The Story of Alisa, Part 5

21 Lessons I’ve Learned From Blogging

During my first year of blogging, I learned many things about writing, blogging, and life. In no particular order, they are as follows:

  • If you make fun of yourself, people will laugh and feel a kinship with you. If you make fun of others, people might laugh, but that will come at the cost of losing your friends and becoming the least loved person in your family.
  • Sometimes all the inspiration in the world can’t turn a thought into something that’s worth publishing. The process of trying to turn it into something worthy of publishing isn’t a waste, though. All writing – even bad writing – is a practice and a warmup for better writing.
  • The topics that I almost don’t write (no one wants to know about this, this is going to offend some people, I can’t believe I’m willing to talk about this) usually end up being my most popular posts. This might be true for your writing, too.
  • Have the courage to be controversial. Strong convictions, points of view and voice are what make one blog stand out from the millions of other blogs on the Internet.
  • To write with a strong voice, you need to do two things. First, have the courage to be you. Second, read your writing out loud. That’s the only way you can hear whether or not your voice is truly in your writing. I read every blog out loud before I post it. It not only helps me to Voice It Up, but it also helps me to catch typos.
  • There are people whose have made it their goal in life to make other bloggers feel sad. Ignore these people. Their anger says a lot more about them than it says about you and your writing. If your writing attracts trolls? You are doing something right. You are Troll Worthy.
  • Occasionally you will accidentally offend people with your writing. Even if no normal person would have ever misunderstood your point, it’s better to apologize in the comments area or write a formal blog apology.
  • In every post, make it your goal to lift people up and help them improve their lives. Do not spread ill will. Although that tactic does work for a few, it doesn’t work for most, and it’s bad for your Karma.
  • Every post should accomplish a goal: to help, to teach, to inspire, to entertain, to provide comic relief, and so on. If the post serves no purpose? It’s probably not worth posting.
  • There are many ways to promote your blog and find readers. The three tactics that have worked best for me: guest blogging, writing controversial list posts for social media promotions, and publicity. Most bloggers forget about the third. Getting quoted on a news site or high profile blog can bring you thousands of visitors in a day.
  • You can overcome a fear of public speaking, especially if you are passionate about what you are talking about. Speaking about what you blog about is another powerful way to promote your blog—and get paid in the process.
  • Writing in your own voice can induce a state of bliss that is more powerful than any street drug or trust fund—even if you never earn money for this writing.
  • When you first start blogging, you’ll hear many stories about people who monetized their blogs quickly. The went from zero visitors to a million in one year and no income to 6 figures in the same amount of time. These people are exceptions to the rule. If you try to reach the same goals in the same amount of time, you’ll end up in a mental health hospital. In reality, it takes the rest of us a long time to earn money for this type of writing.
  • Don’t get attached to having a certain number of web visitors, comments or subscribers. As long as these numbers are consistently growing—even if just by a little bit—you are doing something right.
  • Whenever you are feeling down about your traffic or comments, say something about feeling down in your Facebook status update. Your Facebook friends will make you feel loved and appreciated again.
  • Sometimes no one will comment on a blog post and it will make you feel like no one is reading. That’s not necessarily the case. It might mean that no one feels comfortable leaving a comment about that topic.
  • Store all of the nice emails your readers send to you in a folder. Read them whenever you feel like quitting.
  • Never stop learning. You can always get better.
  • It’s really okay to talk about your sex life and other intimate details, as long as you are sharing these details for a reason. It makes other people feel normal about their intimate details.
  • Connect with other bloggers. When you feel unloved and alone, they will come to your rescue.
  • Help others with your writing. It gives you a life purpose, which generates a wealth of inner peace and happiness.
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The Story of Alisa, Part 4

Words started coming to me. I would be walking down the street in New York, pass a pregnant homeless woman, not give her money, walk another block, hear a gay rights activist ask me for money, write a check to said activist, and think, “I should write about this.” So I would.

I would get in a huge fight with my husband and think, “I should write about this.” And I would.

