Pre-Marital Tips for Covid Couples

Covid weddings. Scaled-down, outdoors, streaming. They’re a sign of the times. That’s why the recent New York Times headline “Their Focus Was on the Marriage, Not the Wedding” got my attention. The article detailed the story of a Texas couple, Carmen and Aaron, who met on Bumble, fell in love, moved in together, and then decided to get married. And, like so many pandemic couples, instead of putting off the wedding, they decided to go for an outdoor ceremony, with most loved ones attending via zoom.

Like most couples, at first they were immersed in the planning. Then, just a few weeks before the wedding, a crazy Texas storm threw their state into an odd deep freeze and thousands – including Carmen and Aaron – lost electricity. As a result, they had no water or power and, in the unexpected cold, a pipe burst and covered 60% of their home in water.

Overnight, their life became a big mess, but it turns out, a blessing in disguise. The bride later told the Times, “My focus became less on the outward appearance of a wedding and more on beginning our marriage.” The groom agreed and said, “That is what matters the most.” Carmen is wise, Aaron is correct.

Covid’s Gift to Newlyweds

Covdi restrictions created huge changes everywhere, and wedding venues are no exception. However, not all of them are bad or disappointments.

In “normal” times, most brides and grooms spend a couple of years and thousands of dollars planning the one-day event that someone said they would remember forever. That’s a ton of pressure. As a result, when the wedding becomes the focus, the couple spends very little time, if any, planning the marriage they say they want to last “til death do they part”. Makes no sense, right?

Yes, they talk about where they’ll live, or, if they are already living together, will live next. And maybe they gush about being soulmates and talk about their love for each other and have some big dreams. It’s not enough.

When the crap hits the fan, the couple doesn’t know what to do about it. They argue, resentment results, problems aren’t solved, and then they get into a “rinse and repeat” pattern. The magic of make-up sex lasts just so long…and, little by little, loves dies.

In pandemic times, with couples having fewer wedding distractions, they have more bandwidth to talk about life after they say “I Do”. However, like being alone in a desert, many wonder, “what should we be talking about now?”

There are 10 Questions that Matter for the Long Term Success of your Relationship

No need to wonder what to be talking about now…just download my Top Ten Questions That Matter Now and start the conversation.

Click HERE to Download: Top Ten Questions

What To Expect

As you and your sweetie work through these, your answers will give you a better picture of who you’re marrying and what your life together will look like – in real life, not wedding fantasies. Also, they will likely lead to other rich discussions. Choose that opportunity to get better together.

Actually, just the exercise of talking about your future will give you practice in communicating with each other. You’ll get to see what it’s like to be on the same page of one issue, and also what not being on the same page is like. That alone is worth the time and energy it’ll take to work through these – and what you learn will be a million times better, and longer lasting, than what you’ll get from a good DJ, great-tasting wedding cake, and purple napkins at a big wedding.

For more questions and tips about marriage including how to shift the marriage paradigm in your favor, you’ll find them in my book, available in paperback and Kinlde on Amazon, The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm. 

Maine – My Way

Greetings! I’m glad you found The Maine Diaries! If you want to experience the joys of New England, and specifically the coast of Maine, this is a good guide.

I started The Maine Diaries because I’ve love traveling the Maine coast and want to share my experiences with you.  They are based on my 25 road trips that started in 1994.  My traveling partner – and my partner in life – is my spouse, Joseph Eagle.

On my trips, I leave from West Chester PA (a western suburbs of Philadelphia). The destination is always the same: the area of coastal Maine known as Downeast, on Mt. Desert Island – the largest island off the coast of Maine – and home to Bar Harbor and the breathtaking Acadia National Park.

The road trip Downeast (from Philadelphia), is 10-13 hours, depending on how often you stop. I’ve done it in a one-day drive, and it’s doable. But it’s long with usually at least two traffic bottlenecks (usually in CT and MA). So if you can do an overnight along the way, do it. You’ll enjoy the ride – and the trip – more. However, if you do, don’t just stop at some no-tell-motel. Pick a place to explore and make it fun. Along the coast, there are unlimited places to have an adventure. Many of those places are mentioned, and some detailed, in The Maine Diaries.

The Drive

How I make the trip  is driving straight through PA, NJ, NY, and CT (all places close enough that I can explore another time in a weekend getaway).  Then I meander through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and once in Maine, along the coast through southern Maine, Portland/Casco Bay, and Mid-coast to get to my Downeast destination. You can easily follow the areas on a map.

After years of trying different routes north, Joseph and I found the best – and least stressful – way is the PA Turnpike to Garden State Parkway around NYC and over the TappanZee/Cuomo Bridge, to the Merritt Parkway and I84 in CT, to I90E (Mass Turnpike), 495N (around Boston) to I95N through NH into Maine.

Side Trips and Overnights

Massachusetts

  • Sturbridge/Walden Pond: This is where I typically stop for a meal. Old Sturbridge Village is a “living history museum” and worth seeing one time. Also along the way, as you drive east toward Boston, you could stop at Walden Pond. It’s a townie park now and, on a nice day, crowded with bathers. However, if you’re a fan of Henry David Thoreau there is a small area that would interest you. If not a fan, don’t bother.
  • Boston: You can do an overnight in Boston. but there’s so much history to see and cool things to do in the town, it’s worth a couple overnights, or a trip on its own. On my way to Maine, I like to go just a bit further north until I stop for the overnight.
  • Salem MA: This town is about 5 hours from Bar Harbor. I only stop here if I’m also doing a second overnight in Portland ME. I love a stop here, and have done it a few times. It’s a cute town – lots of witchy stuff to see. I’d pass on most of the touristy “witch trial” stuff. Three fabulous things do for an overnight, presuming you get there in mid-late afternoon:
    • The House of the Seven Gables tour. So interesting! It’s worth reading some – or all – of the book in which Hawthorne describes some of the historical buildings that still exist today.
    • Ghost Tour. There is also a ghost tour presented by a true warlock who is more focused on history than ghosts. He’s fabulous!
      • He took us past the old jail (now condos) and the Monopoly Houses (Parker Brothers games were born in Salem)
    • The Peabody Essex Museum is nice on its own, but the “don’t miss” thing to see at the PEM is the authentic Chinese house. Built in 1800 – bought in China, dismantled there and reassembled here. It’s fascinating to see and the videos of the moving process are something to see.
    • Hotels: I’ve stayed at the historic Hawthorne Hotel on a B&B deal. It was OK, pricey with tiny rooms – but worth taking a look and having a drink in the Tavern and breakfast was good. I loved the Salem Inn. When I was there it included wine and cheese at 5pm, which we enjoyed in the quaint and quiet courtyard, and breakfast. And a ghost…which Joseph and I named Catherine.
    • Marblehead: About 10″ from the town, this is a beautiful port with lots of American Revolution history
  • Cape Anne: Everybody knows Cape Cod in the south, but the northern Cape Anne is home to Rockport, with one of the most painted buildings in the country (“Motif#1”). If you go, enjoy the scenery and the seafood…but don’t miss The Paper House

New Hampshire – about 4-4.5 hours from Bar Harbor

  • Portsmouth is a cool little city. It has some history, a good nightlife, and is easy to walk. The town is very cute during the day, has some historical sections, and the couple bars are hopping – we especially like the Irish Bar.
  • The NH Liquor Store is a good stop for reasonably priced alcohol before going into Maine. It’s an easy on-off from 95. It’s much like Total Wine in DE.

