February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am , by Cherise Bathersfield
No Cheating, No Dying is journalist Elizabeth Weil’s account of the year she devotes to making her self-described good marriage even better. Weil and her husband, Dan Duane—both writers and overachievers—submitted to couples counseling, sex therapy, group workshops and more, applying themselves to their marriage as they would to a new writing assignment, hobby or exercise regimen. But being married with two children is no two-mile swim (which the couple did from Alcatraz to San Francisco). It’s complicated. For every issue unearthed, resolved and shelved during Weil’s marital spring-cleaning, another seemed to pop up to take its place. Weil shared some insights with us about her sometimes tumultuous journey to rehab her “good enough” marriage.
Q. After nearly a decade of a marriage that was not broken, what made you decide to fix it?
A. I noticed that I was being lazy-brained about my marriage in a way that I was not about the rest of my life. I had stacks of book on how to be a good mother. I kept up with the latest research on how to stay healthy. I put a lot of effort into my friendships, my work life and staying fit. But I had an attitude about my marriage that it was either star-crossed or it wasn’t. And once I noticed that attitude, it seemed silly. So I decided to change it.
Q. How did your husband, Dan, react to your proposal?
A. With horror! I’m sort of kidding. But his first reaction, when I brought it up, was “I can’t think of anything worse.”
Q. Where did the name of the book No Cheating, No Dying come from?
A. Those were our secret vows. Of course we stood up at the altar in front of our friends and family and promised to love and care for each other for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health and all that. But privately we said to each other: no cheating, no dying. We figured our marriage could survive anything else.
Q. You refer to a lot of marriage psychology publications and self-help books. Which ones did you find particularly helpful to you as a couple? Why?
A. Stephen Mitchell’s Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time really had a huge impact on me. Mitchell argues that romance doesn’t die in marriage due to neglect. Romance dies because we kill it, on purpose, as it becomes increasingly dangerous. We are so dependent on our spouses. These days husbands and wives aren’t just lovers or financial partners. We’re also co-parents, emotional supports, best friends. We can’t bear to think of our spouses as anything less than entirely predictable. And as a result we can start to think they’re boring and unromantic. But really, we’ve just put our spouses in that box. We need to take them out again.
February 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Who better to know how to heat up your Valentine’s Day than a woman whose business is romance? Romance novelist Robyn Carr (robyncarr.com) has been honored with multiple RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America and her Virgin River series (the newest installment is Redwood Bend, coming out next month) landed her on the New York Times bestseller list. Here’s Carr’s advice on how to apply the lessons of romance novels to your own love life.
1) Set the scene. If you’ve ever read a romance, you know that the sex can be pretty steamy. But rarely do the characters just start going at it and rarely do I give them a chance to get away to a quiet lodge. That’s just not how life is. But I do like to set the scene—let them flirt a little to heat things up. So how can you do that in real life? Traditional things like candles and good lighting are nice, but go the extra step and get rid of distractions. Turn off the phone. Turn off the TV. Send the kids to your mom’s house. Turn on some music so you can’t hear the garbage truck doing its weekly pick-up. (And try a faster-paced mix of tunes for a change!) Make the two of you the focus so the “scene” can happen without any interruptions. My characters are at their hottest when they’re concentrating on each other and nothing else.
2) Write your own romance story. Sometimes words are all you need. Take it from someone who spends her whole life creating romantic scenes from words alone. Take advantage of their power by sending a letter detailing your plans for Valentine’s Day (and night) to your partner. You can stick it in the mail a week before Valentine’s Day so he has a few days to imagine what’s coming. For some last minute “story-telling,” a sexy text message will work too. Just be sure no one at his office will get to his phone before he does!
November 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm , by Lauren Piro
For many of the squabbles the counselors help couples solve in our CTMBS series, their advice often includes working on communicating. But what if a couple’s communication roadblocks are … genetic? This is the trouble Susan, 47, and Neil, 50, finally needed to face after years of marriage when Neil was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Read on to find out how they coped and check out the full story here.
Susan’s turn: She fell in love with her husband’s charm, wit, and smarts but has always been annoyed by his absentmindedness, selfishness and awkward social tendencies. While their kids were growing up, Neil could hardly handle the chaos children bring to married life—he’d go crazy if plans changed unexpectedly, and was often too honest with his kids (telling your daughter point-black that her drawings don’t look quite right? Not so great for her self-esteem). Neil seems incapable of handling anything, from paying bills to keeping a job to acting normally on social outings with friends. When Susan read an article about Asperger’s syndrome, she was shocked how much it reminded her of her husband—a bright guy who has tons of trouble interacting and communicating. But where do they go from here? She loves him too much to lose him, but will he be able to make some lifestyle changes before they both go insane?