I would wake up at 3 a.m. with words in my head. I would move them around and put them together until I was wide awake. Then I would turn on my computer, write them all down, and go back to bed.

Most of the things I wrote had no point whatsoever. They were writing for writing’s sake. I had no idea what to do with them or where to go with them. I only knew one thing—the process of it all gave me more joy than anything.

One day, however, I was walking my dog and I was thinking about the type of warped individual who would plan her very healthy husband’s funeral down to the lamb-on-a-stick she would serve the mourners. And then, just like that, the following words came to me, “I knew something was terribly wrong with my marriage when I planned my husband’s funeral.”

When I got back to the house, I wrote that sentence. Then I wrote a bunch of other words after it. I’m sure I should have been working on something else, no doubt something health or diet related, something that I was actually getting paid to write. But I could not stop myself. Before the words stopped, I had an entire chapter.

A few months later, I had 100,000 words.

As I edited—adding more words and deleting close to 60,000 others—I still had that sense that something was in me trying to get out. I decided to start a blog, too. I worried, though, about having enough material. Would I, after a month or so, sit in front of my computer and say, “That’s it. Nothing else to say. Done with this. Blog fail.”

So I carried a yellow legal pad around with me and jotted down one possible blog topic after another. And then I wrote something like 10 blog entries, just to see if I had it in me. Since I wrote all 10 in the same day? I figured I did.

I started this blog.

No one read it at first. Well, let me rephrase that. No one except for my mother, my brother, a few friends, and my literary agent.

But that changed. I had 60 monthly readers for a while. I imagined that they all knew me in some way. They’d worked with me. They’d gone to high school with me. They read my blog because they felt sorry for me.

That sort of thing.

Then, one day, I was looking at Google Analytics and I noticed something strange. I had readers in India. And Pakistan. And in Australia. And a lot of other places where I wouldn’t expect people to be reading my blog because no one could possibly know me there.

My monthly numbers climbed to 200 and then 500 and then 1000 and then 7000. I stagnated there for a while. That was a bad time. I became obsessed with my web traffic. I became depressed about my web traffic. I became demoralized about my web traffic.

I decided that I sucked, was the world’s worst excuse for a blogger, and nobody loved me.

Then an editor found my blog, loved my writing style, and offered me a job as a relationships editor at a large women’s website. Then the recession took place. The website lost its funding and I lost my cool little blogging job.

I felt a sense of impending doom. I was sure I was about to become a big public failure.

That was pretty scary.

I wallowed in doom for about a month.

Then the blog traffic started improving, by a lot. It went to 10,000 then 12,000 then 15,000 and up and up and up. People started emailing me, telling me how much I was helping them. I got emails that said:

“For years I have been trying to find someone that would understand me and I came across your blog and I said to myself, ‘OMG, this is me!’”


“I laughed and laughed when I read your blog. OMG, I had to read it to my husband. I just love the humor in your writing style. I too LOVE to write and your writing style and accomplishments are very inspiring to me.”


“Your site has brought me a sense of calm to know that I am not the only one who feels the way I do and has/is experiencing the same challenges I find myself experiencing. I enjoy your humor, being a jersey born gal…sarcasm is in my blood and I’m also quite blunt and direct in my views and in expressing myself.  Sometimes when I read your blogs I’m like, ‘OMG, that is EXACTLY what I think!’”

I saved them all in a file on my computer that I called “Feel Good,” and promised to read them whenever I felt like I was a failure.

The traffic and feedback gave me the courage I needed to try to find a publisher for my book. And when I still didn’t have the courage to do that, my literary agent kicked me in the ass (very gently of course) and told me to get over it. So I did. He sent out a proposal. People liked it. I met with various editors. Running Press agreed to publish it in 2011.

And then really strange things started to happen. One day I got an email from a magazine writer, asking me if I cared to share my best sex tips with her readers. Another day someone from wanted to know my take on Jon and Kate’s marriage. Yet another day a writer from wanted to know why I thought marriage was not obsolete. That was incredible. Just awesome incredible.

