Monday, November 28, 2011

New 5 Star Amazon Review

Many thanks to PaulK for his Five Star Review of "Divorce Proof"

" A must read for anyone (or better yet any couple) contemplating entering a committed relationship. Very well written with a wealth of illustrative examples drawn from the experiences of couples faced with the all too common, but often unanticipated or under estimated, complexities of a shared life. Especially relevant to the challenges that a happy, mutually satisfying, and enduring relationship faces today, this book provides the insights for conversations that support a greater understanding, mutual appreciation and intimacy essential to any successful relationship."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Message

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

On this day, we take time to focus on the things for which we're grateful. besides all the material blessings you may have, be sure to think about the blessings in your relationships. Family, spouse, best friend - what are the things about that person that you especially treasure? Have you told them lately?

Unfortunately, all too often, we neglect to tell those people closest to us how much they matter in our lives. What are the little, or not so little things, they do that you most appreciate?

Feeling unappreciated is one of the biggest complaints I hear when I'm working with couples. Make sure, during this season of giving thanks, that you express your gratitude to the people you most cherish.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Culture of Marriage Around The World

Today we have a guest blog from Neeraj Sachdeva, a PhD candidate who writes about freelancing and self-improvement, often together. You can read about his take on the Essence of Friendship . He also invites you to complete a free test to find your current motivation levels.

Marriage, as a sacred institution, marks an important point in everyone’s life; and one day, it will be just as important in mine. Most of the 25 long and interesting years that I have spent until now have been based on these ideals, and marriage…nay….a successful marriage is something that I look forward to. As we grow and come into our own, we realize that there are some harsh truths to life – nothing is permanent, compatibility is the foundation of relationships, love will only take you so far and more…

So far I have led an interesting life, spending considerable amount of time outside my home country. This post is part confession, part obligation and in some part, information on what marriage, to me, has come to mean.
My folks still claim that marriage is a sacred institution and it marks an important point in one’s life. I still agree with them. Growing up in India was fascinating, to say the least. Spending countless evenings at weddings and being told that someday it will be my turn seems like a memory in continuous loop, one that will always remain.

Indian weddings are notoriously big and pompous in exhibition, leading me to believe that marriage is not really an institution, as my parents made it out to be. Yet, it is. Irrespective of how big the celebrations get, the bride and groom - by the end - are left to their own devices. Tradition still dictates – and people follow – that the newlywed couple must live with the groom’s parents. This is the protective nature of Indian families, and a testament to how difficult marriage and adjustment for women can be, after the day that marks a new chapter in their lives. Indian culture demands respect and obligatory following of whatever is ordered. I was born into this culture, but I seem to have grown out of it. Or so I thought.

Most of my formative years were spent in England, living out of two suitcases, moving from one apartment to another. We as humans value independence, and rightly rejoice it. Yet, I was surprised when married people around me demanded independence and ‘some time alone’ from their spouse. Countless movies had prepared me for the life ahead in England, and I realized that even though marriage was still looked upon, it was by no means a necessity or a norm. On my part, my parents call it corruption of thoughts, but I call it growing up.

Married life in England was not much different from that in India. Well, maybe, a little lonelier. Less people and nuclear families meant that there was little interaction between different married couples. Moreover, many independent and ‘lost’ parts of those couple often found themselves in bed with an independent and ‘lost’ part of another couple. This was heartbreaking, and truly demystified marriage as an institution. The worst was still to come.

The idea of ‘snow-day’ in England was very exciting. Finland has over 100 snow-days; only, they don’t call them snow-day. They call them winter; just regular, plain old winter. So by the age of 24, following in the footsteps of the girl I loved – Finnish – I moved to Finland. There I learnt something new about marriage, something that would shake my foundations and make me question the age-old wisdom my parents so hopefully imparted.

Finland, just like Sweden, has a high divorce rate of 51%. Just a number, right? But imagine this, 51% of the couples, divorce. That is, one in every 2 marriages falls apart, completely. Yet, I learnt that such a high divorce rate did not represent great sadness and frustration in the people of this cold Nordic country – as I thought I would discover. Instead, people were happy and independent, enjoying the finer aspects of their single, and to my discovery, lonely life.

