New York Times bestselling author M. Gary Neuman is a practicing licensed counselor and ordained rabbi who offers a caring, no-nonsense approach to issues in marriage, family, and personal growth. He has appeared many times on Today, the View, NPR and many other programs. Oprah referred to Gary as, "One of the best psychotherapists in the world," on his final (11th) appearance on her show.

Keeping It NEW In Marriage

From the moment they say “I Do,” newlyweds have two years to enjoy the special bliss that new love brings.  This new finding, reported by the New York Times December 2, is based on a study undertaken by American and European researchers who tracked 1,761 people who got married and stayed married over 15 years. After the two years the couples moved into a more companionable state in their relationships.

The study also reported that the research, completed in 2009 has been confirmed by recent studies as well. Although the excitement of the new love receded after the two years, the study found that most of the couples found themselves drifting into a more companionable relationship, connected in their lives . In addition, some of the couples did report a version of that earlier excitement and  happiness while others simply had a more mundane life experience together.  What was the difference then between the group which had a satisfying companionship and the more intensely passionate couples?

The more joyful couples kept things interesting, with surprises and thoughtfulness complimenting the attempts to keep things new. Because, as the Times points out, we are “wired to keep things new,” we crave difference and newness.  Many couples are satisfied with the companionable and easygoing state of a marriage after two years. However some couples felt it signaled something wrong. It is helpful to couples to understand that while the initial excitement of fresh love recedes into something else, they can retain elements of that first excitement.

What are a few things that interject the novelty which can spark early romantic feelings?

1.       Experiences.  Sign up for a class or attend a lecture or performance that is out of your typical zone. Couples who tried “exciting” new things felt a commensurate level of excitement.

2.       Travel. Seeing new things and being in new places fires up the areas of the brain associated with pleasure and novelty. Planning a trip can be exciting and fun too.  If time and money are tight, reconsider making that trip with some creative spending. Following the unexpected death of a close friend, and the heart attack of someone their age (early forties), one couple I know decided to stop  putting off their dream trip to Europe for some future date which may not arrive. They planned for the following year. To deal with the economics, they used miles, vacation time and booked off season. The trip and its planning gave their marriage a terrific boost. If a big trip together is just not possible, try taking one day off and going someplace new together or visit a tourist site near home.

3.       Little Surprises and Thoughtfulness. Bring home her favorite candy or perfume.  Arrange surprise tickets to a ball game for him. Invite your spouse to something he/she has wanted to do. The research found couples who did exciting things together reported greater satisfaction. And those who experienced surprises  had greater happiness (measured by brain activity). The surprise didn’t have to be something big.

4    Turn down the noise. Our daily life and relationships suffer when too many things distract us.  Texting and emailing for work are a part of everyday living. Some couples turn off the phone at the restaurant and really connect for that time. The noise is not just electronic however. Other things like demanding in-laws, friends who create drama, obligations that don’t give us time for relationships, add to the tedium.  Try to minimize these obligations. Imagine if your life didn’t include them. Would you have more fun with your significant other?

5.  Pay attention to the little things. Do the thing your partner has been trying to get around to finishing. Wish each other a good day/night. Express appreciation daily.  Create things to look forward to.

These studies are good news.  They show tremendous benefits for relatively small investments of time, money and kindness.  And what better to invest in than our relationships?

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Why Marital Therapy Often Fails

Why Marital Therapy Often Fails

Stacy and Jorge walked out of the marriage counselor’s office angrier than when they arrived. It was their third session and this last fight over his ex wife wasn’t going away. The fifty minutes embroiled in a detailed outline of the battle only charged up their anger and the counselor’s request to remember how much they love each other wasn’t helping. It would be a week before the next session and both of them were already talking about not returning for therapy.

Where did their therapy go wrong? Too many struggling couples never seek therapy. But of the many that do, marital counseling falls short. It’s easy to say that it’s the couple’s fault; they weren’t committed enough, didn’t give it enough time or one spouse never had their heart in it in the first place. Any one of these reasons for therapy failure could be spot on but it doesn’t explain the whole story.