Southern Maine – Lots of cute little beach towns, including…

  • Kittery. From Portsmouth or the liquor, you’re about 10 minutes from the bridge into ME – first town is Kittery. Lots of outlets but pretty much like what we have here. What is worth a stop is When Pigs Fly Bread. It’s a place to get food and drink and, attached to the bar, is the mothership for the best-ever breads. Lots to sample, sweet and savory. I usually bring many loaves home but – since covid – have ordered my favs. In 2020, when I couldn’t vacation in Maine, one of my friends (who owns property nearby) brought bread back for me. But I missed it so much that I had a bunch of loaves sent to me.
  • Ogunquit has awesome scenery. You can grab a bite to eat here during the day and then take the walking path, which meanders along a hill overlooking the ocean – and worth the walk. Also look for Perkins Cove because it is a romantic little place with stores and cafes – small but nice. I can recommend 2 good restaurants: Pizza Napoli, owned by my friends, Robert and Michael, and Roberto’s – where they hang out when not at their own place.
  • Kennebunkport is a quiet town which boasts the Bush compound – which you can only see from a distance
  • Old Orchard Beach may be the most popular family town for summer visitors. It reminded me of Ocean City NJ – and a bit too busy for me. However, if you want a lot of family-friendly activity, it could be your favorite place.

Portland/Casco Bay

  • About an hour north of Kittery and Ogunquit is Portland. This town is a great overnight and even worth a few days. Portland is a major city – but not like Philly and much smaller and very walkable. When I first went to Portland, much of the downtown (Old Port) was a burned-out place, and a little scary. Not anymore. By 2019 it was all small shops and cool bars – and The Holy Donut – another foody place not to be missed. Amazing potato donuts (I don’t much care for either donuts or potatoes, but these potato donuts are dream-worthy!)
    • Where to Stay
      • Uptown – Congress Street is the main drag for traditional stores and there’s lots of activity. I’ve stayed at the Westin and my favorite thing is watching the sunset and having drinks at the rooftop bar. I also loved the small eateries up, down, and around Congress Street.
      • Old Port – I’ve also stayed downtown by the waterfront, e.g. at a Marriott. Both the area and the hotel are just OK – and, I think, a lot more expensive; I like uptown better for its location.
      • Scarborough is just outside of the city and an easy drive into Portland. It has several chain hotels, and less expensive in cash/easier to  exchange points during high season. However, make your reservation early to get your best deal.
    • What To Do
      • There are many things to do in Portland and, during  the summer months, lots of events. So check local listings and the local Patch to find them. Here are some good standards that, if you are only doing an overnight or weekend, your best bets:
        • Portland Art Museum there – decent but not someplace I would visit again.
        • The Victoria Manson is a historical house that was slated for demolition and saved by a history-focused group. It’s been lovingly restored. I’ve seen a couple times – worth it if you like that kind of thing.
        • Portland Headlight is one big place not to be missed. It’s a beautiful lighthouse in a peaceful coastal setting – and the park is a good place to walk, see the sites, take pix, and suck in some of that good Main salt air.
        • Becky’s Diner on Commercial Street is THE place for breakfast. You’re likely to wait 30-60 minutes to get in, but it’s good diner food and real Maine atmosphere…and at an average price.
        • The Holy Donut has a couple locations and, even though I don’t care much for potatoes or donuts, I crave these!
        • The Portland Observatory is on the northern end of the peninsula. It’s a civil engineering feat and the the last historic maritime signal station. It’s a great stop if you have a couple hours. If you time is right, you can visit here and then get something to eat in Munjoy Hill.
        • Walk! During the day, consider walking around the city of Portland. It has several funky neighborhoods that are interesting to observe on foot. I like seeing very old buildings on Congress Street. Also, the intersection of Congress, Free, and High Streets is a bustling place – and, at night – is an amazingly cool visual treat.
        • Enjoy the vibrant Night Life. There are lots of cool places but they turn over fast, so check Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what’s
    • Most of the restaurants have average offerings, but good ones. There are some interesting upscale places in Munjoy Hill section on the northeast section of the peninsula.
    • The Trader Joe’s in Portland carries a large selection of locally brewed beers. Rising Tide is Joseph’s favorite (Portland-made) beer, but he likes to try others too.

Leaving Portland, going north – on the highway I295 – you can stop in Freeport, Home of LL Bean. If you’re a fan, you can get some discounts there. There are some cute shops and also a small When Pigs Fly bread store and a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. However, unless you have a purpose for going, it’s not a “must do” stop.

If you want to drive straight through from Portland to Bar Harbor, you can take I295 north toward Augusta and then pick up I95 at Gardiner into Bangor (where Stephen Kind lives) before going east to Bar Harbor. That drive is about 3 hours.

OR, if you want to meander up in coast, you can take I295 out of Portland and get onto scenic Rt. 1, which takes you through the small towns. I like doing that on the way to Bar Harbor, through tiny towns on Rts 1 and 3, in the way into Ellsworth – the county seat and the city closest to Bar Harbor (and where all the regular grocery stores, Walmart, etc. are). Personally I like doing it on the way up but, on the way back (and because I’m ready to get home) Joseph and I go the more direct route, driving west from Bar Harbor to Bangor and then south on I95 out of Maine.

