How to Let It All Go

Someone asked me to review an app called “Let it Go.” Basically you write down what’s bothering you like, “I like the smell of skunk. Is there something very wrong with me?” and “I wish my dog would stop sniffing my butt. It really bothers me when she does that. The fact that she continues to do it makes me feel so unheard!”

Then the app releases those thoughts for you.

Exactly how it works is unclear because I don’t actually own the app. I’ve only read an email about it. I thought about trying it out. But then I looked around my living room. There are no curtains. The furniture is all gone, too. The corners of all the walls are covered in blue tape.

The only thing in this room is my desk, my computer, and my chair.

The room is so empty that there’s an echo every time I type anything on the keyboard.

My husband is painting, you see. He’s also still painting the child’s bedroom. And the hallway. And the dining room.

When he told me weeks back that he was going to paint I believe my exact words were, “Please don’t.”

“It won’t take long,” he said.

“That’s what you said about the child’s bedroom. You’ve been not painting it since before Halloween.”

“But we already moved all the furniture so we could have the floors redone. Now is the perfect time to paint,” he said.

I thought about saying, “Now is the perfect time to paint for people who actually paint when they say they are going to.” Instead I said, “How about we hire people to do it!?”

“Nah, I can do it,” he said.

I sighed. I already knew how this was going to go. “Okay, fine,” I said. “But don’t you dare set up the television until you’re done painting.”

Then I went to the store and I ordered this self massaging heated recliner that I’ve always wanted, and I had it delivered. It’s now the only other piece of furniture in this room other than my desk and my desk chair.

Some other wife would probably be livid over this the-house-still-isn’t-painted situation. Every time she needed an envelope and realized that she couldn’t find one because all the envelopes are packed away inside of some box that is under other boxes out on the porch where the rest of the things that used to be inside her house now reside, she would probably spank her husband with a paint brush, assuming she could fine one.

Not me. Over the years, with much meditation, I’ve become a master Let-It-Goer. If I can’t find an envelope, this is what I do: I ask my husband to find it for me. And then I go sit in my massage chair.

All better.

You envy me, don’t you? At the start of this story, you never in a million trillion years thought you would, but envy me you do. Everyone should have a heated, self massaging recliner.

Seriously, if every person in the world owned one, there would be world peace.

At the very least, there would be marital peace. I’m living proof.

Oh, sure, I could yell about the fact that I can never find anything when I need it because everything that I own is in storage. I could complain that I can’t walk around my house naked without all the neighbors saying, “Oh, so that’s what a woman’s middle aged body looks like!” I could gripe how the dog has been breaking into her food container ever since my husband removed the doors to the closet that houses the food.

But why bother? None of those things are going to get this house painted.

So rather than get irritated, I’m amused. It’s funny, you know? It’s especially funny when I have people over. Then I can say things like, “Well, I’d offer you a seat, but as you can see…” and “Okay you get the massage chair for 15 minutes. Then you have to give someone else a turn” and “Well we could eat dinner here standing up or we could go out. Your call.”

I’m also curious. How long can the man survive without the TV? What will be the event that motivates him to paint the whole house in just a couple hours? Will it be the Florida vs. Florida State game in the fall? The Tour de France in the summer? Or something much sooner? The Super Bowl perhaps?

And I’m thankful. My husband might take a whole year — or a decade — to paint a house, but he fills my car with gas so I don’t have to. It’s been an average of 3 degrees here for the past week, and I’m not talking about Celsius. Let’s just say that if I had a choice of furniture where it belongs or a bottomless tank of gas, I’d go with the gas. Wouldn’t you?

He also makes my lunch every day.

And he boils water for my tea and steeps the bag for exactly three minutes — no more, no less — and even brings it to me while I’m concentrating on writing a post about how he’s not painting our house.

If I want something from the grocery store — say chewable Vitamin D3, 1000IU per chew — I just write it down and magically it appears in a kitchen cabinet. When he sees me chewing on it, he asks, “Is that the right kind?” It always is. My husband never buys the wrong kind of anything. He’s detail-oriented like that. Like, next decade, when this house is completely painted and all the furniture is back where it belongs, there will not be one drip of paint where it does not belong. The man is careful and precise.

I could go on but, if I do so, I fear you will envy me for much more than my heated massage chair.

Now, sure, not everyone can afford a heated massage chair, but that doesn’t mean that not everyone can let go. The chair is nice, of course, but what really helps me is this: counting my blessings. Chances are, there’s a lot of beauty in your life that you take for granted. Your spouse might be irritating in some ways, but I’m guessing he or she is plenty awesome in many others.

Imagine a typical day without your spouse in it. What would be different? What would you miss? What wouldn’t happen if your spouse wasn’t around? What things would you have to start doing for yourself?

Maybe, after doing that, you’ll find that you let go a little.

Here’s another thing I do. I ask myself, “If today were my last day to live, would I spend it feeling irritated about this?”

The answer, of course, is no. If I only had a few minutes left to live, I wouldn’t waste them on anger.

I just hug my loved ones, and I’d call dibs on the massage chair.

Wouldn’t you?

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Summer Wedding Day Ceremony Makeup Ideas for Brides

The one thing that every bride should keep in mind is that with regards to bridal marriage make up, less is actually more.

