Can a cheating spouse ever reform?

Q: My husband has cheated on me many, many times. I don’t think he’ll ever stop. I know I should leave him, but I can’t. I still love him! There is no one else I’d rather be with! So I’m wondering: will he ever stop cheating? Am I just wasting my time? How can I mend my broken marriage?—Please Make Him Stop

Dear Please Make Him Stop,

There’s one thing I can say about my husband with great certainty. He’s not a cheater. I’ve never once caught him checking out another woman. He doesn’t have female friends. He doesn’t flirt. It’s just not in his DNA.

Because of this, I found your question very tough to answer. Will your husband ever stop cheating? Perhaps, but probably only if you Bobbit him. (Please know that I am not suggesting this as a remedy to your problem.)

But what do I know? Really. This is out of my area of experience.

For a credible opinion on the matter, I turned to a friend who was once in your exact situation. Her first husband cheated on her repeatedly. She was a stay at home mom who raised three kids. He was a dad who wanted to do it with any woman but his wife.

I sent her your question. Here’s her advice:

You’ve already answered some of your own questions. You say, “He’s cheated on me numerous times.” You say, “I don’t think he’ll ever stop.” Go with your gut. You already know that staying with your husband any longer is just a waste of precious time. You deserve better treatment, a better relationship, and a better life. Your children will respect you more and have a better self esteem if they see that you will not allow yourself to be made unhappy and abused. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

He is choosing to cheat on you. You might think this is about the other woman, that they hold some power over him. It’s not about the women, though. It’s about him. He’s choosing not to exert self control.

You say you love him. Can you love him with the cheating part of his personality? Because that’s who he is. My first husband had the same personality issues. At first, I was like you. I thought I could mend my marriage, I thought I could change myself so that he wouldn’t think these other women were so great. I have 3 kids, grown now, and I didn’t want my family to break up. I didn’t want to lose my dreams about the future that I had envisioned. But, after too long of a time I finally became so disgusted that I realized that anything would be better than living with a cheating, lying husband. I wanted my peace of mind back. I wanted my children to live in a peaceful atmosphere. I have never regretted filing for divorce. I do regret taking so long to do it.

See? She’s great. I think her advice is right on the money. The only thing I would add is this. I think your main problem is a lack of self esteem and self worth. You don’t realize that you deserve better. The day you realize that? You will become a powerful woman.

Do you have any advice for Please Make Him Stop? Leave a comment.

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Should You Stay for the Sake of the Kids?

Not in my opinion. That’s what I told you earlier this week. I didn’t do any research on the matter because I assumed everyone would agree with me, though. That was silly wasn’t it?

I’m really okay with some or all of you not agreeing with me. That’s why there’s a comments area, so you can let me know when you think I’m on crack. That’s exactly what some of you thought when I said you shouldn’t stay together for your kids’ sake.

So, today, I’m going to try to prove to you that I, indeed, do not own a crack pipe. Instead of just spouting off my random opinions on the matter, I’ve done a bit of research. I looked at many studies done during the past 5 years on the effects of divorce on children.

This is what I found:

1. When two unhappily married people stay together and fight a lot, they screw up their kids just as much as when they divorce and one parent drops completely out of the picture. A Cornell study of nearly 2000 households determined that teens who live in high-conflict homes are much more likely to binge drink, smoke, perform poorly in school, drop out of school, be sexually promiscuous, and get knocked up than teens who live in happy homes where the parents aren’t chasing one another around with butter knives.

2. Divorced parents are just as capable of being great parents as married parents. When the University of Alberta studied nearly 5000 households, they found that there was no difference in parenting behavior between divorced parents and married parents. That’s right. None. The divorced parents were just as nurturing, consistent, and strict.

3. It’s the dysfunction that does kids in, not the marital arrangement. Another University of Alberta study of 17000 children determined that children are most harmed psychologically in the year BEFORE their parents split. It was the parental fighting, depression and anger that really screwed the kids up-not the divorce itself. In some situations, kids fared better when their parents finally split.

I’m not encouraging all of you to just end it already. No, I’m the person who saved her marriage by reading martial improvement books. I’m only saying that staying together for the kids is the wrong reason to stay together. Stay together because you think you can turn things around. Stay together because you see a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay together because you still want to try. Stay together because you know you haven’t really given it your all. Stay together because you can still remember why you fell in love.