IF YOU GO SCENIC RT 1: There are lots of little towns along the way – some more interesting than others – but each one having its own special charm. Here are some I’ve been to and visit from time to time:

  • Wiscasset: Off the beaten path, is Wiscasset – home of Red’s Eat – internationally lauded for its lobster rolls. It’s literally a shack in the center of town. Expect to wait in line about an hour to order at the window and another 20” from the time you order until you get your food. If you go between lunch and dinner (around 2-3pm) it’s faster – hardly a line. Either way, if you love lobster roll, it’s the best around. FYI: if you’re with someone who isn’t a fish person…Joseph doesn’t eat it and gets a sirloin steak sandwich.  Both are wicked good!
    • Don’t let the time in line stop you. If you’re friendly, you’re likely to meet some interesting people and have some cool conversations. However, it’s sunny – so wear your hat to guard from too much sun.
  • Boothbay Harbor – about 20 minutes from Wiscasset, this is a quaint coastal town of lighthouses and the longest wooden footbridge in the country. It’s also where the old-time musical Carousel was filmed
  • Monhegan Island: Between Freeport and Wiscasset, and off the coast, is Monhegan Island. This is a magical place where several of the Wyeth family own or have owned houses there. I believe Jaime still do and still paints there. You have to plan this trip in advance – and it makes sense to stay at a B&B overnight – because you can only get to the island by mail ferry, leaving from Port Clyde at 7am, and you return the same way in late afternoon.
    • It’s an adventure if you go, and worth the extra effort. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Port Clyde Lighthouse.
  • Damariscotta: Just past Wiscasset is Damariscotta. This little town is worth stopping in for a short stay…because it’s sooooo Maine. And it’s the home of the original RENY’s – the funky department store you see all over Maine.
  • If you are staying on the coastal road, you’ll practically run right into Rockland, Rockport, and Camden.
    • Rockland is a sweet little town and home to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse (which you can only get to by foot – 3/4 mile one way) and the Farnsworth Art Museum, which houses both local artists and many famous Wyeth family paintings.
    • Just north of Rockland is Rockport, a beautiful harbor town.
    • Same with Camden jut up the road – “jewel of the coast” – with lots of big boats and yachts. You could visit both of those in a day. And, while in Camden, you could go to Camden Hills State Park and take a hike up Mount Battie for some ama zing views of Penobscot Bay.
  • Continuing north you’ll pass through towns like Belfast, Stonington, Deer Isle, and Blue Hill.
    • Blue Hill is called the considered the gateway to Acadia. If you read Charlotte’s Web as a kid…Blue Hill was the home of EB white, who wrote Charlotte’s web. If you go there around Labor Day, you can go to the Blue Hill Fair – and don’t be surprised if you feel like you just walked into Charlotte’s Web…because you are! White fashioned the county fair in his book after the Blue Hill Fair. I didn’t know that when I went to the fair the first time. Still, I noticed how much it reminded me of the book. It was a year or two later that I learned it was White’s hometown – that’s how good his descriptive writing was!
      • If you go to the fair, you’re very likely to see Wilbur there – though Charlotte sees to stay out of site whenever I’ve gone.
  • As you get closer to Bar Harbor, you’ll pass through Bucksport.  This is the place that boasts (what I think) is the scariest bridge ever: The Penobscot Narrows Bridge – one of only 3 such bridges in the country. I don’t drive over it – I drove over the rickety old one, but this one is too much for me. Fortunately it doesn’t bother Joseph. However, there are two things you can enjoy around here:
    • Penobscot Narrows Observatory: This is the tallest bridge observatory in the world. Visitors can go inside the observatory and to the top – and it’s very cool to be there and see the river and adjoining town from almost (I think) a half-mile up.
    • On the same side of the river as the observatory is Fort Knox – and interesting military compound leftover from the Civil War. It’s worth seeing once – and it isn’t very expensive to visit.
    • Just over the bridge is Verona Island – a good place to stop and have a picnic by the Penobscot River.
  • About another half-hour drive and you are in the town of Ellsworth – the county seat and the town that serves Mt. Desert Island.
    • There’s a lot of history here, including the Woodlawn Museum, once owned by wealthy captain who created much of Ellsworth’s trade one hundred or more years ago, and the Ellsworth Bird Sanctuary.
    • Ellsworth features a lot of entrepreneurs, artists, and a few restaurants. My go-to is the Riverside Café but I’ve also enjoyed dinner at the Irish bar (Finn’s Irish Pub). Joseph loves visiting the British me-too pub (Airline Brewing Company). The first time we went they didn’t serve more that picky snacks, but now they have a menu – including bangers and mash and even pasties. Being there is like being in the UK.
    • Ellsworth is also where the main grocery shopping is with a few major grocery stores and Walmart are.

Bar Harbor is east of Ellsworth. BUT, if you go north from Ellsworth, you’ll pass the Schoodic Peninsula and be heading toward Canada – and how you travel if you want to hike Mount Katahdin. I’ve never done it, but I have explored the little towns along the way, including the Quoddy Lighthouse and Campobello, former summer home of FDR.

From Ellsworth, drive about 30” onto Mt. Desert Island. There are 3 main harbors on Mt. Desert:

  • Bar Harbor, touristy but quaint with the largest number of stores and restaurants
  • Southwest Harbor, small and with a slightly upper middle-class vibe
  • Northeast Harbor, where you’ll see the yachts and could even run into a Rockefeller, Dick Wolf, or Martha Stewart.
  • There are other, smaller places, like Pretty Marsh, but unless you know someone there or have something to do there, it’s not a good use of time – but it’s also where some of the best seasonal restaurants can be found. It’s hard to say which ones because those island restaurants can be gangbusters one summer and gone the next.

The primary thing on Mt. Desert is the spectacular Acadia National Park. It’s filled with breathtaking beauty, and more hikes than you can imagine, as well as carriage trails that go through the prettiest parts of the park.

  • Start at the Visitor center and get a park pass. You may have to make a reservation to get into the park – and the rangers will tell you.
  • Drive the Ocean Drive to get a feel for the park. You’ll drive through or past places like Thunder Hole.  You can get out and walk a little bit or a lot.
  • Plan to go up to Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak – and the first place the sun comes up on the east coast.
    • You can hike up the mountain and I’ve done it a couple times – and that’s fun. It’s more fun to hike up the mountain and walk back on the road (but be careful).
    • Drive up the mountain for either sunrise or sunset – two of the best things to do in Acadia.
      • When you go for sunset, go early. Lots of people go, so it gets crowded. One year there was someone who got freaked out by the height and drove about 5mph, and we missed the sunset
      • Once I took friends, who was visiting for the day, up to Cadillac and there was a man on the mountain playing bagpipes…it was amazing!
  • Many of the hikes start of the Jordan Pond House, so it’s hub and gets busy. Get there early for parking. Two good hikes from that hub are the
    • Jordan Pond Path (goes around the pond – takes about 2 hours). Half the path is a flat path and the other is through the woods and over boulders – dress with appropriate foot gear. From Jordan Pond House, I like starting on the left side because it’s the more challenging part. Halfway around, at the base of “The Bubbles” the path flattens out.
    • Jordan Stream Path
      • This is the opposite direction from the Pond and through the woods to Seal Harbor. The return in on a lovely carriage road
    • Popovers at Jordan Pond House are a must – out in the backyard looking at The Bubbles – a good way to end either hike
  • Two other favorite hike are:
    • Ocean Path, which starts  at Sand Beach and is relatively easy – no big boulders to climb over – with amazing views all along. I like doing this one in late afternoon because that’s when it’s the least crowded. I bring a snack to eat at the end of the way out while enjoying the lowering sun. The way back to Sand Beach is during sunset and the changing colors makes the trek even better.
    • Connors Nubble, not as easy one going up the mountain – but not real strenuous. Then, when you come down the mountain, you end up on a flat carriage trail.

