Five-Year Marriage® featured on the Growth Marriage Podcast!

I had a great time chatting with Nate Bagley on the Growth Marriage Podcast! We discussed how any why I reinvented the concept of traditional marriage and came up with the Five-Year Marriage®. We talk about this concept in detail and why the idea of reassessing and recommitting not only keeps partners from growing lazy, it keeps each person engaged and invested in the relationship. That regular investment results in a relationship that is more connected and more intimate than traditional marriage.

Have a listen now!

Learn more about Nate & Growth Marriage. 

31 Days of Victory! 2021

victorious woman month - self-care & empowerment activitiesDid you know that May is officially registered as Victorious Woman Month?

If you were ever going to have a midlife or quarter-life crisis, the past year would have the catalyst above all catalysts for making it happen! The pandemic has challenged even the strongest of us!! So, if it did – or even if you’re just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired of being in lockdown, here’s the antidote! It’s the annual 31-Days to Victory Calendar, published in honor of Victorious Woman month!

My annual “Victory-a-Day” Calendar gives you small things to do each day. some will take just a few meditative minutes to start and then – throughout the day – remind yourself. Others will take 15-30″ and a few (like the declutter day) will take longer. BUT each one will make you feel good when you do it!

You’ll see the activities accommodate the pandemic limitations many of us are still under. One of the last obes is a Victory Happy Hour – because, even if we’re still in restrictions, we can meet for drinks outside.

We’ll be posting the Victory activities daily on the Facebook pageInstagram, and Twitter feeds, and I’ll be blogging about some of them at However, you can get the whole month right now by downloading it here:  Click Here to Download PDFvictory a day - may 2021

If you’ve been feeling stuck, and I know many of you have – me too – this victory-a-day calendar will help you break out of that rut! I hope you and your girlfriends will join me in creating a small victory-a-day in May!

Join me and share your victories on the  Facebook page at @VictoriousWomanProject!

Stay healthy!
With love and in victory,

Spring Time Wake Up Call

Hi and Happy Holidays!

happy easter everyone

It was just about this time last year when officials said if we lock everything down for two weeks, it would stop the spread. Two weeks came and went. On Easter in mid-April, Joseph and I went out for breakfast – Sizzlis and tea at Wawa. We ate them at a nearby park, sitting in our car; we couldn’t sit outside because it was raining.  After breakfast, we took a sanity drive around the Brandywine Valley. It was the first of many weekends when we’d pick up takeout, go to a park with picnic tables, and “eat out” among the trees and flowers.

Whodathunk – 12 months later – most of us would still be locked down!

However, now that the weather is allowing for outdoor seating, we can eat out more. And as more and more people, and younger and younger ones are getting vaccines, things may finally start getting back to some kind of normal. Yayyyy!

Now What?

For the past year I’ve been writing about pick-me-up ideas, and striving to live them along with you. However, in my life, I have some new challenges – two of them. The lesser of them is my voice – it cuts out on me sometimes. So not good for someone whose living depends a lot on speaking. I’ve been to several doctors and had lots of tests  and – good news – I’m in good physical shape. So what’s causing it?

Lately I’ve been going inside…We know the throat chakra is the power center and, no surprise, the past year hasn’t given me – and most of us – any personal power surges. So that’s one idea.

Also, like you, I miss people…and hugs…and laughter. I miss being in-person with you and all the wonderful Victory Chicks – and you guys who love us – who inspire me to get out of bed in the morning. Also, I miss in-person meetings with a new and growing group of Millennials who are curious about the Five-Year Marriage®.

So many of them – especially women – aren’t as interested in giving up their careers and hard-won independence just to be married. Because of that, recent research says that 25% of Millennials are likely to never get married. That’s not very good for society in general.

Still, those younger ones are so interesting as they search for the better way to do “I do” — looking at things like open marriage and polyamory. As they explore, the Five-Year Marriage offers them an approach that is different – but not as different as polyamory and open marriage, and definitely more main stream.

It’s exciting, and I miss the one-on-one and group connection with them.

Here’s the other challenge I’m facing…

The other new wrinkle in my life is that Joseph was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. The good part is that he has been getting PSA tests for 20 years. At his last physical, when he saw a PSA spike, he paid attention fast. So it’s in an early stage.

