Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Obama Marriage and a Great Video

posted by Michele Olson

Great music video to watch…but first…

If you want to be on the cutting edge, you can get a preview of the Sunday New York Times Magazine article that is going to focus on President Obama and the first lady’s marriage, with insight into the time before the White House.
They talk about the bumps in their marriage and have no desire to be held up some kind of Camelot image, much like we saw in the Kennedy White House years. The acknowledgement that even good marriages are not easy is good for the country, particularly newly married couples who are starting to hit those everyday bumps and feeling that they are experiencing something out of the ordinary. It’s good for young couples to realize that the marriages they may admire now of long-time married couples are not necessarily where they are because the road was easy. In business, if you want to emulate a successful company, don’t copy what they are now, copy what they did to get where they are now.
It’s the same for marriage.
Copy what a couple did to get where they are…which means they have done some work on how to communicate and resolve conflict in a way they both find satisfying. Read the article and let us know what you think.

Now! Great video by Sara Groves…the song is “It’s Me” and it does a wonderful job of showing a couple losing their closeness. The words include the phrase “How can tenderness be gone in the blink of an eye?” It’s the perfect scenario for the need for marriage and healthy relationship education. Everyone will relate to the feelings portrayed and happily the answer is to learn the skills to deal with those moments rather than being left to a feeling of emptiness and hurt.

Watch and comment…what did it make you think of?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not Just N1H1, Immunize Against an Emotional Affair!

Posted by Michele Olson
In a New York Post article, Dr. Keith Ablow talks about the idea that almost all marriages are difficult. He proposes that idea should be a relief to any husband or wife who thinks that life as usual after a 5 or 10 year marriage, and the normalcy that sets in, is happening to “just them.”

Dr. Ablow says that living together dissolves a lot of the boundaries that women and men normally experience. We see each other all the time, hair out of place, not dressed up…the real deal. This can lead to walls of silence and resentment…possibly as a way to just get some personal space.

Interesting idea.

He believes this is where men and women are vulnerable to emotional affairs. His five point plan to prevent that includes:

1) Don’t assume you know everything about your spouse. He points out that people in a marriage can remain strangers for a lifetime. It brings to mind taking your spouse for granted by the way you could ignore exploring their ideas or feelings. This is not the way you would treat a new acquaintance.
2) If you’ve become distant, make it a point to explore the emotional life of your spouse.
3) A tactic? Ask your spouse to share with you three things, which could include childhood, that they have never shared with another person.
4) Then you do the same thing. Share three things. Basically you are becoming more vulnerable to each than you are to anyone else.
5) Trade three secrets about what you crave sexually, even if it ‘s fantasy. (For example, your spouse can’t literally fly in on a magic carpet if that’s what you would find exciting.)

Dr. Ablow says these five steps are like a vaccine against the real epidemic of emotional affairs.

What do you think about the idea of taking a spouse for granted over time? Is it easy to fall into a pattern and stop seeing the other person for who they really are?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Fan and a Critic = The Best of Both Worlds

posted by Michele Olson
Are you a fan or a critic in your relationship? What about being a little of each? Author Mike Robbins, writing in a recent Huffington Post blog reflects on what viewing a re-commitment ceremony meant to him, and how it challenged his thinking. As the Reverend told the couple that their job was to be each other’s biggest fan and their greatest critic for the purpose of the person’s spiritual development, he had an “a-ha” moment.

What is often seen as opposite when viewed from a less than mature attitude can if fact be a basis for the success of a healthy relationship when there is the proper sense of “trust, connection and authenticity.”

He goes on to define what a real fan is: focusing on what we appreciate about someone and a willingness to let them know in a loving and generous way. This is done without agenda or manipulation as the motive.

A conscious critic is described as saying things that may be scary or even hurtful in the eyes of the receiver without being critical or judgmental. It’s freedom to give and receive feedback in a productive, positive and kind way…to stop these things from getting in between two people and hurting their relationship.

Now….you can see the potential for disaster if we are not ascribing to the better angels of our nature in either of these circumstances. You can also see the potential for true closeness if both people in the relationship will really have their act together and step up to the plate with emotional wholeness and sincerity.
That IF there is huge, isn't it?