Marriage therapy fails for some clear significant reasons:

  1. The Therapist Has Little Direction. This is the worst problem of all. Many therapists are good listeners, a crucial skill. But marital therapy needs a measure of leadership, and skilled listening has to be quickly and effectively turned into a deeper understanding of each  spouse. Spouses in crisis are looking for direction, concrete steps to help them mend their problems. Through listening, the counselor needs to quickly assess what has gone wrong, explain this theory to the couple and chart a course for change. This course doesn’t have to be completely figured out but must include an action plan and a time frame to accomplish these goals. In Stacy and George’s case, they had to be shown that the problem wasn’t his “ex” but rather, the lack of love Stacy was feeling from George causing her to feel particularly threatened by energy spend surrounding his ex. George had to recognize what he needed to change in order to help Stacy feel more part of a team instead of George giving her the feeling of isolation when dealing with his ex. Stacy needed to recognize that her intensity over this issue and poor communication made George feel attacked causing him to get defensive instead of understanding. These are serious issues that they needed to start discussing and learning specific tools to combat. It would have lead them to have greater insight to many other of their issues as well.
  2. Spouses Aren’t Asked to Confront Themselves. It’s helpful and often crucial for each spouse to understand their own relationship to love and marriage. The messages their parents imbued in them through their own model has everything to do with the couple’s expectations and actions in the marriage. There are therapist who believe one should not look to the past to explain or help change the present, but I find it necessary for each spouse to own their perspectives so that each one can reexamine them and choose to change them. We often act illogically and hurt our spouse and marriage when in truth, all we want is happiness and love. Therapy is the place to start understanding the deeper reasons as to why we might choose to behave in ways that don’t bring us all that warm love and fuzzies we say we want.
  3. There Isn’t Enough Time. I’m often given a preamble of years of marital discord with immense crisis and I’m supposed to follow up with, “Let’s spend 50-60 minutes and get to the heart of this.” The weekly therapeutic hour (this commonly translates to a mere 50 minutes) just isn’t nearly enough time to even begin to really solve and heal intense marital strife. Couples come to marriage therapists as the “expert.” It’s the therapist’s job to assess how much time is necessary to accomplish the goals of therapy. Too many therapists are skittish about sounding too pushy, too self serving, too hungry for client hours, when in truth it’s their job to give it to the couple straight and tell them what is the ideal course. If the couple chooses not to follow that course, the therapist can either decline to help them or agree to try it in the manner that the couple wishes. However, a therapist should not agree to anything that he/she feels doesn’t give the proper time needed to help significantly. My job is to turn this couple’s marriage around with changes that will last. I need to help them understand what I need as far as time and their concentrated energy for me to do that job. I’m always happy to hear their thoughts and change my plan based on their circumstances. But I will commonly decline working with a couple if I feel I’m just not given the opportunity to give them the help they’ve come to me to receive.
  4. Therapy is Costly. It’s a simple fact that therapy costs add up quickly. If the therapy is the tool that saves a marriage and creates a healthier future, any amount of money is worth it. But unfortunately, therapy costs can become an additional stress to an already stressful situation. This is another reason the therapist should be up front about the projected amount of meetings and length of therapy. The couple needs to know the plan and be prepared for the costs involved.

Stacy and George needed a course of action that gave them the confidence that they were headed in the right direction. Recently, I developed Neuman Method; Creating Your Best Marriage, an 11 DVD program complete with a 280 page workbook because I felt so many couples who truly wanted help weren’t offered effective plans for an affordable cost. And I ask a lot of the people I help. FYI: if your marital therapist isn’t asking a lot of you as far as energy and focus, your therapist isn’t working hard enough either. When considering therapy remember to ask yourself:

1. Is my therapist offering enough clear direction? If you are in the midst of marital crisis, get the right help that gives you the concrete plan you need and deserve.

2. Are each of us being asked to confront ourselves and understand some deeper personal issues?

3. Are we giving ourselves enough time and energy to make a critical difference?

4. What is this going to approximately cost and am I prepared to go the distance with this therapeutic plan?

Your marriage has spun out of control. Getting it back will likely start with taking some control over your marital therapy first.

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WE vs. ME Couples

WE vs. ME Couples

My father-in-law spent over thirty five years as a circuit court judge. He noticed that some clients paid teams of lawyers only to be poorly represented. He noted in these cases that, “the lawyers are so busy arguing with each other that nobody’s arguing the case.” There was an absence of cohesiveness and the ego driven fighting rendered the team ineffective.

