9 Happy Surprises of Second Marriages

April 14th, 2014

Discover a pack of unexpected perks to round-two relationships
By Christina Vercelletto
Divorce can be devastating, but it doesn’t mean you’ve blown your chance at bliss. A failed first union can prime you to spend the rest of your life feeling loved, secure and respected. Read on to learn why second marriages are often a much-improved experience over the first time.
1. You have more in common with spouse two. Whether it’s an obsession with sushi or a reputation for being the first one on the dance floor, second marriages usually unite mates with similar likes and dislikes. “Pierre lives to eat; I live to cook. I don’t think my first husband would’ve eaten at all if he didn’t have to for survival!” says Patty Morin of Fairfield, IA. “And my ex hated socializing. Yet I don’t know who talks more: me or Pierre.” Why the compatibility? You learn what differences you don’t like from the first go-round. “You don’t have to negotiate every party invitation or what’s-for-dinner decision anymore,” explains Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
2. You see the same big picture. Decisions like where to live, how much to travel and how many hours to work are no longer points of contention. For instance, Linda Henry of St. Paul, MN, and her second spouse Keith are both creative: He’s a musician; she’s a writer. “Under the previous administrations, spending time writing or playing was seen as taking away from those marriages. For artists, that’s a terrible way to live,” she says. “What becomes a priority is helping each other achieve personal goals, whether it’s starting a business or traveling all over Europe,” says Patricia Bubash, author of Successful Second Marriages.
3. He does the dishes! Second marriages are generally less about proving a point and more about getting the necessary work over with. “Chores can affect daily life as you get older and deeper into work and family obligations,” notes Morin. With both her and Pierre working full-time, whoever has time to do the laundry, cooking or vacuuming handles it. “Being right isn’t as effective as doing what works. The lesson you take into your second marriage is that it’s not a political exercise; it’s a functional partnership,” says Dr. Tessina.
4. You play fewer games. You’ve figured out that when you even the score, hold grudges and expect your mate to “just know” what’s wrong, you both lose. Many couples Bubash interviewed knew they had contributed to the demise of their first marriage. “Not wanting a repeat, they took time to do some introspection,” she reports. “I used to keep things inside and they’d start to fester,” confesses Elizabeth Davin of Rye, NY. Now, she talks about what bugs her. “Marriage isn’t just a fun thing to do; it takes strong communication skills, which can be hard to work on,” says second-timer Johanna Murtha of Langhorne, PA.
5. You finally learn to compromise. It’s not as hard now because your ego isn’t tied into holding your ground like it was when you were younger. “I know what I’m willing to compromise on because I finally know who I am,” says Anne Marie Pierce of Hales Corners, WI. “Digging in your heels doesn’t get you both what you want,” points out Dr. Tessina. “Working together is the only way to do that.”
6. You value each moment more. “You treat every day as precious and not assume you have 30,000 more,” shares Murtha. It comes down to the passage of time. “A sizeable number of couples have experienced major losses by the time they walk down the aisle again. Those things make you much less concerned over the toilet seat being left up,” says Bubash. Plus, divorced people are usually more emotionally mature, adds Dr. Tessina. Even if it’s the only life trauma you’ve experienced, “going through the disintegration of a marriage changes your idea of what life is about,” she explains.
7. Your wrinkles and grays bother you less. You stop clinging to youth and beauty (at least not as tightly) as you realize your mate really does love you just the way you are. “I’ve learned being hot and sexy goes so far, but a man with substance is what it’s all about,” says Murtha. “After what I’d been through, I still can’t completely believe this man truly loves me unconditionally. But I’m getting better at believing it,” adds Davin.
8. You’re protective of couple time. You remember how letting date night lapse or allowing outside interests or people take over was the beginning of the end. “We booked a sitter to go out together maybe five times throughout my whole first marriage. We got our breaks by doing things individually or with our own friends,” recalls Davin. “But now, even if it’s just opening a bottle of wine and watching a movie, we make sure it happens.”
9. You have more and better sex. Physical intimacy isn’t commonly taken lightly following a divorce. “It’s an absolute priority,” insists Davin. “After relationships that had lost all intimacy, we promised ourselves that we’d never take it for granted.” Often women are more adventurous and at ease with their sexuality in second marriages because they’re, well, happier (see points one to eight!). “Too often women in first marriages think sex can happen only after they ‘get’ turned on, as if it’s something that happens to them. In second marriages, they turn themselves on, as a marriage won’t last without sex,” says Dr. Tessina.

