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

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Five-Year Marriage® Featured on The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The first time Joseph said he’d like to marry her, Annmarie was overwhelmed with dread.

She loved him. He loved her. A marriage could ruin everything!”

I’m blown away by the beautiful job columnist Kellie Patrick Gates did on this article in today’s The Philadelphia Inquirer. She managed to capture the essence of the Five Year Marriage® and described my 7 marriages in the most loving way (which, if your read her column regularly, you know “loving” is her style). Thank you Kellie for featuring Joseph Eagle and me in this article!!

Read the full article here: https://www.inquirer.com/life/annmarie-kellly-joseph-eagle-reiki-marriage-personal-goals-five-year-commitments-20200809.html

five-year marriage on the Philadelphia inquirer

My Five Year Marriage featured on Medium.com

I’m excited to have my marriage story & The Five Year Marriage featured in this great article on medium.com! It was a fun interview with Vicki Larson back in February – pre-covid. Vicki is on the same page about marriage – can’t wait to turn the tables and interview her on my new podcast…coming soon!

Read it here: https://medium.com/@OMGchronicles/why-all-women-need-renewable-marriage-contracts-1ce134c89890

April – Fresh Starts

This month I focused on the importance of fresh starts in a relationship.

If you missed all the great content on my social media, you can catch up here!

Relationship Reset

Many of us might be feeling frustrated or resentful of our partner now that we’ve been quarantined for a few weeks with them. It’s probably time for a relationship reset: https://annmariekelly.com/2020/04/10/tips-for-resetting-your-relationship/

How to make your relationship a priority

During these days of covid-19 confinement, everyone’s patience is wearing thin. “I just can’t look at him another day” and “she’s driving me crazy” are just two comments I’ve heard from friends lately. Lost wages, lack of freedom and constant contact with spouses and children is making you and I stressed, depressed, and aggravated.

Take a deep breath. We’ll get through this!!!

In the meantime, and while you’re breathing deeply, remember to make your relationship with your sweetie a priority. Not sure what that means or how to do it? Check out this post for details: https://annmariekelly.com/2020/04/17/marrige-during-covid-19/

Some other interesting relationship articles in the news:

Are you thinking about having the Five Year Marriage conversation?

It is a process and something you have to work on for your fresh start!

“Think of it like planting flowers in the spring. Very often the ground is hard and compact. It doesn’t absorb water. As a result, you can’t plant anything. You can’t even get a shovel into the dirt. If you want to plant something, first you have to “condition” the ground with water. Then, when it’s aerated, you can start planting.”


Media Buzz!

I’m so excited to share my marriage story in this month’s Philadelphia Magazine!

‘Different Marriages’  were the topic of this month’s COVER STORY!! – it includes my very own Five-Year Marriage ® story!



This Is It TV Interview

I had a great time with Cheldin Barlatt Rumer on This Is It TV – we talked about the challenges relationships are facing in quarantine.

Check out the interview here: https://www.facebook.com/thisisittv/


Each week I post an inspiring quote on my social media accounts – here are the ones I shared this month. Feel free to download & share these meme’s on your own accounts if you like them!

Let’s Connect!

  1. Join the Five-Year Marriage ® Mailing list
  2. Follow our social media accounts – Facebook – Instagram
  3. Stay tuned for an upcoming relationship workshop I’ll be offering!

Grab a copy of The Five-Year Marriage ® today!

Available as a paperback or kindle

Is Marriage Broken?

Fix a broken marriage“Incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they find it impossible to live together as husband and wife” is what Todd Palin, spouse of Sarah Palin, put in the divorce papers. With that, it seems that Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and only the second woman ever to run for Vice-President of the United States, is getting a divorce after 31 years of marriage.

The Palins married in 1988, a month – almost to the day – before the first of my seven five-year marriages. So I relate to challenges of a thirty-one year relationship. And because Sarah Palin is in the news – though it’s none of my business – I’m curious about what happened. Maybe you are too. I think we want to know a little bit because it juicy gossip. But I think we are more interested in whether the same thing is happening in our relationship.

