About Dr Romance
Married, two kids, I've had it
He doesn't want me to meet his family

Fabulous first date?? I thought.
New Baby, No Romance
We've inherited the Divorce Gene!
To Cohabit, or not to Cohabit?
Are we an Exception to the Cohabitation Rule?
Very empty, Empty Nest

They call this a Honeymoon?!
He says he needs to "find himself"?
My husband has a Chat room romance?
I'm in love with my contractor!
Advice for Making it Last Forever?
Is this all there is?
Shoes, Wet Towels, and Crapola
My jealousy is ruining my life

My husband is impotent
Strip Clubs
He is very close to his family
Recycled Wedding Dress
Feels like he's still in love with his Ex
Up all night Fighting
Cold Feet as Wedding Looms
He's Wonderful, has the ring, I'm panicking
How to get my son to Slow Down?
My husband has abandoned our Daughter
I'm getting married next week, Why am I scared?
After 25 Years, we're throwing in the towel

Sick and Tired of My Mother-In-Law


Dear Dr. Romance, 
My husband and i have been together for 5 years, married for 1 year, we are
both very young (24 and 22) and had children at a young age, we have 2 girls,
1 and 4 years old. Against all odds we've managed to stay together. Now we've
had it, we are both ready to call it quits, the arguing and incessant nagging
has become too much to bear. I don't know if I'm just being a wuss and looking
for the easy way out or if this really is the best thing for our kids. This
questions weighs on me like a ton of bricks "is it healthier for the girls to
watch us fight constantly or to have 2 happy separate parents?" I would love
to watch your tapes but we are both working 2 jobs and barely making
it...which i think is another problem that we hardly see each other and when
we do it's nerve racking either trying to get the kids in bed or ready for
school.  All i can do is look at my little girls faces and i cry to myself
wondering what more i can do so their life wont be like this anymore. They
shouldn't have to listen to the yelling. please i know you cant respond to
every ones emails but if there's hope please let me know, i am so out of love
with him and we don't have time to fall back in love.
thank you, robin

First, let me congratulate you for being young and married and so incredibly responsible in raising your two little girls.  I'm going to share your email with a list of 10,000 marriage educators (will keep you anonymous) and I can assure you that each one will be impressed that you and your husband have both been able to find two jobs and that you're managing in these rough economic times to hang in there. You are both heroes - nothing wussy about what you're doing. 

I also congratulate you in seeking help and in figuring out ON YOUR OWN that your biggest problems are the stress of not having time together and the stress of not knowing how to manage normal and expected marriage issues without fighting.  What you haven't figured out is that you don't need to fall back in love, you just need to figure a way to excavate - dig your love out from all the junk piled on top of it and let the sun shine on your love and warm it back up.  

But first, I want you to take a deep breath and realize that separating is NOT an answer. Take that off the list of solutions. Things would only get crazier and more miserable for you and your girls in both the long run - and the short run. Divorce just sounds like a solution because it's taking action.....doing something.  It's like cutting off your legs because your shoes are too tight and your feet hurt all the time.  They really hurt, but things could be worse - much worse.

If you're barely able to make it with both you and your husband working full time, you'll all go under fast if you split households and resources.  Remember you'd not only be splitting financial resources, but time, and emotional resources, too.
There would be even less to go around. 

Imagine trying to take care of your girls while you support TWO households - two of everything, while you work two jobs, get them to school and to bed and to the doctors and feed and clothe and house them.

You also will be splitting the resources of your extended families and friends and community.  You need to hold things together – conserve and figure out how to reorganize resources – not split things up. 

You ask "is it healthier for the girls to watch us fight constantly OR to have 2 happy separate parents"?  Neither! No no no.  It's a huge mistake to think that those are your two options.  And, you make a major mistake in thinking divorce would lead to "2 happy separate parents".  The research is clear, divorce does not lead to improved happiness....only in the first moments when you think "we're doing something, taking action to relieve our pain – cut off these darn hurting feet."  Then reality sets in, and you realize you've just made things worse – much worse.  You'll still have to co-parent with their dad (for the rest of your life) and make not only the current decisions about who'll do what and when and how, you'll have fewer resources and more to fight about (visitation, support payments).  The fights will get uglier, more dramatic, and more unpleasant for the girls about how to spend money and time.  And, you're young - you'll both start dating which will add more players and more disagreements.  And, probably more kids. And, the chances of having a successful second marriage are very much against you - with two little girls, you can expect a failure rate of 85% or higher....you always have more to fight about in a remarraige and the kids from the first marriage become the #1 issue about which you will disagree in a remarriage.

You need, instead, to focus on how lucky your girls are to live with their two biological MARRIED parents.  You've put them in the win column and you want to keep them there. Your marriage is the best predictor of success for their future -  in school, finances, health, mental health, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, their own chances of marital success - everything we can measure.

So what to do?  1) Keep in mind the enormous benefits of hanging in through this rough patch.  2) Understand that it's normal at this stage with young kids and four jobs to be feeling the way you feel - it would happen to any pair that started out as love birds and perfectly passionate soul mates.  3) Realize you CAN figure out new ways to interact that will help you manage disagreements, disappointments and stress in ways that will help you fall more in love each day.  And, remember your girls are watching.  If you teach them that throwing in the towel and moving on to new partners is the way to do things.....that's what they'll learn.

You don't have to fall back in love with your husband - you just have to let the love breathe.  Time and again we've found when couples come to a marriage education class and say that they're "all out of love" all they need is some time and a few exercises and they're amazed to realize they've been in love all along, they were too frustrated to FEEL it.  Love is a FEELING that depends on how we're treating each other. You just have to find a way to excavate - throw off the junk, the  burdens and frustrations, clear a path, start treating each other in loving ways, and let the sun shine in.

There are a million ways to dig out and reorganize and get smarter about how to do this - ways that don't cost anything except a little bit of time. You'll do it your way.  You might want to try to write down what works - maybe you'll get rich - write the guide for others to follow.  But remember that the way you're doing things also takes time - it takes time to yell at each other.  It takes time to cry.  What you're doing saps your energy and kills love and lust - and cooperation. It's also very bad for your health. (Ditto for divorce and shared custody.  Those also take time. And, are very bad for everyone's health.)

The first step might be to find a time to sit down with your husband and tell him that you had an epiphany - a wake up moment and that you want to try to do CPR on your love life.  You might try flirting with him a few days before you have this talk....remind him what love FEELS like. Think back....bet if you try you can remember how to flirt.  He'll notice. It only takes a few seconds and costs nothing. And you have to start somewhere.  Don't wait for him to start, you be the one to start and persevere – the hero.  Then when you get a few minutes to talk, tell him you realize you've been so focused on making it financially that you've lost sight of each other and your relationship - of how much you love each other.  Tell him you want to conspire together to be selfish together, to try to find some couple time. Admit you've been flirting. Tell him you want to make this conspiracy deliberate and do it as a couple - to focus together on finding time for your relationship.  You might even be able to figure out ways you can cut back, cut expenses so you can work fewer hours.

But start by agreeing to spend fifteen minutes a day to focus on each other - talking, swapping back or foot rubs, telling each other what you appreciate in each other, whatever.  A night or a morning or some time each week when you have a date - even if it's just eating a meal or talking or making love.  No problem-solving or talking about money or the kids, allowed.  Try practicing the Daily Temperature Reading - it gives you guidelines ....how to share appreciations, wishes, hopes, dreams - to talk like you did when you were first falling in love: http://www.smartmarriages.com/tempreading.html  

There might be a marriage initiative in your community that offers free classes.  Or there might be something offered at a local congregation - often with free child care.  You usually don't have to belong to a congregation to attend their classes.

All the books on the book list are available in your public library: http://www.smartmarriages.com/app/Media.Booklist

There is information on the website - click What's Free for programs like Retrouvaille or free newslists and marriage forums.   It would be great if you and your husband could find time to attend a Retrouvaille weekend - it's free by blind envelope donation and would help you get back on track. 