Night Life: Don’t expect a lot of nightlife in Bar Harbor. But if you hike all day, that might not matter. If I finish a hike in the latter part of the day, I enjoy having a drink at happy hour in one of the many outdoor bars. The restaurants are good. I like Havana, Café This Way, Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast and the Black Friar.

Where to stay: I stay at Windward Cottages – and they are the best! They are housekeeping cottages overlooking Clarks Cove. Owner Ollie Wenger does everything to make sure you have a good stay. Also, I like that all the harbors are about 15” from the cottage. And some of the good eating places are outside of Bar harbor areas…like Mothers Kitchen for lunches (across the street from the cottage), Burning Tree, The Common Good (popovers) and Red Sky (Southwest), Beal’s Lobster Pound, and XYZ.

Best Marriage Advice He Ever Got

When Ronald Roache got married, his new father-in-law gave him and his new bride, Yoshiko, some marriage advice. “Marriage is a business,” he told them. “part love and part business. You can’t go into the store and say, ‘I love my husband, now give me groceries.’”

At the time, Ronald and Yoshiko did what most young couples would do, they didn’t pay a lot of attention. However, it didn’t take long to find the truth in the older man’s words. Today, sixty-four years later, he says was the best piece of relationship advice he ever got.

Like most couples, when the two started out, they loved each other. Though they were mixed race (he’s black and she’s Asian), they presumed love would somehow conquer all. It wasn’t that easy.

In addition to making all the usual adjustments and decisions about housing, children, budgets, etc, their union caused its own problems. Back in the 1950’s, mixed-race marriages were way less accepted than today (if at all – and, in some places, were illegal). So the couple faced lots of social challenges right from the start. Living their life together as a “part love, part business” partnership made the difference.

Can Lovers Be Partners?

Most couples getting married today could use the same advice. Like  Ronald and Yoshiko, they marry because they love each other. However, as soon as the ring is on her finger, the task of figuring out what their soon-to-be partnership means gets back-burnered. Instead, hours and hours are spent over many months planning the wedding – an event that’s over in a day. Little time is spent planning the marriage – which, on their wedding day, the couple vow will last a lifetime.

The thing is, once the party is over and the wedding dress is packed away, real life happens. Bills come due, jobs change, children are born, houses are bought, mortgages need to be paid, cars break down, someone gets sick – all normal life changes. Normal, but they create stress and tension in a relationship. Then, if it’s normal, how do you manage those normal stresses – and still keep the love alive?

That’s what Ronald’s father-in-law was talking about in his simple but powerful advice. He knew how hard marriage is in the best circumstances. He also knew, without the business side in place, keeping the love burning when there are piles of loveless crap heaped on top of it – that’s an almost-impossible dream.

Creating and managing a good partnership is key to dealing with the “stuff” of life, love, and marriage. That’s what makes it the cornerstone of The Five-Year Marriage®.

Is it Really Love?

When people first learn about the Five-Year Marriage®, a common reaction is “it seems more like business than love.” Not true.

In the first place, why would you be thinking about marriage without love? Even in platonic marriages, where there’s no romance or sex involved, the partners have some kind of love for each other. So the love part is a given.

Next, ask anyone who is divorced about the love. When a marriage ends, even when it ends amicably, all that love is overshadowed by the business of who gets what. Many divorced men and women have admitted that, if they had worked together in their marriage the way they worked to get divorced, they might still be married. In fact, studies show that 6% of couples get back together and, when they do, 72% of the remarriages work. That’s likely because the couple learned (1) that love isn’t enough and (2) there’s value to being partners. Partners articulate their shared values and goals, talk about problems and work out solutions, make written agreements, share responsibilities equitably, and get outside help when they need it.

For most couples, the Five-Year Marriage® model has them doing more business upfront, with regular check-ins, and periodic (five-year) resets. That work doesn’t only build the partnership, it also fosters more trust, respect, and emotional safety – all the stuff real love is.

Marriage Tips for a Healthy Marriage with Partnership

I’m Annmarie Kelly. Over my career as an author, empowerment speaker, radio host, and victory strategist, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to help empower many women to live their best life. Now, I’m offering much-needed advice to singles, engaged, and married couples who are looking for an alternative to traditional marriage – help and tips that empower both partners to live their best marriage..and best life together. If you want to learn more about how The Five-Year Marriage® can offer you the advice you and your partner have been looking for, click through to read more about The Five-Year Marriage® or contact me today.

But She Was My Soulmate

Soulmates was what they said. From the first day they met, Jim, the young doctor, and Sandy, the promotions manager, were so easy being together – no awkward moments, no missteps, just comfortable and happy. Their connection got very deep very fast.

Then Sandy told him she met someone else.

“What happened – how could this happen?” Jim wondered. “I thought soulmates were forever.”

Really?

What Is a Soulmate?

What is a soulmate? The answer depends on whether you want to reality or the romantic definition.

Literally-speaking, a soulmate is someone with whom you have an inexplicably strong connection. When you meet, you “click” quickly and easily. You like being with each other. You feel comfortable when you’re together.

The soulmate connection could be romantic and/or sexual but it can also be mental, emotional, spiritual, ideological, or something else. Your soulmate(s) can be strictly social or can even be a work or situational soulmate.

Also, the idea that there is just one soulmate for any one person is bogus. The average person can have many soulmates…even many romantic soulmates.

You can be with your soulmate for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

The Soulmate Myth

The mystique surrounding the soulmate is the stuff of fairy tales. One of the best ways to describe the soulmate myth is through the Urban Dictionary definition. It perfectly captures the impression too many people have:

“Fate and destiny contribute to the romantic bliss and happiness where both partners are so immersed in the strong karmic connection. The relationship between soul mates has a certain magical, mystical feel to it. The love is so strong, the chemistry is unexplainable, and sex is mind-blowing. Destiny makes sure these people find each other and gives two people the opportunity to have a fabulous relationship, grow as people and learn valuable lessons.”

Karmic? Magical? Mystic? Maybe soulmates are all of those. Or maybe that’s a lot of crap.

Still, even if your soulmate connection is romantic, it doesn’t necessarily mean s/he is a “forever in this lifetime” person.

Do You Have a Soulmate?