Because of my work, I talk to a lot of women who are divorced…or thinking about it. When it comes to the “why,” I know that it’s seldom one thing that ends a marriage. Yes, there could be a catalyst – like an affair or a big money issue. However, very often that is just “the last straw” in a series of events that troubled the marriage. The affair we hear about could be just the latest one, or there’s an alcohol/drug abuse/domestic violence/hoarding problem. It’s been going on for years.. There were a million promises that weren’t kept. It finally reached a crescendo of intolerance for the partner.

Is the “Forever Marriage” an Impossible Dream?

The fact is that the ’til death do you part” marriage is now longer than anyone ever imagined – even just a generation or two ago. In the olden days, couples who married “until death do you part” were together for twenty or twenty-five years. It was long enough to raise a few kids into young adulthood. Then the man died and the woman lived out her last few years are the mourning widow and kind grandmom. If she married again, chances are that marriage would last an even shorter time.

Those days are long gone.

Thanks to the many fabulous advances in medicine and health, the average life expectancy around the world is about 82 years old. The conventional ‘til death commitment could mean fifty or more years.

Living with your Spouse can be Hard

Every married person knows how hard it is to live with someone. Life happens, stuff happens, and things change. When they do, emotions run hot and cold, words are said, and feelings get hurt…sometimes deeply. Each one of those things changes you. – even when you love the person.

So who, at age 25 or 30, can honestly make that kind of commitment? They can’t. It’s an unreasonable expectation.

The marriage paradigm that is in place now – and has been for the past two thousand or more years doesn’t work now for at least half of today’s married couples. It’s become an unreasonable edict, an impossible dream.

There’s a better way to Structure a Marriage : The Five-Year Marriag

How it works: Before marrying the first time, a couple makes agreements that stretch over five years, revolving around careers, money, children, responsibilities, etc. At the end of five years, the couple pauses their marriage. They assess what’s changed, in life and in themselves. They talk about how those changes impact their relationship and their future together. Looking at the next five years, they renegotiate old agreements and make new agreements. Then they “spiritually” end that marriage and enter into a new one…for five years.

For the typical couple, the focus of the first five years might be on advancing a careers, buying a house, and/or having a child. They focus on whether both partners will continue to work outside or if one partner becomes a stay-at-home parent? They decide who will oversee bill-paying, how will they save money, split household chores, and more.

A marriage agreement that allows couples to change and grow over time

At the end of five years, the couple evaluates the relationship in light of their personal and relationship changes. They rethink what they want and how to partner for the next five years. Maybe in the first marriage, they only wanted two children, but now they want more – or vice versa. Or s/he thought s/he wanted to be a stay-at-home mom/dad but misses the career (or the money) and wants to change course.

In the case of Sarah and Todd Palin, when Sarah decided to run for governor and then vice-president, it affected Todd and the marital relationship. It also impacted the whole family. So did the birth of a special needs child. Did they talk about all those changes? Did they get any outside help with the problems – like a family mediator or couples therapist?

When things get wonky in a Five-Year Marriage® , after they reevaluate and reconnect, they get a fresh start.

What’s Next? A New Idea on Traditional Marriage

If fifty was still the average life span, the ‘til death marriage might still work. It’s a blessing to humankind that our life expectancy is thirty or forty years longer. However, with the extension of life, related things (like marriage) need to adjust to something that is doable in today’s world.

Marriage with Breathing Room

The Five-Year Marriage® gives a couple some breathing room. Their dreams and goals get revisited, discussed, and maybe revised. They can reset their expectations. Problems-in-the-making can get resolved before they become marriage-enders. Marriage counseling may be chosen before the couple hates each other and it’s just a “last chance” (often useless) effort.

Yes – marriage is broken! It’s time we shift the paradigm of marriage to one that makes sense in today’s world for modern couples.

Get your copy of The Five-Year Marriage From Amazon!

To learn more, check out The Five-Year Marriage® : Shifting the Marriage Paradigm in HardCopy or Kindle

#FiveYearMarriage, #MarriageTips. #LoveAndMarriage, #PartnershipMarriage, #ModernMarriage #WomensEmpowerment, #MarriageContract, #RelationshipAdvice, #AnnmarieKelly, #ContractMarriage,

Annmarie on PBS with Grover Silcox/Counter Culture

Tune in to Counter Culture with Grover Silcox on PBS39. We’re chatting about the Five-Year Marriage®! It airs on Tuesday night at 7pm DST.