Smeared lipstick, working eyeliner, blotchy foundation- a summer bride has so many make up challenges to take in her stride! The things get a whole lot worse when the ceremony is organised during the daytime. So in this article i have provided below some wonderful makeup ideas for brides, specially for daytime marriage ceremony.

If you are taking vows early july and your rituals happen to be slated for daytime-the hottest part of the day-you have to walk extra a long way to prevent your makeup sliding off your face, your lips and your eyes and ensure that your makeup lasts all night in that steamy weather. Due to this reason, you must pay high attention to the products that your are choosing for the makeup and their contents.

Day Wedding Bridal Makeup Ideas – Face

  1. Day marriages are specifically challenging for the wedding brides, who are to cope with the weight of the intricate wedding attire and heavy weight jewelries on the top of all the anxieties of being the center of the attention for the day. The things get worsened by blotchy make-up, if makeup has not been done properly and with care. If your skin layer is not remarkably dry, it is advisable to avoid using an oily moisturizer and instead you can opt for a non comedogenic moisturizer to keep your skin layer rejuvenated throughout the day.
  2. Normal eyeliners can wreak havoc with the makeup of the teary bride. Even if you are not exactly the emotional type, humidity and sweat can completely mess up your eye make up. In order to prevent this from happening, you should go with water-resistant mascara. Note: Before making use of the mascara, shape your lashes with an eyelash curler. Now apply the mascara with a clean mascara brush for a smoldering look. Also a gel based liner is a perfect solution for withstanding the effects of humidity and sweat in a hot weather.
  3. In order to keep liner and shadow from getting mixed up due to humidity and sweat, first apply an eye shadow primer, which works much consistent with that of the foundation primers. Dab some face powder over it using an eye shadow brush, after that apply the eye makeup.
  4. Rest you can apply what all you think is necessary but keep one thing in mind that is with regards to bridal marriage make up, less is actually more.

Base primers and waterproof eye makeup will give coverage upto a certain limit. But in order to attain the most flawless bridal day marriage make-up you should use makeup setting up spray. When you are done with all these make up steps, lock your makeup in place by spraying makeup setting spray, the setting up sprays are designed to compensate the effects of heat and humidity.

This spray will protect your foundation, lip and eye makeup throughout the most humid summer day.

With regards to bridal day matrimony make up, less is definitely more. Heavy makeup can make the condition more terrible in a sultry, humid day in summer time. So do not take any chance and be well stocked with good amount of blotting paperwork so that you can sop up oil and sweat whenever necessary to protect your makeup.

Moreover if you think that we have missed out any important point that one should take care of!, Do comment in the box provided below.

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He Wants to Move. She Wants to Stay. Should They Stay Together?

When I got the following email, it brought back many fond memories.

Several years ago I took a job in a remote part of Texas.  I was not happy about moving there, but I needed the job. I met someone, we fell in love and got married. I told her before marriage that my plans for living there were short-term, and she said she had no problem moving with me when the time came. It’s now been two years later, and I am blessed with a job that will allow me transfer just about anywhere.

Now she tells me that she doesn’t want to leave until her son graduates in six more years.

I probably could stomach it that long, but I won’t be happy at all. Just to be clear, I absolutely love her and I am very happy with her. We enjoy each other immensely and are always doing things together. I’ve never met anyone like her.  However, I just can’t see myself in this place for 6 more years. I will go crazy.

I feel that I have a decision to make. Do I make the move without her and hope she’ll change her mind? Or do I stick it out here and be miserable? I’m no stranger to being in places I don’t want to be. I was in the military for twenty years, and I learned you have to make the best of it wherever you are. But I feel she’s holding me back from something I’ve wanted most of my life. My happiness is important to me. She is part of that happiness but not the sole source of it. Am I being too selfish if I decide to leave without her? – James

Dear James,

Roughly 17 years ago, I met a young man and I fell in love. We were liberal fitness enthusiasts who loved to eat just as much as we loved to sweat, meditate and do downward facing dogs. But our town was conservative. Italian fare was the extent of the exotic dining, and the yoga classes were few and far between.

We both dreamed of living somewhere else—in a trendy liberal town such as San Francisco, Austin, or, most likely, Boulder. We loved the food in these cities. We loved the culture. We loved the people, and we loved the surroundings.

I felt I needed to be in one of those cities to be happy.

Flash forward a couple years. Now I’m married to that young man. I’ve left my job as an editor at Runner’s World magazine. I’m a freelance writer and editor. I can work anywhere. There’s no reason for us to stay.

Yet when I suggest a move, my husband tells me that we can’t. The house is too new. We’d lose money if we tried to sell. “We can’t go anywhere for 10 years,” he says.

“Ten years?” I cry. “I’ll never last that long.”

I mope. I incessantly bring it up for a while. He stands firm.

I decide to pay down our mortgage as fast as possible. Every month I put extra money toward the principle. I make it my secret mission.

Life goes on. I turn into an amateur gardener. I obsess over plants, bulbs, seeds, and small trees. Neighbors walk by while I am gardening. They tell me they love the sunflowers, my newest addition. They mention that deer won’t eat flowers that smell like garlic and rotten eggs. Some drop off gifts: clippings, plants, bulbs, and flowers that they’ve dug from their gardens so I can plant into mine.