The New Dad’s Guide to Celebrating His Wife on Her First Mother’s Day

April 14th, 2014

by Amanda Richter

You have your Mother’s Day routine down pat: over the last few decades you’ve learned what your mom does and doesn’t like to receive as gifts. But this year is different. The addition of your baby has made your own wife a mother, and since baby won’t have any understanding of this holiday for years to come, it’s up to you to make sure your wife knows that you appreciate all she does in nurturing and caring for the baby, and is pampered accordingly. Here are some things to remember as you approach your wife’s first Mother’s Day:
She’s Your Wife, Not Your Mom
Even though they’re both women who love you, it’s key to remember that they are not one-and-the-same, nor is their relationship with you. It’s essential for you, as a husband, to acknowledge your wife’s role in caring for and raising your child. She spent nine months losing her figure, countless hours in labor and delivery and is probably up multiple times a night for feedings and changing. If you envisioned just doubling up your typical Mother’s Day purchases this year, heed this advice and don’t do it or risk getting put on diaper duty 24/7 until your sweet babe is out of diapers.
Listen for Clues
Remember that year when Dad gave Mom a new ironing board for Mother’s Day? While you might not have noticed, Dad was definitely in the proverbial dog house. As the holiday draws closer, pay attention to little hints that your wife drops. Usually these are thinly veiled references to things she’d like to have, and they’re never household appliances or anything that would be used for cleaning up the home. She may rave about the new yoga mat that her instructor has or say how much she’d love to have all of the baby’s photos in an album. This is your chance to show that you understand her; call up her best bud who’s in the same class so you can find out how to obtain the right yoga mat, or create an account at Snapfish or Shutterfly, upload photos and create a customized photo book.
Make it Beautiful
A nice big bouquet of flowers is always a great gift, and can be used as a center piece on the table for the dinner you cook, or as a delivery vessel of a handwritten card and gift certificate to a day at the spa or as part of a gift set from FTD. Remember the romance of your early dating days? Your wife is still that beautiful girl you fell in love with, so show her your sweet side and woo her with some romance this Mother’s Day.
Consider the Budget
According to a Wall Street Journal blog, in 2013 Americans planned to spend about $169 on Mother’s Day gifts. Giving a thoughtful gift instead of an overly expensive one will keep you from breaking the bank. That being said, there’s nothing worse than splurging on your wife only to have her in a rage because you blew the budget. If money’s tight this year, consider taking the baby out to the park while your wife gets to enjoy at afternoon at home including in the spa-like treatments that you’ve prepared. Parents suggests having aromatic candles, massage oil and lotions on hand for the ultimate spa experience. You could also do this once Baby’s down for the night and pamper her with a massage and an at-home date night.

Happiness Tip: Cultivate Love

February 13th, 2014

by Christine Carter, PhD

A buddy recently stopped by for tea and was telling me in a sweet moment how much he loves his wife. This is someone who has written books about relationships, a guy who has actually figured out how to make a marriage great. He said something that really struck me.
“I text her three things every day:

“I love you.

“You are beautiful.

“And thank you.”

(A side confession: After I heard this, my go-to reaction was an envious wish that my guy would send me texts like this throughout the day, NOT that I could start texting him. So much easier to wish others would change than to take action ourselves.)


Anyhoo, here’s the happiness tip: We can increase our own feelings of being in love by expressing gratitude for our partners. Or even just by THINKING about what we are grateful for.


