Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

I know New Year’s eve is still weeks away, but one of my last year’s New Year’s Resolutions was to be better organized – so in that spirit, I’m thinking of what kind of Rules-y resolutions I should make for 2011.  Here are a few I’m contemplating:

  1. Make “easy to be with” the mantra for my marriage.  For better or for worse, Rapha has picked up a few tidbits of TR over the years, and his favorite is “easy to be with.”  It’s tempting to focus on the “hard to get” part of the Rules equation – but once you’ve got him, you may not keep him unless you give him space, build him up and avoid nagging whenever possible.
  2. Revisit my birthday and holiday lists.  I adore picking out special cards and giving well-chosen gifts to friends and relatives, but when the gift-giving becomes mainly one sided, I’ve decided to take a step back.  That may sound a little Grinch-like in this spirit of giving, but the most important gift we can give each other is not material things but an open, loving heart – and when lopsided gift-giving leads to feelings of being taken for granted, then how generous is it really?  For example, for years I’ve sent birthday gifts to one relative – his wife, and each of his several children.  Recently, it started to feel like a drag…and I couldn’t figure out why.  When my birthday came and went without even a card or phone call from this relative, I realized this was a good area to apply a little TR, do a little less, and let the balance of the relationship restore itself.
  3. In social gatherings, I resolve to stop feeling compelled to engage with unsociable people.  Maybe it’s because I live in Malibu, so going out to parties in town often means a long car trip – by the time I arrive, the time investment prompts me to work hard to make conversations flow and bring people out of their shells.  No more.  If someone is socially challenged and shows zero curiosity in who I am, what I do, are why I’m there….I’m moving on.  From now on, when I go out to events, I’m focusing on having fun – not giving succor to the insecure.
  4. Wear make-up to the office!  Even if it’s just mascara and lip gloss.  Not because I’m looking to attract male attention – my husband gives me more attention than I can handle – but because it’s part of getting dressed professionally and proving you’re geared up to represent your business in the best light possible.  Research shows that women who make up their faces for work tend to be more successful – maybe it’s because those who are conscientious enough to take care of their appearance are naturally conscientious enough to take care of their work, or maybe people respect you more if you appear to take the time to pull yourself together.  Regardless, putting your best face forward will help build confidence…and if it gives you a little edge in a competitive work environment, so much the better!
  5. Give people the benefit of the doubt.  It’s hard to stay light & breezy when someone, even a stranger, violates an expectation – be it signaling before changing lanes, or showing up on time for appointments, or failing to meet a deadline.  It’s easy to apply snap judgments – that person is rude, or doesn’t care about you, or is lazy, etc.  We end up fuming – and possibly snapping – which often invites adverse reactions.  For 2011, I’m going to redouble efforts to postpone conclusions until I have all the facts, waiting to ask the simple question: What happened?  In cases where I can’t ask the question – e.g., being cut off in traffic – I’ll at least try to entertain the possibility of benign motive speculation (the person didn’t see me, is on their way to the hospital, just heard their wife is leaving them, etc.).  It may be Pollyannish – but if it helps me keep that most important Rules accessory in place (the smile) then I’m all for it!

What are some of your hopes and goals for 2011?  Are you looking to meet and marry the man of your dreams?  Get out of a going-nowhere relationship?  Close the deal with your boyfriend?  Let me help you make the resolutions that can make next year one of excitement, security, love and peace.


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Rules co-authors Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider are big fans of Carrie Underwood. They cheered as Underwood’s career took off – yet cringed as the diva’s dating life floundered.  News of Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) dumping Underwood via text in April of 2008 was the last straw: The authors sent her a copy of The Rules.

Ellen & Sherrie told me: “We don’t know if she read it but lo and behold, she’s been acting like a Rules Girl ever since!”  Indeed, it seemed like someone flipped a switch: practically overnight, Underwood (27) went from wearing her heart on her sleeve and being taken for granted to being more elusive, harder-to-get, but easy to be with.  Her wedding to hockey hunk Mike Fisher (30) was celebrated on a recent cover of People.

Just a coincidence?  Let’s compare the record “before” and “after” – you can draw your own conclusions.

BTR – Before The Rules:

After dating Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo for only a couple of months, she pressed him for commitment — he used the work card to break up with her in June 2007.  At that time she lamented, “I don’t know if it’s that I’m not quite his type or whatever, but I don’t think he’s at the point in his life where he would be willing to sacrifice football.”  Well, football didn’t seem to stop him from moving on to Jessica Simpson soon thereafter.