Eventually I adopt a dog. When I walk with him, my neighbors tell me how handsome he is. Soon I know all of my neighbors who have dogs.

The dog comes with me when I run errands. As a result, I get to know the tellers at the bank, and the woman who works the register at the post office.

A farmer’s market opens near me. I go every week. I get to know all the farmers.

We have a baby and I get to know all of my neighbors who love babies.

It’s not long before I can’t go anywhere in town without seeing someone I know. Some of these people are liberal fitness enthusiasts like us. Others are conservatives who tell me that kale is a four-letter word. And many others are different in some other way. I realize that I don’t have to be like people to like being with them.

Eventually my baby turns into a toddler. The house is dangerous for a toddler. We decide it’s time to move.

Now everything is different. The housing market is booming. Thanks to all my extra principle payments, we hardly owe anything on the mortgage, either. We’ll walk away from our house with more than six figures in our pockets.

We could move anywhere.

You want to know where I decided to move? You want to know where I just had to live? The new house that I fell in love with?

The one on a corner lot that seemed too perfect.

Where there were hardwood floors that I just had to have.

And the where our kid could ride a bike without getting hit by a car and even walk to a playground and to her school.

The neighborhood where kids went trick or treating, and where every one seemed to have a dog.

The little town that had a Thai place and a Middle Eastern restaurant and a yoga studio, too.

It was a house just two miles away. We didn’t even need a moving truck. I just put a couple boxes in my car at a time and drove back and forth until the deed was done.

We’re happy here, in the town that I thought I absolutely had to leave.

James: Things change. Places change. People change. Attitudes change. Restaurants change. Stores change. Main streets change.

But most important of all: minds change. Happiness is not found outside of ourselves. It is not something that you will discover in a new house, a new neighborhood, or a new state.

Happiness comes from within.

If you can’t be happy in Texas, I’m guessing you won’t be happy somewhere else, either.

If you can be happy in Texas, you can be happy anywhere.

And once you can be happy anywhere, chances are, you’ll never want to leave.

Readers: I don’t think I answered Jame’s question. Is he being selfish? Should he move? What’s your advice? 

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Marriage Books You’ll Love: Can’t Think Straight

Apparently Kiri Blakeley and I were destined to become friends. Kiri used to write regularly for Forbes Woman. One day, about a year ago, my phone rang. I picked it up. It was Kiri. She interviewed me about something or other. I think it was a story about celebrities and how they suck at staying married.

Something like that. Then almost as soon as I was on the phone with Kiri, I was off it. That’s how things generally go with reporters, I’ve found.

A few months later, I met Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist, at a TV station. We were both there to talk about Tiger Woods. Somehow one thing led to another and he told me about this woman that he thought I should meet. It was Kiri.

As it turned out, Kiri had a book coming out. As it turned out, I had a book coming out. As it turned out, both of our books were coming out on the same date: December 28th. (Cue the music from Twilight Zone now).

Kiri and I decided to make the best of this peculiar situation. I sent her my book. She sent me hers. We agreed that I would blurb her book. She would blurb mine.

I Facebook friended her. She Facebook friended me. It was like that. Love at first interview, as they say.

Anyway, as I read Kiri’s book, a few thoughts occurred to me.

Thought #1: Dang, this girl is brave. I sweated over the one sex scene in my book and about whether it would be okay to use the phrase “went down on” when referring to something I did with my husband. Kiri proved to me that I had nothing to worry about. More important, she proved to me that one could write about having sex in a very detailed way with very detailed words and still look you in the eye the next morning.

Thought #2: I had to read Kiri’s book in private, with the book in one hand and a vibrator in the other. I do not exaggerate. It’s a great story, but it’s vibrator worthy, too. If you are struggling with your sex drive, read this book. You’ll be cured.

Thought #3: I never want to be single ever again. And if, for some freak reason, I become single, I am not going to date. I’ll just become a nun or something, even though I’m not Catholic.

This last thought is the reason I’ve decided to include Can’t Think Straight in the Marriage Books You’ll Love series. Can’t Think Straight tells the story of the year Kiri spent recovering from the news that her fiance and boyfriend of 10 years was gay. That’s right. The guy she was about to marry—the guy that she thought was perfect for her in every way—one night said, “Honey we need to talk.” That conversation ended with her realizing that her boyfriend was not attracted to her because he was attracted to hairy men instead. (Watch this video of Kiri reading the first chapter of the book for all of the details of how he came out).

After that split, Kiri spent a year rediscovering her sexuality. She went on a wild dating spree—the kind that my unhappily married mind fantasized about quite often.

I don’t know about you, but when I was unhappy in my marriage I had all sorts of wonderfully unrealistic thoughts about what the dating world was like. For instance, I thought the dating world was filled with these hot, sensitive guys who knew how to cook.

Apparently, this isn’t the case. Or, at least, it’s not the case in Brooklyn. Now, let me tell you something. Kiri is drop dead gorgeous. And she, at that time, was working an enviable job at Forbes magazine. She was quite the catch by anyone’s standards.

