This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on how to positively shift gears in your relationship or marriage. To enter the giveaway for Project Happily Ever After, please leave a comment below–with your own Happily Ever After tip, or your own example of feeling very hopeless and frustrated, or, what do you want from your partner that you’re not getting–whatever resonates for you.
Guest blogger Julie Geen discusses the book Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage when the Fairytale Falters with author Alisa Bowman. Part memoir, part self-help book, Bowman spills every ugly detail of her marriage struggles, including secretly planning her perfectly healthy husband’s funeral (the wake included all of his favorite beers, butternut squash soup, and lamb on a stick). She gives a ten-step plan addressing everything from communication to sex, offering hope for “divorce daydreamers” everywhere.
Julie: You talked about some other things in your book that I found so interesting. You made me want to get a bikini wax, and I’m someone who went years without shaving anything. I started thinking, though, you pay more attention to anybody when they get a new hairstyle.
Alisa: I think in the sexual realm of advertising, even today, it gives the impression that you wear lingerie for the guy. People think of bikini waxes as something you do for the guy. Like you’re doing it for his sexual pleasure. But in a long term marriage, it really does become about what keeps the woman in the mood. Because it’s a lot harder for the woman to get in the mood than the man. This isn’t universally the case, but a lot of times it is. I find my husband couldn’t care less about seeing me in lingerie. He’s just happy to see me naked. But I wear lingerie for me. And I do the waxing for me. It’s all about things that make me feel sexy or want to have sex.
Julie: In a way, you’re courting yourself, aren’t you?
Alisa: Exactly. I think a lot of these things we’ve been taught are good things, but we’ve been taught to do them for the wrong reasons. Whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever makes you feel sexier is going to help you get in the mood.
Julie: It was such a shock to me that I ended up in this typical situation of being married with kids and, I have to be honest, I seem to be against having sex with my husband. I don’t wanna. And I always told myself that I’ve done everything right. I married the sensitive ponytail, guitar- playing guy. I never believed in this Mars/Venus stuff. I always thought he and I would make our own way, that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes I’ve seen so many make. I’m really surprised to find my husband and I are not special, we’re not different and we are in a place that I think a lot of long term married people find themselves. I’m shocked.
Alisa: We never think it’s going to happen and it does. It’s helpful to know that it’s so common.
Julie: It is. And I really appreciate your honesty in talking about all of this. I think it’s so necessary to talk about this stuff so people don’t feel so alone. There were parts of your book that brought tears to my eyes. You wrote about the experience of having your marriage deteriorate and losing your attraction to the man you loved, and I’ve had those same feelings of loss. So, what are your suggestions for rekindling the damn romance?
Alisa: Like I said, I think a lot of it starts with you and feeling sexy again. As moms, and as we get older, sometimes we let that go. It’s really important to do the things that make you feel good about your body. I don’t think these things are necessarily universal, but for me it’s exercising regularly and eating healthily and relaxing. I relax by meditating, but it might be different for somebody else.
For moms, getting enough sleep is so important. It’s hard to put sex on the calendar when all you want to do is sleep. This is one way where men and women are very different. At the end of a stressful day, a guy might think he wants to have sex and go to sleep. And at the end of a hard day if she’s exhausted, she’s hoping he doesn’t want to have sex because she just want to sleep. I do think that’s a fundamental difference. It’s not universal, but it’s true for the most part.
But other than courting yourself and making sure that you are healthy, the other thing is not to wait for desire to strike, because you could be waiting for the rest of your life. Desire surfaces less and less if you’ve been married a long time, especially if you are a parent, especially as you age and your hormones change… and so we had to put sex on the calendar. We had to figure out how much was right for us. Ideally for us, it was once a week. For another couple, it might be once a month. You have to talk with your partner and find an ideal minimum. And then schedule that minimum. Then you’ll do what you need to do to get yourself in the mood on those days. For me it might be bikini waxing, reading some erotica. I started writing erotica and reading it to my husband. Wow! You can think outside of the box. There’s so many ways to get the spark going.
If you still have trouble with attraction, a lot of that has to do with problems in your relationship. Because attraction really isn’t this magical, mystical thing. If it’s not there, maybe you’re feeling resentment. Maybe you’re not feeling honored or adored. A lot of times for women, we need to feel uniquely adored. So if you’re not feeling that, it’s important to teach them how to do that for you. I think romance isn’t really what a lot of us have been taught to believe. It’s not flowers and chocolate. When I talk to a lot of women, they know their husband loves them when they do something special for them.
Sometimes when my husband sees me working late at night, he’ll clean the house. He’s not cleaning the house because he cares about the house, he’s cleaning the house because he knows I care and I don’t have time to do it. I think that’s romance. We have to find out what’s true for us, and put our ideas of feminism aside. For me, I love when he works on my car, or works on the house. Those things with hammers. It’s important to admit to yourself what you really like.
The other thing about attraction, is that our minds want to get negative. Our mind is going to constantly play a negative recording about our spouse, and it does this about life too. It’s going to be remembering all the negative things that person did, all of the bad things, going back through years and years of resentments. It can really help to force yourself to have a positive recording. And I don’t mean that in a fake way that isn’t true. A lot of times we zero in on the negative and ignore the positive, so if you can look for reasons to love your spouse it’s helpful. My husband might do a zillion great things in one week, and then I’ll notice the one thing that he doesn’t do. It helps to focus on the positive.
Julie: That’s so true. Whatever you focus on grows in your head. If you focus on the negative, that’s what’s going to grow. I feel like this is all basic knowledge about life and marriage that I somehow missed. I didn’t know how much work, or action is required to stay in a good place. I somehow got the idea that if you are in love, everything falls into place. I’ve been very surprised. I think what you say about feminism now being about us picking what’s true for us as individuals is so true. And if that’s a bikini wax, great. What I’m trying to do is get honest about myself about what I really truly want from a partner. And I don’t know the answer to that right now. But your book helped me focus on that question. What do I want from this poor man? Because he’s not going to figure it out on his own. It’s my job to figure it out.
Julie: Right now, I feel like I need a lot of patience while I figure out what I want. And I need him to learn how to really listen to me. And I need more help around the house. There, I said it.
To enter the giveaway of Project Happily Ever After, please leave a comment below–with your own Happily Ever After tip, or your own example of feeling very hopeless and frustrated, or, what do you want from your partner that you’re not getting–whatever resonates for you.
Coming this week: Part 3
Julie Geen is a freelance writer, mother of two and still married, despite being published in Ask Me About My Divorce. Look for her in Tarnished: True Stories of Innocence Lost by Pinchback Press, to be published in spring of 2011, and on her new blog at www.juliegeen.com.
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