When my friend texts his wife, he is cultivating his own feelings of gratitude, as well as expressing them. Research suggests that when we cultivate feelings of gratitude towards our sweethearts, we feel more satisfied with our relationship, and our partners feel more connected to us and more satisfied with the relationship, too.


Expressing gratitude (rather than just fostering the feeling) to a romantic partner can also make us feel more satisfied with the relationship and increase our sense of responsibility for our partner’s well-being.

Take Action: Reflect on what you are grateful for in your honey right now. (And maybe even send a text!)

On Valentine’s Day

February 12th, 2014

by Val McKinley
Val is a professional member of Better Marriages
On Valentine’s Day two years ago, my husband surprised me by taking me to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) here in Scottsdale, AZ. Romancing Arizona was the theme of the evening and it was a treat from start to finish. Towards the end of the evening, as we sat and enjoyed watching couples dancing to the wonderful band that was playing, I was struck by all of the sizes and shapes of love! The dance floor was a study in happiness and affection.
Those couples in motion seemed to embody the qualities of what happy long-term couples do. In unions that thrive, couples are positive towards one another, are affectionate, and have sex.
Since then, I have been drawn to several articles depicting happy couples. The same trend I observed at the MIM was also reflected in famous couples as well! I’d like to share a few quick quotes that have grabbed my attention.
(The late British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher: (“I was a better politician because of Denis.”) “If you’ve got security and certainty behind you, if you come home to total loyalty and affection, then your basic worries in life are gone.”
(Decathlete) Dan O’Brien: “…I’m a good husband, a good uncle. I once thought those were things that just happen. Now, I understand that you make them happen.”
(Debilitated wrestling coach) Mike Powell: “You can be a macho man and love your wife. You can be a macho man and be sensitive.” Mike tells wrestlers that he loves them and then, when they blush, he says there’s no shame in expression. (Sports Illustrated, Feb. 13, 2012) “You don’t have to say it back,” he says. “Just know it’s OK to say it.”
(Astronaut) John Glenn and his wife Annie: Asked in a People February 20, 2012 article: What’s the secret of staying together for so long? They answered:

JG: “On April 6 it will be 69 years! We’ve never known a time when we didn’t know each other. Our parents were good friends and visited back and forth. They used to kid us after we were married that they had us together in the playpen. And they did.

AG: “You know, growing up together as we did, all I can say is that we just enjoyed each other. And even now we like to be together. Every now and then we’ll have an argument – everybody has arguments. But never in 69 years have we had a fight.”
(Businessman and author) Harvey Mackay: “As I like to say, little things don’t mean a lot – they mean everything.”
So while our relationships may look different, whether you are an astronaut or a schoolteacher, loving healthy relationships have the same foundation of everyday love, respect, and affection. May those of us in committed, happy relationships pay attention to the shared wisdom noted above and continue to show our significant other our love as if every day was Valentine’s Day!
Small Things Often
What You Do and Say Every Day Matters
Respect always; Repair Often
Remember to keep the happy in your ever-afters!

Replay of Virtual Marriage Enrichment Groups (MEGs) – Audio and Slides

February 12th, 2014

Our Sexual Relationship Part 2 – April 2, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Caring Behaviors – March 19, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Our Sexual Relationship Part 1 – March 4, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey

Commitment – February 19, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Stress in Marriage – February 4, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Our Relationship Beginnings – January 15, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Conflict Resolution Part 2 – January 7, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Conflict Resolution Part 1 – December 3, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Differences and Similarities – November 5, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Family of Origin – October 1, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Communication (Listening Skills) – September 3, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Communication (Talking Skills) – August 6, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Love Languages – July 2, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Commitment – May 7, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey


Life is Short, But I’m Not!

