Gretchen Rubin Dishes About Her Marriage

Gretchen Rubin

A few years ago, several publishers turned down the opportunity to publish Project: Happily Ever After (that’s my new book in case you are new here) because they said it was too similar to The Happiness Project, at the time a soon-to-be published book by Gretchen Rubin. The Happiness Project went on to become a #1 New York Times Bestseller and be translated into several languages.

If I was an enlightened human being, I would have been happy for Gretchen’s good fortune. I would also have been happy for her readers who were benefiting from the spread of her message and able to improve their lives as a result. I wasn’t. I’ll admit: I was filled with envy. I wanted what Gretchen had.

Flash forward roughly two years. My book is about to be published. A friend asks me if I’d like to join an author’s group. Gretchen is a member of said group. Gretchen and I trade emails. Gretchen says she’d like to read my book. I mail it to her. She says she loves it. We meet for coffee. We become friends. I feel guilty about ever feeling envious of her. And we agree that our books are similar in the following respects:

* They have many similar words in the titles.

* They are both memoirs with a “project” theme.

And that’s it. Her book is about happiness. Mine is about marriage. You could read both and never feel as if you just had a deja vu moment (unlike the folks who read my Facebook feed and who have deja vu moments all the time because it’s broken and always feeds the blog posts in twice). Several people have told me that Project: Happily Ever After has saved their marriages. I’m telling you that The Happiness Project just might save your peace of mind. It’s coming out in paperback. You can find out where to preorder it here. Gretchen is giving away a free copy of her Happiness Paradoxes to everyone who pre-orders. To get it, just email her with “I pre-ordered” in the subject line.

What follows is my interview with Gretchen about marriage.

1. How has the Happiness Project (the book and blog and not the actual year long project) impacted your marriage? Does writing about happiness lead to marital happiness?

Absolutely. One of the main goals of my happiness project was to have warmer, more romantic, more light-hearted atmosphere in my marriage, and that has truly happened. It’s a sad fact about a happiness project that you can only change yourself, but when I changed, my relationship changed, and my husband changed. We’re a lot more patient with each other, more affectionate, better about doing the little annoying tasks that the other wants us to do. Also, we “catch” happiness from each other, and as I boosted my happiness, it lifted my husband’s happiness as well.

2. You worked on nagging in the book. That’s a big one for a lot of readers here. What do you think was the most effective technique you used to get yourself to stop doing it?

Alas, the most effective technique was…to do a task myself. I realized that I was nagging most about assignments I gave to my husband, without much regard to whether he thought they were tasks that needed doing at all. For instance, I realized that he didn’t care about sending out family Valentine’s Day cards, so he didn’t want to help. Valentine’s cards were something that was important to me, not him — so why did I get to make him help?

3. What is your favorite piece of marital advice?

Before I got married, someone told me, “Leave something unsaid every day.” That’s good advice!

4. Is there anything you do for your marriage every day?

I give my husband a proper hello and good-bye. I have a little conversation, give a kiss — not just a “Hey” shouted from across the room while I’m busy checking my email. I do the same thing with my daughters, too, and expect them to do the same. We call this “warm greetings and farewells” as in “Come on, I need a warm greeting.”

5. During those frustrating moments in marriage, what do you tell yourself to help yourself get back to a positive place?

I try to keep a sense of humor. This is so, so hard for me. But if I can joke around, or talk in a more light-hearted way, it makes me calmer and more constructive. I suspect that my husband has figured out that if I’m angry, he should wait for a few minutes before engaging, to let me my better instincts kick in.

Gretchen has offered to give away one free copy of the Happiness Project to a PHEA reader. I will choose the winner from the comments this Saturday (2/26) using In the comments, let’s discuss: What can you do to boost your happiness without the help of your spouse?


* POOF BOOKS reviewed PHEA saying, “While the book does indeed have a happy ending, boy it was a heck of a ride to get there.”

* I will be on WBFF Fox 45 Morning News in Baltimore this Friday around 9:20 talking about marriage. I understand that viewers will be able to call in and ask me questions. If you live in the area, I’d love to hear from you while I’m on air.

* I finally cracked the 100 site mark for the PHEA virtual tour! Go here to read all of the reviews.