The past year of blogging has allowed me to earn a reputation as a writer who can make people laugh and feel normal. It’s helped me become a relationships expert who offers advice from the trenches. It’s allowed me to develop my voice and find that unique take on life that only I have.

It has allowed me to very publicly have the courage to be me.

I finally know that I am a writer—a real writer—one who can change people’s lives with the words I put on the page. That’s a phenomenal feeling.

If I pass on nothing else from taking the time to write this life story, I hope I can at least pass on this advice. Do what you most enjoy in life, even if it won’t make you rich. Do it for the process, even if no one understands why you enjoy it so. Do it for the joy of it, even if it brings you no recognition or fame. Do it for yourself, even if no one else thinks you are good at it.

Do it because you have no other choice, because not doing it would make you feel dead inside.

There’s nothing stopping you from living the life you love. But you.

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The Story of Alisa, Part 2

What I should have been when I grew up

When I was in 5th grade, I wrote a series of book reports for extra credit. My English teacher gave me a C- on each and every one of them. When I asked her why she had not given me the A+s that I’d become accustomed to getting, she said, “I gave you a C- because you can’t write.”

Well, if you read Part 1 of The Story of Alisa, then you know that I was not your usual kid. Your usual kid might have been a little disappointed. Your usual kid might have said, “So I can’t write. But I’m good at math and history! And what President has ever needed writing skills anyway? That’s what speech writers and ghost writers are for!”

I wasn’t that kid. I was the kind of kid who, when a person tells her she can’t do something, becomes downright determined to prove that person wrong. Because, after all, that person IS INDEED WRONG. I was brilliant. Even my grandmother thought so.

So, on that day, I decided to become a writer. That would show Mrs. C.

Then in 7th grade I took an aptitude test. I was sure that the test would reveal just one thing. It was this: I destined was to become America’s next great Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.

But that’s not what the test found. No, according to this aptitude test? I had great aptitude to become a mail carrier.

Now that I had to prove Mrs. C and the aptitude test wrong? A career in writing was almost inevitable.

Plus, it must be said that some member of my family who was very loosely related to me had worked as an editor of some sort at a publishing house somewhere in New York. As far as I was concerned, a career in writing was in my blood.

So, in high school, I started writing for the school paper. That, don’t you know, I won a Scripps Howard Journalism Scholarship to Penn State. I was really proud of that fact.

Penn State decided that I was not smart enough to enter as an honors student or start during fall semester with the other really smart kids. I had to start during summer session, with the kids who were deemed not quite as smart. The admissions people apparently had never had lunch with my grandmother or aunt. If they had? They would have accepted me for fall semester because they would have known about my brilliance.

I now also had to prove to Penn State that I was smart enough to be an honors student.

When my journalism teacher gave me an F on my first assignment? I called my mother at 5 a.m. and cried my heart out, telling her that I sucked, was fat and was going to drop out of school. She sent me flowers and told me she loved me.

After I finished crying, I realized that dropping out of school would mean that Mrs. C was right. It would also mean that I did not have what it took to be an honors student, and that Penn State probably shouldn’t have accepted me at all.

If I’d dropped out of school, I also would have had to pay back my scholarship, because, it would have meant that another kid deserved it more than I did.

I pulled myself together and pledged to not only become an honors student, but also convince Professor Johnson that I deserved to pass her class.

I got an A. Professor Johnson went on to mentor me and become one of my most favorite people of all time.

I became an honors student.

I got a job at the Writing Center as a writing tutor. I helped some of Penn State’s football players pass their writing comp classes.

I became a reporter and then an editor at the student run newspaper. I met some of the coolest and most talented students at the Collegian–students who were better writers and reporters than I was. Even my grandmother would have agreed. They awed me every day.

Along the way, I also did the following: perfected the art of the keg stand, swallowed a goldfish while it was still alive, did shots of all sorts of varieties of alcohol, painted my face blue and white, threw marshmallows at my fellow students, spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not the library was haunted by the student who’d been murdered in the library’s stacks years before, and overslept my 8 o’clock classes. This was all a normal part of Penn State life.