February 4th, 2014

Self Perception

by Priscilla Hunt

Sometimes when I see a photo of Greg and me, I exclaim “You look so tall!”
He chuckles at one of his ongoing amusements. . . that I seem to be the only one among my family and friends that doesn’t notice that I generally am the shortest one in photos.
One of my favorite cards from Greg is one that has a tiny kitten looking into a mirror. Looking back is the reflection of a full-grown lion, King of the Jungle. That’s me.
Imagine my surprise over the holidays to discover that I actually have some vulnerabilities. I’ve always taken for granted my good health, my physical strength (I am, after all King of the Jungle), and my ability to bounce back from any challenge.
On Christmas Day I experienced a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in my lung – that landed me in the hospital for 3 days. When I received the diagnosis, I felt like a tiny kitten, in need of protection, nurture and care.
For the first time in our 37 years of marriage, I experienced my need for Greg at a new depth. I needed his strength and his steadiness. I needed his wisdom and encouragement. I needed his concern and care. He readily gave all those things, before I could ask.
With his tender care, I’ve bounced back and am feeling great! But now I think twice before climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the highest shelf. Or dashing across an icy street to check the mail. Or not-quite-running a red light when the yellow light is almost past.
Somewhere between a tiny kitten and the King of the Jungle am I. I don’t want to lose my lionesque attitude. But I am now faced with accepting the fact that I have limitations. I always have had, but I’ve been loath to acknowledge that reality.
Life is short. Life is a journey. And I’m more than thankful to be living it hand-in-hand with my sweetheart, in sickness and in health.

St. Louis (Better Marriages Conference 2015) Receives Awards

February 2nd, 2014


Looking for a good reason to “Meet Me in St. Louis” for the Better Marriages Conference July 9-12, 2015? Look no further!
St. Louis has received several awards from AAA Midwest Traveler Magazine. It has been named the “Best Large City for a Weekend Getaway” in the Midwest! Come early and stay late to experience all St. Louis and the Midwest have to offer!
This is What was Written:
Readers have named St. Louis as the best large city in the Midwest, followed by Kansas City and Chicago.
Visitors to St. Louis can enjoy many attractions and activities that are either free or have reasonable fees. While the city is a year-round destination, it especially shines in summer. The city’s jewel – Forest Park – and its many cultural attractions buzz with activity. The St. Louis Art Museum just added 30% more exhibit space. In addition, a free outdoor film series will be on Friday nights in front of the museum on Art Hill Plaza.
Add into summer’s mix the big Fair St. Louis over July 4th weekend, the summer concerts at Soldiers Memorial downtown baseball action at Busch Stadium, festivals, restaurants, nightlife that includes several area casinos – wait a minute; you’re going to need more than a weekend!

Other Noteworthy Awards
Best Small City: #1 Branson, MO – #2 St. Charles, MO – #3 Hermann, MO
Best City for Live Music: #1 Kansas City, MO – #2 St. Louis, MO
Best City for Romance: #1 Eureka Springs, AK – #2 St. Charles, MO – #3 French Lick, IN
Best Day Trip from St. Louis: St. Charles, MO
Here’s What Was Written:
St. Charles, MO! Proof that everything old is new again, this lovely city on the Missouri River, located an hour from St. Louis, has all the makings for a great day tour. Shop or dine along Main Street near the river, Missouri’s largest and oldest historical district. See the state’s first capitol. Bike or hike the popular Katy Trail State Park. Immerse yourself in Lewis and Clark history. Summer and fall bring plentiful festivals and outdoor concerts or events.
Distances from St. Louis
St. Charles, MO: 1/2 hour www.historicstcharles.com
Hermann, MO: 1 1/2 hours www.visithermann.com
Kansas City, MO: 4 hours www.visitkc.org
Branson, MO: 4 hours www.explorebranson.com
French Lick, IN: 4 hours www.visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com
Chicago, IL: 5 hours www.choosechicago.com
Eureka Springs, AK: 5 hours www.eurekasprings.org

Where Did Our Love Go?

