or Connect
Mothering › Child Articles › Part 3: Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After Q&A, Giveaway

Part 3: Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After Q&A, Giveaway

This is Part 3 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.

Alisa Bowman

Alisa Bowman

Julie: You wrote something that cut me to the core. You said, “Now that I’ve allowed myself to love him again, the misunderstandings and disagreements are excruciating.” And you talked about fighting not being the end of the world. That was really powerful for me, because I realized when I read this that that is my biggest fear. If I really love this man and open up to him and let him know what I want and need, what I like and how to please me and he doesn’t respond, I’m going to be…well, I’m going to have to go far far away and never ever love again, or something.

Alisa: I think there is a leap of faith that you take. And part of it is the faith that your partner is not going to leave you, no matter who you become. And no matter how you fight. You never have one hundred percent certainty. We always have some fear in our souls. You have to try not to focus on that and have faith that as long as I’m being a good me, he will be a good him, and everything will move to a better place. There’s no guarantees, and it does require vulnerability. It’s like taking off armor. You feel like you’re walking around naked for awhile.

Julie: Yeah. I’m definitely getting that feeling.

Alisa: You share intimately, back and forth. And you did that when you first met. But you did it naturally then, because you were newly in love.

Julie: Worst case scenario, if it doesn’t work, I at least gave it my best. I would live through it if it didn’t work out.

Alisa: Women go on after they are divorced, for sure. And you’re definitely going to get divorced if you don’t try. So you might as well try, and then you’re a stronger person if you end up going there anyway, right?

Julie: Exactly. I have nothing to lose. I might as well try. You also mentioned in your book that even if your marriage hadn’t worked out, that this was a good process for you because you ended up working on yourself. You clarified who you were through this process, whether or not he followed you.

Alisa: I did. You learn how to be a leader in your marriage, and then you learn how to be a leader in life. And so the rest of my life really came together after working on my marriage. I changed my career, I improved a lot of my friendships and got rid of others. I was able to identify toxic things I didn’t need in my life anymore. There’s a certain amount of self confidence that comes from it. I even improved my relationship with my mother. I learned how to communicate, I learned how to forgive, I learned how to be assertive. That will take you anywhere in life you need to go.

Julie: That’s true. The first marriage counselor my husband and I went to said that marriage brings your greatest wound to you for healing. I hated it when he said that. But it turned out to be very true. It just feels to me like this is really spiritual work of a sort. I feel like every wound that I have in my being has been exposed in this relationship. This is a lot harder work than demanding yoga poses.

Alisa: So true.

Julie: This kind of work means scouring your insides and giving up pride.

Alisa: Exactly. Pride is probably the biggest one.

Julie: That’s the one that’s tripping me up right about now. You also talked about guilt versus anger. I have such a hard time admitting that I have any needs at all. Somehow it’s just ingrained in me that I’m John Wayne-I’m tough, I don’t need anything from anybody. And the truth is, I do have needs. Ugh. When I stand up for myself, and when I ask for what I need, if it inconveniences anyone in the slightest, I feel dreadful guilt, and if I don’t ask, I feel anger. And none of this was a huge problem until I became a mother. You mentioned something that I don’t think is talked about very much, which is that we as women are more emotionally and physically dependent upon our partner, if we have one, when we give birth. And for me, that was so difficult.

Alisa: You didn’t know how to deal with it because you weren’t used to asking for help. Some women become financially dependent, too. So they are dependent in every way on their spouse. And that’s a devastating thing if you don’t know how to communicate. One thing I’ve tried recently is thinking about how when you help others, it makes you feel good.

Remember that and then say you’re giving someone else a gift by letting them help. I found with my husband (and this may not be true in every marriage) that he loves being appreciated and helping me as long as I make a fuss about whatever he’s done for me. And his heart’s desire is to be adored. You can kind of think of it that way and it helps. It is hard when you want to be independent and strong and tough …you do feel really vulnerable when you lean on other people around you and allow them to help you.

Julie: That makes good sense. Where is your marriage now? How’s it going?

Alisa: I would say it just constantly gets better. When I wrote the end of the book, I’d rated it an eight, and that was three years ago. I guess I’d have to rate it a fifteen, even though it’s only a ten point scale. You take two steps forward and one step back. I’m never going to be the person who tries to be the poster child for a happy marriage, because there are definitely moments where it’s a challenge.

Saving your marriage is not like running a marathon. You never really cross the finish line. It’s a lifelong process. You have to keep yourself aware and address the issues and never sweep them under the rug or wait for them to go away or for the magical genie to fix them for you. Your marriage will keep getting better and better. At least that’s my experience.

Julie: You really helped me see that marriage is a process, rather than a place you arrive. Your last sentence in the Bonus Section is “ A marriage is never cured. It’s a lifelong project. Get over it.” That’s what I needed to hear.

Alisa: We want to believe in the soul mate myth. I call it a myth. Some people argue with me. But I really do feel like it’s a myth. You meet someone who is basically compatible with you and you marry them. And then you have these ideas like, wow, I was wrong. I didn’t marry the person I was compatible with. I must have been young or on crack. You create all these reasons about why you were wrong and you screwed up.