Yet, the guys she dated were just, in a word, ugh. Slimy. Upsetting. Sorry excuses for men is what they were.

Kiri somehow found every sorry excuse for a man in New York, and she dated every single one of them.

I’m not going to spoil the ending. I will only say that she did learn a few things about herself and about men during that year.

And I’m going to say this: thank God I’m married.

I’m going to make my husband a happy man tonight. How about you?

Next up in the Marriage Books You’ll Love series: Fits, Starts and Matters of the Heart.

Note: At 2 pm EST Tuesday Dec. 7th, I’ll be on FoxNews.com Live with Courtney Friel to talk about Project: Happily Ever After.

There’s still time to enter the Fabulous PHEA Giveaway! Be entered to win a Kindle, a stay at a B&B, marriage counseling, a vibrator and more with proof of purchase of Project: Happily Ever After.

Learn more about Project: Happily Ever After. Watch the trailer and get a sneak preview into the book.

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How to Break a Porn Habit

A Post Where You Get to Help A Fellow Reader Out

When I asked you all about your most vexing marital problems, AmyB commented:

Internet Pornography is a constant struggle. I’m not against sexual experimentation or even masturbation. I’m not even against other ‘consenting” adults using responsible pornography if they like it and it helps their sex lives, BUT I feel that in MY relationship I want my partner to direct his sexual tension and arousal to me, his very open sexual partner, not an anonymous person on a computer screen. According to him, pornography and sex with a partner are two totally different things. I still can’t help to think that it affects the dynamics of a relationship. Am I being unrealistic? Am I not allowing my partner to be independent in his choice to watch pornography? Should I respect his choice to watch pornography? He’s attempted to quit plenty of times and, at the moment, he doesn’t do it (to my knowledge). Still I know it’s a big struggle for him and I know that if he had the house to himself, he’d probably do it. What’s worse, I can’t do anything to help him.

Porn is one of those issues that tends to polarize people, so I’d like to attempt what might be impossible: a civil discussion about it. Here are the rules for commentating:

  •  No name-calling. I will delete any insults without a warning.
  • Definitely state your view. If you think it’s wrong, say it. If you think it’s a divine gift, say it. But DON’T attack someone else for not agreeing with your opinion.
  • If you try to comment and can’t, let me know. I’m still trying to fix what’s wrong with the commenting area on this site.

Got it?

I’ll start. My views on porn fall somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t offend me. I’ve watched it on occasion with my husband. It can be the spark that gets the mood started. All of that said, I think of porn much as I think of fast food. For me, fast food might be okay in a pinch—like when I’m on the New York Thruway at 3 am and seriously too hungry to go on. It’s not how I want to meet my daily hunger needs.

Similarly, with porn, it might work for a couple if it’s one trick in their arsenal of ways they get in the mood—and especially on those rare occasions when they are just too fatigued to come up with something better. But if it becomes a crutch–something you need everyday to feel happy, satisfied or in the mood—then it’s not healthy.

Because I didn’t feel completely qualified to tackle this topic, I also asked Stu Gray, who pens the Stupendous Marriage blog for insight. What follows are my questions and his answers.

Me: I imagine, like alcohol, some people can partake in porn and have it be a somewhat harmless pastime, whereas others get addicted and do much harm to themselves and their families. Do you agree with this? Or, after your experiences, do you feel there is nothing that is ever harmless about it?

Stu: I think from a scientific standpoint, that’s probably true. Some people are wired to be more prone to be addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or sex or food, and others don’t seem to be addicted to the ‘biggies’ that classify as addiction in our culture. The thing we can’t control is when the brain makes that click from “Its a harmless past time” to “I gotta have it all the time”. It’s a dangerous game to play especially with your brain and with sex. I heard it said once that “we aren’t born with an alcohol drive but we ARE born with a sex drive.” The drive that can be so good can end up driving us to do things that can ultimately be painful.

From a relationship standpoint, I think porn is harmful in several ways. Porn fans the flame of selfishness: She won’t give me what I want when I want it? I’ll take care of it myself.

The “me first” attitude tends to become a dominant factor. Great Marriages are made up of two people who love and give to one another. Porn rewires the brain to always be in a state of, “What can you do for me sexually?”

Porn usually leads to masturbation. Not for everyone, but for many. When you masturbate to an image other than your spouse, the sexual desire is fulfilled by someone outside your marriage. So, you have less desire to seek your spouse out for sexual connection. You also train your mind and your body to respond to images that are a false reality. So, your mind begins to think, “I want that all the time with my spouse.” Physically, if you are chronically masturbating, you begin to associate sexual release with images. This leads to a tough time in the bedroom with some people not being able to perform at all because it takes videos or images to be aroused.

Spouses feel like they can’t measure up because they don’t look like the images, and they don’t feel like the sexual fantasy you create when you “act out” with yourself.

Me: What are the signs that someone is addicted?

Stu: I think the quickest way to begin to see if someone is addicted is to ask him or her to stop. Most people who have a compulsion toward something harmful will say that they can stop anytime they want, that they just don’t choose to. So, call their bluff. Challenge them lovingly with, ‘If you can stop – do it’.