The episode will also be available for streaming on Wednesday, April 24th 2019 here: https://www.wlvt.org/television/counter-culture/

annmarie kelly with Grover Silcox on PBS39 show Counter Culture

Annmarie isn’t’ just talking the talk – she’s walking the walk! Here are pictures from Annmarie’s Five-Year marriages!

Marriage #1 – 1988 – West Chester PA

Arlington Cemetery Drexel Hill PA

Marriage #2 – 1993 – Arlington Cemetery Drexel Hill PA

The Conan O'Brian Blessing

Marriage #3 – 1998 – The Conan O’Brian Blessing

In 1998 we moved and weren’t even unpacked. So, instead of a wedding, we went to see Conan O’Brien…so I always said we got “The Conan O’Brien Blessing” that year.

Marriage #4 – 2003 – Neumann University Chapel, Aston, PA.

Marriage #5 – 2008 – Valley Forge Memorial Chapel

Marriage #5

Marriage #6 – 2013 – Tyler Arboretum, Media PA

Annmarie Kelly Marriage Guru - marriage #6

Marriage #7 – 2018 – Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast West Chester PA

marriage 7 - Faunbrook B&B

Have Times Changed?

Glenn Close acceptance speech at Golden Globes

Glenn Close was wiping away the tears. “I’m thinking of my mom,” she said, shaking with emotion, “Who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life and, in her eighties, she said to me, ‘I feel I haven’t accomplish anything.’” Then, as she ended her acceptance speech for her Golden Globe best actress win, the power in her voice filled the stage as she told her worldwide audience, “We’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us…but we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say ‘I can do that,” and ‘I should be allowed to do that.”

Yes and Yayyyy!

Women are nurturers, and that is what is expected of them. But why haven’t we evolved more in our 21st century than in the 3rd, 14th or 20th centuries? Can only women nurture? And can only men fulfill their goals and follow their dreams? Of course not!

Yet we keep putting new wine into old wine-skins. That is, women keep putting their “new wine” independent selves and empowered ideas into the “old wine-skin” of traditional marriage. As a result, they still find themselves doing what Glenn Close’s mother did – sublimating. They put off their goals until the kids are in school and it’s “their time.” Unfortunately,  “their time” sometimes comes at the same time as a divorce. Or they redirect their energies into home-based businesses that are more like hobbies. Their once-sharp skillset is rusty and they settle – for an OK or satisfying life instead of a fulfilling one.

And just like how the new wine in the old wine-skin degrades and sours, a woman is diminished and her spirit withers.  In the end, women’s lives are eerily similar in personal fulfillment and satisfaction to the lives of women like Glenn Close’ mother.

Women don’t have to keep sublimating or withering. Women, and the men who love them, can choose something different. They can choose a lifestyle that gives both of them equal voices and choices. Also, they can choose a lifestyle where they revisit their agreements and periodically adjust.  Just like any contract. It’s the same with your cable company or cellphone carrier.

Of course, a woman has to own her power and make it important. And a man has to recognize it. Your partner typically doesn’t know why you are unhappy or dissatisfied…but chances are, s/her knows something isn’t working well. Still, s/he isn’t a mind-reader. You two have to meet, communicate, and renegotiate.

You do it with your cable carrier, don’t you? Your carried isn’t going to offer you a better bundle of services just because you don’t like what you have now. You have to call them, complain, and ask for something better. When you do, they usually accommodate you. And, frankly, your cable carrier doesn’t have as much to lose as the typical married couple. So, doesn’t it make sense for the two of you to have regular conversations?

The Five-Year Marriage®

The Five-Year Marriage® opens up a space for conversation and honest communication. Here are a few things you’ll find with The Five-Year Marriage® :

  • Both partners have an equal voice
  • Women can keep from losing themselves in the minutia of marriage and children because she doesn’t give up her SELF
  • The five-year format gives women and men a way to shine a light on problems early so that they can be looked at, discussed, and problem solved before she or he starts feeling anger and resentment
  • Because a couple is still living in love, they are open and willing to find ways to solve the problems.