Neil’s turn: Neil has always felt like he’s disappointing Susan (she seems to scold him constantly) but has never understood exactly what she wants from him. She’s made him out to be an ogre to their kids, always getting a word in edgewise when he tries teach them something or bond with them, but again, he doesn’t get what he’s doing wrong. Neil realizes he’s always had trouble dealing with other people, especially at work (he was once fired for taking an old typewriter from his office; it was “just sitting there” so it seemed like a logical thing to do), but can’t Susan just accept that social situations cause him anxiety? He’s miserable at parties, and hates when Susan gives him the third degree about how he acts at them. Neil’s always felt different from everyone else, like the rest of world has secret way of communicating. After discovering Asperger’s, he’d love to learn more and start repairing his family life.
September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Sure, sometimes we ladies like to be treated with chivalry and a touch of old-fashioned manners: opened car doors, chairs pulled back from dinner tables, a romantic gesture from our hubbies. But we like our modern, independent roles, too. (I can change that flat tire myself, thankyouverymuch.) So what happens when you’re a liberated lady and your spouse is stuck in Leave It to Beaver Land?
Maria, a 41-year-old mom of three, has been married to Jose for 20 years. When they met and fell in love, Jose promised she could go to school and get a job, but she got pregnant on their honeymoon and that was the end of that.
Maria’s turn Yes, Jose is a good husband, but he doesn’t understand that Maria has dreams and goals of her own that don’t involve him or their kids. He thinks that because he supports her financially and doesn’t drink, curse or sleep around, she should be completely happy in their marriage. He holds very traditional Latino ideals: The man’s place is at work, and the woman’s is at home. But Maria hates relying on Jose for every decision and purchase and wants to find fulfillment in working and making her own money; she even won a scholarship to a junior college but Jose wouldn’t let her accept it. Because he works so much to support them, they never spend any time together, and he gets angry when she goes out with friends or chats with strangers. He thinks of her as his property, not as his partner, and she’s tired of being the obedient wife.
Jose’s turn What has gotten into his wife? She didn’t make a peep about being unhappy for 20 years and now she wants a divorce. He gives her everything she could want – new clothes, nice cars, financial security – and yet she’s unhappy. So what if he doesn’t compliment her or call her or hold her hand? That’s how marriage was for his parents, who’ve been married 50 years. He does his job, which is to provide for the family, and he doesn’t understand why his wife still wants more. Why go to school now, since she won’t be done until she’s nearly 50? Besides, they don’t need the money. And he doesn’t like her seeing her friends because they’re the ones planting these ideas in her head. He’s baffled that Maria thinks their marriage is in trouble. Read more
September 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm , by Lauren Piro
Ever fantasize about moving around the world to start a new life? Writer Linda Leaming did just that—and fell madly in love, with both the quaint and tradition-laden South Asian country of Bhutan and with her husband, Namgay, a Bhutanese artist. Leaming’s memoir Married to Bhutan (Hay House), has just hit bookstores, but LHJ told her story first! We published the mind-blowing tale of how Linda and Namgay met in our January 2005 issue (read it here). I caught up with Linda, who’s spending a few months in her hometown of Nashville, and chatted about her unusual, bicontinental lifestyle.
Let’s start at the beginning—even before you met Namgay, you moved half-way around the world to live in Bhutan full time!
It’s true—I married the country before I married Namgay. After my first trip to Bhutan, I became obsessed with going back. Immediately after getting out of the plane, you see this amazing blue sky, and these beautiful mountains, and then you smell it. The air is so clean. From my first visit, I felt a kind of calm and peace of mind there.
What else made you want to want to live there? You ended up staying 14 years.
The people. The first time I was in Bhutan, I’d just come from India and felt sick (probably a case of “Delhi belly”). As I was resting in my hotel room, I heard a knock at the door and a man I’d never seen before was there. He said, “I am very worried about you!” and brought me a bowl of soup. All of the Bhutanese are like that—very caring. Plus, they like to have fun.
September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
As you may know, in the 50-plus-year history of our Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, there have been just a handful of times the marriages we’ve covered haven’t made it through counseling (see one example here, of a husband and wife who probably should never have married in the first place). Inspired by our Facebook fan Heather Fraser’s question about these doomed unions, here’s another of the marriages that could not be saved.
