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March 26, 2015

How About a Vacation?

It is so easy to get caught up in all our must-do's and ought-to-do's, but these stresses make it harder to feel loved. And when we don't feel loved, loving a spouse or life partner can feel like work.

When your relationship feels like work, it's time to be imperfect and playful again. Set some time to let some responsibilities go. Cut out some of the stress. Hang up that "Gone fishin'" sign and get back to who you are when you're not struggling.

In other words, it's time for a vacation. Time off from your usual duties. Time off from trying to keep going when you're too tired or too resentful to keep going. Time to shake off the anger and frustrations that keep you from noticing how much you are loved. Time to create a whole bunch of micro-moments of positivity resonance with the person who loves you. And you'll need to shed the frustrations, do things that make you smile to make them.

My husband and I are headed for a Florida vacation next month, to a part of Florida we've never seen yet and some good times with wonderful people. I can't wait.

As a result, if your idea is a good time at the beach, especially if you are a fan of surfing and boardwalks and lots of free music, our usual vacation spot is yours for a discount price of $950, way less than the hotel it's in charges and less than I offer it to strangers for, because you're like family now.

I've owned this August 15-22 beachfront condo week on Virginia Beach since 1987, and I love the place. I've stayed there 23 of the years since then.

It's between 8th and 9th Streets, close to the 14th Street Pier and amusement park, the fishing, parasailing, and jet skiiing at Rudee's Inlet, and all the East Coast Surfing Championship events that week below 5th Street -- but just far enough away for a quieter beach and sleeping experience.

It's a 2-room suite with a bath in between. The bedroom is quiet, with a comfortable king-size bed and a TV. The other room has a balcony facing the ocean, a full-size refrigerator, everything you need to prepare and serve meals, a dishwasher, a sofa-bed, an arm chair and ottoman, a TV and DVD player, and a table and chairs for four. If you really must check your email, there's free wi-fi. Down the hall is a coin-operated laundry. On the first floor, there's a heated indoor pool, a hot tub, and a workout room.

Because all the comments on this blog are moderated, you can contact me about it just by posting a comment. The comment will never get published.

Whether it interests you or not, I would love to read comments about the types of vacations that help you shed stress and reconnect -- or about any vacation problems you and your spouse are dealing with. Thanks for reading this blog and for allowing me to use it this one every once in a long while.

February 23, 2015

You're the Last Person I Will Love

I might have missed Glen Campbell's song "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" if I had not watched the Oscars® last night. I had not heard it was nominated or that it won a Grammy. I did not know about the documentary about his life with Alzheimer's, the one he wrote it for, which aired right near me a few weeks ago.

But then I heard Tim McGraw sing it, and I hurried upstairs to tell my dear, sweet husband about it. And I couldn't get the words out. I choked up and tears flowed.

You're the last person I will love. You're the last face I will recall. Best of all, I'm not gonna miss you.

I can't type them now without tearing up.

You can hear Glen Campbell sing these words to his wife on the NPR website.

If you're wondering if it's worth getting through whatever disagreement, slight, or unfair responsibility is bothering you this week, I really hope you will.

Although Kim is Campbell's fourth wife, they have been together, deepening their roots and connections, for 33 years. For the first five, he was a drug-abusing alcoholic while she had the kids. One of the great things about a long-lasting, happy marriage is what it does for your relationship with your grown children. After his diagnosis, Campbell got to tour and perform with 3 of their grown children for 2 1/2 years while filming the documentary.

CNN has just bought the documentary to air in June and November. I'll be watching.

February 16, 2015

How Much to Spend on Your Engagement Ring

My grandfather sold a lot of engagement rings over his 50+ years at Tiffany's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I'm sure he would have agreed "A diamond is forever," a De Beers slogan introduced during the Great Depression, a tough time to sell jewelry.

Diamond engagement rings were uncommon then, but so were divorces.

If "a marriage is forever" sounds more like what you are hoping for, you might consider spending $500 to $2,000 on the ring. Those who spend more divorce more.

From Best Bet for a Long Marriage: A Cheap Wedding with Lots of People Watching on AllGov.com, based on research by Economists Andrew M. Francis and Hugo M. Mialon, Emory University in 'A Diamond is Forever' and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. The authors also conclude that more guests, lower expenses, and taking a honeymoon are also hallmarks of lower divorce risk.

Sorry, Grandpa. Maybe the diamond is better as a 25th anniversary gift.


February 7, 2015

15-Minute Major Marriage Makeover

If your marriage is not everything you hoped it would be, the next 15 minutes could create a major improvement.

