House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

happy marriage advice from a previously divorced mom

by Meagan Francis on February 11, 2010

I have a great marriage.

And I’m not delusional. I have seen good marriages, not-so-great marriages, and so-so marriages. I know mine’s good. I know because once, it was bad…really bad.

In fact, it was so bad at one point that my husband and I actually separated…and divorced. We had two little kids at the time. Though there was a lot of pain, hurt, and anger, we got back together a little over a year later, eventually remarried and everything has been great since. It’s hard to say, in retrospect, if the divorce was really necessary. But I learned a lot from it, and am determined never to let it get anywhere near that point again.

If your spouse is an addict, abuser, adulterer, or just all-around A-hole, you probably need to go see a therapist rather than (or in addition to) reading this post. But I think most of us are basically good people, partnered with basically good people, who misunderstand each other and make mistakes. Having young children adds a lot of stress and highlights those misunderstandings and mistakes.

In our case there were some complicating factors and plenty of blame to go around, but I see so many of the basics of my experience during that dark time mirrored by mothers around me, especially moms of young kids. So I’d like to share my own personal rules for keeping a marriage intact.

You’ll notice I don’t give advice about planning date nights. To me, that bit of wisdom has been thrown around so much it’s become trite. A date night is a great way to connect if everything’s going well, but if there are deeper issues, they can’t be resolved with a dinner out. And while sex is important, I’m too squeamish to publicly discuss my romantic life, so I’ll leave that topic to The Mominatrix.

What I’m talking about here is overhauling the way you look at yourself within a marriage, and the way you interact with your spouse. It’s not always comfortable, and sometimes it means letting go of your pride. But honey, it’s better than the alternative.

I’d rather be happy than right.

I know, I know, it’s a Dr. Phil-ism. But it’s the truth. For years I dug in my heels during arguments, sulked, pouted, and refused to yield because…well, because I was RIGHT, damnit, and why should I have to give in?

But 99% of the time, I am happier letting go. Even – perhaps especially – when I “shouldn’t have to”. Deciding to be the first person to drop an argument, apologize, or give in doesn’t make you a pushover. It just means you’ve made a choice to focus on the things in your relationship that bring you joy rather than frustration.

Forgive, but more importantly, forget.

“Forgiving” a transgression doesn’t really count if you continue to bring it up to use as ammo, or as an example of why “you always do X” or “he can’t be trusted to do y”. Even if you never vocalize the memory, if it’s still there taking up residence in the forefront of your mind, it’s going to poison every interaction you have with your spouse or partner.

Believe me when I say there are arguments my husband and I had in the midst of our roughest hours that I have completely set aside. They’re still in my memory, of course. But I look at them almost as though they happened to other people.

I’m not suggesting you be stupid about it if there are deep dark issues at hand (like, say, choosing to forget that your husband stole last year’s tax return to bet on the races). But run-of-the-mill hurtful conversations, mistakes, arguments? Forget. Forget. Forget. Once they’re over, they don’t do you any good to hold on to.

Only you can make yourself happy.

When my marriage and children were both young, I spent a lot of time waiting for my husband to figure out what it was I needed to make me happy and then give it to me.

Guess what didn’t happen?

My marriage saw a lot of sighing in those days. A lot of eye-rolling. A lot of violent fantasies.

“The kitchen sure needs a good cleaning,” I’d say, watching the hint clatter around on the floor and waiting for my husband to pick it up. Instead, he’d just step right over it. “Yeah, it does, huh?” he’d say as he settled down in front of the TV.

Eye roll. Heavy sigh.

“I’m so tired,” I’d complain, thinking he’d get the hint that I was up all night with the baby and maybe offer to take over so I could go to bed early.

“Me, too,” he’d say, yawning for effect. And I would picture myself wringing his neck.

“I never go anywhere or do anything,” I’d complain.

That was true. Yet I rarely made plans to do anything specific. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted Jon to create a life for me, or make a grand gesture that said “I accept you having a life outside this home! You are free! Run!”

That also never happened, and I continued not doing anything or going anywhere for quite some time, rolling my eyes and sighing and wanting to wring his neck for much of it.

All these years later, I can see why my approach (or lack thereof) didn’t work, but at the time I simply felt like a victim. I thought he didn’t understand me, that he didn’t want to put me first or make me happy. The reality was, he didn’t know what I wanted because I never told him. And that’s because I, myself, didn’t know.

That was one of the good things about being divorced, actually. It forced me to stand up and be accountable for my own happiness. It forced me to figure out what I wanted, and figure out a way to make it happen for myself. But it was a high price to pay….and truth be told, I could have done it from within my marriage, if I’d just known where to start.

Now, I ask for what I want. If I need a nap, I hand him the baby and take a nap. If I want him to do a specific task, I very clearly state what I want. And if he doesn’t do it fast enough for my liking, I either do it myself (and shut up about it) or avoid the kitchen while I wait. Does he keep the house to the same standard that I would? No. But who ever said my standard is the one everyone else has to live up to?

I don’t allow myself to feel guilt (okay, not much guilt) for leaving my husband in charge while I head out for a night at the movies or dinner with the girls. And he’s one of the most competent dads I know. He gladly takes all five kids out to restaurants or the grocery store alone, he holds down the fort while I take weekend trips. He’s wandered the streets of NYC and Chicago with an infant and toddler while I attended writer’s conferences. Could I really expect all that of him if I’d never given him the opportunity to figure out how to do it himself?