If soulmates actually exist, the likelihood that you have a soulmate is high. That’s because soulmates are part of reincarnation (one soul through many lifetimes). If a soul reincarnates, then it’s believable that you can cross paths with souls you knew from other lifetimes. When you do, your souls are likely to recognize each other. If you’re an “old soul” that means you’ve been around for many lifetimes and had many past life experiences; you could be meeting lots of other souls all the time. Some of those meetings can be like the proverbial ships passing in the night. However, others could have been very strong relationship in a past life and your soul remembers it. That’s how that fast and deep connection happens.

Marriage is real life – there is no happily-ever-after without conscious effort.

Remember that teacher you felt such a strong connection to in the fourth grade? Or a mentor who seemed to know you better than you knew yourself – and without whom your life wouldn’t be what it is? Or that family down the street who felt more like your family than the one you lived with? Those are happy soulmate connections.

Yet every soulmate connection isn’t always a good one. What about that relationship that was so toxic but you just couldn’t pull away from it? Or that coworker you didn’t like from the moment you met – and you could never explain why.

When destiny connects you with a soulmate, it’s an opportunity. In other lifetimes, some of those soul connections were too short and you get to finish them in this lifetime. Others were messy and you get to clean them up.

Soulmate connections are opportunities; they are not a guarantee.

Do Soulmates Make for a Better Marriage?

While the idea of being with and marrying your soulmate is deliciously compelling, the reality is a false equivalence. Soulmate marriage presumes the “happily ever after” that every romantic loves to dream about living.

However, marriage is real life and there is no auto-happily-ever-after. No matter how connected you and your sweetie are, the reality is that even soulmates have arguments, have bills to pay, disagree about how to raise the kids, get sick, lose their jobs, have accidents, and all the other things that are part of everyday life. Being soulmates when times are tough isn’t any easier than for couples who aren’t soulmates.

What makes the difference is how well you communicate with each other – soulmate or not. It matters if you treat each other fairly, divide the responsibilities equitably, make clear and conscious agreements, and renegotiate agreements when they aren’t working or when something has changed.

In the Five-Year Marriage, couples – soulmates or not – choose to design their marriage to fit who they are as a couple. They are partners who make agreements together and put their agreements in writing. They also agree to review and reevaluate how things are going and, every five years, re-contract and start over with new agreements.

So, if you’re waiting around to meet your soulmate so you can have an amazing marriage, you could be waiting a very long time – maybe a lifetime. You could be pining away for some fantasy that may not even make you happy in the long-term.

If you want to be happy in your marriage, your best bet is to (1) choose someone who is a good partner and (2) together, rethink the whole idea of traditional marriage, and shift your paradigm to the five-year plan.

If you want to learn more about how The Five-Year Marriage® can offer you the relationship advice you and your partner have been looking for, You can take the first step with this groundbreaking, game-changing book: click through to read more about The Five-Year Marriage® or contact me today.

Relationship Advice: When “I’m Sorry” DOESN’T Count

relationship advice, when I'm sorry isn't enough

“I’m sorry,” Ken told Patty when she found out that he forgot to pay the credit card bill. “Who cares if you’re sorry,” Patty spit back angrily. “Now we have to pay interest AND a late fee.” Feeling guilty, Ken repeated his apology and assured her, “it won’t happen again.” But it did happen again. And, again, Ken said “I’m sorry.”

Everyone can make a mistake and forget sometime from time to time. However, while forgetting one time is an accident, multiple times is a pattern of behavior.

Patterns Either Build or Destroy

A pattern of behavior is any behavior that is consistently repeated. Paying attention to them in a relationship is important. Noticing both good and bad behavior patterns matters to your relationship. In fact, it can even save it.

For example. if your partner kisses you before going to bed and says “I love you”, that’s a positive pattern, and you like it. The more of that kind of pattern that you build into your relationship. Noticing that pattern gives you an opening to compliment your partner (“I love that you remember to kiss me goodnight”), which creates good feelings. It also can encourage your partner to do more things like that.

Obviously, love patterns aren’t the ones that cause trouble. The ones that do are the patterns that chip away at he trust between you.

Talk is Cheap and Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When it comes to love and relationships, trust reigns supreme. It’s the cornerstone of emotional safety and true intimacy. Patterns that don’t build trust weaken any relationship.

When your partner knows you don’t follow through on what you say, that pattern of behavior invariably leads to trouble. It did for Patty and Ken.

Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. Ken’s lack of follow through and the resulting “I’m sorrys” did nothing but make Patty doubt his every word. Patty no longer trusted Ken to pay any bills on time. So Patty decided she’d do it – and add another thing to her list of house things. It started a little piece of resentment that grew with each month that Patty paid that bill.

Resentment is sticky

Resentment is a funny thing. It’s sticky – like fly paper. Once out there, other things stick to it; it grows.

Patty’s resentment started sticking to other things – like that time Ken was supposed to pick Patty up and was a half-hour late. “He has no respect for me or my time,” Patty groused as she stood waiting for Ken to show up. Of course, as soon as Ken got there, Patty let him have it.

Of course, Ken apologized, but so what? Patty heard plenty of Ken’s apologies and, based on Ken’s patterns of behavior, believed they were meaningless.

Patty and Ken were on the path to breaking up.

Can This Relationship Be Saved?

Was there anything Patty and Ken could do to bridge the gap that was growing wider all the time? Yes! Here’s a Five-Year Marriage Method called The Family Meeting. Ken and Patty make a date to meet to discuss the problem. They meet outside the house, at a local coffee shop (keeps things civil). At their meeting…

  1. Patty needs to own the resentment and be able to verbalize clearly and calmly to Ken in the Family Meeting (1) what caused it, and (2) how she feels about it. It takes some prep work. Without the prep, Patty will likely not express herself the best was and, as a result, lose her personal power, Ken will be defensive, and the communication will break down.
  2. Ken needs to be open to hear, understand, and own his unproductive pattern of behavior. That means no excuses, no defensiveness, just an open-hearted seeing of how an “I’m sorry” without changing his behavior is affecting Patty.
  3. Ken agrees that he can and is willing to change his behavior. That means he doesn’t automatically agree to anything. Instead, he thinks first (“can I do that” and “will I do that”) and agrees/disagrees second. Then, if he agrees, he writes his agreement down where he will see it.In the case of the bill-paying, Ken agrees and then circles the due date on his calendar (if he sees it, he’ll do it). Then he either writes a check, pays online or by phone, or sets up an auto-deducted monthly payment.
  4. For Patty’s part, she has to be open to giving Ken a break – and the opportunity to “redeem himself” and earn back her trust. That means no sideswiping or off-handed digs. What happens in Family Meeting stays in Family Meeting.

If Ken and Patty can’t work it out alone, it’s worth seeing a marriage therapist or someone who can help Ken figure out what’s going on with him.