Please note: this makeover is not for marriages experiencing violence, threats of violence, addictive behaviors, or current infidelity.

Here are your instructions:

Take 2 minutes to list your biggest disappointments about your marriage. Write them down the left side of a sheet of paper. Leave room on the right.

Take 3 minutes to write alongside each one what you need. What need of yours is not being met by each of these disappointments? Be specific. Instead of "dishwashing," write "fairness in our division of chores" or "time for myself in the evening" or "stronger fingernails."

Take 3 minutes to list at least ten pleasing things your spouse does when your marriage is going really well. This second list is not the reverse of the first list. Do not write what would make you feel better about the marriage. List the nice things your mate does when he or she feels great about your relationship.

Take 2 minutes to circle any needs on your first list that could possibly be met some other way if you stopped expecting whatever is disappointing you. For example, a need for fairness might be met with some other chore. Stronger fingernails might be met with a dishwasher or paper plates. Time for yourself might be met with a shorter commute or a shorter workday or a housekeeper. Knowing he or she is not meeting your expectations inhibits your spouse from doing the things on that second list.

Take 3 minutes to list the most likely reason your spouse disappoints you on each item where you added a circle. Check the second list to see if it contradicts your reason before you write it. Focused on just one disappointment, you may see your spouse as lazy or unromantic or unfair, but if this does not describe him or her during the good times, think again. You know a lot more than you realize about your spouse's motivations.

Take 2 minutes to plan your request for a Third Alternative on one of your needs. A Third Alternative is one that meets your need and at the same time avoids whatever is stopping your spouse from meeting that need the way you expected. Pick one of those circled needs that you cannot take care of on your own. Fill in one of these opening sentences, then find a calm and unrushed time to say it to your husband or wife or partner in life:

"I love you, and I want to do what's best for you. Will you help me brainstorm some ways that don't require _____ from you but help me get the __________ I need?"

"I love you, and I want more of those wonderful things you do for me when I'm not nagging or moping. Will you help me brainstorm some ways that make sure you get all the _____ you need and also get me the __________ I need?"

That's it. You fell in love with the wonderful things your spouse does when all is well. Nothing has changed. If things are going less well now, your expectations of what else he or she should do for you may be what stands in your way. Marriages drift apart or turn unpleasant when we expect particular acts of love. Your spouse's love is not gone, only the ability to show it without a "Nice, but." Set it free again.

Expect Love.

February 3, 2015

7 Divorce Alternatives When You Can't Stand the Spouse You Love

Frustration, anger, and fear normally drive us to either-or thinking. Too many of us who still love the person we married end up considering divorce because life with our spouse has become intolerable. Let me suggest a few alternatives that most of us never consider until it's too late:

1. You'll need two homes if you divorce. Why not get them now? You may find you really need only a few hours a week apart or a very small space for keeping your hobby gear always out to keep your love alive.

2. If part of the allure of divorce is the chance to go out with friends after work, go out with those friends. You two will need to figure out a way to avoid disappointing a spouse who gave up other opportunities to eat dinner with you or who has been in the kitchen cooking for you or who usually depends on you to do the cooking, but those are much easier problems to tackle than the ones divorce will hand you.

3. If divorce would mean 50-50 or 4 night - 3 night joint custody or full custody with visitation rights, implement it now. Stop the battles over responsible parenting or differences in parenting style. Stay under one roof with a custody schedule and let all that resentment go. You might rediscover the man or woman you loved in return.

4. Would you need to sell some of your share of your joint assets to get by after divorce? Sell them now. Put the cash in a bank account for following or protecting your dreams.

5. Would divorce protect you from your spouse's angry outbursts? Hire someone else to deal with them. Offer a college student from the local gym or the local psychology department free dinners to come spend 6 to 9 pm in your home and stand in for you when you simply walk away from these outbursts to a quieter part of the house or neighborhood. Treat them like symptoms of a disease you are not trained to cure.

6. Would divorce put an end to sloppiness in your home and yard? Make clean-ups your top priority. Work fewer hours on other things so you can. Or work more hours and pay someone else to handle the mess. Or redesign your living quarters to require a lot less care. Without the criticism, your spouse's loving side may surprise you again.

7. Would divorce free you to travel more, dance more, climb more mountains, or take more classes? Free yourself. Stop waiting for your spouse and go do them alone or with friends.

If you have stopped loving your spouse or don't feel safe around him or her, please ignore everything above. But if you are one of the millions saying "I love you, but I am no longer in love with you," then one of these might spare you the pain of divorcing someone you love.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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