Since the diagnosis we’ve been seeing lots of doctors and researching the best solutions. I expect that Joseph will decide on his treatment soon, and it’ll most likely happen in May or June.

And, FYI Victory Chicks, I now know more about prostates than I ever wanted to know! My biggest surprise is learning how many men have it – and often don’t even know about it. So take note: if your sweetie, friend, father, or brother isn’t getting his PSA, insist on it – NOW!

It’s funny how most of us Victory Chicks know a lot about our hoohas, but most men know nothing about their prostates – and they don’t want to know. Maybe they would if the prostate had some cute name… 🙂

So, in the same way that you do your regular mammogram and gyn, the men in your life need to be doing his PSA and prostate exam. Yes, I know he says it’s not comfortable. So what? It isn’t comfortable for you when your feet are in stirrups, but you do it.

I learned long ago, we go faster when we go together

Joseph and I are looking at what’s happening with us as a wake-up call. You see, when we “new” thirty-some years ago, we did a lot of visioning and spiritual work. Together we dreamed about what we wanted for our future and where we wanted to go together. Then, at the end of each of our six previous marriages, we reviewed and reset our plans, and those gave us a fresh start in each of our new marriages.

However, something shifted in the past few years. We did our five-year marriage thing in 2018, but since then we aren’t moving in the direction we planned. At first, I thought it was covid – and some of it is. However, by the end of last year, I started discussing the “something’s wrong” with Joseph (it must be the curse – or the blessing – of being married to a teacher/author).

The more we talked, the clearer it became that…(1) we got mentally and spiritually lazy. Maybe it’s because we are now where we dreamed and visioned we would be 30 years ago. As a result, the “hunger” isn’t the same…and, also, we aren’t as perky as we were then. And (2) when we set our goals for our new marriage and our future together, we didn’t do any dreaming or visioning about them. So they were good to talk about doing, we weren’t working together to make things happen.

Here’s the thing…

I truly believe that when you and I don’t create our own vision for the future, we get the “default” version. That’s the “go with the flow” edition of life.

I’m not built for that and neither is Joseph. I’ll bet you aren’t either!

For Joseph and me, I’m finding that there are fewer things that focus the mind like a cancer diagnosis!

So we’re going back to our roots and doing some things we didn’t do before…including reading/listening to books. One of them is old: The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. If you never read it, it’s really worth the read.

In fact, if you want to read it with me, we could discuss it on a zoom meeting – like a book club. If you’re interested, send me an email at with BIG MAGIC in the subject line.

Also, Joseph found this video on YouTube. Kathy Buckley is a deaf woman who tried to commit suicide several times, was hit by a jeep, had cancer and finally decided enough is enough. She shares her story and she’s funny.  I like it and maybe you will too.This is the short version: Kathy Buckley

It’s a new season – Spring, Easter, Passover…a season of rebirth and renewal. Make the most of it!

And, if you would keep Joseph and me in your prayers, I appreciate it!

To those of you who are celebrating…
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Happy Easter!

With love and in victory,

It’s still early in the year and you CAN make 2021 your best year yet!

I’m Annmarie Kelly, award-winning author, speaker, and lifestyle expert. I’m also the founder of The Victorious Woman Project, the empowerment resource for midlife women looking to make a change in their life or their relationship. Check it out…it’s full of helpful and inspiring articles, interviews with fabulous women who have been there and done that, and also classes and other tools that will help you find and nourish your inner spark. Oh…and that’s also where you can get one of my inspiring and motivating self-help books. Victorious Woman: Shaping Life’s Challenges into Personal VictoriesVictory by Design, and marriage game-changer, The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm.

I know how the past year has challenged you – body, mind, and soul. They’ve challenged me too. It’s been hard on everyone! But there’s good news – the future is what you make it! So it’s time to look forward to better days. And you can start RIGHT NOW. WANT MORE?

CONNECT with other VICTORY CHICKS in a Private FaceBook Group

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Women in History: Midlife Reinvention Inspiration

inspired, womens history, women's empowerment

Abigail and John Adams wrote to each other constantly. In one letter, she reminded John to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors…if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion.”