He goes on to describe some tools such as using your Relationship GPS. Let your appreciation be genuine, personal and specific.

Clear your withholds. This is something you are holding on to that you haven’t shared with the other person. He gives a clear definition of what this means.

Ask for what you want. The clearer about what we want from other people around us, the more likely we are to have the type of genuine mutually beneficial relationship we want.

Great observations and worth thinking about, but possibly needing some real communication skills as a basis to make it happen. has online and in person resources to learn those skills. Keep that in mind if you feel overwhelmed.

Are you a critic and fan in your marriage? Does it work? What makes it work?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Married, Married and Money

Posted by Michele Olson
Great article by Ron Lieber in The New York Times on Money Talks to Have Before Marriage.
Recognizing that a divorce can be not only emotionally devastating, but financially devastating as well, this article brings up four things that couples should be talking about BEFORE they marry.

Here’s an overview….

How did your parents deal with money? Because many of our money habits are learned, it’s important to talk about money attitudes that we might not even realize we have. For example, did one parent hide money from the other? Did you see your parents talk about money? What kind of emotions do those memories evoke?

Have you compared credit scores? While not particularly romantic it does open up an honest discussion of where you are financially, and how you got there. It’s also an opportunity to fix anything that is in error, or you can “clean up” which may allow you as a couple to get better rates for future loans.

Who is going to pay the bills in your house or are you going to do it together? It can become a huge control issue in your marriage if you don’t agree. Here’s another pivotal question: If one person is making most of the money, do they make most of the financial decisions?

Here’s one couples really don’t talk about: How rich do you want to be someday? Are you on the same path or do you have very different ideas of where you want to go when it comes to money?

These are great topics to be talking about pre-marriage, and thoughts you probably have to revisit as a married couple. Here's an interesting article from Redbook Magazine on How Couples Share Their Money...worth the read too.

Engaged? Are you talking about money?
Married? Did you talk about money pre-marriage? How has money affected your relationship?
Divorced? Did money play a role in the demise of your marriage?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Housework = More Sex. Do You Agree?

Posted by Michele Olson
You might be noticing the new study out by the Journal of Family Issues getting some buzz in the news. It basically says that the more housework you both do in the marriage, the more likely you are often to have sex with your spouse. The link even held up for those respondents who believed that it was the wife’s role to handle the housework.

The findings really popped for those high achiever type of individuals who take a "work hard, play hard" approach to life. The study also found a correlation between hours spent on paid work and the frequency of sex in marriage. One logical conclusion not mentioned might be that when both spouses work, there is less expectation on one spouse’s part that the other will do the majority of the housework. There could be a more natural bent to realizing the chores have to be shared.

It could be that housework is an obvious sign that both of the spouses are willing to invest in shared interests…many hands make light loads. Both parties recognize the fairness of sharing in the work. Less resentment means happier people. Happier people may be more open to more sex.

Worth a try? If your love life is lacking and there is a chasm in the chore sharing around your house, it may be the very thing to add the spark you’ve been looking for.

We also know that there are basically five ways that people feel loved by how they are treated. They are called the Five Love Languages, a book by Dr. Gary Chapman. It could be that one of the five; “acts of service” is the love language of many of those who responded in the study.
(Not acquainted with love languages? Take a quick test to know what type of love language is your type.)

What do you think? Do you agree with the study’s findings?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Domestic Violence and You

Posted by Michele Olson

SAFETY ALERT: If you are in danger, please call 911, your local hotline, or (in the U.S.) the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

This is the warning on domestic violence websites that has saved many lives.

Before October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, it was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Awareness is a good part of the title, because unless you are the victim of domestic violence you may tend to turn your head the other way and see it as someone else’s personal business.

All State has done a great job of taking up this cause through their foundation and telling the story of abused people on Youtube. Go check out the stories of strength and hope.

