Category Archives: Marriage

When Parents of Adult Children Remarry

A parent’s remarriage is not only extremely tough on minor kids, but it’s a touchy subject for adult children as well.  Be it death or divorce, you may feel like you’re still grieving the loss of your mom or dad while your other parent has simply moved on.

However, adult kids have to put themselves in their parent’s shoes.  Your parent may have had a very long, good marriage (except for the ending), and now they no longer have a companion or best friend. They may feel lonely and long for that connection again, and they often find it with another spouse.

So, how can an adult child better adjust to their parent’s remarriage? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t be negative.  Though your parent doesn’t need to ask your permission to get remarried, they would probably like your support.  Being negative won’t stop the marriage, and it will only create bad feelings between you and your parent.

2. Don’t compare.  Don’t measure the new spouse (“the stepparent”) against your own mom or dad.  It’s not about you – it’s about your parent being happy.

3. Accept the situation.  “Acceptance” is a word I use a lot with callers on my program. It’s a very important part of moving on because it means you’re no longer fighting something.  When your parent gets married again, hopefully they are going to be happy and find joy.  That may be hard for you to accept or like, but you need to do it if there is going to be peace.  The first thing you can do is get on board.  Accept the new “stepparent” and do everything you can to make them feel welcome in the family.  Break your back trying to do that instead of treating them like an outsider.

4. Show respect.  You may have to dig down deep sometimes to find something good about your parent’s new spouse, but you need to show respect because you’re sharing your parent with them.  Your parent may marry someone who isn’t very nice.  If that happens, you’re screwed, but you can be less screwed if you do your best to kiss up to them as best you can.  Fake it.  Make believe.  When you go home, you can brush your teeth, but while you’re there, you’ve got to act sweet no matter what. Otherwise, you’re not going to see your mom or dad.

5. Don’t expect love or affection either way – ever.  Maybe love and affection will develop. If it does, terrific, but if it never does, it’s not the end of the world.  Not everybody is an emotional match.

6. If the new spouse has children or grandchildren, understand that “the female runs the roost.”  If your dad marries a woman with kids, her kids are going to have priority unless your dad is very strong.  And even if he is strong, he may abdicate his strength for the sake of not wanting to be alone.

The bottom line is that people tend to be more emotional about things the closer they are to them.  For example, if there’s a disaster somewhere in the world, the first thing you want to know is if there were any Americans involved and if any of those hurt were from your state, city, or neighborhood.  The closer they are to you, the more emotional you feel. A similar dynamic is at play in stepfamilies.  You don’t feel the same way about your father’s new wife as you do about your own mom.  However, a word to the (hopefully) wise: make it seem as though you do.  Human beings have developed ways of appearing to be open and friendly (bowing, shaking hands, smiling, offering bread, etc.), and I suggest you use them all.  Feelings usually develop in a better way over time if you put forth these efforts.

*A quick note to parents who are remarrying with adult kids:

Don’t put your spouse’s kids in your will.  Only your own kids should be in your will, and by the same token, you shouldn’t expect your spouse to put your kids in theirs.  In addition, I suggest signing a prenup and making sure that all insurance policies are clear about who is a beneficiary.

This is why I recommend six months of premarital counseling to ALL couples considering marriage so that issues like finances (and whose family you’ll be seeing during the holidays!) can all be sorted out objectively.  I even believe that at some point during the process of creating a stepfamily with adult kids, everyone in the families should come in for counseling and discuss the potential problems, difficulties, and jealousies which could arise.

How to Know You’re Ready for Marriage

You’ve dated around, had a couple of long-term relationships, and hopefully figured out which qualities are important to you and what makes a relationship work. Now you’re faced with the inevitable question, “Am I ready to get married?”