I’ve noticed a similar dynamic in relationships, one I call the “me” couple vs. the “we” couple.  The me couple operates as two distinct people who happen to be in a relationship. This can be true of a couple who got together last week or one who’s been together for fifty years.  It’s the attitude. The “me” couple are not really partners. They may love each other; they may be happy enough. But they don’t operate as effectively in love or work as the “we” couple.  The “we” couples are unquestionably a team. You see it in their body language and especially in their speech. And when they have successes or problems they view it as something happening to both of them.

A University of California study showed that couples who use pronouns like “we,” “our” and “us” showed less stress and were more positive toward each other. Those found to be less satisfied in their marriages used pronouns like “me,” “I” and “you.” Happy couples often speak in a “we.”  As in, “we had a nice time at the party” and ” we had a major plumbing problem at the house last week.”  The idea is that unconsciously they’ve formed a sense of being a part of a team and life is happening to both of them.  These couples will fight, they may even not fight nicely. They have no fewer problems than anyone else but the way they cope is better.  Rather than waste energy blaming each other they see a problem as something they both need to solve. So they divide tasks, brainstorm, resolve and move forward.  LIfe is better when the blame is minimized and the challenge (whatever it may be) is addressed by both people.

The “we” couples take themselves less seriously.  They don’t imagine they can be perfect and are unsurprised when things don’t go swimmingly.  Rather than a “here we go again, the universe hates me,” when the car is stolen, a “we” couple will quickly bemoan the fact that this happened to “us” and move on.  Of course cars get stolen, it happens every day.  He files the police report, she arranges a rental. They get to work on time and the flow of life continues.  “Me” couples blame each other (I told you we shouldn’t have parked here. Why did you open an account in a bank here? It’s a crummy neighborhood). They storm off, they don’t resolve the issue quickly, they don’t get to work and they have more problems as the newest spiral downward commences.

Becoming a “we” couple can be as simple as starting to use the word more.  Think of things that brought you together and keep you together.  Is it being parents, charitable work, common hobbies, a love for  sports or the environment… these things may be simple or profound.  The next time your’e together talk about the “we” things in conversation. Reminisce about them. When problems come up, resist the urge to blame, take a deep breath and try to move immediately to problem solving. This movement and restraint is the work of change. It’s worthwhile to make the effort.

Also, be kind to each other and think of your significant other as a partner. Ask for their opinion and their input so that decisions begin to be made together in an atmosphere that doesn’t blame and judge.  Judgement causes the team to argue and worse, the partners stop even suggesting ideas for fear that anything they say can and will be used against them. Build an atmosphere of cooperation by understanding each other and inviting your partner’s thoughts.

Finally, avoid “me” couples for a while. Be aware that other people’s expressions and attitudes can influence even the best relationships. For a while, insulate yourselves while you’re building up your “we” approach. It’s a quick turn around and a minimum of effort to put in for very worthwhile benefits.

Research cited:

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When Pets and Marriage Collide

Barbara and her husband Michael can’t sleep lately because their dog, Reggie, whom they adopted from a shelter thirteen years ago, has taken to jumping on their heads in the middle of the night and barking hysterically. Fortunately for their marriage, they are both committed to Reggie and to finding a solution to his midnight madness.

But another couple didn’t fair so well. Who could have imagined that the sweet kitty who never gave Pamela a moment’s trouble would, upon finding Robert’s shoes by the bed for the first time, decide to urinate in them? And then, when Robert returned again (putting his new shoes on a high shelf) to urinate on his briefcase? And then his coat? What to do? The relationship ended before an ultimatum could be given. The problem really couldn’t have been anticipated because Robert actually liked cats. Just not this one.

When pets and relationships collide, it can be a deal breaker. Oftentimes the couple find themselves in situations that really couldn’t have been anticipated before they became a real couple.

According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, there are presently 72.9 million pet owners, that is 62 percent of U.S. households. (

With so many dog and cat owners, the questions surrounding pet ownership and how they impact on relationships comes up frequently. Do couples who have pets reap any rewards?

A University of Buffalo study reported positive benefits for couples who owned cats and dogs. (  The study, conducted by Karen Allen, found that couples who owned pets showed less stress when confronted by conflict than couples who didn’t own any pets. The pet owners also recovered faster from the conflict (this was measured by blood tests showing stress indicators). One hundred couples participated, with fifty pet owners and a control group of fifty non-pet owners.  The couples who owned pets also showed more signs of self reported happiness as well as sociability. Interestingly, the pet owners had more interactions and contact with each other than the non-pet owners, with the couples who were most invested emotionally in their pets showing the most contact with their partner.