Two months later she rebounded with Chace Crawford. “He’s really cute,” she gushed to People.  “He’s got cool hair, he’s a nice height and he just has beautiful blue eyes.”  Yikes!  Echoes of TMI Megan Fox.

She tells Ellen DeGeneres that she would “cook for anyone that would like me to cook for them.”  She fell for the myth I discussed in “More Lies Women Tell Themselves,” namely the belief that “demonstrating your culinary skills will give him yet one MORE incentive to date or marry you, but in fact it may backfire. He may savor every crumb of your amazing rugelach, but he’ll also know you like him, think you’re trying too hard, see you as less of a challenge, and thus unconsciously downgrade your dating market value.”

She goes on record saying she wasn’t good at dating, telling Cosmo she’s “horrible around guys.”

ATR:  After The Rules

When introduced to Mike Fisher backstage at one of her concerts back in October 2008 (NB: her turf, not his) she was less than open to the prospect of a long distance relationship (his hockey home is Ottawa).   Ellen & Sherrie believe “her lack of initial interest may explain why Fisher fell so hard for her the day they met.”  It’s true, men really do know when they meet the woman they want to marry.  Looking back, Fisher says: “I was thanking God for her, for that moment. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Underwood refused to even contemplate the idea of moving in with him: “Call me old-fashioned,” she told DeGeneres in November 2009, “The next guy I move in with will be my hubby.  Whoever that is.”

She was much less loquacious in sharing any details of her relationship with Fisher with the press – almost as if she’d read Chapter 13 in Rules II, “Don’t Tell the Media About Your Love Life and Other Rules for Celebrities”: “Talking openly about your relationship will only embarrass him and scare him away.  Let him talk about you when he’s interviewed.  Better to do The Rules quietly and show up at the Oscars with an engagement ring than to talk for an hour about a man who hasn’t proposed to you yet on a daytime talk show!”

She also seems wise to the chapter that follows, “Don’t Be a Groupie….” insofar as she never boned up on hockey just to please him. Instead, she says “Mike enjoys my lack of hockey knowledge…I’m just supportive and he’s the same way.”

Underwood “felt like a princess” at the couple’s July 10th wedding in Georgia – and who wouldn’t wearing a tiara with 40 carats of diamonds from her husband-to-be.  After a Rulesy-pink-pink-pink celebration, the Fishers (she’ll still use Underwood professionally) left for a honeymoon he had entirely planned, telling her only it would be warm (Tahiti turns out).

Did The Rules inspire Underwood’s about-face in dating behavior?  We may never know – celebs are loathe to admit any artifice (none of them have extensions, or implants, or have used botox, right?).  On the other hand, should Underwood choose to share her Rules success story, she could help the millions of women who admire her avoid needless heartache, and find their own Mr. Right.  Beyonce, who wrote, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” said The Rules is her “fave book.”  Why not spread the word?

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Bethenny Getting Married? star Bethenny Frankel knows how to pursue her dreams – becoming a business tycoon, best-selling author, and reality TV phenomenon.  But when this high-powered entrepreneur met Jason Hoppy, she let HIM pursue HER – and as a result, realized another dream: marriage to a man she calls “my anchor,” and the birth of their adorable daughter Bryn (in Rules-y fashion, she named the baby after her husband’s late brother, Bryan).

Bethenny’s immense popularity (she’s on the cover of this month’s People magazine) reflects not just her moxie but also the fact that so many of us have made her mistakes.  People describes her in Real Housewives of New York as “the one whose aspiration to be a ‘housewife’ was often thwarted by partying a little too hard (downing six margaritas after she broke up with a boyfriend) and seeming a little too lost.”  Finally, “Frankel realized that years of late-night partying with noncommittal boyfriends had left her emotionally and financially strapped.”  Sound familiar, ladies?

Deciding it was time to take care of herself instead of going out “to find another guy to take care of me” she set about building her own business empire, which now includes a lucrative line of Skinnygirl cocktail mixes, cookbooks, workout videos, and of course, her own show.  Being so busy and independent with work, she never really bothered Jason – she left him alone, which made him only want her more.

And as Rules co-author Sherrie Schneider pointed out to me, though Bethenny is a sometimes bitch in business, bossing around her assistant and terrorizing her wedding planner (e.g., “I will rip your dick off”) she does a decent version of The Rules for Marriage during her engagement with Jason.  She preferred a small wedding, but as Sherrie observed: “she’s having a big wedding instead to please him; she entertains his friends even though she hates to be with people; she’s really nice to his mother (asks her to go dress shopping with her)…she’s gotten much nicer than when she was single, she really wants to make things work with Jason.”