But what happens, I think, for most of us–not including the people in abusive relationships or relationships where there are addiction issues–I feel for most of us that if we left our marriages and went back out there, what we would find is someone else that we were basically compatible with and we would start all over again. We might work it out with that next person, we might not, but we would encounter all the same problems or at least a different set of problems.

Living with somebody and having children with them and growing old isn’t easy. Can you imagine if you had to spend the rest of your life with your sibling or your college roommate? Living with someone for life isn’t easy, even though we expect it to be. We believe in the soul mate myth.

Julie: When you put it that way, it’s damn unnatural thing to do.

Alisa: I think it’s beautiful that we manage it at all, isn’t 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.

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.

Bookmark and Share

1035869 Subscribe to the Mothering.com Blogs Feed


Comments (19)

We just started Thursday Night Massages...with no other expectations. It is fulfilling to spend intimate time with each other and just talk.
Looking forward to learning how to be a happily married couple again, and not just parents to our children.
This is very timely for us. Thank you for sharing. .-= Inumidun ´s last blog ..In Chill Mode =-.
All I ask is for my husband to meet my needs without me EVER having to ask. I'm quite sure this is a realistic expectation I have placed upon his shoulders. Hmm...
Something in this interview that really resonated with me is to show how much I appreciate my husband. He really lights up when I take a moment to just say "thank you" for going to work day in and day out, or supporting me in my journey as a slightly "weird" (if not counter-cultural) mom, or just otherwise being himself. And it becomes really reciprocal - I thank him, he tells me how great dinner was, etc, and one thing leads to another... Sure it may sound old fashioned and gender-role based, but honestly -just finding something to be appreciative of has helped us immensely.
I want to read this book so I can come up with some Happily Ever After tips!
My man and I have split and gotten back together 3 times. Things are much better now, but his alcohol dependency will always be an issue. I guess I will have to read your book and see what tips you give.
My guy and I have a beautiful 5 month old baby boy. I have never been married, he has once. I recieved a black diamond ring for christmas. He said, you know what this means. to be honest I don't. I would love to read your book!! missanneperry at gmail dot com
What I would like from my husband is some communication, I have trouble telling him what I want.
My husband did a complete 180 in the past year of our marriage. It took our marriage almost falling apart before changes occurred. Having gone through this, I realize that change is necessary for both husband and wife. I needed to trust him; respect him as a good provider to our family; and we needed a higher accountability. Our marriage went downhill after I had our son, and nursing the baby while working full-time made this extremely difficult. Specifically, my husband wasn't getting enough of my attention. I really believe that your husband needs to feel respected and appreciated on a daily basis, but he has to earn that in a sense. Now more than ever, respecting him is easy and is second-nature. We laugh together everyday. An important side-note is never under-estimate the power of sex in a marriage. Sex in a healthy marriage is so important for both individuals. As long as I get rest, my husband knows that he gets laid---and this definitely makes him feel appreciated.
So far, we've survived alcoholism, foreclosure, and infidelity - but all of those things have definitely left their mark. I'm ready for our marriage to do more than survive; I want it to thrive.
This all hits home for what my husband and I went through. I started questioning whether I really ever loved him. I had shut down emotionally to protect myself. I felt no love for him at the time, but I didn't hate him either. I was emotionally numb. It was him that saved our marriage. I had thrown in the towel. I was terrified that he would go back to his old ways if I allowed myself to feel again. But in order to love deeply you have to be vulnerable. So I took a leap of faith and boy am I glad I did! We continue to climb past 10! .-= Eve´s last blog ..Natural Childbirth - Part 1 =-.
Honesty truly is the key to happiness. Being honest with yourself about what you want or who you are. Being honest about your feelings and asking for what you really need rather than expecting your partner to be able to read your mind. These sound like simple things, but often they are not. I have resolved to stop answering my husband's queries about my well being with, "I'm fine." when I'm not and to speak up when I need something from him. It's making a world of difference so far.
So, so freeing to think of it as an ongoing project instead of something to be FIXED. :)
Letting go of pride, that's a hard one...i can't wait to read this book!
The posts are really hitting home with me--thanks for the ideas and I am looking forward to reading the book!
Our last month has included my husband having his third bout of meningitis and two abscessed teeth. Holidays, Dad with cancer, snow days ad naseum, etc. have been all me. Methinks this book might be a good one for our mini (but first in years) vacation next week.
After having a son recently (he is 8 months old) and we are bed sharing. I am realizing how important date night is. I thought it was a cliche or hyperbole when people said, "After you have kids your sex life will disappear." Hogwash I thought when I didn't have children! Date night is essential. Essential! Did I say essential?
My boyfriend and I are expecting our first baby in March. This will test our relationship and my sanity as I break from my career to be a stay at home mom for awhile. This also puts a lot of financial stress on him. He can sometimes dismiss my dreams or goals because he is trying to be so practical. I seek more than a hardworking man, I want a friend, companion someone to experience life with. Is that selfish? I have a hard time voicing my upsets and lie and say I'm fine. I usually end up having some sort of panic attack. We need to learn the fine skills of communication. Excited about the book.
Mothering › Child Articles › Part 3: Alisa Bowman's Project Happily Ever After Q&A, Giveaway