Category Archives: Marriage

Putting Your Spouse Before Your Parents

 

Many married couples have trouble with the question of who comes first, your spouse or your parents? The answer is your spouse – that’s your first obligation.  When you get married, you leave your parents.  It doesn’t mean you don’t talk to them anymore (unless they’re horrible), but you have to cater to the new dynamic.  You’re going to have a much stronger marriage if you become a loyal husband or wife.

Here are some of the things I hear all the time from callers on my show:

  • “I just don’t have the courage to say ‘no’ to my parents.” 
  • “I don’t have a problem saying ‘no’ to my spouse, but I can’t say ‘no’ to my parents.”
  • “My parent did nothing wrong, my spouse is overreacting.”

I want to discuss how to put your spouse before your parents, and particularly, how to stop your parents from ruining your relationship. But first, let me ask you a fewquestions:

  • Does your husband or wife get upset when your parents drop by uninvited?
  • Is your spouse bothered by the fact that your mother calls constantly at all hours, day and night? 
  • Do you pressure your husband or wife to spend vacations with your parents because your parents want you to?
  • Do you listen to your Mommy or Daddy gossip about your mate? 
  • Guys, do you accuse your wife of overeating when she complains about something your parents said?
  • Ladies, do you consistently turn to your father for advice instead of your husband?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re caught in a classic parent-spouse tug-of-war: “I want to please my parents. No wait, my spouse. No, my parents. No, my spouse…”

But don’t panic quite yet – I have some good news. Ready?

YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY TO PLEASE EVERYONE!

The choice between your spouse and parents was already made when you took your vows. Your vows trump everything, even your neurotic attachment to your parents or your wussyhood in dealing with their over-controlling nature.  You have to focus on making your spouse your first priority, no matter how much it pisses off your mom or dad.

Here are 9 of the most common things your parents might be doing to interfere with your marriage and how you can deal with them:

1. They’re too intrusive.  They always have to know everything about what’s going on. They show up uninvited and/or overstay their welcome. 

How to deal: Set some rules and set them fast.  Talk to your parents about visits and say that they have to call first because “we might be in the middle of sex in the living room and we don’t want to be interrupted” (when you say things like that, parents hear you loud and clear). Tell them that you love them, but if they don’t call in advance, the door will not open unless it’s an emergency or somebody just died. Saying this might hurt their feelings, but it’s required.

2. They assume that since you came from them, you’re going to do exactly what they did.  Houses, finances, kids, clothes, vacations – whatever it is, your parents expect you to do things exactly the way they did.

How to deal: A marriage brings together two people with two sets of genes, behaviors, family dynamics, and ways of doing things. Tell your parents that you appreciate their input and viewpoints, but you’ve made your own decision. Say you expect that someday your kids are going to tick you off too when they make their own decisions (a good joke thrown in is always helpful).

3. Your parents try to do everything for youThey shower you with a car or a vacation (of course, the car is the one they picked out and the vacation is with them.)

How to deal:  If you don’t have a lot of money, it seems like fun to have your parents pay for you, but there are always strings attached.  You become dependent on them, which means that you and your spouse are not two adults joined together as one.  Tell your parents no gifts over $100.  It may take you longer to save for your house or you may be staying at home for your vacation instead of going to Hawaii, but you’ll have more pride in yourself and your spouse. 

4. They bad-mouth your spouse.

How to deal: Explain to your parents that you don’t want to hear it and that you won’t be talking to them if they don’t stop. You married your spouse, not them, and if you’re happy, then that’s what matters.

5. They criticize your lifestyle.  From how far away you live to how you spend your money, it’s constant condemnation.  

How to deal: Stand by your choices and your spouse. You must live your life your way. NEVER side with your parents against your spouse, and don’t carry their criticisms home with you.  Don’t tell your spouse it went down, just deal with it.

6. They make a mountain out of a molehillMaybe you picked your sister-in-law’s wedding over the annual family reunion and now your parents are mad.

How to deal: Gently remind them that you have two families now and that there is going to be triage (in this case, the one-time wedding takes precedence over the annual reunion).

7. They set a bad example.  Your mother has been divorced four times, or your dad is cheap beyond repair.

How to deal: You can’t fix your parents or the past, so don’t bother trying. Instead, put your energy into not picking up their bad habits.

8. They don’t want to share. You have to be there for every birthday and holiday because that’s the tradition.

How to deal: Parents usually expect all holidays and family celebrations to remain the same even after you get married.  However, you need to tell them that you have a new family, which means new traditions.

9. They ignore the rules you have for your kids.  They load your kids up with gummy bears or worms, and let them stay up until 2 in the morning when you’ve said “no” (and when they never let YOU do it when you were a kid).