An Empowered Spouse

That Abigail Adams was really something! She was an empowered spouse a few hundred years before anyone had ever thought of women’s empowerment. Same with Eliza Hamilton. If not for Eliza’s diligent dedication after Alexander’s death, Lin Manuel-Miranda would have had nothing to rap about for his fabulous musical. We also probably wouldn’t have had the Washington Monument. [FYI: Cokie Roberts wrote an amazing book about those women and others – Founding Mothers. So worth the read.]
So many women of the Adams-Hamilton time did amazing things despite wearing those long dresses with endless skirts and tight whalebone bodices. I always wondered how they kept those skirts from the fire in those wide-open hearths. I don’t think I would have managed very well in their shoes, or dresses! A few nights ago, I was making shortbreads. I got distracted checking email and FB. I might never have noticed the biscuits were done if it hadn’t been for the strange, sort of sweet smell, that filled the air. By the time I opened the oven door, the little crusts were a crispy brown.
If it was colonial times, that smell would probably have been my burning skirt. Good thing I live in this century, not that one! Can you imagine what those Colonial women had to do just to live a single day – with no cars, no radio, no phone, no TV, no internet, no washer/dryer, no grocery stores, no tampons, and instead of Revlon or Maybelline, they used soot to darken their eyebrows and pottery pigment for rouge!

You Can Live Your Passion in Spite of the Pandemic

A hundred years later, it was no walk in the park either. Victorian women, like Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, were mocked and berated when they started fighting for a woman’s right to vote. They were not “proper women,” but they were passionate about what they were doing, and I admire that.

 And here’s an interesting bit of trivia, did you know that during the 100 years of women’s suffrage, there were several pandemics: Yellow Fever, Cholera, Scarlet Fever, Typhoid Fever, Smallpox, and the first polio outbreak? Yes, you and me aren’t the only ones trying to have a life in the midst of the craziness we’ve had this past year!

Obstacles: Is “NO” an Ending or a Beginning?

While those ladies were mere days away from getting the women’s right to vote amendment passed, another woman, one of my personal Women’s History heroines – or sheros – was just graduating from high school. Helen Taussig was born at the turn of the 20th century. She was still a young girl when her mother died of tuberculosis, which she also contracted but survived.

In 1919, just after Congress passed the 19th Amendment so women could vote, Helen got rejected for admission to Harvard Medical School (no women allowed). So instead, she studied medical sciences at Boston University. Though Helen could go to classes, she had to sit apart from the men. She did. Also, she was told she wasn’t likely to graduate – no matter how good her grades were, because if her gender.
Undeterred, Helen finished there just in time to be accepted into Johns Hopkins Medical School – one of the few schools that finally decided to admit women. She wanted to specialize in cardiology but there was only one open slot for a woman in that field, so she went into pediatrics instead. Good thing too. Dr. Helen Taussig later developed the groundbreaking procedure to remedy “blue baby” syndrome. She and her physician-partner saved hundreds of babies from dying!

So many women made history in so many different ways – and did it despite being treated as second class citizens. They also did it while being forced to climb over an avalanche wall of discrimination, socially and economically, to get to where they wanted to go.

Inspired to make some history yourself? 

What do you want? Is there something you want to do – in your life or in your marriage – that you’ve been putting off? What’s stopping you? Have you lost your sizzle? Or are you telling yourself you’re too old, it’s too hard, you don’t have the money, it’s too much work…or making some other inspiration-numbing excuses?

Time to change it up! Make a commitment, TODAY!

Don’t put it off. You can go after whatever it is you want – covid or no covid! During this time Women’s History, find a woman who inspires you. She can be in today’s news, your own circle of friends and colleagues, or a woman from the far past or nearer past – who felt the same “can I do it?” thing. Pick one of those women and make her your inspirational mentor. Study who she is – or was – and find out what kept her going in spite of everything. Copy her quotes and keep them where you can see them. Then figure out what you need to do differently – or more of – to model her. 

If you need some inspiration, pick up a copy of my first book, Victorious Woman: Shaping Life’s Challenges into Personal Victories. In it I tell you stories of real life women – everyday women who faced overwhelming challenges and beat the odds. I personally interviewed every one of them and can tell you each one was just like you and me. When their life got turned upside down, they found it within themselves to do what they needed to do to become victorious. You can download it from Amazon to your Kindle right now: VictoriousWoman 

Want more than the book? Check out my ‘Savvy Sizzle No Regrets‘ Masterclass. It’s 5 weeks of step-by step-guidance during which you rediscover your inner passion, determine a clear, attainable goal and plot out a clear path towards it!