Or, just plug FREE into the Smart Marriages search tool and explore what pops up.

If you want to let me know where you live, I might be able to refer you to some nearby resources. 

Dr Romance

He doesn't want me to meet his family:
Q: I've been dating a terrific guy for about six months and
our relationship is becoming serious. The only problem is
that he's reluctant to share much information about his
family and he doesn't want to introduce me to them. I want
to know more about who he is and where he came from.
How do I handle this?

A: Explain that you are getting serious about him and want to meet
his family. He knows what this is about — that in marriage you "marry"
his family and he "marries" yours. You can do this without using the "M"
word though — "I'm starting to care about you and want to know more
about you" — will do just fine.

No matter a couple's age, at six months they begin to move towards a
deeper commitment — or they begin to move apart. You need to know
what's up. This is a good issue to use as an opportunity to move things
forward — or to begin to move on with your life without him.

And since you will always have issues — disagreements, challenges,
misunderstandings — it is important that you learn how to handle them.
Your skill at discussing disagreements is the best predictor of your future
success. Practice with this issue. Your goal is to tell him how you think
and feel about the issue and to understand how he thinks and feels about it.
You go first. Tell him your hopes and concerns about meeting his family.
Then ask him to restate what you've said and clarify anything he didn't
understand. Then, it's his turn. Often, understanding each other's positions
is all it takes, especially if you can discuss the issue without blame, contempt
or criticism. And being good at saying what you mean clearly and listening
accurately will come in handy with any potential in-laws!

Fabulous first date:
Q: I had a fabulous first date with a guy just last week. He took me
out to a fantastic dinner, the conversation never lulled, and we had the
best goodnight kiss. When I saw him at the office the next day, we
exchanged smiles but barely spoke. It's been a week since that first date
and nothing has happened. I'm not sure what to do. If I bring it up,
I'm worried that I'll scare him off. If I don't, I'm afraid I may lose an
amazing opportunity with a terrific guy. Help!

A: Sit tight — he was on that date too. He experienced the same kiss, the
same conversation. He seems to know where to find you — and it doesn't
sound as though you discouraged him. If he's simply playing it slow, or can't
quite make up his mind — you'll eventually find out. In the meantime, you
may be losing out on a terrific opportunity…with someone else! Stay perfectly
friendly but force yourself to get on with it. Making a game of it can help. How
many guys can you smile at in 24 hours? It has only been a week, and he may
come around, but pay attention to the fact that he's already given you some
valuable information. His hot-and-cold style that leaves you feeling confused
and off-kilter may not be what you want in the husband of your dreams. Can't
you just hear yourself saying, "But Honey, I thought you liked the party/the
dinner/my family/the sex?"

New parents, No Romance:
Q: I recently became a mother and I couldn't love my new role or my
new son more. My husband and I are thrilled to have our own little family
now. The problem is that we're both exhausted almost all the time and
get very little time with each other. Before our little boy was born, our
love life was terrific. Now we can't seem to re-kindle that romantic flame.
What can we do to jumpstart romance in our marriage now that we're parents?

A: You're on the right track. Understanding that this is NORMAL and that it's
hard to be passionate when you're exhausted is a great first step. Coming up
with solutions TOGETHER is a great second step. What could be more fun
than brainstorming together about how to raise the romance level in your
relationship? Some ideas:

* Make lists of what you'd like to do when you get the passion back, because
you will. Read them to each other on your first hot date.
* Remember that good sex is all about pleasing each other. Ask him what would
feel really good, and tell him what you would like him to do to you. Don't make
him guess. If it's a backrub or kisses all up and down your spine or if you just want
him to march around naked for you, tell him.
• Listen to Barry McCarthy's Smart Marriages presentation: Marital Sex As It Ought To Be.
Great to get the DVD and listen in the car, now and throughout your marriage (there will
be other times you need to refresh your game.) It's an extraordinary 90 mins that explains
that couples need to design and, from time-to-time, refurbish their own Couples Sexual Style.
* Set a rule: One evening a week, swap with another couple — babysitting
time, that is. Or ask friends or in-laws to watch the baby, or hire a sitter. Prohibit all
talk about the baby — do not use the time to shop for baby stuff or talk about burping
or poo or any other problems — focus only on each other. Having babies is only
one of the reasons you got married!

My whole family is divorced:
Q: We've set a wedding date, but I'm terrified. My parents are
divorced and so are my fiancé's. Even my grandparents are divorced.
In fact, it seems to run in our both families — aunts, uncles and
cousins on both sides. More than anything, I want this to work, but
I don't want to stay married if we aren't happy. I'm glad divorce is
an option, but I don't see it as a "solution." It sure hasn't made any
of our relatives happy, at least not in the long run. Did I mention that
my mother has been married three times? As the date approaches,
this is feeling less and less romantic. Do you think there is a divorce
gene? What can we do to improve our odds — or even our outlook?

A: You are smart to be concerned. Children and grandchildren of divorce
have divorce rates twice as high as those from "intact" families. But there
are great reasons for optimism. New research shows that marriage doesn't
have to be a game of chance. You can learn to take charge of keeping your
love alive and you can definitely improve your odds. There isn't a divorce
gene, but there are divorce behaviors, and you need to learn what they are
and how to replace them with "happy marriage behaviors."

The latest research indicates that the number-one predictor of marital
success is the ability to handle conflict. All couples – the successful ones
that go the distance, and the couples that divorce – disagree the same amount!
And all couples disagree about the same basic issues: money, sex, kids, others,
and time. The difference is in how couples handle their disagreements.

The best news is that there are courses that teach the crucial skills.
For the past five years I've given nothing except marriage education courses
as wedding gifts. I'm a romantic and I want these unions to last! I give a
gold picture frame and a card that says, "This frame is for your 50th anniversary
photo. Put your wedding photo in it now and put it in a place where you see
it every day to remind you of your long-term goal. I've enclosed a certificate
for a weekend marriage education class. It will teach you the skills that will
help you make it to your 50th." List a course on your bridal registry.
Maybe you'll get lucky and get a different course from each of your divorced
relatives. To find a list of courses, visit /directory_browse.html

To cohabit, or not to cohabit?
Q: My boyfriend wants to move in. He says it makes no sense to pay
rent on two places when he's here all the time anyway. He also says
we need to see if we can live together before we get married, and I
can see his point. My mother just told me she read about a study that
says couples who live together before marriage actually have a higher
divorce rate. I'm sure I love him but that's the only thing I'm sure
about at this point. Please help!

A: Your boyfriend is right about one thing — you would save money
living together and combining expenses. In the short run. (Divorce is expensive!) You can
also save money by getting same-sex roommates and waiting until you marry to move in
with him. However, his main argument is, that given the current 50 percent divorce rate, it makes
sense to try things out in advance. The problem is that studies have found that cohabitation isn't enough
like marriage to be a good test. You are testing living together – being roommates – not being "all in".
And, contrary to what seems logical, cohabitation (living together) does NOT improve your
odds of marital success. In fact couples that cohabit are more likely to divorce than
couples that wait to live together until after the wedding.

Cohabitation can set up a destructive way of thinking – a "try it out" mentality – that
can continue after marriage. "If this isn't working, we should bail out. We should have lived together
and tried this out for four years, not three!"

It can also set up a situation where you've lived together and just kind
of slide into getting married. Some men say it feels easier to get married (give
her and her mom the big wedding) than to break up! Even when it doesn't feel quite right.

Research has also identified what is different about couples that make it to
happily-ever-after, and the good news is it's simple behaviors that anyone
can learn, but not by living together. You learn these behaviors best in a class. So, whether you
decide to live together or not, be sure the two of you bone up on the new information
that can actually improve your odds. If you are going to live together at least take a few
marriage education classes while you do so – get smarter about marriage.

