Making Marriage Work For Dummies


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Table of Contents

Foreword xxiii

Introduction 1

Why You Need This Book 1

How This Book Is Organized 2

Part I: What It Means To Say “I Do!” 2

Part II: Can We Talk? 2

Part III: Making Marriage Sexy 3

Part IV: Examining the Marriage Life Cycle 3

Part V: Maintaining a Healthy Marriage 4

Part VI: The Part of Tens 4

Icons Used in This Book 4

Where to Go from Here 5

Part I: What It Means To Say “I Do!” 7

Chapter 1: Taking a Candid Look at Marriage 9

To Marry or Not to Marry? 9

Understanding Marriage Pluses and Minuses 11

Marriage pluses 11

Marriage minuses 12

Why Marriage Isn’t for Everyone 14

Knowing that Unrealistic Expectations Cause Problems 14

Deflating Six Common Marriage Myths 15

Finding Mr or Ms Right 16

Two people in a good marriage automatically grow closer with time 16

When couples argue, it destroys the relationship 16

Pursuing your own individual needs is incompatible with making a marriage work 17

Marriage partners can fill the gaps in one another’s makeup 18

The goal of marriage is for both partners to get exactly what they want 19

Chapter 2: The Five Building Blocks of a Working Marriage 21

Developing a Realistic View of Marriage 21

Treasuring What the Two of You Have in Common 24

Making Room for Separateness in Your Togetherness 27

Agree to do some things separately 29

Develop a balance that suits your relationship 31

Making the Most of Your Differences 31

Combine your strengths 32

Using your differences to mirror one another’s positive traits 32

Remember that your differences were once interesting and pleasurable — not sources of conflict 32