How to deal: Don’t fight, just lay down the law.  Limit your parents to short periods of time if they don’t follow the rules, or make sure you’re there.  Minimize the time that they can do damage.

Now, what happens if it’s your spouse’s parents who are rubbing you the wrong way?

How to deal: Talk to your spouse.  Say, “I don’t know why I have such a bone to pick with your parents, but I can’t stand it when your mother or father does ______.”  Usually, your spouse will respond, “I know, I grew up with that.”  By having an honest conversation instead of attacking them, you can become a team in learning to deal with it.

Chatting or Cheating?

In the day, it was very clear what constituted cheating. You had sex with somebody while you were married or engaged, and you also had to make great efforts to have an affair. But with all the new means by which people can connect today, cheating has become a whole new monster. There’s texting, Skyping and emailing. There are websites that cater to people who wish to fool around on their spouses. And along with these advances in technology, what counts as “cheating” seems to have become less cut and dry (i.e. it’s no longer just the physical act of having sex with someone else).

However, I can simplify things for you. Ready?

If you have to hide or sneak around to do what you’re doing, or you wouldn’t say or do it in front of your children or spouse, it’s cheating. Simple as that.

Here are some red flags that your friendly correspondence with someone of the opposite sex is really cheater chatter:

Deleting emails

If you’re deleting emails, then you’re assuming that your spouse would be upset if they were to read them. Therefore, you are covering something up. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I knew my spouse was corresponding with an attractive secret someone in the way I am doing right now.”

Fulfilling a sexual fantasy

Affairs are often about playing out sexual fantasies.  If you notice that your correspondence is feeding your fantasies, you’re doing something wrong.

Amount of time spent talking with him/her

It’s not just the content that can be considered cheating, it’s the amount of time spent sharing it. For example, if you are emailing a “friend” 15 plus times a day, I’m sorry, that’s an affair.

Rationalizing

“He’s/She’s just a friend” is something you don’t have to say to yourself when you’re involved in an innocent communication. Do you feel the need to justify it? Well, that’s because you know what you’re doing is wrong.

It’s meeting your personal needs

Your marriage is for meeting your personal needs, and that’s where they should be dealt with.

Talking about your marriage with him/her

Talking about your marriage with someone of the opposite sex is a breach of trust and disrespectful.

Your spouse doesn’t like it, or your good friend tells you it’s not right.

If your spouse has told you they don’t like it and they do it anyway, it’s an affair. It’s not right to be more concerned about connecting with this person than with your spouse’s feelings.

So again, if you wouldn’t say or do it in front of your spouse or kids, you’re cheating.  And even if your spouse is being a pain in the butt, there are healthier ways to increase your self-esteem than breaching your vows.

 

Top 10 Reasons the Steam in a Marriage Cools

 

What are some of the most common things that suck intimacy out of a marriage? Let’s take a look at a few:

1. You’re out of the habit

What you don’t keep doing, you feel less comfortable doing. For example, suppose you need to send someone a thank-you card.  You keep meaning to write it, but you don’t get around to it. The longer you allow time to pass, the more uncomfortable it is when you eventually do follow through. It’s the same thing with sex. The longer you put it off, the weirder and less comfortable it seems, and therefore, the less likely you are to do it. Habit is everything.

2. Erectile dysfunction

Almost half of men over 40 have problems getting it up and keeping it up. However, before just popping a Viagra, guys should:

  • Try exercising, eating healthier, and not drinking or smoking.
  • Find out if any of their meds for aches and pains are getting in the way.
  • Stop exhausting themselves at the office (and having nothing else to give when they come home).
  • Make suggestions to their wives about how to assist them (as guys get older, the thought of sex alone may not be enough).

3. Menopause   

Over 60 percent of divorces are initiated by women in their menopausal years. Menopause is like a reverse-puberty hormonal hell, except this time you’re checking out rather than checking in. One thing that happens to many women when they go through menopause is they gain weight; not specifically because of the hormones, but because they get lazy. They become sedentary and don’t eat well, which restricts circulation (i.e. less blood flow “down there”).  If your circulation is compromised, it’s like a hose with a kink in it, and it becomes more difficult to get aroused.

4. Lost looks

This is a biggie. Forty-three percent of married people claim that their spouse isn’t attractive anymore. This usually means their spouse has let themselves go.  So much of a relationship comes from your commitment to your own health and well-being, both mentally and physically.  If you’re not treating yourself well, you’re not treating the relationship well.  Being fit not only makes you feel better, but it also shows that you give a damn.

