10 Ways You Are Making Your Marriage Tougher Than It Has To Be.

Harder (2)Today’s “viral website life lesson that applies equally to marriage as anything else” comes to you from Tim Hoch over at Thought Catalog.

Tim is a fellow lawyer and mistake maker who provides 10 spot-on ways you’re making your life harder than it has to be.

But just like most business and life lessons, Tim’s 10 tips can help you make your marriage easier by simply asking yourself how the principles apply specifically to your marriage.

His tips are below. And my thoughts and responses to each of them follow.

So… let me know in the comments. How are you making your marriage tougher than it has to be?

1. You ascribe intent.

Does your wife squeeze the toothpaste from the middle because she hates your mom? Is your husband 20 minutes late for your family reunion because he secretly thinks he should have married his ex?

Probably not. She probably just squeezed it from the middle growing up. And he’s probably just bad with time. I bet he runs late for other things, too.

So slow down for a second. Stop trying to connect the dots. You’ll be much happier.

2. You’re the star of your own movie.

When your wife says she had a rough day do you give her a hug and ask how you can help her? Or do you say “you think that was bad, I got stuck in traffic and my boss didn’t let me grab lunch?!?!”

It’s not always about you, dude. Take a supporting role and watch the bliss happen.

3. You fast forward to apocalypse.

The world is not going to end because your wife shrunk your best shirt that they don’t make anymore. You will not end up homeless because she accidentally forgot to pay a bill on time.

Yes, perfectly avoidable things happen. Annoyances happen. Relax. At least you still have internet access… it can’t be that bad.

4. You have unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations.

What do you expect from your wife? If your answer sounds like “not much. As long as the kids are fed, washed, in bed by 7:30, asleep by 7:45, and oh yeah, she needs to make more money than me so I can travel the world to establish myself as the best nature photographer on the planet,” you’re probably pretty miserable.

And you are probably pretty disappointed with your wife.

On the other hand, you’re probably rockin’ it on all levels if your answer sounds like “we both expect to love and respect each other and make sure if there are any specific things we want or need to bring it up during one of our many chats.”

So which one are you closer to? I definitely went through a patch of unrealistic and uncommunicated expectations. And, well, this blog wouldn’t be called Confessions of a Terrible Husband if it worked out well….

5. You are waiting for a sign.

If you’re waiting for someone to tell you to do something nice for your wife, read all the way down to the copyright notice at the bottom of this page. You’re welcome.

6. You don’t take risks.

When’s the last time you opened up to your wife about something that scares you? How about the last time you sought out a marriage mentor? Got coaching? Saw a counselor?

Those things are risky and could result in uncomfortable conversations, hurt feelings, rejection, feeling inadequate, or feeling like a failure.

But they also could begin a conversation that leads to truly connecting with your wife.

7. You constantly compare your life to others.

You know that couple that’s always hugging, kissing, going on vacations, losing weight, climbing mountains, winning the lottery, and meeting famous people on Facebook?

Their lives aren’t perfect either. They just don’t post the crappy parts, like the bills, illnesses, loss, insecurities, or failures on Facebook. So stop comparing the highlights of their lives to your day-to-day grind, cool? Just focus on what you can do to create more meaningful moments and connections with the people closest to you and you’ll be just fine.

8. You let other people steal from you.

You wouldn’t hand your wallet to a stranger and say “go as far as it will take you,” would you? Why not?

Aside from the creep-factor and potential identity theft, it’s because you want the content of that wallet to provide for your family’s future, right?

So why do you let people steal time or energy from you that you could use to connect more meaningfully with your family?

Set up boundaries around your marriage and you’ll be well on your way to a more meaningful marriage.

9. You can’t/won’t let go.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. But here’s a hint. If you think or say “this is just like the time…,” “you always,” or “you never,” you need to let go of something.

Create a list of things that you need to forget. And move on. Please.