Most will begin with excuses about how it doesn’t harm anyone, that they are just having fun, or that it’s not a real problem. This type of denial is usually one indicator of an addiction. Also, if they do try to stop and can’t or begin hiding it, then they could be going down that road.

People show signs of addiction in different ways. For one addict, it could look like a need for more edgy pornography. For another it might be unhealthy adventurous sex with your spouse. For another it could be moving from images to real life sexual affairs. Or, It could look like something as simple as erasing the history in your browser because you know that it hurts your spouse when they find it.

Many times people mistake the “symptoms” for the “problem.” If someone is addicted to pornography, somewhere, at some point in time, it may have started as something fun they did when they were single. But now, it has become the “go to” when they want to escape from reality. So, the pornography itself isn’t’ the issue. It’s a heart issue. Why does this person need to escape from their current reality and look to porn to fill that need? That is the point couples need to focus on first.

Me: Beyond the obvious, what is the allure that keeps someone coming back again and again?

Stu: The allure is no consequences and no denial. If you don’t have to beg or cajole the image on the screen, that is much easier than having to negotiate a time between soccer and after the kids go to bed, or when they don’t feel like it, or some other perceived excuse to not have sex. Porn never gives an excuse to not have sex.

That’s the seduction. It’s an easy YES.

Porn makes the sexual act all about body parts and the looks of a person. Porn offers a surface look at body parts that is devoid of any type of emotional connection, which is necessary in marriage and healthy relationships. Anyone who has been married and had sex with one person for several years knows that the sex can get better as you get to know one another better. It doesn’t have as much to do with the body as it does with the connection to your spouse.

 Me: Understandably, partners can feel hurt, angry, and envious of porn. While perhaps justified, these emotions don’t lead to healing, understanding or progress. What can a spouse do to help an addicted spouse overcome the problem?

Stu: To begin with, I think it’s important to understand that your spouse’s addiction has little to do with you. You didn’t drive your spouse to pornography. Your spouse might blame you, but your spouse made these choices.

That doesn’t mean you should be harsh or condemning. Try to take emotions out of it.

It is very important for someone who is addicted to know that there are consequences for behaviors. With love, say that this behavior is not acceptable for you and your marriage. Ask if it is a problem. Ask what they get from pornography. Suggest someone with which can talk openly about it such as a counselor, pastor, or support group.

It’s likely you’ll meet resistance. Until the addict decides that he wants to change, there will be no change. So, sometimes you have to be the change. I’m not saying divorce — but perhaps a long trip to see the family (if you don’t normally do that), or a separating until you see positive steps taken (like filters on computers, accountability with other people, counseling, or some other actions toward health).

There are also groups for spouses of addicted folks. Getting into a group that is healthy (not just badmouthing addicts) can be very beneficial. Also, reading about sex and porn addiction can be eye opening. There are several authors who have written specifically for spouses of sexually addicted people. Check out work from Mark Laaser and Pat and Stefanie Carnes.

Readers: Now it’s your turn. What’s your advice? What’s your take? Remember the rules.

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What a Little Old Lady Taught Me About Marriage

What Will You Do With that Second Chance?

Our power was out. So was everyone else’s due to a storm. It had been out for days and now we were out of food.

We drove 20 minutes and stopped at the first diner that had lights on and cars in the parking lot.

It was a 20-minute wait for breakfast. The waiting area was standing room only and full of people who don’t usually eat at diners.

We finally sat down. We finally ate. We eventually left.

When we got to the car, my kid realized she’d left her favorite ball cap on the table. I ran back in to get it, but I didn’t get far. Getting through the crowded waiting area was like getting through a Wipe Out obstacle course. And coming my way was a little old lady with a cane. She was bent over and shuffling her feet in that unsteady way that makes one think that she might fall and break her hip at any moment. She had just enough of a gap between waiting patrons to shuffle forward.

It would have been kind for me to step to the side and wait for her to pass.

And I considered doing this. Really, I did. But this would have required me to wait for a very, very, very long time. She just wasn’t moving very quickly, you know? My kid and my husband were waiting outside in a running car, and every minute I stood and waited was a minute that the waitress could be giving my kid’s ball cap to someone else.

It was my kid’s favorite ball cap. I believe I told you that.

So I attempted to gently inch past the little old lady.

I couldn’t quite get past her without bumping against her. She looked up. She might have been annoyed. She might have been surprised. She might have been scared. I really don’t know. I don’t know because I inched past her so quickly that I never looked at her face.

I felt instantly guilty, but I consoled myself, “I’m doing a favor for my kid. Sometimes in order to make one person happy, another person ends up unhappy. That’s the way life is.”

This did not help one bit. It didn’t help because I knew it wasn’t true. So I promised myself that, were I ever to have to get through a crowded diner again, I would step aside if a little old lady were coming my way. I promised myself that I would do this no matter what the emergency was. I would even do it if I was about to pee my pants.

I got the ball cap and then turned to leave. Now the old lady was attempting to walk down five cement steps that separated the diner from the parking lot. She couldn’t quite reach the railing and her cane didn’t quite reach the step below.

It didn’t look good.

“Would you like some help?” I asked.

She didn’t respond.