In The Five-Year Marriage, couples meet regularly in Family Meetings to work on problems like shared responsibilities. They aren’t making off-handed agreements on the spur of the moment. Instead, they discuss and make agreements to each other consciously, write them down, and follow-up at the next Family Meeting.

If you want to learn more about how The Five-Year Marriage can offer you the advice you and your partner have been looking for, click through to read more about The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm

 

Is Your Marriage Dishonest?

Is This Marriage Honest?

Janet was second guessing a recent decision and needed a little marriage advice from her long-time girlfriends. “Just don’t tell Tony,” Janet said as she sipped her chardonnay. “He doesn’t know I feel this way, and I don’t think he’d understand.”

Why Janet was so comfortable telling her girlfriends what was in her heart or on her mind, but not her spouse, should have bothered everyone (it didn’t). What Janet probably didn’t realize was that she was confessing to having a dishonest marriage.

The sad truth is that many marriages are dishonest. Maybe most of them are! It isn’t intentional – at least not at first. In fact, it happens easily and almost by accident.

Is Your Marriage Dishonest?

The dishonest marriage often has an innocent start. It happens when one or both partners aren’t truthful with each about what’s happening within the marriage. Very often it starts with one partner not being straight-up about some internal change. The change is likely to be the result of a significant emotional event, like the death of a parent, a serious car accident, or winning the lottery. However, the most common SEE for young couples is the birth of a child.

Have Significant Emotional Events Impacted Your Marriage?

Nearly every couple will tell you that the birth of your first child has a tremendous impact on how you think and feel about almost everything. When it was BC (before children) and it was just you two, you were able to come and go independently. If you wanted to go out for drinks with friends, you could. If you got an idea for a quick trip, on a moment’s notice, you’d do it. If your job required some travel, no problem. Your plans could change on a dime without a big hassle. You thought about what you wanted, what fun things you could do – together or separately – and, most of the time, you focused on NOW.

How Did That Event Change You?

With the birth of your baby, life changed and, now that you have a baby and you can’t just pick up and go. In fact, just getting out the door in the morning takes three times longer than BC. You new experience of last-minute changes is putting on a new shirt because the baby spit up on the first one.

A new baby means another person is totally dependent on you. And, while you expected to kiss quiet nights goodbye, you didn’t expect to spend so much time worrying about how you’ll keep that precious baby safe, or what to teach it so that s/he grows up healthy and well. You also didn’t think you would question your self or your job or wonder what opportunities are elsewhere – ones that will be better for the family.

Gradually your thinking changes  and that’s normal and natural; but here’s the thing: the birth of your child is a significant emotional event that alters the way you think about life and love. You become someone else – maybe a fuller, richer expression of who you really are. It’s a good thing to grow.

Change Can Destroy A Marriage

The downside is that, too many times, partners change and don’t keep pace with each other. Time moves fast and, before they know it, ten years passed. They get into an argument and she says to him (or vice versa) “I don’t know who you are anymore. What happened to us?”

So the BIG question is this: are you sharing (with your life partner instead of your friends) the internal changes resulting from your SEE? If you aren’t, you are hiding your SELF. And you’re make your marriage dishonest.

Dishonesty is how a marriage breaks down. You live together, share your food and your bed, but not yourself. Without the transparency that sharing those intimate details of change brings, the bond between you weakens.

Moreover, your partner knows – even if it’s on an unconscious level – that you aren’t being honest. S/he says, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel like something’s wrong. What is it?” And the [dishonest] answer is “nothing.”

Without honesty there can’t be emotional safety. Without that, what do you have together? Do you even have a real marriage?

Worse yet, consider this: if you aren’t being honest about who you are, when s/he says “I love you” how do you know if that love is for you? You don’t. In fact, the likelihood is that the love is really for the person you used to be…because your spouse doesn’t know you aren’t that person now.

There’s a Proven Method for Successfully Handling Change in Your Marriage!

Instead of leaving emotional safety and true intimacy to chance, you have a practical alternative to traditional marriage in The Five-Year Marriage. It isn’t some airy-fairy pact you make one day when you’re both in love and hot for each other. No, in The Five-Year Marriage, you and your partner make a decision to stay connected – in writing.

The Five-Year Marriage® includes (for starters) what your goals are, how you will accomplish those goals together, and what expectations you both have for your five-year marriage. You commit to working together and prioritizing your marriage in your daily life. You stay in touch with each other – mentally and emotionally – through regular family meetings.

While The Five-Year Marriage® is designed to facilitate strong connection

s, it also helps you notice when “shifts” are happening – in life, inside you, in the partnership – early enough to get back on track while you are still orbiting in each other’s emotional energy.

If you want to learn more about how The Five-Year Marriage® can offer you the advice you and your partner have been looking for, click through to read more about The Five-Year Marriage or contact me today.

Are you Putting Off Your Midlife Reinvention?

Does Your Reinvention Feel Stalled?

MidLife Reinvention
Is your MidLife Reinvention stuck?

Does your midlife reinvention feel stuck someplace? Is there something holding you back from taking that next step to getting a fresh start in your personal life or your career? You might be surprised to find the problem – or the “glitch” – could be a something small. Or maybe it’s not a glitch but a piling up of a bunch of small things.

Little Tasks can Overwhelm You and Stall Your Goals

Here’s my story: Last week I got two things done that I’d been putting off.  Two things doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? Not only was it just two things, but neither one was a big deal. In fact, I’d call both of them mildly important and neither one had a real deadline – so, frankly, I wasn’t overly motivated.  The first one required resending a Christmas card. I sent it in mid-December but put the wrong address on it. It came back a few weeks later. I could easily have just forgotten about it, but I always send Christmas cards – it’s sort of my holiday “thing” instead of doing gifts. Also, by the time it came back, I had news for the recipients, so I wanted to add an extra note. So I put it in “my pile” – the stuff I’m going to get to doing at some point.

The other task was cancelling a subscription. I delayed cancelling it because only part of me wanted to cancel. I could have let the subscription ride and cancelled it next year. But doing either made me feel bad. So it, too, ended up in “my pile” of to-do stuff.

A week went by…then two…tree… And I just wasn’t getting them done.

Have Your Midlife Reinvention Plans Stalled? Are You Feeling Stuck?

You know…you aren’t sure what to do, so you do nothing …but then can’t get away from it, so it’s always on your mind? Somehow doing nothing weighs on your mind. It’s like they nag at you…making you feel like a slug and putting a guilt-shadow over your whole mind.

That was me. In the month I delayed taking action, those two little thing nagged at me. Every time I went through the pile, I saw them…and put them back…always with a feeling like I was screwing something and disappointing someone (me!) and, of course, that made me feel bad.  Every time I did it I felt a twinge of something – indecisiveness…guilt…something that didn’t feel good.

