And other questions folks have been asking lately
More and more people are emailing me after they’ve finished reading Project: Happily Ever After. Nearly all of these emails offer words of thanks, saying that the book finally helped them to feel less alone. That’s heart-warming and gratifying and just plain awesome.
Several people, however, have asked the same set of questions, questions that inspired me to write the post.
Question: How do you get past the anger and resentment that you are doing most of the marital improvement work? Shouldn’t your partner read the books and participate in marital improvement just as much as you do?
In a fair world, yes, you would be equally committed to marital improvement. You bought Project: Happily Ever After, however, because life isn’t fair and neither is marriage.
- Forcing your spouse to read marital improvement books is just going to make you angry, your spouse resentful, and possibly your marriage even worse than it already is.
- You have chosen to work on your marriage. You choose to do this because you feel your marriage has potential. This is your choice. You could just as easily choose not to work on your marriage. Would that get you the results that you seek?
- A year from now, when your marriage is happy and you and your spouse have blossomed into good communicators with a rocking sex life, will you care that you did most of the work to get to that place? Or will you just be relieved and happy that you got there?
Getting past this resentment requires a combination of patience and faith. You’ll need patience because your marriage isn’t going to improve overnight. It will take time and it will take effort. You’ll need faith because there’s no way to prove that your efforts will actually work. You must choose to believe that they are worth it. Stay focused on you—and the knowledge that you always have a choice. You can choice to stay and do nothing. You can choose to give up and leave. Or you can choose to work on your marriage.
Question: How do you swallow your pride? I understand I should warm up my marriage by complimenting him, being affectionate, and by being kind, but I just keep thinking, “Why should I do these things? He’s not doing the same for me!”
Pride is a self-focused emotion. It’s also an emotion that is based on the concept of scarcity. When you suffer from pride, you try to hoard what you want in life. You might hoard success (why did she get the promotion instead of me?”). You might hoard money and possessions (I am not treating her to dinner. She’s always mooching off people).
And you might hoard love. When you hoard love, you feel the need to take before you feel comfortable giving. You do this because you falsely believe that there is only so much love to go around. If you don’t hoard your fair share, you worry that you might give away too much and end up empty.
Here’s the thing. Unlike fossil fuels and forests, love is not a scarce commodity. To the contrary: it’s abundant. In fact, it’s infinite. When you give love freely, you don’t run out of it. Rather, you create more of it. When you give love freely, you feel better about yourself. It lifts your mood and creates meaning in your life. It also makes it more likely that others will return the favor. When you hoard love, on the other hand, you feel crummy. You also make it more likely that others will hoard their love, too. When everyone hoards love, nobody wins. When you and others give love freely, everybody wins.
This all makes sense in theory to most people, but it often requires a leap of faith and a pound of courage to put into practice. It’s scary to give love freely. It makes us feel vulnerable.
This is what I usually ask myself when I find myself hoarding love: What kind of a person do I want to be? Do I want to be a big person? Or do I want to be a small one who is too cowardly to love others (including my husband)? Do I want to be the kind of person who is known for keeping score? Or do I want to be the kind of person who is known for having a big heart?
Question: How do I know my marriage is worth saving?
You don’t. Unless your marriage is abusive, you can’t know with any certainty if your marriage is worth saving until you try to save it. Think about the following:
1. Did you marry your spouse for a good reason? I’m guessing that the answer to that question is, “yes.” You might not remember what that good reason was anymore, but you had a very good reason at the time. If you didn’t, you would not have invited all of your closest friends and family members to the wedding. You wouldn’t have asked people to buy you gifts. You wouldn’t have taken the risk of signing a legally binding document. What caused you to fall in love with your spouse the first time will probably be the same thing that causes you to fall back in love with your spouse the second time.
2. Has your spouse made any improvement—even the most minor—since you started working on your marriage? If the answer is, “yes,” there’s hope.
3. Is your spouse willing to work on your marriage with you? If the answer is, “yes,” there’s hope.
I wish I could give you something more definitive than that, but I just can’t. Rank your happiness now. Rank it again month after month. If it improves, there’s hope.
Note: I will resume the Group Therapy series tomorrow.
- I never in a million years thought I’d end up featured on a website about saving money. Fabulous Savings, however, recently interviewed me about everything from my thoughts about Valentine’s Day to my #1 piece of advice for married couples.
- A Mom’s Take reviewed PHEA saying, “This book is not just for those who are unhappy in their marriage or who may be looking towards divorce as an option, but can even be for those happily married to avoid the pitfalls that might lead to an unhappy marriage.”
- I was a guest on the Writers on Writing show earlier this week. Eventually the podcast will be posted, but you can download the show now from iTunes if you’d like to listen to me do a reading as well as answer questions about the process of writing PHEA.
- The Long Haul Project posted another outtake from their interview with me and my husband. This one is about balancing career and marriage. In it Mark confronts me about my Twittering.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.