For women, the most important signs are:

  1. You share similar goals.  If you and your guy have different priorities, you’re going to end up being disappointed. For example, a woman called my show the other day complaining that her husband had moved their family 13 times in as many years to satisfy his appetite for wanderlust (which is a HORRIBLE thing for kids).  Before you consider marriage, ask yourself and your partner about where you want to live, if you want to have kids, and religious views.  Find out what the deal breakers are.
  2. You don’t want to change him.  Similar to buying a dress from the store, when you get married, you take your man “as-is”.  Sure, you might be able to tweak him a little bit, but you can’t fundamentally change him.  If you don’t accept that, you’re going to end up frustrated and bitchy.  You don’t have to adore everything about him, but you do have to make peace with the fact that on Sunday afternoons it’s him and ESPN, and you’re not going to change that.
  3. You connect on more than just a physical level.  A very small percentage of marriage is spent in passionate lovemaking.  You need to know that you can have fun together and enjoy each other when your clothes are ON.
  4. You can see past your wedding day.  Many women are bridezillas: They are so focused on their wedding and being the center of the universe in their stunning white gown that they lose sight of their fiancé and the whole concept of marriage.
  5. You can talk to each other.  You know you’re ready to get married when you can talk things out rationally (without yelling or screaming) and not let issues get pushed under the rug without being resolved.
  6. Everyone you know says your guy is fab.  It’s fine if a few family members or friends aren’t huge fans (you can’t please everybody), but if everyone you know hates this guy, they might be on to something.  Your family and friends know you, and they can look at the situation objectivity. If they’re reasonably nice people, pay attention to them, otherwise your marriage is going to be a constant acid drip.

Guys, on the other hand, start feeling ready for marriage when the singles scene just doesn’t appeal to them anymore, and they stop wanting to bed hot girls that they can’t have conversations with afterward.  Men have biological clocks, but it has nothing to do with making babies. It has to do with being financially stable and settled in their careers.  Most college educated men don’t consider marriage as a possibility until at least 26, and they don’t enter a phase of high commitment until the ages of 28-33.  Guys who have gone to graduate school hit their commitment peak even later (30-36).

Here are some signs that a guy is NOT ready to get married:

  1. He’s financially unstable. If a guy is still struggling to pay his bills, he’s not ready to get married or take on the extra burden of a family.  In addition, if he buys a very expensive car for himself instead of saving up for a ring or your future, he’s not interested in marriage.
  2. He won’t commit.   If a guy is unable to commit to a job, family or friends, then he can’t be counted on.
  3. You have to talk him into it.  If he says he’s not interested in getting married, don’t try to change his mind – believe him.
  4. He calls his married friends “losers” or “stupid.”  A guy who thinks having a family is cute is much more ready to become a husband and a father.
  5. He continually makes you cry (and I’m not talking about tears of happiness).  If he’s unreliable, abusive, a liar, a cheater, or a flirt, you need to divorce yourself from this relationship BEFORE you’re married.

Above all: use your brain.  Don’t get married when you’re in the throes of the early stages of a relationship. Fantasies are not the stuff that long-term relationships are built on.

7 Simple Ways to Treat Kindly

My recipe for a perfect marriage has two ingredients. The first is choosing wisely.  When people don’t choose wisely, start grinding out kids, and then call my show, there’s not a lot I can do to help them.  The second ingredient is treating kindly.  Treating kindly means behaving in a loving way whether you feel like it or not.  The fact is, when you act in a loving way, you actually feel more loving.

So, what can you do to keep your spouse happy and feeling loved?  You may think saying, “I love you,” every now and then means you’re racking up points, but unless you back it up with actions, your words are empty and hollow.  There’s a big difference between words and actions. 

Here are some suggestions (remember, these are only suggestions – use your imagination):