Reinvention Solution: Block Out Time for the “Little” Tasks

One day I got so annoyed that I blocked off an hour in my daytime to do it (yes, really…it just took an hour).  First I made the phone call. I was half-hoping that person on the other end would have talked me out of it, but he didn’t. So it got cancelled. Done!

Next I typed up a short note, cut it to fit flat in the card, signed it, found another envelope, put them together, and sealed it. Took me about 30 minutes. I put the letter in the mail pile. It would go out in the next day’s mail.

Whew! Those two little things that nagged at me for over a month were finally done. Yayyy!

What Happened Next is the “Big Secret” to Achieving Your Midlife Reinvention

Once both things were done, I went back to work. What surprised me was how different I felt – like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Or like I could breathe some wonderful fresh air for the first time. I noticed that felt more relaxed.  I found it kind of amusing…until I started to getting some good ideas for a project I was working on – ideas that simply hadn’t been coming, no matter how hard I tried to inspire my creativity.

Then  I remembered…

Little Tasks Weigh on our Minds, Stifling our Creativity & Motivation

A while back I learned about something called the “Clean Sweep” program. I did it while I was in coach training class.  It’s an old, but tried and true method developed by the late Thomas Leonard for [what was then] CoachU.  The idea behind the Clean Sweep  is “that by strengthening the accompanying 100 items in your life, you will reduce stress, increase your energy, and attract better people and opportunities into your life.” When I used it regularly, I got more done , more easily, with less stress. That was because all the little nagging things weren’t slowing me down or holding me back.

What’s Hanging Over You?

“I’m going to [lost weight, start exercising, go back to school, start my business, return to teaching, get a divorce, or whatever] – as soon as I [get through the holidays, when winter is over, organize my files, catalog my crafts/writing/courses, get enough money, find the right school, digitize my pictures]. Then you don’t. Every day or week or month, and every time you feel down or read about someone who is doing what you want to do, it nags at you. It’s lowers your energy level, zaps your creativity, and pushes you in front of the TV for some mindless viewing.

Do You Need a Clean Sweep to Get Your Midlife Reinvention Back on Track?

Give this a try, it can’t hurt and you might just find it really helpful! Here’s what to do:

  1. Set a goal for yourself – something related to your reinvention
  2. Do the Clean Sweep and input your scores.
  3. Decide how often you’ll repeat the Clean Sweep. Once a month for the 1st 3 months is good. You can lengthen or shorten the space depending on what you need.
  4. Pick a couple things to get started with and do them.
  5. Notice what happens – mentally, emotionally, physically.
  6. Keep track – file your clean sweeps, keep a journal, or get an accountability partner.

 

Ready for your Clean Sweep?

Use this worksheet to guide your Clean Sweep!

We’ll email it to you INSTANTLY!
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and add annmarie@annmariekelly.com to your contacts!

Get the CLean Sweep PDF

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Love this review!

Five year marriage relationship successThanks, Laurie Leahey for this fabulous review – so happy you like The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm!

Laurie writes:

What is a “five-year marriage”? I’m glad you asked. When I participated in a webinar with Annmarie and her book’s publicists, she started off by telling us that she’d been married six times and each time for only five years. What?

That’s right. Annmarie and her husband started off their time together by committing to marriage for only five years. At the end of those five years, they reevaluated their priorities, both individually and together, and decided if they wanted to commit to another five years. They even had another wedding celebration!

I so wish this book had been written before I’d gotten married because I think it has great advice on what to look for (and look out for) in a partner, plus there seem to be a lot of positives about looking at marriage through this unique lens: more open communication, both partners’ needs are being heard and (hopefully) met, and your marriage can grow and change along with how your lives grow and change.

If you, like me, are already married, I don’t think it’s too late to start some of the Five-Year Marriage practices. I love the idea of monthly Family Meetings to discuss finances or whatever else is important to you at that time. It might be difficult to establish these new habits with your partner since he or she is already so accustomed to the way you’ve been doing marriage, but it could be well worth it.

There is also a website where you can find more information and guidance from the author.

The Five-Year Marriage is published by Optimal Living Press and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy in exchange for my honest review.

http://cookscrapcraft.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-five-year-marriage-book-review.html

Hey Dear Abby: Don’t Tell Women in Relationships to “Suck it Up.”

better marriage advice - dear abby

I have always wanted to be his wife,” explained the forty-something woman looking for relationship advice from Dear Abby. She was talking about her live-in boyfriend of five years. She laments, “I want to get married and he knows it. We have discussed it — but every time I bring it up (and I always bring it up, he never does), he has an excuse. He says it’s only a piece of paper, we’ve both already been married, I have some debt, etc…. I am tired of being just “the girlfriend.” She signed her letter “Wants the Piece of Paper.”

In her response, Dear Abby tells her that “if he feels as strongly about you as you do him, he may come around one day, but there are no guarantees. And yes, you will have to ‘suck it up’ if you’re not prepared to leave, and while you’re doing that, make the best of it.”

Women Should Put Up With Being Unhappy? Really, Dear Abby?

The woman is clearly unhappy with things as they are; she feels powerless. Every woman in a relationship knows that sucking it up and making the best of it is what women have been doing for ages – to our detriment. We know how being consistently dissatisfied with your most intimate relationship will eat away at your self-esteem. That lack of self-esteem will permeate every part of your life until you are living a “half-life.”

However, at the same time, her sweetie has a real reason for concern. While most people know that nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce, few know that second marriages only have a 40% chance of success. So if she thinks marriage will seal some permanent deal, or guarantee some happily ever after, she’s wrong.

Based on a 2019 report from Pew Research, 55% of adults think couples are just as well off if they stay together without ever getting married, compared to 45% who think long-term couples ought to get married eventually. And 69% say cohabitation is just fine with or without plans to get married. At the same time, the success rate isn’t any better than with marriage.

The Two Questions to Ask Yourself & Your Partner About Marriage

There are two questions “Wants the Piece of Paper” Lady needs to ask. The first one is why it’s so important to be married. She wants the piece of paper, but why? What is it about being married that matters?

The Pew report found that married couples experience greater trust and higher levels of satisfaction. Is that her reason? Or is it about health insurance, taxes, security, legal issues…or something else? For example, unless there are legal papers in place, couples who live together don’t have first rights if their sweetie gets sick. If her sweetie got sick, his parents and children have more to say about his health care than she does. They can even restrict her visitation rights.

The second question is “why is he so adamant against it?” Was his divorce so devastating that he can’t face the risk of a repeat? Is it about freedom, money and alimony, or is he hiding something – like does he have secret property or a mistress on the side? OR, is the idea of vowing to be together “for better or for worse” until you’re dead terrifying to her sweetie? He’s been through it once. He knows how life changes and couples change. It can get ugly.