Despite all of that, I graduated with a really ass-kicking GPA was invited into Phi Beta Kappa.

Now I’m going to give you a Cliffs Notes version of my career, because 1) it seems only fitting since I just told you about college life and Cliffs Notes are a big part of college life 2) I can’t think of much of anything interesting to say about the various jobs I’ve held other than the fact that I held them. So here goes:

  1. I got a job as a newspaper reporter.
  2. I really didn’t like knocking on doors and asking grieving parents for photos of their dead children, so I quit after three years and, instead, got a job working as a staff writer at a publishing house. While there, I bought my first home computer. It was a used 386 PC that the company was getting rid of. Another highlight from these years: I met my husband.
  3. I got bored writing A to Z health encyclopedias, so I quit that job and instead started working as an editor at Runner’s World. While there, I ran three marathons. Another highlight from these years: I married my husband.
  4. Eventually, I realized I could make more money as an independent contractor, so I quit that job and went freelance. I doubled my salary that first year. I now support my family with my income.

As a freelancer, I ghost wrote 7 NY Times best sellers and got published in Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Yoga Journal and more.

Mrs. C? Soooo wrong. So, so wrong.

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The Story of Alisa, Part 1

As far back as I can remember, I saw my life from afar, as if it were a movie that I was watching. I could even hear the music as the camera faded in on my life.

As a young child, I was telling stories, writing them down, and illustrating them.

And I was reading—book after book after book.

And I was learning new words. I loved words.

And I was setting up a little table and sitting behind it and pretending to be a newscaster on television.

But I didn’t want to be a writer of books or movies or of the daily news. No, I wanted to be either a brain surgeon or President of the United States because those pursuits would impress my mother and make her love me more than my brothers. Note: This quest—to get my mother to love me more than she loved my brothers–was a competition created by my own warped mind. My parents always, without fail, said they loved us equally. I choose not to believe them.

This brings me to a huge segue because, to understand why I had a warped mind, you must know a bit about the line of people who came before me.

You see, I inherited this little gene that makes me special. It’s a gene that seemingly makes people brilliant and creative, but also somewhat neurotic, in a very endearing way, of course. This little gene has been passed down from one generation to another. Among other things, it seems to cause the following:

  • Insomnia: I get all sorts of important things done at 3 and 4 a.m., whether it’s updating my status on Facebook or cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen.
  • Catastrophic worry: I have a headache; It might be a brain tumor! What’s the noise? There must be a serial killer hiding in the closet!
  • Delusions of Grandeur: I won’t just become a writer; I’ll become a writer who wins a Pulitzer. I won’t just write a book; I’ll write a NY Times bestseller. I won’t just get on TV to promote my book; I’ll get on Oprah. I won’t just go into politics. I’ll become President of the United States.
  • Highs and lows: During a high phase I can get 59 things done in a day because I am the super mother who does not sleep! During a low phase I get little done because I suck, I’m fat, I’m washed up, I’m past my prime, and I’m worthless. Oh and nobody loves me.
  • Fear of heights.

As a result of this gene, I’ve been a professional consumer of various forms of therapy, self-help and all good things that are thought to help people like me ever since my early 20s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s back up to 4th grade, when I still wanted to be President. As I said, I wanted to be this because it was untrumpable. With the possible exceptions of being the first human to walk on Mars or winning a Nobel, there was nothing my brothers could accomplish that was more Parent Attention Deserving than me becoming President.

And even though all of my 4th grade classmates laughed at me when I mentioned this career aspiration, I never doubted myself because my grandmother and great Aunt (who both hail from the Delusions of Grandeur side of the family) always told me that I was brilliant and that I could accomplish anything. For a brilliant and beautiful girl like me? Life had no limits.

My great aunt and grandmother told me that I was brilliant so often and so earnestly that I completely believed them, despite lots of evidence to the contrary. When I was not accepted into my school’s gifted and talented program? The other kids must have all cheated on the test. When my repeated attempts at the PSAT and SAT produced appallingly average scores? The test had a religious and sexist bias.