10. You don’t give back.

Make it a habit of making deposits into your marriage and giving back to your wife without expecting anything in return. A good rule of thumb is to make giving versus asking no less than a 3 to “stop counting jerk” ratio to achieve true happiness.

So there you have it. 10 Ways You Are Making Your Marriage Tougher Than It Has To Be.

Numbers 1, 4, 6, and 8 are my biggest issues. How about you?

How are you making your marriage tougher than it has to be?

Guest Confession: 3 Reasons to Forgive (Even When You Don’t Want To)

ForgiveToday I host another Guest Confession.  This post is from a friend of mine, Jana, who gives you three reasons to forgive, even when you don’t want to. I love having guest confessions on the blog, as it gives you and me another voice on such an important topic. Look for a bit more of that in the next few weeks. I’ll still be posting regularly (usually on Mondays).  But I’ll be adding posts more frequently and introducing some other great marriage voices.

Now to turn the blog over to Jana.  Be sure to give her a warm welcome and support in the comments.

Think back to your wedding day.

I’ll give you a minute.

It was probably one of the loveliest, most optimistic days of your life, with you and your new spouse filled with love and promise of your fairy tale happily ever after. You two are now a team, joined together, knowing you’ll stick to those vows you made in front of your friends, family, and God (unless you had a non-religious ceremony, in which case, just ignore that part). Nothing could ever come between you.

Until it does.

It comes out of nowhere and blindsides you. And it changes everything you knew, thought and felt towards your spouse and your marriage. Your happily ever after is now a big fat nightmare.

And you’re angry. And you feel betrayed and frustrated and hurt and sad and all the emotions. You don’t know what to do. You start asking questions that seem impossible to answer. First the questions turn inward–was it your fault? Did you fail as a spouse? Could you have prevented it? Then they get more global–do you stick it out? Do you get divorced? What about the kids, the house, the dog? Can you even afford a divorce?

It’s an endless stream of seemingly unanswerable questions because how do you answer them when everything you know and believed is gone? You never thought that you’d be in this position and now you are and you have to make a decision about how to proceed in a marriage you never thought would have to endure something like this.

It’s not an enviable position. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But there’s two things I can tell you for sure. One, it does get better. Two, it gets better as long as you do one thing.

It’s not a simple thing or even something that seems possible. But it is.

What’s the thing?

I know. It sounds insane because how can you possibly forgive someone who’s hurt you so badly? Who’s destroyed the very fiber of your marriage and basically spit on your vows? Who has shaken everything you know to the core? Who’s compromised your self-esteem, your self-worth?

I’m not going to lie. It’s tough. The good news is that you don’t have to do it right away. Let yourself be as angry as you want. Eventually the anger will subside and give way to the rest of the 5 stages of grief, and as that happens, you’ll come to realize that yes, it is possible to start working on forgiving them for how they’ve hurt you.

It’s possible because when you forgive, you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for you.

That was the hardest, yet most important, lesson I learned. I was resistant to it at first. I didn’t want to forgive my husband. He didn’t deserve it. How can I forgive someone who hurt me that much? However, the more I thought, and the more I listened to the points my therapist made, the more it made sense to ignore all my instincts and forgive him.

So, with great reluctance, I forgave him. And when I did, the following happened:

  1. Clarity. The heavens didn’t open up and angels didn’t sing but once I allowed myself to forgive him, I could think more clearly about how I wanted to proceed in our marriage. It let me see the progress he was making in his own therapy and the hard work he was doing to be a better husband. It stopped clouding my judgment. I started making rational decisions. And that brought about…
  2. Calmness. It is exhausting to be angry all the time. All your senses are heightened, you eat (or don’t eat) all the time, you can’t focus, and it hurts–physically, emotionally, psychologically. Your guard is up. All. The. Time. You can’t relax. But opening yourself up to forgiveness quiets your mind. All that energy devoted to being angry moves to other parts of your life. Which leads to…
  3. Healing. Hanging on to that kind of hurt and anger keeps the wound open and fresh. It can’t scab over and you certainly can’t move on. You stay stuck. But when you said “I forgive you”, the wound starts to close. It stops hurting so much. You started to feel better. You started to function like a normal person. You start moving on from what happened and think about the future.