So is divorce really such a bad thing? It would seem not. But rest assured, I don’t intend to think about getting a divorce, even before I get married.
So in this mish-mash of cultures, where do I now stand? I currently straddle the borders of India, England and Finland, emotionally and mentally. When it comes to marriage, I still consider it to be a sacred institution and only wish to marry once, and follow my elders. But there is an addendum – if things were to break down, I would keep my head held high and my integrity intact. Does that make me less scared? Hell no!

The differences in culture that I have encountered have opened my eyes, and italicized everything that is beautiful about how similar yet different we all are. Marrying into another culture is such an interesting yet difficult proposition. It comes with its own issues and its own problems. Getting to know someone and then getting to know their culture requires time and effort on anyone’s part, and there is no guarantee for success. But if you try, you can be better prepared, can learn to enjoy the differences and savor the similarities that make marriage a beautiful institution.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Talking About the Tough Stuff

Most couples have certain subjects that are taboo - or at least very difficult to talk about. My book, "Divorce Proof Your Marriage Before You Say 'I Do' helps couples with these conversations. But what are the topics in YOUR relationship that need to be discussed but are being swept under the carpet? Does it relate to children? money? sex?

I'd love for us to get a conversation going on this blog about those difficult to talk about subjects.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Practical Love

Today, guest blogger, Kenneth Weane, Ph.D., returns with his thoughts about "Practical Love."

The two best indicators of the outcome of marriage counseling are the simple questions. Do you still love him (her)? If you knew then what you know now, would you still have gotten married?

What didn’t you know? That is the typical follow up question. What indeed? Most common are answers about previous relationships, the controlling ways of the partner, and surprisingly often money issue. Two of the three are about what I call the practicality of love – how people deal with practical issues in their love relationship.

Love has many dimensions. Too often the practicality of love is ignored by those caught in the emotional roller coaster. While affect is wonderful, especially during those early days of wonder and sexuality, the practical issues soon rise to the surface. Problems must be solved and finances must be dealt with.

Religion and politics used to be the taboo subjects in our society, which made discussing them before marriage both important and often avoided. Today, we don’t talk about money. We don’t mention credit cards. We don’t say anything about student loans. If the subject can’t be avoided – usually because one person has notable and well-known wealth – a prenuptial agreement is the form of discussion, which tells very little about how the two people actually think and feel about the Benjamins.

Surprisingly, when both partners are entering a second marriage, they are even less likely to discuss money. They think it would look like they were looking for something rather than wanting to reassure their partner that they are really quite self-sufficient. It is often the potential spouse who is actually most eager to get material benefit from the marriage who will be most dismissive. The words, “Come on, we’re both responsible adults” should be a red flag. Usually the one saying it really means I’m looking for a teat to suck.

Which brings us to the real crux of the practical side of love – how are we as a couple going to solve problems? While some books advocate a simple, the man knows best, approach to relationships, most of us recognize that couples need a process by which those concrete decisions are made. There has to be a sense of teamwork and fairness if love is to endure.
If you have a doubt in the back of your head, perhaps you should create a small problem to be solved. One way to do that is to set up a situation in nature. Few things test a person’s ability to work with others to solve problems and the person’s willingness to do his (her) share than rafting down a roiling river. Playing paintball is another good test of a person’s capacity to be on a team. Heck, just go camping and leave out some of the equipment so that there is a small crisis.

You don’t like the outdoors? Okay, start a small redecorating project and make sure it is one that has a built in difficulty. For example make sure the paint you want to use won’t cover the last paint job. Be sure that the bathtub you are removing is a really cumbersome one. Sometimes counselors will come up with a task if a couple in pre-marital counseling needs one. I like asking couples to work on a story prompted by a psychological testing picture. On retreats I used building a clay project without any words (including writing). How do you as a couple come to agreement on the project to say nothing of the execution?