Make this the month YOU start making your own woman’s history!

With love  and in victory,

Single on Valentine’s Day? Fall in Love Now…

midlife women valentines day tips for self love

So, it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re single and unattached. Can you still fall in love? Actually…YES! But how and who with? As one woman, who reinvented her life after 40, recently explained, she’s been hurt too many times so now she only wants “BIG LOVE.”

Big Love???

What she meant was not one-on-one romance, but love for the world…for the planet…for all the human race. You get, right? BIG LOVE.

I agree with the big love part – love for others who is experiencing life on the big planet the same time that you are. Also, love for those who went before – not only your direct ancestors, but all the women who walked a tough path and opened it for you. In my life I think about celebs like Katherine Hepburn, Mae West and other women who wouldn’t accept life in the roles others said were theirs. love those women. my idea is having BIG LOVE for yourself…your own heart, your own accomplishments, your own frailties. Being able to do that is REALLY BIG!

However, BIG LOVE can also be the kind of love you need to give to yourself. So many times we think love has to come from outside – loved ones, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Yet the truest and most satisfying love comes when you have BIG LOVE for yourself. Start here:

Valentine’s Day Tips for Women

1 – Make a decision to fall in love with yourself again.

Yes, that’s right – with yourself. Too many times we take ourselves for granted and make others a priority. Take some time to let your unconscious mind know how important you are…to you! A few years ago I found a children’s book (Take Heart My Child) that was beautifully written by the author for her unborn daughter. How can you not feel good reading, “May you strive to be happy, change your course if you’re not, Embrace the world’s colors, Colors others forgot.” Or, “And if you stumble or the path grows too steep, Take heart, my child, Trust yourself, take that leap.”

Taking some time to express your love for yourself – for how your body work and how amazing your mind is – those are great for your self-esteem and self-confidence!

2 – Take yourself out for a date (or, for covid, have a special dinner in).

Do you have a special food – like Maine lobsters or tiramisu? Treat yourself once in a while. Or go to your favorite place and order your favorite meal. Don’t think you’ll savor it alone in a restaurant, then do takeout and, when you get it home, set a nice table, put on music you love, and have a candlelight dinner. Follow it up with some chocolate red wine or hot chocolate spiked with peppermint vodka.

3 – Make it a good night.

After dinner, curl up with a good book, a favorite mushy movie or binge-watch a series on Netflix. My two recent favorites are Schitt’s Creek and Last Tango in Halifax. I also love watching The Holiday…with my favorite-ever movie line: “Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I  can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you’re behaving like the best friend.”

Falling in love is good – so go BIG…with the one person you are always with, who knows how hard you work, and who can appreciate you the most and the best.

One last thing…dont forget February 15th is Chocolate Sale Day!

If you’re a candy lover like me, you know that the day after Valentine’s, February 15, is a red-letter day for you because all the stores sell the Valentine candy at half-price and by the 17th, at 75% off. I’d love to not know that, but I do…and I stock up on Russell Stover coconut nests (in whatever form they’re in this year) and peanut butter cups. Yes, it’s true, I’m a little too excited about Valentine’s candy…

Have fun loving yourself this holiday weekend!

With love  and in victory,

Are you Starting Over, Reinventing for Your Next Chapter, or Making a Midlife Change?

Then join the Savvy Sizzle ‘No Regrets’ Master class!

In this 4-week class, I’ll take youStep-by-Step, through the lifestyle makeover that let’s you reignite the passion and excitement – and hope – you used to feel.

Are you feeling old, depressed, like your best days are behind you, and there’s nothing good to look forward to anymore? If you want to add some jazz and savvy sizzle and take those ‘shoulda, ‘coulda, woulda’ dreams and make them happen, you need to join my Savvy Sizzle Master class! Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when and how. Do it here: Newsletter

Looking to Connect with other Midlife Women?