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of times I feel like I’m pulling too much weight, or that my needs aren’t being heard. But now, we can have a reasonable, adult conversation about it. It’s not as emotional as it once was. It doesn’t feel like a personal insult if he never gets around to unloading the dishwasher. I won’t pretend it never annoys me, but I haven’t wanted to strangle him in a long, long time.

Don’t Go There.

To this day, when I watch movies or TV shows in which a character is considering getting a divorce, I have an intense emotional response. Stop, I want to say. You think it’ll be better, but you’re wrong. It’ll just be a different kind of awful.

No matter what, once you’ve had a child with somebody, they’re in your life—for better or worse—for years to come. Only divorces have a way of making psycho adversaries out of formerly reasonable people, and unless you and your husband are both very unusual people, it will get ugly. Plus, you’ll still be, well, you. You’ll still bring all your issues into future relationships. When possible, you may as well work on your issues from within your marriage…because you’ll have to face them at some point no matter what.

Of course, there are circumstances in which divorce is a reasonable choice. But too often, I think we allow ourselves to start thinking about divorce as a way “out” of a situation that’s become stressful or uncomfortable, but that will eventually change. The shuffling around of priorities, dreams, funds, and roles that inevitably goes along with learning to parent together can create a lot of friction in a marriage. But that doesn’t mean the friction will last forever. Divorce, however, usually does. So just don’t go there. Once you allow a thought like that to take root, it’s only too easy to start nurturing and feeding it rather than focusing your energy on the better outcome—an intact relationship.

I apologize for the length of this post. It’s a topic I feel very passionate about. As in life, as in motherhood, we are not victims of our relationships. We have choices to make every day about the way we interact with our spouses, the way we choose to either build up or undermine our own relationships. And having been on the other side of the fence, I know the grass is rarely greener. It’s so much better, for everyone, if you can find a way to tend the grass you’ve got.

What are your rules for happier marriage?

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

TheFeministBreeder February 11, 2010 at 10:41 am

I have a hard time with this because in the beginning of our relationship, my husband DID do something equivalent (or maybe worse, in my mind) to the “steal-the-tax-refund-to-bet-on-the-races” thing. It’s a long and difficult thing to communicate, but suffice to say that he quit college. Mid semester. In his senior year. Without telling me. When I had just rolled back into work 5 weeks after a cesarean to pay for him to be in school – AND quit school myself – so he could go. Then I found out that he was taking money from his mother to pay our bills because he was lying to me about how much he was bringing home from his waiter job. We were bankrupt, and he had no job and no education.

Divorce was very much on the table then. I felt that he had trapped me into marriage (he wanted it, and the baby, when I didn’t…truthfully If I hadn’t gotten knocked up and scared out of my mind, I’d probably still be single today.) So once he trapped me there, he went on acting like a damn fool while I was responsible for everything. Now looking back, it’s really surprising that I didn’t end up on the Channel 5 news for smothering him in his sleep.

So yeah, he f-ed up. BIG TIME. But he has also spent the last 3.5 years being one of the greatest dads/husbands I’ve ever seen in an effort to make up for that period of selfishness and immaturity.

The man now works 2 jobs AND goes to school full time at night so that I can stay home with the kids and concentrate on getting myself into law school. He tries every day to earn my trust back, but I’m an asshole who holds a grudge. I don’t want to, but it’s hard for me. Everytime he does anything, I remember the betrayal I felt during that first year of marriage, and I want to divorce him all over again. But I don’t, because I know it’s just me overreacting, and for the sake of my own happiness, and my kids’ happiness, I need to get the hell over it.

So, maybe after reading this – I will. Mmmm…. or maybe not. We’ll see. ;)


Meagan Francis February 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

Gina, I think the behavior you describe–freaking out, dropping the ball, lying about money–is way more common than we might think, especially among young men who are still trying to figure all this responsibility stuff out. And the dishonesty, I think, comes from them trying to keep from disappointing people, or really believing they’ll figure it out in time to “save the day”.

There was definitely some of that in our marriage early on. But–and this is a big BUT–I played a huge role that I didn’t acknowledge at the time. I blinded myself to everything that was going on, even though deep deep down I knew something was wrong. I made choices that actively made it harder for him to do the right thing. But because I felt I was the victim, I felt totally absolved of any responsibility. And then when he started changing, I sabotaged him, over and over, in big and small ways. I’m not suggesting this is what you’re doing but it’s not something I recognized in myself until I took a good hard look.

I think you have to be vigilant about recent HUGE transgressions, but if you’ve had 3.5 years of awesome, in my opinion that way outweighs the 2 years of bad. You can only go by the person he is now, the person he probably always was trying to figure out how to be. We all make mistakes, and I’m so grateful that my husband doesn’t seem to be dwelling on mine.


Gaye March 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Grow up and stop punishing him and mentally toturing yourself. What he did was wrong but once YOU decided to stay then let the past go and enjoy what you have now. Remember …the pregnancy was both you and not being as you said trapped by him…grow up ..get help..and enjoy the future or for the sake of the kids get the hell out. Last advice is wherever you go the tortured mind follows you. Believe me the world does not need another lawyer with a tortured soul. Good luck with law school


thordora February 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

I’m so totally in the middle of all this right now, and we’re sorta talking, but then I did something horrid and sigh…now I’m just so freaking upset. Cause I had got to the point of realizing-I need to ASK him, as I would anyone else for things. And now I worry I chased him away, just when I finally saw the light.