I thought I could do anything. I thought I could be anything. I thought nothing was outside of the realm of possibilities.

So, of course, I would become the first woman President.

That is, until I decided to become something else.

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The Story of Alisa, Part 3

My loving dog.

In my early 30s, I had everything: a marriage, a house, a successful career, a dog, friends, volunteer work, a garden, and a book club.

But I felt incomplete.

What I really needed? A baby.

My husband didn’t think I needed a baby, though. He thought I needed an unattached life, the same unattached life that he needed.

It took a while to bring him over to my way of thinking. In August 2004 we had a baby.

Not long after that? My hair started to fall out and my marriage started to fall apart.

I also did not sleep for an entire year, which had a negative effect on my career. It’s hard to cover up the fact that one’s brain isn’t quite operating at full-power when one dials into a conference call not just at the wrong time, but on the wrong day. Ditto when one doesn’t show up for a training session because one thought said session started at 1 p.m. instead of 11 a.m.

And because I was moody and boring and self absorbed and never wanted to leave the house because I was too tired to stand up? I grew out of touch with my friends.

And I stopped reading books because, whenever I opened one, I fell asleep.

So I stopped going to book club.

And I resigned from my position as chair of a volunteer organization because the idea of doing anything other than being a mom and a writer made me feel overextended.

Weeds took over my garden. Then the grass came. Soon you couldn’t tell that I ever had a garden.

But my dog still loved me. Dogs are good that way.

My dog’s love, though, wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling misunderstood, overwhelmed, and alone. I don’t recommend those feelings if you can avoid them.

It was a hospital-based stress reduction class that changed everything. I signed up because my internist suggested that the tingling sensation that I noticed periodically in my right arm was not a sign of an impending heart attack, but rather a sign that I had a stress disorder. He prescribed the class. I was such a mess that my health insurance covered the cost.

By the end of the class, I felt like I’d escaped from a Matrix. My entire life seemed different. I felt in control of my destiny again, and I started to take charge.

I started a marriage project, one that spanned 4 months and involved reading 12 marital improvement books. I took charge of my career. I re-established some friendships and made new ones, too. I started attending book club again.

I got myself together. And then I felt inspired—more inspired than I’d ever felt in my life.

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The real law of attraction

After many years of marriage, attraction wanes. It just does. If you look at your spouse and think, “I’d like to get it on right now, but I don’t necessarily want to get it on with you,” you are so normal. So. So. Normal.

Attraction wanes for many reasons, some of which include:

1.    Genetically speaking, it’s not supposed to last. All of those wild hormones that made our hearts go a flutter when we first met our mates? Those are designed to encourage us to hump away over and over again until, voila, we produce a baby. This chemical rush was never designed to sustain us into our 80s.

2.    You get older. Genetically, we’re designed to be attracted to youthful bodies because youthful bodies are more likely to be fertile. As we age, our skin gets rougher, our body parts sag, hair grows where we don’t want it and it disappears where we do want it, and, well, I’ll just stop right there before I completely thrust myself into a full blown midlife crisis. The point is this: it’s not all in your mind. Your spouse really doesn’t look as attractive as he or she did when you first met.

3.    Staying married to the same person for 60 years straight is an exercise in patience and compassion, two virtues that few of us have in abundant supply. As a result, most couples – like most roommates–end up hating each other at some point. With the exception of those couples that get off on make up sex, it’s nearly impossible to feel attracted to someone you despise.

4.    You get bored. In the beginning, part of what you are attracted to is the great unknown. You don’t know precisely how any sexual encounter is going to go. That’s exhilarating. After many years of marriage? There isn’t a part of his or her body that you haven’t seen. It’s like eating chicken for dinner every night. It might be healthy, but sometimes you crave ravioli, steak, breakfast cereal…. Anything but the meal sitting in front of you.