But don’t do it just for the kids, especially if things are hopeless. If you are only doing it for the kids, you just might be hurting them more than you are helping them.

Note: Thanks to all of you who discovered this site after reading about it on Wow. I’m happily overwhelmed with all of your emails! I cannot answer every email I receive personally, but starting tomorrow and running through next week and possibly beyond, I will be writing blog posts that address your questions. 

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Why am I attracted to other men, but not my husband?

Q: I want my marriage to work. It’s the right thing for my kids, plus I am afraid of being alone with 2 children. My husband is a good man. Good men are hard to find. At the same time, I don’t feel that physical connection with him anymore.  I don’t even like him touching me, but I am extremely physically attracted to someone else. Why is it that this other man can make me feel so good and my husband can no longer do this for me? What should I do? – Woman in a Marriage Crisis

Dear Woman in a Marriage Crisis,

Just like nearly everything in life, no relationship is perfect. One man might be a great lover, but not a great conversationalist. Another might be a great provider, but a terrible lover. Few if any people have every single quality we desire in a mate.

Once you allow yourself to accept this fact, you’ll have a much easier time seeing the shortcomings of your marriage as problems that you can solve over time. Rather than seeing your lack of attraction to your husband as a fatal flaw—one that can only be solved by either replacing him or cheating on him—you’ll look into ways to build a healthy attraction.

Excluding that temporary insanity that most of us feel during the early days of a relationship, long-term attraction is not a magical quality that you either have or don’t. You can create it. I know this because I did just that in my own marriage. A few years ago, I would have rather had all of my toenails extracted than have sex with my husband. Now I look forward to it (the sex, not the toe nail removal).

This is what I recommend:

* Launch Project: Attraction. Tell your husband about it. Explain that your yearning for him has waned over the years and that you’d like to get it back. Be honest. Reveal your weakness for other men. Tell him that you want your marriage to work and that you don’t want to have an affair, but you are afraid that you might. Ask him to help you fall back in love with him.

* Start having sex on a regular basis, even if you don’t want to do it. Sex helps build a connection that will turn into a healthy attraction over time.

* Deal with any turn-offs. If he needs dental care, tell him. If he needs to spend more time on personal hygiene, tell him.

Teach him how to romance you. Give him an instruction manual.

* Teach him how to please you in bed. Again, if needed, given him an instruction manual. Also, add variety to your sex life. In long-term relationships, monogamy often turns into sexual monotony, but it doesn’t have to. Be creative and be willing to try new things.

* Touch often. It’s really the simple things that keep a marriage going. Hug before you leave the house or when you come home. Hold hands. Sit closely on the couch. Stroke his arm or pat his back. Constantly be looking for new ways to have skin-to-skin contact.

* Be transparent.
 Allow him to know the real you and vice versa. The more you get to know each other on a deeper level, the more your attraction will grow.

* Put on blinders. It’s normal to occasionally feel attracted to other people. You’re married. You’re not a eunuch (or whatever the female version of one would be called). You can look, but you can’t touch. Practice the art of healthy self-control.  Learn how to release your attachment to wanting it all. Learn how to be happy with the wonderful man you already have.

Do you have advice for Woman in a Marriage Crisis? Leave a comment.

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How to save a marriage when your spouse doesn’t want to try

Q: My spouse has given up on our marriage. She wants a divorce. I don’t. What can I do to win her back? – Desperate

Dear Desperate:

I wish I could give you three surefire ways to winning back the love of your life. Unfortunately, they just don’t exist. It takes two people to have a good marriage, but only one person to end one. Quite often, once people make the decision to end their marriages, they make a mental shift that prevents them from seeing any good in their marriage. Their minds are made up, so they focus all of their mental attention on the reasons why their marriage isn’t working and do not allow themselves to see a single reason to try one last time.

This is a tough mindset to break, but it’s worth trying. This is what I recommend.

Step 1

Set up a time to talk about your marriage. It should be a time when you are both relaxed. The kids should not be around. No one’s favorite show should be playing on TV. Definitely don’t do it if either one of you is pissed off. You need to both be calm.

Step 2

Ask her to give it one final try. Negotiate for an extended warranty on your marriage. You can’t talk her into loving you, but you might be able to talk her into trying by saying something like, “Will you give me four months of your time? During these four months, I promise to do everything I can to become a man you would like to be married to. If, after four months, you see no improvement, you can leave and I will not try to stop you. If, after four months, however, you see some improvement, we can extend the trial date another four months and another four months and so on.”