  • Write a poem.  I don’t care whether you know how to rhyme or not, write your spouse a love poem.  It doesn’t have to be a work of art, just something short and sweet.  It shows that you put in some thought and effort, and that he or she was on your mind.  After you write the poem, leave it by their pillow or coffee.
  • Surprise them.  While your spouse is still at work or out with the kids, put out some candles and cook their favorite meal.
  • Do the little things.  Do the laundry or the dishes without making a big deal about it or having it seem like it was some heroic effort. Just do it!
  • Remember the special times.  Guys, listen up: remember her birthday and your anniversaries (your wedding, the first time you kissed, when you first met, etc.).  She’ll love that you remembered.
  • When you first get together after a long day, take time to just chat.  Sit down in your living room or on the porch, have a glass of wine, and say, “Let’s talk about the cool things that happened today.”  The first thing a lot of people do when they get home is just bitch about all the crap that happened that day.  Who wants to hear that?!  You’ve been away from each other for a long time and you’ve both had to deal with difficult things.  Don’t sit there dueling about whose day was more difficult.  Just clink glasses, rub your toes together, and talk about some good things that happened.  Wouldn’t that make for a much more pleasant atmosphere?
  • Leave them little notes.  Texts are OK, but not a tenth as good as hand-written notes.  A hand-written note requires getting out a pen and paper, writing the note, and putting it somewhere.  For example, place one in the refrigerator so that when your wife goes for the baby’s bottle, she sees, “You are the best mommy and I love you.”
  • Arrange a date night.  Find a babysitter: your mom, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, grandparent, etc.  For all you men reading this, here’s an idea: When you come home from work, pick up your wife and carry her to the car.  Whatever way she’s dressed will tell you what kind of restaurant to go to.
  • Take a bath together.  Hop in the tub and sit there talking, giggling, and giving each other back and foot rubs.

It doesn’t require a lot of time or brilliant creativity to show your spouse that you love them, but it does take effort.  And if you behave in a loving way, it will magnify your own feelings of love because loving actions make us feel loving.

13 Things to Discuss Before You Marry

We all get nervous before big moments in our lives.  When you start school, graduate, or arrive for the first day of a new job, your stomach is sure to be doing flips.  So when you get married, it’s only natural and normal to feel some anticipatory anxiety.  However, there’s a huge difference between a few pre-wedding jitters and getting cold feet.

Getting cold feet is a message from the inside that you may be making a mistake.  Unfortunately, a lot of folks ignore this feeling because they think:

1. “It’s too late. We’ve dated for so long, and I have too much invested.”

2. “I don’t want to be alone.”

3. “It’s too embarrassing and/or expensive to call off the wedding.”

4. “He/she is really nice, and I don’t want to hurt his/her feelings.”

5. “He/she will change after we get married.”

How can you avoid getting cold feet at the altar?  Go through at least six months of premarital counseling.  Oftentimes people ignore doubts, red flags, and gut feelings because they don’t discuss their issues and concerns BEFORE they get married.  By seeing an expert who specializes in premarital counseling, you’ll go over things like:

1. Money. How do we spend it?  What about savings? What about budgets? Who takes care of the money?  When it comes to money, there are two types of people to varying extremes: those who like to spend and those who like to save.  It’s extremely important to discuss finances and prenups (which I think are absolutely necessary in second marriages involving children so that the kids are protected).

2. How alike are you?  People say “opposites attract,” but that only works for magnets, not for people.  The more you have in common with your partner, the better. You need to discuss your backgrounds, religious beliefs, values, and dreams for the future.  What are your views on loyalty, honesty, and dealing with anger?  What behaviors are off-limits?  You should talk about all these things and never assume they will change after you are married.  If you want something about them to change and it doesn’t, don’t get married!

3. Communication skills.  Many people come from families where they really don’t communicate.  They don’t sit down calmly and honestly speak the truth.   You and your partner need to be able to say to each other, “These are my expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, etc.,” and then ask if they are reasonable.  If your partner says, “I would like to have more freedom, come and go as I please, and not have to call when I’m going to be late for dinner,” then you know it’s a good idea to call it quits.
It’s vital to assess how someone communicates before you get married.  Some people use communication as a destructive tool to get what they want, and others use it to hurt their partner or justify themselves when they’ve lied or misbehaved.

4. Life outside of marriage.  Which hobbies and activities are you going to do together and which are you going to do separately with friends?  Am I not going to be able to ride my motorcycle because you don’t ride?  Some people are so insecure, possessive, or demanding that they won’t let the other person have a life.  Many women, in particular, don’t want their men to have guy time (which can be very disastrous).

5. Do you want to have kids?  How many? What does discipline look like? Who’s going to take care of them? What happens if one of you has fertility issues?  Are you open to adoption? Having two people cooperate to raise a child is a huge deal.  Compatibility issues in how you parent can lead to big problems down the road.  This is why it’s important to look at each other’s family dynamics.  People develop a lot of neurotic tendencies from their childhoods that may never change, such as how loving or attentive they are. Observe how your fiancé/fiancée is with other people’s kids.