Other good resources to learn more:

National Coalition Against Domestic violence

Domestic Violence Awareness project which includes a message from President Obama
Domestic violence safety tips mourns all who have died because of domestic violence and celebrates every survivor and anyone who does something to end the violence. All instructors are sensitive to and trained in domestic violence prevention. We encourage you to take a moment to learn more about domestic violence in your area. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please call the hotline numbers listed above.

Do you have a story to share? Or, are you planning what you can do now to be a part of the solution? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yah, What Ivanka Said.

Posted by Michele Olson

While perusing the web for marriage news I came across a very interesting statement by Ivanka Trump, daughter of real estate mogul and TV celebrity Donald Trump. She is marrying Jared Kushner this coming Sunday, and if anyone could have a lavish wedding with no expense spared, it’s probably the daughter of Donald Trump.

That’s why her statement is so refreshing. She said she is not getting too caught up in the day itself. Her next statement is one I wish all brides and grooms would realize:
It’s the marriage that’s important – not the party.” She said that she is most looking forward to “standing with my soon-to-be husband under the chuppa. And then dancing like a maniac with all my friends.”

It’s the marriage that is important, not the party. Are most couples getting that?

Perhaps as we see wedding costs skyrocketing (the average wedding costs more than $27,000, according to wedding web site and the state of the economy, weddings will be brought back in line with what is important.

Suggestion: Spend money on pre-marriage inventory classes or pre-marriage relationship coaching. It’s the best investment you can make in your future.

What do you think? Has the wedding day become the focus instead of the marriage?
Leave a comment and why not look to the right and become a follower of our blog? We are looking for number 25 and it could be you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Not About Race. It's About Parents.

Posted by Michele Olson

Patrick Welsh writing in The Washington Post yesterday had an interesting article titled:
Making the Grade Isn’t About Race. It’s About Parents. An English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, his article talks about the fact that a lot of school districts want to blame the ability of kids to succeed or not succeed in school on race. He believes that this focus is too simple. The real gap is family support and involvement.

He goes in-depth into the problems he sees at T.C. Williams High School and how the tact of the administration to continually look to race as the answer to school issues is just not working.

Instead he states that the lack of a father in the lives of his students has undermined their education. It actually came from his students. Upon being chastised about a low test score a student asked him, “You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us.”
When he did ask, not one hand went up.

This finding goes along with Myth #5 in our free Marriage Myth Buster Guide…the fact that marriage does matter to children because it shapes their lives by directing the time, energy, and resources of two adults in the home toward the child. Of course there are very involved Dad’s who are divorced and don’t live in the home, but the probability of Dad being there on a daily basis rises when Mom and Dad are married and both living in the home.

It’s just another way for all of us to realize the importance of working on a healthy marriage…there are ramifications for generations to come.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, to be from Malaysia,When Discord is In Full Bloom

posted by Michele Olson
Anyone a native from Malaysia and on the brink of divorce? There is a silver lining in your difficulties thanks to your government.
(Perspective, we got cash for clunkers, they get two nights on an island resort....hmmmmm.)
On Monday the Malaysian government announced they had conducted a pilot program that gave couples a free, three-day, two-night honeymoon package with a cost of up to $440. (Seems quite inexpensive in their neck of the woods.) Because they felt that so many couples did successfully solve their problems, the state is now planning a full implementation that will offer a second honeymoon to "couples whose marital problems continued to persist despite having gone through the counseling process." It seems they must consent to udergo more counseling to take part in the program.
State officials claim that much of the marital problems stem from a lack of communication between husband and wife.
Yes Malaysia! And those skills can be learned even outside of a tropical honeymoon weekend through the types of workshops we offer here at, on the ground, on line and through coaching. There is another solution: healthy relationship, skills based education.
Bravo to Malaysia for recognizing the importance of keeping marriages strong in their country.
Anyone up for writing their state and national representatives to see if we can get a similar deal here in the USA?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happily Ever After Depends on Happy Before

posted by Michele Olson

Steven Stosny writing in Psychology Today brings up a great point from a recent posting. Do you rely on your partner to make you happy? He points out that in the age of entitlement that we live in (Also sometimes called the era of Me! Me! Me!) one of the biggest presumptions people have as they enter marriage is that the other person is going to make them happy. (As in happily ever after!) The reality is: if you were happy before you met your partner, you will likely be happy after the marriage; but if you were an unhappy before you married as a single…well you get the picture.