Let’s be clear. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning the action. Forgiveness does not mean you have to forget. Forgiveness is simply a gateway to peace and healing.

You deserve that.

Jana Lynch is a blogger at Jana Says, where she talks about everything from parenting to pop culture to mental health issues, and runs the blogger mentoring program Bloggers Helping Bloggers. You can stop by and say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Have you ever forgiven someone even when you didn’t want to?  Share how that forgiveness changed you in the comments….

5 Simple Building Blocks For Becoming a Better Husband. Sadly, #3 Took Me Years to Figure Out…

5 Building Blocks (1)Not too long ago I made a commitment to become a better husband. I had been just plain “bad at being a husband” for about half a decade and if something didn’t change, my marital status would have.

So I went on a mission to improve my marriage, one day at a time.

And I committed to writing a book about how and why I became a terrible husband, how I realized I was a terrible husband, what exactly it was that made me so “terrible,” and what I did (and continue to do) to turn it around.

And while there are a lot of details that are beyond the scope of a blog post (hence the book…) becoming a better husband really boils down to these 5 simple, but not-so-easy building blocks, if you will:

1. Believe you need to improve.

A lot of people I meet say they need to improve. They often say it through the cliché “everyone can improve, right?” or “nobody’s perfect” lines….

I’m not talking about saying you can or could use to improve.

I’m talking about believing it. Believing that you are flawed in a way that you would not want for your daughter or that you would coach your son to avoid.

you’ve got to actually believe it.

2. Commit to improving.

This is pretty simple. Believing you need to improve is like believing you need to lose weight. Believing is essential, but does nothing without the commitment to eating less or exercising more, or both.

This is a mental switch that you must flip in order to transition from crappy to happy. #poetry ;)

3. Do fewer crappy things.

This building block is pretty ingenious and took all the knowledge I developed over the combined 8 years of undergrad and law school, plus a decade of New York law firm work. In fact, I would have posted this list earlier but I was waiting for NASA to confirm my findings….

According to them I needed to add one word to the end.

But since this is a PG blog, I just left it as is.

If you’re curious, let’s just say it’s a not-so-friendly way to call you a jerk.

Hey… it’s not my word. I’m just trying to help you become a less crappy husband over here… ;)

Send your hate mail to NASA.

4. Consume content about becoming a better husband.

We’ve talked about this before here. I have my favorite books and I talk about them over and over.

Don’t like to read.

Well, first, you’re reading right now sooooo… there’s that…..

Second, I get it. Maybe you don’t like to read “books.” So listen to audio books. Watch good movies. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Go to conferences or seminars (I’m still not sure if conferences and seminars are different things… but since you’re paying by the word I figure I’d keep them both in…).

Basically, stop watching Two and a Half Men and pick up a book about how to be less of a jerk.

Cool?

5. Apply what you learn.

What good is learning about being a better husband if you’re going to be nice for the rest of that night and then go back to being a jerk?

So be intentional about applying all the good stuff you learn from all those books on tape.

Make the good stuff the habit.

So there you go. Five building blocks for becoming a better husband. Do these things over and over again and you’ll have more good nights than bad.

So what are you waiting for?

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to that will help you become a better husband?

If you don’t have a ready answer, hit me up in the comments with your biggest obstacle to becoming better. I’ll put the names of whoever comments about an obstacle and promises to read and apply the lessons that resonate to them from a book in a drawing and send them a book next week.

It has to be a personal thing though – something about you – that’s keeping you from improving. Blame it on your wife and I’ll call you a big jerk right here to everyone.  Got it?!?!

3 things I wish I knew before I got married. #3 could have saved a lot of heartache.

Copy of 3 thingsI don’t do a lot of “what if” thinking.