On her reality series, Bethenny describes how she went “balls-to-the-wall” in her business career.  But she takes a decidedly different, softer, lighter, more vulnerable and feminine approach with her then husband-to-be.  There’s a telling scene when the couple meets with the wedding officiant to discuss the upcoming ceremony.  The officiant observes that Jason seems to hold the ground so that Bethenny can fly, to which Jason replied: “She’s my little kite.”

The operative word isn’t “kite,” it’s “little”: Despite the fact that Bethenny’s fame and fortune would seem to dwarf her sales rep/personal trainer husband, he still calls her “baby” and feels protective of her.  Back to Sherrie & Ellen: “When you do The Rules, he treats you like a fragile, delicate flower” – even if you’re a hard-assed CEO to the rest of the world!

When I started watching Bethenny Getting Married? at Sherrie’s prompting, I found that there was a lot I could relate to.  Like Bethenny, I’m a Scorpio.  Like Bethenny, after dating various wealthy, high-profile men, “I fell in love with a regular guy with a regular salary [who] taught me that being taken care of was emotional and not financial’ [Bethenny’s words].  And despite the fact that I am older, more affluent – even taller in heels – than my husband, I am still “little” to him.  In fact, that’s his pet name for me: “Little.”  Sometimes “little thing,” or “little bird,” or “little flower,” but always….”little.”

It speaks to the difference between how the world sees you, and how you and your partner see each other, and yourselves as a couple.  Whatever the world might see, when Bethenny & Jason saw this playful, exuberantly colorful, almost childlike painting of a groom chasing a bride, by Brazilian artist Romero Britto, they saw themselves.  “That’s us,” Jason said, “because that’s you running away.”  Bethenny agreed: “He’ll always have to chase me on some level, because it’s hard to catch me.”

That’s the basic premise of The Rules: “Biologically, the man must pursue the woman,” authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider insist.  “The man must be attracted to and pursue the woman.  It simply doesn’t work any other way.”

It worked for Bethenny, and it can work for you: Pursue your goals, conquer the world, but when you find the man of your dreams, let him pursue you, until you catch him!

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Unmarried Carrie was a pro at breaking The Rules while dating – pushing too hard for commitment, being overly honest and not mysterious, seeing a married man, losing her L&B (“light and breezy”) on a regular basis, and overall trying way, way too hard with Big.  Given that The Rules for Marriage is, in some ways, the mirror opposite of The Rules for Dating, you might think that Carrie would have an easier time being Rules-y within the new construct of matrimony.  And….you would be wrong.

It’s one thing to try and suspend disbelief in pretending that it’s realistic that an extremely handsome business tycoon would – after years of foot dragging and even cancelling a wedding – enthusiastically jump into marriage with a quirky-looking, needy, insecure Carrie.  Sure…….it’s fiction, right?  Anything can happen.  But to watch Carrie start to take for granted her incredible stroke of fortune….to start nagging Big about his TV-watching-habits, or forcing him to go out when he doesn’t want to, is a little too much to bear.

Don’t get me wrong – I wholeheartedly enjoyed SATC 2, as I did SATC 1, watching it with my Rules Girl posse, and devouring every amazing outfit (the sexy dress Miranda wore to the gay wedding was my personal fave), the eighties flashbacks, the incredible Abu Dhabi setting, and above all, the bond of friendship between the main characters.  Unlike the overwhelming majority of critics, I thought the movie was well put together and very engaging.  But as a Rules coach, watching Carrie’s oblivious and seemingly compulsive rule-breaking definitely detracts from the overall experience and credibility of the plot.

Just a couple of examples:

Carrie barely shows any interest in her husband’s work, or even acknowledges that he does work – and it’s that work that largely affords them the ultra-rich luxurious lifestyle she enjoys.  To refer back to The Rules for Marriage, she flagrantly flouts Rule #8: Be Supportive.  Authors Sherrie Schneider & Ellen Fein remind us: “You should treat your husband like a warrior who’s going out to battle every day.”  Instead, for Carrie, it remains all about her.

Carrie forces an exhausted Big to go to a movie opening when all he wants to do is stay home, watch TV and eat takeout.  He even encourages her to go by herself, enjoy the event with her pals – he doesn’t want to hold her back – but she insists.  Is it any wonder he ends up flirting with the exquisite Penelope Cruz?  Her nagging and whining doesn’t end when they come home.