If she agrees, move on to step three. If she refuses, there’s really not a lot you can do.

Step 3

Launch a marriage project. Because your spouse is the one who has given up, your initial four months are going to have to be lopsided in favor of doing everything possible to make her happy. This might not be fair, but it is what it is. Get over it. Ask her to make two lists. One is a grievance list. She should make this list first. On it, she should write down everything that makes her feel disappointed in her marriage. It should be a list like:

1.    I don’t feel attracted to you.

2.    We have nothing in common.

3.    I feel suffocated.

Her list might be really long. Expect that. It’s also going to hurt. You need to be ready and open for that, too.

Her second list should be everything she expects from a perfect marriage. It might go like this:

1.    Someone who adores me.

2.    Someone who makes me feel beautiful.

3.    Someone I’m attracted to.

And so on.

Resist the urge to argue with her about these lists. Your knee jerk reaction will be to say, “But I do all of those things. I’m the perfect husband!” If she agreed with that, she would not want out of the marriage. More important, the moment you start to defend yourself is the moment she goes back to deciding that the marriage is over. Stop defending your actions. Stop trying to convince her that you are the perfect spouse and she’s blind if she can’t see that. That hasn’t worked for you, right? What you need to do now is become that perfect spouse for her. You need to build a cocoon around yourself and, during the next four months, evolve from the slimy little worm that she thinks you are and into the butterfly that you know you can be.

Take those lists one item at a time and talk about how you can become the man she wants. Diligently work on becoming that person. Take the initiative. Don’t expect her to save your marriage. Remember: she’s given up. You’re going to have to be the big person here. Again, it might not be fair, but it’s reality. Get over it.

Step 4

Don’t ever become complacent and don’t ever assume that your efforts are working. Continually check in with her. For instance, let’s say she wants more romance in her marriage. Let’s say you do that by sending her flowers every week. Let’s say she hates flowers. Then your efforts at creating more romance are falling flat. You need to constantly get feedback from her. You need to work hard on getting to know her, on understanding her, and on learning everything you can about her.

And you have to work hard on your consistency. You absolutely cannot relapse during these initial four months. You really need to show constant improvement in order to win her over. You’re going to have to become a new person. There might come a time when your marriage starts to work and your wife seems like she loves you again. It’s really important to not get sloppy during this phase. Keep giving it all you’ve got.

Step 5

Assuming everything goes well and you are able to extend your marriage warranty beyond four months, you’ll eventually want to work on things that make you happy, too. Slowly address these issues, one at a time.

Good luck!

Do you have advice for Desperate? Leave a comment.

This post was sponsored by Dotty Evens, a marriage counselor who is a lot like me. There was a time when Dotty wasn’t happily married. Like me, she did everything possible to change that situation, and she succeeded. She has a wonderful e-newsletter that offers her tips and tricks for a happy marriage. In each issue, she answers a frequently asked question about marriage, such as, “How can I rebuild trust after infidelity?” She offers great advice, and it’s free. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free, bonus report that details the 5 tactics she used to save her marriage.

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5 ways to affair-proof your marriage

Are you thinking that you shouldn’t have to affair-proof your marriage? Your partner should know better, right? If your partner has an affair, there’s something wrong with your partner and not with you!

That’s true.

But it doesn’t make finding out about an affair any less devastating. It doesn’t make it any easier to make that next decision: should we stay together or not? It doesn’t take away the pain, the hurt, and the anger.

More important, affairs happen, a lot more often than most people think. I know because I hear about them and I see them in progress. Married men quite often proposition me when I’m out with my friends. They feed me a load of crap like, “My wife doesn’t mind that I do this. She won’t have sex with me. Woe is me. I need an outlet.” Ladies: take comfort. I usually respond to such talk with this: “Well I completely understand why your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you.”

Note: Someone accused me of being a man hater in the comments after I wrote this post. I actually like men, but I don’t like when they think I’m dumb enough to fall for something like that. It’s an insult to my intelligence, which is why I use the insulting come back. I also really dislike using the he/she construction, which is why I often pick one or the other. So, for the rest of this blog, know that: men and women both cheat. Sometimes they have compelling reasons to do so.

Through this blog, I also hear from men and women who are contemplating an affair, who are in the middle of an affair, or who are feeling guilty about an affair.