So what can they do and be happy?

The Five-Year Marriage® Offers a Better Way to Do “I DO”

What “Wants the Piece of Paper” Lady could suggest is The Five-Year Marriage. She can start with a Curiosity Conversation to find out if he’s open to a short-term (five years), agile marriage. Then she and her sweetie can make agreements about their relationship now – ones they can agree to live with – for just five years. At the end of five years they can continue some of those agreements, renegotiate others, or toss out the ones that aren’t working and replace them with more doable ones….or another five years.

What the The Five-Year Marriage does is help couples sort out their thoughts and feelings and translate them into spoken promises based on clear and written understandings. The Five-Year Marriage contract is NOT a pre-nup – which is usually mostly about money, property, etc. Instead, Five-Year Marriage agreements can include decisions about shared values, shared household responsibilities, budgets, children from the previous relationship, holidays, friends, in-laws, free time, date nights, and any of the things most couples ignore until there’s a problem.

Solve Marriage Problems with Agreements & Family Meetings

In the Five-Year Marriage, couples keep track of themselves and their agreements through family meetings. over time they get better at and more comfortable with accountability, communication skills, problem solving, and negotiation.

At the end of five years, the couple sees where they are, where they’ve been, how they’ve changed and where they want to go – and if they still want to go together.

For Wants the Piece of Paper Lady, maybe after a Five-Year Marriage discussion, she might decide she’s happier just living together. Or her sweetie could feel comfortable enough to take the step toward changing his marital status.

The Five Year Marriage by Annmarie Kelly Book Cover Art

Either one is better than living stressed and unhappy in “suck it up” mode.

Learn more about The Five-Year Marriage here: The Five-Year Marriage

Connect with Five-Year Marriage Creator Annmarie Kelly

Join Five-Year Marriage creator Annmaie Kelly on her blog and get updates by joining her newsletter.

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The Fix for the Biggest Marriage Problems

a fix for the biggest marriage problems

Getting married soon? Or are you a newlywed? This is the kind of relationship advice millions of divorced or married-but-unhappy women and men wish they had gotten sooner, when they were single.

If you’re in a committed relationship, and marriage is on the horizon (or you got married in the last couple of years), this is a heads-up. A recent article in Brides Magazine got my attention. The article lists the 6 biggest problems in marriage:

  • Disinterest,
  • spending habits,
  • jealousy,
  • going in different directions,
  • intimacy, and
  • boredom.

From my experience, I can agree – it’s a good list.

Are you experiencing them yet? If you haven’t yet, you will! It’s inevitable…but not hopeless, if…before you that walk down the aisle, you take some time together to think things out and make some agreements. What about? Read on…

Are these the same relationship problem?

Of the six problems listed, three of them – disinterest, boredom, and different directions – are in the same family. That means they could have the same root cause: a lack of caring and/or excessive self-interest or selfishness. Think about it. If you are into something and I’m not part of it, why not? Do I see it as “that’s your thing, not mine” and disengage? Or do you just not want me to be involved in things like your career, hobbies, friends?

Either way, eventually one of us is going to feel hurt, then I’ll get angry or bored – first with what you do, and then with you. Next I’m going to feel resentful. After a while I’m going to think “screw you” and find something that makes me happy. I decide to “do my own thing” – without you. Before either of us realizes it, we’ll have our own lives and, if we stay together, our common ground for conversation will be the kids. We’ll only get together as a couple for dinner with friends, holidays, weddings, and funerals.  

It happens. A lot! You already know at least one married couple like that, right? Maybe that’s what you saw your parents do when you were growing up. Or are watching it happen now to your best friend.

OK, you think, “that’s about them but it won’t be me.” True…for now. Today it seems like you won’t ever lose interest in your sweetie because s/he is so smart or funny or whatever. And you love football or soccer or dancing or music too (or whatever s/he is passionate about), so no problem…right? Wrong!

A few years from now, when life invades your love pod and you have a thousand things on your plate with four of them pressing hard on your brain, you won’ t give a flip about the latest news related to that passion. In fact, just hearing about it will set you off and could easily result in an argument and some icy feelings.

You don’t want that to happen, right? It doesn’t have to, but it’s up to you and your partner.

What Can You Do About Your Marriage Problems Today?

Your marriage is a partnership. Like all good partnerships, both partners look at the known problems and figure out how to handle them before they happen. It helps you in the short-term because you’re creating a pattern for problem-solving between you. Down the road, when unknown challenges come you way, you’ll already have a format for solving them and some history of success.

Figuring how to handle a problem in advance is a behavioral technique you are probably already familiar with from Weight Watchers. What WW tells you is to recognize what you crave (like chocolate or pizza) and, being honest, know you’ll crave it at some point. So, before you get into trouble, figure out a good alternative to that thing, e.g. a WW treat or low-cal pizza. Then, when you get that craving, you already know what to do and won’t sabotage yourself. The same with emotions. If you know you always eat when you are angry or depressed, WW tells you to recognize the “trigger” or warning sign and set up a system of what to do instead of eating that hot fudge sundae.

Of course, your marriage isn’t WW but the concept is the same. You look at a well-known issue (like any of the 6 mentioned here) and figure out a solution. You ask “how will we know it’s happening?” or “what are some things we can do to prevent that from happening?” And, like WW, you have regular meetings – Family Meetings – where you step away from your daily routine and focus on your relationship.

Big Benefits for Making Relationship Agreements

What you two are figuring out is how to create equality in your partnership. When you start early – while living together, during your engagement, or even early in your marriage – you get into a healthy pattern. You do it before anger, resentment and hurt feelings dominate, or before you think you’re being ignored or disrespected.

In addition, and this is one of the beauties of the Five-Year Marriage, you already know that things in life and in your relationship, are going to change. So you talk about them in advance and start figuring out your how-to-do-it and create a set of agreements now. Over time, some of those things will naturally need adjustments as jobs change, children come along, money problems creep in and more. As you live your life, and your marriage, you can make conscious adjustments along the way In The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm there is a whole chapter dedicated to things you need to talk about together, including lifestyle preferences and your agreements. Taking time to discuss those things is crucial to the long-term happiness of your relationship. Admittedly, planning your marriage is not as much fun as planning your wedding, but it’s way better than planning a divorce.

The Agile Marriage

Marriage is like life (with or without a partner). It’s a series of challenges, and a lot of curve balls get thrown your way. The secret of success for your Five-Year Marriage, for any marriage, is that you two regularly review your agreements. You decide what’s working and what’s not. You can either keep them as is, renegotiate parts that aren’t working, or ditch the bad ones and make new ones. You aren’t stuck “’til death” with any of them. And, because you’ve been working together, it isn’t scary or uncomfortable.

The difference can be profound, The choice is yours.