35 comments… add one

  • Elle February 22, 2011, 12:58 pm

    To boost my happiness daily, I focus on those small moments of beauty — whether it’s my child taking my hand, my dog doing his full-body wag when he sees me, my cat washing his face, the snow sparkling in the sunlight, a gorgeous flower, a friend’s phone call… No matter how dark the rest of my world might be (and when you’re dealing with a spouse’s betrayal, it can be REALLY dark), I discovered that if I could hold on to those tiny moments, I could make them light up the darkness. I would notice more and more of them, more and more often…until I could eventually emerge. I often suggest women struggling with this to even take photos of those moments and put them somewhere to frequently remind that it’s possible to feel slivers of joy even in the midst of great pain.
    Elle´s last blog post ..The Price of Working It Out

  • Stefany February 22, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I read both of your books and loved them both! They both helped me considerably. To boost my happiness, I try to take a step back and focus on right now and take deep breaths. Thank you both for sharing your stories!

  • Jenna February 22, 2011, 1:21 pm

    The best thing I do for myself to boost my happiness is to exercise. I am much happier with all parts of my life after I have taken some time to help myself stay healthy and fit.

  • Abby February 22, 2011, 3:23 pm

    To boost my happiness, I try to do something that either tends to make me happpy, boosts my energy, or at least gets my mind off whatever is annoying me, making me sad, etc. This can be anything from re-reading my favorite passages of a book, to exercising, to walking my dogs on the beach, or taking a bath! And if I don’t have time for any of those, I take a few deep breaths and try to see the bigger picture and remember that I can choose to be happy.

  • queenann February 22, 2011, 4:32 pm

    I’m working on taking better care of myself. When I do that, it shows in my confidence and my self-acceptance. And wow, my husband appreciates it when I don’t talk negatively about myself.

  • Robin February 22, 2011, 6:51 pm

    I redirect myself to boost my happiness and do something that I know will make me happy…like exercising or reading.

  • Lauren February 22, 2011, 7:42 pm

    I had to learn that it’s not selfish to put yourself first sometimes. First of all, I’m a “bonus mom,” so we had to cope with the instant family thing (we were non-custodial then, but there was a TON of alienation and court drama). Second, we had two kids of our own within 2.5 years of getting married, started a small business, etc. It took a few years and a lot of professional advice to get me to understand that in order to take good care of those around me, I had to take good care of myself. So now, I give myself permission to make some compromises now and again in order to be good to myself. Correspondingly, I make a point to ask my husband for help when I need it.

  • Kim B February 22, 2011, 9:51 pm

    To boost my happiness I work to internally keep a positive attitude so it rubs off on my external self. It is so easy for me to slip into the negative set. A little extra work to stay out of that mode goes a long way.

  • Andi February 22, 2011, 10:06 pm

    I find I am happier if I do things that I love, like spend time in the studio, or take a morning to sit at the local coffee shop with a good book. It took me 46 years, but I finally realized no one else can make me happy. I consciously choose happy now, it is a daily choice.

  • Kim February 22, 2011, 10:50 pm

    First of all, I need my sleep (8-9 hours) to even consider being happy. Then, getting exercise and spending time doing things I enjoy — vs. “need” to do — ensure I stay balanced and am pleasant to be around. Do I always do these things? No, but it’s much easier now that I’ve figured them out.

  • Kathy February 22, 2011, 11:16 pm

    I learned (I think from your blog) that only I can make myself happy. My husband truly doesn’t have a lot to do with it. Sure, his mood can put a bump in my happiness. Once I realized my hubby had little to nothing to do with my happiness, I’ve actually been happier. True, taking full responsibility for your own happiness, makes you a happier person, in my experience.

    Now just by that realization alone, did not magically make me a happy person. That took counseling. Getting rid of childhood and adult upsets got me to be in the now.

    Is every day bliss – heck no! But my general overall outlook on life is far greater. Which makes me happier. And even if I’m not in the best of mood or am lacking sleep, I can still be happy with what I do have. It doesn’t need to be 100% perfect in my life for me to be happy. That’s probably the biggest change – I can be happy when only 50% of my life is “right”.

  • Elina February 23, 2011, 4:35 am

    After 30 years in this world I have finally realized that what I eat profoundly affects my mood. My weight is perfectly normal but I keep my “happiness diet” that makes me a lot less mood swingy and generally happy the whole time. If I pig out, the effects will be felt the entire following week.

  • Mandi @ Life Your Way February 23, 2011, 6:44 am

    That nagging one is a huge one. When people ask me how to get organized if their significant other isn’t organized, I say, “Do it yourself.” Having a neat closet or keeping socks off the floor really isn’t a matter of right or wrong, and it’s unfair of us to put our expectations on other people just because we want things done a certain way. (Which isn’t to say that chores shouldn’t be shared…I think there’s a fine line there.)
    Mandi @ Life Your Way´s last blog post ..Owls- Owls &amp More Owls

  • Christiane February 23, 2011, 6:52 am

    One thing that clearly helped me boost my happiness was acknowledging the fact that the only person responsible for my happiness is the one that I see in the mirror every day and not my partner. That the things I wanted him to do or to be were actually the things that I wanted to to or be myself and that it all came back to me like a bumerang. I also have to say that it was hard to admit this to myself, e.g. that I am responsible for my moods, my happiness, my life. But it definitely made my relationship warmer and I tend much less to nag my partner or to be reproachful.