6. Employment.  Do you travel a lot for your job? Do you plan to relocate often? Do you stay at the office late? Do you have any time for family?  Certain jobs (trucking, medicine, law, military, etc.) require a lot of commitment.  You have to analyze yourself and ask, “Do I want to marry somebody who isn’t going to be home at seven every night?  Do I want my spouse to be just visiting when he/she walks in to the house?”

7. Sex! Find out what each other’s fantasies are.  If their fantasies include small farm animals, you know to hit the eject button.

8. Daily life: Who’s going to be responsible for which household chores and bills?  Are you actually going to raise your kids, or are you going to farm them out (so that when you’re old and decrepit, they farm you out)?

9. How committed are you to the relationship? With looks, health, abilities, kids, finances, and family, there are many changes, phases, and challenges in life.  Are you committed in the relationship, or are you just a fair weather spouse?  I would say that about 70 percent of divorces result because people are not committed to a relationship – when it’s not going good, they find another place to go.

10. Personal space.  Everybody needs time to be alone with their hobbies and thoughts.  A lot of women have trouble giving their husbands personal space.  Guys are generally relieved when their wives want to go spend the day with their girlfriends: “That’s wonderful honey, are you sure you don’t want to go for the weekend?” = “Yes! No nagging for six hours!”

11. How are you going to keep the marriage exciting?  What’s your idea of a good time together? Is it hanging out with a lot of people? Watching sports? A candlelight dinner? A walk in the park? Soaking in the tub together?  After they get married, many people say, “My husband/wife doesn’t do anything.”  Well, perhaps that’s because you guys never talked about what would be fun.

12. Family.  My advice: If you really, really, really can’t get along with his or her family, move 3,000 miles away.

13. Know your odds.  Statistics show that couples who live together before they’re married are more likely to get divorced. Couples who have been previously married and divorced are also more likely to get divorced.  Don’t learn the hard way by thinking “Well, we’re different.”

Do Violent Video Games Make Us Violent?

Do violent video games make people violent?  In the aftermath of the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings, this question has once again become a hot-button issue in our society.  The reason we don’t have a definitive answer is because it’s hard to test scientifically.  You can’t take people who have played violent video games and those who haven’t, and then give them knives and guns and see what they’ll do. That’s not what we call ethical research. 

What we do know based on the studies that have been conducted is that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, and elevate heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, kids who play a lot of violent games don’t have much interest in charity or helping others.  Yet, exposure to all kinds of violent media – not just video gamesincreases feelings of aggression and decreases feelings of empathy

In my opinion, I don’t think violent video games are the problem.  Taking them away isn’t going to stop people from shooting up schools and movie theaters.  There are always going to be psychopaths no matter what we do.  I think the more important issue lies in our society’s backward attitude towards parenting.  As I say over and over again, kids are more likely to be good kids when their parents are around. Sure they’ll experiment and do stupid stuff from time to time, but they’re going to be a lot better off if they live in a stable home with two happily married parents who they feel close to.  Although violent video games can contribute to kids acting nasty, they are not responsible for all the rudeness and nastiness we see in the world today. It evolves from kids not being surrounded by cohesive families and communities.  

A while back, I was watching a medical special about a 6-year-old kid in India who was born with the half-formed body of a twin attached to his abdomen.  He was taken to a hospital in New Delhi and a team of amazing surgeons removed the growth.  However, it wasn’t the medical feat that impressed me.  What struck me most was that when he came home, the entire village was outside with musical instruments and flags to welcome him back.  These impoverished people who don’t even have shoes, bathrooms, or air conditioning were all out there smiling and cheering for him.  I thought, “They may have virtually nothing, but at least they have intact families and a tight-knit community.”

Our kids, by and large, don’t have that.  As we all know from William Golding’s terrific book, Lord of the Flies, children who receive very little caring or involvement from their parents revert back to being monsters.  We need to realize that the problem is much bigger than violent video games – it’s how we’re raising our kids.