I hope I get another chance. I tell you, hearing you say all this gives me hope.


Meagan Francis February 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

Aw, thordora, I honestly believe there is no such thing as too far gone. I think it just takes the ability to come to the table completely open and receptive and hope the other person is in the same place. It’s so, so hard, but don’t give up hope.


Maman A Droit February 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

Thanks for posting this. So far my husband has been doing awesome, and we are both really happy in our marriage, but I know I do the thing where I expect him to be a mindreader and then grumpily wonder why he doesn’t take the baby or clean or whatever seemed so obvious to me! I will try to be more communicative!

Next book= “The Happiest Wife” maybe?


Sarah February 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

Thanks for this – I needed to read it today. I agree with everything you wrote! My husband is pretty sensitive to helping me out and encouraging me to communicate my needs, which is great. And, I’m good at taking him up on it (for the most part).

I’ve found my biggest problem is remembering that only I can make myself happy, and when I’m not I let him annoy me to death (over really petty things). Honestly what I struggle most with is the constant togetherness – every day! It’s funny b/c I always hear people say they need to spend more time with their spouse, but at times I really want a vacation from him. In a relatively happy marriage, do others find this hard, too?


allison April 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm



Julie @ The Mom Slant February 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm

A former co-worker of mine would say “Build a bridge and get over it” when crazy stuff would happen at work, but I think it applies well to personal relationships too. I love it because it encourages us to figure out what it will take to move forward, leaving behind the past. And I love how you’ve emphasized taking responsibility for getting what you want and need from a relationship.

Fantastic post, Meagan.


Sarah G February 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Thank you so much for this post. Every single word of it is absolutely true, and I think this situation is much more common than we realize. At the time, it can seem like you are the only one going through it. I had a few issues to work out when I first got married, but, failing to see they were my issues that I would have without or without him in my life, made them into “our” issues, which lead to a lot of fights, nearly all of which I instigated. Now, 8 years and one baby later, I call us a happily married old couple. We hardly ever fight, and not because he’s changed. I worked through my issues, and learned that if I want the dishwasher emptied (or whatever) I have to ask specifically, “Will you please empty the dishwasher?” And when he does step over the mess on his way to bed, oblivious to my own fatigue, I just refuse to let it bother me. I ask myself, will this matter in a year/month/day? 99% of the time, the answer is no. So I let it go, even when I know I’m right, b/c in the long run, the happiness I have with him is more important for me to preserve than whatever is bothering me. Again, great post. Thanks for the encouraging word!


Jen February 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Ah, I needed to read this today. It really resonates. Thank you for sharing your passion for the topic!


jodifur February 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

This is such a great post. I think what people forget to tell you is that marriage is work. We get all caught up in ” the one” thing and we think it will just all fall into place. Hut honestly, marriage is work. Sometimes it is hard work, and sometimes it is easy work, but it is always work.


Jacqueline Johns - Your Happy Life Mentor February 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

The best thing you can do for your marriage is to take responsibility for your own happiness. Two whole people have a great chance of enjoying a happy marriage. When one has the mentality of an attention-seeking three year old, and the communication skills to match – a happy union is nigh on impossible.

I was once married to someone who expected me to read his mind re what would make him happy. I gave up after a while, realizing I was trying to communicate and reason with a three-year-old. “You should know – I shouldn’t have to tell you”. How infuriating!

I left his sulking and temper tantrums behind me and in a couple of weeks I will be happily divorced. The separation was for me, like walking out from under a dark cloud. Waking in my own beautiful, harmonious space every morning, blissfully free from the stomping, negative, cr-p I had been subjected to for so long.

Yes – divorce is a drastic measure, but at times it is the only alternative if you are to be happy.

Live Life Happy!


the mama bird diaries February 11, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Great ideas here. And I love the one about asking for what you need. I spent so long expecting my husband to know what I need. He doesn’t. But when i ask, he is happy to do it. It makes all the difference. I feel heard and he feels happy that he can help me.


Amber February 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I have gotten much better at this stuff as I’ve gotten older. I recognize a lot of the stuff you talked about from my younger days. The need to be right. Holding grudges. Looking to someone else for your happiness. I am mellowing with age, and it’s easier for me to let things go and prioritize and take responsibility for myself than it was in my early 20s. And I am glad, because it really has improved my relationship immensely.


Anonymous Today February 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

In general, I agree. This is a good way around problems that I think are really common, and that are all too familiar to me. Where I disagree is with the idea that a husband shouldn’t be expected to understand basic realities of life with young children. Really? A mom should have to ask her husband to take the baby so she can go to bed early, when he knows she’s been up half the night nursing? It’s necessary to explain to someone that it’s impossible to make dinner when the counter is full of dirty dishes because the dishwasher hasn’t been unloaded? Yes, asking directly is better than being resentful and doing it all yourself. But thinking you shouldn’t have to ask is NOT the same thing as failing to take responsibility for your own happiness. Rather, it is a reflection of the idea that men as just as capable as women of being responsible parents. It’s not a mere disappointment that that’s not the case. It is a serious problem in our culture.