Accepting That Not All Problems Can Be Solved 33

Part II: Can We Talk? 35

Chapter 3: Understanding the Roots of Marital Problems 37

Unraveling a Three-Sided Story 37

Recognizing what you bring to the mix 38

Recognizing what your partner brings to the mix 40

Recognizing the patterns in your marriage 42

Changing negative patterns through positive mirroring 43

Working Together to Build a Stronger Marriage 44

How is your marriage doing? 45

Troubleshooting marital problems 46

Chapter 4: Communicating with Your Partner 47

Recognizing That You’re Always Communicating 48

Watch for changes in mood and attitude 49

Tune into body language 49

Look for signs of nervousness or tension 49

Double-check the meaning of gestures 50

Understanding How You Talk to Each Other 51

Sharpening your listening skills 52

Recognize the impact of conversational pacing differences 55

Husbands, Wives, and Their Communication Styles 56

Understanding the Importance of Negotiation in Marriage 58

Applying the tools of win-win negotiation to marriage 59

Maintaining an ongoing dialogue — especially in matters of the heart 62

Chapter 5: Fighting the Fair Way 65

Understanding That Fights Will Happen 65

Looking for Signs of Unhealthy Fighting 66

Does one spouse fear the other? 67

Does one spouse become physically threatening? 67

Does one spouse destroy property? 67

Does one spouse become verbally or emotionally abusive? 68

Do you fight in front of your children? 69

Does alcohol play a role in your fights? 70

Negotiating to Prevent Fights, When Possible 70

Punctuality 71

Neatness 73

Planning 75

Having a Healthy Fight 76

Defer to the partner who feels most strongly 76

Assume good will 78

Maintain a balance, but don’t keep score 78

Following the Rules of Fair Fighting 79

Be clear about what you (and your partner) want 79

Limit the scope of the argument to the issue at hand 79

Seek a resolution that both of you can live with 80

Go to bed angry, if necessary 80

Look for exceptions 80

See the glass as half full, not as half empty 81

Remember to be kind 82

Apologize when you need to 83

Avoiding the Don’ts of Fair Fighting 83

Don’t look for total victory or unconditional surrender 83

Don’t intentionally prolong the argument 83

Don’t nag or withdraw 84

Don’t bring out the heavy artillery 85

Part III: Making Marriage Sexy 87

Chapter 6: Developing a Great Sex Life 89

Understanding Changes in Sexual Chemistry 89

Communicating Your Sexual Desires 91

Breaking Down Three Major Roadblocks to Good Sex 94

Children 94

Stress and marital tensions 96

Workaholism 96

Understanding Why People Don’t Know What to Expect from Sex 97

Deflating Five Common Sex Myths 98

Men are more interested in sex than are women 99

Married people don’t (or shouldn’t) masturbate 100

Foreplay is a separate part of the sexual experience 100

There’s a difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasms 101

Sex fades as a couple ages 102

Chapter 7: When Sex Falters 105

Recognizing Potential Blocks to Sexual Pleasure 105

Understanding the Causes and Treatments of Sexual Dysfunction 107

Problems with sexual desire 108

Problems with sexual arousal 110

Problems reaching orgasm 113

Finding the Right Kind of Professional Help 117

Part IV: Examining the Marriage Life Cycle 119

Chapter 8: The First Years of Marriage 121

The New Most Important Person in Your Life 121

Negotiating family loyalties 122

Setting boundaries with both your families 125

Understanding the Shifting Role of Friends 127

Negotiating opposite-sex friendships 129

Developing friendships with other couples 130

Coming to Terms with Changes in Sexual Chemistry 132

Adjusting to Each Other’s Rhythms and Quirks 133

Pinpointing Early Marriage Danger Zones 136

Chapter 9: The Growing Family 139

Deciding Whether You’re Ready for Children 139

Choosing when to have a child 140

What if you and your spouse can’t agree about having children 141

Getting Ready for the Financial Hit 142

Understanding the Emotional Impact 144

Balancing Career and Family 146

Resolving the Childcare Dilemma 148

Considering alternate work styles 149

Dividing parental responsibilities 150

Deciding to Have a Second Child 152

Marriage without Kids 154

Chapter 10: Women and Men at Midlife 157

Recognizing the First Stirrings of Middle Age 157

Meeting the Challenges of Your “Second Adulthood” 161

Evaluating your personal satisfaction 162

Evaluating your satisfaction with family-planning choices 164

Evaluating your career satisfaction 165

Understanding Men’s Midlife Concerns 167

Understanding a Woman’s Emotional Changes at Midlife 169

Understanding a Woman’s Physical Changes at Midlife 171

Chapter 11: Making the Most of Marriage at Midlife 175

Evaluating Your Marriage at Midlife 176

Becoming a Couple Again after Children Grow Up 178

Redesigning Your Marriage 180

Caring for Aging Parents 181

Planning for Retirement 184

Chapter 12: Remarriage and Stepfamilies 189

Understanding the Emotions of Remarrying 189

Remarrying after the death of a spouse 190

Remarrying after a divorce 191

Making a Second Marriage Work 193

Understanding the Complex Issues That Stepfamilies Face 194

Understanding remarriage finances 195

Forming a new family unit 196

My children, your children, our children 199

Part V: Maintaining a Healthy Marriage 203

Chapter 13: Reducing the Stress on Your Marriage 205

Understanding Negative and Positive Stress 206

Dealing with Your Own Stressors 206

Keeping Stress from Undermining Your Marriage 209

Dealing with Stress in the “Red Zone” 212

Understanding the Connection Between Stress and Control 214

Assessing the Impact of Stress on Your Marriage 215

Chapter 14: Exploring the Role of Money in Marriage 219

Recognizing How You and Your Partner Deal with Money 219

Recognizing How Money Problems Can Threaten Your Marriage 222

Understanding what’s behind compulsive spending 223

Understanding what’s behind miserly behavior 224

Recognizing How Money Impacts the Balance of Power in Marriage 225

Understanding How a Flexible Marriage Protects Your Financial Future 228

Chapter 15: Examining Extramarital Affairs — and Knowing What to Do about Them 231