Also, research finds that couples who are formally engaged, who have set the date,
and reserved the hall before they move in together have better odds. Moving in with your
"fiancé" is different than moving in with your "boyfriend"– both for the two of
you and for your friends and family.

Are we an exception to the Cohabitation Rule?
Dear Dr. Romance,
I am a college senior and I want my boyfriend to move in with me. We
graduate in May, have been dating for two years and practically
living together for 18 months. I used to spend my nights in his place
while keeping my clothes in my not-so-nice apartment. I now own a nice condo
and he lives in a crappy apartment – so now he basically lives at my
place. We are not engaged yet but we will get engaged before he goes to
medical school in a year. When he graduates from med school, we will get married. We are very
committed to our relationship and sex is not what keeps us
together. We talk about being together forever and starting a family.  We are
best friends and most nights we stay up talking and snuggling. Both our
parents are still married and very happy. We are both well off 
financially and will be getting good jobs in the future. The only thing
holding us back from getting married now is the stigma of getting married too
young. I know it is stupid to worry what other people think, but we are
just 22 and I don't see the difference if we wait and marry when we are 26. The
reason for us living together is not a test to see if marriage will work, we
already know that we would be perfect for each other. I read on your website and elsewhere
that cohabitating reduces people's attraction towards marriage and childbearing, but we feel like our
"almost living together situation" has made us more excited about those
prospects. I know all the statistics say that cohabitation leads to divorce and
unhappy marriages, but the demographics of the people who normally cohabit do
not fit us. Do you think we could be an exception? - Angie

First, you say you already know that you would be perfect for each other.  If so, then get engaged before you move in together. If you've read the research, you know that the more formal his commitment to you is – he's asked your parents for your hand, bought the ring, set the date, and announced this to his family and friends – the better your odds. "After med school" is a long way off – especially in his mind.  if you've been reading, you also know that you're old enough to get married, and if you get engaged now, you would likely marry at 23 or 24. There is no advantage to waiting past 22 or 23 to marry.  One's odds of marital success do not improve by waiting until you are older than 22 or 23 – in fact your odds get worse if you wait too long – success rates start going down for couples who marry when they are over 26. The stigma is based on a misunderstanding about what causes divorce. 

You are right that well-educated, financially well-off couples have a better marital success rates.  BUT there is still a risk for such couples who cohabit. Most cohabiting couples (even those who are educated and well-off) do NOT marry, so they don't even become part of the divorce statistics. If you decide to move in, this is what you are likely to write in a few years:

When I was a senior in college, my boyfriend moved in with me.  We had been dating two years and practically living together.  I had a nice condo and he had a crappy apartment and he slept at my place all the time, so it seemed nuts not to make the move and give up his place. We were not engaged but starting a family and spending our lives together was all we ever talked about.  We'd read the stats, but since both our parents were still married, and we were educated, well off, and it wasn't just about sex, or money – we were truly in love – I figured we were an exception to the "cohabitation is not the best route to marital success" rule. I was more concerned about looking stupid marrying so young than I was about cohabiting.  Now, I wish I could roll back time. We lived together three years.  He just told me last night that he now realizes that this isn't what he wants, he's sorry but we had to end it. He says I should be glad we didn't get married, we'd just be getting a divorce.  I guess I'll never know if we'd have worked out if we'd waited and not moved in together.  But if we had just continued dating and eventually broken up, it would probably have been less devastating.  This feels too much like a divorce – not just to me but to my family.  - Angie

Or, you might add that you got pregnant. Have a baby.  Or had an abortion.  Whatever, living together is huge.  It's a major change in your life – without a formal commitment from him.  It's especially dangerous given how men are wired. All men. Even the educated classes.  The research finds that men who cohabit can justify not getting married because they were simply testing things out, and, whoops, they didn't like the test drive.  If they do marry, they report that they end up feeling like they slid into marriage instead of making a definite, pro-active DECISION. This helps explain why the couples who cohabit before marriage, are more likely to divorce.  Men can justify the divorce by telling themselves the marriage just happened to them.  They thought they loved you and they agreed they were thinking about marriage at SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE, but, mostly, they thought you both were being practical and that moving in was not a binding commitment. He wouldn't even be on a lease.  Men don't hold themselves responsible or committed until they've made a DECISION and a public declaration – have asked your parents for your hand, got down on their knee with a ring in hand, and then said I DO before your friends and families, the church, and the law.  They feel that until they've completed each of those final steps they have escape routes – exit ramps – all along the way.  They're good men and they don't mean to do this but even if they do marry you after living with you for a few months or years, they then can easily justify divorce by telling themselves "It got to the point where it felt like I had to marry her.  It was easier to just go ahead and marry her after we'd lived together and everyone expected us to get married....easier to marry her and then divorce her than to break up with her."  They report that it felt like a shot-gun wedding like having to marry a girl because she's pregnant.

You don't want that.  You say you don't need to live together for financial reasons.  Then wait. Or, at the very least, get engaged and set the date.  

Very empty, Empty Nest:
Q:We just dropped the youngest of our three kids off at college. It's
the first time in 24 years that we've been alone. We're flopping
around in our empty nest and to be honest I think we've realized we
don't like each other anymore. Forget using the privacy for intimacy
(which I'd been dumb enough to fantasize about). My husband has
always been the romantic type, but now he has suggested a trial
separation. Can you suggest anything to help?

A: I'm so glad you wrote. First, realize that you are entering a transition
phase that is supposed to feel strange, flat and off-balance. You've lost
your bearings and buffers, formerly known as kids. You were busy
doing the good work of lighting fires under the kids, but now you have
to readjust and light a fire under your partnership. The good news is that
once you make this crossing, you may be entering the happiest time of all
for any marriage. But it is a challenge. Divorce goes up as couples reach
the empty nest stage — so there is work to do. It's important that you don't
switch from child-focused to career-focused, an easy trap to fall into. It's
time to put your relationship on the front burner. So, first, count your
blessings. You've survived the hard part and launched three kids. Congratulate
yourselves and realize that "empty" is just another word for FREE.

Make lists of all the things you'd like to do. Come up with a few hundred
items: travel, classes, dancing, computers, language, cooking, photography,
genealogy, investing, tennis, sailing, bridge, painting, woodworking,
renovation, volunteering, opera, antiques, golf. The world is so full of
things and they are best enjoyed with a partner. Establish exercise routines
— continue the wild brainstorming on your daily walks together. Vow
to do one new thing a week — and limit yourself to only one to avoid
feeling pressured to achieve too much at once.

Remember that you CAN fall in love again. You CAN have great,
better-than-ever sex. And you CAN model for your children and
grandchildren how to go all the way to the finish line together — romantic,
excited and very much in love.

They call this a Honeymoon?!
Q: We've only been married four months and all we do is fight.
I can't believe things can start out so good and fall apart so fast.
We dated for two years and I thought we were so in love. Now we
can't even agree on what to eat for dinner or when (and if) to have
sex. I'm totally miserable. When I got to work this morning,
I looked up numbers for divorce lawyers. What would you do in my shoes?

A: I'd slow down. Most divorces happen in the first three years because
our concept of marriage is built on a Big Fat Myth. We think that IF we've
found the right person — and "true" love — THEN we'll agree – on everything.
Nothing could be further from the truth! All couples disagree, all the time.
Even if you lived with your best friend, or your clone — you'd disagree. If
you get divorced and marry someone else, you'll also disagree with him.
You disagree because you are two separate individuals.

And that's good news and brings us to another Big Fat Myth: we do NOT actually
"become one" at the altar. You will both continue to have opinions about everything
— till death, or divorce, do you part. And they'll be strong opinions because you
care so much. You MUST learn how to handle disagreements in a way that
makes your marriage stronger, and sexier, and more fun. Successful couples
don't have fewer disagreements, they just accept them as a normal part of
marriage, and know how to handle them.