Their spouses have no idea.

I also have heard from many people who are floored when their spouses walk out of the marriage, usually to start up a relationship with someone else. They never saw it coming and often say things like, “I don’t know why she left me. I gave her everything. I was the perfect spouse.”

Here’s the thing about affairs: they are easy. That’s why they happen. Getting a divorce? Not easy. Repairing your marriage and getting what you need from your spouse? Definitely not easy. Having a fling with someone who offers you the few things your spouse does not? Much easier.

That’s why you need to affair proof. You cannot take your marriage for granted. Here are 5 ways to do it:

1.    Have sex regularly. I often hear women say things like, “I get back at my husband by withholding sex” or “We stopped having sex a long time ago. It’s not important to us.” Here’s the thing: it might be very  important to him. If that’s the case and he’s not getting it from you, he’ll be more tempted to find another way to get it. And he’s going to feel justified about it, because you were the one who shut him out. The more often you have sex with each other, the less often either one of you will be tempted to have sex with someone else. Exhaust your sex drive at home.

2.   Never stop flirting. Part of the lure of the affair is the “I like you” and “I like you right back” validation. After many years of marriage—once we’ve gotten set in our ways—we forget to validate our partners and then the excitement and lust drains out of the relationship. Try to compliment your spouse everyday. Tell her that her butt looks great in her jeans. Mention something about how flat his stomach is looking lately. Eat each other up.

3.    Never stop dating. In the beginning, you probably planned fun things to do together. You saw movies. You went on weekend trips. You went on hikes. Then you had kids. Now your idea of a date is watching TV once the kids are in bed. Bring romance back into your marriage. Go on vacations without the kids. Bring back activities that you both love, but have stopped doing together. Find new ways to connect.

4.    Emotionally stimulate her. I’m going to go on one of my sexist benders here. Go ahead and complain about it in the comments area. Here goes. Men tend to have sexual affairs. Women tend to have emotional ones that happen to also be sexual. In other words, men tend to stray in order to get laid. Women tend to stray in order to have someone to talk to, someone who understands them. This is why a woman’s affair tends to end a marriage. She usually falls in love with the object of her emotional affair. Men: this is why you just can’t ignore your wife’s need for conversation and emotional stimulation. Yes, she needs a life outside of marriage. Yes, she needs emotionally stimulating friends. And yes, she needs you to talk and listen every once in a while. If you don’t, she might eventually meet someone else who fills that need.

5.   Continually work on your marriage. Once every so often rate your marriage on a scale of 1 (I wish you were dead) to 10 (I am thrilled to have you in my life). Talk about ways to get your marriage closer to 10. The happier you are together, the more invested you will be in your marriage and the less likely either one of you will be to stray.

Do you think it’s important to affair-proof your marriage? Do you have additional affair-proofing strategies to suggest? Leave a comment.

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What to do when your man doesn’t talk

Q: I recently got married to a guy who should have been perfect for me. The problem is that he doesn’t communicate at all. I feel sad and alone most of the time, and I never know what he’s thinking. How do I get him to open up? — Lonely and ignored

Dear Lonely and Ignored:

Welcome to my world! My husband is the strong and silent type, too. Your answer lies in a combination of acceptance and gentle prodding.

It’s important to understand that he may never become a talker. Some people are talkers, and some aren’t. Me expecting my husband to morph into a conversationalist is like him expecting me to suddenly develop an interest in car racing. Just ain’t going to happen.

That said, you do not have to continue to suffer in silence. Use this advice.

Ask him to listen.
 Explain that you don’t need him to chatter back at you, respond, or fix your problems. You just want him to listen with rapt attention. This will take the pressure off him to talk. If you want him to do certain things as he listens, tell him. Perhaps you want him to make eye contact, hold your hand, nod every once in a while, and so on. I know it sounds silly, but these are things that women and some men do automatically. Strong and silent types? They need an instruction manual.

Make a list of topics that you absolutely need him to communicate.
 For instance, you may want all financial purchases to be made jointly. You may want some parenting decisions to be made together (what time should Johnny’s curfew be?) and some not (whether or not it’s a good time to play catch in the backyard). Again, the ability to know the difference between Must-Talk-About-Now Topics and Better-Left-Unsaid comes naturally to some, and not so naturally to others. Teach him how to know the difference.