The Five-Year Marriage® is a different but better way for couples to live a marriage. It breaks the “til death do us part” stranglehold.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? How do you think a Five-Year Marriage® would affect your relationship – or the relationship of someone you know?

Want to learn more? You can get started by reading The Five-Year Marriage® : Shifting the Marriage Paradigm, available on Amazon. And be sure to sign up for Annmarie Kelly’s Five-Year Marriage newsletter to get the latest information on articles, meetups, and workshops.

#Glenn Close, #FiveYearMarriage, #MarriageTips. #LoveAndMarriage, #PartnershipMarriage, #ModernMarriage #WomensEmpowerment, #MarriageContract, #RelationshipAdvice, #AnnmarieKelly, #ContractMarriage,

Aniston: Women, Marriage and Divorce

five year marriage

“It’s a very storybook idea,” Jennifer Aniston says of traditional marriage in a recent Elle magazine interview. She calls marriage a “happily ever after” fantasy. Her reason is valid: “I think for some people it does work…but everybody’s path is different.” Yes, and everyone sees marriage – and divorce – differently.

Though her marriage to Justin Theroux ended earlier this year, Aniston doesn’t consider either of her marriages (the first to Brad Pitt) a failure. Reflecting on the well-publicized splits, she believes both marriages were successful. So what happened? She explains, “When they came to an end, it was a choice that was made because we chose to be happy, and sometimes happiness didn’t exist within that arrangement anymore.”

Are Women Practicing Sexism?

The most interesting part of the Elle interview was (to me) the media dubbing the end her second marriage a failure, and Aniston seeing that as “sexist.”  She has a really good point.

In society – past and present – men aren’t stigmatized in a divorce the same way women are. For starters, a woman has an almost-immediate negative impact on her lifestyle. Next, people are likely to feel sorrier for her than him because, they seem to feel, she will suffer and he won’t.

Unfortunately, Aniston observes, a lot of the pity comes from other women. Aniston wonders if that’s because they may be. “women who haven’t figured out that they have the power, that they have the ability to achieve a sense of inner happiness.” If that’s the case, she thinks that’s the greater failure which, she believes, is an oversight due to “narrow-minded thinking.”

Or, Aniston wonders if “using marriage and children as the ultimate marker of female happiness is just another way to disempower successful women.” Jen’s definitely onto something!

So many women still believe that their life doesn’t begin until they are married. Many powerful, self-sufficient executives still think marriage is a measure of success. Or that their life isn’t complete yet. So, as the old song says, “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” If a woman can’t find the relationship she wants, she settles for the one she can get. That “settling” may mean giving up some of her personal power. That can serve up some tough consequences for both her and him. Sadly, it’s even worse for their children.

What Makes the Five-Year Marriage® Different

Jennifer Aniston realizes something critically important about traditional marriage. It’s really old school because “we have these clichés around all of this that need to be reworked and retooled. That’s what The Five-Year Marriage® gives couples – a modern-day, reworked and retooled version of an old tradition.  It shows couples a new way of thinking about and living their marriage – one that makes practical sense for them.

In the Five-Year Marriage®, a woman doesn’t just see her life through only the prisms of herself as a spouse and mother. Instead, she understands that she (1) has power and (2) has a viable construct for using it in marriage. Both of those are is critically important to her psyche. She also focuses on her own SELF.

So, when she dates a prospective mate, she takes the time to ask the tough questions, even if she doesn’t like the answers. She makes sure they have shared values and goals, they talk about the really tough stuff. Then, unlike many old-school marriages, the woman – and the man who loves her and whom she loves – create a set of agreements before the wedding – in a format more detailed than the simple government-issued marriage contract.

Through the Five-Year Marriage® set-up, regular Family Meetings keep them accountable.  Those meetings also shine a light on what’s working and what’s not…before a lot of anger, resentment, and disconnection build up between the couple.