Meagan Francis February 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

Anon, I see it differently. It’s not so much a gender thing or that dads can’t be expected to figure X Y or Z out on their own. But in my case, I was the at-home mom, so I was just more in-tune with what was going on around the house, with the kids, etc. Because he was out of the house working all day those “house-y” things just weren’t on his radar to the same extent.

I suppose he could make the same argument about me. Should he really have to ask me to get the oil changed in the car, really? Should he really have to remind me that when I let the front walk pile up with snow while he’s out of town, it’s sort of unsafe? Should he really have to ask me for sex when I should know it’s been ten days and he wants it…LOL. Those things are more in his realm, and on the forefront of his mind. Him reminding me or asking me doesn’t mean I’m not capable, but we can’t all be responsible for everything, and we all need reminders sometimes.

Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes, but it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on, either. Why not ask for what you want…even if you “shouldn’t have to”? What’s the alternative, and is it really better?


EngineerMom October 8, 2013 at 3:30 am

I don’t see the gender role part at all. I see it as how each individual looks at the household, and how that individual was trained. Typically, woman were trained more specifically in household-related tasks, although that is (thankfully) changing. What that also means is that women are typically more aware of cleaning tasks being done or not.

This isn’t universal – my husband and I are a perfect example of that. He can’t stand gritty floors (they bother him well before they’re an issue for me). He also can’t stand dirty dishes in the sink (I’ll cook around them until the end of the day, since it’s one of my least-favorite tasks).

Our standing rule is, if it bothers YOU, YOU take care of it. Or ask. So I wipe off the counters after he does the dishes (never seems to notice those!). He vacuums after the dinnertime fallout. I make the bed every morning. He picks up the toys the kids missed in the nighttime cleanup. I clear out the entryway every night. He clears off the dining room table before dinner. Between the two of us, we keep the home functional and reasonably clean.


Annie @ PhD in Parenting February 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

I think regardless of gender, we fall into patterns of this person does these things and that person does these other things. If one person is overwhelmed for whatever reason, I think it is reasonable that they may have to ask the other person to help out. In our case, my husband is the stay at home dad. I don’t know the difference between “What a tiring day” (which almost every day is when you’re home with 2 kids) and “what a tiring day” (which should be interpreted as “It was so overwhelmingly exhausting that I need to go to bed right now”). I need a bit of help interpreting. I do need him to ask if he needs/wants me to do something that is outside of our usual routine. That isn’t to say that I never notice/offer on my own, but I won’t necessarily recognize it all the time.


Maman A Droit February 12, 2010 at 8:45 am

In our situation, hubby is gone 8-5ish and has no clue when he comes home whether baby’s been an angel all day and mommy got tons done, or if baby’s been fussy and teething and mommy’s back is killng her from carrying him around all day. It would be ridiculous to expect him to come home and play detective, walking around to investigate which chores are done and which ones aren’t, then gauge the mental & physical status of mommy & baby, & then suddenly know what needs done, without ever asking mommy. Men aren’t any more psychic than women are! I would make the same argument (and I’m guessing the author of this blog would too) encouraging stay-at-home dads to be communicative of their needs when mommy comes home from work-it has nothing to do with gender


Meagan Francis February 12, 2010 at 9:00 am

Annie and Maman-very good points! My husband often says things like “I’m tired”. I don’t know if that just means, hey, I’m tired, or Hey, I really need you to take over so I can take a nap…unless he asks. My husband doesn’t know if the baby was up nursing all night unless I say so (usually she’s a good sleeper and I get enough sleep).

There have been times I’ve been gone for a couple of days at a conference or what have you, and it’s downright disorienting coming home. I don’t know what’s been done, what needs to be done, who’s been happy or sad while I was gone. I generally just expect that what needed to get done while I was gone, did, and now we can move forward as normal. Turns out I’m not always right–sometimes there are things lurking below the surface that need to be addressed. But how could I know that unless my husband told me?


Motherhood Uncensored February 12, 2010 at 10:46 am

I have much to share on this topic, Meghan, but suffice it to say that your points, particularly letting go, and in my case, forgiveness, have saved a marriage that I ultimately thought was doomed.

I also find that as we’ve added more kids, he’s become more empathic, which in turn makes me more inclined to be empathic of his experience as well. If he’d continued on the path of going out late, stopping at the gym after work after I was home with a screaming baby for 12 hours, and those sorts of things, I’d be less moved to work things out.

We still have our issues and for me (and I guess most people who remain married), it’s an ongoing learning experience. But one that I’ve decided to become completely invested in. Understanding my own role instead of pushing blame (etc.) onto him has made a world of difference.


Tricia February 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Great post…lots of items ring true in our household too. Divorce has not ever really been on the table, but I can see how not “following” some of these ideas could get it there down the road. Thanks again for this post…I’m passing it on to both of my brothers (and their wives) who I think could benefit immensely.


Kristen @ Motherese February 12, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Hi Meagan,

Two points in your post really stand out for me.

1. “I think most of us are basically good people, partnered with basically good people, who misunderstand each other and make mistakes. Having young children adds a lot of stress and highlights those misunderstandings and mistakes.” Absolutely. The experience of becoming parents transformed my relationship with Husband, and not all in good ways. I wish more people were totally upfront about the ways in which having young children amplifies every conflict.