Let him talk when he’s ready. If you need to discuss something that will probably make him uncomfortable and shut down, bring it up calmly and ask, “When would be a good time to talk about this?” This allows him time to think things over, prepare a response, and calm down from the stress of being confronted.

Talk while you are doing something else. Do it while walking, while sitting in the car, or over dinner. This reduces tension, which may allow him to more easily open up.

When he does talk, reward him. This is important, especially if he is finally opening up for the first time. Hug him. Say thank you. Take him to the bedroom.

Talk about your loneliness. Explain that you want to feel close to him and you worry that you might turn to someone else for this closeness if you don’t get it from him. Ask him to help you affair-proof your marriage.

Don’t ask him what he’s thinking or feeling.
 You’re just wasting your creative energy on that one. The answer to, “What are you thinking?” is probably, “Nothing.” The answer to “What are you feeling?” is probably “I have no clue.” Instead, ask him very specific questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no, questions such as:

  • Why do you root for the Mets?
  • Tell me about the most interesting thing that happened to you today.
  • If you could do anything with your life, what would it be?
  • If you could live anywhere, where would you want to live?

Find an outlet for your need for conversation.
 It will never be him. Find a group of girlfriends who love to chat. Get involved in online discussion groups. Sit at the local coffee shop, diner or some other hangout spot for a few minutes everyday and chat with strangers.

Do you have advice for Lonely and Ignored? Share it in the comments area!

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33 Surefire Ways to Screw Up Your Marriage

1.    When your spouse comes to you with a problem, you downplay it, saying, “Things will get better in time,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

2.    When something bothers you, you don’t tell your spouse because your spouse should know not to act this way without you saying anything!

3.    Your relationship with your children is more important than your relationship with your spouse.

4.    You refuse to compromise. It’s your way or the divorce court.

5.    You belittle your spouse because it makes you feel better about yourself.

6.    You constantly brush off your spouse’s sexual advances because you are “not in the mood.” You do not look into ways to get yourself in the mood. Thus, you can’t remember the last time you had sex.

7.    You treat your mother-in-law like vermin, even though you know this bothers your spouse.

8.    You let yourself go. You no longer take steps to make yourself sexy and desirable for your spouse. Sometimes, you don’t even brush your teeth or bother to make sure you don’t have B.O.

9.    You cook your spouse’s least favorite foods on purpose.

10.    You flirt with the opposite sex, even though you know it bothers your spouse.

11.    You refuse to give your husband the “atta boy” for doing mundane things like emptying the dishwasher simply because he never gives you an “atta girl” for doing the same thing.

12.    You never tell your wife that she’s sexy, beautiful or hot, simply because she never thanks you for emptying the dishwasher.

13.    You only hug your wife or grab her rear when you want to get busy. You never do it just to make her feel good.

14.    When your spouse says, “We need to talk,” you reach for the remote control.

15.    You stopped dating your spouse the day you got married or the day your first child was born.

16.    Your idea of the perfect vacation is one you take with the kids. You would never hear of going away somewhere just with your spouse, even though you have many viable baby-sitting options.

17.    You never notice when your spouse has a new haircut because you rarely look at your spouse.

18.    You don’t try to understand your spouse’s hobbies and passions.

19.    You refuse to give your spouse space, because space makes you feel vulnerable.

20.    You don’t take turns reaching each other’s dreams. You think your spouse is there to support you and not the other way around.

21.    You stopped getting to know your spouse years ago. In fact, you just read that sentence and thought, “What else is there to know?”

22.    You belittle your spouse in front of other people.

23.    You refuse to give your spouse a second chance. You hold every single indiscretion against him for eternity, no matter how many times he’s said, “I’m sorry” and no matter how successfully he’s changed his behavior.

24.    When you fight with your spouse, you try to get other people around you—your kids, your friends, your parents—to take sides.

25.    If your spouse asks you for a favor, you say, “No” because you don’t think he deserves one.

26.    You only practice random acts of kindness with strangers. You don’t do it for your spouse.

27.    When you see your spouse struggling with exhaustion, depression, anxiety and other issues, you do nothing.

28.    When something is bothering you and your spouse asks you about it, you shut down, even though you know this bothers your spouse.