In our February 1973 issue, with a ravishing Liz Taylor on the cover, is the story of Sandy and Guy, a young married couple who weren’t mature enough to understand that marriage is a serious commitment but tied the knot anyway. From our editor’s notes in the introduction, “Marriage is not a game for children, yet many people behave as if it were.”
Sandy’s turn Her husband has “a total lack of fiscal responsibility”, can’t hold down a job and spends all his time drinking. Sandy had been on a round-the-world cruise, financed by her family, and while away she decided to give the marriage another shot. Guy showed up when her ship docked completely drunk, didn’t say a word about missing her while she was gone and left her “tottering with fatigue” when she arrived home and had to clean the house and put the kids to bed. When she confronted him about his behavior, he told her to bug off (in slightly rougher language) and turned on the TV. Sandy decided then and there to get a divorce and had her father hire a lawyer. Guy objected but eventually moved out, though he still shows up unannounced all the time. Sandy’s first marriage was a disaster arranged by her in-laws, and they divorced because her husband turned out to be gay. She became disillusioned with all men except her father, and when she met Guy she found him spoiled and lazy. She only agreed to marry him after she got pregnant. Before they even wed, he quit his job and invested in a coke-bottling plant that quickly went belly-up. Now all he does is sit around the house all day, sleeping till noon and drinking, and pays the bills with handouts from his mother. Read more
August 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Even the strongest of marriages can be tested by the wild ups and downs of infertility. Didi, a 37-year-old sales rep, who has been married to husband Mark, 35, for three years, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and is unable to have kids as a result. The couple desperately want a baby, but they can’t even discuss their options without a meltdown. (Read the full article in this month’s issue of LHJ, and here.)
Didi’s turn She is absolutely devastated that she can’t bear a child, and Mark makes her feel worse about it. He suggests using donor eggs like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal to Didi that she’d be carrying a child that’s not biologically her own. Plus, if something were to happen and she miscarried with a donor egg, she’d feel like a double failure. And she thinks he’s a class-A jerk to not even consider adoption as an option. The other issue is that Didi is East Indian, and donor eggs from that background are tough to find – not to mention expensive. With adoption, at least there’s a guarantee you’ll have a baby, but there’s no guarantee with IVF. She can’t understand why her husband is so concerned with passing on his genes and hates that he doesn’t acknowledge that Didi is grieving the loss of that chance for herself.
Mark’s turn He thinks acknowledging his wife’s infertility is dwelling on something they can’t change, so he doesn’t like to talk about the problem. He hates seeing her so upset all the time and thinks his encouragement to try a donor egg is a way to focus on the positive. Adoption terrifies him because of the horror stories he’s heard about kids hating their adoptive parents or biological parents coming back to claim their children years later. He’s also worried that he won’t love an adopted child as much as a biological one, and he resents Didi for telling him it’s ridiculous that he feels that way; she complains that he dismisses her feelings but she doesn’t realize she does the same thing. And life’s short – why not risk IVF and if it doesn’t work, use adoption as a backup option? He doesn’t think it’s fair he has to give up on his chance to be a father just because she can’t be a biological mother.
The counselor’s turn There are no easy answers in the IVF-versus-adoption debate, and many couples have the same issues that Didi and Mark are confronting. Didi’s emotional ups and downs and Mark’s temper were an issue, so they took steps recommended by the counselor to manage their feelings better (read more here). The counselor suspected Mark’s anger may be masking depression, so he visited a psychiatrist, who confirmed the diagnosis and put him on antidepressants, which helped his mood immensely. The couple had to take the time to mourn their loss and acknowledge that they’d never have a biological child together, and their pattern of ignoring the issue just kept them mired in it. They had serious questions to consider: Would Didi regret not attempting to carry a baby? Would she feel guilty she denied Mark the chance to be a father? Would Mark resent Didi if she refused to try IVF? After nine months of discussion, they reached an agreement: They would try to find an Indian egg donor but if they couldn’t, they’d adopt. They searched and searched and eventually did find a donor who looked a lot like Didi, but the woman changed her mind and Didi and Mark were crushed. That was the catalyst for their ultimate decision to adopt a child from India. They’ll travel to meet 18-month-old Nikel next month and bring him home to their family.
Have you struggled with infertility? Adopted a child? Do you think Didi and Mark made the right decision? Share your thoughts with us below.