5. Sexual differences

Men are over five times more likely than women (45 percent versus 8 percent) to think about sex at least once a day. If you and your spouse aren’t reasonably matched or cooperative, it leads to blame, resentment, anger, and disrespectful speech.  Gender-based differences in desire are biologically built in to any heterosexual union, which is sad, but a reality.

6. Infidelity

Infidelity shatters trust and withers intimacy.  Infidelity is a result of one of two things: 1) the cheater is simply a bad person (sorry, there is no such thing as “sex addiction”), or 2) their spouse wasn’t paying attention to them so they went elsewhere to be fed. In either case, infidelity cuts into sex drive (primarily for the person who was cheated on).

7. Parenthood

A third of women say they experience no sexual pleasure whatsoever for the entire first year after giving birth as a result of messed up hormones, exhaustion, and stress.  However, even though we may not feel incredibly horny, we can still cuddle, play, and do things that bring pleasure to our day and alleviate some of the stress and exhaustion.  There’s something rejuvenating about cuddling, touching, hugging, and kissing.

8. Pregnancy 

Women’s sexual pleasure may drop by as much as 39 percent during the third trimester (when the kid’s ready to pop) due to body-image issues, financial issues, impending role shifts, and/or hormonal-based changes. Many spouses don’t understand this and get mad at each other. As I said earlier, if you cuddle, caress, and snuggle more, you’ll be less frustrated, miserable, and depressed.

9. No time

Eighty percent of married couples blame their declining sex lives on being “too busy”. Whoever thought when you were younger that you’d be too busy to get it on? If you’re not prioritizing sex, you’d better. Men need to organize their lives less around success and career, and women need to schedule less around children and extended family.  Spouses should come together at the end of the day to eat, play, take a bath, hug, caress, snuggle, sip a little wine, and get it on.

10. Not in the mood

It’s normal for one of you not to be in the mood. So what?  Put on a sexy video, don some sexy clothes or perfume, and/or behave and talk in a sexy way. The best sex is not always spontaneous like in the movies when all of a sudden everyone’s clothes come off and they’re humping against a wall.  You can schedule sex – there’s nothing un-romantic about that.  Say cutely to each other, “Tonight at 9 when the kids are in bed, I’ll meet you in the shower/tub/bedroom.”  It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it just matters that you put in the energy and thought.

My final piece of advice: Think quickies. You can have a lot of fun with quickies.

 

 

How to Shelf the Selfishness in Your Marriage

Everyone is selfish when they get married. In the beginning, it’s all about “I’m in love,” “I’m getting married,” “Something wonderful is happening to me,” and “I love the way this person makes me feel.”  And although this me-centered narcissism is normal, if you fail to transition out of it, your marriage is sure to fail within three to seven years, especially if you have kids.

I can’t tell you how many callers I get on my program wanting to know, “How can I make my spouse ______?” The blank could be “do chores the way I want,” “spend less money,” or “change their attitude.”  However, the bottom line is you can’t make anyone do anything. That’s why I say to choose wisely before you get married in the first place.  If you’re the only one in the relationship ever being selfless, you’ve made a mistake.

Marriage is about giving more than you have to, not constantly wanting more.  Your spouse is not your slave or fairy godmother.  It’s not always about your needs, your hurts, your feelings, your time, and your schedule.  Marriage takes compromise and a willingness to lose fights and arguments. It’s the acts of sacrifice sprinkled throughout a marriage that make love deep.

The best time to put yourself out for your spouse is when he or she is not at their best.  Have you ever been in a pissy mood and someone acted sweetly? I bet you snapped out of it almost instantly.  Listen to your spouse, hug them, give them a back rub or a gift, or plop them in the tub with you. Do whatever it takes despite how you feel.  Selflessness costs you something, but it protects the relationship.

Your job when you get married is not to sit there with a scorecard of all the things you’re getting.  It’s to throw away all scorecards and figure out each day how you can make your spouse feel happy that they’re alive and married to you.

For further discussion of this topic, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage.

Affair-Proof Your Marriage

There are two kinds of people who have affairs.  The first are just bad people.  Their self-indulgence and untrustworthiness stems from low character, not a troubled marriage.  If it feels good to them, they’ll do it.

It’s a dumb waste of money to spend time in counseling with a serial cheater.  If your spouse has been unfaithful more than once and refuses to be held accountable for their actions, your appointment should not be with a marriage therapist – it should be with a divorce lawyer (and a really good one at that).

The second type of cheater isn’t “bad,” they simply may be going outside the marriage to have their needs met.  Now, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I’m not saying that there’s any excuse for someone to have an affair. Affairs are bad and there is no justification for breaching your vows.  All I’m doing is giving an explanation for why some people have them.