Pets aren’t just for teaching your children empathy anymore. They can add love to any family even though they can add plenty of stress as well. But do you and your spouse have to be equally in love with the pets? Not necessarily. Certain pets speak to different people. Surely, entering into a relationship where there is already a pet would be a situation where the pet might be much closer to one spouse. Even if both spouses agree to have a pet, it’s okay if one spouse is more of a “pet person.” What is not okay for the relationship is if either spouse is insensitive to the other and uses the pet as the subject of that insensitivity. Whether the one who is not as close to the pet is unkind about it or the one closer to the pet is deaf to the other’s concern about a pet issue, the pet will become a point of contention.

Like every other important part of life, spouses need to be aware and caring about each other’s feelings even and especially when those feelings are different. Perhaps one of you is insensitive to the dog because of a childhood dog’s painful death causing an emotional distance from all things dog while the other is extremely attached to the dog because your kids are grown and this dog has become an emotional focus. The answer is in working to understand each other so that you can use the pet to bring you both closer and receive the researched benefits to pet ownership.

If you are dating and the person you are liking is completely opposite than you in this arena, one of you loves pets and the other can’t stand them, consider what this may say about the person. Sometimes, loving or hating pets can speak to one’s emotional ability to give and love. Don’t always assume one who hates pets isn’t a loving person as there could be childhood or cultural associations that may be causing the feelings. Don’t assume someone who is extremely involved with a pet is a very loving person. In fact, there are some who can love a pet, that unconditionally loving furry friend, but not do well in a relationship with one of those human types. However, you can use opinions of pets to help guide you on your way when dating. Surely, use it as a topic to find out more about the person’s personality.

Clearly, pets are a topic that many people would be right to discuss at the beginning of a relationship. The best thing to do is to speak openly about your feelings and work together to create solutions when necessary.

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Dan Marino-Can Good Guys Cheat?

Dan Marino, hall of fame quarterback, husband of 28 years, champion of autism awareness has cheated and fathered a 7th child in 2005 with a CBS employee. Marino has always been seen as a clean cut family man. In addition to four children, he adopted 2 daughters and as a result of raising his own autistic son, developed the Dan Marino Autism Center. Finding out that he cheated and fathered a daughter begs the age old questions: how can someone seemingly so good do something so bad? Can good people cheat?

Statistics vary but it’s assumed that 50% of men cheat. In my own study of over 400 women, 39% admitted to physically cheating on their husbands. Why is cheating so rampant?

  1. We crave emotional connection. In my study, only 7% of cheating men said they were after the sex as compared to 48% who reported it was the desire for emotional connection that drove the impropriety.  88% of cheaters said the mistress was not better looking or in better shape than their wives. It is just not as simple as wanting sex. Most cheating occurs after he’s formed some close friendship with the woman with whom he will eventually cheat. When men feel emotionally disconnected at home, too many make the horrifying choice to find it somewhere else instead of working to reconnect with their wives. often they too are surprised at how their emotional friendship turned into some deeper and physical when that was not their original intention when they began the friendship
  2. We don’t protect our marriages. Chemistry is powerful and people are deeply searching for companionship and love. When a couple is not actively engaged in nurturing their marital love, they risk danger. Not that cheating is ever justified; it is an ugly choice, but the similar desire to be actively in love has driven us to marry and sadly, can drive many to look outside their marriage for that love as well. It is why men must be careful not to even allow close friendships to form with other women. They might say it’s fair game but we need to be developing closer connections in our home, not away from it. If you have found yourself enjoying  another woman’s friendship, you need to consider things like: when have I laughed, had a great discussion, had a fun time, had a great meal out… with my wife like that? Typically, it’s been too long and it’s time to bring that energy home and work to renew your loving connection.
  3. The world of sports and movies create a recipe for cheating. The lives of these powerful men take them away from their spouses for weeks and months at a time. These men are idolized and offered adoration by women at every stop. These men have handlers that support the belief that they are great and loved by everyone. They begin to believe that they can do anything and all will approve. These combinations create fertile ground for broken marriages.