2. “Only you can make yourself happy.” I didn’t learn this fully until after my second child was born. Before then I expected Husband, who really does split the household and parenting responsibilities, to read my mind. I blamed him when I failed to make the choices I needed to make to be happy.

Wonderful thoughts, Meagan. Thank you for sharing your experience.


EngineerMom October 8, 2013 at 3:12 am

Those two stood out for me, too!

My parents had a standing rule to never speak ill of each other to friends or family. It stemmed from their first year when my dad would call his mom (they were thousands of miles from family during that first year) every time he and my mom had a fight, and my mom would call her mom, and their parents lived in the same city, so pretty soon it was practically on the evening news in their hometown!

The other one that got me was “But who ever said my standard is the one everyone else has to live up to?” One thing my mom impressed upon us, cleaning-wise, was that it’s better to accept an imperfectly-done cleaning job than to complain and have the person never clean again! Great advice for roommates, too. Better to have someone unload and load the dishwasher the “wrong” way than to never do the dishes!


cagey February 13, 2010 at 8:06 am

I have read this post several times, ruminated over it quite a bit, and have starred it in my reader for future reference. I put it into practice last night with stellar results. I love the Build a Bridge And Get Over mantra and I will be repeating that to myself from now on.

So yes. Thank you for this post. My marriage has been hard the past year with two babies close together, building a new business, and life in general. As a child of divorce, I have always had the philosophy that marriage is a roller coaster, there might be hard years, there might be good years, but you stick it out for the long haul. It does not make it any less hard, though.

I think one of the most important statements of this post (to me) at least was this, in regarding to contemplating a divorce: “Once you allow a thought like that to take root, it’s only too easy to start nurturing and feeding it rather than focusing your energy on the better outcome—an intact relationship.”

I have seen so many folks (my own parents included!) give up on marriages for no reason other than grumpy unhappiness and ultimately, they trade one set of problems for another. I wonder how many of the divorced folks I know did simply let that idea take root, instead of making conscious efforts towards making it work. No, I am not judging.

Also, I did not read too much into the “gender roles”. I thought simply that you were sharing YOUR experience with the implicit understanding that the particulars would be different for everyone. My husband is actually very in tune with our children and their needs. The kitchen? Rarely. The trash? Not so much. The placement of his socks? Never. While I could have asked for a better housekeeper, I could not have asked for a better father or a kinder man. And that? Is my personal perspective that I have to keep for myself when he forgets to put the filter in the coffee machine before putting the coffee in it. Yet again. (Note: Because of this post, last night, I did not get mad about the coffee, I just quietly pointed it out and asked him to clean out the coffee pot. Argument averted. FTW!)

Anyway! I hope others will look at the message you have portrayed and not read into the details.


SleeplessinSummerville April 26, 2011 at 8:11 am

I would add to the “Don’t go there” point… It’s OK to think about divorce, if you are willing and able to do it in a clear-headed, truly honest way. I think sometimes people (even me in moments of extreme weakness) think that everything will be better. They’ll have a sane life, eventually meet a more suitable partner and the grass will always be greener. I guess it helps me that my parents divorced and neither remarried, so I know that finding that “someone else” is hardly guaranteed. And you’ll be saddled with all the housework and pay all the bills. And all that parenting that you’re not getting enough help with now? If you divorce it will go from not as much help as you’d like to pretty much none. Maybe I would eventually find happiness on my own, but there would be so much strife along the way, and there are no guarantees of future bliss. Ask yourself if you love him (and if you’re not sure, ask if you ever did) and ask yourself if he’s a good and moral person. If the answer to these questions is yes, than you have the raw materials you need to make it work.


The Leftoverist February 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I’m a new reader–was referred by a friend to your site. I haven’t read many parenting blogs for some reason…I think I’m a little nervous about getting a bunch of advice I can’t implement. Despite that, I find myself returning to yours. Thank you!

I have been happily married to an incredible man for 15 years. Every day, I’m thankful for him and for us. But I have lots of friends whose marriages are falling apart. Your tidbits help me (even the best marriages take constant work) and they will help me help them.

One of my tips for a happy marriage is that we have to keep discovering each other–we have to let one another change. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and neither is he. I’d say we’ve had a few different marriages within our 15 years, if that makes sense. Because of that, we don’t feel trapped or bored. We still find one another incredibly interesting.


Sarah E. Ludwig February 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Great post, Meagan. I heartily agree with everything you have said here. I’m betting this is going to help a lot of people. Thank you for taking the time to write about a topic on which you are so passionate.


stella February 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

What a great post – I am about to get married to a wonderful man and i realize that part of the reason that our relationship works is that I am better able to tell him what I need rather than expect him to read my mind and mood. We are also expecting our first child and I have worried about how that will affect our relationship and bond especially after those long nights of little sleep. Thanks for your insight and heres to making marriages work.


Stefan February 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm

As two kids of two sets of divorced parents, we were determined to hang in there hang in there hang in there – knowing that, however strong our love felt and was as we committed to one another in marriage 10 years, we were setting sail on an ocean that would have waves smooth and rough both – and we would need to lean on ourselves and each other and others and faith to carry us through. For years we had an annual marriage retreat around our anniversary, to take stock, set it all on the table, and give ourselves permission to change the trajectory, if we didn’t like where we were headed – so we didn’t end up like that Talking Heads song (“This is not my beautiful wife…This is not my beautiful house…How did I get here?). Since kids in ’06, we haven’t pulled it off yet, but are determined to this year. Now and then a good resentment check also seems to help –



suburbancorrespondent February 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Great post, Meagan!