Stosney goes on to describe what happens in a relationship when someone comes in with negative emotions and how it affects both parties. He also includes a marriage quiz which you can take. He feels it’s a good one, because initially when he started using quizzes like this, they only served the purpose of reinforcing blame and resentment. This quiz is designed to uncover self-doubt and turn it into a motivation to heal, improve and repair.

So take this very short quiz and let us know what you found out. (Remember, you are anonymous when you blog if you choose to be.)

Do you agree? Were you happy before your marriage and still happy? Were you unhappy before your marriage and still unhappy?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Couples Retreat - NOT!

Posted by Michele Olson

One of the top movies of the weekend was a movie called Couples Retreat. This flick has some big name stars including Vince Vaughn who we can usually count on for a laugh in a movie. For those thinking they are going to see anything that has any resemblance to a real couples retreat…or that the script wasn’t written from the “get a laugh a minute” point of view, save your money.
You will either find it very funny, funny and offensive, or not your taste in movies, but you won’t find great marriage advice. (Tip, never assume from the previews that you are getting the intent of a movie. Take a few moments to read a variety of reviewers takes to get an idea if a movie is for you.)
Vanessa Farquharson, a reviewer for the National Post, after giving the overview of the movie had this to say:

So, for those hoping to obtain any real insight into long-term matrimonial strategies, allow this humble reviewer to simply waive the ticket price and cut to the chase: According to Couples Retreat, if your marriage is falling apart, the appropriate thing to do is avoid couples therapy at all costs and instead visit a singles resort, where you should pound back vodka shooters until a hateful argument ensues with your spouse, followed by wicked make-up sex, and presto - problem solved!
As Vaughn's character says to his wife: "We don't have a problem ... We have a million problems." In a way, this movie also has a million problems, and yet studio executives didn't seem to hesitate in offering their commitment. Still, audiences may find it much easier to tolerate with a few shots of something beforehand.

May we humbly suggest that a marriage education retreat could really provide you with what you are looking for when it comes to enriching your marriage? Visit our classes tab for classes coming to Wisconsin and watch our calendar for our soon coming online classes. Relationship coaching is also available in person or on line.

We promise there will be laughter and a good time without the Hollywood treatment in a real couples retreat!

Have you been to a marriage retreat ? What did you find to be most valuable about your experience?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Dave Can Learn From Jay

posted by Michele Olson

With all the hub-bub going on with David Letterman right now, it’s time to take a refreshing look at a great married relationship: Jay and Mavis Leno. David says all his shenanigans were before his 7 month marriage, but you can imagine what his now wife must feel like with all this is in the news.

Diane Sollee, Director of Smart Marriages (and the writer of an excellent newsletter you should be getting from posted a May interview in the LA Times by Sue Smalley with the couple. I have a soft spot in my heart for Jay Leno as during my first trip to LA about ten years ago I actually ran into him and had a conversation, a picture and realized he is a very very nice person.

I hope you will read the article because it is just filled with nuggets as to what makes a long, successful marriage….the kind of marriage that makes people who encounter it want to smile and emulate.

A few nuggets:

*They acknowledge each other as best friends.

*They both reflect on their parents who had long marriages and truly loved each other.

*Mavis sums up what she needed in a person: Just be there when I need you, but the rest of the time, I take care of myself. They are both really still their “own person” in a very successful relationship. (*Something I think is very key to a great marriage and attribute to my thriving almost 31 year marriage.)

*They both really admire each other.

*They have similar passions about what’s important and good in life.

*They’ve stayed the same people, with a lot of money or without.

*They live in “us”…what they do ..they do for the “us” not just “me”

There’s also an interesting bit of how Jay just knows when a women is born on Sept. 5th!
Whether you are a Jay Leno fan or not, I think you will become a Jay and Mavis fan after you read this article.