Not knowing how to fight is not a character deficiency — it just means you
didn't learn how. Understanding that disagreement is normal is the first big
step. The fact that you are newlyweds who "are disagreeing when you are supposed
to be madly in love" has blown things way out of proportion and perspective for you.

The second step is to learn how to thoroughly discuss the issues. Before you
begin, agree to take timeouts if things get nasty or either of you gets too flooded
with emotion to think. Take turns speaking and listening. Many times this is
interpreted as taking turns "debating" — big mistake. The emphasis needs to
be on listening, not on winning. If you can come back in three days and
accurately explain your partner's point of view, you've listened. Ask questions
like, "Is there more?" "I understand what you're worried about, but I don't
understand how you'd like to do it differently. Can you clarify?" You must
do this without contempt, sarcasm, blame, or mind-reading. It takes practice.

Use the next few years — before there are kids on the scene — to really get
this down. And realize that the biggest myth of all is calling this the honeymoon
stage. It should be called the "clash of civilizations" as you hammer out all your
differences and come up with a new culture, new rituals, and a new family – as you
prepare and feather your nest. So relax, respect the enormity of the task the two of
you have taken on, throw away the list of divorce attorney numbers and make a
list of marriage education classes and resources.

He says he needs to "find himself"?
Q: My boyfriend went off to college a few weeks ago. He seems like a totally
different person, it's like I don't know him. He is 18 and I'm 20. We saw
each other everyday for two years. I love him like crazy and would give
up my life for him. He tells me he doesn't feel love in his heart anymore
and that he needs to "find himself." I feel desperate. I'm so afraid to lose
him. What can I do to get my baby back?

A: First realize that although it feels like he took your heart and your soul, he didn't.
You still have all your parts. You have your brain. You need to use it. People,
activity, and the passage of time are the medicine you need to heal your shock
and your broken heart. Tell as many people as you can how you feel, that you
think you'll die from the pain and confusion. Tell your mother and father, grandmothers
and grandfathers, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends. They've all been in love — and
many of them have lost lovers. They will be able to give you advice, comfort and
perspective. Ask them what they learned from love affairs gone bad or the death
of a loved one, and what they'd suggest you do, or not do.

There is nothing you can say (or do) to your boyfriend that will get him back, and
any action from you may only drive him further away. The only thing you can
do is to get busy working on yourself. Take classes, read, write, and work. Send
him a note and tell him you understand that he needs a year to explore college
and to figure out who he is, and that you'll call him in June. He'll wonder how
you can be so busy without him.

And finally, be glad that, when he left, he didn't go to another planet and take
all the men with him. It sounds like you are a passionate, considerate, romantic
soul. There are going to be many other men in your life and you can use this
time to meet some of them and figure out what you ultimately want in a relationship.

My husband has a Chat room romance?
Q: My husband is having a relationship with someone in a chat room.
He talks to her everyday. I recently found a birthday e-card he sent her.
She also sends e-mail messages to him. I don't like it. He said it is innocent.
But why did he lie to me about the e-card? He said he loves me more than
anything in the world. We been married for 11 years and have 4 children.
I love him. I don't want to lose him. What should I do.
- Worried in Fargo

A: Tell your husband that you want to make an appointment to have a calm
discussion about this issue. Pick a time when you’ve both eaten, aren’t tired
or drinking alcohol, and when the kids are in bed. Tell him your goal is to
preserve the trust in your marriage. That you believe him that the relationship
is innocent - just an email friendship that he stumbled into. But you’ve consulted
an expert who told you that email affairs are the fastest growing form of
infidelity - that what starts out as purely innocent can very quickly turn into
intense emotional intimacy. Ask him to make sure his friendship doesn’t develop
into something destructive by including you. Tell him he can do this by starting
an email to her that says, "Hey Suz, I want to introduce you to my wife - the
beautiful mother of my four kids. She’s going to say hello. I figure since we’ve
been corresponding for a while, it’s time the two of you should get to know each other."
Then you take a crack at it and add a nice message. Maybe this will work out just
fine. You can exchange pictures with her of you and the kids, maybe make a new friend.
If this doesn’t work for him - or her - then tell him it’s a sure sign that he’s on a
slippery slope heading for danger and taking you and the marriage and the kids down with him.

Tell him that Dr Romance says that if he won’t include you in the correspondence,
he needs to politely and immediately break off his email relationship and that he
should thank you for your tolerance and understanding up to this point. And,
why don’t you start sending him emails - romantic, sexy, funny, intimate.

I'm in love with my contractor:
Q: I’m absolutely madly in love with the contractor who is remodeling
my kitchen. I’m writing because I don’t know how to let him know. I’m

pretty certain that he is just as attracted to me as I am to him but I think
he’s afraid to make the first move. He frequently hangs around after
he sends his men home at the end of the day. He pretends to stay to play
basketball with my boys, but I’m convinced he does this to be with me. It is
literally making me sick not knowing what to do. Don’t tell me to get over it.
I haven’t felt this alive in 12 years. I searched your web site and saw lots
about skills for making a relationship work. But nothing about how to
get one started. I’m thinking I’ll have him remodel the bathroom to give
me more time. Please advise. - In a hurry in Kansas City

A: There’s a great adage "Love and a cough can not be hid." My guess is that
he knows exactly how you feel. Your hesitation is an indicator that you also
realize this and that you aren’t telling him because you fear what his response
might be. He might say that he understands because women very, very often
get serious crushes on their contractors - and this happens to him all the time.

You do, after all, see him in the most romantic of roles. A man who can fix things,
the smell of sawdust, tools, flannel shirts and male pheromones all over the
kitchen are a pretty irresistible package.

Before you make a move, weigh the possible outcomes. Just what is your fantasy?
That you’ll get married? That he’ll move in with you and your boys and he’ll
continue to remodel forever and ever? That you’ll have an affair for the duration
of the remodeling job? That he won’t charge you?

In addition to the loss of face, you risk the loss of a good contractor - and good
contractors are hard to find! He may be operating according to his own professional
ethic. He may not feel he can make a move until after he’s finished the job, been
paid and you are no longer his client. In which case, prolonging the job would be
your worst move. I strongly advise you to sit on it. If his feelings match yours,
he will act. Now or when the paint dries.

Advice for Making it Last Forever?
Q: I know you give lots and lots of advice, but what would you say is the
most important thing a newlywed can do to make sure her marriage works?
That would be me. I’m just married and so happy I could burst, but so
many of my friends are getting divorced after very short marriages and I
want to be sure things stay happy. Sincerely, - In love in Racine

A: It’s hard to pick just one thing, but if forced to choose, I’d say it would be
"loving listening". By that I mean that you listen to him in a way that he can’t
possibly be in doubt of your love for him. Listen with your full attention and
an open heart. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with him but that you convey
by the way you listen and the way you respond that you care deeply about his point
of view and that you admire, respect and accept him. If you can keep the vow to
listen to his hopes and dreams, fears and concerns, stories, jokes, sexual fantasies,
plans, regrets, inventions, suggestions, complaints - with interest and a lover’s glow,
and without criticism, contempt, suspicion, or boredom then the romance and passion
in your marriage are just about guaranteed to continue to burn brightly ‘til death you do part.