For people with marriage difficulties, might I recommend “The Surrendered Wife”? I know, it sounds like one of those “Give your husband whatever he wants” type books – but it isn’t! It does a good job of teaching you how to focus only on what you can control and how to focus on the positive aspects of your spouse and all that. Very sensible. It saved my marriage.


Diana Lane February 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I wanted to share that the best relationship book I’ve ever read is Susan Page’s, Why Talking is Not Enough

This book had a profound effect on my marriage.
Here’s what I learned/accepted.
My hubby is not going to change and why should he?(and by the way, many of the thing that bug me now, appealed to me when we met)
There are still a lot of things that I can Do (i.e., my own deeds) that can change the tenor of our relationship.
Just treating my husband with courtesy has had a profound effect on our relationship as he feels respected, which is very important to him.

Thanks for writing on an important topic, Diana


faith February 17, 2010 at 8:46 am

tend the grass you got
sounds like a great mantra


Jessica February 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Newish reader here. What a fantastic post, and I agree whole-heartedly with every single point. One especially resonated with me — I cannot expect my husband to build my life for me, or figure out what I want to do. I totally hear you on the “I don’t do anything!” complaint. I pull that too. But instead of fixing the problem, I pretend that it’s of his making when it’s of my own. Thanks.


Sonya February 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Meaghan, thank you so much for this post. Marriage is hard, especially with young children, but the advice you give is simple to implement, even if it’s not so easy.

The difficulty I kept having in my marriage was that I wasn’t hinting. I was asking for exactly what I wanted, but what I wanted wasn’t reasonable. I did want him to make me happy, to be responsible for me and my feelings and if he didn’t do what I asked, whether it was something like doing dishes to something harder like working less than 100 hours a week when he was starting a new business and couldn’t afford other employees. I just kept telling him to change rather than evaluating my own expectations. I’m working on the shift of perspective right now. After sixteen years together, I see things in a wholly new way. It’s doing wonders for the marriage.

It really helps to hear that you came back not just from the brink of divorce, but from divorce itself and found a way to have a happy marriage. There is hope. I needed to hear that.


sharongilo February 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Lots of thoughtful writing for the married!


Jen February 21, 2010 at 9:35 am

You articulated so much of what I have been thinking. And you said so much more, too. Thank you for this. It is so important, and I think so many people could benefit from reading it–even if they think they don’t agree. Your wisdom from experience is real. And, even more important, it’s useful. Great work.


Jennifer April 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I just loved this. every word. a friend had posted another post of yours about mommy guilt- which i also loved- and posted on FB- and another friend posted this article. i was divorced in my 20’s- to and adultering A-hole- very good move- and am now married about 4 1/2 years to a seriously decent man- with a 2 1/2 year old and 1 year old and so appreciate the advice and wisdom that you shared. so true about divorce leading you to be respobsible for your own happiness. and I’m so relating to your description of your marriages younger years- feel that i am finally getting away from that. anyhoo I tend to avoid ‘mommy blogs’ because really – i just don’t want to be ‘all up in ‘ some other’s mothering- but you are like the mentally healthiest one I’ve read. I’m digging in for more. this is good stuff. good job mama!


Micaela May 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm


I am a mother of four and my husband currently works nights while I work days. I also attend school via online which I attempt to complete in the evenings. My husband and I have found one arguement that consistently pops up in our marriage which is the household chores and what happens in teh evenings while he is not at home. I feel like I am constantly being blamed and get no empathy for having to deal with four children solo while during the day he is only at home with our youngest son who is two. We were raised differently so have different standards for disciplining and cleaning. His mother pretty much took care of the household, went to school fulltime, and held down a full time job all while being a wife and disciplinarian mostly spankings. He expects me to do the same. My mother on the otherhand was a single parent who split chores between myself and her and chose to talk about issues that she was seeing in me instead of always using her hands to make her point.What advice would you have for us to be able to get past this one chink in our armor?


Francheska November 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Great post! This is my first time reading your blog and I’m really happy you wrote about this sooooo important topic for the wellness of the society. God bless your family.


Melarossa November 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Reading this post, I can see so much of myself and my husband (nearly 30, married almost three years, 1 year old child) in your earlier self that you describe. The “happy vs right” conflict is exactly the biggest difficulty I have in our marriage. It is a hard step to take, to be the first to apologize or back down, because how can you know if you would be happier if you admit you are not right? My stumbling block, no matter how many times I hear that it’s better to be happy than right, is that I doubt I would actually be happier being the one to lose, be acknowledged as wrong or stupid or ignorant, allow someone else to claim superiority, leadership, ownership, and control. Yes, it is my husband whom I love that is the opposite number in all of that, but during an argument, everything in me revolts against meekly submitting.

