Tag Archives: communication

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.

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.

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.”

Rekindling the Bedroom Flame

Sex doesn’t just happen like it does in the movies.  People are not always swept away with fireworks and mutual orgasms.  Instead, human beings have to learn how to make love.  Unlike dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that have sex as an instinctive joining for procreation, for humans it’s a learned behavior.

When people look at porn or read romance novels (the female version of porn), they think that’s how sex is supposed to be.  However, it takes time to get to know each other’s bodies and communicate (which is usually the part people don’t do).  Oftentimes, couples feel embarrassed or think certain things are taboo.

This is where sex therapy comes in.  Most people believe that something has to be broken in order for them to go to sex therapy. However, the first thing you should know is that you don’t have to wait until there’s a sexual problem in your relationship before you get help.  After many years of habits forming and walls going up, certain feelings and behaviors get entrenched and often become hard to reverse.   A lot of divorces could be avoided if people dealt with these things sooner.

There are all kinds of events and experiences which get in the way of people feeling comfortable, relaxed, and open.  If there’s a medical issue (cancer treatment, surgical procedure, physical disability, etc.), a history of sexual abuse or rape, or perhaps lovemaking has simply slipped from your schedule, sex therapy can help with a number of areas.

The goal is to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and fantasies with your spouse and put them out there for the therapist to examine.  If a guy is too quick to the draw or a woman can’t seem to be able to reach an orgasm, these kinds of issues can be addressed openly and honestly. It’s all about sexual and emotional enhancement, and having some fun too!

Now let me dispel one fear right off the bat.  When you go to sex therapy, you don’t have sex in the office.  Some people think, “Oh my gosh, are we going to have to get naked and do stuff in front of the therapist?!”  No, you don’t.  And by the way, if you do go to somebody who tells you to get naked and do things, get out of there and report them.

If you’re not feeling satisfied, if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, if you want to experiment but your spouse doesn’t (or vice versa), if painful issues from your past are interring, or if you feel like infidelity is the only answer, then you and your spouse should see a sex therapist.

That being said, not all sexual issues require therapy.  I have some tips for you and your spouse to try first:

In the beginning of a terrific relationship, most people are in the mood most of the time.  But with careers, kids, and the house, life becomes busy with demands and responsibilities.  People underestimate the importance of hugging, touching, and loving on a daily basis.  You need to make time for each other.  Be sure to talk about something more than what bills need to be paid or what has to happen tomorrow. 

When you’ve made time together, it’s important not to expect that you will both be aroused and filled with desire immediately.  In addition, don’t stick to a formula.  For example, “I do this same thing to turn him/her on and then we go to sleep” isn’t romantic.  Playful interaction is important.  Think about it as improvisational jazz or a dance: make it spontaneous and have some fun with it.

Moreover, don’t make the orgasm the be-all, end-all.  It’s been calculated that we spend eight hours of our lives in orgasm.  That’s not a lot of time.  Having an orgasm is great, but it’s not necessarily the point.  Your focus should be on the amount of time spent lovemaking or else you’ll miss out on a lot of fun.

Most importantly, communication is the best way to get positive feedback.  When you go to an expensive restaurant, you take time with the menu, you discuss the possibilities, you savor every bite, you share from each other’s plates, and you talk about the meal afterwards – the presentation, the flavors, the sauces, the ingredients, etc.  Do the same with sex (e.g. “I love it when you touch me exactly like that.”).  Talking about sex does not take the romance away, and in fact, giving feedback to your partner about what you find pleasurable is a wonderful gift because then he or she knows they’re not failing. 

Your Spouse Has Cheated. Now What?

In the movie Closer, Clive Owen’s character grills Julie Roberts’ character about the nature of her infidelity.  He bombards her with a barrage of questions about the frequency, timing, whereabouts, type, quality and orgasmic nature of the sex she had with the interloper until she finally asks, “God, why is the sex so important?!”

Men and women react to infidelity differently. Women are more concerned with the emotional side while men care more about the sex. This is a result of hardwiring to a certain extent.  Females want to know if their male can still be a provider and protector for their young.  Males, on the other hand, are primarily invested in the preservation of their genes.  This is why, like Clive Owen’s character, men will ask about the sex and women will ask about the romantic feelings involved. 

Once you understand the differences in how men and women react to an infidelity, the next question becomes, “What should I do if I find out that my husband/wife has cheated on me?” 