I want to close with a story from my years of practice. I had taken about 45 of my clients on a white water rafting trip. One woman, Linda, was an intelligent lady whose life had been spent raising seven children. Her husband, Tom, was fairly well known in engineering circles. He was in great demand as a consultant. In their marriage he was clearly the leader, which was fine with Linda. But there was something that she couldn’t articulate, something that made her unhappy in the relationship. The problem certainly didn’t appear to be related to the material and practical side of their life. He earned well. They lived in a nice home in a decent community.

Linda was in a therapy group in which she received much positive stroking but in which the men also wondered what on earth was her complaint when Tom seemed like such a good man and provider.

I was in the sweep raft where I could help any of the rafts that were in trouble. About a third of the way down the river we came on Tom standing on a rock. The others in the raft had thrown him out. Why? Because he had been ruining their trip. At every rapid or eddy he had tried to study the problem, figure out just how to proceed. The result was that instead of getting good runs, the raft had been stuck on almost every rock. Bob’s problem solving approach was excellent engineering but horrible for life.
Both Linda and Tom grew as a result of the trip. Linda was better able to articulate the issue, and Tom for the first time understood that maybe part of the problem that seemed to be hiding in the marriage came from him.
The practical part of a relationship is very important if you don’t want to end up stuck on those rocks.

Brief Bio:

A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education. He is a writer by passion.

Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, The Word Place, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories, A Word With You Press, Mirror Dance, and The Aurorean.

Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press. ATTMP will soon be bringing out Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town. Widow’s Walk is of particular relevance to those who are interested in relationships, love, and family.

To learn more about Ken’s writing visit:
For a trailer about Widow’s Walk visit:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How To Have a Healthy Argument

The following is re-posted from the Marriage Help Center's Blog. To subscribe, go to:

In the heat of the moment, we often operate out of anger, bitterness, resentment, and all the other stuff that keeps us living below the line. When EMOTIONS run high, INTELLIGENCE runs low. This leads to blow-outs, attacks, and saying hurtful things. Nobody wins. No resolution is found and one more thing gets added to the pile of resentful ammunition for the next battle.

Is it possible to bring up issues in a productive and effective way? Is it possible to be heard and to come to a resolution? There is a formula, a science, a method, but it takes PRACTICE.

Here are a few simple tools to having a PRODUCTIVE argument.

Timing is everything: When there is an issue that you would like to address ask your partner to make time to sit down with you. Spur of the moment arguments tend to escalate because they feel like a sudden attack. They also tend to be walked out on because something else was planned or comes up. Set a time and don't allow for distractions or interruptions.
Set-up: Sit down with your partner in a dyad. Remember the dyad rules, knee to knee, maintain eye contact, and when one person is speaking, the other person is listening. This creates focus on the issue at hand and eliminates distractions. If you know this issue could become heated, choose a public place, like a coffee shop or restaurant to avoid blow-ups.

Put the gloves down: If you are entering into the discussion in "attack
mode", your partner's gloves will go up and they won't hear anything you say. Change your “state” before going into the argument. Go in with an open mind and a willingness to listen. Remind yourself of what you want; a happy and healthy relationship! This will require you to listen as well and see things from the other person’s perspective.

Words are weapons: Choose your words wisely. The wording used sets the tone for the talk. Avoid escalator words such as "never", "always", and "need". Start the discussion by letting your partner know your intentions and your desires. When we present a list of 'needs' or 'complaints' or 'expectations', it draws out feelings of inferiority and not being good enough. Try to follow this format:

o 1st State your intention. E.g. “My intention is to have a closer relationship with you, and not have this barrier between us because I love you so much.”

o A: What I desire from you is (or for our relationship or for our family, etc) _______________________________. (BE SPECIFIC, for example "I desire more alone time with you.”)

o B: What I heard you say is ________________________________.

o A: Clarify if they didn't hear you correctly. Again, do not become defensive if they heard you incorrectly. Be specific and try using different words to help them understand what it is you truly desire.

o B: So what you desire from me is _________________________? (Ensure you are listening to what they are saying, not what you think they mean).

o B: What I think about that is _____________________________ and how I feel about that is ______________________________. And what I'm willing to do about that is _______________________________.

· 5. If necessary, involve a third party to mediate. This could be a mutual friend or family member that you both trust or a coach.