Is this all there is?
Q: I’m ashamed even to write this. I have a devoted, wonderful man who is
very much in love with me. You name it and he’s got it. He’s kind, generous,
handsome, has a good job and, as I said, is totally devoted. The problem? I’m
bored. I’m flattered that someone like him is in love with me. And I’m experienced
enough to know that this is special. I have broken off with several men because
of their unreliability - quitting jobs, lying, even gambling. One borrowed money
from my parents and never repaid it. A few men have broken up with me saying
they weren’t ready to settle down with just one person. Not this one. He wants
to get married and start a family. He’s asked my father for my hand. My parents
both strongly approve. Is there something wrong with me? Is this how it’s
supposed to feel? Are the "marrying kind" (that’s what my brothers call him)
always boring? I worry that I’ll end up an old maid, but I find myself daydreaming
that he’ll get in an accident - that his plane will crash and I’ll be free of this decision.
It’s not that I relish the thought of dating. I dread it. I just can’t make a decision
and he wants one. - Ashamed and confused in Charlottesville

A: No, this is not how it’s supposed to feel. Things shouldn’t feel this one-sided. And,
no, you shouldn’t feel bored at the prospect of marriage. You want someone who
is right for you, not for your parents. You must not do this to him or to yourself. There
are women who will enjoy him and men whom you will find exciting and
stimulating - men who aren’t wild, over-the-edge and unreliable. It’s completely
understandable that you are second-guessing yourself about giving up this very good
prospect and dreading the thought of having to reenter the dating game. A bird-in-hand
is always tempting but you must let this one go. Also, realize that this process isn’t
like finding a new job, where you are told not to quit the old job until you have a new
one. You must break up with him now. You will be doing both of you - and your families
- a favor. I also suggest you try one of the programs designed to help you find out more
about yourself and the qualities you are seeking in a mate. There are many such programs
from which to choose with web sites, classes, books - "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk,"
"Finding Mr or Mrs Right," etc - the names give you a good idea of what they are about.
A course like this will help you narrow the field and set your sights on a better match.

Shoes, Wet Towels and Crapola
Q: I hate to admit that I feel ready to throw in the towel on my marriage
over my husbands refusal to pick up after himself. But I've had it. I feel
so taken for granted and so disrespected. I like the house to look nice. I'm not
asking him to polish furniture. Just to pick up his OWN crapola - shoes, wet

towels, pizza boxes, etc, etc. I know he can SEE the pizza boxes because he'll check inside
to see if there are leftovers. He's setting a terrible example for the kids. This
may sound small but it's ruining my marriage. I've tried for ten years and I'm all
out of patience, all out of ideas. - Nagging in Northwest

A: I strongly encourage you to order a recording from the Smart Marriages
Conference. I really think listening to this one session will help you turn your
situation around. Call 800-241-7785 and order #756-816 "Why Talking Is Not Enough"
by Susan Page. $15.95 on audio CD or MP3 download. Also, it migh help you just to
read this excerpt from another Smart Marriages conference session, "Marriage Makeover" by
Sam Bradley: "I'm very neat. My wife is messy - never picks anything up.
Doesn't even notice the mess - it's below her radar. I cured
myself from my annoyance with her by imagining that she had died
and then asking myself, "If you could bring her back to life but she'd
still be messy, leave clutter all over the house - 5 pairs of shoes in the
living room, would you still want her back?" "Yes, for sure!"
And, it cured me. Whenever I get annoyed with her mess, I rerun the script."

Maybe you should put this in your underwear drawer and read it once a week.

My jealousy is ruining my life:
Q: I have to do something about my jealousy. My boyfriend says he
won’t even consider marrying me unless I can change. I know it’s
worse than that - that I’m driving him away - which, of course, makes
me feel even more insecure and crazy. My mom says to just chill out.
She says I take things too personally - that men are men and there are
some good ones and a lot of rotten ones - some leave no matter what
you do, and some stay no matter what. My dad left her for another
women and she seems to think that’s OK. "That’s life." She can say
that now, but she was devastated when it happened. I’m jealous of every
woman in my boyfriend’s life - his coworkers, friends, strangers in
restaurants, our neighbors. I’m even jealous of women that are unattractive.
I see him look at someone - anyone - and I start shaking inside and tell
him not to touch me. I love him completely and I do want to marry him.
I’m our only problem. As far as I know, he’s never even thought about
being unfaithful to me. Please help me. I have no idea how to change.

A: Clearly, you owe it to yourself to work on this. Begin by understanding that
jealousy is a normal part of a being in love. It serves a purpose by helping us
notice any real threats to our relationship. There are, after all, men and women
who will set out to steal your mate even after you are married and have kids.
Jealousy keeps us on our toes. It also keeps us from taking our beloved for granted
and it can actually increase passion. (A little jealousy when someone flirts with
our partner can make the kisses all the sweeter - and deeper - when they go home
with us.) But, like anything else, it’s all a matter of degree. Your jealousy meter
is set too high and it’s making you miserable. Your strong "hypervigilant" reactions
almost certainly stem from your parents’ break-up. Explain this to your boyfriend.
It’s not that you don’t trust him but that you brought a jealousy demon with you
from childhood that was created by your dad’s behavior and your mom’s attitudes. Ask
him to help you tame this dragon and the faulty thought patterns that sustain it.
The way you learned to think about men and relationships affects the way you feel
- and behave. You can develop new thought patterns based on reality and your
good relationship with your good man. He has probably figured out what sets you
off and can come up with suggestions about what he can do to help - introduce
you at parties as his girlfriend, reassure you about women at work, tell you how
much he loves you and how pretty and sexy he thinks you are, etc. Most important,
however, is to agree that you’ll have a signal - that as soon as you realize you are
beginning to feel anxious, tense and threatened you’ll say something like "here I go again"
or "here comes the sneaky green-eyed dragon." The two of you can then work together
to interrupt the destructive thought patterns and outfox the demon. What’s important
about this is that instead of blaming your boyfriend for simply being a man in a world
of women, it identifies the jealousy as something outside your relationship and outside
of reality-- a monster from the past that sneaks in and takes over. Use whatever works
– humor, holding hands, kisses, talking - to outwit the monster. And rest assured it doesn’t stand a
chance - jealousy can’t thrive in the sunlight of reality and true love.

My husband is impotent:
Q: This isn’t about romance, it’s about sex. And my despair. I feel like a
terrible person but I can’t help myself. I’m too young to live without sex
but my husband is impotent and I am climbing the walls. He’s a diabetic
and is also on medications for high blood pressure and has slowly lost
his erections. Once in a while over the last year, he was still able to have
some erection but even then, he would "it’s not like it used to be." He
has completely given up. We don’t even kiss anymore. It’s hard to tell
which of us is more depressed about this. I feel it is unfair to be sentenced
to a life of misery because of his illness. He agrees with me and says we
should get a divorce. I’m thinking of staying married but having affairs
on the side but wonder if I should discuss this with him first. Or should
we simply end this misery? Lost in Limbo.

A: You don’t say how old you are, or how old your husband is, how long
you’ve been married or if you have children. You do give me enough information,
however, to bring to mind a story that taught me more about sex than all the
sex-education classes I took during my professional training. I had occasion
to reconnect with one of my best friends from college. In catching up, we
talked about love and marriage and she told me an amazing story. Like your
husband, her's had medical conditions that slowly destroyed all erectile function.
At 42, he was completely impotent. But, she said, their sex life was better than
it had ever been. I assumed she meant that he serviced her sexually with his mouth,
hands, dildos and vibrators. She said no, that wasn’t the case. They did do oral
sex and petting sometimes "about as much as when he was fully potent" but that
their main sex was non-penetrating "intercourse" and both reached orgasm that way.
I said that I didn’t think this was possible. She assured me it was. He experiences
no erection whatsoever and they both agree he is now a better lover than he’d
ever been when he was focused on "getting it in and getting off." I told her I
thought an erection was necessary for the stimulation and friction required for male
orgasm and ejaculation. She said no, luckily, that is not the case. That, it's just
like they say: "the brain is the main sex organ." She also said that her husband was
amazed at the depth, intimacy, romance and satisfaction of their sex – what he calls
"real sex." That they talk all the time about how shallow, meaningless, and unsatisfying
their sex was "in the hard old days." They are now intimate and into each other in ways
they didn’t think were possible. She says she lubricates enough externally - that they
don’t need to use anything because "it’s all so sexy" and they glide right to orgasm.
I hope this helps. The lesson is that there are many ways to skin the cat and that we
often get stuck in traditional ideas about sex. Sex is about pleasuring each other,
releasing tension, and about romance, love and intimacy. I realize this may seem daunting,
but remember that it took a long time for things to break down between you. Give
yourselves time to try to rebuild your sex and romantic lives. If it proves too much
and you decide to divorce, you better be up front and tell the next guy that your
vows are for better or worse but not for impotence.