I can’t tell you how many times callers on my show have told the lie, “My spouse’s affair came out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise.” I say “lie” because after a bit of questioning, they admit about 99.8 percent of the time that there were problems:

“He complained that we weren’t having sex.”
“She complained that I never listened or helped around the house…”

The bottom line: their spouse wasn’t being fed.

Typically, the person who has been cheated on jumps to blame instead of looking at their participation in their spouse’s fooling around.  They make it all about how they’ve been hurt, and ignore the fact that they’ve betrayed their vows by not supporting or paying attention to their spouse.

If you can understand how you’ve contributed to a hungry spouse going out to a different restaurant, you can start making the menu better at your home, and the whole thing could be reversed.  Blaming isn’t useful – explaining the issue(s) is.

Knowing whether it was an emotional or physical affair is also important.  The distinction allows you to see what was missing in the marriage.  What was so appealing about that person or situation?

One of the letters in my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, is from a high-paid, ex call girl. In the letter, she explains how most of the married men who came to her were not particularly focused on having sex.  Instead, they wanted to have dates with wine, roses, hugging, talking, and taking baths together.  Why? Because their wives didn’t act like their girlfriends.

So, with that in mind, let me give you some suggestions on how to be your husband’s girlfriend/wife’s boyfriend and affair-proof your marriage:

1. Choose wisely.  If you’re dating someone who’s spent time going from sexual partner to sexual partner or shacked up before you met them, then their lifestyle is not one of monogamy.  That’s one of the many reasons why I advise against people having a lot of sexual partners – it becomes easy to turn to because you’re so familiar with it.

2. Don’t ignore your spouse’s complaints. Whether it’s about housework, money, affection, in-laws, or texting, when your spouse tries to express the reasons for his or her unhappiness, you need to listen.  You don’t have to necessarily agree with every point they’re bringing up, but you do need to acknowledge their discomfort and do something to improve the situation.

3. Don’t let sex fall off the radar.  Sex is a big part of marriage, and people who are having regular, good sex with each other tend not to get as pissy about the small stuff.  It’s amazing what a big eraser great sex is to small annoyances.

4. Wake up every morning, look at your spouse, and think about three things you could do to make them happy they’re alive and married to you.  Show appreciation as opposed to having a complaint.

5. Put down the damn cell phone!  Stop texting and talk to your spouse. It’s pretty crummy to feel second-fiddle to a smartphone.

6. Talk to your spouse as though you love them. You love this person – so act like it!  Always ask yourself, “Would a person who loved this person behave/talk this way?”

7. Have fun family and marital rituals. Put the kids to bed and watch a movie, take walks, or play a game together.  Just have some fun with each other.

If you do these things, the chances that one of you will have an affair will be somewhere between zero and none.

Why Shacking Up Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Couples who shack up before marriage are more likely to divorce, experience domestic violence, have sexual and emotional problems, and be involved in affairs. Yet, regardless of the statistics, people continue to do it.

The myth couples use to justify shacking up is that by living together before marriage, they can “test drive the car” and have a more satisfying and longer-lasting marriage. But it’s just the opposite.  People shack up because they are skittish about commitment and, therefore, more likely to call it quits when problems arise.

In addition, couples who shack up actually lose objectivity because they’re not looking at the relationship from a distance.  They literally haven’t had the “space” to step back and objectively consider whether this person is truly the best match for them.  Instead, they sort of just drift into marriage.

Another reason not to shack up: You won’t have a healthy relationship with your extended family.  A supportive extended family is one of the things that makes a marriage work.  However, moms, dads, siblings, and other family members are not going to expend as much effort, caring, and commitment to you as a couple when it’s an iffy situation.  People often forget that and then complain about their family not treating their shack-up stud or honey like family. Well hell, if you want them to be treated like family, make them family!

Quite frankly, if you shack up, you are basically saying that your future marriage isn’t valuable enough to be worth waiting and making tough sacrifices for.  I love it when people shack up and then demand a traditional wedding. How can you choose to live in a tremendously untraditional way and still expect your parents to cough up the money for a traditional party?  If a kid wants to slap the face of tradition, they are on their own.

Finally (and most importantly), shacking up hurts kids.  If (and usually when) a woman gets pregnant in a shack-up situation, there is a high probability that the sperm donor will split within two years, which results in a never-married-single-mom raising a fatherless child. A guy who is screwing a woman without laying down his life for her doesn’t want to be a dad – he’s just getting off.

In my opinion, the best way to test your compatibility for marriage and reduce your chances of divorce to almost nothing is:

1) Don’t have sex until you’re married.
2) Date for at least one year before you get engaged.  
3) Participate in a structured premarital counseling program which includes psychological testing. 

However, I know most of you are not going to do that.  So, operate at your own risk – or rather, the risk of your kids.