Join my Victory Chicks Private Facebook Group

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Can You Fall in Love Again?

valentines tips for single's and couples
Valentines card with decorative paper hearts and pink flowers. Vector illustration

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s that time of year for…chocolate! And, oh yes, for celebrating love. Frankly, not everyone in a relationship is happy about doing it. Covid confinement has been rough on many relationships. Last year a woman said to me, “I just can’t look at his face anymore” and recently a woman told me she let her sweetie know, about sex, “I’m done with that.” Neither of those is conducive to cuddling and love talk. However, most likely that’s NOT you, so you have options.

Valentine’s Day Tips for Couples

Even if you and your sweetie have been together for a while, with a little planning, Valentine’s Day can open up a whole new set of possibilities. Here are some suggestions that could help you “feel the love” this Valentine’s Day:

1. Have a Plan!

You and your sweetie have a couple of days, so talk about it together. What do you want to do? Sometimes starting with “if time/money/kids weren’t an issue, how would we spend the day?” Sometimes just talking about that is fun. And maybe it will jog some ideas in your head. Also, the anticipation of something special – for now or for the future – lifts your spirits.

Here are a few practical ideas:

  • …Plan for takeout or to cook a special meal together
  • …Get some hearty appetizers that you can cook at home and plan an appetizer-only extended Happy Hour (instead of dinner)
  • …Is there a special movie that gets you in the mood for romance? A favorite for me is Somewhere in Time. I have it on DVD but I’m pretty sure it’s on Netflix
  • …What about going through old pictures together…of vacations or special trips. Going back over those old memories of your good times together is like greasing the engine of your car – it minimizes friction and allows things to flow more smoothly between you.
  • …Do you need a sitter? Get one for just an hour or two. Then take a long drive together to someplace where you can stop and watch the sunset – but first stop for hot chocolate at the convenience store (Philly locals know Wawa has the best – unless you make your own).

2. Be NICE!

When you’re together a long time, it’s easy to forget to be polite and appreciative. Being treated with respect and getting a thankyou from time-to-time is something everyone wants – and you and your partner are no exception. One woman told me that she started to notice the things her sweetie was doing. They were little niceties that he always did – like making her a cup of tea at night. She realized that she’d gotten so used to those things that she stopped thanking him. One night, as he put her tea on the end table next to her, she looked him in the eyes and said, “You know, I don’t always say it but I appreciate it when you make me tea at night – and it’s how I like it. That makes me feel special.” She said the look on his face almost brought tears to her eyes. When she realized that tiny little courtesy made him feel so good, she started looking for other things. It took him a few weeeks, but eventually he starated doing the same. Those little things reingivorated her marriage!

So…when you’re making your plan, include an agreement to say please, thankyou, excuse me – even if you agree together to focus on being nice just for the day. And don’t forget to add and “I love you” once in a while too!

3. Share a Soft Touch

A soft touch from a loved one can be like gold! Remember when you were “new” together and s/he would brush the hair off your face and you liked it so much? Or how just holding hands made you feel good?

Something as simple as stroking your hand or face, rubbing his/her shoulders, a long hug, or a snuggle in bed – are the small things that say “I still love you.” Soft touches can be both soothing and healing. No, it doesn’t have to lead to sex (unless you want it to happen). 

When was the last time you two held hands?

Making Valentine’s Day special doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive or over-the-top crazy. In fact, the longer you two are together, the less all those “externals” matter. What most people want in marriage is the love and respect that results in true intimacy – emotional intimacy. That’s how you can fall in love all over again.

You can choose to let love be all around you this weekend. So go for it…and enjoy!

With love  and in victory,

Annmarie Kelly, speaker, author, lifestyle influencer for women over 40

I’m Annmarie Kelly, award-winning author, speaker, and lifestyle expert. I’m also the founder of The Victorious Woman Project, the empowerment resource for midlife women looking to make a change in their life or their relationship. Check it out…it’s full of helpful and inspiring articles, interviews with fabulous women who have been there and done that, and also classes and other tools that will help you find and nourish your inner spark. Oh…and that’s also where you can get one of my inspiring and motivating self-help books. Victorious Woman: Shaping Life’s Challenges into Personal VictoriesVictory by Design, and marriage game-changer, The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm.

I know how the past year has challenged you – body, mind, and soul. They’ve challenged me too. It’s been hard on everyone! But there’s good news – the future is what you make it! So it’s time to look forward to better days. And you can start RIGHT NOW. 

Now’s the time to uncover the happiness and passions you put on hold. 