February 1st, 2014

by Linda A. Marshall
Courtesy of Partners in Life

  • Do you question if your partner loves you anymore?
  • Have you started to take each other for granted?
  • Is the zing you felt when you first fell in love gone?
  • Do your attempts to care for your partner go unnoticed?
  • Are you asking yourself, “What’s wrong with us?”
  • Are you longing for the pleasure you felt in each other’s company when you first fell in love?

Never fear … you are normal human beings. Our brain and nervous system are designed in such a way that this is our predictable, almost certain future. We want the stimulation and pleasure we felt during the time we were falling in love and the endorphins were coursing through our bodies to last forever. We crave reliable comfort and pleasure. However, for all of us, reliability eventually loses its allure.
At first when we get the love we want, we experience exhilaration. After a period of regularly getting what we want, we come to expect it and that initial high begins to even out and plateau. Our challenge is to trick our neural system so that the sensation of getting the love we want is stimulated and kept alive in our partnership! Valentine’s Day was probably created to provide such stimulation, but as several of our coaches have pointed out, it takes more than one “expected” day of the year to keep our love spiking. Love needs to be tended regularly. So, how do we do that?
See section three for Suggestions to Keep Your Love Alive. Be creative and make these suggestions fit the two of you. Learn your partner’s love language. Your predictable, almost certain future does not have to be your inevitable, unavoidable future! Have fun!!

Authentic Happiness

February 1st, 2014

by Alice Vliestra, Ph.D.
Over the last 30 years, a big change impacting relationships, has been a need to be ‘happy.’ With this, has come a new positive psychology that focuses on positive emotion, strengths, and virtue. But how does this lead to relationship success? Does it really lead to a good life?
When one is going on a trip, one needs a map. A map gives a picture of where one is going and helps keep track of the progress that has been made. It provides a vision for the journey.
In the same way, it is hard to experience relationship success without a vision to guide it. One way to envision success is to look at what you might do on one ‘ideal’ happy day.
On an ‘Ideal’ happy day what would you and your partner most enjoy? Would it include buying things to feel happy, pampering yourself, and eating chocolates?
Or, would it include moments of appreciating beauty, generosity, humor, teamwork, and participating with something bigger than yourselves?
What about the obstacles? Would they be experienced as frustration or moments to use strengths and rise to the occasion?
In the search for contentment, researchers have found that once basic needs are met, further health, wealth, good looks, and status contribute little to ‘subjective well being.’
In contrast, Martin Seligman (2002) argues in his new book, ‘Authentic Happiness,’ that to be truly and authentically happy, one has to move beyond simple pleasure. In a truly happy day, life also needs to be productive, have meaning, and utilize our strengths.
He explains, positive emotion without character leads to emptiness and depression. We want to feel we deserve the positive feelings.
Beyond pleasure and how we feel lies ‘gratification’ — the enduring fulfillment that comes from developing our strengths and putting them to use.
According to Seligman, we are gratified when we have opportunities to be our ‘ideal self,’ that is, the best of us, in small ways, in our daily life. Then we feel we are living up to the ideals that we hold most dear. Continuing to exercise strengths produces a deep inner satisfaction. When others see this as well, we feel validated and work harder not to disappoint others’ faith in us (Seligman, 2002).
He cites how this principle underlies one of the most astonishing discoveries in the research literature on romance. New couples frequently have ‘romantic illusions.’ They fixate on strengths and ignore obvious faults. These perceptions, however, often change over time. For example, what originally was seen as ‘strong beliefs’ can later be seen as stubbornness.
It is often thought that the happiest couples avoid the romantic illusions, sparing them from false expectations.
Dr. Sandra Murray found the opposite result. She had volunteers rate their romantic partners on various strengths and failings. Once the partner rated the person, Murray invited the person’s friends to do the same ratings. Then Murray compared the discrepancy between what the partner believed as strengths and what the friends believed as strengths. The greater the discrepancy, the greater the illusion.
In Murray’s studies, the happiest couples were not the most realistic. Instead, the happiest couples were those that were the most positive. The larger the romantic illusion, the better the odds. Why?
Seligman argues that the positive illusions challenged the couples to live up to their ideals and became self-fulfilling. They provided buffers against hassles and allowed for more forgiveness of small transgressions.
While dramatically evidenced in couples, there is an underlying principle that applies to other relationships as well. We experience more happiness and joy by rising to the occasion, using our strengths, and bringing out the best of ourselves and others, than by continuing to focus on correcting weaknesses.
So what makes for a truly great day? I’d say enough of life’s pleasures to meet basic needs spiced with opportunities and support to bring out best of us.
Reference: Seligman, M. Authentic Happiness:
New York: Free Press, 2002