  • Mark February 23, 2011, 10:09 am

    I Meditate and I love the feeling. I use a Meditation CD to “Entrain” my brain, into deep meditative brainwave patterns. In the second volume of CD’s I’ve subsequently moved on to, I recorded 5 Minutes of affirmations that are silently replayed throughout. I can truly say that both things combined are a powerful way to take control of your life.

  • Angela P. February 23, 2011, 12:06 pm

    I am with Queen Ann. I am trying to take better care of myself. For example: I finally went to the doctor yesterday to get treated for the migraines I have had four of in the last month. Finally got rid of the latest migraine today and I feel much happier. Just taking care of mysle fmakes me happier.

  • Brenna February 23, 2011, 1:10 pm

    I’m feeling like I could use this book right now…we really are stuck in the nagging.

  • Jennifer Margulis February 23, 2011, 1:15 pm

    I think I read Gretchen’s advice about nagging in an article she wrote in Real Simple. I think it’s a good idea — stop asking the hub to do something and do it yourself. The problem is that said hub wants to do the job and can do it better. So right now the leaves need to be swept off our porch roof of our rental cottage. It’s a complicated task that involves climbing onto the roof. I am neither nagging nor doing but I am wondering how it will get done before our renter gets back.

    And, you are a totally enlightened human being, Alisa. I think we all have those sharp moments of envy.

  • Wendy February 23, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Sleep (at least 8 hours a night), exercise and meditation!

  • Maureen February 23, 2011, 3:48 pm

    The one thing I do is I journal everyday. 750 words, rain or shine. It has gotten to the point that my husband can tell if I’ve journaled yet that day. He say’s I’m better company when I get everything down on the page.
    It makes me feel better, gets my thoughts going for the day and helps me work out things before I jump in and make a fool of myself…. but not always.
    Maureen´s last blog post ..Creating Magic as a Leader

  • Leah February 23, 2011, 5:32 pm

    I, like Maureen, journal (almost every day). Writing helps balance my moods, get the crap out of my head and heart on to the paper, and allows me communicate more coherently with my husband. I am a very emotional person and I know that my husband appreciates it when I get out pages of my emotions… and then just give him a balanced re-cap, and ask for a hug if I need one – no questions asked :)
    Leah´s last blog post ..I Am a Part of All That I Have Met

  • Tania February 23, 2011, 5:34 pm

    To boost my happiness? I read. That’s all

  • Jennifer February 23, 2011, 5:53 pm

    To boost my happiness, I make sure to check in with myself and make sure I’m not unhappy because I’m hungry, tired, or cold, as those are things I can address myself. I also figure out the issues that are really important to me and I explain why they are important to my husband when I’m talking to him about them. That way, I let a lot of little, insignificant things go, and the things we do address together, he understands why they matter so much to me (and if I can’t articulate that, usually I figure out they aren’t really that important to begin with).

  • Dawn February 23, 2011, 8:44 pm

    To boost my happiness, I choose to think the best of my spouse. That is, I always give him the benefit of any doubt, since that doubt is mine anyway. People just naturally tend to look for the negative – I remind myself to look for the positive, and I find it. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort!

  • Dawn February 23, 2011, 8:53 pm

    I just had a thought – if you had changed your title back when you first tried to get it published so that it didn’t sound like The Happiness Project – could you have gotten it published then? Sorry for the Monday morning quarterbacking, just wondering if it would have made a difference.

    BTW, they were silly not to publish your book. Competing Hollywood studios frequently do very similar movies at nearly the same time, and more often than not both movies will do just fine.

    Plus someone who enjoyed one of your books would then be MORE inclined to buy the other one, not less inclined. Guess the publishers were worried about “appearances.” I doubt they’re very happy if they’re so worried about that – maybe they need to read these books! lol

    • Alisa February 23, 2011, 10:31 pm

      Hi Dawn–I don’t know. They didn’t give me that option. I think the people who turned it down just didn’t quite get it or understand it. I kinda wish I’d used a different title now… but for completely different reasons. But that’s all water under the bridge as they say.

  • kathy w February 23, 2011, 11:02 pm

    I try not to tell my husband every little thing about the kids, myself or whatever, that way I feel I can save more important things for him to help with.