You can make 2021 your best year yet!

Join the Savvy Sizzle ‘No Regrets’ Master class or the 30-Day Relationship Reset class.

CONNECT with other VICTORY CHICKS in a Private FaceBook Group

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Strike up the Band & Light the Fireworks!

new midlife reinvention & relationship advice website launched

Hi and Happy February!

Well, I’ve been listening to you. I heard your frustration when you couldn’t find something on or Or about how long pages took to load or that pages were confusing.  That’s annoying for me too. I know when you go online, you want to get info you can use, and find it fast and easy – but you said that wasn’t happening with my sites.

I heard you. You were honest and I appreciated it.

I really want you to have a good experience with me. So I fixed it. Well, technically-speaking, Webmaster extraordinaire Kris fixed it. We took what you said and made changes. The most notable change is that we put Victorious Woman and Five Year Marriage together in one easy-to-use place and one easy for you to remember url:

Big Changes for Easy Navigation

Here’s some of what we did: we made both blogs – the personal empowerment tips and fabulous-marriage tips – easily perusable and accessible on the home page. Like my Dear Abby critique for telling a woman to suck it up even though she’s not getting what she wants in her relationship (and aren’t you tired of being told that?) and how remembering Nancy Drew got me thinking about midlife reinventions.

Also, if you want to look at life reinvention or five-year marriage ideas, we created “hubs” for your convenience. From the homepage, you can toggle between FiveYearMarriage with videos from the Not Your Mother’s Marriage show and VictoriousWoman witih audios from my Friday Happy Hour with Annmarie Kelly shows.

Curious? Take a look:

I hope you like it and I’d love to hear what you think. Here’s some early feedback from others on the new benefits:
– Clean. Easy to navigate. – Anne
– It’s so much clearer! – Wendy
– It’s concise, and easy to maneuver to many great topics, interviews and your books! – Maryann

Do you agree or disagree? Can I add your feedback to that list?​ you’re just one click away from a treasure-trove of good news you can use! I can’t wait to hear what you think about

With love  and in victory,

About Annmarie Kelly, Midlife Empowerment Guru

119220321_823127521762972_6491381989416264119_oI’m Annmarie Kelly, award-winning author, speaker, and lifestyle expert. I’m also the founder of The Victorious Woman Project, the empowerment resource for midlife women looking to make a change in their life or their relationship. Check it out…it’s full of helpful and inspiring articles, interviews with fabulous women who have been there and done that, and also classes and other tools that will help you find and nourish your inner spark. Oh…and that’s also where you can get one of my inspiring and motivating self-help books. Victorious Woman: Shaping Life’s Challenges into Personal VictoriesVictory by Design, and marriage game-changer, The Five-Year Marriage: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm.

I know how the past year has challenged you – body, mind, and soul. They’ve challenged me too. It’s been hard on everyone! But there’s good news – the future is what you make it! So it’s time to look forward to better days. And you can start RIGHT NOW.

Now’s the time to uncover the happiness and passions you put on hold.
Find out how you can Work With Me.

You can make 2021 your best year yet!

Connect & Follow

CONNECT with other VICTORY CHICKS in a Private FaceBook Group

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A 3 Step System to Achieve Your Goals

Watch this video, I tell you the 3 steps needed to accomplish ANY GOAL!

This system ALWAYS works, but you’ve got to work the system.

The steps sound easy, but knowing exactly what each of the steps are for you can be a little tricky – so tune in and find out what this ‘guaranteed to work‘ system is and how you can apply it to your goals!

It’s time to stop feeling like you’re getting old and your best days are behind you.

It’s time to get your goals – and your life – on track so you can BE MORE of who you really are, DO MORE that makes you happy and fulfilled, and HAVE MORE of the life you’ll love living EVERY DAY. If you liked this video, you can dive into these concepts even more in the Savvy Sizzle “NO REGRETS” workshop.

Marriage Conundrum: Is Living Together the Answer?

is living together difficult - relationship advice

More and more couples choose cohabitation as “common law” couples instead of getting legally married. They believe common law gives them some legal protection. It doesn’t. That might have been true in the past, but now…not so much.