Over time, as the woman lives her life with her  partner, she pays attention to how the contract is or isn’t serving her and the relationship. If it isn’t, she has the space to renegotiate those agreements. So does he. That’s part of the paradigm-shifting design of The Five-Year Marriage.

What would you renegotiate in your marriage contract?

Interested in starting your own Five-Year Marriage®? Learn more and get the basics, starting with the book:  The Five-Year Marriage®: Shifting the Marriage Paradigm

#FiveYearMarriage, #MarriageTips. #LoveAndMarriage, #PartnershipMarriage, #ModernMarriage #WomensEmpowerment, #MarriageContract, #RelationshipAdvice, #AnnmarieKelly, #ContractMarriage,

DeNiro and Hightower: One-Sided Divorce?

Trouble in paradise - deniro

Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower recently made headlines – and not for a happy reason. The famed actor filed for a divorce from his long-time spouse after 20 years of marriage. This is the second time DeNiro has filed for divorce. The first time was about ten years ago. The divorce was never finalized because DeNiro and Hightower resolved their differences. They recommitted in a lavish, celebrity-filled ceremony.

So what happened this time?

Reports are surfacing about the reasons. They include Hightower’s lavish spending habits as well as stress over raising their autistic child, one of DeNiro’s two children with Hightower. According to Radar Online, the celebrity insider who confirmed the breakup to Page Six, and also said, “she was blindsided. As of a few weeks ago, everything seemed fine.”

Blindsided?? How could that be? A divorce, like a marriage, involves two people. How does a marriage die – but only one person writes the obituary? A one-sided divorce is something of a puzzle.

Clearly DeNiro and Hightower weren’t connecting in a meaningful way. If there were problems, the two weren’t sitting down to discuss them. Or, if they discussed their problems, they weren’t finding a way to effectively identify and resolve the difficulty. As every long-time married couple knows, partner communication in marriage is more important than sex. Without it, the marriage partners experience a disconnect accompanied by loneliness, anger and/or resentment.

Two Ways the Five-Year Marriage® Shifts the Marriage Paradigm in Your Favor

The Five-Year Marriage® recognizes the communication cornerstone…and human nature. Here’s how:

  • Time-Limits. It’s human nature to put things off until you have to do it. Most people are motivated by deadlines. The Five-Year Marriage® has the built-in end date of five years. Partners cannot lull themselves into thinking they unlimited time (’til death) to fix a problem. They have five years. It creates an incentive for communication, as well as a method for action and accountability.
  • Structured Support. Five-Year couples develop the habit of doing a team temperature check. They do it during their Family Meetings, where they use a format to evaluate their relationship.

How to Have a Family Meeting That Works

  1. Set a definite time and place
  2. Start the meeting with a “high five” list of what’s going right
  3. Next, identify what isn’t going well, and talk about how it isn’t and how that’s a problem – without blame or finger-pointing
  4. Then figure out how to solve the problem; figure out how to get help if you need it (counselor, mediator, books, etc.)
  5. Finally make a commitment for who’s going to do what in the resolution process. For example, if someone is overspending, create a budget. Maybe there already is a budget but it’s not being honored. Then make an agreement that both of you have to agree on anything for which your joint money is being used over a specific dollar amount.
  6. Follow-up on your progress at the next Family Meeting.

If the problem isn’t being resolved, go for mediation or counseling – before resentment builds up and turns to hate or apathy. And before one partner feels so disconnected to the relationship that s/he files for divorce and blindsides the other.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Thinking about couples you know, how would a Family Meeting help their communication?

To learn more about the Five-Year Marriage®, join the Five-Year Marriage community. When you do, you will get a download link for my article on “The Four Traits in a Partner to Avoid at All Costs.

Ready? Here’s what to do now:

Get my Five-Year Marriage® started! Sign-up and receive “The 4 Traits to AVOID AT ALL COSTS in a partner”! (PDF) Plus, be the first to know what’s new with the Five Year Marriage®

#FiveYearMarriage, #MarriageTips. #LoveAndMarriage, #PartnershipMarriage, #ModernMarriage #WomensEmpowerment, #MarriageContract, #RelationshipAdvice, #AnnmarieKelly, #ContractMarriage