace a bit and relieve our mate, no?

Not really. Even paying attention to who is doing how much is exhausting. It riles the stomach, kills the libido. And for what? Has it ever changed who does what for more than a couple weeks?

We all measure what we do against our own list of what needs doing. If we hate potato chips on sofas, cleaning them is on our list. If we cringe at what old oil can do to an engine, changing the oil goes on the list. If something smells bad to us, removing it is on our list. And then, to our complete dismay, the things we take care of comprise well more than half the list!

We assume that lazy bones who shares our home should be doing all of the rest and then some. How can we feel cared for or respected if they don't?

But our spouse has a different list. If chips on the sofa make no difference, removing them is just not on our list. If that is what our spouse is doing while we change the oil, we are obviously working harder. And it feels this way even if we are sitting in the waiting room while someone else changes the oil, even if those are our potato chips on the sofa. It feels this way because what we are doing is a chore and it is on our list of must-do chores, the list we always do more than half of.

And if we work in a place where the boss frowns on napping during work hours, how can we not feel this work is harder than work at home, where it is obviously possible to nap as needed? If we work at home, where it never seems possible to get things done if we stop to nap, even if we could get the kids to sleep when we're tired, we imagine that this work is much harder than work that allows for coffee breaks or lunches with friends.

If you get stuck with all the chores, change the list. Take it off your list. Your efforts to put it on your spouse's list will never succeed until everything else on your spouse's list is getting done, and that is never going to happen.

Take it off your list so you can enjoy your marriage. Eat your meals off paper plates and you can take dish-washing off the list. Move your TV into the kitchen and the chips will get swept up with the rice and peas instead of landing on the sofa. Leave the oil in an extra three weeks and see if it really matters, or if you can free up the time for one of your annual oil changes.

Or try an easier way so you can enjoy your marriage. Ask for a week of telecommuting. See if it really is possible to do more in the same amount of time at home and squeeze in a nap. If you work at home, make a daily lunch date at the local sandwich shop for every day next week and see if it makes your work feel any easier to do.

Your list is your list. You have complete control over it. Why leave any item on there that causes you to feel resentful instead of wildly in love?

December 1, 2011

If Your Love Language is Gifts, This is Your Month

The Five Love Languages illuminate so much of the craziness in marriage. This month, millions will try to buy gifts for their life partners.

Some will give up before they start, utterly baffled by those of us who see love in a beautifully wrapped package of something just for us. Find them standing under the mistletoe, looking forward to the kisses, hugs, back rubs, and sex that say love to them.

Some will get right to it. They love gifts and feel terrific when they find the right one to show their love. They have been collecting gift ideas for months.

Some will offer their own love language, words of affirmation, in handcrafted poems, songs, love letters, family stories, ethical wills, and Voice Quilts.

Those who measure love in acts of service will put their shoulders into shopping or knitting, or building, or baking to present their loved ones with gifts. If it were easy to get the right gift, it would hardly say love in their book.

The ones who thrive on quality time together may scrimp on shopping to spend more time decorating the tree together or singing side-by-side in a choir. They are also the sort to buy a weekend getaway or some lift tickets for the two of you.

If you are going to Expect Love this month, expect that it might come in your love language, but it will mean even more if you see your mate's way of offering love wrapped up along with the gift.

Note: None of the links put any money in my pocket. I just thought you might enjoy them. And there are still three more days to vote for your favorite marriage blog.

The Author

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

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