Strip Clubs:
Q: I'm getting married in September. I have a major insecurity about
strip clubs. I hate them and feel they are completely disrespectful
(to sum it up). My fiancé has only been about 5 times in his life
and only once during the 2 1/2 yrs that we've been together. He
didn't know how I felt about them so he didn't think he did
anything wrong. He hasn't been since I've voiced my feelings
and he respects how I feel. He won't go out of respect for me but
it's important to me that he not go because he doesn't want to,
not just because I don't want him not to. I know I'm being
paranoid, but don't know what to do. I think I need some serious help!

Signed, Insecure

A: It's good that you recognize that something is a little off about your
reaction, and that you want to figure it out and work on it. And it's good
that you told him how you feel in a way that he could understand. But,
let's hope your fiancé doesn't read this. We don't want him to know that
listening to you, understanding and respecting your feelings AND
changing his behavior isn't appreciated!

It's also good that you wrote. So many women make this mistake and
confuse instincts and wants with behaviors. Understanding the difference
will help with your marriage - and other relationships - neighbors, pets, kids, etc.

If you should get a dog - it is likely to want to chase cats. Yet it can
learn to overcome even this strong biological instinct because it WANTS
to please you. It doesn't like to see you upset, and it wants to be loved (and fed)
by you. Same thing with a child. You might have a little boy who wants to
jump on the sofa and play with mud in the living room. But he can learn
to harness these instincts when he understands that they upset you. And
he can understand your explanation of why you don't want him to behave
this way. On his own he might not figure it out. It seems so natural to jump
on the sofa – sofas seem made for jumping. Mud seems made for squeezing
through your fingers.

There are dogs that don't want to chase cats and little boys who don’t
want to jump on the sofa or play in the mud. And there are men who don't
like to look at naked women. But you might not want one of those. Count your
blessings as you walk down the aisle with this guy who clearly loves you and
has what it takes. All of it.

He is very close to his family:
Q: My husband and I have been married for almost a year. He is
very close to his family -- too close, in fact. His sister is particularly
dependent on him and always comes to him for help even though she
has her own husband. We (myself and his sister) barely get along.
How can I let my husband know how I feel without causing friction
between us? He is already very defensive when it comes to his sister. - Frustrated

A: I am guessing that you want your husband to love you and your marriage
to work. Keep that in mind as you decide how to handle this. Ask yourself,
is what I'm about to do, say, think going to strengthen his love, admiration and respect for me?

Also realize that as complaints go, this is pretty mild. He could be too close
to an old girlfriend, or off drinking and gambling, or addicted to computer
sex. It sounds like you are describing a pretty nice guy. Making him feel
defensive about being close to his sister will get you nowhere - except perhaps divorced.

And remember that you're only in the first year of marriage. He's trying to
figure out how to balance his old responsibilities to his mother, sister, etc
with his new responsibilities as a husband.

And, keep in mind that men tend to treat their wives as they treat their
mothers and sisters - his loyalty to them is good prognosis for your future.

Actually, you've both got all kinds of adjusting to do, and you’ve plenty of time.
You’re just beginning a 50-plus year journey. Be patient and careful about how
you lay the foundations. The issue of boundaries and how to spend your time
is one that all couples fight about and have to figure out. As you tackle it, realize
that the style in which you handle it is as important as the decisions reached. Also
realize that the "decisions" can change as time goes by. Leave the door open for
new ideas and plan to revisit the discussion periodically. It’s a process -- an
ongoing discussion as you grow together. To begin, make time to sit down and
discuss how much time you each feel you should spend alone together as a couple,
how much time with family, with friends, on community service, etc. Then examine
what the rules and rituals were about spending time in each of your families.

Approach this like archeologists excavating the past. Realize that neither family’s
way was "right" - but that it’s interesting to understand how each family's style
and rules give you gut-level standards by which you are each measuring "the way
it ought to be." You MUST learn how to talk about issues like these in a way
that doesn't make either of you feel defensive - that doesn't use blame, ridicule,
contempt, or criticism. You want to work out a style that draws the two of you
closer. You need to use lots of curiosity, respect and humor.

Also consider the fact that his love for you will grow if you can work on improving
your relationship with your sister-in-law. It will take time, maturity, and creativity,
but I'm sure you can do it. When you marry a man, you also marry his family. She
will be your children’s aunt. She will be in your life till death or divorce you do part.
It would be so much more fun for all of you if you could learn to love her.

Recycled Wedding Dress:
Q: I paid $9,000 for a wedding dress. The wedding was called off. I’m now
marrying another guy and everything is all planned and going well except
for one huge glitch - he doesn’t want me to wear the dress. I love it. I look
gorgeous in it. The dress had nothing to do with fiancé #1. He never saw
me in it. My parents are having a fit over this and don’t want to pay for
another dress. How can I help him realize that he is being illogical and
impractical? PLEASE help. - Sign me: Desperate!

A: I’m sorry, but you’re asking Dr Romance, and I think he is entitled to
his romantic feelings on this one. The $9,000 is spent either way. Do what
you can to recoup it. Put an ad on ebay or in the paper. And find a dress that’s
inexpensive but beautiful and that’s just for him. There are such things - very
beautiful, inexpensive wedding dresses. Tell him you are really sorry that you
made an issue of this and that you love it that he cares so much and that he is
so romantic. That you hope he’ll forgive you for even thinking that this didn’t
matter. Explain to your parents that your fiancé’s feelings have to come first
or it will ruin the wedding for you - that you can’t walk down the aisle towards
him with something this unromantic in both your brains. It isn’t worth it.
And please remember that you are preparing for a marriage, not a wedding.
Dress the part.

It Feels Like He's Still in Love with His Ex:
I have been dating a guy for almost five months. He is a great guy
and we have wonderful chemistry. A year and a half ago, we both
ended relationships of three years. He still talks about his ex-girlfriend
and says the highest things about her—sometimes it makes me wonder
why he ever broke up with her because it seems like he is still in love with her.
He says he is over her and he treats me well; he has even saved and
remembered things that we first did together that even I haven't. Am I
overanalyzing the situation or am I being blind to where his real affections lie?

— In Love in New Orleans

A: You've found a romantic guy who LIKES women and who holds them in
high regard even after a break-up. If he were saying harsh things about his
ex it would be an indicator of a different orientation towards women. He probably
also says nice things about his mother and sisters and female friends. His high
regard for women tells you nothing about how he feels about you. For those
feelings you should look to his behavior towards you, and as you say, he’s doing
very well in that department. I say celebrate the fact that you've found a guy who
likes women and who can see and appreciate their good points. Be wary of men
who tear down their ex-girlfriends, wives, mother, etc. Some women who have
a low self-esteem can only be with men who trash all other women. They sadly
end up being trashed themselves—eventually joining the club of "women with
whom he finds fault." My advice is to quit obsessing about his appreciation of the
ex and focus, instead, on figuring out how the two of you can get past the three-year
milestone this time around.

Up all night Fighting:
I know not many men write you, but I hope you’ll help me. My wife shows
me your column so I know if you answer this, she’ll see it. My problem is that
she keeps me up at night fighting. When we talked to our minister before the
wedding he said, "Never go to bed angry." My wife throws this in my face
when I tell her I can’t talk about the credit card bill at four in the morning.
She usually runs out of steam at 4:30 a.m., gives up arguing, and goes to sleep.
It’s getting so bad that I’ve threatened to get a separate apartment so that I can sleep.
I haven’t threatened her with a divorce, but I’ve found I've started to think about it.
I can’t work and I’m beginning to dread seeing her. She is sweet through dinner
and while we watch TV or go out. When we go to bed the arguing starts. Not
every night, but way too often.