5 New Year’s resolutions that will take your marriage from good to great

December 31st, 2013

by Jessica Padykula
There’s something about the start of a new year that spurs us to make positive changes. This year, consider putting the spotlight on your marriage. We put together some simple but effective resolutions aimed at boosting your bond and creating a deeper connection with your partner.
We turned to Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media, 2008), for her insight into how to take your marriage from good to great. “The new year is a great time to make positive changes in your relationship,” says Tessina. “If you keep these resolutions, you’ll get back much more than you put in.”

  1. Be open and honest
    The more open and honest you are with your spouse, the stronger your relationship will be. It can be easy to let things go unmentioned, but this year, resolve to talk often and to do so face to face. “Talk frequently and honestly to each other about your frustrations, about sex, anger and disappointment, about your appreciation of each other, about everything,” says Tessina. “No topic should be off-limits.”
    Making an effort to talk through any issues that arise can also help minimize conflict. “Learn to listen and communicate instead of fighting. Fighting is childish, and you want a grown-up relationship,” the psychotherapist explains.
  2. Work as a team
    One of the most important marriage resolutions you can make is to work as a team. “Strive to work together to solve any problems that come up,” says Tessina. “Don’t get stuck on who’s right or wrong, focus instead on what will solve the problem.” She explains that when you build a successful working partnership, each of you will feel supported and respected by the other.
    When each person feels that the other has their best interests at heart, problems are solved in a way that leaves both parties happy with the solution. “The mutuality of this type of partnership creates an environment of love where deep trust grows,” says Tessina. “When trust, respect, responsibility and love feel mutual, that’s when we feel secure in being loved.”
  3. Stay connected
    It’s so easy to let everyday life get in the way of intimacy. Stress, household chores, long hours at work and any number of daily responsibilities leave little time for talking, let alone connecting in a way that really keeps you close as a couple. Make an effort to connect in many different ways this year, says Tessina. “Nothing ensures that your relationship will remain faithful better than a good, warm connection,” she explains. “Keep your connection going through communication, sex, affection, understanding and concern for one another.”
  4. Lighten up
    Taking yourself or your partner too seriously can have a detrimental effect on your marriage. Small arguments become bigger and resentment can build. This year, resolve to lighten up, says Tessina. “Have a sense of humour, give the benefit of the doubt, care about each other,” she says. “Store up plenty of good times in your relationship reservoir to draw on in the hard times.” These good times will also help you work toward becoming more of a team and bring you closer together.
  5. Create goodwill
    We all dwell on negative moments and times when we feel slighted, but it’s more important to focus your attention on what makes you feel good about your partner. “Every kind or unkind word, every gesture of support or criticism, every honest or dishonest interaction between you, and every gesture of affection or coldness are stored in your memory,” Tessina explains.

She advises storing up good feelings, forgiveness, support, honesty, appreciation, caring, and sexual and emotional intimacy to build up a backlog of goodwill. “To face problems, separations, disagreements, illnesses and stress you will draw on your relationship reservoir. Memories of good feelings and goodwill let you cheerfully give what’s needed.”
More often than not New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight or hitting the gym on a more regular basis. This year, make a resolution that really matters — resolve to make your marriage even better. With a few simple changes you can make good on the promise to kick your relationship into high gear.