The struggle over going out vs. staying in is a common one in many of the marriages of women I coach.  That’s why it’s so important to recognize whether you can – or can’t – live with differences in how much you both like to go out, before you get married.  If he’s homebody and you’re a social butterfly – or vice versa – you’ll probably know that long before you walk down the aisle.  Once you do tie the knot, you’ve got to respect your differences and stop trying to change him.  It won’t work and will only damage your relationship.

In other words, observe Rule #23: Do Things You Don’t Want to Do.  As Fein & Schneider put it: “You may have to compromise about who you see, where you go and what you do.”  Carrie wasn’t really open to compromise about what she expected to be their shared evening agenda.  Big was actually MUCH milder in his resentment and opposition than you’d find in real life.  Men really don’t appreciate being bullied or manipulated into social activities when they’re tired or have had a hard day at work.

I may be going off the Rules reservation here, but I’d stake that the one Rules-y thing Carrie did in SATC 2 was take a couple of days by herself at her old apartment to finish a work assignment.  After the two-day hiatus, Carrie was refreshed – and Big was romantic and excited to see her.  Of course, Carrie reverted to non-Rules-y form the moment Big said they should continue the tradition of a couple days apart every week.  She disregarded the fact that she’d first proposed this herself – and that it did have a positive effect on her marriage.  Instead, she broke a primal rule, immediately jumping to conclusions, escalating the rhetoric, and questioning whether Big even wanted to remain married to her.

Of course, Carrie’s big crisis in the movie was the illicit kiss with ex-boyfriend Aidan, and then the frantic debate about whether she should confess this to her husband.  Was it Rules-y for Carrie to have confessed?  I’m not so sure.  What I am sure of is that the fact that Carrie couldn’t even follow Samantha’s quite sage advice to “sleep on it” — typical of the non-Rules-y impulsiveness and inability to delay action for 24-hours.  Again, it was all about her – her need to get something off her chest, her need for redemption, her discomfort – and not about her husband, and how/when/if he needed to know about her guilty mistake.

That scattered, selfish call to Big was the low point of the film, for me at least.  But as I’ve said, there were plenty of fab moments to make the movie worth seeing.  Best of all?  Liza Minnelli’s over-the-top performance of Beyonce’s Single Ladies!

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So, he wants to take you on a trip!  It’s one of the peak moments of dating someone new – right up there with him telling you he loves you and wants to be exclusive. You think:  If he wants to spend days – even a whole week – with me, he must really be into me.  It’s all the more exciting if the destination is glamorous – Aspen, St. Barth’s, Angra –someplace you’ve always wanted to go.

Even if in the back of your mind you’re thinking “too much, too soon,” how can you possibly resist?  Or maybe you’ve just re-united after a “break” – and think: What better way to heal past wounds than a trip just the two of you, away from it all?

Unfortunately, what seems like it could be a big step forward in the relationship could end as a bigger step backwards: After you get back, he doesn’t call for a few days, or longer.  He’s distant.  He may even break up with you.

You blame yourself.  You think maybe you did something wrong on the trip, or after spending so much time with you, he decided he really doesn’t like you.  You begin second guessing everything you said or did.  Your self-esteem takes a nosedive.

In my practice as a dating coach, I see this dynamic happen all the time, and more often than not, the reason a man pulls away after a trip has little to do with anything in particular you did or how much he likes you.  Rather, he’s reacting to too much togetherness, possibly too much emotional intensity – even if going away was his idea.

Maybe up until the trip, he’s been pursuing you – and you’ve always left him wanting more.  Well, going on vacation together is like sidling up to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It may be great while you’re loading up on the lobster and foie gras, but you pay the price afterwards.  When traveling together, he’s not wondering where you are, what you’re doing and what you’re thinking – you’re right there, and probably over a poolside pina colada, you’ve told him all about your hopes, fears, and feelings.  You may have even slipped into wife-y mode, reminding him to put on sunscreen, or picking up after him in the hotel room.

As I write this, I am cringing at the memory of actually having packed for a boyfriend while on a trip to London, making our way to Paris.  What in God’s name was I thinking?   Was it some misguided geisha impulse – or simply playing house?  Whatever it was, it ultimately backfired as the boyfriend broke up with me, right after we returned from a fabulous trip to the Caribbean.

