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Mothering › Child Articles › Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After: Q&A & Giveaway

Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After: Q&A & Giveaway

This is Part 1 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…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.

Alisa Bowman

Alisa Bowman

Julie: Alisa, I feel like you wrote a book for me: a stubborn person who doesn’t want to read a book on how to fix her marriage. But I loved your book. I think you sucked me in with your humor. What was your marriage like when you started this project?

Alisa: Well, we were at our lowest point in the marriage. I don’t know if you can get any lower than finding all these unusual ways your husband can conveniently drop dead and planning the funeral. I was also planning our divorce, and thinking about which lawyer I would hire, and I think once you start walking through that door, it’s hard to go back. I went to my friend for advice, and she told me I hadn’t really tried everything to save my marriage, and I couldn’t give up until I tried. She was right. I’d tried screaming, crying and saying I was miserable, which really isn’t the same as trying.

Julie: For a long time, I didn’t know that crying wasn’t the same thing as trying.

Alisa: It’s got so many parallels to life. When your marriage is bad, you’re kind of waiting for a revelation or a divine moment….like waiting for a genie to pop out of a bottle and give you three wishes.

I’ve had that same sensation when I’ve had troubles elsewhere in life. Like even trying to get my book published. I really wanted that genie. I had to get over it. I have to make it happen myself. And I think the first place you have to go to improve your marriage is to say: my spouse isn’t going to have some wonderful turnaround and suddenly be the person I want to be married to. My problems aren’t going to magically go away. I ’m going to have to do something about it. That’s the first step to making things better.

Julie: The stories you tell about your husband are really painful.


-Bowman had a C-section. She was released from the hospital on her birthday. Her husband spent that evening at a party that she could not attend.

-Bowman and her husband got into one of their biggest fights when he lost his job and then proceeded to spend their Babymoon savings on a ski trip that he took without her.]

You do it in a beautiful, funny way, but nobody would have blamed you for divorcing him. That’s what gave me so much hope about my own marriage when I read your book.

Alisa: It’s interesting. Some of the feedback I’ve gotten from readers basically accused me of not having a bad marriage. But I’m pretty sure these people are in very abusive relationships. That’s a situation where I would say, “It’s doomed–get out.”

Julie: There’s a line, it’s true. Nobody would advocate staying in an abusive relationship. I think your book is still something to try, because you’re not going to know if your partner is able to change unless you step up and communicate.

Alisa: Exactly.

Julie: And then if your partner doesn’t reciprocate, or escalates the abusive behavior, then you know. Some of your solutions seemed to be very old-school, like compliment him, touch him, smile. They are the sort of things I’m incredibly resistant to. Did you have any battles with the feminist side of yourself?

Alisa: Oh, yeah. I had battles with the side of myself that just didn’t want to do it. Whether you call that “feminist” or you call that the part of yourself that says “This isn‘t fair…why should I be the one who works on the marriage, he should do it.” I still have those battles. But I had to talk myself through it. I’m married to this person that I’ve chosen and I wake up every day and chose to stay in the marriage. Do I want this to go on like this forever, or do I want to do something about it? And I can choose to be cold and withhold sex, and I can chose to be snippy and all of these negative things…or I can choose to be warm, and affectionate and complimentary and I can be polite. It’s really all choices.

It’s not the same thing as being a doormat. I think that’s why it isn’t against my idea of feminism. I think most people would describe me as being a very strong person and I know where my line is and what I’m willing to accept and what I’m not. I know what makes me happy. I think what goes on in marriage is that when things get so negative, everything starts getting on your nerves and it’s hard to chose your battles, so everything becomes a battle.

If you can work on it and warm things up, and say “Thank your for unloading the dishwasher” and tell yourself “it’s okay if he never thanks me, I can thank him.” You get past all the little stuff. And then you can focus on the big things. There are definitely times where you want to stand up and say, “That’s not acceptable.” And there’s other times where you say, “I’m going to forgive that, or even if it’s not fair, I’m going to warm things up and that way we’ll both be happy.” It’s like sorting those things into categories.

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…whatever resonates for you.