First, you need to know that it’s possible for a marriage to survive an affair. In fact, the healing process can even improve the quality of the marriage. However, in order to improve the chances of your marriage staying together, you and your spouse need to seek professional help. 

Therapy helps you have adult conversations and develop skills to resolve your problems. When choosing a therapist, try to find one who has been in a long-term marriage. Be aware that therapists who have been recently divorced have a higher percentage of their patients and clients divorce.

I recommend high quality professional assistance because in order for you and your spouse to truly work through your challenges, you’re going to have to see and accept that both of you played some role in the infidelity. I am not saying that somebody had the right to cheat; I simply mean that if you decide to stay with each other, you have to figure out why things got so bad to the point that someone cheated. The success of your marriage pins on your ability to change the behaviors that alienated each other in the first place.  

If you truly think you did everything perfectly, then dump your spouse. You’re either right and this person is just a bad apple, or you’re not in touch with them enough to work it out. Either way, the relationship doesn’t have a chance of succeeding.  Don’t sit around playing the blame game for your unhappiness or their lack of a moral compass – it’s a recipe for disaster. 

However, if both of you are willing to work, there are some common mistakes you should try to avoid:

Don’t spend your time humiliating, debasing, challenging, and assaulting the cheater. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what hurt the relationship in the first place (e.g. lack of affection, being too busy to be sweet, etc.).

Contacting the person they had the affair with is usually futile. It rarely uncovers the whole truth, and oftentimes, the exposure alone will make them back off.

Naïvely taking your spouse’s word that he or she has ended the affair is one thing, but constantly following them around and checking their phone and email every five minutes is another. Yes, most people need help disengaging from an affair because there is a tremendous amount of physical and emotional investment.  However, hitting them with guilt nonstop isn’t going to help anything. 

Finally, realize that it’s going to take time. 

Ultimately, if your spouse has cheated, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is this a pattern of behavior (i.e. a reflection of their character), or is this a single event which indicates that something seriously wrong in the marriage wasn’t respectfully dealt with? Between work, the kids, and everything else going on, did one or both of you stop paying attention to the relationship? With better communication, better decisions can be made and priorities can be adjusted.  Hopefully, in the end, you can both look back at the affair as a slap on the back of the head reminding you that you weren’t paying attention to the relationship.

Why Are We So Mean Online?

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for evil, cruelty and meanness, and a lot of times, they consciously choose to be that way.  Even good people have mean moments.  They know exactly what they’re doing, but they do it anyway because being cruel makes them feel good.  As with anything in life, the higher up the ladder you are, the more haters are going to unload on you.  If you raise your head above the crowd, somebody’s going to come around with a sword and even you out.    

One of the most prevalent examples of this is seen in how people talk to each other online.  People use the Internet as a place where they can spew their vitriol, show their muscle, and have momentary feelings of power and superiority.  They check every five minutes to see how many people “like” them or how many “friends” they have.  Then, they vent their frustrations and post mean comments to each other because they are jealous about what they see other people accomplishing.  A lot of them want to believe they’re special.  If anyone – a friend, neighbor, or family member – criticizes them or says otherwise, their egos get deflated and they attack.

But why are people so nasty online in particular?

One of the main reasons is that their faces can’t be seen.  A social interaction on the Internet is not 1 percent as intimate and fulfilling as interacting in person, and therefore, many people hide there.  It’s easy.  Looking somebody square in the eye and saying something mean is a lot harder to do.  It takes a very particular kind of person to be able to do that without turning red.  In general, when you’re making eye contact, it’s tougher to be your most base self. 

Another explanation for why people are so cruel to each other online is because they are bored.  When you spend a ridiculous amount of hours just browsing and surfing the web, eventually you’re going to need some drama or stimulation. So, hey, why not randomly attack somebody and see if you can get a rise out of them?

If you find yourself getting caught up in someone else’s mean behavior online, my solution is simple: get a life!   Do you seriously think it’s useful to waste your life spending hours on the Internet?!  The Internet is not a life – it’s instead of life. 

I think our ability to use the Internet for information and important communication is an amazing technological feat.  However, just like having one glass of wine after dinner is fine but getting fall-down drunk is not, the way you use the Internet matters.  The big problem is that it’s being used for terrorism, bullying, and destroying people’s reputations, not productivity.