There are currently only eight states in the US that still acknowledge common law marriage (CO, IA, NH, SC, MT, TX, KS, UT). However, most of those have specific provisions, e.g. around dependent children. In recent years, six states that previously recognized Common Law Marriage (PA, OH, IN, GA, FL, AL) don’t anymore, unless it’s a pre-existing arrangement.

Marriage vs Common Law – Why does that matter?

First of all, when a couple makes the decision to live together, it’s easy. Maybe they want to test their compatibility. Or it’s convenient, logistically or financially. And usually the couple is hot for each other, so it’s fun and cozy.

That why the fabulous Susan Sarandon decided to go the living together route in her relationship with Tim Robbins. She’s been quoted as saying she liked the idea of “choosing to be with somebody” and she “thought that if you didn’t get married you wouldn’t take each other for granted as easily.” Her ideas were good ones.

Life, Marriage and Change

The fact is that life changes. Also, people being people, they change – jobs, careers, feelings, opinions…everything. Children are born and start growing up. Money problems happen. Personal problems surface. Whether you are married or cohabiting, the problems are the same: money, uneven sharing of responsibilities, sex issues, lack of boundaries, alone time, and more. That’s life. There’s no getting around it.

Living together – married or not – doesn’t stop problems. It also doesn’t make them easier to resolve. People are people and have varying problem-solving skillsets. Problems come up and need to be dealt with together.

Sarandon and Robbins, in spite of their good intentions, split after twenty years.

Traditional marriage may not be ideal but neither is living together

When you live together, the level of commitment is different. As a result, you are less likely to experience the same level of trust and satisfaction that marriage partners do. At the same time, you are cheating yourself out of some of the legal advantages to marriage like tax benefits, health insurance, and inheritances.

Those might not be as important to you as they will be to your children. In addition, unless couples who have children together also have signed paternity agreements, there is no legal obligation on the part of a father to take care of his children.

Is there a better way? Yes!

When I chose to live with someone, it was because I’d fought hard to become independent and self-supporting. Personally, I didn’t want what I saw too many of my girlfriends do, that is, give up their personal power for the sake of the relationship. Also, I didn’t want to feel stuck in the marriage. And, financially, my social worker boyfriend wasn’t making as much money as I was.

So we lived together, and frankly, I would have continued to do that – to my own detriment, and the detriment of the relationship. There were things I didn’t understand then, or even think about that were very important.

However, after a year of living together, my sweetie wanted to get married. I just couldn’t say ‘yes’ to doing it. At the same time, I didn’t want to have a life without him.

It was a conundrum for me…until I got an idea.

What I knew I could do was be married for a while to see how it  would go. I picked five years. Then I figured, if we still liked each other, we could get married again – for five years. I explained my idea to my boyfriend, and he agreed to give it a try. The Five-Year Marriage was born.

What Sarandon liked best was the idea of choosing to be together and not being stuck. In the Five-Year Marriage, we can choose each other again at the end of five years…or not.

Does it make our marriage perfect? NO!

What the Five-Year Marriage does do is remove the “‘til death do you part” stranglehold that suffocates many marriages. It gives couples the flexibility to adjust to life’s changes together. It keeps the power even – one person (often the woman) doesn’t feel the need to give herself up for some issue in the relationship unless he is doing the same.

The Five-Year Marriage fosters relationship equality

Equality in marriage is something unique. It isn’t  sameness – because partners are two very different people – and bring very different strengths – and limitations – to the relationship. So equality has to be thought out, decided, and revisited. It’s a dance you have to do, and sometimes it’s not to music either of you like. You learn.

An interesting consideration: if you knew you would only be married for five years, would you choose a partner the same way or think differently about him/her? I’d say ‘yes’ and I say it with experience. The man I was engaged to when I was a twenty-two-year-old schoolteacher living with my parents was the perfect fit for the “good girl” I was then. I’m glad we broke up. I would have been unhappily married within ten years.

Reality and today’s couple

In this 21st century, the future of marriage is uncertain. Traditional marriage is clearly obsolete, especially for smart and savvy women and men who are already comfortable with taking care of themselves and living on their own terms.

If you are thinking about bypassing traditional marriage, living together may not be your best bet. If you are willing to consider an unconventional and unorthodox way of being together, the Five-Year Marriage is the agile marriage. It gives you most of what cohabiting does, and all the benefits of marriage.

That’s a win-win…right?

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