— Fed up and exhausted in Chicago

A:I do hope your wife reads this. Although it’s given with the best of intentions,
I happen to believe that the "never go to bed angry" advice probably causes more
damage than any other counsel newlyweds receive. I suppose that couples who hear
this advice imagine that if they go to bed angry the "spouse fairy" will snatch their
beloved away during the night. Or, they’ve heard this advice so often that they truly
believe that they must resolve all conflicts before going to sleep or their love will
begin to erode. And with this belief, they truly can’t sleep, afraid their love is being
threatened. Physically, this fear fills them with adrenaline and adrenaline prevents sleep.

Because of this, the advice should be just the opposite: "Plan to discuss your issues
when you are both well rested and well fed. NEVER discuss issues or try to handle
conflicts when it’s time to go to bed." Approach such discussions when each of you
are in top form and can think with a clear head and an open heart. With this understanding,
you can feel angry about an issue but go to sleep knowing that you will discuss the
disagreement at an arranged time in the near future. There is no heightened level of
adrenaline to instigate insomnia because there is no fear of the issue going unresolved,
as you both know you have the intention and the ability to handle whatever comes your way.

Here is the internal reasoning: "We have a disagreement that is very upsetting to me.
That’s normal—all marriages have issues and all couples have major and minor conflicts.
But it’s time to go to bed. I can go to sleep because I know my partner loves me and
will discuss this issue with me sometime tomorrow or within the week. We’ll set a time
to discuss it and to look for solutions." Say goodnight to your honey—and with this
approach you might even be able to make love to celebrate (in advance) the successful
handling of the issue that will take place the next day.

To make this system work you must be sure to keep your promise to discuss issues in a
timely manner. To really make it work, you must learn the skills to discuss disagreements
in a way that makes your marriage and your love stronger. Time of day helps, but you must
also know how to manage conflict effectively. If you have difficulty with this, please take a
marriage skills course. It would be a weekend well spent and a great investment in your future.
And your sleep.

Cold Feet as the Wedding Looms
I am a male in my 30's who has been engaged for 6 months and have wedding
plans for late summer. I dated my fiance' for over 4 years before we were engaged
and I could not ask for a better girl. However, with the "date" quickly approaching
I am having doubts and am questioning my decision. I have not been a part of the
wedding planning because it stresses me out to think about it. Any time the
topic comes up I try and change the subject. I have read the article on
smartmarriages.com entitled "What Is It With Men and Commitment?" and can completely
relate to the content. I foresee my life as I know it drastically changing and I am having a very
difficult time with that. I have read numerous other articles about knowing when
marriage is right and when you have found the right partner. I feel that I have someone
that will stand by me through thick and thin - but I question my own level of commitment.
- Second thoughts in Cincinnati

A: I suspect the question is not whether you have found THE right/perfect person – that's a
fool's game; an immature delusional trap. The question is whether or not YOU WANT TO
BE MARRIED – whether or not you want to spend the rest of your life building a marriage and a family.
Realize that you can't do that alone. You can only do that with another human "bean" – whom, by
definition, will have gifts – and flaws. If you have known her for 4 years and you say you
"could not ask for a better girl" – substitute "partner" – as in you "could not ask for a better partner"
and get busy working to build a trophy marriage – one your sons and/or daughters can hope to emulate.
And, start helping with the wedding planning.....it will be good practice for working together
to plan the many stages which you will face over the course of your marriage – nursery planning,
vacation planning, retirement planning.... Check out The First Dance, a wonderful DVD-based program which can
help guide you to get to the first dance together. Unless, that is, MARRIAGE is not what you want.
If not, let her know tonight.

He's Wonderful, has the ring. I'm Panicking.
Q: I saw your website and am interested in talking to you about your services.
My boyfriend and I are both middle age professionals
and I am struggling with commitment. I work in the international arena,
and he is a few years away from being a Surgeon in the military. We really
love each other, but I have growing unrest in my heart about him/us, which I
can't pinpoint. I'm seeing a psychotherapist who is excellent at getting at
"root" issues (mom / family of origin hurts), but she doesn't want to
address my relationship directly. (Perhaps b/c that is not her area of
expertise, or because her philosophy of counseling is to deal with root
issues first, and the relationship stuff will work itself out). My
boyfriend is ready to get engaged (has the ring), but I freaked out and told
him I'm not ready. I really need help from someone who understands
relationships/compatibility issues. I was wondering if you do counseling in
this area or perhaps might be able to refer me to someone who does / or who
can provide some resources? - Panicked in DC

A: We all have root issues - we all had a childhood and a mother and family of origin hurts
- and can still be successful at marriage. You may have cold feet because you've been
paying attention - that is, you know that the divorce rate is high (still around 50%
for first marriages, higher if either partner has been previously married or cohabited) and
you don't just want to be married, you want a happy, successful, sexy marriage. What will
help you is to take a marriage education class TOGETHER - be sure you're on
the same page, using the same playbook, and that you've got the knowledge
and skills to handle whatever comes along. Knowing how to do marriage,
actually master it - know what to expect along the way and how to handle it
together – will greatly improve your confidence. The classes will help you
build and maintain the marriage of your dreams. Marriage education classes
(they're not group therapy - they're education) improve your odds by 50%.
So, take several - there are many different "brands" – and really improve
your chances of success. It's absolutely the most romantic thing a couple
can do – take a class to learn everything the researchers have found about
how to make your love and commitment last. You can find a class on the

How can I get my son to slow down?
My son and a girl he met back at Thanksgiving are seriously contemplating
getting married. I would like info that could help them understand the
importance of waiting. He is 19 and a freshman in college. She's 19 and hasn't
started college yet. Please advice. Thanks so much.
Signed, a mom that can't sleep....

You can find all kinds of information about how to predict the success of
a marriage on the smartmarriages.com web site BUT your son and his
intended are in love and aren't likely to identify....won't see themselves
as heading for divorce no matter what the statistics say about age of marriage
or length of courtship. Actually, there are other factors almost as important
as their ages – like what they've learned about marriage in their own
families about what to expect in marriage and about how to handle the
challenges and realities of marriage. So, my advice to is to start talking
about wanting to help them prepare for a solid marriage that will
last. And emphasize that that starts with the courtship process - a
very important first stage...that doing marriage right, also means doing the
whole courtship process right, and that that 'takes time'.

I suggest you start by purchasing the "How to Avoid Marrying A
Jerk" (or Jerkette) DVD program. Watch these first and educate yourself. Then
invite your son to watch with you. Or, ask him to watch by himself and discuss
the concepts with you. He can then watch with his girlfriend – invite him
to help get you all on the same page – using the same lingo and concepts.
It's not as negative as the title sounds (it's not all about 'avoiding' in
fact the alternate title for the program is "The Pick a Partner Program")
– it's humorous, engaging, practical and all about how important it is to
take your time with easy-to-use guidelines to help couples "pace" the
courtship process and includes all kinds of helpful tips for building a strong
courting relationship that will lay the foundation for a strong marriage. You might tell him
that the Army has adopted this program system-wide -- they see it as a great
program for helping young soldiers avoid rash decisions in these most
emotional of times.

I suggest you purchase both the "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk" keynote and
the Master Workshop - each available on DVD for $29.95 each or on CD for $15.95 at

Session #754-P8 -"How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk"

Session #753-813 - 90-min Master Workshop
How To Avoid Marrying A Jerk/ John Van Epp, PhD
Great marriages begin long before the wedding. Learn what parents should teach
and singles should know about the five keys to successful mate-selection, and
how to avoid the "love is blind" attachment-syndrome.

And, then check back. If they are still heading toward the altar, there's
lots more they can do to make sure they are building a solid foundation.
Maybe you should attend the Smart Marriages Conference and become
a premarital educator in your community. You could spend a full day training
with Dr Van Epp and leave as a certified "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk" program
instructor. You'd love the entire conference – all the marriage/relationship experts in
one place and the public is strongly encouraged to come and 'grab an oar'.