The answers to protecting your marriage from cheating lie in making your marriage successful. Keep in mind what it takes to be successful in every other part of life: time, focus and loving work. Our marriages need the same ingredients and if we feel our love is faltering, that is the time to go to our spouse and discuss how to fix it. It might seem easier at the moment to start a relationship elsewhere but no cheater has ever told me he’s happy it happened. Every cheater regrets it. He might have been divorced in any case, but he never feels good about what he did to his family when he chose to cheat.  Even a Dan Marino can do so much good and cheat. But until he worked as hard on his marriage as he did on being a great quarterback and dad, he risked his loving home. Our marriages are to be cherished and if we aren’t reminded now and then why we love our spouse and why we married them, it’s time to work harder like every other part of life that we wish to never let go of.

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Lance Armstrong-Why We Love Our Heroes

We knew he lied. We knew he doped. What we didn’t know was that he could attack others knowing full well they were telling the truth. We didn’t know that he could speak of destroying others for years and not shed a tear. During his interview with Oprah, we were witness to the inner workings of a man bent on control and domination. Lance Armstrong showed how he could manage to hurt others in a calculated way. He could discuss it in millions of viewers and maintain his composure. Perhaps he sheds a tear in the future, like tonight’s interview, but last night his cool, collected attitude was simply creepy.
People who manipulate and control have always gotten ahead. They’re willing to do things that people of conscience are incapapble of doing. That’s why you should never get into a battle with them; you can’t possibly win. They aren’t playing by the same emotional rules. They are great at two things: rationalizing and compartmentalizing. Rationalizing is a way of justifying anything one wants to do. Everyone is doping, so will I. My heroism is a lie but I’m helping so many people through my success so it’s all okay. Compartmentalizing helps dominators sleep at night. When thoughts of morality begin to form, they are instantly compressed and rerouted into oblivion.
What is almost always true of this personality is their charm. They know how to play the game so well. They smile just right, act caring just right, even show personal struggle just right. It is the fact that it’s always “just right” that tips their hand but because those around them want so much to believe, they miss it.
Nobody is supposed to be perfect or flawless. We are supposed to be off our game and anyone who never seems to be, is putting us all on.
So why do we all get duped? We love the hope that is offerred by seeing someone else who is so perfect. We want to leave ourselves for a moment in exchange for living in someones else’s glory. We leave our lives behind and live through others. We want to believe so badly that we look away from signs of chicanery.
Perhaps all of us need to see the heroism within each of us. Lance Armstrong’s legacy is that we need to stop trying to make heroes out of dangerous manipulators and find our internal heroism. That heroism will not be perfect, it won’t get us worhipers or even a moment of fame, but it will give us moments of blissful glory and genuine self appreciation. When we love another, care for others, connect with our spirituality or any part of our wonderful world, we show our individual depth and character. Let’s say goodbye to Lance and the men and women who want to be our heroes and show ourselves what true heroism looks like.
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Why Your New Year’s Resolution Isn’t About Marriage

What will be your New Year’s resolution? I bet I know what it won’t be: Make my marriage great. Isn’t it fascinating that although we know how important our marriages are to our lives, it’s never the top resolution? Resolutions are about losing weight and getting into shape, breaking the bad habit of smoking, getting more involved in charitable contributions. Marriage? Most often it’s not even on the resolution radar for a few simple reasons:

  1. You feel your marriage is just too complicated for simple resolutions. Too often, spouses feel like a rudderless ship. Some days the waters are calm while other days there are tidal waves.  Usually, it’s been years since spouses have felt like they’re in a romantic groove.
  2. You don’t quite know what to do to make significant change so you choose to do nothing instead. In most marriages, there never was a great deal of focus on how to make the marriage great. There was a lot of focus on making the career and  children great but it pretty much ended there. We just lose our marital way and even though we’d like to right the ship, we really have no sense of how exactly to do it.
  3. You see marriage as something that love should solve on its own or else, maybe it’s not worth saving at all. Too many people have told me, “If marriage is that much work, maybe we’re not meant for each other.” Thank goodness we don’t say that about our children who are a load of work as well. The great myth of unsuccessful relationships is that they’re supposed to manage themselves.                                                                                                                                                                                      Successful relationships see it all very differently. Based on my years of research, here are the top 3 specific resolutions you can make to change your marriage effectively and quickly.