I assumed she remembered me from before and was probably thinking, “That woman is going to push me down the steps just to get me out of her way.”

I slowed my pace. I got in front of her. I held out my hand. She reached out for my hand. She took it. She looked up. She smiled. Soon I could feel her shifting her body weight. Now I was supporting her. She was steady. She tightened her grip, curling her fingers around my palm. She walked down the steps.

She thanked me. I told her it was nothing.

I got in the car and I handed the hat to my kid. My kid said, “Mommy, if you had done that at my school, you would have gotten a bucket filler award.”

I thought about telling her that I didn’t deserve an award because as helpful as I’d been when I’d helped the lady on the steps, I’d been just as unhelpful earlier when she was inside the restaurant.

But then I realized that I’d gotten a second chance—a chance to live up to my potential and be the person I know I can be. I could have just as easily blown my second chance as I’d blown the first one.

At least I had learned from the first mistake. By doing so, I didn’t commit a second one.

It’s my belief that this sort of thing happens all the time in marriage and in life. We mess up somehow. Maybe we are too critical or we lose our temper. Maybe we talk when we should be listening. Maybe we leave dishes in the sink. Maybe we shrink our spouse’s favorite sweater.

Maybe we drink the last beer.

Whatever it is, we do something that we have been trying not to do.

And we feel like a failure.

Then life gives us a second chance. We have another chance to positive, to not lose our temper, to listen, to wash the dishes or to offer that last beer to our spouse.

Sometimes we take that second chance and we shine.

Other times, however, we don’t even notice the second chance has been handed to us.

Still other times we notice, but we decide to screw up almost on purpose, and we do this out of anger.

It’s my belief that the difference lies in forgiveness—forgiveness of ourselves.  If we can learn how to forgive ourselves for screwing up the first time, we’ll be a lot more likely to notice those second chances and to make the most of them. Rather than telling ourselves, “I’m always such a bad listener” or “I’m always so critical of my spouse,” we can instead say, “This is an opportunity for me to listen. Right now I have a second chance to do this right. I’m going to be the person I want to be—right now.”

Or am I reading too much into this?

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How to have a happy divorce

I know, I know, you came to this site because I write about how to have a happy marriage and not about how to have a happy divorce. Still, not all marriages can be saved. If yours is one of the ones that can’t, I still want you to find happiness. You deserve it. You don’t deserve to be mired in anger, resentment, fear and other types of negativity. You deserve better, and you can have it.

My good friend Brette Sember is a retired attorney and mediator who writes about divorce for the Huffington Post and many other outlets. I like to think of Brette as my twin in the divorce world because she doesn’t write about how to screw your ex (figuratively). She writes about how to get along with your ex so you both can coexist peacefully. She’s the author of the No-Fight Divorce Book, which teaches couples how to dissolve a marriage without the expensive cost of divorce lawyers. What follows is a Q&A interview with Brette. Tomorrow I’ll run an excerpt from the book.

Q: Many people stay together for the kids? I’m curious to hear your take on the pros and cons of that strategy.

A: I understand this impulse and I think it works for some people. However, I firmly believe it is unhealthy for a child to grow up in a home where there is intense and ongoing fighting or violence. This kind of environment has a deep and negative impact on children. My husband grew up in a home like this and it was very difficult for him. I think it is far better for children to have two happy parents in two separate homes than to have two miserable parents under one roof. Everyone has to evaluate their own situation and determine to what extent they can make the marriage work.

Q: Is it really possible to divorce and be civil? After all, couples are already in bad straights before they call it quits. How can they really split up the kids, pets, house, and 401-K without accidentally murdering one another in the process?

A: Yes, it is very possible and actually happens quite often. Every mediation I ever did was calm and civil. The problem with traditional litigated divorce is that it specifically pits the parties against each other and encourages dissent and negative emotions. In divorce mediation the parties sit down together with a mediator who helps them make decisions themselves about how to end the marriage. The process is all about finding solutions that work for your family and are fair to everyone. The mediator lays ground rules and sets the tone for the meetings, which are cooperative, tolerant, and flexible. It’s not about winning, proving your point, or proving bad things about the other person. Instead the idea is to craft a parenting plan that is best for the child and take the pot of assets and debts and carve it up in a way that makes sense and allows everyone to move forward in as financially stable a manner as possible. Of course there are bumps in the road and the couple does not immediately agree on everything – that’s why they are working with a mediator who is trained to help them navigate those tough points and can help them work through them to find agreement.

It’s important to note that mediation is not appropriate for couples with domestic violence or for people who are completely unable to be in the same room with the other party. It is also not acceptable when one party has an untreated substance abuse problem.

Q: What’s the difference between mediation and divorce court?

A: Mediation allows the couple to make all of the decisions about how their marriage will end themselves. They are the ones who best understand their bottom line, goals, children, living situation, and financial limitations. In divorce court they sit at a table while attorneys who know them each minimally presents an argument to a judge who doesn’t know them at all. The judge then decides how their entire lives will be organized from then out on out, sometimes without ever hearing either party speak at all. It’s like the difference between going to the store and doing your grocery shopping yourself as opposed to telling someone else you need groceries and having to live with what they buy for you. In the first case you make all the choices, understand completely what you chose and how you will use. In the second case you’re handed a bag filled with what someone else thinks you should use and you have to find a way to use it that probably does not meet your needs at all. Mediation gives you control on the outcome. Couples who mediate are much less likely to return to court, their children have better outcomes and do better in school, and they have a much more positive view about divorce in general.