My estranged husband is not paying child support, does not call or
visit our daughter. We were married 14 years before he moved out of state. I
dont know why he won't call her. He don't want to be a part of her life. I don't
understand how he could just leave and ignore her. She is crushed by his actions or lack
of. - Angel
Encourage your daughter to look toward the future. Life is long. In the meantime, try to get her
connected to his family - his mother, sisters, brothers. When she's grown, she may be able to
reconnect with her father, but in the meantime, connection to his family would be next best thing.
Also you are to be commended for supporting this.

Why does getting married freak me out? I am getting married next week,
we have been together for over 5 years, He is
someone I care very much
about and am happy with but I am happy with us just
living together, I
am not going anywhere and I know he is not but why does the
idea of a
wedding, well, freak me out. Why am I scared? - Sara

Maybe because you pay attention and realize that the divorce rate is close to 50%
for first marriages. However, your chances are better than that if: 1) you are over 20;
2) you have college educations; 3) your parents are in intact first marriages; 4) neither of
you has a child from a previous relationship; 5) neither of you has a long string of cohabiting
relationships. Even if you don't meet those criteria, you can still greatly improve your odds by
taking a marriage education class during the first six months of your marriage. Pick a
weekend and take a class and increase your success rate by 50%. That's dramatic. A marriage
education class is the only wedding gift I give. It's practical and what every couple needs most.
And it's fun - you attend together and it's a class, like driver's education or parenting education, not therapy
or group counseling. You learn what the researchers have found improves success and
which behaviors predict failure. It's also romantic. Here's an ad from our Smart Marriages archive:

> Which is more romantic? “Beloved, I know the divorce rate for first-time
> marriages is close to 50% and even higher for remarriages, but I love you so
> much I want to marry you anyway. Our love is so special, I’m sure we’ll make
> it last.” Or, “Beloved, I want to marry you and I love you so much that I
> want to learn everything the experts know about creating and maintaining a
> smart, successful, satisfying marriage – to make sure we can make it last.”

You should also realize that cohabitors have a much much higher failure rate - even
if they have children. Cohabitors have less sex, less satisfying sex, more domestic violence,
and a higher break-up rate than married couples. And you just don't get the same set of
benefits in cohabiting that you do in marriage - the health, wealth, sense of security,
and happiness that come with marriage.

You can find classes at: /directory_browse.html

You might give this article to your fiancée to help him understand the idea of the classes:

Throwing in the towel.
After 25 years of marriage, with a lot of pleasant memories combined with a
lot of disagreement, my wife and I are considering divorce. We've lived
apart a lot in the past 15 years of marriage and for the past 5 years have
lived 400 miles apart. She has always used a crisis in her family (death of
her sister, her dad's illness, daughter's divorce) as a reason to stay put
and not move with me. It was always supposed to be a temporary situation,
but now it feels more permanent.

We argue about money, too. She recently bought $5,000 of doll clothes, etc.
to sell on E-bay. I didn't know until I stumbled on to the bill. I
took strong exception to her doing that and it spurred me on to divorce her,
before she ruins us financially. She's very proud. She suffers
from depression. She lives in squalor.

The problem is that we still love each other. But in my mind, it's never
been a relationship of equals. I was always the one who compromised, except
when it came to staying employed. I have 30 years with my company,
too. When I moved 5 yrs ago, it was move or leave a solid career for
an uncertain future. And I thought that she'd follow me.

I really don't enjoy being around someone so self-centered, but I don't want
to completely abandon her either.

Chuck T

You've managed all these years and earned your marriage badge of honor - and,
amazingly with a commuter-at-a-distance marriage. That's not easy. It's a shame to
throw in the towel on a long marriage just when you're going to really start needing
and appreciating each others love, care and companionship. I can guarantee that if you
would go together to a marriage education class things would change.....maybe not into
a perfect bed of roses but there would be more communication, understanding, trust,
appreciation, happiness, and love. LOVE IS A FEELING that is based on how we treat
each other. The roots are there and little love shoots can come back if they get what they
need - sunshine, fertilizer, water. It's Spring. Go learn together how to treat each other
in more loving ways (what each of you needs to thrive) and enjoy the blossoms. Surprise
her with a marriage class...make it part of a "marriage vacation" and take a class in a
romantic destination. Or, surprise her with one of the LEARN AT A DISTANCE programs
and watch the DVDs together. You might also suggest that you both go in for a Spring
tune-up - get doctors appointments together and get your plumbing and hormones checked.
You've done the good work and been a good provider all these years but realize you're
not going to work for that company forever. Today, take a stand not just to stay married
but to begin positive steps to prepare for a joyful life together AFTER you retire.

P.S. You might also want to surprise her with a trip to San Francisco. The Smart Marriages
gathers all the programs in one spot once a year - many couples attend.
With 3,000 people you'd blend right in and - sample all the programs under one big tent.
And, this year we meet in San Francisco one of the world's most romantic cities - it just
might be the perfect tonic.

Dear Dr. Romance,
I’m tired of playing 2nd fiddle to his mother. We’ve been married for 8 years
with children. This woman calls him a few times everyday. She acts like she
is just so needy. He is not the only child but she act like he is. As a
matter of fact, he is the only one that has small children. The other
siblings have adult children. She has told him things like well “you’re only
going to have 1 mother”, as if to say that he can have several wives. This
is my first marriage but his second. She is very manipulating. She will cry,
lie or use guilt to make him do anything she asks. One day he told me he had
to go get his mother some orange juice. He drove 50 minutes for that & forgot
to get the baby some milk. I hit the ceiling. He has forgotting the baby dr.
appt but remember to take his mother to hers. My husband has paid her bills
before he even paid ours. She gives me this smirk when things go her way. I
am so sick of her & the rest of his family too. That’s the only thing we
argue about. I spoke with him about it several times & gives him examples of different
occasion that he put me & the children second. He always says, “oh I didn’t
think about it like that” or “I didn’t mean anything about”. He just doesn’t
seem to get it. Please help. - Tired of playing 2nd fiddle

Most who are complaining about husbands, are complaining because he's running
around with other women, always out with the boys, not working, watching porn,
abusive and cruel, drinking and/or doing drugs, gambling, or spending too
much time and money on his ex-wife and their kids and is way too much under the
influence of the ex-wife – running around and doing her bidding and she calls five times
a day. As difficult as this is for you, the first thing you should do is count your blessings.
Your husband sounds like a paragon of virtue who is modeling for your kids that it's
good to try to balance it all – be a good husband, father AND a good SON. He's showing
your kids how to love, take care of and respect one's mother and sending them the
message that they should, someday, do the same. It sounds like this husband of yours
has lots of love - plenty to go around, and that he simply needs help with scheduling.
You might find ways to help him take care of his mother to free him up to have more
time with you. You could offer to help - if you're the one who has to run around and help her,
it might cut back on her calls for help. Overwhelm her with love and attention - you call
her several times a day to ask what she needs and if she's OK. Say, "i'm going to the store,
do you need anything?" Or help him by making lists so that when he goes to get her orange
juice he has a good list of what you need for the baby. Or, have her move in with you. That
would dramatically cut down on expenses (and bill paying) and cut out all the time he wastes
driving to get her orange juice and whatever. What you do not want to do is to force him to
choose between the two of you. If you stay sweet and loving, appreciative and helpful, he'll have the
emotional energy to see his mother's demands in a clearer, uncluttered perspective. Instead
of it being about you vs. his mother, he'll be able to see it as him and his mother and his
time. He might be able to arrive at a new position and set some boundaries with her. However, even
if he can't, I'm sure you receive a lot more from him – love, money and support –
than you will have if you two divorce. GET CREATIVE about ways that you can show him
you love him and his momma and that you're thrilled that she raised such a wonderful, caring and
generous man.

To the Smart Marriages/Smart Romance Directory to find a marriage or relationship education class.

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