Coming this week: Parts 2 and 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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Comments (50)

HAppily ever after tip: Have patience and don't let things get to you just breath. Couples will always have problems and you never finish knowing the person your in love with you learn something new everyday!
"It is not enough simply to wish that love and compassion should increase in us. We need to make a sustained effort, again and again, to cultivate the positive aspects within us – and the key here is constant familiarity. The nature of human thoughts and emotions is such that the more you engage in them, the more you consciously develop them, the more powerful they become. -dalai lama" Not mine but resonates all the same:)
I'm currently in the "hopeless/frustrated" stage. My husband is a professor and is almost always working. He was away at a conference for 5 days and, frankly, I barely noticed since I don't get much help from him anyway. Looks like a good book.
Remember why you got married in the first place. :)
This is definitely something I want to read. I hit a point before the holidays when I was seriously considering separation and starting to plan it out, i.e. custody, living arrangements, etc. Things are "warming up" but I still could use some else's perspective.
It can be so hard to distinguish, in a non-abusive relationship, the difference between the crap very marriage faces and the intolerable deal-breakers.
I am feeling extremely frustrated with the lack of communication between my spouse and I. I stay at home while he works, and clearly there is a huge divide based on time and commitment. I would truly love some techniques to get the happiness and communication flowing in our home again.
I hit a low point in my first child's first 6 months. When I was getting all my affection/touch needs satisfied (and then some) by my baby, it was SO EASY to disregard and find fault with my husband. It was helpful to me to realize what was going on (the way I saw the hubs had changed--it wasn't like he'd suddenly morphed into a butthead).
"Please" and "Thank You" are really important. "Make sure your words are sweet, you may have to eat them later": I say things to my husband that would destroy me to hear coming from him. I have to admire his fortitude (He's gone 6 months out of the year, and I get overwhelmed with our two children, occasionally, and let loose on him). He's less active around the house than I'd like when he is home, and I catch myself saying awful things. It's better when I hold my tongue, and use good manners.
Things improved once I figured out that "fair" didn't have to mean 50/50. He thinks he's trying, I think I'm trying and we make an effort to laugh about the petty things we used to fight about.
My lowest point was the night Obama was elected president. I was 5 months pregnant and my husband spent sooooo much time volunteering and campaigning that I felt like I never saw him. He's very good at carving out time for himself with hobbies, sports, exercise, etc. That's not necessarily a bad thing (I could learn a bit about it), but that night, as he was celebrating victory at the local volunteer office, I was ready to leave.
I am very much in the kindness camp. When I am frustrated and/or annoyed by my spouse, I make an extra effort to be loving toward him. It is always reciprocated and often (but not always) ends up with him realizing that he's been behaving like a jerk and apologizing. I also try to recognize when he is doing the same for me!
I know that feeling of hopelessness! I have people comment on how great my marriage is but they don't see the deeper aspects of it which have left me bitter and on the sidelines of my own life. Now that he has been diagnosed with a bad illness I feel like if I left people would pity him even more and treat me like a shallow horrible person but they don't see his temper and negative influence on me and the kids. I've been told just to deal with it and be grateful he's still alive. Very hard to be grateful for something that brings you down so much. He's not physically abusive though so people don't understand the mental and emotional struggle.
Happily ever after tip: I was almost 19 when I had my first daughter. I got married at 20 and had another daughter at 22. My husband adopted my first daughter and we dove into life head on. Now at 27 with an 8 and 4 year old, our marriage has had many more downs than ups. Currently we are also wavering back and fourth on how to proceed, Many things contribute to this in any marriage. for example; having children is excruciatingly tiring process. Any marriage that gets through child rearing happily gets a gold star. The kids you were when you fell in love, got seriously stressed out upon having to "grow up". My tip is, when you get caught up in your own life and don't know which way to turn, put down your animosity towards the obvious person who you take it out on (your spouse) and thank them for still loving you and seeing you for who you are. Set up a meeting on a day when someone can watch the kids, and get out a white board. write down both of your dreams and life desires. Make a promise to each other to genuinely find ways to make those things come true. Just get back on the same page of your life book and walk the path together; holding hands.
low-trying to say connected while he travels for work. gone 1-2 weeks at a time and home for 2-3 days. Tip, try to laugh together.
I think I will try to pick up a copy of this book if I don't win it in the giveaway. We (I) definitely need it. It's sad when you look forward to his business trips.
I am at the very frustrated stage. My husband works all the time and feels spending no time with my son and I is justified because he's working not being lazy. We don't communicate anymore and we fight about money all the time. We are past due for a change.
Having a baby changes everything in a marriage. You'd think that it'd make a marriage stronger, but instead, it's the ultimate test. My husband and I fought bitterly after the arrival of our son. I was anti-CIO and I thought he was too, but after reality set in, he decided that he was for CIO. We got through it; he conceeded =) That was the lowest point for us in our marriage.
Happily Eer After Tip: sleep in separate rooms (especially if one's a snorer)...
Mothering › Child Articles › Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After: Q&A & Giveaway