Mediation is also much less expensive than litigated divorce where you pay two attorneys their trial rate (higher than their office rate) and end up having tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. In mediation you pay one mediator and you can move the case along as quickly as you want to. Any delays are those you create.

Q: What are the benefits of figuring out how to communicate with each other post divorce? Especially if you are parents?

A: Mediation is important not only because it allows you to sit down and work through the issues in the divorce yourselves, but also because it teaches you negotiation and communication skills you are able to use moving forward. This is particularly crucial for parents because your parenting plan must change as your children age. What works for a four-year-old will not work for an eight-year-old. You must be able to change your plan and your schedule. You also have to be prepared to work through schedule changes due to school events, work schedules, and illness. Parents who enter the post-divorce period as combatants tend to continue to be combatants and often return again and again to court, arguing over every last schedule change. Parents who mediate and learn to make decisions in a cooperative manner are much better equipped to parent together moving forward. They learn how to solve the problems they face.

Q: What about when step parents enter the picture. How does biological mom learn how to be a good mom and civil ex in the face of step mom? Are there any special strategies?

A: Apply the same strategies you learned in mediation that you use with your ex. Listen, communicate, lay out a proposal, collaborate, and compromise. It’s often a good idea for a mom and step mom or a dad and step dad to get to know each other and realize that they both care for the child and want what’s best for him or her. This commonality of purpose unites them and allows them to move forward. It’s also important to remove the filter of the ex between them which often leads to a lot of miscommunication. Create your own relationship with the stepparent and have your own lines of communication. It is usually very useful if everyone can lay their cards on the table and say the stepparent is not going to replace the parent, because that is usually the issue the bio parent is stressing about.  If you can’t make it work, mediation can help you find a way. It’s likely that one or two mediation sessions can help everyone create a working relationship that focuses on benefiting the child.

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How to argue with Mr. Always Right

A Reader Participation Post

Here’s a “biggest marital problem” sent to me by a reader:

My husband is aggressive, rude, and is always right and I am always wrong. Therefore I no longer have serious conversations with him. I try to avoid talking about anything that he might find upsetting, even though it may be something that is upsetting to me. We basically don’t have a relationship. I desperately would like to have a relationship, but I honestly don’t know if my husband is capable of it. I just agree with what he says. If I don’t he gets very angry and says that I just want to argue. If I ask him questions he gets angry too, so I will just ask him one question if I want to know something. If I don’t like or don’t understand his answer, I won’t say anything because that makes him very angry. What should I do?

Readers: This is all you. Can you help this reader with her biggest marital problem?

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11 Ways Sexting Hurts Your Marriage

I’ve gotten countless emails this week from people who are married to spouses who “sext,” which is the act of sending flirtatious messages via text message, email, Twitter, Facebook and so on. I wrote this post in response to the question, “Is this cheating? My spouse thinks this is harmless.”

  1. Just because you or your spouse do not define something as “cheating” doesn’t mean it can’t eventually bring your marriage to an end.
  2. Sexting is a form of flirting. Flirting is the first step in courtship. In fact, it’s what led to the two of you getting married. Would you feel comfortable if your spouse were actively courting someone else?
  3. Trust is an important ingredient to a happy marriage. Sexting destroys trust.
  4. If you wouldn’t do it with your spouse sitting right next to you, it’s probably not good for your marriage.
  5. As the saying goes: The grass is always greener where you water it. If you are sexting with someone who isn’t your spouse, you are watering the wrong lawn.
  6. By focusing your attention outside your home, you will end up neglecting what’s inside your home. Trust me: to keep it strong, your marriage will need all of the attention you can give it. Don’t waste your attention where it’s not needed.
  7. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you hurt your spouse’s self esteem. A spouse who feels this way is eventually going to check out.
  8. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you make it harder for your spouse to feel sexy. A spouse who doesn’t feel sexy isn’t going to want to have sex.
  9. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you cause your spouse to feel unloved. If your spouse does not get the love she needs from you, she’s going to be more likely to search for it somewhere else.
  10. If you need a rush, try finding it with your spouse. The two of you can strengthen your marriage by solving this problem together.
  11. If you don’t feel sexy, try talking to your spouse about the problem. The two of you can strengthen your marriage by solving this problem together.

There is one way sexting can help your marriage. It’s this: do it with your spouse. Text “you are hot” to your spouse. Text “I can’t wait to see you naked” to your spouse. Everything you were thinking of sexting to someone else? Sext it to your spouse.

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Are you a happy mom? (Or dad?)

The transition into motherhood stands out as one of the most potent pro-depressants I’ve ever experienced. The first few years of my daughter’s life were tough on me. I was sad, anxious, grumpy, resentful, angry, and downright physically ill most of the time.

I’m now much more peaceful, blissful and content. Still, the emotional angst was severe enough and went on long enough to encourage me to become a card carrying member of the Once And We’re Done Club.

