a “bride to be” listener named karen emailed me after yesterday’s show asking for some “pre-marital” advice for sustaining a marriage.
i was thrilled because the past couple of days there had been some controversy surrounding my “marital” advice. ..and by controversy i mean some people were quite agitated with my recommending to an unhappily married woman that she go get her freak on elsewhere!
i suggested this method of self care after she told me she’d been in not just a sexless marriage for 4 years, but an intimate free marriage for 4 years (4 years of an 8 year marriage!). this woman had tried to work on it with her husband but he was not looking to fix it.
she had spent 4 years not being touched by a man who may have been touching someone else (according to her). and she was tired of feeling unwanted and unloved.
my hunch was and is that if someone else made her feel good, it would do wonders for her self esteem and maybe that would give her the strength to move on from the marriage that was not, infact, a marriage anymore.
this advice i gave was not disregarding the marital vows…in my mind the marital vows had already been disregarded and discarded by her husband. he wasn’t being a husband to her, based on her assertion, in any way.
the onslaught of criticism i received was fascinating. and understandable.
as one listener who called in yesterday reminded me: often people react strongly to something said when it resonates with them in some way OR implicates them in another. some of the women listening may not be having sex with their husbands… and perhaps they felt i was authorizing their husbands to stray.
i was not.
i was just responding to the specific woman who called in.
i know marriage is not easy. even the BEST marriage isn’t easy. and i do not believe when the going gets tough, the tough should go fuck someone else. of course not.
but if day in and day out, and year in and year out there is no touching. of any sort. then i wouldn’t blame the untouched for finding relief elsewhere.
karen, the bride to be, emailed me the following:
“…Listening to your show today made me realize how many marriages change for the worse as the years go by, as children come, as things get busy and so on. Do you have any advice for me? I want so badly to have a beautiful life with my fiance, to always feel loved, accepted and happy. I also want to be able to give the same to him always. I know that life will get hard and there will be challenges but what can I do to never let it get to the point where one of us wants to walk away or where we don’t even want to touch each other anymore?…”
i’ve no crystal ball. and i’m constantly learning about my own marriage and what will keep it going strong. but i can tell you what i’ve found so far that has been helpful.
1. be honest with eachother always, but hurtful with eachother never.
chances are you will have a hard time following this recommendation to the letter but the trying is what matters. sometimes honesty will hurt. and so sometimes in a marriage we aren’t truthful so as to not hurt. and on occasion i believe that is ok. no! not ok to lie about something that matters, but withholding how ugly a tshirt is if he’s so happy wearing it will only hurt you…because he’s wearing it!
and sometimes we have to hurt because it will protect whom we love. and in that case, yeah, the hurt may be necessary.
2. take the good and leave the rest. and put way more emphasis mentally on the good!
we fall in love. and during that fall we see our boys/men as perfectly amazing creatures. their flaws are darling and quirky…only to become just flaws down the road.
remember the darling and the quirky. the way youd want him to remember your boobs when they weren’t yet saggy.
when he’s making you crazy (and not in a good way!) remind yourself of the way he comforted you early on. remind yourself of how safe you felt with him. remind yourself of how much you laughed and how his love for you made you feel like you could do anything.
3. he’s no better than you. and you are no better than he.
if you want your marriage to work, you better feel damn lucky he’s yours. and he ought to feel the same way. both of you won the prize by winning each other.
4. let him be him. encourage him to grow. and he ought to encourage you to do the same. you will be a different girl years from now. he will be a different man. embrace the differences that happen naturally with time. and relish what stays the same.
it is true that almost nothing ever happens according to plan. know that. accept it. and you’ll be ok.
5. bad things will happen during your marriage. and good things! how you deal with them is what matters. laugh as much as you can. even when it may be inappropriate. never disregard one another during rough times. lean on eachother. and be extra tolerant.
in 16 years of being together, keith and i had 2 children, lost my mom to cancer, watched my mother in law beat it, gained a step mother, gained and lost too many pounds to count (mostly mine!), had great career successes, had some career failures, big money, no money, depression, ecstasy, arguments, and boredom galore.
and neither one of us has ever threatened to leave.
doesnt mean neither one of us has NEVER thought about leaving…
but neither one of us wants to. we consistently choose to be married.
which may be my most important piece of advice:
6. marriage is a choice. and to stay married requires the decision to constantly make that choice. and making that choice on a constant basis means sometimes doing what we don’t want to do. getting naked when we want to be clothed. watching things on television we don’t want to see. having dinner with people we don’t adore and staying home when wed rather trip the light fantastic.
it also means ending an argument sometimes just because what’s the point of continuing it.
my keithy and i love eachother. profoundly. and we still touch after 16 years. and some days i want to run away to be anywhere but here.
but i am always glad that i don’t.
ps: every bride to be and married person should read iris krasnow’s ” the secret lives of wives“… lots of tremendous insight.