1.         Daily Time: Successful couples spend a minimum daily average of over 30 minutes talking uninterrupted. Put the cellphones away, get the kids settled or asleep and do nothing else but chat, catch up on your day, and talk about life. Schedule it into your calendar as you would any other appointment that is important for work or for your child.

2.         Date Night: One night a week, no matter what, go out alone for a minimum of two hours. Don’t spend the time with another couple. Since this is a night to enjoy, my one rule is that you can talk about anything except three subjects: money, work and kids. I know, many couples look at me and ask, “What else will we talk about? That’s all we ever talk about.” That’s the problem. Of course you have to talk about those issues but successful couples know that you have to take time to turn it all off and just enjoy each other. That fun is what helped you decide to get married; it’s what you need to sustain that marriage as well.

3.         Make 3 Appreciative Gestures Daily: This can be a simple statement, hug, kiss, any kind gesture that says, “I appreciate who you are and what you do.” When we appreciate another, we have basically summed up that person in a positive way. We work hard in life and desire to be loved for it, not diminished for everything we don’t do. Don’t just appreciate for the things that are “above and beyond.” Too many spouses think they shouldn’t say thank you for working at one’s career or being a great parent because this is “what he/she is supposed to do. Give it up to each other and make your spouse feel like a winner. That’ll always motivate your spouse to give his/her very best.

Of course marriage is complicated but we can’t use that as an excuse for not doing something real to change it for the better. To find out more about what you can do to make your marriage better quickly, go to Resolve to make this New Years the best marital new year of your life.

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Kristen Stewart-Why Go After a Married Man?

Kristen Stewart-Why Go After a Married Man?
Why would a woman be attracted to a married man when she could have eligible single men? It’s not as simple as, “They’re cheaters! There’s no rhyme or reason.” In fact there are psychological reasons why certain people choose to cheat and with whom. So if Kristen already had a lover, is rich and famous and can probably have her choice of single men, why make it so complicated by falling for a married man?
Yet, the fact that he IS married is what drove this 22 year old toward him.
You might think that after all of her success she feels great about herself, but that isn’t true. This situation has made her (and Rupert Sanders, father of 2) look quite pathetic. She will be called a home-wrecker forevermore. Even if she had some dream of the romance working out, which it never would long term, would these children every accept her? She has placed herself in a compromised position that will never allow this relationship to bring her uncomplicated love.
But people who don’t value themselves deep down have a way of creating emotional messes in their lives. Their choices shout, “I need struggle. I need to take myself down a notch.” They don’t cognitively think this as they’re behaving in an unhealthy way. But that is what is promoting their behavior.
Choosing to fall in love with a married man can feel especially exciting for someone who doesn’t really like herself. After all, she gets to convince herself that she is so lovable, she could sway a man away from his committed relationship. But anyone who needs such convincing is in deep emotional trouble that getting one man’s attention will not fix. It’s like the bully needing to prove himself by overpowering others. If you feel good about yourself inside you don’t need to prove anything.
If you don’t like yourself internally, falling in love with a married man is the perfect poison. A married man presents someone who will give you quite a struggle. You must sneak around and can never feel whole in the relationship. He might go back and forth in his decision to have you as his girlfriend. You will always be the potential reason for his breaking up his family and he might resent you one day. It all adds up to never really having him for yourself. Does a deserving woman who likes herself put herself in that kind of position? Never.
Often, women who have had disconnected relationships with their fathers will find adult male relationships that don’t work. They kick themselves later for not seeing what was so obvious to their friends. When they’re involved in the romance, however, they run like the wind toward men who will remind them of similar feelings they experienced around their fathers. It’s a simple trick the mind plays; if a woman’s familiarity is to feel great angst with her father when she was little, her mind will push her toward similar feelings throughout life. The man she falls in love with may not look or seem similar to her father in any way, but if he’s married, he presents a relationship full of angst. Kristen might look the part of success, but she’s working at taking her emotional self exactly where she seems comfortable internally, down the rabbit hole, inviting turmoil and tension in her love life.
Of course, Rupert must have his own host of unhealthy issues to have shamed his family and his innocent children. But women beware. If you keep finding yourself in unhappy romances, try to confront yourself and see what you may be doing to invite hardship into your relationships. For starters, stay far away from married men.
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When Should I Worry About My Boyfriend’s Mother?

