Category Archives: 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.

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.