What resonates with you?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Happy Scarecrow / Why We Need A Marriage Index

Posted by Michele Olson
O.K., “non-researchy” people who read this blog. If you are like me, you might read something like Index of Marriage Indicators and slowly slip out of the back of the room to grab a latte while scholarly folks enter into a heady discussion.

That’s why I want you to pay special attention. The social science research lovers among us need no convincing that they should read on…they’ve probably already found the link, left this blog and moved to chew on every juicy morsel. But, for the rest of us lovers of marriage and what it means to society, we need to get this.

There is now a large body of research out there that suggests that the status of marriage influences our well-being at least as much as the status of our finances.

Yes. Read that sentence again. At least as much as our finances, and we all know how much we like to talk about that subject! We’re all about measuring and publishing economic indicators. They are in the news every night. But when it comes to marriage and how it affects the health and bottom line of our society, in comparison, none of us would be able to add much to the discussion.

Here is our chance to have a clear, compelling and commonly agreed upon set of leading marriage indicators that will enable us to focus on the health of marriage in America and what it means to our society. Grab that favorite coffee and take the time to read these indicators, even if you have to add a cookie to the mix to make it seem less like work.

These indicators are from a bipartisan group of scholars. ( I myself always envision the Wizard of Oz giving the Scarecrow his diploma when I think scholarly.)

But I digress.

So here we have it, widely shared, trackable goals that can put us in the same playing field as the importance of economic indicators. No longer, “I think” or “He said” or “She Said” but here is what’s actually happening folks. Look this over and use these facts when talking to your friends, family and circle of influence…as you occupy your title of Marriage Champion.

So without further ado….go and see this great report for yourself. The First Ever “Index of Leading Marriage Indicators” available for free download…or just $5 for a hard copy from The Institute of American Values all at
Read the report and post some thoughts.
Somewhere over the rainbow, the Scarecrow is smiling.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Perfect Addition to Jerry Seinfeld's New Program

Posted by Michele Olson

Jerry Seinfeld whose real life often mirrors his comedy work wants some good “married fighters” for his new TV show. Trouble is- a lot of people don’t want to go on TV and fight in front of other people.

His current project, the first longer form of work since his sitcom “Seinfeld” (that timeless endearing show about nothing) started when he was having a squabble with his wife in real life. During the event, he thought it would be great to have a ref in the room. That was the birth of the idea for his upcoming Sunday night NBC program tentatively scheduled to premiere in March of next year.

In true Seinfeld fashion the program is meant to be funny, not therapeutic.

So the “cast”of the Marriage Ref includes:

*One A-list comedic ref (Yet to be named, but won’t be hard to find…check)

*Celebrity panel to comment (Again, think Hollywood Squares and people between
sitcoms…easy to cast, check)

*Real life couples willing and ready to fight in front of the camera. (Oh, not that easy to find…
hard to check off!)

In relation to a typical “real people “ show being cast, not that many people are showing up for the casting being done in popular places like Brooklyn Flea markets and the Mall of America. Unlike American Idol and other reality shows…this takes the agreement of two people, who admittedly by the very nature of the show argue quite a bit, agreeing to be on the show. Would be actors who just happen to be married to each other and want their 15 minutes of fame just wouldn’t be as interesting as day-to-day people. We all know that day-to-day people who may relish reading about other people’s lives in the tabloids are not that crazy about seeing themselves splashed across America’s TV screens. (For some reason Jon and Kate come to mind here)

Truly, bitter fighting people would be a “downer” on the show, so they are probably looking for a loving couple who can argue in a good-natured fashion while seeming authentic.

No small casting task.

It will be interesting to see if the show is successful and if it brings a positive light to the fact that you can be very different, disagree with humor and still be very committed and loving. That would be entertaining and fun to watch.

It’s a perfect program for to advertise on a national level, so all you lovers of healthy relationships and marriage, feel free to contact us about funding our commercial. We could be the “happy ending” and solution to what was seen during the program.

In fact, it would be the perfect addition to the program…telling America about our great resource on how to communicate and resolve conflict through marriage education, in a healthy way.

Now that would really make it a show about something.

How about you…would you and your spouse go on this program if given the opportunity?