Then roughly a year ago, I met Meagan Francis in a New York bar. Meagan showed up in a glamorous gown. Her hair was styled, and her skin seemed lit from behind. She dripped happiness from her every orifice.

At first, I figured she must only have one child. Nope. She informed me that she had five! I happened to know that she also had a demanding career. Like me, Meagan is a freelance writer. Freelance writing is currently one of the toughest professions to earn a living. It’s only eclipsed, perhaps, by acting and art. To make ends meet, most of the freelancers I know work late hours, weekends, and holidays. Freelance writing is also very tough emotionally. Freelance writers are often the brunt of more criticism and rejection than any other entrepreneur.

I looked at Meagan and I just couldn’t figure out how she did it. How on Earth was she seemingly able to raise five kids, thrive as a freelancer, have time for the occasional manicure and walk around with a happy skip in her step. It was right around the time I was wondering this that Meagan mentioned that she writes a blog called TheHappiestMom and had a book coming out by the same name. I thought, “Of course!” I mean, if anyone is an expert on happiness, it’s her. It’s one thing to manage to be happy when you are rich, childless, and kept. It’s quite another to do it when you are the mother of five who is working in one of the most thankless professions on the planet.

Meagan’s book The Happiest Mom just released. I got my hands on an early review copy. The book is beautiful. I felt happier just by touching and fondling it. It’s also full of counter intuitive advice that is new, interesting, and effective. I’ll be giving away two copies of the book by the end of the post. For now, here’s how Meagan answered some of my questions.

1. I’ve written about the importance of caring for your own needs and how this can benefit the entire family. This concept, however, can be controversial and some people assume putting yourself first is the same thing as being selfish. What are your views on this?

I think it would be a bad thing to ALWAYS put yourself first. Part of being a human is learning to balance your own desires with the needs of others, and think beyond what you want. But I think most moms take it too far in the other direction–always putting everyone else first, until they wind up exhausted, spent, and resentful. Being a good mom requires enthusiasm and energy and commitment, and it’s hard to to drum up those qualities if you’ve been ignoring your needs for sleep, good food, socializing, exercise, and an inner life of your own. Also: being completely selfless has a way of turning into martyrdom, which isn’t the greatest example to set for your kids.

2. Is there anything moms do in an effort to improve their lives that paradoxically causes more distress and makes them more unhappy?

I think we tend to deny our own personalities sometimes in the name of self-improvement, and it doesn’t always work. We can’t all be loosey-goosey earth mothers or super-ambitious go-getters. That said, I think sometimes adopting a little more structure can make a laissez-faire mom a bit happier (it was easy to get by without a reliable bedtime before you had kids, but after they’re here, it might just make you crazy) and on the flip side, women who were super structured before having children might find that “going with the flow” a little helps them keep their expectations in check.

3. What’s your best tip for moms who want to have a happier relationship with their men?

Realize that your life won’t be like THIS (whatever rough stage “this” is) forever. Having small children is incredibly stressful to a marriage and you won’t even have time to work through some of the growing pains you experience during that time, because they keep changing! (Unless you have a large family, in which case you’ll probably start to get it figured out by, oh, kid number four or so…) But the good news is, infancy and toddlerhood really go by so fast. In a few years you’ll be sleeping again, your child won’t be hanging on your legs all day, you’ll be able to more easily plan time together or keep from snapping at your spouse because it’s been at least a week since you had any time alone. Or maybe you’re in a rough spot because of a layoff or a troubled teen or (fill in the blank.) Either way, the hard time you’re having probably won’t define your entire life together, so work on staying as connected as you can, as loving as you can, as forgiving as you can, and then dig in your heels and ride it out to smoother waters.

4. Any secret tips for getting your spouse to pitch in more without having to nag or hear him groan or roll his eyes?

Oh gosh. I wish. I think depending on the guy, he may respond to requests, he may respond to lists, he may respond to outright sexual bribery…but he may not respond to any of those things. Here’s the thing: I have found a lot more satisfaction in my marriage by working on myself and adjusting my own expectations and standards than I ever did trying to get my husband to change. Once I stopped viewing my husband’s failure to do the dishes as a personal insult, I realized it’s really not that big a deal to just take care of it myself. Especially when I stop to really consider all the things he does around the house–like acting as our family’s unpaid IT consultant–that I don’t always take a moment to notice when I’m mad about the wadded-up towels on the floor.

5. You’ve managed to juggle a demanding career, have 5 kids, and stay sane. What’s your secret?

It might sound Pollyanna-ish, but I really believe that looking at my life in a positive light helps me stay on top of things without unraveling. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’m way too busy this week, I don’t have enough child care, my house is a mess…” I try to think about things in more positive terms: “I’m looking forward to this exciting time. Wow, I am so efficient, I can handle this schedule without a lot of help! I wonder how clean I can get this house this afternoon…”

Perception is reality. If I think of myself as tired, overwhelmed, and unhappy, that’s how I’ll feel. And vice versa.

To win a copy of The Happiest Mom, just comment on this post. You can either share your best happiness tip, or you can tell us how parenting or marriage destroyed your peace of mind. Or you can just let us know why you need this book. I’ll pick two winners by Sunday night.

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