Nevertheless, I will try, because I don’t want to get divorced and be the same person with the same issues. Thank you for giving me so much to think about.


kazari December 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

oh boy.
i’m currently in the midst of separation. it’s full of grief and relief in almost equal measures. I would have liked to have spent more time working it out, but my husband just announced one day that it was over. and then didn’t move out for weeks. (but that’s another story)
I would so much like to believe that we could work this out and get back together. but i don’t think our issues started with parenthood – they were always there.
and every time i get to a point of acceptance, i see one more article like this one and think ‘what if’?
but i can’t go back to the table by myself. and he is unwilling/unable…
so i think for us divorce will be the solution.
i’m glad it worked out so much better for you.


Ann's Rants January 31, 2011 at 5:51 pm

I keep thinking about this post b/c it confirms what I’ve always thought during hard times in my marriage.

If you still love each other at all, you might as well stick together.

I also have a “dont go there” policy when those escape-fantasies descend. I like to make myself see the fantasy to it’s logical conclusion, which looks a lot like what you describe after your divorce.

Divorce is the right choice sometimes, but I’m so glad we’ve stuck with it.


Leisa Hammett February 4, 2011 at 6:22 am

Yes, nastiness is the norm for divorce. But I chose something different after nearly two decades of giving it everything I had–and so did he. We chose to have a peaceful, professionally mediated (mediator NOT lawyer-mediator) divorce. We kept our focus on our child and decided to act grown up and mature. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it/we were unpleasant sometimes. But we were conscious. And that consciousness can be carried post-divorce. Waiting AT LEAST a year to re-engage with the opposite sex. Consciously choosing to learn from one’s mistakes. Getting into therapy and STAYING and not exiting when it gets to feeling better. All the stereotypes you site ARE true. But they can be broken and I did and I know I’m not the only one. People who have found themselves at the end of a marriage can choose Peace and Consciousness. I write about those choices made in my blog. Cheers!


Erin February 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

First timer here and glad I stopped by! Will be staying and reading more. Thanks so much for sharing and helping others


Ashley Colagross February 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I stumbled upon this at a great time. Thank you as always, Meagan.


Erin February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Referred here from MDC and very much enjoyed your timely post. I will be bookmarking and reading again and again as a mama with 4 young children I often fall into the “he should know” trap. thanks for the reminders.


A February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am

Expectations are pre-planned resentments.


unknown February 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm

That’s good. It worked out for you. I’m happy to read your life story. God Bless you.
But what about a person who has addiction problem, what would you suggest? To stay in the relationship, try to work it out even though there is no glance of hope to bring him back to his normal life. Or runaway with your kids for their future and safety? Tried honestly to work it out, gave him three good chances to start from below zero. Can they change after 20 years of nonstop addiction problems + verbal abuse? I mean can they change not temporarily, for good for the family?? No hopes. I believe character development is finished when a person become an adult?? isn’t it?? Is divorce is a considerable choice in that case or not? I myself was a strong believer that broken family won’t function good and it is absolutely not good for kids, against my culture, religion, family back ground, and mostly against me. My bad luck, it happened to me. Well, all these rules of my mind has changed in order to stand up for my kids. I can’t let it go further seeing him damaging his own family. I’m clueless of how many obstacles are going to be on my way waiting to see how I handle things as a single mom. But that’s ok. I get motivated when I see my kids, and gather all energy and strength from who watches me from above.


SleeplessinSummerville March 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

I’m just so surprised to hear from someone who divorced and then remarried the same person! I so rarely hear of that happening. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with it. Things have gotten really bad between my husband and I lately and I actually halfway thought about if it would be better to get a divorce. And I do think some things might be better because I’ve spent years in therapy learning who I am and how to handle life better and my husband has refused to look at himself in that way, so I often feel he is stagnating. But we have a child together and he will always be in my life and I will always love him no matter what else. I thought it through to what that would look like, with me having to go back to work full time with no help at home with the child, having no family but my family of origin, which is super-dysfunctional, having to negotiate coparenting with my spouse when the incentives for cooperating peacefully have been essentially removed. Put an end to that fantasy! But it requires discipline to look honestly at what life would really be like if you made the change you are contemplating, and not just fantasize about meeting just the right person who would love your child like his own and love you like your spouse doesn’t seem to and so on.
I am absolutely loving this blog, by the way, I will definitely be back!


James Anderson March 31, 2011 at 3:49 am

For me as a husband I could communicate basic and simple things more frequently and when I do this my wife truly enjoys this but you can easily get caught up in the daily routine. Hands up, I need to communicate more!


MomofTwoPreciousGirls May 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm

This is interesting to read…my husband and I seem to have had a lot of DOWNS over the past few years, which is sad since those years brought our beautiful girls to us. I guess, they do add an extra layer of stress especially when you are struggling to make ends meet during the worst ever economy, a husband losing his job and staying that way for two years, losing your home MANY moves, most recently 900 miles away from almost everyone and everything we know!

We have such a hard time communicating because he always try to defend himself or call my feelings unfounded (worse words) and make it all about HIM, when I am just trying to express MY feelings and MY wants and MY needs…where we are right now is not ideal (living with my mother and sister) but he doesn’t even want to be in this state. This is difficult because I am finally somewhere that I am doing very well in my career and he hates his job and living with my family and misses his family. But we have nothing to go back to! He wants to pick up (again) and go back regardless of what that means. This is not something we can do with two small children!

I have no idea how we can communicate without all the emotion and anger!