There are probably many other reasons, too. I could go on for pages if I tried, but convincing you that attraction wanes isn’t really the point of this post. I’m guessing, since you read this far, you’re already with me on that one. The real point is this: you can do something about it. I know because I have. What follows is what worked for me.

Fix your marriage. This has to come first. Part of feeling attracted to your spouse comes from knowing that your spouse adores you. If you feel unappreciated and taken advantage of, you’re not going to feel attracted to your spouse.

Start flirting again. Yes, it sounds simple, so simple that someone is bound to write a comment about how all of my tips are overly simple and just won’t work. All I can say is this: try it. Teach your spouse how to flirt with you. Perhaps you feel good when he looks at you a certain way. Maybe you’d like a long, lingering hug every morning. Or, it might be about her complimenting you. For example, whenever I walk into my husband’s coffee shop in the morning, he greets me with a loud, “Hi Good Looking!” This, without fail, makes me smile. It’s the little things that bring us closer. If you need ideas, study some of the happier couples you know, especially older couples who have been married for 50 or 60 years. Notice the little expressions and gestures they use everyday to show their love for one another. You can also examine your sexual fantasies. Use them to teach you what’s missing from your real romantic life.

Start touching again. Hold hands. Hug. Cuddle. Give each other shoulder and back rubs. Kiss each other. Pat each other on the rear. Invade each other’s personal space several times a day. The more you touch, the more you will want to touch.

Revere each other. Make your spouse feel like the most important person in your universe and ask him or her to do the same for you. You might accomplish this by doing favors for each other-say washing the dishes even though that’s usually her job. You might do it by telling others how great your spouse is. Just do it.

Do what you need to do to feel sexy. Eat a healthy diet. Learn how to relax. Exercise. Get a wardrobe makeover. Get a bikini wax. Paint your nails. Do what works for you.

Have sex regularly. This is one of those chicken and egg things that we could all argue about until we’re blue in the face. Some of you, no doubt, are going to think (and comment) that you can’t possibly have sex with someone who you are not attracted to. I used to feel the same way. Then my husband and I had a 6-month long dry spell. If I had waited to feel attracted to my husband before re-initiating our sex life? We’d still be celibate and I still wouldn’t feel attracted to him. We needed skin-to-skin time. Sex is what makes your relationship with your spouse different from your relationships with your friends and siblings. The longer you go without it? The more platonic your relationship will become. If you can’t bring yourself to have sex just yet, then at least cuddle together naked. Progress from that to pleasing each other manually and/or orally. Then, when you are ready, you can go for the home run.

Get saucy. New positions, lingerie, role playing, and new locations are just a few things that can make sex with your same-old partner seem new and exciting. It’s just like serving up that daily chicken dinner with a new and interesting sauce. Suddenly, the chicken doesn’t seem so boring. Get creative.

Notice what your spouse does right. 
Especially notice the things your spouse does that you can’t do for yourself. For instance, I loved BBQ chicken, but I don’t know how to light a charcoal grill. I’m also not particularly good at the kind of cooking that requires one to stand in front of the food that is cooking for a long period of time to make sure it doesn’t catch on fire. I’m much better at the type of cooking that involves putting things and an oven and waiting for a timer to tell me when it’s done. My husband, on the other hand, knows his way around the grill. I find that sexy. I also think it’s sexy that he doesn’t mind killing bugs, because I hate doing that. And he knows what kind of light bulb to buy and where to get it whenever the porch light goes out. If I was in charge of the porch light? We’d be in the dark. It’s easy to overlook these things after many years of marriage because we get so used to our partners doing them. Yet, if we take the time to appreciate our spouses, attraction grows.

Be adventurous. Mystery flames attraction. You can create mystery in your relationship by continually pushing each other past your comfort zones. This might be as minor as having sex in a different room of the house or as major as going on an adventure vacation together. It might be as simple as riding roller coasters together or as complex and helping each other achieve life dreams. Face your fears together. It brings you closer and creates a strong magnetic bond that is tough to break.

What have you done to rekindle attraction in your relationship? Leave a comment.

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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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