Dear Gary,

I have begun dating someone who I like very much. However, there is one issue that has raised a red flag. He talks about his mother a lot – in a good way. They have a very close relationship. However, some of my girlfriends (one who is married and does not get along with her mother-in-law) told me to beware of marrying a “Momma’s boy” because then you’re marrying his mother. Is this a real concern when dating?


Dear Concerned,

Having a good relationship with Mom and being a Momma’s boy isn’t the same thing. First of all, I’d be wary of someone who does not like his mother. This doesn’t mean he can’t be a great husband, but in all likelihood it would be a greater challenge for him than for someone who gets along well with his mother. Remember that a young man’s primary female relationship is with his mother. His attitude and opinion of her will likely be brought into every other significant female relationship he experiences. If he is demeaning or makes dismissive jokes about his mother, he may be doing the same about his wife one day. However, even if he perceives that he’s had a troubled relationship with his mother, with some focus and psychological work, anyone can overcome struggles and learn to create a genuinely loving relationship with his wife.

So, how can you know whether his relationship with dear old Mom is healthy or not? When you feel there is a controlling element handed down from mother to son, that’s the giveaway of dangerous ground. If you feel that he’s unable to make common personal decisions without the approval of his mother AND that his mother is very comfortable making these decisions for him (meaning she’s not so approving), be aware – it is likely Momma will be making decisions for you as well. It’s one thing to consider a parent’s sage advice in making a decision. It’s quite another to have parents make the decision for us.

As your dating progresses and you feel closer, simply bring the topic up and discuss it in a kind and respectful manner. It’s always to your advantage to get used to being communicative about these kinds of issues, so that both of you can develop your style of decision making together.

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Why Do Celeb Marriages Fail? Holmes and Cruise Divorce

Not long ago, he was jumping on Oprah’s couch like a lovesick teen, and now Tom Cruise faces a bitter divorce with Katie Holmes. Why is it that when a couple seems to have everything; fame, fortune, health, and an adorable child, it doesn’t work? It’s enough to make everyone else hopeless. After all, if the celebs have everything and can’t make it, what are the chances for the rest of us?
Don’t worry. The very fact they have it all is the very undoing of a good marriage.
Fame is dangerous to relationships for at least a couple of reasons. Most troubling is that it demands swaths of time away from each other, as seen by the divorce petition being served while Cruise is in Iceland on a shoot. My research of over 400 married women showed that the number one indicator of happiness in a marriage was the amount of time spent with one’s spouse. Women who were happily married reported spending a daily average of over 30 minutes of uninterrupted time talking to their man. Unhappy women reported a daily average of less than 30 minutes and 24% of those unhappy reported that they spent less than five minutes a day talking to their husbands.
It should come at no surprise that consistent time is necessary to sustaining a happy marriage. All relationships need time and consistency. We need to keep up with each other’s lives, look into each other’s eyes, be in the same physical space to feel the mood and emotions from each other. Without that, we might love each other, but staying “in love” demands much more than occasional get-togethers where we catch up. You would never say to your six-year-old for example, “Hey, can’t wait to catch up but right now I’m finishing a project. I can’t wait to talk about first grade and catch up in a month or two.” Celebs seem content with the understanding that their work schedule will take them away from each other for long periods of time. It is a simple recipe for disaster.
The next problem of having “everything” is the inability to define what is your “couple culture.” A marriage needs a sense of meaning and a way to grow together where there is purpose to their union. Rarely do couples actually discuss what they want their culture to be. This culture typically adopts them as immense collective energy is thrown into career and/or family building. But when you have it all and it seems to come easy, couples often lose their way and life becomes a quick, steady path of self indulgence.
The individuals no longer truly “need” the other to live happily. Instead, they just like being together. Yet, a couple needs to feel that life without the other is quite impossible. If a spouse does not feel a need to have the other in his or her life on a daily basis, that is a short step away from separation. After all, once separated, what have you truly lost on a daily basis? If you have been living your goals and dreams largely through your own strength and ability, then being married has become the spice instead of the main course itself.
For your couplehood, make sure that you are spending regular consistent time with your spouse when you’re able to chat about the day and talk about things other than the stresses of life. Remind each other what you are building together and if you don’t have a good answer to that, find one immediately.
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