Published December 28, 2010
No matter what anyone tells you – no marriage is perfect. Just ask Alisa Bowman. She was so miserable at one point – she even planned her husband’s funeral over and over again in her mind. But instead of giving up on her relationship, she decided to brave the storm, and embark on a four-month journey to save her marriage.
In her new book, “Project: Happily Ever After,” she talks about that life-changing journey and offers advice and tips to other “miserably-married” couples who may be finding themselves at the point of no return. She shared a few of these tips with FoxNews.com:
1. Look in the mirror. I initially thought that my husband was 100 percent to blame for our marriage problems. It wasn’t until I took a good, hard, humbling look in the mirror that I was able to see that our problems originated with me. I’d failed time and time again to tell him what I wanted, what I was thinking, how I felt, and how his actions (or inactions) affected me. Once I started speaking up for myself, our marriage improved.
2. Drop the idea of fairness in favor of the idea of happiness. What it takes to improve a marriage isn’t always fair. You might have to be the big person most of the time. You might have to make the first (or 100th) move to warm up your marriage, be more affectionate, or keep things civil. You might have to assume the role of leader, while your spouse merely follows along. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. Would you rather have a fair marriage or a happy one? I choose happy.
3. Become a problem solver, not a problem voicer. Shift from complaining about what’s wrong to doing something about it. Marital problems are no different from any other life problem. Attack them with an open mind. Define what’s wrong. Research possible solutions. Try these solutions with an open mind, even the ones you don’t think will work.
4. Stop stockpiling old grievances. Fight about current issues. Forgive the old ones. Many people use the words “I can’t” when talking about forgiveness, as in, “I can’t bring myself to do it.” But you probably can. Forgiveness is a decision. When you feel like you can’t forgive, it’s because you are holding onto the old hurt as if it were a precious jewel, and you are afraid to let it go. Often we hold onto grudges because we erroneously believe they hurt the other person. Yet grudge holding doesn’t hurt the other person. Usually it just hurts you. Think of the grudge as a toxic, co-dependent relationship. The time has come for you to walk away from that relationship. Give your grudge a last imaginary hug and kiss, and then say, good-bye,” and walk away.
5. Be adventurous in the bedroom. Most of us have learned how to have sex somewhat accidentally. As a result, we end up relying on a small number of techniques that we use over and over again. This, however, leads to sexual burnout. Pretend you are 16 again (or younger, if needed) and that you know nothing about how to please a man or a woman. Learn everything you can, and ask your partner to do the same. Explore the art of the hand job. Find out more about oral sex. See if there are new positions you might want to try.
6. Focus on foreplay, not on anti-play. Think of foreplay as everything that gets you warmed up about your spouse. It includes compliments, thank you’s, favors, hugs, physical intimacy, skin on skin contact, listening, and support. Think of Anti-Play as everything that turns you off: sarcasm, henpecking, ignoring, putting things off, slacking while you are hard at work, criticism, and more. The more your practice foreplay and the less you practice anti-play, the happier your marriage will become.
7. Communicate assertively, without blame. Don’t brace for a fight. Just ask for what you need, and do it in as few sentences as possible. Do it as warmly as possible, too. Whenever I want my husband to do something, I sit next to him, I put my palm on his thigh, I smile, and in a warm voice, I make the request, “Honey, I’m exhausted and the house is a mess. It would make me feel so much better if it were clean. Could you help me make that happen? I’d so appreciate it.”
Alisa Bowman is a veteran self-help journalist who has co-authored more than 20 books, including seven New York Times bestsellers. Since starting her blog ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com, she has helped thousands of readers improve their marriages. She lives happily ever after (most of the time) with her husband, daughter and dog in Pennsylvania.