Thursday, March 17, 2011

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- Lauren

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Transitioning from Dating to Marriage Mentality - by Emily

Editor's Note: This needs no intro. Other than for me to tell you that it just called me out. I am a woman who prefers to keep my problems to myself, my fears silent, my bills and paperwork handled on my own, and be fully responsible for everything. I always want to shoulder my own burdens, and fix everything in my daily life before it spills into someone else's; particularly into the life of the man I care about. Maybe it's because I don't ever want to admit I can't do everything on my own, or maybe it's because I feel guilty asking for help. Either way, marriage isn't very conducive to living life on your own in this way. After reading Emily's submission today, I promised myself I would give up the reigns and let someone in. To everything. It's not going to be fun - and quite honestly, fairly terrifying - but it's going to be GOOD. So, thank you Emily for encouraging me to do this, and reminding me that it is worth it. - Lauren

About a month ago, my husband and I found ourselves at our dining room table celebrating the long-awaited engagement of our two best friends. At some point between hearing the re-telling of the engagement story, squealing (that was me, not my husband) over the perfect ring, and dreaming about the beautiful wedding to come, the couple mentioned that they wanted to know how we made the transition from dating to marriage, and what was the secret to our happiness.

(okaaaay... so that *may* not quite be how it went down. In my memory, it went something like this: “You guys are soooooooo wise and happy and pretty much awesome at marriage, teach us your ways!” In reality, it was probably like “So, you guys are married…” and I started talking. But, you know what? It’s my story and I’ll write what I want to!)

At first, I was kind of stumped. My husband and I dated for five years before getting married, so we knew each other really well by the time we walked down the aisle. We never lived together – in fact, we lived in different cities for the last 1.5 years of our courtship – but somehow we seemed to dodge the first-year-of-marriage-is-really-really-tough bullet.

Perhaps this is because our lives were quite smooth that year: we moved to a new city (easing the in-law stress and allowing ourselves to get established as a couple), but we both had transferred our jobs so we were both working and did not had the stress of looking for a job. We both had business backgrounds, and because our attitudes about money lined up really well we planned ahead instead of fighting afterwards. We started out with nothing – literally, nothing – but our really small apartment didn’t take much time or money to fill. Oh, and the apartment? Pretty much brand new. Yup, we didn’t have to do much in terms of maintenance.

Sure, we had our challenges. We didn’t really know anybody in our new city, so we had some misadventures trying to make friends. We only had one car, so driving downtown together as a chatty morning person (him) and a don’t-even-look-at-me-it’s-before-8am silent NOT morning person (me) was maybe not the easiest. But overall, our first year of marriage was spent enjoying one another, exploring our new city, and trying to figure out what adults do with their time. What could I possibly tell this couple to think about as they prepared to transition from dating to marriage?

And then? It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had to tell them about THE REST.

If you’re dating the man that you’re going to marry, your “together” life is probably full of fun. Not that it’s all rainbows and giggles and unicorns, but you have to agree with me: your life is probably divided between “dating things” (going to dinner, going to the movies, playing sports or going for walks or doing active things together, etc.) and THE REST (doing your laundry, paying your bills, cleaning up after yourself, running errands, etc.). Even if you sometimes do more mundane domestic things together, like cooking dinner at home, grocery shopping, or laundry, you have to admit that these things have a dating shine on them.

For example, when we were in college hubs and I went grocery shopping together. We gazed at each other with goo-goo eyes in the produce section, laughed in the baked goods aisle, and decided we were MEANT TO BE when he answered the tough question of pulp or no pulp in the orange juice aisle correctly (answer: pulp, duh! Pretty sure this exchange resulted in a ridiculous jump-in-the-arms-twirl followed by a smooch. They probably had to do a clean-up-on-aisle-6 after everyone in the vicinity threw up because of this saccharine moment. Sorry, Food Lion!).

But when you get married, you not only share your fun times… you share THE REST as well. Note, I’m not talking about the bad or tragic things… you share those too… but I’m talking about the day-in-day-out always-running-in-the-back-of-your-mind stresses that make up life.

Now that you're married, if you feel stressed about money, it’s your shared stress about your shared money. You have to go to the grocery store, because if you don’t, you both won’t eat (and you can’t just stock your freezer with Lean Cuisines… hubs could eat a LC for an appetizer). You need to get that huge pile of shared laundry running or no one will have clean underwear for work.

And the problem with THE REST is it doesn’t matter how much or how little your husband helps out with everything – I know, because I am blessed with a very helpful husband. The real problem is that, subconsciously, when you think about your relationship it’s not just fun anymore. And sadly, I think that’s why so many young women feel this dissatisfaction and say “Well… I just don’t know what to do. We used to have so much fun. Clearly, he’s just not who I thought he was, I made a bad decision, and I will choose better next time!” But friends, I have a secret: THE REST will always be waiting for you.

So, what is a good woman supposed to do with this information?

First, just absorb it. Knowledge is power, ladies, and whether you are dating, engaged, or newly married, knowing that THE REST is there and will affect your feelings about your married life (subconsciously) will help you to deal with those feelings if and when they pop up.

Second, if you do feel overwhelmed, disillusioned, or frustrated with married life because of THE REST, talk to your partner about it. Remember – it’s not you, and it’s not him, it’s just life! Being able to say “Honey, I’m feeling really overwhelmed by our finances, the laundry, and our errands, and it’s starting to affect my overall happiness” is a really powerful thing! Sometimes just calling something out for what it is can help relieve the burden of those emotions.

And third, make a plan to tackle THE REST together.

In our first year or marriage, my husband and I had Saturday morning cleanup – we had a chore chart (seriously, pretty sure there were gold stars involved) and we traded duties each week. We also set up times to review our finances (usually monthly), and made a weekly list of errands that needed to be done.

In a few hours, we had addressed THE REST together and could get back to what we did best: having fun together and loving each other.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rachel's Story: Verbal Abuse & Expecting Your Parents' Marriage

Editor's Note: The relationship we witness between our mother and father define our expectations of marriage from a very early age. Normalcy ranges from the strongest, most loving and affectionate of marriages to homes filled with abuse of all kinds, neglect, anger, violence, tension & abandonment. Unfortunately, we are built to mold ourselves around our definition of normalcy, putting our hearts, bodies and future marriage at risk. Sit down and face your parents' marriage. Write down what you want of it and what you don't want. Don't be afraid to want the best of the best. The good women wait and fight for that. Rachel shares her story of an unhealthy relationship; one that she accepted as normal and acceptable, as defined by watching her parents' marriage. Thankfully, she escaped. She chose to wait, and she fought for better. And now, (I can personally attest to this), she has a man who loves, respects and protects. A marriage & life that she LOVES and thrives in. - Lauren

"I can tell you haven't been to the gym in a few days."

I was setting up our church for a youth event when heard those words and felt two hands pinch both sides of my size 4 waist. Tim, my semi-serious/on again-off again boyfriend, was a real stickler for fitness, style, and pretty much everything about who I was.

"Don't use words like 'gargantuan' and 'superfluous' when you're makes you sound like you are trying too hard."

"I think girls that wear brightly colored nail polish look trashy. You should stick with clear or none at all."

"Don't cut your hair short, you won't be as pretty."

"You look better in flat shoes, don't wear the kind with the heels."

"You should stop dying your hair, I think the natural look is better than your highlights."

"I don't like it when you hang out with Kate, wouldn't you rather spend all your free time with me?"

"I'm older than you, so I obviously know more about this stuff."

The list of manipulative and controlling comments goes on and on. Looking back I can't believe I put up with him for as long as I did, but he had me convinced he was the best I could do. When I first started dating him, all my friends were freaking out because they all had major crushes on him--he knew they thought he was amazing--and he treated me as if I should be honored that he chose me over all the other girls. He was also the first "Christian" guy I had ever dated, so I thought being with him was good for me. I never thought of it as verbal abuse at the time, but I knew his comments didn't make me feel good about myself.

Every time I tried to end the relationship, he would show up at my front door with some dramatic apology, even going as far as shedding some tears, sending me flowers, and offering promises of change if he could just have one more chance. This cycle went on for two whole years before I was able to get out once and for all; when I finally realized I was allowing him to change who I was rather than having someone who simply loved me for me.

If I back track through my early childhood I can connect the dots to why I allowed myself to be treated this way for so long. I watched my parents treat each other terribly during their marriage. I remember hearing them fight, my mom taking off and leaving for several hours or packing my brother and me up and taking us to my grandparents for a few days. I remember my dad admitting to cheating on my mom with over 50 different women, I remember walking in on my mom when she was fooling around with another man as a way to get revenge on my dad...all this by the time I was just six years old. Each time they would separate, my dad would beg and plead to have another chance, my mom would take him back and in a few months the cycle would repeat.

It took 15 years of this before they finally got a divorce, and I'll say that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm not an advocate for divorce by any means, but if any two people should not be together, it was my mom and dad. I know now that their relationship was super jacked up, but as a little girl, my view of my parent's marriage subconsciously shaped what I thought love looked like, and how people should be it's obvious why I allowed myself to be in bad relationships for so long-I thought the drama was normal. After their divorce my mom remarried a man that I believe God brought into our lives to teach me about what marriage and love is really all about.

As an adult I decided I never wanted to settle for being treated the way Tim treated me ever again. I took the lessons I learned from my parents marriage and my own experiences and made a list of what I wanted for my own marriage someday. I committed my list to the Lord and asked him to bring me a man who would match my list. A few years later I was introduced to my husband, and he is the most caring, supportive and kind person I have ever known--and he definitely does not try to control me.

We've been married 5 years and I couldn't be happier. If I could offer one piece of advice to any woman today who finds herself in a bad relationship it would be this: Don't sell yourself short, or allow someone else to chip away at who you are, because eventually you won't even recognize yourself.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fighting For Marriage Instead of Money - by Jennifer

Editor's Note: Finances are one of the primary sources of conflict (and divorce) in marriages. It affects trust, faithfulness, stress, sex, family members - everything. When you decide to commit the rest of your life to someone, that means fighting for it, together - and not against one another. Because we put so much physical and emotional energy and time into our bank accounts, financial strain can get at our hearts and put us on the defense at the blink of an eye. Jennifer and her husband have been together for 11 years total, this being their sixth year of marriage. She wanted to share what their finances looked like from the inside, and what it meant for their marriage. And how she and her husband buckled down and fought to stay together. She blogs at ThortonFamilyMoments. - Lauren

Like most married couples out there, we have debt. A lot of it. How we managed to keep our heads above water through the recession and still manage to end each day loving one another can be thought of as nothing short of a miracle.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Blain and I were married five and a half years ago when we were fresh out of college, and at that time, holding on to more debt than we knew what to do with. Money was tight for the first few months, (eating ramen every night and selling our DVDs for cash tight) but we were making it work.

We had been dating for six years before we were married and there weren’t many secrets between us. But I will never forget the night that I opened a piece of his mail and I felt my world fall apart around me.

It was a credit card bill that hadn’t been paid in a couple of months. The balance was above the limit and was getting hit with interest and additional charges.

[ The biggest mistake college kids do is get a credit card and pay their utilities and food bills with it. My husband fell victim to the novelty of “no pay today” credit options when it came to getting through his last year of college. ]

The poor guy had no defense to a woman standing in the kitchen as he walked in that night. How dare he keep this from me! How dare he not tell me he had such a huge credit card bill and how dare he not be making payments on it! He wasn’t expecting it and I have to give him mad props for not putting me in my place for opening his mail. However, it was a lie and it was a secret and I felt betrayed.

I remember after the words were said and the wounds were fresh I had to walk away and take a breath. And as I sat in our bedroom sobbing for the loss of the pure trust I had always had in him, I realized that I didn’t listen. As I was throwing swords, he was trying to explain. He had been trying to protect me.

He had tried so hard to try and pay the credit card but because things were tight enough just paying for our basic living needs and rent, there was no extra money to make the payments. He didn’t know what to do and he knew I would be hurt and upset that he’d kept it from me.

The battle lines had been drawn, only two months into our marriage. There were two things that could happen. I could be mad, hold it against him, let the tension build up and eventually, allow the passion of our marriage to die and flicker out. OR, we could fix it.

We moved forward. That night, along with the credit card, he told tell me that his student loans were no longer in deferred status and the thousands of dollars he owed was now due in payments beyond our monthly earnings. I remember feeling the pit of my stomach rise into my throat. And I cannot imagine how he must have felt. It was like admitting defeat.

I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that the reason money was so tight wasn’t only because we were making minimum wage. I, too, had a lot of credit card debt coming out of college. My husband was not the only one with the financial skeletons in his closet. You see, I knew about my debt and I was the one paying the bills. He had no idea until that night how much of our budget was going to basic needs versus my credit card debt.

And there it was. We both had debt and we both kept it from one another. I had flown off the handle yet when he found out my secret, he didn’t hold it against me. He was understanding and willing to see past it.

Money is an ugly thing that can cause a lot of grief in marriages. Thankfully, we were able to take a deep breath, shrug it off, and start working together to fix it. We sat down and put together a budget and we were able to consolidate our debt onto one credit card with deferred interest to pay it all off in one year. It took a lot of hard work, but we got both of our credit scores back in shape. A year later we bought our first car. Another three years later we bought our first house. And now, we’re financially planning to start a family and we still are sticking to our ever-expanding budget.

So how did we get past that moment? How in the world did we emerge from that and still trust one another?

I wondered that myself. But to be honest, there was no other choice. To love is to trust. We picked each other up and we moved on. We were both wrong and we both made mistakes. But we learned from what we’d done right out of the gate and we’ve taken that lesson along with us through the years. Marriage is a team effort, and that includes finances. Not only is it less stressful to have a partner to help with financial planning, but it keeps the line of communication open. We both know where our money is going and how we are investing it, spending it and even saving it.

And in the end, the most valuable thing that I walked away with that night? Our marriage.

- - -

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sex Expectations - by Claire & Aaron

Editor's Note: Alright, women. We're talking about sex today. Claire volunteered to write this (and her husband Aaron helped!) to share with all of you. You can follow Claire at @lovliestweets & her blog at Glitter & Grunge. They are almost 10 years into marriage and crazy in love with each other, but they've had a hell of a time in the bedroom. If this hits home & you would like to speak with Claire, she has made herself available to you. Please send me an email at goodwomenproject[at] & I will put you in touch with her. I don't need to say anything more. Go read.

My husband, Aaron and I are very different people. We always joke about what a free spirit I am, ready to drop everything for an adventure anytime any day, responsibility be damned. He will never take a sick day unless he is really sick regardless of what spontaneous adventure I have cooked up for us. I am a creative, always thinking of the next project I want to work on, even if it never gets done. My husband is logical, likes to plan and prepare, unfinished projects haunt him. I have a tendency to say and do what I think when I think them with little regard to those around me, while he carefully chooses his words and actions. I like things to always be rosy and happy, lets not talk about our problems! He likes to sit down and really hash out our issues and get those suckers resolved.

You can imagine how these attributes could lead to a little bit of friction in those first years of marriage, can’t you? Now imagine if one of your biggest issues after the wedding day is sex. For many of you that might be the case. Your past, unmet expectations, unvoiced worries or fears can and will collide in those first few months (sometimes years) of marriage and your sex life will probably be at the center of it.

For years I had heard women in my life complain about how often their husbands wanted to have sex with them and how annoying it was, when all they wanted was to sleep. I had always thought it sounded great to be wanted by your spouse every night and was determined not to be the wife who would say no. It never occurred to me to ask these women how often they were saying yes (that would be rude!), so I made a very unhealthy assumption that they “gave in” as often as they said no.

So I went into my marriage thinking A) my husband will want to have sex every night and B) I would be doing him a favor by wanting to have sex every single night. That is, after all, what all men want, right?

If he didn’t initiate sex I would feel unloved, unwanted, like something must be wrong with me or that something was wrong with him. I would lay awake mortified and humiliated, frequently crying, which would wake him up. He would be absolutely horrified that his wife, the woman he loved, was lying awake crying over something he did (or didn’t do). Half the time he had no idea I was interested in sex in the first place because I hadn’t said anything, I just expected that as a man he’d naturally want it every night. If he didn’t I would be devastated. It didn’t matter if I didn’t really want to either, I thought men wanted sex all the time.

The worst thing I did was compare our sex life to what I thought was normal without any real knowledge of what normal was. Normal for us and normal for someone else is NEVER going to be the same thing. In anything! Just because it’s normal for your spouse to mow the lawn in his boxers in February does not make it normal for every other husband to do that. How silly would it be for me to expect that in my marriage, and yet that was essentially what I was doing.

It was difficult to come to the place of humbleness required to talk about our sex life, but once we did Aaron assured me time and again how much he loved me, desired me and needed me. Sex was always fun and enjoyable, regardless of this hurdle we were trying to overcome. I always felt cared for and wanted sexually, so honestly it was as baffling to me as it was to him that I also felt that I wanted more, especially after we established that my original expectations about sex and marriage were unrealistic.

Later we went to a marriage conference and it was there that we learned about something called “love languages”. We all have a love language which is the way we best give and receive love. Mine, as it turns out, is physical touch. I am constantly hugging and kissing my kids and husband. I always want to cuddle on the couch with him or one of our kids. I love to sleep with my arms around my husband. I need to be touching the ones I love most. So, it really shouldn’t be much a surprise that I feel most loved when they are doing it back to me. Having physical touch for a love language really has little to do with sex (though it sure helps!) but about our daily physical interactions.

Once we learned that physical touch was one of the ways love needs to be communicated to me Aaron was much more intentional about showing me love in a way that I could more readily understand. He would sit next to me at a restaurant instead of across from me so we could sit closer together, he would kiss and hug me before leaving in the morning, or cuddle closer on the couch when we watch tv. For the record, physical touch ranked low on his list, they were not natural responses for him so to make the extra effort to show me love how I need it really does show how much he loves me.

Our issues with sex didn’t go away overnight. Even when we knew how to “fix” the problem a lot of communicating had to be done. A lot of sex talk had to happen and not always the fun kind. After a few years of learning how to communicate love (and anger) to each other we have reached a place where we can talk about anything, and I truly and honestly mean anything. There has, so far in our marriage been no taboo subject. Trust me it isn’t always easy, but we have learned that the problem ain’t going anywhere until you meet it head on.

We were patient with each other. We had to give one another time to understand our own feelings and then more time to figure out how to share them. We had to develop humility. A lot of humility. We needed to each be in a place where we were able to hear the other person’s point of view in a healthy and loving way and that took time. We obviously trusted each other, after all we did get married, but we needed to develop an even deeper trust and respect for one another that just can’t be manufactured outside of a marriage relationship. Out of all of these things, if I had to choose the most important I’d probably say humility. If both of you can’t lay aside your own feelings and desires in order to hear and understand your spouse’s then you will have an uphill battle when it comes to communication. It is the hardest one to figure out, and of course yields the greatest rewards.

Developing these skills in any relationship takes time and patience. Sometimes dating and marriage advice columns will lay out “5 simple steps to a happy marriage” which I always find somewhat maddening. It’s never simple and there always seems to be 5 to 100 more steps hidden in there that the author didn’t mention. We all know marriage is hard work, but it can also be fun even in the midst of challenge. Don’t lose heart and don’t be discouraged!

Those first few years were challenging, but as we near our tenth anniversary I find myself more attracted to and in love with my husband than I was the day we got married. It was worth every bit of heartache our issues caused us to be here with him today.

If you want to determine your love language go to and take the assessment test. I'd love to know what your love language is in your marriage and if knowing it helps your husband!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trish's Story: Verbal Abuse

Editor's Note: Hey ladies! Last week I threw out a request for women who had been through verbally abusive relationships and made their way out to find better men and better lives. Several women contacted me, eager to tell their story, and Trish is going to be the first. As a dear friend of mine, she broke my heart telling this story - and I can be the first to tell you how much she loves and raves about her now-husband. But, as we know, it takes letting go of the wrong one to find the right one, and usually there is a lot of pain along the way. I asked Trish to be as honest as she could with what kinds of things were said to her in this abusive relationship, in hopes that you, the reader, would know there are other women out there experiencing exactly what you are. And that you can always, always fight for better. - Lauren

Fresh from a serious relationship, meeting a cute guy my first year of college was thrilling. He was tall, handsome and interested. And I was done for. After a few short months the relationship turned bad, fast. The cards were stacked against me and the game was fixed. I had lost before I knew I was even playing.

What began as a playful, "Pretty girls like you can't seriously get away with eating things like brownies!" became a belittling "Are you seriously passing up salad for pizza? You know you're going to gain the freshman 15, if not 50, if you keep that up."

And that escalated to a hostile "Trish, you're getting fat and I seriously won't be attracted to a fat girl."

The harassment started with what seemed like loving encouragement. Only after the fact did I realize that all the things said to me deflated my spirit and crushed my self esteem.

"When I graduate and make good money - I'll pay to get your teeth fixed. If you're going to be a nurse you need to be appealing to the public and your teeth are distracting."

"Why in the world would you pursue writing? Even on the side. You'll never make money off of it and I really don't think you have the talent to compete."

"I'm not being possessive, but your friends are bad influences on you. Us being together is more important."

"Yeah, I'd rather spend the weekend at my parents - I just don't get along with your family."

"You could have done so much better - why does everything you do have to be half-assed?"

"Why can't you dress like her? You would be so much hotter."

"Do you really think you're anything without me? I could find someone better than you in a heartbeat!"

"If you actually cared about me, you would want to have sex with me as your first. Doesn't our relationship mean anything to you?"

At one point, to get back at me for attempting to discuss us breaking up, he talked to my church youth leader back home about some very personal issues I was dealing with that I didn't want anyone to know about. I struggled with cutting for a few years and it got worse as our relationship got worse. He began the argument with assuring me that he did it to help me and by the end of the blow out he said I was a messed up freak who deserved to have those issues spread around my church. Then they would see who I really was.

I finally gathered all the courage and motivation I could and with the help and support of my friends and family, broke up with him for good on the second try. I thought things would get better and I was sorely mistaken. He used every trick in the book to get me to change my mind. He went as far as to threaten to kill himself if I didn't take him back. The college we were attending eventually got involved and had him sign paperwork promising not to contact me. He persisted and eventually was dismissed from the school. Even after that, it took more than a year for threatening calls and texts to stop.

It was only from that experience that I can look back now and see that I was worth so much more than that. My husband is the most kind, supportive, and wonderful man I could ask for. Knowing how bad I had it makes me love my husband and appreciate a real man more than I ever would have.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Good Women's Guide to the 21st Century:

Hey everyone!

Today I am directing all of our readers over to Max Dubinsky's blog: MakeItMad.

Last summer, Max wrote A Gentleman's Guide to the 21st Century. For me, it was a massive slap in the face. I had forgotten that men like this were around. I knew that I'd started to settle & I'd already started working on that, but this reminded me that it was an all or nothing deal.

I was raised with high expectations for men, and in high school was blessed to be around extraordinarily good guys. No, seriously. I lived in a bubble that most of you will never experience. A bubble where all of my guy friends held the door open for us girls, took the lead at the dance parties we threw for every single one of our birthdays (and kept their hands in the right places), dropped all profanity when we were in the room, and never tried to 'get with us' unless they had a damn good date planned. I successfully made it through high school without ever having even kissed a guy.

Fast forward three or four years and I had been completely and entirely convinced that these guys were gone. I couldn't tell you how many guys I'd kissed. I'd have to ask you the definition of kissed if you asked that question. Did it mean making out, or did it include the intoxicated kisses around the room too? I remember sitting on the edge of my bed at one point and piecing this thought together: "I know what I'm worth. The man that deserves me does not exist. So, I'll just take what I want from him, and I won't feel guilty. I can't get what I need so I'll just take what I want. What feels good. For ME."

For the next year I acted on that thought. I had moments of sanity and of clarity, nights I "half cheated" because he was "real cheating," weeks I tried to do better, weeks I did much more damage than normal, and days I broke and knew this wasn't what it was supposed to look like.

Those years? Those years are over. They're done. Forever. For the last year, I've been in intense heart rehab. I've been surrounded by incredible women whose first question for me when I come to them a mess is, "Lauren. How's your heart?"

My breaking point was realizing that the two greatest lies I ever started believing are these:

That God is not good, and that no men are good.

If you believe just one of those two lies, it's enough to ruin you.

I decided to believe again that God is good. And that I will spend the rest of my life with a man that I WANT. That I've always wanted. Not a man that I'm settling for, because I've learned that there's "nothing better."

So. All this being said, I am honored to write a Good Women's Guide to the 21st Century with Max. Please take a moment and go read it.

He's helped me become better, and I'd like to think I'm helping him do the same. This is what it's supposed to look like. And I love it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"I Didn't Want To Get Married." - Angie Roach

Editor's Note: Women. Angie came to me a few days ago, and said this: "I am a 31 year old married mother of one beautiful little 16 month old boy. I've been married for going on 6 years (holy crap!). I was the girl who never wanted to get married and would rather be married to my career. My life is better than I could have ever expected and it is all because I found someone who didn't change me. I didn't try to change at all, and somehow we loved each other unconditionally." So many of you women are extraordinarily talented & have such promise for your careers, and are in the same place that Angie was six years ago. So, I asked Angie to please write for us here & tell a bit of her story. She blogs at and tweets at @angie608.

I never thought I was going to be anything other than Carrie Bradshaw. In 2001, from the moment I set foot in New York, I thought that it was where I was meant to be. I had an internship in TV, I had an apartment for the summer in Manhattan, and I was ready to start my life as Nebraska transplant turned I-can-do-anything-I-don’t-need-a-man-career-woman. The problem was, after three months, I hated it.

So, I moved to Chicago...ready to restart my life as the Nebraska transplant turned I-can-do-anything-I-don’t-need-a-man-career-woman. The problem was, Jeff. Yes, I just called my husband a problem. You see, when I met him, he changed my plan. We were set up through a mutual “friend”, we talked through email for weeks, and finally met for dinner over Thai food in Hyde Park. He was persistent; ever after I told him he was the “big brother I always wanted.” Yeah, I am that smooth.

You see, Jeff was different. He didn’t try to be anything other than himself. He didn’t buy into my drama. He didn’t want anything more than to make me happy and to have a happy life. I had never met anyone like that before. I had never allowed myself to let go of control and never had let someone else come before me, until him.

Our first months of dating were full of travel for Jeff (who worked in Sports Marketing) and travel for me (who at the time worked for a Non-Profit). We saw each other when we could. We made the choice to make time for each other. We made the choice to let go of others in our life. We made the choice to be together.

Shortly after we started dating, Jeff’s dad suddenly passed away. It was the most put up or shut up moment for both of us. I watched his family come together – me included. I saw how important a family is...and it was that moment that I realized for me, this was the life I wanted. I made that choice.

We have been married now since 2005 and had our son in 2009. I haven’t give up on my career, my independence, or my control. I haven’t given up on any dream, in fact my life is better now than I could have ever imagined. My marriage, my life, my family have never held me back from anything – they have made every aspect of my life better. Every day is a reminder that I choose this life and it has been the best decision I have ever made.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meet A Good Woman: Danielle Moser - @fancybiscuit

Married: At age 20. Married for 7 years. 27 years old today.

Career: I work for a local retail store in my city and sell designer apparel online. My husband works for a private car detailing company. Not careers, per say, but we aren't really looking for careers. :)
Read Danielle's blog & follow her on Twitter!

Adjectives, please? Just so we know what we’re working with here.
Danielle = Emotional, outgoing, loud, abrasive, unfiltered, friendly, fun, excited, rolls with the punches.
Brett = Calm, neutral tempered, accepting, loving, sweet, happy, determined, well mannered, technical.

When’d you meet your husband? First year of college, and I was in a broken relationship with a very deranged person. He became my best friend long before we started dating.

Engagement: 1 ½ years. In fact, a very strange engagement. I moved away from Missouri to be a live-in nanny in Connecticut. We thought that if we could survive with me being away for long periods of time then we could survive through anything. I can't say it's for the faint of heart, but we did it and succeeded perfectly. In fact, it was probably the best thing we could have ever done. It kept us away from each other and kept us from getting into trouble. Being a 20 year old in love is a scary thing. Sometimes women feel the need to DO certain things to MAKE a relationship last. This is so untrue. Having the separation really put some clarity into the questionable decisions we COULD HAVE made. It was a blessing.

Tell me a little bit about yourself - anything you choose. I am an insanely emotional human. I was paired with a man who can compartmentalize and deal with my emotions perfectly. I currently photograph and run my blog ( and work full time. When I'm not doing either of those things you can catch me tweeting about pointless things or playing on my Xbox 360.

Who is the idealist in the relationship and who is the realist? I am the idealist. I swear I float in the clouds all day dreaming and imagining. My husband is 100% the realist. He is down to earth and has common sense beyond my wildest dreams. We are literally opposites in this area and yet we are perfectly made for each other. It seems as if God knew that people needed to be opposites to live in harmony.

Were there red flags that you chose to ignore, or deal with? What were they, and how have they played out? Not really. He did have many friends who were girls and that didn't sit well with me. However, after we were married that stopped immediately. One thing in marriage that most people don't understand is that usually you cannot have a platonic relationship with the opposite sex when you are married. It's very easy if you are friend with another "couple" but being friends solely with another's wife or another's husband is usually grounds for suspicion. Men and women these days aren't as moral as they used to be, and I watch my man! :) I also trust my man. If you don't have trust in your relationship you will find it hard to believe that they are being true to you. Trust is key people!

There's a certain mystery about marriage, and a fear of the unknown, especially for those of us who struggle with the idea of commitment. What settled you and gave you peace in your decision? I knew where his beliefs stood and I know his past and what traumatic events he has been through. I won't divulge those secrets on here, but my husband has had a difficult past and it made him the person he is today. He is very loyal and true. I knew this about him after spending 3 years talking and getting to know him. Like I said, we became best friends long before marriage and that's the most important thing. If your fiance is NOT your best friend, or your boyfriend wouldn't be caught dead buying you something in the store you love... reevaluate that! Some guys take longer than others, and I think sometimes they need to make sure you accept them too. Just picture yourself telling them secrets you tell your best girlfriends. If you can't do it, then ask yourself why and continually work on it. Being committed to your best friend is easy when you know that they accept you for YOU. Your husband/future husband should be able to do this and even help you become a better person!

Past serious relationships? Why did they end? Only 1. It was a very broken relationship based upon many lies and we had nothing in common. I can't say it wasn't painful, but it made me a better person today. That relationship ended because of lies. It's amazing how long it took me to fully trust my husband because of my ex-boyfriend. People can really mess you up, especially when you let them in too close. That is why you need to guard your heart. The right man is out there, you just need to make sure you don't give some of yourself away to someone who is not destined to be your husband.

Everyone knows that compromise is one of the most important keys to a healthy relationship. However, compromise is not the same as settling. Give me a couple examples of things you've compromised on in a healthy way, and things you've refused to 'settle' for. (In your marriage, or in previous relationships.) REFUSE to settle for a man who MIGHT hit you, refuse to settle for a man who can't stop joking like he does with the guys. Husband material MUST be able to be different with his wife then he is with his buddies at work. He MUST respect your privacy and mostly he must have a sincere love for you. I can't imagine marrying someone who didn't tell me that I'm beautiful everyday. I enjoy the fact my husband tells me he loves me 8 or 9 times a day. I love that SO SO much. Never settle for a man who is too stubborn to be sappy. Seriously.

Compromise! What a fancy word for headache! Learning to compromise is also not for the faint of heart, but once you have it down you can really cut petty fights out of your relationship. It used to take me and my husband HOURS to apologize for the dumbest things! Now, we can fight and make up in less than 10 minutes, if that! Sometimes what could be a fight will dissipate because the apology is thrown out directly as the argument starts. A good man can realize when he needs to to apologize. On normal things such as yardwork and dishes my husband and I exceed where we are good at things. My husband fixes the cars and does the yardwork because he knows I don't want to do those things and he knows I hate those things. I pay all the bills, and call people (for EVERYTHING) because my husband hates to do that. We used to give each other such a hard time because we felt like we were ALWAYS doing the same things, but then I realized that I'm super happy he mows the lawn and changes the oil. He is super happy that I call in Chinese every time and pay all the bills every month. After we realized what a blessing it is that the other does stuff that we hate... we realize we compromise and it's awesome.

Along the same line, women frequently overlook their man's "flaws" and end up harming themselves in the process. In your opinion, what are three unpardonable sins in a boyfriend or fiance that would warrant calling the whole thing off?

Above I said something about men "hitting"... and I mean it. If you EVER feel like your man is so violent or angry that he might haul off and hit you. You need to make a vital decision regarding that relationship. NO MAN who loves his woman would EVER hit her. Period.

The second unpardonable sin is cheating. If he did it to someone without a second glance, then he could very likely do it to you.

Third and final unpardonable sin. Drugs/Alcoholism - If a man has anything he pedestals above a faith or above his wife then you need to realize you will always be second to that. You will always be there to bail him out and clean up the mess. Make sure you realize WHY you are with him. Do you even know? Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's VERY HARD. But it's worth a look deeper, because there will always be a great man out there who would never make you suffer while he is high or so drunk that you are bailing him out of jail.

What's the biggest mistake you see single women making today? Sleeping with men they are not married to. This is a personal opinion. When you enter into an intimate relationship with someone you are giving SO much of yourself to that person. You do NOT need to sleep with a man to keep him around. You do not need to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. If you feel pressured, then it's time to be worried about the stipulations you are under in your relationship. If a man loves you, he will never pressure you into doing something that you don't want to do.

What's the biggest mistake you see newlyweds making today? Getting divorced too quickly. Not taking the time to make it work. Marriage is no longer sacred to mainstream America because people get divorced left and right and for frivolous ridiculous reasons. "My husband didn't ever understand me." "My husband never lets me do what I want!" Boo-effing-hoo! (A little harsh I know!) But C'MON girls! It's not all sparkles and cakes when you get married. It's nitty and gritty and worth it! Years 2 & 3 were by far the hardest but I can't imagine year 7 being this amazing if we hadn't seen the lows. WORK through it! Not working? Get counseling! Man up and do what it takes to make it work. You loved each other enough the day you said I do, right? You didn't get there assuming separation in the next few years. Work on getting back to that wonderful place! :)

If you could go back and tell your 15 year old self one thing about relationships, what would it be? I would tell my 15 year old self to be a smart ass. Don't dumb down for anything. I don't have anything to prove to a guy being 15 years old. I can slow down. Smell the roses. I had no idea that my future husband was nowhere to be seen at the time. All the boys you see at 15 are just BOYS. You don't want to put too much of your heart into that. Everything changes after you graduate high school.

To your 21 year old self? Congrats your married! ;) Never thought you'd be married when you were 21 did ya? Haha! Seriously though, I'd tell myself to stop worrying about my husband so much, I would tell myself to be honest and true about everything and I would tell myself that in 6 years from now that I would have the most amazing relationship of my life. Well worth the trouble!!!

What were your greatest fears as a single woman, that have been eased now that you're married? Being accepted fully as I am. My imperfect body, my emotional highs and lows, my inability to do dishes or clean the house very well. I thought that a man would hate me if I wasn't super domestic. Seems as if that has flown out of the window too. :) My husband and I take turns cooking, cleaning and we both always make each other feel loved. I always wanted someone who was super faithful and I knew would be like my great grandpa who once stated he "never looked at another woman because he never wanted to compare" and it's true! Guys have a blueprint mind and they can remember those things, even if it is awful, it's true. My husband is the perfect definition of that and I'm super blessed to have such an honest and loving person in my life.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

We Don't Fight, by Blair.

Editor's Note: This submission is from Blair. I love her. She's like the chicken soup of passion, sweetness, truth, honesty, and a spicy kick. She emailed me asking if she could help with the project, and in her email, she mentioned that she was still wildly in love with her husband, and that they never, ever fought. WHAT. Are you serious? So I asked her to share a bit of her story with us. Read read read. - Lauren

My husband & I do not fight.

That may seem odd, or difficult to believe, or impossible...but true. We have never raised our voices or thrown out words in the heat of the moment that we regret. In our marriage, there is never name-calling or storming off with slammed doors & tears. It is not because we are both meek lambs that avoid conflict; in truth, we are both bulls that lovingly point fingers at who is the most stubborn. No, my partner of seven years & husband of almost five & I do not fight because years ago, I pledged to honor & cherish him.

I strive daily to uphold those vows, & thus in the simplest, most raw form, be a good wife. A good woman.

Today, I stood alone over a grimy sink full of dishes. My shoulders ached through the suds as I scrubbed pots & bowls & spoons. Mountained up from a weekend away followed by a blistering week. I thought of the weekends my husband left for work or golf to come home to a fresh-scrubbed home. A warm smile to welcome him home, all worries conquered so he would rest upon his return. That labor of love so willingly given by me, yet not returned. Bitterly, I gazed around the kitchen, taking measure of crumbs & coffee cups & dust bunnies that welcomed me home. "It's unfair," my mind snapped. I seethed at the inequality.

I heard my husband's steady footfall into the room - my back stiffened & I spun to face him, a retort hot on my tongue, ready for a fight. Ready to make my opinion known. Ready to win.

Fires blazing, I looked him in the eyes & drew in a breath to speak, only to find myself suddenly deflated. If I said those hot words that I felt so justified in saying, I would hurt the man I love. Those words would show ingratitude for the months he encouraged me to leave town. They would null the hours he spent as a "single parent" while I was away, policing over our 15-month-old on the staircase. These words I held would strip him of the good he achieved & give him justification for resenting me. If I fought, there would be no winning - only dishonor & resentment & selfish pride.

Those words may have felt good as they exploded from my mouth - but I will never know. Instead, I handed my husband a dishrag & said, "I'll wash, you dry." Side-by-side, we worked together in the quiet stillness of the afternoon, letting the dish water carry away the frustration & fight.


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Walking Contradiction, by Kaleigh Somers.

Editor's Note: This submission is by Kaleigh Somers, a girl I adore and who blogs here and tweets here. At 21 years old, I am beyond impressed with her insight; she is marked by passion. It is my goal in this project to include the worldviews and wisdom of women (and men) of every age and background on being and becoming a good woman. I asked her to throw some thoughts at me on this topic, and I love what she gave me. Thank you for reading.

It's my firm belief that being a woman in this world is a unique opportunity. For one thing, we have the option to wear skirts or pants. For another, we have the ability to bear a child, linking ourselves with a human being growing inside us for nine months and forming an unparalleled connection with them. But it's more than that. It's something huge that maybe we don't think about, but should celebrate.

For as far back as human history dates, "women" as a defined group of people has changed. Evolving quite rapidly, it seemed, in the height of the feminist movement. We've changed how we dress, act and speak. How we contribute to society. And it's led me to the conclusion that there might not be one "right" definition of women. Of course there isn't. There shouldn't be. Because being a woman is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional job. A full-time occupation for which we're not getting paid any extra. And we know that, but we don't care.

And if someone were to write the phrase "good woman" on her resume — a phrase that should undoubtedly be considered worth adding to our list of qualifications for jobs, internships and the like — a potential employer might smile and nod and think that’s nice, but probably wouldn't be able to pinpoint some concrete definition for it.

Being a good woman means so many things to so many different people. Not just to other women, but to men as well. There are endless dimensions and directions with which to take that phrase.

There is no dictionary on this Earth with the entry "good woman" scribbled in it. Sometimes, we wish there was. Because life is easier lived followed by the rules. Our rules, or the rules of someone else. It doesn't matter. Just rules. But rules, I've found, lock us into something we might not want to be. Something we might not want to adhere to. Rules take away our freedom, which in turn takes away from our heart, the very force that propels us forward and encourages us to bring so much goodness to the world for future generations.

Being a good woman means seeking out the people you love, the interests you're passionate about, and throwing your heart into the mix. Good women love fearlessly and selflessly and they don't feel bad about it. It's not another chore at the end of the day, strung along at the bottom of a never-ending To Do List. It's a walking contradiction: an active decision but a subconscious choice to be someone's best friend, wife, mother, sister, grandmother, granddaughter, neighbor. It's choosing to be the mom who drives all the kids in her Caravan to get ice cream after a big soccer game.

Being a good woman means tending to a fever-stricken child in the middle of the night, sleeping in an uncomfortable rocking chair next to the bed. It means wanting to make the perfect meal for someone you love, not because you have to, but because you love the stress and chaos while preparing everything. You love the feeling of warmth that rushes through your whole body and brightens your cheeks when the person you love walks through the front door and wraps you up in a tight hug just from the scent of something so wonderful.

It's the kind of exhausting task that you fall in love with. You relish in the depletion of energy as you crawl into bed after a hard day's work. But it doesn't mean being a pushover or someone's slave. It means finding a give and take. Finding love and giving it away, like the ocean tide. So much strength and power wrapped up in a constant, persistent force with a beauty that often goes unnoticed.

Good women walk an impossibly fine line, balancing on a tight rope. They succumb to their maternal instinct to help others and at the same time their desire to stay true to themselves. They are all around us — in line at Starbucks, battling the brisk wind while they stand on a subway platform, reaching for a child's hand as they start to cross a busy intersection. And none of them look the same.

And one day, maybe you rouse yourself out of bed at six in the morning, turn on the spigot in the shower, and look at yourself in the vanity mirror. Really look at the person you've become. And on that day, I hope you realize you've done it.

You are her. And she is you.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Calla's Story: Emotional & Sexual Abuse.

Editor's Note: I recorded a short video to intro this submission by Calla Montgomery. Please take a moment to watch. Also, I want to encourage you that if this is also your story, know that it can and will be your blessing. On my personal blog, I elaborated on this, and how your handicap is to be loved. While The Good Women Project is entirely non-partisan and non-religious, my personal blog is religious to some extent; please read appropriately. If you would like to speak with Calla, please email me at goodwomenproject[at] - Lauren

Looking people in the eyes was always very difficult for me. Even as a young child, people noticed this and ridiculed me, particularly in school. Later in life, I learned that the inability to maintain eye contact is a sign of low self esteem.

Verbal and emotional abuse was the norm in my home. Although I was consistently shamed during discipline by my father, I believed it was normal, even appropriate, and never felt any resentment toward him as a child. I was in my twenties before I finally understood what my father had been implying my whole life: “Sometimes I feel like such a failure because you and your brother have been such a disappointment to me.” Growing up under that, it was no wonder my choices in men were less than stellar.

I was bullied during almost every year in elementary, middle school, junior high, and high school. It was not always the same person, but I was a very easy target. I was often at a loss for words to stand up for myself, particularly when the aggressor had drawn an audience. I was a nice girl, I followed the rules, I did not dress or act funny, I was smart, I was a compassionate and loyal friend, but the “right people” always found a way to get to me.

My Perpetrator

My story really begins the summer after I graduated from high school. I had dated a few guys here and there for a few months at a time during my late teen years, and they were mostly nice guys, even if they did break my heart. The abuse began with my first “real” boyfriend, Cory, the guy I gave my virginity to. He was a master manipulator. He had me absolutely under his thumb, and I guess I had lost my ability to think for myself by the time sexual intimacy entered our relationship. Even being in a relationship with a guy like him was somehow a culmination of all my past experiences and total lack of self esteem.

Cory was deep, romantic, intense, brooding, exciting, and adventurous. He had a history with women that I did not find out about right away; but when I did, he told me the stories about them in such a way that I felt that he was sharing pain with me and looking for forgiveness for past mistakes. What I should have realized was that he was already a sexual predator, and that with his confiding in me, I could see that this pattern had begun in the 6th grade.

I was so very naive. I managed to hold on to my virginity for the first 8 months of our relationship, but finally gave in when he was “just trying to see how far we could go” and discovered that I had no hymen to break. There was no barrier. At the end of our first sexual encounter, “our song” started playing on the radio, and we both took it as if it were a sign.

Two days later, he invited his best friend to join us. That was my first experience of separating my emotions from my body. It was not the last. He found many different ways to demoralize me, to force me into acts that were perverse and unsanitary. Still, I was bound to him for reasons I cannot fully explain. There was no escape, there was simply the necessity to endure.

Soon after I started college, in my same small town, I was pushed to second place in his life. He found a new underage girl to manipulate, and I became his prostitute. He would call me to come over, pay my cab fare, and have me stay over at his apartment. I would leave before his girlfriend stopped by on her way to high school. This happened for the better part of a semester, and I later wondered if he even took a shower between us. Neither one of us had any idea about the other. During this semester, I also discovered that one of the videos he had taken of us being intimate had found its way to the electronics department of the store where he worked, that his coworkers had seen it, and that there were copies made from it, possibly even sold.

I was devastated in a brand new way. I had no one to tell. I couldn’t talk to my parents. I couldn’t talk to my friends. I couldn’t talk to the police. I just had to swallow it and move forward. Cory was barely even apologetic about it, and even that was not enough to make me walk away from him.

Once I discovered his new girlfriend’s existence, I went to her and told her what had been going on. I revealed that he and I had never stopped dating or sleeping together, and explained what I knew of the rotating schedule we had been on. It finally became clear to both of us that we were truly feeding his ego, that he was playing us like a couple of violins. She broke up with him, and he came to me for comfort. And of course, I was there. Where else would I be?

Things continued with me being on the down-low and him pursuing the girlfriend, even moving to where she was attending college. One would think that surely this would have put an end to our relationship. Not so. Women who are abused just don’t give up that easily. Cory would come home for two days each week, and I would skip classes to spend those days with him. My emotions had totally separated from what I was doing, and any shred of self worth I had was gone.

The Pit

Soon after I reached this point, I had brief fling with another self-destructive guy. He also needed to be sleeping with me on the sly, because he was in an abusive relationship of his own. His on again, off again girlfriend continued to abuse him, and they were parents to a toddler son. In the midst of our fling, I conceived a child.

I misinterpreted a lot of signs from karma as signs from God, and when I did share my plight with my hall coordinator and resident assistants in my dorm, they encouraged me to have an abortion. I had no personal connection to the father of the child, I was in my sophomore year of college, and this was going to “ruin my life.” I took their advice before I had a chance to really consider what was happening. Karma lined up again, and I was on vacation with a relative who, out of nowhere, told me that “if I ever got into trouble” she would help me out. So my abortion was free.

I need to be gentle with myself and realize that I was really not in a position to fully understand what I was doing at this point, having been emotionally and sexually abused. I was not very morally coherent. I woke up during the final suction process of the abortion, and that set off the beginning of my post traumatic stress disorder. That was the very lowest point in my 19 years of life. It was also the end of me being willing to feel any emotion.

I willed myself into total numbness, and remained there for the next several years. I began attending a different college in another town, dating several good Christian guys, graduated from college… yet still not feeling or thinking about much of anything. I was fortunate to not have turned to alcohol, drugs, or worse while I was in this fragile place.

But eventually I began to crack. My body started to show signs of stress; first digestive issues, then unexplained hives. I was not dealing with my emotions, and it was literally starting to chip away at my body.

The Beginning Of Acceptance

I developed a relationship with a guy over the Internet right around this time. I was in a dead-end job, and other than my parents, I had distanced myself from just about all of my local friends. Jumping at the chance to relocate, I was able to get into a post-abortion support group where no one knew who I was. I was thankful for the anonymity, having been raised in a small town. I nearly lost my mind while I was processing the full spectrum of emotions that the support group brought out concerning the abortion, but in the end it provided wonderful healing and hope. The guy I was dating was wonderfully empathetic and strong, and I could not have done it without him.

I never did receive any particular counseling regarding the emotional and sexual abuse aspects of my past, and I can see looking back that I should have pursued that. The effects continue to impact my life, but I am actively working on healing from them as well. Part of that healing is telling my story. Thank you for listening. I have battle scars. I even have some wounds that still need to heal. But my story is part of what makes me who I am, and I am not ashamed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meet A Good Woman: Jessica Ward

How old are you now, and how old were you when you got married? I'm 30 now, and was 22 when I got married. My husband was 23.

What's your career, and what is your husband's career? I'm a freelance writer and I own a mobile notary company. My husband works in a prison as a social services provider. I spent the first 10 years of my career as a lobbyist though, so the writing/entrepreneur thing is just two years new to us.

Tell me a little bit about yourself - anything you choose. I have a passion for children without families--perhaps because my parents fostered kids while I was young, and I know that my foster brothers grew up without ever having a family of their own. As a result, we've adopted two children who are special needs, and we sponsor two more. We plan to adopt again.

What were you doing in life when you met your husband? I met my husband in Junior college, right after I swore off dating (after breaking off a long relationship). I got to know him because I thought his girlfriend was a shrew who didn't deserve him, so I as forever trying to set him up with a decent girl. He kept going on blind dates that I set him up with just to get to know me better.

I love your story about how you got to know your husband! I love how those schemes turn around sometimes. What were some favorite things you noticed in him; things that triggered the, 'Oh, he could be husband material' thoughts? He had a really nice family and a lot of respect for them. He struck me as someone who knew what a family was supposed to be like. I remember him saying he wasn't really allowed to cook as a kid--his mom also has the "don’t mess up the kitchen" thing… but I remember him saying that he knew it would be important to know how to cook--because he wanted to be able to cook for his family one day, because that is how he would like to show them he loves them. (He's now a very good cook, and regularly cooks for the family--in fact, the day after I got laid off from my job before going full-time freelance, I decided to make waffles for the family. My oldest daughter asked me, "Does Dad know you're cooking?")

How long was your engagement? Just under a year.

What was your primary concern when deciding if he was right for you to marry? His stability and his family. If either made me crazy, it wasn't going to be worth it. Marriage lasts too long for it to be a headache.

Who is the idealist in the relationship and who is the realist? We take turns, depending on the subject. We have very different priorities in life, which is kind of funny, so the stuff that is really important to me to have "just so" doesn't really matter to him, and vice versa.

When you say different you and your husband have very different priorities in life, how do you mean? Can you give me some examples? When do these clash, and how have you handled them? One good example is our fundamental difference in keeping our house. He's most concerned that everything look tidy--I'm most concerned that something is getting done. Are the bills tidy? No, but they're getting paid because I'm paying them. He'd tidy them like crazy, but forget to pay them. No, the kitchen isn't clean right now--but I'm making lunch for the kids--he would put off making a meal for fear of making a mess of the kitchen. It's a funny little balance we have--I force him into progress, and he forces me into order.

Give me a general feel for what type of person you are, and what type of person your husband is? You can just use adjectives, a summary - whatever strikes you. I'm organized and crazy ambitious--often to a fault. I'm wound a little tight, but in a good way, always wanting to make wherever I am better--and sometimes when I fail, I get very frustrated. My husband is very mellow and patient, but likes everything to have order--purpose he doesn't care too much about, but everything must be tidy, organized and planned. (I will throw out the plan in favor of a better outcome). By way of example, when we first adopted our oldest daughter, she was seven years old and did not yet know how to properly use a fork. I set about teaching her how to eat properly, and helping her to experience new and different foods--he followed her around with a dustbuster and a damp rag.

It sounds like he levels you out a lot. You and I seem pretty similar in personality, actually. How did your organization/overly ambitious personality affect your decision making in saying Yes to him? What solidified your, "Okay, this is the right decision"? Yes, he levels me out. As for how my personality affected the decision to marry him, I'm not sure. I think I knew I needed someone who would level me. I was actually interviewing for jobs with the CIA just before we got married. I would have jumped in a minute, but I would have had only a career, no life. He's forced me to live a life--not work for a living. (Now I work to live, instead of live to work). I don’t think there was ever a "this was the right decision" moment--there's been lots of "I don't regret this decision" times (all times, really), but I don't know if I'll ever have the mental assurance that it was the right decision--hence that need to always maintain and nurture the relationship.
This is kind of a strange way to answer the question--don't misunderstand and think I'm saying, "gee, I'm having doubts" because it's not like that at all--there's always been doubt in my mind because I've seen so many seemingly good marriages fail. I don't want that to happen to us, so I always feel like I'm not sure yet that it's going to work--it's only been eight years. I met a guy the other day who was married for 83 years. Can we make it that long? I hope so--but I have no idea.

Were there red flags that you chose to ignore, or deal with? What were they, and how have they played out? Every family has some little dysfunctions--which happens because we're all imperfect people. I felt like my family had a lot of dysfunctions but his family was perfect. That should have been a red flag… that his family buries imperfections, and hides them, even from one another. Eventually, this played out OK, but it was pretty scary as I came to the realization that there was an "outside view" and an "inside view" of the family. Not sure what it was, but something cracked, and all of the hiding stopped, which makes me far more comfortable. (Perhaps it's just because I'm ‘inside’ now? To me, the hiding faults so cautiously was much more disturbing than the actual faults.)

I think you touched on a huge issue when you said you felt like your family was dysfunctional but his was perfect. My family has a lot of issues, and I've struggled with dating guys who have 'great families.' I've even caught myself wanting to marry a man with family full of problems, just to feel more comfortable about mine. Thoughts on this? I always felt like I wanted to have one side of the family that could model functional, healthy families. My parents divorced when I was in college, but were never a very good match. My parents made many bad choices, and my dad struggled with alcohol, but we weren't the model "dysfunctional" family either--there were just several family scripts that I didn’t want to repeat.

Did you live with him or others before marriage? Thoughts? We lived next door for a while in our last couple of years of college, but no, we never lived together. We dated for five years and wanted to be sure that we were going to marry each other. Studies have shown that people who live together before they get married divorce more frequently--and likewise, I wasn't about to move in unless he was willing to marry me (and I think the same was true for him). Ultimately, I'm glad that's the decision we made. Also, neither of us have lived with pervious partners before either--which is nice knowing we're not starting off in a relationship with someone else's baggage.

There's a certain mystery about marriage, and a fear of the unknown, especially for those of us who struggle with the idea of commitment. What settled you and gave you peace in your decision? I've always been afraid of commitment, and remain afraid of commitment. Perhaps, I'm more afraid of the failure of commitment. I want to be married once, and only once. I don’t want to go through weird family separations, custody issues, or fighting.
We both treasure peace in our home. (So much so that I can't recall a single fight we've ever had--we're just both relaxed about things like that--our home is a sanctuary, and we just don't have hostility in it). I had a suitcase packed in my car the day we got married. I wasn't sure I could go through with it. I've not packed a suitcase ever since, and not felt like I was ever going to leave. We want this marriage to work, and are willing to work at it. I think perhaps that is the key--if you aren't fighting to stay committed, you shouldn't bother with marriage.

How many serious relationships were you in before getting married? Two--one for three years, resulting in an engagement which I ultimately broke off--fearing that I was settling, too inexperienced (how was I to know he was the right guy, if I'd never even dated another?) Also, our future plans were misaligned--he dreamed of farming in the community we grew up in, I hoped to leave and never come back. Ultimately, we both got exactly what we wanted with someone else, and though the parting was heartbreaking, we both know it was the right choice. (This was my high school sweetheart--we dated through high school and the first year of college)

Ah, high-school sweethearts. A lot of women marry theirs and have great marriages, but a lot of them don't. Many young women who are still single wonder if their high school sweetheart was The One, unsure that they'll ever find someone better. What would you say to those girls? I guess all I can say is that one never really knows. But you'd be doing yourself (and your partner or future partner) a disservice if you went headlong into that relationship anyhow. I think if you can be your whole self, and you don't have go give up any part of you, your goals, or your plan for the future, and you are willing to really work when you grow and change in your marriage--rather than giving up--go ahead and marry the
high school sweetheart. I think it has to do with maturity in both partners and knowing when you're marrying someone you love, or marrying an ideal you love. I think this is where I was with my high school sweetheart. I adored him, and he is a very, very good man, a wonderful husband and father with his wife--but ultimately, I knew we'd both have to give up too much of ourselves to make a marriage work. Too much compromise.

Why did your previous relationships end? See above for the first. For the second, I dated a friend briefly after the long-term breakup. We were crazy about each other and there was a lot of chemistry/tension (good tension if that is possible). Ultimately, I knew he wasn't the person I wanted to marry, as I'd be "his wife" not my own person. Also, I'd feel compelled to compete against him in everything I did--and he would have felt belittled by that. He doesn't understand my reasoning, but I didn't feel like I could give up that much of myself to be with someone who I think ultimately I would make unhappy. (Weird perhaps?)

Chemistry is obviously important; a lot of us are afraid to let go of the "wrong guy" because we're afraid we'll never find another guy we're that attracted to. I know this is a pretty broad question, but what's your honest opinion on sex and chemistry? Regarding sex, my experience is limited to my husband, so I can't really comment on other relationships. Regarding chemistry in general though, I've dated people with whom the chemistry was very different--perhaps intensity is the word. While I would say my husband was always very attractive to me, I had a respect for him (perhaps even awe) that really seemed to interfere or dull attraction/chemistry. I barely knew him when we first started dating (a funny story about that--remind me if I don't tell you about our fist solo date). I was a little intimidated by the unfamiliarity of him, but the chemistry didn't kick in for a long time. Whereas with someone else--we'd been friends for a long time and then all of a sudden WOW--there was chemistry and it was really fun/exciting/interesting.
That said, that intensity was just across-the-board, and we could fight like nobody's business too--and I'm not usually a fighter--something about that boyfriend really amped me up--I was on edge all of the time. The relationship was fun and intense, but I was afraid we'd make each other crazy, or that this would all just burn out and we'd have nothing but an old friendship made awkward left. It broke my heart to hurt him, but it just didn't set right with me as a long term relationship, so I broke it off quickly.

Everyone knows that compromise is one of the most important keys to a healthy relationship. However, compromise is not the same as settling. Give me a couple examples of things you've compromised on in a healthy way, and things you've refused to 'settle' for. (In your marriage, or in previous relationships.) Right now I'm ready for more kids. More kids RIGHT AWAY. If given the opportunity, I would like to adopt a sibling set of four or five kids with special needs. This terrifies my husband, but not the idea of adding kids--instead, the idea that our marriage might not hold up, or our health might not hold up. Our compromise was this--1. We don't adopt again until all of our finances are REALLY in order, and 2, we don't adopt again until my health is better (I'm recovering from open heart surgery as well as a major back injury, both of which resulted in some scary and sudden weight gain). He has said he'll feel better about adopting again when our finances are on surer footing, and when he knows I'm less likely to suffer from medical problems that leaves him with a great big family alone. The two scariest words we can think of are "single parent."

Along the same line, women frequently overlook their man's "flaws" and end up harming themselves in the process. In your opinion, what are three unpardonable sins in a boyfriend or fiance that would warrant calling the whole thing off? Do not tolerate disrespect.
This can mean all kinds of things…pornography (I don't know about you, but I want a man who just wants me--not any bimbo with a hot body), lousy friends who he doesn't have the courage or respect to leave at the curb (don’t date a guy with crappy friends, it means he has bad taste in people and that says something bad about you both!), don't tolerate a man who doesn't treat you with respect all of the time. You can fight respectfully, you can disagree respectfully, and I have even seen perfectly civil divorces. Don't tolerate a temper with any level of violence. Don't tolerate excessive possessiveness. These aren't endearing, they are dangerous. Don't tolerate financial irresponsibility. If he can't pay his bills on time he won't be able to remember to change the baby's diaper either. Also, don't tolerate poor decision making. If he goes out and spends $2400 on rims for his '82 civic, he's not going to be able to save for retirement, buy a house or provide any financial security. You will fight about money until the end of your marriage--which will cost you both dearly to get out of.

Alright, let me clarify this real quick: You're saying if you think your boyfriend's closest friends are crappy, it's worth breaking up with him over? Heck yeah! He's got bad taste in people, which means he likely isn't going to be very good at choosing a wife either. Family you can't do much about, but friends are flexible. However, something I've noticed is that people often keep their crappy friends around for a LONG time. You marry this guy, and before
long his crappy abusive friends are going to be drinking beer on your couch… a few years farther, when the friends' wife throws him out, your husband's crappy friend is going to be freeloading on your sofa full-time while he "looks for a new place" (read: watching your cable, eating from your fridge). People who choose to keep crappy friends also aren't good about setting boundaries--and this means they won't be setting boundaries to protect and defend your marriage.

What's the biggest mistake you see single women making today? Rushing into marriage because the clock is ticking, or being "serial monogamists" and jumping headlong into long-term committed relationships without proper planning, counseling and time to get to know one another. Don't allow yourself to get desperate, or later you'll be desperate to escape the lousy relationship.

What's the biggest mistake you see newlyweds making today? Not being on the same page about money, kids and career. Premarital counseling is a MUST.

How has your life or career most changed when you made the decision to marry him? I stopped seeing my value as a person with my accomplishments in my career. I'm much happier now. I see success in career, family, parenting, community, etc.

If you could go back and tell your 15 year old self one thing about relationships, what would it be? I would tell myself not to worry about being in a relationship until I was 21 or 22, because I wouldn't even begin to see glimpses of my personality until then.

Your 21 year old self? Only date people with husband potential, and only if they come recommended by someone else--you need some kind of character reference, and by 21, others know your character as well and can recommend people with some authority.

Agreed. There's a huge shift that happens in a woman's mentality when she transitions from 'dating for fun' or 'dating because it's good' to 'dating to marry." What did you have to realize in order to get to this second point, and which life events surrounded it? Can I be really bold and old-fashioned and suggest not dating unless you're looking to marry? I wouldn't want to be dating someone who was just dating me for a while until he felt like settling down or the bio-clock set in and he wanted a family. What the hell? Why would I accept that from someone? Why would I offer that to someone? You can have fantastic friendships without the romance/chemistry business (oh, and a whole lot easier) until you feel like you're ready to be looking for a spouse. We have a pre-teen daughter, and we're seeing kids having
"boyfriends/girlfriends" in the sixth grade--last year in the fifth grade, one of my daughter's friends had been with her "boyfriend" for six months (in the fifth grade) and as a result were trying to have a baby--which they thought was the next natural progression in their relationship, and they saw as a responsible choice since they had been "stable" for so long. As I understand from a friend in law enforcement--it seems this young couple was successful in their fertility quest. I know lots of thirty-year-old married people who shouldn't be having babies because their relationship isn't ready for it. My goodness! We have a rule at our house about dating--no boyfriends/girlfriends until you have something to offer a relationship. A career plan, a financial plan, etc. We don't raise up our kids to become drains on society or on partners. Grow up, have a plan, have some money, and live how you want to live--but if you make bad choices, you don't get to take anybody down with you.