Emmah June 23, 2011 at 1:17 am

A good read…well, I like the read, just bumped into it. Its amazing how women are made of the same material, seem to go through the same stuff, regardless of race or colour… thanks and a Big God bless you for sharing


Jennifer Teodoro-Tristan July 5, 2011 at 12:06 am

Wonderfully written. Thanks. : )


Amy Martell July 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I realize I’m late to the party here, but this is a fantastic post, so I had to comment. As a mediator and family law attorney (who concentrates on mindful and peaceful family conflict resolution and family formation), it breaks my heart to see how many people leap to the possibility of divorce without really appreciating that there might be alternatives. These ‘rules,’ as you’ve set them out, are reflected in some of my favorite marriage-preservation resources, such as George Pransky’s The Relationship Handbook and Michele Weiner-Davis’ Divorce Busting – but I love that you bring your warm edge and personal experience. I will be referring folks to this article.

I’ll also add that from personal experience, this rings profoundly true. Years ago I had a moment of clarity with my wife one night, when, in the middle of an argument about something I wanted her to be doing differently, she looked at me and said, “can’t you see that I am trying, but that I am different from you?” It was such a obvious thing, but for some reason something clicked in that moment. I realized how much suffering I was creating in our relationship simply because I wanted my wife to behave a certain way so that I could feel a certain way. Once I stopped seeing her as an object, and instead recognized her as a whole person, for whom I could feel deep compassion, everything shifted.


Brooklyn Mama July 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm

My husband and I are going through a crisis in our marriage right now and I have read this article over & over as my inspiration. We have two young daughters 3 and 14 months and while we breezed through the 1 kid thing, 2 kids really broke us. I have always been snippy and I just went into overdrive. My husband didnt say a thing until he said “I’m leaving”. He still contends that we can not save our marriage but I am going to continue to fight for our family. I love my husband.
Thank you for this wonderful article. I wish I had found it before all this.


Beth February 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I love your blog and I randomly, mistakenly hit this link on my iPhone and was floored that it was just what I needed to read at the moment. No one prepares you for the realities of how difficult figuring out your marriage can be. It is so easy to assume that others have such a better thing going on and that the disaster in your house is surely the beginning of the end. Instead I am starting to see it as becoming a grown up. It is hard to sit with all these crappy feelings and own your part of the mess and not want to just hit eject because surely something different would make all of the BS go away. I love what you said about how divorce is just a different kind of awful. It makes me want to embrace my current awful knowing that sticking with it means there is still hope for change whereas divorce ends it stuck in this crappy moment in time. Please write more about this experience for you. We all need to not feel so alone in the growth spurts of marriage and you say it so well!


Sadie September 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

“I love what you said about how divorce is just a different kind of awful.”

AGREED!!! 200%


suzan March 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

Several months ago when my husband said that he wanted to breakup, I was devastated. changed my life and helped me save my marriage. I’m happy to say we finally got to be together and I’ve never been happier. Thank you for using your powers to bring happiness to other people’s lives. suzan


cupcakesnkids June 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm

You are a jewel in the rough! This blog and your others really shed the light on what truly matters. You have given me the perspective I’ve needed in many aspects of my life. Thank you and may blessings rain on you and your family.


Sadie September 5, 2012 at 11:24 am

God works in mysterious ways…even through Facebook. I somehow stumbled on this post after reading a post on FB by 168 Hours. My hubby and I are struggling more than we ever have right now. After 19 years of marriage, 6 kids, and 5 deployments, we are on the verge of calling it quits. But reading this post (during an unexpected few moments to myself at Starbucks) has been a huge help. I all of a sudden don’t feel so alone.

When I first read the title of your blog I thought, “Oh great! Another cutesy mom of little kids who thinks everything can be fixed with making finger paints and cupcakes with the kids. Well, boy was I wrong! You spoke to my heart! You have little ones and teens. And you have the experience of divorce under your belt to give you added credibility.

I felt like I was reading my own thoughts when I was reading this post. Thank you for sharing. And blessings for future success!


Katie October 28, 2012 at 1:26 am

I can appreciate everything you posted, my funny Motto is… fix what you have because eventually you will just be dealing with your same personal issues with someone else and their NEW/SAME issues.. RigHt? I love my husband of 12 years but there have been times in our marriage that I haven’t LIKED him.
As I mature along with our marriage,I have learned that liking your spouse is as important as loving them.


Jo March 7, 2013 at 6:37 am

I get everything you have said, but I have one question-what if you just don’t love your husband anymore? He is a good person and a brilliant Dad, and a very thoughtful husband, who always puts my feelings and needs first. I should be feeling fortunate, but all I want to do is get away from him, because I just don’t love him. What should I do in this situation? Stick with it anyway? Please offer me some advice because I have been feeling this way for 10 years, and I am living a lie and it’s making me ill and depressed.


Ashley Ponder Richards July 20, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Thank you for being so open and honest because I needed to read your words today. My husband and I are going through a rough time and a lot of what you described (me not creating my own happiness) is a lot of the issue. I married and had a child when I was 30 so I spend my 20’s being selfish and that is hard to just turn off. I feel like I gave up everything in my life to make my husband and child happy, but after reading this I don’t think that is what is best. We are currently in couples therapy. Yes, he has his issues (nothing major) but I do too. I need to start telling him exactly what I want and stop expecting him to just know.


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