I remember feeling stunned.  What went wrong?  We hadn’t fought.  Quite the opposite: We had never been closer, never had more fun.   The breakup felt like having a divorce right after a honeymoon – and therein is the real problem: Weeklong vacations accelerate relationships beyond their natural pace of development. You jump from dating to a kind of pseudo-honeymoon, and while the guy may love every moment of it, once back home (or even on the flight back) he’ll be suffering from a bit of time warp, wondering how things got so advanced.  Maybe he no longer feels in control of the relationship, but rather as if he’s being swept along by its own momentum (yes, he created the momentum, but that’s another point – we can’t expect men to pace the relationship).

This is why The Rules authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider insist that trips make men go backwards.  They’re not trying to spoil anyone’s fun – they’re trying to help women realize their long term romantic goals, even if that means some short term delayed gratification.  In full, they advise:

“Don’t go away with a man for a week.  Save it for your honeymoon!  What if, after dating Mr. Right for a month or two, he invites you on a cruise or to an exotic island for a week?  The Rules answer?  You’re busy and can’t get away.  Cruises and weeklong vacations make men go backward!  Things can get hot and heavy when you see each other seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day…He might be romantic on the trip, but pull back when you return, saying he needs his ‘space.’”

The flip side of this is that I have often seen men make real emotional advances, or even pop the question, when they return from a trip without you – or when you return from a trip you took on your own.  When you turn them down for a trip and even encourage them to go on their own, they’ll be thinking of you the entire time, and beginning to put the pieces together in their mind of how they can have you with them on future trips, for the rest of their lives.

I know it’s tempting – summer’s around the corner and what could possibly sound better than a vacation with the man you love?  How about: A destination wedding – and honeymoon.

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Last weekend I watched Date Night — and while I made a rather un-Rulesy spectacle of myself rolling in the aisles with laughter, the comedy also contained some important messages, straight out of The Rules for Marriage, by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider (Rule #28: Have a Date Night).

Tina Fey and Steve Carell play a suburban New Jersey married couple with kids who grudgingly go on Saturday “Date Nights,” but even these are mundane and predictable.  Sex is an afterthought – as Fey’s character snaps in her mouth-guard retainer and complains of stomach gas.  The protagonists wonder whether they have become more like “the most excellent roommates” than man and wife in love.

The situation precisely echoes the Rules authors: “We have found that marriages where the wives do not take date night and sex seriously have less passion and fun.  The couple starts to act like roommates, not lovers, and this can go on for months, sometimes years.”

Then one night – in the movie – this all changes when they DO take date night seriously.  She gets dressed up, he takes her to a fancy place.  All goes well until a stolen reservation leads to a case of mistaken identity that sends them running for their lives.  In the process of fighting off – then trapping – the bad guys, they earn a new respect and fascination for each other, reigniting lost passion.

Fortunately, you can do the same – without the car chases and shootouts! Here are a few tips:

  • Make an effort to look a little better than you do the rest of the days of the week.  You don’t need to go nuts (like you did when you were dating!) but try to wear something a little sexier, do your hair and make-up (unless, like my husband, he hates make-up).
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Yes, it would be nice, if like in the movies, he took you out to that hip new place you’ve been talking about.  But life isn’t the movies!  While going out definitely makes it a “special” evening, you can do date night at home, as long as it’s you two on your own (drop the kids at a babysitter’s or family member’s house).
  • Don’t wait around for him to make the plans.  I know, I know – this is opposite of The Rules for dating (#17 “Let Him Take the Lead“)…the marriage rules turn most off that stuff on its head.  The important thing is to make Date Night special, and if it’s not happening on his initiative, then you may need to (gasp) make it happen.
  • Keep it light & breezy – let this be a night for fun, laughter and sensual pleasure.  You can go over problems and to do lists the next day.

In its own quirky way, the movie also dealt with deeper issues, specifically, being supportive of your husband.  The Tina Fey character had been emasculating her husband, doing it all herself in part because she felt he was “bad with plans.”  But as Fein & Schneider say:  “If bursting a man’s bubble would make him earn more money or lose weight, then we’d say do it.  But it doesn’t.  It crushes his ego and creates resentment.”

As their lives are collapsing, Fey’s character has no choice but to rely on (rather than nitpick) the husband’s plan, and he saves the day.  You might say, well, that’s Hollywood, and I’d tend to agree.  But as silly as it sounds, Date Night inspired me – not just to take my own date nights up a notch with my husband, but to try (NOT easy!) to be more supportive of his plans and ideas.  It’s an experiment!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

For more intense one-on-one help, try a free 10-minute consultation at www.maliburulesgirl.com

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