29.    You can’t bring yourself to say, “I’m sorry” even though you know you were wrong.

30.    You can’t bring yourself to say, “You’re forgiven,” even though your spouse has said he’s sorry.

31.    You’ve told your spouse so many lies that you need to write them down in order to keep track of them.

32.    You are living a secret life that your spouse does not know about.

33.    You make fights with your spouse about “who is right” rather than about “how can we fix this.”

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How to train a man to do housework

Q: My spouse sits on the couch and watches me cleaning like a cave girl high on Windex. Does he move? I wish I could hook him up to a battery charger. I just want a clean nice home, you know, one where I can open the door to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and my mother in law. I am searching for a formula that will work. There must be one. Am I fighting a losing battle? Should I surrender to the mess? — Seething Windex Wife

Dear Seething Windex Wife:

I hope it’s somewhat comforting to know that what you are going through is very common. Nearly all of the married women I know struggle with the same problem. “My husband is a hopeless slob” ranks pretty high on most women’s complaint lists, with “he can’t get his lazy ass out of bed to deal with the kids” and “he communicates his desire to have sex with me by rubbing his boner on my thigh” running a close second and third.

And there’s hope. I once had the same experience as you. I’d spend hours scrubbing my husband’s pee off toilet seats and removing his dirty underwear from the hallway floor. He’d occasionally look up from whatever was on TV and say things like, “Thanks for cleaning the house, honey,” assuming he noticed at all. Now, he unloads the washer, runs the vacuum, and picks up our daughter’s toys without being asked. And when he sees me cleaning, it’s an automatic trigger for him to get his butt off the couch and help.

Here’s what I suggest.

1. Try to see things through his eyes. He probably doesn’t see or care about the mess. Asking him to care about a clean house is similar to him asking you to care about the color and height of the grass in your yard. Women notice dust and fingerprints. Men notice crabgrass and yellow spots. It’s just one of those weird genetic differences between the sexes.

Most women are taught how to clean from a young age, too. My mother, for instance, had a dust rag in my hands by age 10, and she supervised my work. I also happened to work as a hotel maid one summer between my junior and senior years in high school.

My husband? His mother did everything in that house, and no one lifted a finger to help her. He did not work as a hotel maid, or any other job that would have taught him how to clean fast and effectively. I once showed him how to make hospital corners when making the bed. He stared at me as if I were from Mars, wondering why the heck anyone would care about making perfect corners in a set of sheets.

Cleaning makes many men-especially those who have not been taught how to do it-feel inadequate. It’s similar to how we women feel when we have to dispose of a rodent caught in a glue trap. Sure, we can do it, but we’ll avoid that poor critter for as long as it takes, in the hopes that our lovely husbands will take care of it first.

I’m not saying that you should just accept his slovenly lazy ways. I’m only saying that, if you learn how to understand it and see it from his perspective, it might help lower your anger a notch, so you can address the problem more civilly.

2. Understand the Law of Household Entropy. All houses naturally fall into a state of chaos over time. You simply cannot keep a house clean and orderly every moment of every day, especially if you have children or pets.

Because of the Law of Household Entropy, you must be willing to come to a compromise with your spouse. How much chaos are you willing to have? Do you want your entire house clean once a week, with it gradually falling into a state of complete disarray by week’s end? Or would you rather always have one room that is clean and presentable (that you clean up daily), and others that you let go most of the time (cleaning only in the moments just before the mother in law visits)? What types of household chaos bug you the most? Perhaps you are okay with dust but you really can’t stand having mold in your toilet. Once you understand what bugs you most, you’ll more easily be able to ask your husband for the help you need.

3. Think about why you value a clean house, and go beyond jokes about Jehovahs. How does a disorderly house make you feel? How does it affect your mood, energy, and sexual health? Being able to put this into words will help your husband to understand your point of view.

4. Hold an intervention. Sit down when you are calm (probably not while or just before cleaning). Talk about how a clean orderly house makes you feel: happy, stress free, calm, like having sex. Explain how you feel when you clean it up while he watches TV: unloved, taken advantage of, exhausted, angry.  You might say, “I don’t like feeling taken advantage of. I don’t like feeling this way about you. I really want us to have a good relationship, and I really want to feel calm and stress free in my house. Can you help me with this?”

Then, get solution focused. Maybe he takes on some chores and you do others. Maybe you clean together. Be creative. Whatever you do, make sure your solution is specific. Remember: he’s blind to the mess. He needs an instruction manual, as in, “I would like you to pick up everything on the floor-including your empty beer cans, socks and banana peels-every night before you start watching TV.” Leave no room for misinterpretation.

5. Whenever you notice him cleaning, reward him.
 Hug him. Say, “Thank You.” Jump his bones. Make him want to clean again.

Tips for Training Really Stubborn Men

So, let’s say you do all of that and your man resists. Let’s say he claims, as my husband did initially, that he already does plenty of housework.

Hold a contest. Create a big chart and list all of the indoor and outdoor chores. Over a month’s time, check off which chores you complete and how long it takes to complete them. At the end of the month, compare results. I did this with my husband and it really blew him away. He truly thought he’d been doing more than he really was doing.

Here’s another excuse that might pop up. He might accuse you of being too uptight. For instance, he’ll whine, “I work hard. When I come home I just want to relax. What’s wrong with relaxing? Why do you have to always be working?”

This is when you tell him that you want to relax, too, and you just can’t when your house is messy. Ask him to help you come up with a compromise that will make both of you happy and relaxed. Maybe, for instance, the two of you clean the house while you are dressed up as a French Chamber Maid. Then, once the house is clean, the good lazy boy gets a nice reward.

Just saying. It might get you a really clean house. In fact, your husband might want to clean the house every night.

Do you have advice for Seething Windex Wife? Leave a comment.

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26 Things No One Told You About Life as a Parent

What no one tells you: Babies rarely look like this!
  1. Many, many mornings at 5:30 a.m., you will spend inordinate amounts of time bargaining with God for just one more hour of sleep.
  2. here is no painless way to extract a baby from a womb. You will spend lots of time arguing with other mothers about which is less painful, a C-section or a vaginal birth. In reality, they both hurt more than any other hurt you’ve ever experienced in your entire life. But it’s the kind of pain that’s worth it, for the most part.
  3. You will become so used to touching your child’s bodily fluids-snot, urine, poop, spit, and blood-that they will no longer gross you out.
  4. You will become an expert at the art of “poop reading,” which is the ability to tell whether your child is sick based on the size, color, shape and frequency of his or her bowel movements.
  5. You will develop a condition known as “momnesia” at the moment of conception. Experts say it lifts about a year or two into parenthood, but any honest mother will tell you that it lasts a full 20 years, at which time you will develop senility instead.
  6. During pregnancy, you will find all sorts of crud in your underwear, crud that makes your worst yeast infection ever seem very, very, very tame.
  7. After you give birth, you will begin to hate your spouse and wish he or she would just drop dead.
  8. Your child will embarrass you on a deeper level than you’ve ever been embarrassed in your life, especially when you are standing in line at a store and your 3 year old exclaims, “Whoo-wee Mommy, you farted! It stinks in here!”
  9. Your boobs will look Pam Anderson fantastic during breast-feeding. Love it while it lasts. As soon as your child weans, your boobs will deflate faster than a balloon with a hole in it. And they will get saggy, too. This is the single most common reason why many women decide to have more than one child.
  10. Not long into parenthood, you will trade off your goal of being the “perfect parent” for the goal of “just help me survive this experience.”
  11. There will be a day at some point after parenthood when you find yourself out in public and realize any or all of the following: a) your shirt is inside out b) there is food on your shirt c) you forgot to brush your teeth… and your hair d) you forgot to put on your pants.
  12. All of those expressions you learned from your parents that you swore you would never repeat? You will say them to your child, and you will say them many, many times.
  13. If you did not curse before parenthood, you will afterward. If you cursed before parenthood, you will curse even more.
  14. Your child will start to manipulate you starting around 4 months, a process that will last until your funeral. You will learn to see this for what it is: how your child displays his or her love for you.
  15. You will find yourself Googling all sorts of oddities, from, “How to teach a kid to poop on the potty” to “I have a crush on my pediatrician. Is this normal?”
  16. You will ask yourself, “Is this normal?” many, many, many times, and you will never really know the answer to that question. For instance, while eating dinner at a restaurant, your child might slip his or her hands up your shirt and exclaim, “I’m touching your nipples!” Is that normal? I’m still not sure.
  17. You will realize just how much you really do not know, especially when your child asks you, “Whose head is on the quarter?” and “Why do Zebras have stripes?” and “Why can’t I put my hands up your shirt when we are out in public?”
  18. You will constantly worry that someone will call Child Protective Services on you, even though you are truly a good parent. Your child is just clumsy.
  19. Time will become your most precious commodity, and you will haggle with your spouse over it as if it were gold.
  20. You will learn to fear birthday invitations.
  21. Grocery shopping will never quite be the same experience again.
  22. If you had extra money before you became a parent, you won’t have it afterward.
  23. Diapers cost more than you would ever imagine. Daycare costs even more, and don’t even think about the cost of a college education. If you do, you will probably decide not to have children.
  24. The expression, “All shit stinks” is inaccurate. The poop of newborn breast fed babies doesn’t stink. Poop only starts to stink once babies start eating solids, and some solids make it stink more than others. You will soon become an expert at sniffing poop and knowing exactly what food led to that precise odor.
  25. You will find yourself throwing away all sorts of things that make you feel guilty, such as your child’s artwork.
  26. The day you give birth, your hair will start to gray and you will start to grow a mustache. It happens to the best of mothers. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap hair removal products, not to mention dye.

For more momspiration, check out the Best Mommy Blogs over at Andrea Howard’s Parentise site. By the way, her site is a very cool place to go for reviews of various services and products that all parents need.

What did you learn about parenting after the fact that you wish you had known before? Leave a comment.

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9 stages of an unhappy marriage

If you are making this for him, you’re probably still in Stage 1.

This morning, I woke up before my husband, looked in the fridge and found only three eggs. I eat eggs for breakfast nearly every morning. So does my husband. This was a problem.

I did something that surprised even myself. I made myself a frozen waffle and a smoothie. Later, my husband, who was having a very difficult time getting out of bed, asked, “Are there any eggs?” I said, “There were only three eggs left, so I didn’t eat any. I saved them for you. You know I love you now.”

He smiled and said, “I do.”

Now, let me be honest here. Not long ago, I would have eaten all three eggs, and I would have done it while I thought, “If he got his lazy sorry ass out of bed on time, then he would have beat me to the eggs. You snooze. You lose.”

It made me realize that there are 9 distinct stages of marital disharmony. In these stages, I’m using eggs as an example, but it might be chocolate or English muffins or something else that you and your spouse both love and also tend to run out of before it’s time for the next grocery store run. Note: I’ve written these stages from the female point of view, because, after all, I’m a female. For the most part, you could insert “he” for “she” and “she” for “he,” except in a few somewhat obvious places where you just can’t.

Stage 1: Dating

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You drive to the store to get more, so you can make you and your special love interest omelets. You want to prove to him that you have special kitchen skills because you are hoping that, one day, he might want to marry you because of your special kitchen skills.

Stage 2: Serious dating

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You stare at them for a while. You think about eating them. You don’t. You leave them all for that special guy who is sleeping upstairs, because any day now he might get a notion to pop the question. You don’t want to do anything to dissuade him from that notion. See? Aren’t you marriage material? You leave the last three eggs for him! Who wouldn’t marry a woman who does that?

Stage 3: You just got home from the honeymoon

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You sigh. You wake up your husband and explain the egg situation. He says, “Oh, honey, why don’t you eat them? I’ll just have a slice of toast.” He’s under the misguided impression that he’ll get morning sex for this gesture. He may or may not be disappointed, depending on how many weeks have passed since the honeymoon.

Stage 4: The honeymoon is definitely over

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You split them with your spouse, but you are not happy about it. You stare longingly at his eggs the entire time he’s eating, thinking that any moment now he’ll turn back into that man who once gave you his eggs. You pledge to never have sex with him again, no matter how excessively horny you might become.

Stage 5: The honeymoon is so over that you can’t even remember why you ever wanted to travel with him in the first place

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You eat all of them nearly raw. You weren’t even planning on having eggs this day, mind you. You eat them so he can’t have them, because he doesn’t deserve them.

Stage 6: Marital therapy

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You throw them at your husband.

Stage 7: Martial therapy just might be working

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You eat them, but you feel guilty about it.

Stage 8: Wow, marital therapy actually worked!

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You make something else for breakfast.

Stage 9: You have achieved the much talked about but rarely experienced state known as “Marital Enlightenment”

You wake up. You realize you only have three eggs. You make something else for breakfast. You make the eggs for your spouse.

Note: I have not reached stage 9. I’ve only heard about it. When I again walked into the bedroom this morning (yes, he was still in bed), my husband asked, “Are you almost done making my ham and eggs?”

I said, “I don’t love you that much. Get over it.”

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