Most of the time it’s not productive.

But “what if” blogging can help people who happen to stumble on this website while planning their wedding or preparing to propose.

Maybe one of these 3 things I wish I knew before I got married will help you no matter where you are in your relationship.

1. Your marriage will only be as good as you make it.

How many articles do you read a week about your favorite sports team? How many sit-coms did you watch this week? Medical dramas? House Hunters?

How much time have you spent at mlbtraderumors.com this week?

Now tell me how many words you’ve read about having a healthy marriage this week.  (“week” was word 126 of this post if that helps…).

What does it tell you if you spend more time comparing the per-square cost of toilet paper at Costco than you do learning about how to be a good husband?

The more you read, the more people you talk with about marriage, the more healthy marriage podcasts or shows you listen to or watch, the better a husband you’re going to be.  You will learn great lessons. They will be repeated. Reinforced. And eventually applied.

The less you do the worse it will be.

Do yourself a favor and carve out at least an hour per week of alone time to learn about how you can be a better spouse.

2. It doesn’t matter who emptied the dishwasher last.

I spent the first 5 years of marriage counting pretty much everything each of us did.

I’m pretty sure it’s because I worked so much that I felt the need to justify my existence at home considering how little I was there….

And when I emptied the dishwasher the whole world knew about it.

But it didn’t make anything easier. If anything it caused more frustration, arguing, and resentment around the house.

If you empty the dishwasher that’s great. But it’s nothing to celebrate.

It’s just something you did. You contributed to the household. Congratulations!

3. Her family is your family.

I’m blessed that I come from a great family. My wife’s family is large, about twice as big as mine (at least in the U.S. – don’t get me started counting the Pavlidi (is that the plural of Pavlidis?) in Greece….). And they’re great, too.

For the first several years we were together we argued about “family time.”

On Christmas, spending 1/2 the time with my family and the other 1/2 with hers didn’t work out because her parents had divorced and remarried when she was young.

So we had three full houses to visit.

It frustrated me because I thought it was “fair” to divide the time up 1/2, 1/2 between my wife and me.

She thought it wasn’t fair because then her parents would each only get 1/4.

She thought it was “fair” to divide the time 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

I didn’t think it was fair because then we’d be spending 2/3 of the time with her family.

Yes, we argued about stupid things like that.

At one point I even “offered” 40%, 30%, 30%.

I thought that made me the righteous one…

It didn’t sound as stupid back then… at least to me it didn’t…

After a few years of arguing about this (seriously…) 3 things about this caused me to think and act differently.

First, it doesn’t really matter how much time you spend with a particular person on one particular day. Even holidays.

What matters most is how you treat them every day. So who really cares if we spend 2/3 of the time with “her family” and only 1/3 with mine, or whatever?

Second, they’re not going anywhere.

They are her mom, dad, sister, brother, cousins, whatever. It just so happens that they’re all really nice. But even if they were jerks, they’re probably not going anywhere. She’s going to want to spend time with them. And I happen to enjoy spending time with them, too. In our case, not only are they not going anywhere, but I’m actually happy about that.

Third, her family blessed our marriage. They welcomed me to the family. They love me. They support me. They support us.

Sounds like family to me.

And while I’ve always loved spending time with her side of the family, it was “her family” for a while and I felt the need to “defend” time with “my family.”

Once I accepted those two things, it didn’t matter what percent of time we spent with whom. We see everyone. They know we love them. They’re all family.

I was pretty much arguing for the sake of arguing after a while. To win, so to speak.

Man, how many stupid fights I could have avoided if I had just realized that six years ago….

So there you go. 3 things I wish I could have told Young Nick as he got down on one knee to propose that brisk April evening in New York City.

What do you wish you knew before you got married?

Is there anything you argue about that’s probably just an exercise in winning an argument at this point?  Maybe it’s time to let it go.  

Congratulations, you’ve now read 888 words about improving your marriage today!

How are you going to apply those words to improving your relationship?