Understanding What an Affair Is — and Isn’t 232

Understanding Why (and When) Spouses Cheat 233

Danger zone 1: Shortly after the wedding 234

Danger zone 2: When a baby enters the family 235

Danger zone 3: The seven-year itch 237

Danger zone 4: The midlife marriage crisis 238

Understanding What to Do About a Cheating Spouse 241

Admitting Versus Denying Infidelity 244

Rebuilding a Marriage After an Affair 245

Chapter 16: Getting Outside Help 249

Recognizing Problems that Require Outside Help 249

Problem drinking 250

Drug abuse 251

Compulsive gambling 252

Domestic violence 253

Unresolved grief 254

Depression 255

When a child has a serious physical or emotional problem 256

When the two of you are unable to resolve differences 257

When one or both of you has decided to seek a divorce 257

Finding the Right Kind of Outside Help 258

Deflating Six Common Therapy Myths 261

One school of therapy is better than another 262

Successful therapy has more to do with the therapist than the client 262

A therapist’s job is to make you feel good 262

A therapist is supposed to champion your cause 263

A therapist’s views and values don’t matter 264

The goal of therapy is to solve all your problems 264

Chapter 17: Understanding Divorce and Its Alternatives 267

Deciding if Your Marriage Is Worth Saving 267

Evaluating your investment in the marriage 269

Understanding the impact of divorce on children 272

Winning Back Your Mate 275

Reframing Your View of a Flawed Marriage 277

Creating the Kind of Marriage That Works Best for You 279

Agree to live as friends or compatible roommates 279

Make family your main priority 280

Recast your marriage as a business partnership 280

Have a low-risk extramarital affair 281

Recognizing When Divorce Is Your Best Option 281

Part VI: The Part of Tens 283

Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Make Your Marriage More Romantic 285

Pay Attention to Your Appearance 285

Show Your Love Every Day 286

Use Words of Love 286

Use a Gentle Touch 287

Make Time to Be Alone Together 287

Do All of the Traditional Things — Even if They Seem Corny 288

Do Something Out of the Ordinary 289

Play and Laugh Together 290

Revisit Your Shared History 291

Chapter 19: Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner 293

“You Never” or “You Always” 293

“Yes, But ” 294

“It’s All Your Fault” 295

“Are You Getting Fat?” 295

“That’s Not My Job” 296

“Why Can’t You Be More Like ?” 297

“I’ll Try” 297

“Forget It, I Don’t Want to Fight” 298

“I’m Getting a Divorce” 298

Chapter 20: Ten Ways To Have a Fair Fight 301

Understand What’s Really Going On 301

Stick to the Issues 302

Listen Beyond the Literal Words 302

Look at Both Sides 303

Look for Ways to Bend without Breaking 303

Use Strategic Timing 304

Don’t Garbage-Bag 304

Don’t Go for the Jugular 305

Don’t Take the Moral High Ground 305

Make Sure Both of You Can Live with the Outcome 305

Chapter 21: Ten Signs That Your Marriage Is in Trouble 307

One Spouse Is Physically Violent 308

One Spouse Is Verbally Abusive 308

One Spouse Is Abusing Alcohol or Drugs 308

One Spouse Has a Problem with Compulsive Gambling or Compulsive Spending 309

One Spouse Is a Workaholic 310

One Spouse Is Having an Affair 310

One Spouse Is Depressed 311

The Two of You Disagree About Having Children 312

You and Your Partner Have Stopped Having Sex 313

You and Your Partner No Longer Enjoy Being Together 314

Chapter 22: Ten Ways to Have a More Exciting Sex Life 315

Make Sexual Contact Part of Your Everyday Life 315

Expand Your Sexual Horizons 316

Tell and Show Each Other What Pleases You 317

Unleash the Power of Fantasy 318

Take Advantage of Pornography 318

Make Special Time for Sex 319

Become an Artful Kisser 319

Don’t Focus Just on the Orgasm 320

Talk Sexy 320

Have Sex With Someone You Love — Yourself! 321

Appendix A: References 323

Chapter 1 323

Chapter 2 323

Chapter 4 323

Chapter 5 324

Chapter 6 324

Chapter 7 325

Chapter 8 325

Chapter 9 326

Chapter 10 326

Chapter 11 326

Chapter 12 327

Chapter 13 328

Chapter 14 328

Chapter 15 328

Chapter 16 329

Chapter 17 329

Chapter 22 329

Sources of Quotations 330

Bibliography 330

Appendix B: Resources 335

Premarital Counseling 335

Therapy and Counseling 335

Infertility and Adoption 336

Sexual Difficulties 336

Stress 337

Retirement 337

Mental Illness 337

Alcoholism and Other Addictive Behaviors 337

Domestic Abuse 338

Divorce 338

Index 341

About the Author

Steven Simring, M.D., M.P.H., and Sue Klavans Simring, D.S.W., are experienced lecturers and psychotherapists who have appeared regularly on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Montel Williams Show. Gene Busnar is a freelance writer.

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