  • Kim Tracy Prince February 23, 2011, 11:36 pm

    Two kudos for you:

    1. This is the very first thing that has made me want to read The Happiness Project, even after seeing Rubin’s name and title of her book everywhere for the last year or so.

    2. When I have a trying moment – as I have been often lately, with a new manager – I try to think about what you would do. You know, with all your Buddhist teachings and such. I think “How can this be an opportunity to make me a better person?” You did that. Harumph.

    • Alisa February 24, 2011, 12:58 pm

      Kim–I love that you think of me before you respond. Sometimes I have to think of me (the better me anyway), too. I had an incident somewhat recently that convinced me that I am not enlightened and have a long way to go. There are worse realizations, I suppose!

  • Michelle Crouch February 24, 2011, 2:01 pm

    I agree with the person who said she reads. For a while after I had my third kid, I was constantly reading magazines, and all the self-help articles just kept adding to my list of things to do and making me crankier. Then I started reading novels again. In addition to being a great escape, they give me much-needed perspective on my life. I mean, how can I be upset about the toilet lid being up when the main characters I’m reading about are going through things that are so much worse?

  • Sarah Liz February 24, 2011, 7:12 pm

    I am fortunate that I grew up in a family that let me complain very little and made me learn something every day. As an adult, I still try not to complain too much and learn something new every day.

    For me, learning makes me happy. I don’t always learn things the easiest way, sometimes, I have to figuratively bang my head against the wall and re-learn and re-learn. But, I’m always incredibly happy whenever I finally “get” something. I like knowing things and understanding myself and others. So, that’s one thing that makes me happy. Curiosity, I guess, would be an asset to happiness.

    One thing that I got at a very early age, and I don’t think anyone ever told me this, I just kind of always believed it: happiness is a journey, a choice and yours to make.

    I absolutely agree that sometimes it’s harder to be happier than other times. When someone dies or something catrastrophic happens, it’s harder to be happy–but even then, happiness is still a choice.There’s ALWAYS something good going on, and at least one reason to be happy; no matter what, you just have to look a little deeper some days.

    We all know there’s enough crap and unhappiness in the world, so why add to that?

    When people realize that they really do make their own happiness, of their own choosing, life gets a lot easier.

    On my bad days, I simply remind myself that yes, I can be happy for no reason!

    By the way, another great book is called “Happy for No Reason,” by Marci Schmirnoff.

    I believe we all deserve happiness, by the simple fact that we are walking this Earth.

    I think happiness definitely comes from within.

    It also comes from a good support system, family, friends and a sense of community. I also think some sort of faith (in something or someone) plays an important role too.

    My faith makes me happy because it is what keeps me sane. I think feeling like you’re not alone, that you matter and that you play an important role in others’ life and in this world helps a lot. I have found that my happiness often stems from one of those.

    There’s also a difference between temporary happiness and overall, life-long happiness. That’s where the journey aspect of happiness comes in, I try and enjoy the journey and not always worry about the destination (but I do worry).

    No one is happy ALL the time, I’m sorry, not even me. That’s just not human. But, as much as we all say ‘money can’t buy happiness,’ sometimes, a cheap tube of new lipstick makes me happy temporarily. It isn’t my main goal and obviously, it isn’t going to “fix” my life or make me happy in the long run. But….

    I think not depriving yourself of small and simple pleasures (be it lipstick, coffee, a walk in the park, a bubble bath or whatever) is one key to maintaining overall happiness.

    And I’ve noticed it’s those simple things in life that make me the most happy.

    This is a great reminder with great tips.

    Awesome post, and great interview by Gretchen!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

  • sarah henry February 25, 2011, 11:58 am

    I like hearing about the happy ending to your envy story re Gretchen Rubin.

    Sometimes we just have to get over ourselves and our inner torment and take a leap. As you reveal here, often good things — like a new friendship — come from such endeavors.
    sarah henry´s last blog post ..Jam Maker Dafna Kory Turns Hobby Into Thriving Business

  • Alisa February 28, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Congrats to Angela–You won the copy of the Happiness Project. I’ll be in touch for details.

  • Angela P. March 1, 2011, 11:18 am

    Yay! I opened my email this morning and saw that I had won the book! Money has been really tight so I am really happy to get this book! Thank you so much for your great give aways!

  • John Reece March 4, 2011, 4:29 am

    I will be honest here and say I have not read either of the books but I do agree with giving your husband or wife a kiss and a cuddle every morning when you go off to work and when you get home.

    I have done this for years now, ever since we got married in fact and I think every married couple or even unmarried couples that live together should do this one simple thing.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge