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.